BWW Recap: The Task Force Crumbles Like the 'Berlin' Wall on NBC's THE BLACKLIST
We cold-open on a uniformed guy in New York who's coughing up blood and watching himself have the shakes as he conceals from his wife that he looks like he's dying - instead, they discuss their kid's school production that night. But as he sits in the back of an armored car, coughing up more, he reaches in his jacket for an injector case that's empty, and then stumbling into a Manhattan bank, his eyes now blurring. After calling 911, he stumbles more out from the men's room and collapses. It's not pretty. Medics pull up and want the whole bank quarantined out of fear that he's got a contagious, wildly deadly virus. Because this is what dying of contagious and wildly deadly viruses looks like. We discover from the title card that this is all about Berlin, No. 8 on Raymond Reddington's blacklist. Yes, Berlin is a person. We know that now from seeing the title card - the FBI still doesn't yet. (And given what we've been given to understand, how is Berlin only Number Eight?)
Lizzie confesses to Ressler about Tom's evildoing. She admits, "I should have let you rough him up." Ressler is a good buddy and offers to do it as soon as he can, but warns her that "the only way out of this thing is through it." Which means giving tons of statements about The Person Formerly Known As Tom Keen Also Formerly Known As Her Husband, because she doesn't want anyone calling her married to Whoever It Is That Isn't Really Tom Keen. Let's call him Not-Tom for short, shall we?
She met him in 2010 in Georgetown, where he inserted himself into her life, apparently by evil design. There are clips of flashbacks as she tells bits about him. She thinks his purpose was to spy on Red, and that he was deliberately trying to get her to take him to the Post Office black site earlier in the season to have him questioned so that he could get inside and look around.
She knows of three associates of Not-Tom's - his now-dead brother, the now-dead Jolene, and the imprisoned Gina Zanetakos, his maybe-girlfriend. Only she's told that Gina's not so imprisoned, having just escaped from Danbury. Oh, goody. Gina always brings the tea and cookies.
While Not-Tom is cornering a tail set on him by Red, Red is on his jet, telling Dembe that "it's worse than I thought" as he reviews notes and figures. This is not going to be one of those snappy-conversation episodes. Meanwhile, Not-Tom has decided to have tea and conversation with the tail in order to find out what he knows, which isn't much. Not-Tom says that Red, whom it seems he's followed for years, may have been cautious, but his own employer, Berlin, is more so. Looks like the tea and conversation is going to end abruptly and messily for Not-Tom's guest. Not-Tom's rapidly becoming as busy as Norman Bates or Hannibal Lecter, only more efficient.
Lizzie marches into Cooper's office to resign. Red is there. She doesn't care. Cooper doesn't want her resignation, he wants her on Red's new case, having to do with the armored car guard who died at the bank. Lizzie says she can't work with Red because he killed her father. With great tact, sympathy, and understanding, mainly none, Cooper tells her she's not resigning until this case is over, no matter what.
We discover that Blankenship, the guard, was poisoned by the wildly contagious, virulently deadly, incurable Cullen virus that makes Ebola look friendly and fun. It also convinces me that the writers don't like sparkly vampires any more than I do. Cullen? Blood coming from people's faces? Really, folks, this is a "Twilight" gag. Red believes that this is part of a concerted attack on Red and everyone associated with him, even though he has no connection to the guard, because Red's powers of Perception are deeper than can be imagined by mere FBI agents. He knows this even though he, frustratingly, cannot psychically intuit the identity of the person attacking him. He has this whole list of evildoers and can't figure this? How is this the only thing on the planet not known to Raymond Reddington, International Man of Mystery? But this mysterious unknown person doesn't care how many people he kills "as long as one of them is me," explains Red. Cut to this week's Ryan Eggold mysterious spy Mustang commercial.
