A good therapist can be hard to find — unless you’re a criminal kingpin, in which case it’s just a matter of outsourcing your search to the unsuspecting FBI.
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THE BLACKLIST
Colby Lewis as Peter Simpson, Laura Sohn as Alina Park -- (Photo by: Will Hart/NBC)
| Credit: Will Hart/NBC
The Blacklist - Season 2

Perhaps the last bastion of normalizing therapy as a standard medical practice is to normalize therapy for even the most corrupt among us — those for whom self-actualization is actually a practice in becoming more criminal. Of course, The Blacklist is not the first high-crime drama to employ this storytelling tactic… That's right, The Blacklist went full Sopranos on Thursday night, as Reddington went about pulling one over on the FBI in order to retain a therapist with a very special set of skills (and retain her on a private island, as it were).

With the therapist's help, Reddington can sort through the complicated feelings that have arisen since Elizabeth's death, and we can gain insight into a man so complicated that, after nine seasons, we still quite literally do not know who he is. Which brings us to tonight's biggest surprise: the resurgence of the Reddington/Lizzie mythology by way of Spy Baby Agnes' (Spy Tween Agnes?) dynamite memory, and that mysterious letter that should have answered all of our questions last season, but ultimately went the way of Elizabeth Keen instead…

Or so we thought! When Reddington unearthed the memory of that all-knowing letter, and admitted to his new therapist that he'd abandoned the peace and tranquility he found briefly after Elizabeth's death because he simply cannot resist his compulsion for chaos and peril, I had to wonder if it's the same for The Blacklist at large. Because here I was thinking that in the series' (likely) final season, we'd all retired to a nice, peaceful procedural about the darkest depths of crime and government corruption… only for one little slip-up during a game of Name-That-State-Capital to dredge up the chaos that is — and always has been — the mysterious link between Raymond Reddington and Elizabeth Keen.

DR. ROBERTA SAND, NO. 153

The episode opens with a man in the middle of a therapy session, receiving guidance on how to overcome stage fright for his high-pressure job. We watch him walk out of the session holding a violin case, toward an event for a congressional candidate where an orchestra is setting up on stage. We then watch as the man opens up his violin case, unpacks a gun on a rooftop 500 yards away from the congressional event, and assassinates a woman in cold blood.

But the woman he shoots isn't the congresswoman the event was honoring — as Reddington tells Cooper later, she was a preservationist who'd been getting in the way of a number of construction projects that were costing important (sometimes criminal) people a lot of money. One of those people is Vito Decanio, head of the Decanio crime syndicate — but Vito isn't the Blacklister Red has in mind. You see, Vito's empire had been in decline for years until recently, when he began employing a therapist, Dr. Roberta Sand, and insisting that everyone within his organization attend sessions with her. "The shrink helps them fully realize their potential as criminals?" Cooper asks. Reddington confirms this is not an uncommon practice, and off Cooper goes to find the woman using her PhD to help criminals become happier, healthier, more productive criminals.

After assigning the next Blacklister, Reddington settles in for a play date with Agnes, and as always, these two are just adorable. Agnes excitedly tells "Pinkie" that she brought a memory game for them to play with the state capitals. She tells him she understands if he doesn't know all the U.S. capitals: "I mean, I wouldn't know the capitals of Russia." Reddington looks like he has swallowed a brick the size of Indianapolis, and begins gently prodding Agnes on why she thinks he might be from Russia (in a way that luckily does not require Brimley, or any of his family members).

Agnes tells Reddington that she knows he's Russian because her mother told her "everything I would ever need to know about you." And after that, Liz told Agnes that all she really needed to remember about Raymond Reddington was that he was "the most important person in her life besides me, and she was glad I met you, and she wished we could meet again." And here they are, meeting regularly to play games at Cooper's kitchen table: a fun new tradition that is suddenly shaded a different color for Reddington. Later, Reddington tells Weecha that Agnes seems to know things that she could have only learned from a letter that he entrusted to Dembe two years ago with strict instructions to hand over to Elizabeth when he died.

Instead, Elizabeth died — but Reddington now has his suspicions that she may have died knowing the contents of his letter. In order to find out, he employs his buddy Cvetko to run a forensics test to uncover whether Elizabeth Keen ever came into contact with this letter.

