The Blacklist recap: The enemy of my enemy is my friend
Liz finally connects with the one and only Neville Townsend, but she's taken virtual meetings to a whole new level.
When an episode of The Blacklist opens in medias res, it's probably wise to go ahead and anticipate a whole mess of confusion coming our way. During this hour, I think we spent more time with people we'd never met before than with our tried-and-true FBI Task Force (which Liz is no longer a part of, as she'll make repeatedly clear in this episode.)
Of course, one of those new characters is a person we've been circling around for, uh, years at this point: Neville Townsend, of the eponymous Townsend Directive. And yet, Townsend's arrival is somewhat undercut by the fact that, when we finally meet him, he's not coming face-to-face with the woman whose mother he (allegedly) tried to assassinate for three decades, forcing her to (allegedly) abandon her child and go into hiding. Because the other person we spend the most time with during this episode is Elizabeth Keen's doppelgänger, a lookalike she's hired to do her bidding.
Which brings us to the most central reveal of this episode, hidden in between exposition drops and vague clues: More and more, Elizbeth Keen's bidding includes straight-up murder. We still can't be sure who N13 is, or why it matters to the story we've been following for eight seasons; what Reddington's "30-year project" is or how it involves Ratikin; or why everyone takes the dying voicemail of a notoriously slippery woman as gospel fact…
But we can be sure that Elizabeth Keen used to not murder people in cold blood. Something has changed with her, and somehow it's changed without her actually showing up on our screens in weeks.
THE CYRANOID, NO. 35
Even though I found the execution of this episode a little taxing on the mind, I must admit that I found the Blacklister conceit a fun one. What can I say, I'm just your classic sucker for modern retellings of pre-20th-century plays: Ten Things I Hate About You, She's the Man, and now this episode of The Blacklist.
We open on a quick scene that appears to depict Elizabeth Keen walking into a house where Reddington and Dembe are waiting for her. "Elizabeth, I think we're long overdue for a talk," Reddington says ominously, before the screen cuts the next title card: "12 HOURS EARLIER." And though we never got a clear look at the woman's face, she's sporting Liz's signature brunette waves and army green coat, so we're meant to assume that once we make it through those 12 hours, this episode will end with Liz and Red finally coming face-to-face for the first time in weeks.
Now, I would not at all have been surprised to find that the show was setting this confrontation up for a future episode by using a body double in this episode, given that Megan Boone has been physically absent for a few episodes now.
What I did not expect was for the writers to take that assumption of mine and use it against me by making body doubles the actual plotline of this episode! They're straight-up trolling us — and that I love. Everyone going along with the idea that this woman who basically functions as a human phone is the real Lizzie Keen, however…
That's a little harder to stomach. The first person to discover that Liz is using a body double is Neville Townsend, after Liz uses Mary "Chemical Mary" Bremmer to get to him. It turns out that Neville and Mary are siblings, which was the entire reason Liz abducted Mary in the first place. She forces Mary to contact Townsend's people to say Elizabeth Keen wants a meeting, but once his men show up, it turns out the siblings aren't all that close. The FBI is able to track down the meeting and bust it up, and in the chaos of the shootout, Townsend's men are sure to keep ahold of Liz, but they make no qualms about leaving Mary behind when push comes to shove.
And so Chemical Mary heads to the Post Office, and Elizabeth Keen heads to the eccentric home of Neville Townsend with a bag over her head.
Once the bag is removed in front of Townsend, he gives his men a look that distinctly says: WTF, my dudes? It's a look that I shared when I discovered the woman under the bag was not Liz, as expected, but a woman who looked a lot (although not that much) like her. It soon becomes clear via a silhouette of the real Liz wearing a headset and watching a monitor that this woman in front of Townsend is wearing contacts that show the real Liz what she sees, an earpiece that allows the real Liz to hear what she hears and tell her precisely what to say in return, and that this woman has been hired by the real Liz specifically for this purpose.
She is… doppel-Liz.
And she's there to tell Neville Townsend a few things: (1) The men who he hired to kill Katarina Rostova staged her death. (2) Raymond Reddington was the one who finally killed her. (3) And he did it because he is N13, not Katarina Rostova. Y'know, according to a voicemail Katarina left for Liz in her dying moments, where she does most of the fact-listing.
But Townsend has a flair for the dramatic himself, and so he allows doppel-Liz to explain. It seems that Neville has been after Katarina/N13 all these years because she caused the death of his family. But now Liz is telling him that Katarina was framed by her father as a patsy, and Raymond Reddington is the real N13 — the real reason Townsend's family is dead. Doppel-Liz plays Townsend the voicemail and tells him that she wouldn't have gone through all the effort to abduct his sister and make this pitch if she wasn't certain Reddington was N13. The only reason she's sought out Townsend's help is because she knows that he alone has the power and influence to help her take Reddington down. And now, she hopes he'll have the motivation.
Townsend is intrigued, but he tells Liz he'll need her to prove to him that she's worthy of his trust.
