The Blacklist recap: A frenemy returns
We begin with our old pal Senator Cynthia Panabaker (Deirdre Lovejoy) giving a fiery stump speech at a re-election campaign event. Her Secret Service agents spot a suspiciously moody teen in the crowd, but that only distracts them from the glowering older man lurking about.
Post-speech, the senator is delighted to see Cooper (Harry Lennix) in the crowd when suddenly shots ring out. Cooper corrals the senator behind a pillar, and the agents follow quickly. Unfortunately, they're kinda useless because their guns and radios are missing — someone has managed to pickpocket the Secret Service. It also doesn't help that one of them has been shot. Panabaker speaks for all of us as she blurts out "Harold, what the hell just happened?" Let's find out!
David Giesbrecht/NBC Ken King as Ives, Deirdre Lovejoy as Cynthia Panabaker
We come back from the credits to find Red (James Spader) giving Cooper a historical tour of the 60th Street Public Bath. (Tenement housing in the early 20th century often neglected to have plumbing, making bathhouses vital.) Cooper realizes that Red is living in the cobweb-ridden building, but this concerning development is set aside once Red brings up Panabaker.
Red knows the culprits, of course. The pickpockets are called the Four Guns, a name as deceptive as their tactics. We watch how they pulled off their coordinated grift as Red explains these "apex predators" of stealing are named after the Yiddish word for thief, goniff. They're not violent, they're just great at their jobs, which means the attempted assassin that hired them is still out there. And you know what an attempted assassin does? Attempt again. It's right there in the name.
Back at HQ, Cooper briefs Malik (Anya Banerjee), Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq), and Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) on the Four Guns and their various capers, one of which was stealing from a royal named Prince Eric. This, of course, implies The Blacklist and The Little Mermaid exist in the same universe, and now I want my episode about a Blacklister who steals voices from her victims.
Cooper believes finding the Four will lead to the assassin, so he sends his agents to comb the crime scene while he checks on the senator. She's understandably shaken but bounces back to snap at Cooper's expression of gratitude for keeping him out of prison last season.
"Has the cheese slid all the way off your cracker?" she asks (I will immediately be adopting that phrase as my new go-to response). Red blackmailed her, she reminds, and she's not interested in using his help now. Cooper insists, though, and it only takes a sincere "please" from Cooper to make her fold.
We then get to spend some time with our actual assassin. He's sitting at a desk in front of a giant upside-down American flag getting a mysterious code from two people who clearly want no part of whatever this self-described "patriot" is up to.
Scott Gries/NBC James Spader as Raymond "Red" Reddington
When they leave, we discover two things: He's listening to a recording from the senator's office, and he's been expertly disguising himself. We cut away before hearing what secret shenanigans Panabaker is up to, but whatever it is, the Patriot is smiling.
In a rare bookshop near the Flatiron building, Red is making an antiquarian's day by handing her a first edition of Nicolaus Copernicus's 1543 tome Heavenly Spheres. She offers $1.2 million, but Red wants a trade. From her private collection.
The collection includes Victorian books that were practically doused in arsenic, making them very pretty and pretty deadly. Each has a slipcover to protect the reader. So who is Red gifting this to? And will it be sans cover?
That would be Robert Vesco (Stacy Keach). And yes, the frenemy to end all frenemies was last seen being arrested by Dembe back in the SPK, but now he's getting a prison-delivered, first edition Oliver Twist. The twist is arsenic!
Later in the episode, Vesco begins gasping desperately for air, and I also gasped because he was only halfway through the book. Cruelty, thy name is Reddington.
Our team has found a partial thumb print on one of the dumped radios, so Red brings in my favorite stay-at-home criminal dad Herbie (Alex Brightman). Herbie isn't concerned it's only a partial; he's just happy to be speaking to another adult about anything not baby-poop related. Red takes over nanny duty, and Herbie gets to work.
Red and Herbie, having once again done the job the FBI cannot seem to do, have identified Quentin Dodd (Jacob Pitts) as one of the Four. The Task Force goes over his criminal bio and finds his weakness — he likes very expensive watches. Luckily, there's a watch auction happening. A little bait on Ressler's wrist and Dodd, aka the Hook, aka the Mechanic, aka the Claw, is arrested.
Dembe and Ressler interrogate a decidedly blasé Dodd, who seems to understand the finer points of the laws regarding theft and DNA transfer. He also doesn't talk to cops, so the FBI is forced to release him… and Red scoops him right up.
Dodd demonstrates his observation skills at Red's request. He spots the flip phone and various weapons on the first try, then ventures into more dangerous territory when his study leads him to conclude Red's eyes show "a life lived too long with little left to lose."
Red's steely gaze confirms this diagnosis, but Dodd still won't reveal the shooter until Teddy (Teddy Coluca), our resident torture expert, walks in and starts listing different ways to sever a hand.
Dodd wisely caves and gives up an address. The Task Force doesn't find the assassin, but does spy with their little eyes a picture of our assassin with disgraced former President Robert Diaz (Benito Martinez), a bunch of handwritten manifestos, and a whole pile of disguise supplies. It's enough to identify him as Lucas Roth (Neal Huff), former Secret Service.
Cooper tries to convince Panabaker to cancel her scheduled debate, but she'd rather be really dead than politically dead. That's going to be put to test because Roth has just arrived.
Knowing the Secret Service procedures as well as he knows a fake mustache, Roth assembles a plastic gun and hits the fire alarm. For some reason it takes several minutes for our team to figure out what's happening, and by that time, Roth has grabbed the senator and her agent.
In a basement room of the theater, Roth calls Agent Will Strickland by name. In another twist, it's not the senator he's after, it's his former colleague. Strickland planted the bug in Panabaker's office and was feeding information to her opponent in order to sway the election.
Roth, who seems to have let all his cheese slip off his cracker, says Strickland must pay for his betrayal. But the senator has brought a gun to this gun fight, and by the time Cooper and Ressler finally arrive, Roth is on the ground and he and Strickland are both arrested.
Red has spent this time hiring the Four Guns to bust Vesco out of the hospital, where he was recovering from his near-death book club. Vesco is sassy over the poisoning, but Red convinces him freedom was worth the arsenic.The two jump on the jet, where Red gifts Vesco with a copy of Treasure Island. Smartly, Vesco doesn't want to touch that with a ten-foot pole, either literally or figuratively, but I think we all know there's a treasure hunt in their future.
Red is slowly pulling pieces like Herbie, the Four Guns, and Vesco together, presumably for the coming war with Wujing. I have no idea what he plans to do with these folks and their talents, but I do know we'll find out in the next seven episodes.
Red on hosting: "The caviar I serve my prisoners is just fish eggs."
We don't usually see Panabaker be as vulnerable as she was this week, but between the Task Force and the United States Senate, can you blame a woman for needing a decent cry?
Red on the odds Vesco could have died from the arsenic: "Okay, so maybe there was a 15 percent chance, 20 percent at most. Maybe 25 percent. But here you are!"
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