The Blacklist recap: Elizabeth Keen says hello
Liz is nowhere to be found in this episode, but the robbery of Reddington's safety deposit box has her name written all over it.
For eight seasons of The Blacklist, we've been salivating for any little detail regarding Elizabeth Keen's parentage when, apparently, it's been staring us right in the face all along: Raymond Reddington and Harold Cooper are Lizzie's beleaguered guardians, and at this particularly rebellious stage of hers, they're having a difficult time finding their co-parenting groove.
In a matter of weeks, Elizabeth has run away from home, fallen in with a bad crowd, taken up with a sketchy boyfriend named Skip, and stolen millions of dollars from one of her dads (the one she's also trying to murder). And while Cooper thinks it's best to take the "we just want to get you home safely, sweetie" approach, Reddington is more of the "she's made her bed, and now she has to lie in it, and hopefully nobody gets murdered in the process, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see" mindset.
Okay, this analogy may fall apart under too much scrutiny, but I do know that hearing Cooper and Red fuss and fight over the best way to get their girl home while she spends their money and pulls their strings from some undisclosed location is kind of adorable. Especially once they start talking about going halfsies on their individually acquired intel in order to achieve better results, as though these men haven't been battling over custody of Elizabeth Keen's soul for close to a decade. As is pointed out by a highly judgmental judge this episode, there's no reason that the assistant director of the FBI should be working with the FBI's No. 1 most-wanted criminal.
But of course love isn't reasonable, and it's a shared love of Elizabeth Keen that keeps Reddington and Cooper together. A shared love that Keen is trying very hard to deflect, starting with baby's first heist!
THE FRIBOURG CONFIDENCE
The episode kicks off with a fun, fast-paced cold open, which I guess is the kind of energy we can expect now that budding criminal mastermind Elizabeth Keen is in charge. Three masked criminals show up at the house of a bank manager and hold his wife at gunpoint until he takes them to his bank and opens one specific safety deposit box for them. It has all kinds of valuables in it, including a passport with a photo bearing a striking resemblance to Reddington, but they only take one thing before letting the bank manager go: an itty-bitty thumb drive.
Oh, and they leave something behind in its place: a note that reads, "Elizabeth Keen says hello." Okay, Keen, we see you! I mean, we see her figuratively speaking — because, spoiler alert, Elizabeth Keen doesn't show up in this episode at all, even though her fingerprints all over it.
And again, that's figuratively speaking. Because Red gets his guy Cvetko to run prints on the note that the bank manager passed along from Keen, and it turns up nothing. But Cvetko doesn't just check the note for prints and DNA, he also runs it through a handwriting database of known bank robbers and finds a match: Abe Moors, a notorious retired bank robber who, when Red finds him, is using a wheelchair and per his own account, "couldn't even steal my wallet out of my own pocket."
Red has already dutifully reported that Keen burgled his safety deposit box to the Post Office, and directed them to their next Blacklister: the Fribourg Confidence, a thieving collective that only robs criminals so they never get caught, and a group Red thinks currently possesses his thumb drive. Both Red and Cooper hope that if they track down these "criminals [Liz] has been mixed up with," they'll find their missing daughter-I-mean-co-worker. So while Red is trying to figure out how Abe Moors could have stolen his thumb drive in his condition, the Post Office is texting him a photo of a woman they spotted on the bank's security cameras who they suspect may have robbed the safety deposit box…
And Red looks up to see that very same woman staring back at him from a number of photos sitting on Abe's dresser. Abe swears up and down that his daughter Jennifer couldn't possibly be the bank robber, and that they're estranged because of the time he did in prison for theft. But Red soon finds out that's not true either when Aram sends him another photo of Jennifer meeting with two associates, one of whom Red recognizes as Abe's nurse, whom he met on his first visit to Abe's apartment. But Red keeps that intel to himself, despite his agreement with Cooper to go halfsies on finding Keen — an agreement that neither man is really holding to. Because when the Post Office discovers where Jennifer is supposed to be exchanging the thumb drive with "Carolyn Givens" (one of Liz Keen's aliases), Cooper tells Ressler not to say anything to Reddington until they have Liz in their custody.
But things don't exactly go as planned during the stakeout of Jennifer's drop. Esi, who is staked out herself, spots the FBI agents and calls Jennifer to tell her there's a change of plans. Jennifer makes it look like she's dropped the thumb drive into a passerby's purse, when really she's placed it in a coffee cup that a man who's been rummaging through the trashcans throughout the entire scene is able to scoop up and deliver to Esi without the FBI agents noticing.
