The Blacklist recap: An Aram Mojtabai banger
There is SO much to unpack with this episode of The Blacklist.
I've been continuously impressed with the twists and turns this season. Granted, this week's Blacklister was predictable, but the Liz development in the end threw me over the edge. I was beginning to get annoyed with the mystery being dragged on, but now I'm invested.
Because of the big reveal at the conclusion of the episode, I'm going to start with the Blacklister story line, because let's be real, who didn't see this one coming a mile away?
El Conejo (No. 177)
Aram (Amir Arison) is nervously preparing for his first meeting with the director of national intelligence. He pauses for a moment to reflect on his first meeting with his former GreyLock partner Nick (Jared Canfield) two years ago, as they formed their tech company to create a sophisticated anti-hacking software. Cutting back to the present, Aram is leaving a message for his mom updating her on his upcoming meeting when he's kidnapped by masked men working for Don "El Conejo" Marquez (Carlos Gomez).
Cooper (Harry Lennix) and Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) are going over the documents on Reginald Cole and what they know about Cooper's case. They decide that since Reginald is a cold case, they need to focus on the lawyer, Mr. LaCroix. Park (Laura Sohn) tells the group that Aram isn't in the office yet, which is very unlike him, but Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) and Ressler say it could be because of Aram's meeting with the DNI. Cooper visits Aram's place to give him a pep talk but finds Aram's mother sorting through the mess in the house; she then asks Cooper to find her son. She gives the task force a recording of Aram's kidnapping, in which they hear one of the goons say, "Greetings from El Conejo."
Aram is taken to Marquez, who claims that Aram stole from him by making his product disappear from the system, leaving him out half a million dollars. Aram has no idea what Marquez is talking about until he reveals that a malware chewed through the state-of-the-art server system protecting his supply chains and travel lines. He shows Aram the code, which has his name in it: "An Aram Mojtabai Banger." Aram says he can help Marquez figure out what happened to his shipment. While looking through the code, he discovers that someone stole his GreyLock source code and weaponized it against Marquez. Just then, Marquez receives a call from a blackmailer who will exchange the goods for half a million dollars.
Red (James Spader) knows of Marquez and recommends that the team talk to the Scripp brothers, who created Marquez's impressive server. Hilariously proud of their arrest records, the Scripps refuse to talk until Park convinces them otherwise by destroying their hardware. The brothers get into Marquez's system and track Aram's location.
While being held hostage, Aram reflects on his work with Nick at GreyLock. In a flashback, Aram is focused on fixing errors but Nick brushes him off and says their assessment came back perfect. Back in the present, the FBI rescues Aram but Marquez escapes.
At the Post Office, Aram tells the task force that his GreyLock source code was stolen by the people who hacked Marquez. The only people who had access to the code are Nick, who doesn't know anything about tech, and a third-party risk-assessment firm. Cooper suggests that Aram check in with the firm while the rest of the team interrogates one of Marquez's men, who reveals the blackmail location Marquez planned to be at.
During all this, Marquez's son Antonio (Andres Borda), who is studying at Princeton, is angry at his kingpin father for never being around. It's obvious that Antonio is resentful of his dad and his brother, who seems to be the favorite. It's also obvious when we find Antonio at his father's safe house that he might have had something to do with the hacking. The fact that he's shocked when he finds out an FBI agent is involved tells you he didn't expect things to go this far. He berates his father, which prompts Marquez to call his son "weak" and threaten him. (Now I'm sure Antonio had something to do with the hack.)
Aram accuses the CEO of the risk-assessment firm of hacking his source code, but the CEO says it's all Aram's fault because he ignored their independent review. Aram says Nick showed him a statement that said everything was fine, and the CEO then shows him a copy of the review, which has sections Aram has never seen before, including vulnerabilities. Aram confronts Nick about hiding the coding problems from him and continuing to sell GreyLock even with the discrepancies. Nick, who's focused on making money, tells Aram to leave.
Marquez brings the money to the blackmailer at the rendezvous point, and — surprise! — it's Antonio. He's angry that he's never been included in the family business because his father has never seen him as worthy of being part of the cartel. Just then the FBI arrives to arrest Marquez and his men. Angry at his son's deception, Marquez shoots at Antonio, but Aram saves him.
Back at the Post Office, Aram finds out that Antonio's roommate, a computer science major, was able to tweak Aram's code and turn it into a weapon — which means others could easily do the same. Realizing this, Aram hacks into the GreyLock system and destroys the main source code, ensuring that no one will ever misappropriate his work again.
Although the plot twist of the episode was obvious, it's nice to see an episode exploring Aram's time with GreyLock and confirming that he made the right decision coming back to the FBI. The episode underscores how moral and upstanding Aram is as an agent and a person. I just hope being assistant director doesn't get to his head or change him for the worse.
The big reveal
The episode begins with a man named Costa (Evan Zes) waking up in his big villa alone, conducting his daily regimen of dental hygiene, cooking, gardening, and eating dinner solo. His routine is interrupted one day by Red, who put Costa in charge of protecting the "How to be a Criminal Mastermind" DVDs left for Liz (Megan Boone) in the event of Red's death. Red tells Costa that Liz is dead and wonders why Costa kept waiting. Costa says he was never told how long to wait but has kept the DVDs safe in the villa. Red shows Costa the DVDs he retrieved from Mt. Bastian, which are the same ones that were supposed to be in the safe. Teddy (Teddy Coluca) arrives to interrogate Costa with his torturing methods, but we find that Costa did nothing wrong and has been completely loyal to Red.
Red is completely baffled by the notion that his one-of-a-kind safe, which could only be opened by Red and Liz's biometrics, has been broken into. Per Weecha's (Diany Rodriguez) suggestion, Red watches his DVDs to find some sort of clue. After hours of watching videos of himself giving tough advice — mainly Red reiterating to trust no one — Red realizes how the DVDs were taken. The safe we see in this room isn't the original safe that Red purchased; it was replaced with a perfect replica. Red says he must now talk to the safe maker, Heinrich Zimmerstahl (Philip Goodwin).
Weecha brings the elderly safe maker to the villa, where Red confronts him about creating a second safe. Zimmerstahl doesn't deny making a replica of the safe, but says it was at the behest of Red. He explains that a woman claiming to be Red's representative — with access to Red's bank accounts and information — wanted a duplicate of the safe. Red tells Zimmerstahl to give him every detail on the woman in question… and the woman he describes is Mr. Kaplan (Susan Blommaert).
Reader, I fell off my chair. Mr. Kaplan was my favorite character on The Blacklist, and the idea that she is somehow involved from beyond the grave — or maybe is secretly alive — has me excited. If she's dead, who are her associates helping her get revenge on Red? I don't know.
Could she actually be alive doing this? The last time we saw her, she jumped off a bridge to her apparent death — but you never know with this show. Then again, Mr. Kaplan would never have killed Liz. Her whole purpose in life was to protect Liz and Agnes. I'm more excited now to find out who killed Liz and what role Mr. Kaplan played in this. I believe Mr. Kaplan set those things up before her death when she wanted to expose Red during their war. Someone must have known about it and utilized it in their plot against Liz and Red. I have so many theories, but right now I just need more answers.
James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.