The Blacklist recap: A few million between family
From the day The Blacklist first premiered (gulp, over seven years ago) and its premise was set in motion, the question has always been on the table: Who's at the very tippity-top of this Blacklist? It seemed almost certain that the No. 1 spot would go to Raymond Reddington, Elizabeth Keen, or maybe someone from their past who could unravel this mythology's many secrets. But no matter what, I felt certain that revealing the top spot would eventually offer some sort if the finality to this story.
As it turns out, the Blacklist's No. 1 target is indeed Elizabeth Keen, but the Task Force's hunt for her — or at least the beginning of it — is just kind of a fun romp around the tri-state area, with an extra dose of feeling for Spy Baby Agnes' reappearance.
But that's okay. Because even if Liz finally getting one over on Reddington doesn't feel particularly monumental, it is at least fun. I can't fully believe that Red would ever trust a guy named Skip, but I can fully believe that a guy named Skip would betray him for a much more appealing option that comes with 35 million euros and a private plane.
ELIZABETH KEEN, NO. 1
Actually, one other big thing did happen in this Keen-centric episode that I've neglected to mention…
You know that "restful night" Liz asked Ressler to give her in last week's episode, before she had to start running and he had to start chasing her? Well, it wasn't particularly restful. These two fully and finally did the deed. And we see Liz reflecting on her night with Ressler fondly the next morning, ironically as she's in the car on the way to Tom's old safe house. She still owns it, and she thought there might be some things there to help Esi escape Reddington. But Esi tells her they're in this together, like it or not. And it feels good for Liz to finally have a female ally, and almost better that she's a begrudging one, bound by necessity rather than unending affection.
No, the unending affection route belongs to the Post Office crew, who are chasing after Liz in order to catch her before Reddington does, just in case she pushes him into any corners he can't get out of. You know I love Agent Cooper, but he must have the shortest memory in the biz — the Post Office has absolutely never, not once gotten to a Blacklister before Reddington. As evidence, Red's men are swarming Tom's safe house moments after Liz has grabbed cash and the washer Tom proposed to her with all those years ago, while Cooper is still instructing his team to make sure they tell him if Liz contacts them. (Ressler gulps audibly, twiddles his thumbs, and avoids eye contact.)
Liz and Esi escape the safe house in a stolen car before Reddington can catch them, and Liz lets Esi in on her plan to take Reddington down. She's got a list of names of Reddington's best associates, and she's going to lure them to her side. She gets to Tadashi first, telling him that Red is dying, so his days of being employed are limited unless he moves his loyalties over to her. Tadashi gives Liz the phone numbers she asks for, but he also immediately reports back to Red what he's done. So the next high-energy scene is spent with Heddie, Ruddiger, Brimley, and more fielding calls from Liz claiming that Red is dying, Red is a Russian spy, Red is working with the FBI…
Only to be followed up moments later by a call from Red saying not to listen to anything Elizabeth Keen says. Everyone remains loyal to Red, but Liz tells Esi she has one final contact who's more important than anyone else because only he knows where Red's money is kept: Marvin Gerard.
Somehow Liz knows Marvin's actual location, where he's meeting in a diner with new Reddington Law associate Skip, who we were introduced to last week while he was annoying Red by trying to push him toward more new-age business practices. Red wasn't interested. Likewise, Marvin isn't interested in Liz's vengeful quest: "You're declaring war to defend the honor of a woman who abandoned you as a child and murdered your grandfather." YES, MARVIN! This is what I've been saying! But Skip sees some merit in Liz's argument that if Red were in the same situation and sensed that power was shifting to Liz in the form of her getting Red's entire empire once he dies, potentially soon… he would most certainly turn his back on Marvin.
Seemingly to get Liz off his back, Marvin says he'll think about it, but when Liz calls Ressler a few scenes later, she says she officially got Marvin to turn on Reddington, which is surprising, but as surprising as what she says next: She recognizes that she shouldn't subject Agnes to a life on the run, so just like her mother did 30 years ago, she's going to give her up for her own safety. At least for now, while she knows Agnes is playing paper airplanes in the Post Office with Aram, and social services are on the way.
As soon as Ressler hangs up, he tells Aram and Cooper that he recorded the call, but they both give him the side-eye, knowing this probably wasn't the first time Liz contacted him. It, uh, most definitely wasn't! But it was the first time he recorded it, and in the background they hear noises indicating that Liz is at the Silver Springs train station, so Ressler, Park, and Cooper set out to find her before Reddington does. But when they get there, there's no Keen in sight, and the security footage shows her leaving the station two minutes after she made the call to Ressler. Which is when they realize…
Liz allowed the station audio to filter into the background of her call on purpose, in order to make sure the rest of the Task Force would be cleared out of the Post Office when she arrived to take Agnes back.