The next thing we know, doppel-Liz has arrived at the Post Office to turn herself in, which first seems like an odd way to prove her loyalty to Townsend. Doppel-Liz won't tell the Task Force who she is, only that she can lead them to Keen if they give her immunity. To which Cynthia Panabaker says, "absolutely not," and Raymond Reddington also says, "absolutely not," but with a fun little lesson involved:
Reddington tells Cooper that he suspects the woman might be a "Cyranoid," based on Cyrano de Bergerac, the play about a homely but clever poet who uses a handsome intermediary to woo his beloved. Reddington suspects that Liz might be doing some wooing of her own through her Cyranoid, who's most likely a former operative she's hired to flush out dangerous situations. You know, like entering an FBI field office while you're wanted for attempted murder.
It is at that exact moment that Cooper and Panabaker look up and realize that doppel-Liz has managed to cut the camera feed to her interrogation room and disappear. She wasn't there to turn herself in at all, she was there to do Liz's bidding, just like Liz hired her to. And that now includes…
Murdering Mary Bremmer for Townsend. We see a flashback to doppel-Liz telling Townsend that she (Liz, I presume) isn't a murderer, but Townsend tells her that Mary has become a liability, so Liz has to kill her if she wants his help taking down Reddington. "This is my price, are you willing to pay it?" he asks.
And Liz answers by sending doppel-Liz into the Post Office with all of the information she needs to escape her own interrogation room, make her way to Mary's, and choke her to death, just as Aram is arriving to question her. Aram immediately draws his gun and tries to keep doppel-Liz cornered, but Liz works her usual manipulative magic — even via surrogate — to distract Aram long enough to knock away his gun and lock him in the interrogation room. And on her way out, she makes sure to toss a few sassy lines at Ressler re: their former hookup and tell him that she "really does miss him."
Liz is awful in this episode. But I also found it a little bizarre how quickly the Task Force gang were able to adopt seeing doppel-Liz as their Liz…
Although, to be fair to their mental states, the Task Force is kind of burning the candle at both ends right now. In addition to looking for Liz, looking for Liz's doppelgänger, and interrogating Chemical Mary, they've also been investigating what Cooper found out after using Reddington's fingerprint to open the Ratikin file last week: that Reddington is almost definitely N13. The only way to verify that quickly is to find Ratikin, who shows up dead basically the moment the Post Office is able to identify five leads on him via the intel from the thumb drive.
But wait — that dead body wasn't Ratikin! It was one of the other four leads that the real Ratikin knew would have been identified once his security clearance was withdrawn, and so he made it look like one had killed himself in order to buy some time. It's enough for Cooper to assume Reddington had something to do with the death, leading him to get big mad and exposing to Red that he knows about Ratikin in the process…
So now Reddington can also assume that Cooper has cracked the thumb drive and suspects him to be N13 — and he's none too thrilled about it. When the real Rakitin shows up at his kitchen-office, Reddington tells him that he's "engaged in a 30-year project that you may be a vital part of, but if you jeopardize it again, I will let you go permanently."
A 30-year project, you say?! Now that is information.
But there's no time to dwell on, because after doppel-Liz successfully murders Mary Bremmer and escapes the Post Office, her 12-hour-day of working with Elizabeth Keen is done. She walks in her house, throws her keys in the bowl…
And discovers Reddington and Dembe in the living room, requesting to talk to Liz. Doppel-Liz says she's not online with her anymore, and Red tells her she better put her Very Special Contact Lenses in then, because it's time to talk.
But once Reddington is "on" with Liz, she's not interested in chatting. "That's the thing, you're used to getting your way every time," doppel-Liz tells Red. "Well that's not gonna work with me, not anymore — you can't follow me or interrogate me. That's why I have a Cyranoid, to eliminate your control." This entire journey away from Reddington, away from the Post Office, has really been about Liz attempting to gain control of her own life. And in some ways, she's doing it. But it can't be ignored that she also seems to be losing control of herself as well. We've already seen her murder a woman in FBI custody, and now, she seems willing to let doppel-Liz die too.
Because when Red empties all the bullets except one out of his gun and tells Liz he's going to pull the trigger until she tells him where she is, Liz doesn't budge. So that's definitely one point in the "not allowing Red to control her anymore" column… but it's also one in the "willing to let someone die to get what she wants" column.
"You really thing you have power over me, don't you?" she says via the woman Red is threatening to kill. He pulls the trigger one, two, three, four times — and with each empty shot, Liz still won't tell him anything. Before he can take the fifth shot, Liz breaks her connection to doppel-Liz…
At which point Red reveals to doppel-Liz that there was never a bullet in the chamber at all. Reddington wouldn't have killed her… but Liz would have let him.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
- As it turns out, the whole Russian roulette ruse was simply a setup so Dembe could trace Liz's location. But when Reddington gets to her hideout, there's only a phone waiting for him. The phone dials Townsend, who tells Reddington that it seems there's nothing Elizabeth Keen won't do to get to him. "You certainly collect enemies in your wake," he coos at Reddington. "And as the wise men say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend… and it turns out that you're due for a reckoning."
- On the Townsend front: They're definitely playing him up as an eccentric who has trouble sleeping and takes a lot of medicine given to him by a live-in nurse. I didn't find those character traits to be clicking with me on a spiritual level with me tonight, but I was receiving the message loud and clear that they will play an important role in the future.
- Y'all Aram has had it with Elizabeth Keen and this Task Force. I'm worried he's about to give his two weeks' notice.
- "What she knows is that you thought it was a fine idea to dip your wick into the fugitive end of the swimming pool." Panabaker and Ressler are on screen together for 20 seconds in this episode, and she is roasting him to a crisp for 19 of them.