Back on the Blacklister task at hand, the Post Office gang is able to find footage of a man suspiciously carrying a violin case exiting a building near where the preservationist was assassinated. Like "everyone's favorite noir stereotype," Park says. Thanks to Dembe's good standing at the long-distance shooting range, the Task Force is able to get an address for the shooter, which naturally leads to a shoot-out. But, once again, thanks to Dembe's long career as an elite criminal before casually transitioning into a role as a special FBI agent, he's able to outsmart this guy, get him back to the Post Office, and reverse-psychology his way into giving up his criminal therapist's identity.

An identity the Task Force actually already knows. Now, however, they also know how to find her: by sending a text asking for a pet grooming appointment, like the shooter tells them to, and waiting to see what happens. Surprisingly, what happens is that an actual pet grooming van rolls up. But there are no hair dryers or nail clippers inside, just a fleet of TJ Maxx wall art and a fainting couch — because it's not a mobile pet grooming van, it's a mobile therapist's office. Sand is inside, and when they get her back to the Post Office, she eventually reveals how she got into such a profession, despite being a reputable therapist with a booming private practice just five years ago.

It turns out that at that same time, her only son got swept up in a bad crowd that eventually led to his arrest for involvement with the Decanio crime syndicate. Vito Decanio himself stepped in to keep young Dante out of prison — but in exchange, Dante's mother came under his payroll as the resident therapist. For years, she helped his employees get comfortable with their darkest impulses and Vito's sickest demands in order to protect her son….

Until Dembe informs Dr. Sand that, at this very moment, Vito is breaking his end of the agreement. The Task Force has discovered that Vito had the preservationist killed in order to gain access to an old church building that happens to be connected to a safe house where an informant who's scheduled to testify against Vito in a federal case is being held. When Sand finds out that Vito has sent her son in after the informant, she agrees to become an informant in the federal case herself — this time, in exchange for the FBI protecting her son.

But Dr. Sand winds up getting an even better deal than she bargained for (in one recapper's completely objective opinion). Because as Dr. Sand and her son are being transported to Main Justice, their armored van ride is violently interrupted — not by Vito, but by Reddington. As we all probably figured out by now, this Blacklist mission was a ploy to indite the Decanio crime syndicate, sure — but mostly, Reddington needed a new therapist with a very specific expertise.

Dr. Sand already has her work cut out for her. On their way to the private island where Reddington has promised to protect Dr. Sand and her son, he gets the call from Cvetko: Elizabeth Keen has indeed come into contact with the letter that Dembe was only supposed to give her in the event of his death. Which means that Reddington may need a few more sessions with Dr. Sand than originally anticipated. And when she asks him where his sudden fixation with the darkness within him is coming from, he tells her: "I recently discovered that I was betrayed by my oldest and closest friend… and I'm apprehensive about the depth and breadth of my anger."

A FEW LOOSE ENDS

  • The involuntary lip curl from James Spader in that final line is just the best — nine seasons in, and he's still got it, baby!
  • Still, most of this episode is just co-workers looking at one another sideways. First, when Aram says he's been in therapy since he was a 10-year-old struggling to cope with his parents' inability to comprehend differential calculus. Then, when Dembe casually responds that he could easily assassinate someone from 500 yards away…
  • And finally, Park's repeated references to the darkness inside her, and how much she hates it (and sadly, the way that secrecy and self-hatred is affecting her marriage). But it's Aram, not Dr. Sand, who ultimately gives her the advice she needs to begin healing: "The idea I came up with … is not to hate yourself because you have dark impulses, but to love yourself in spite of them."
  • No one is giving a single sideways glance at Cooper, who — just as it seems like he'll finally be able to move past the mysterious murder of his wife's former lover due to a little unsolicited evidence tampering from his friend Lew — is contacted by a Deepthroat wannabe informing him that they've got a lot of demands, and they know Cooper will meet them because they have all the evidence they need to frame him for murder.
  • Ressler was taking a personal day this episode, so there's really only one question to ask: will he return without the goatee, or with an even more fervent commitment to the goatee?!
  • Agnes to Pinkie: "She said you liked to hold hands." Me to me: 😭
  • But, also: What does Agnes know??? And why won't she tell us?! Spill, Spy Baby!

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The Blacklist - Season 2
The Blacklist

James Spader is Raymond "Red" Reddington, a mastermind criminal who teams up with the FBI.

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