When Aram sees the doors of the freight elevator, revealing Elizabeth Keen — murderous fugitive and No. 1 target on the Blacklist — he glances over to where his gun sits on a table yards away from him. After Liz gives Agnes a hug and tells her to get her things together, she flashes her own gun in a much closer position on her hip. But Aram has something tougher than a bullet to give Liz, at least coming from him: harsh words.
"Who are you?" Aram asks when Liz says he has to let her take Agnes. He reminds her that just a few days ago, she forged his signature to get explosives and nearly killed Ressler with them. "I knew who you were, Liz, but I don't know who you've become." And yet, when Liz asks for a two-minute head start getting out of the building, Aram lets her go. I have to assume because he made the decision that even though Liz is doing a lot wrong right now, her desire to be with her daughter isn't. Also because she threatened him with a gun, which — rude.
Meanwhile, Red has cottoned on to a potential betrayal by Marvin Girard, and brought Marvin and Skip to a warehouse to discuss business matters. Marvin insists that he turned Liz down, which Skip confirms, but Red has discovered plane tickets and housing reservations under his name for Switzerland. Marvin says Red is so puffed up with anger he cant's see that Liz is clearly playing him: "Getting you to hurt me is her way of getting you to hurt yourself." But Red says he "won't be hurt, not with the adorable Skip stepping up to fill the void." He instructs Dembe to give Skip access to the accounts Marvin has been managing and sends Marvin off to the suss out the truth with Bremley and a well-conditioned goat…
So it seems Lizzie was right about one thing: When the power starts shifting, Red's loyalties do get a little murky.
And the prediction of that lapse in judgment was just what Liz needed to finally pull one over on Red. Because the next time we see her, she's boarding a private plane with Agnes in tow, and Skip sitting in the next seat over, telling her that of course they can afford it: The bank account they emptied via the access Reddington handed to him had 35 million euros in it, and it's all hers now. Or at least 50 percent of it is, assuming that Skip ultimately took Liz up on the 50-50 offer she made to Marvin.
Liz calls Red to gloat, also mentioning that he was wrong about Marvin. "For someone looking to go off the grid, you continue to be quite chatty," Red responds, making me snort. Sass aside, Red does seem suitably shook that Liz and Skip stole €35 million. Liz tells him she thought using Marvin's own name to book the Switzerland tickets might be a red herring to someone clever: "But I guess I'll have to try it on someone clever to find out." Zing! Red tells Liz that one swallow doesn't mean spring is here, and she smirks and replies, "Yeah, but 35 million euros sure feels like spring break," and rides off into the skies with her daughter and her extremely suspect knight in shining armor, Skip.
Ultimately, I'm glad this episode stands as proof that these two being at odds doesn't have to all be murder and familial mystery — sometimes, it can just be multimillion-dollar fun and games.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
- Another amusing thing about this episode is that Red hunting for the No. 1 person on his own personal Blacklist is only, like, one of the things he's up to. He's also working on a mission for a man who is described only as his "friend in the East" that involves a romance novel enthusiast and Tadashi hacking the House Committee on Intelligence. Once that mission is accomplished, he flies to Moscow to see this friend and discuss how Keen believes Reddington to be N13…
- "A fact no one believes," Red responds. "A fact no one knows is true… and we must do whatever we can to keep it that way," the friend in the East counters, dropping a major (maybe?) bomb on us.
- The main thing I know Drew Gehring from is his, ahem charged role in Waitress on Broadway… so I can't help but have some affection for Smarmy Skip, Esq.
- Still, Skip might not be long for this world given the quick exchange where Marvin fusses at Skip for digitizing Reddington's accounts, which would now be Liz's accounts, and which Marvin now knows exist on some computer somewhere.
- At one point, Dembe asks Red a question and says he needs an honest answer: "Did you want Elizabeth to see you shoot her mother, knowing that if she did, it would send her to a place so dark she would never go back to her own life?" Dembe wants to know if it was Red's plan all along to take Liz to the "dark place" where he lives, hardening her enough to eventually take over his empire. Red answers simply that he didn't have a plan. And sure, there's a first time for everything, buuuut…?
- Red's current health status, according to Red: "Like a lion in winter, I am both diminished and dangerous."
- Before taking off on a private plane, Liz gives Esi a mission to locate any and all resources her mother left behind… which I can only hope leads to many posthumous Katarina discoveries.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.