Traveling to the bank and meeting with the assembled national security and health department flunkies of doom, Lizzie and Ressler discover that the guard wasn't contagious at all. The guard was infected with a cleverly mutated strain of the Cullen virus that was targeted to him. Nice work, since Cullen is so deadly that no one is even legally allowed to study it. Someone has clearly been messing with Things That Man Was Not Meant To Know. Maybe vampiric things that man was not meant to know.
Red gives Lizzie Not-Tom's super-secret Code Book of Doom. It contains very little about Red, surprisingly for Mr. "I've been tailing him for years." It contains more on the task force, and most on Lizzie herself. Like Chekov's gun, this obviously will become wildly important shortly.
Amazingly, the empty injector case carried by the guard proves to have contained the supposedly non-existent antidote to the wildly contagious and supposedly incurable Cullen virus. (A crucifix, to keep the sparkly vampires away?)
Red takes Lizzie to meet the world's greatest virologist, Dr. Sanders, better known as the incredible John Glover, who's previously enjoyed studying Cullen only slightly illegally. He calls it "spooky stuff - bad news." He believes it's the instrument of the apocalypse, which has not four, but five, horsemen. Then he informs Red that his most recent work on it has been assisted by Space Agent UD 4126. Red is playing along to get information, but Lizzie has no time for Sanders' insanity - the doctor is researching, somehow, from a mental hospital in which he's institutionalized. But hey, that doesn't mean he's not a genius! He's just a really mad scientist! She walks off, threatening to fly back to DC separately from Red's very comfortable plane and accusing Red of never having done one unselfish thing in his life.
The Fierce Bad Agent from the DC office who previously ordered Cooper off of the Diane Fowler investigation returns to further ruin Cooper's digestion. If Lizzie walks from the task force, Red's immunity deal is off. Lizzie's not trusted anyway because of her harboring of the evil Not-Tom, and Cooper's own future is about to be in question. All he wants to know is how Reddington's going to be brought in. Although Ressler and Malik swear to support Lizzie no matter what she does, Lizzie's in doubt.
Ressler's investigating tells him that virologist Sanders has somehow obtained lab access that he doesn't have at the mental hospital in order to have the documented results in his records. Lizzie wants to question Sanders, but needs to go through Red even though she doesn't want to. It occurs to her to ask for real information on who Space Agent UD 4126 might be.
Aram, with his mystic powers of researching, determines that one of the many law enforcement and medical personnel at the bank in Manhattan had a badge number of UD 4126 - a Dr. Nicholas Vogel who works for the CDC and who lives in Arlington. Popping in on his house, the task force finds lots of illegal experimentation on the virus and lots of injectors of antidote. He's been blackmailing people into doing his bidding by poisoning them with the virus and forcing them to act for him in order to get the antidote. He sends his victims videos explaining this - he sent one to the guard.
Cooper meets with Lizzie and explains what's been going down with the Fierce Bad Agent. The Director may accept Lizzie's resignation. Cooper expects that Red will be dragged off by Fierce Bad Agent and friends to someplace where he will never be seen again, like Mason City, Iowa, or Turkey City, Pennsylvania, and that he won't live long after that. He expects that Lizzie will be disgraced. He expects the rest of the task force to meet similar fates. He shovels it on thick. Lizzie tells him she knows what she must do, and she runs off to call Dembe, to get hold of Red.
Vogel won't reveal the rest of his five victims - the horsemen of the apocalypse - and they'll continue to carry out his orders. Vogel's got the whole evil mad scientist thing down cold in a way Sanders doesn't, because Sanders doesn't have a malicious bone in his body; he's just plain insane. Red and he used to chase cute snow bunnies together, while Vogel seems like the type who eats babies for breakfast, and Red loves kids. Lizzie seems to have studied Red's methods of tea and conversation with enemies. She points to Vogel's water glass as his nose starts bleeding, and then reveals her own injector of the antidote. If he wants to live, he has to do what she wants - turn over names. Finally, Lizzie's showing some intestinal fortitude and evil deviousness again. Good show, Lizzie!
