The Blacklist recap: Mothers and daughters, daughters and mothers
Elizabeth Keen finally returns to our screens to share her side of the story.
I don't know a lot of French, and I can't tell you much about cards, except maybe how to make them bounce all over a 1998 Dell desktop screen in game of FreeCell solitaire. But I can tell you this much about the title of this week's episode of The Blacklist: "Misère" isn't only the French word for misery. In certain card games, it's also a bid that typically indicates someone has a very poor hand — that they're playing to lose. Per the Wikipedia page for a misère game: "The winner is the one who loses… or if the game is for more than two players, the one who wins according to the normal game rules loses."
So where does that leave us with our two players, Raymond Reddington and Elizabeth Keen? How could either of these people possibly win when it comes to the other? If this episode makes anything clear, it's that they have countless ways to lose, especially Elizabeth.
Last week ended with Reddington and Keen finally setting foot in the same room at the same time for the first time in months (IRL and ITS). This week's episode ends the very same way because we spend the rest of the hour rewinding three months into the past to see what kind of mischief Liz has been up to that could have possibly led her to be standing here: pointing a gun at beautiful Anne's beautiful head, inside her beautiful home. The difference is that this time, we finally get to see Megan Boone doing it — no doppelgängers, no lingering profiles, no cars zooming away, leaving nothing but a black beanie in their wake. There's still not a lot of new concrete information revealed in this three-month rewind, but we do learn that something is, uh, up with Liz. She's seeing things — seeing someone, to be exact.
It's Mr. Kaplan, and before you get too excited, I should tell you that this is not the Mr. Kaplan you've come to know and love. No, she's kind of like the opposite of a Jiminy Cricket to Liz's Pinocchio: She's acting as Liz's conscience, except instead of advising her to do the right thing, she's guiding her to ignore every single moral instinct she has and dive directly into the heart of darkness in order to get one over on her sworn enemy instead.
So there's no question that this Mr. Kaplan is a pure psychological reflection of the path forward that Liz wants to believe is right, told to her by the person she once trusted most in the world. Because Liz may toy with her own well-being like it's simply a deck of cards, but Mr. Kaplan never would.
Following the return of Elizabeth to our screens, the first half of this episode is mostly a recap of things we already know. So, to recap within a recap: Liz hired a lawyer to get the Freelancer out of jail so that he could try to take down a plane full of people, including Mary Bremmer, sister of Neville Townsend. Liz then prevented Bremmer from getting on that doomed plane (which she also arranged to be saved by the Task Force), earning her trust and giving her reason to put Liz in touch with her brother. Liz then murdered Bremmer to earn Townsend's trust, and together they tricked and tortured Ruddiger into betraying Red… who then escaped their further trick-and-torture, leaving Liz at a loss of where to go next, as Townsend advises her: "There can be no space between what you want to happen and what you're willing to do to make it happen."
All good? Great. Because I'd say things finally get really interesting about the time you realize that Liz has left her daughter Agnes with yet another strange, glamorous older woman whom she knows absolutely nothing about, but just innately trusts enough to leave her traumatized child with her for days on end. And once again, much like "Katarina" before her, this woman likes to go on and on about "a mother's love." How interesting!
The woman is Mrs. French, alleged wife of Mr. French, alleged "guardian angel" of Liz's mother. Three months ago, Liz found Mr. French's contact among the things Katarina left behind, and decided he was the ticket to connecting with all of Katarina's resources. But when Liz and Skip arrive at the apartment where Mr. French said he'd meet them, a woman comes outside instead, pulling them quickly to a different apartment where she tells them that her husband has been missing for weeks, leaving behind only the key to an apartment she never knew he had.
That apartment is where Liz first starts seeing visions of Mr. Kaplan, who convinces her that the only way to take down Reddington is to align herself with the man who hunted her mother for 30 years, Neville Townsend. It's where she devises her master plan, recapped above. And it's where she returns when said master plan fails to get any answers out of Reddington.
Mrs. French assures Liz that she's doing the best she can, and that she trusts Liz to get justice for her husband, who she's now heard turned up dead in Washington, D.C., seemingly of natural causes but presumably killed by Reddington. Even Liz is curious about how Mrs. French could be so sure that Liz has what it takes to take down Reddington when they barely know each other. "Every mother does!" Mrs. French exclaims, Frenchily. "The love for her child, isn't that what saved you? Didn't you tell me your mother gave up everything for you? Don't you think you should pay that forward?"
I don't know who this Mrs. French is, talkin' about "Love wins" like that's a phrase she just made up on the spot, and I don't know if I'm being set up to care or not. But I do know that anytime someone has started spouting off about a mother's love and what it inherently means without any real proof to back it up, things have not turned out well for Liz (see: present situation). And yet, it's a conversation that Liz has absorbed right into that rattled psyche of hers, because the next thing we know, she's showing up at Dembe's daughter's house, calling on Isabella's love of her own daughter to help her plant a listening device on Dembe, by convincing her that their family needs to be saved from Reddington and this is the only way to do it.
And, like, maybe some of that is true. But I don't enjoy seeing Dembe tricked! Through the planted listening device, Liz learns about Anne, she learns Red has been visiting her little town in Kansas alone, and she brings Townsend and his men there to finally kill Reddington. Of course, we already know how that goes. But watching Liz look on horrified as Townsend shoots up the police station Reddington barricaded Anne into, killing multiple innocent people… well, that was certainly a new twist.
This is where Townsend and Liz decidedly part ways in their pursuit of Reddington. "You're right," she tells him. "There is space for me, between what I want and what I'm willing to do to get it." From the passenger seat, Mr. Kaplan gives her a sly smile. She tells Liz that Townsend couldn't recognize how Reddington got out of the police station, but Liz can: "Because it's what you would have done."
Like Red, she would have capitalized on Anne's love, stowing away in her trunk and trusting her to get him out. That's how Liz winds up at Anne's house, drawing a gun on her and demanding to know where Reddington is. And even though Anne doesn't tell her anything, Liz finds out soon enough. Because, scored by "Angel of the Morning" once more, Red pulls his U-turn and heads back to Anne's house, where he finds his girlfriend and his… Lizzie with a gun pulled on her.
"His true identity is a secret, Anne; he's never told me who he really is," Liz seethes. "Maybe he will now, as a deathbed confession!" Boom, Liz turns the gun on Red! And then, bigger boom — Anne lunges at Liz to prevent her from shooting Red! But when Liz shoves Anne away, she hits her head hard on the corner of the coffee table and starts bleeding profusely.
Reddington goes to Anne immediately, dialing 911 and telling her to stay with him, not a spare thought for the other woman in the room with a gun who wants to kill him. Red's only thought, his only concern, is for the woman he loves. Mr. Kaplan tells Liz to pull the trigger, not to hesitate: "Reddington wouldn't." But the scene in front of Liz is telling a different story than that voice in her head she keeps listening to…
And when the camera pans out wide, it reveals that only Reddington and Anne are left in the room. So it seems like Mrs. French was right after all: Love did win. Or at the very least, it wasn't a total misère game.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
- Anne better be okay! Dembe better not find out he got tricked by his daughter!! Damn it, Liz!!!
- During one of their many chats had in broad daylight, invisible Mr. Kaplan tells Liz that the burn scar on her wrist "isn't only part of your past, it's the key to your future." Is there… something… under that scar? That Liz… subconsciously… knows about?
- "No matter how tight the noose, Reddington will always cheat the hangman." No one hypes Red up quite like Liz when she's mad at him.
(Video courtesy of NBC)