The Task Force is at least able to take Jennifer into custody while Reddington simultaneously interrogates Abe, and though Cooper and Red still aren't sharing their intel with one another, they get the exact same story: Recently, while Jennifer was using a network of criminal safe houses to hide out after a job, she heard about someone else who was hiding out using the same network and was in need of a bank robber. The two women met, after which Abe advised Jennifer that robbing Raymond Reddington wasn't a good idea, but the $1.5 million payout was too much to turn down.
Jennifer tells the Post Office the location of Elizabeth keen's Liz's safe house, where Cooper shows up and finds…
The other half of his alleged whole: Raymond Reddington. And no Elizabeth Keen. Cooper growls at Red that perhaps if he'd had his own information with the Post Office sooner, Elizabeth wouldn't have alluded them. To which Red rightly responds: "Sins, stones, and glass houses, Harold." Liz is gone, and with her Reddington's mysterious thumb drive, the contents of which he won't share with Cooper. Oh, and one more thing has disappeared with Liz: perhaps every single guilty plea the Task Force has ever gotten for a Blacklister.
You see, the whole time Cooper has been searching for Liz, there's been an even greater goal than just trying to get to her before she can successfully murder Red. Cynthia Panabaker showed up at the Post Office to tell Cooper that the first Blacklister they ever put in jail, the Freelancer, was attempting to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming that his rights had been violated. The Freelancer has a fancy new lawyer, appropriately named Scooter Rovenpor, who's filed an appeal claiming that the judge in the original case failed to pursue the Freelancer's Sixth Amendment request to disclose the identity of the FBI's informant who provided the evidence that got him arrested. (That would be, uh, Reddington.)
Since Agent Keen swore the affidavits based on that informant's knowledge — just like she did for every Blacklister the Post Office has caught using their ever-so-confidential informant — she needs to be in court to testify to the judge by the next day, or the evidence they got from Reddington may be excluded, and the Freelancer could walk.
As we know, Reddington and Cooper never locate Keen, and even Cynthia Panabaker asking for a private chat with the judge — where she tells him that their informant is Raymond Reddington and the president of the United States is cool with it — isn't enough to persuade him to allow the evidence that came from Keen's relationship with her informant. In fact, it does the opposite. He says that anything the FBI has learned from Reddington should be deemed "unreliable as a matter of law," and that he'll be dismissing all evidence in the Freelancer's case that came from Reddington, and granting the motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
So that's a mass murderer walking free because Keen didn't show up to court. But Red thinks it's worse than that — he thinks Keen is the reason there was an appeal at all.
After they've both failed to catch Keen at her safe house, Red tells Cooper that he doesn't think it's a coincidence that Keen stole millions from him and shortly thereafter the Freelancer got "an expensive new attorney demanding his release unless Elizabeth Keen magically appears in court." And we soon learn the reason why when Skip shows up at Scooter's office (seriously though, what is with these names?!) to deliver a suitcase full of cash to Scooter, and a phone to the Freelancer. He tells him that there's only one number programmed into it: "Ms. Keen arranged for your release because she requires your services."
Though we don't yet know what Liz needs the Freelancer for, we do see the next step of her other special project when Cooper gets in his car and finds a coffee cup with a thumb drive sitting inside it — Red's thumb drive. The thumb drive we heard Red tell Dembe they'd need to tell their "friend in the East" had been stolen. Their "friend in the East" who seemed to imply last week that Reddington is N13…
Is everything starting to make sense now?
(I mean, no, not really — but Liz is pulling the strings, and things are happening!)
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
- When Cooper puts the thumb drive in his computer, he gets a screen asking for a password that's all in Russian. So, while things are happening, as stated above, that doesn't necessarily mean we know what those things are.
- "I don't know, it seems kind of crazy to me that we're still calling her Agent Keen." Aram, speaking the truth forever and always.
- I don't know what that final scene with Red connecting with the lovely birdwatcher in the park meant, but… is it still possible our dude could just settle down with a nice lady and watch some birds while his estranged maybe-daughter takes over his criminal enterprise?
- Speaking of which, over eight seasons of The Blacklist I've grown a little wary of how often Liz declares Red her mortal enemy, inevitably forgives him, vows never to betray him again, only to get mad at him and start the process all over. But that her anger is resulting in a gradual coup of his criminal empire this time…?
- Well, it's not what I want for Lizzie, but it is at least interesting.