Once Vogel starts turning over names, Lizzie starts researching. She has files on victims, files on herself, files on files. She has Not-Tom's code book. She has the calculus book that Not-Tom's associate had when they had the aborted drop at the National Archives. She sees notes. She sees photos. She sees labels. Suddenly, as if by Aram-like magic or by Red-like prescience, or by having watched the trailer for the episode, she understands a pattern. Because she runs back to the Post Office and tells the task force that "It's all connected - the Blacklist!" She's just realized what we've suspected for months. Wujing gave Red a VICAP code that revealed Lucy Brooks, who is Jolene. The Courier's client list revealed more information regarding Gina Zanetakos. But wait, there's still more!
Suddenly, the task force realizes what we all figured out at least a week or more ago - Red hasn't been using the FBI to build his criminal empire by having them knock out his competition, he's been using it to survive by having them knock out the people he's identified as targeting him. And Lizzie's partly solved the mystery of Berlin by watching the trailer, because now she knows that Berlin is a person, the one who's set all these villainous fiends on Red. (If Berlin has assembled all these other people to go after Red and his business, how is Berlin only Number Eight on Red's list - who could be higher up than the guy who wants to take you out? And how does Red have no clue who this guy is? Really?)
Malik has figured out the common denominator of Vogel's Cullen victims - they all have airport connections of some sort. Aram and his Computer of Amazing discover that a video one of the victims received from Vogel - a Vogel victim video, if you will - directs them to an action at Langston Municipal Airport. Cooper tells Lizzie that the Director of the FBI has made up his mind - it's not good news. Resignation accepted, game over.
There's an airport shootout between unidentified evildoers using an armored car from the company the guard worked for, airport security, and the FBI. (The TSA doesn't seem particularly capable here, but then, they never do when they check my luggage either.) But Ressler gets out of his vehicle after the bulk of it. Another week of no Ressler injuries? What will happen at the finale? How much longer can he remain intact? The transponders of a plane overhead are out. It doesn't land, though it had planned to. It's full of prisoners. One of whom seems to be calling the shots. Hmm. What could possibly go wrong now?
Liz meets Red in a park and reveals that the immunity deal's been abrogated. Red reveals that the meeting they are having is probably a bad idea. He also wants to know when she forgave him, because she's trying to get Red to leave with her and avoid arrest.
The USS Abraham Lincoln sends a jet out to shoot down the plane that was supposed to land at the airport. Directive: shoot to kill.
Lizzie points out that Berlin is coming, most likely that day. Red points out that while Berlin may be coming, the FBI is already there to arrest him. He pulls out a gun, explaining that it's better if they don't look like they're working together, and aims it at her while not being particularly threatening. In fact, he breaks into a Red anecdote about being near death once before after being stung by a lionfish, but being nursed back to health by a sea gypsy and her tribe. He tells Lizzie that the kiss the woman gave him when he left was worth the nearly dying, and that he feels the same way about this incident with her. Of course, Lizzie hasn't just kissed him, but we'll take it that Red feels some sort of similarity between the two, as this isn't one of his funny or "this makes no sense whatsoever" anecdotes.
He hands his gun to Lizzie and assumes his "under arrest" position from the pilot as Fierce Bad Agent comes with a squad of snipers to take him in. At that moment, the plane, clipped in the wing by the Navy jet's bomb, starts coming down overhead of the city.
Unless NBC's pulled a fast one, this episode was named for someone who wasn't really in it. Where is Berlin? Who is Berlin? Berlin is presumably someone on that plane, someone that we'll meet next week. Any predictions on who? Is Fierce Bad Agent also in Berlin's employ? Is Fitch involved? Is Fitch in the finale? Meanwhile, what about Not-Tom? The trailer indicates he'll be back and ready to kill.
Photos: Eric Liebowitz/NBC