Warning: Spoiler Alert
Quite often we see series that take off strongly out of the gate, get renewed for a second season, then veer away from the elements that made people enjoy the show. The NBC series “The Blacklist,” has felt different in tone in many episodes this season, with FBI Agent Liz Keen and FBI asset and topping the Bureau’s Most Wanted List, Raymond Reddington, have rarely been on the same page. The rapport that grew between them last season, fell apart as a series of events have muddied the waters surrounding them.
The series went back to basics in it’s most recent episode “T. Earl King VI,” resulting in one of the most entertaining episodes of the season. Add in appearances by two familiar faces and the reveal of Task Force Director Harold Cooper’s medical-condition, lead to an exciting, well-paced, episode and perhaps the beginning of healing the relationship between Liz and Red.
We’re greeted with a graphic reading Two Years Ago, Somewhere On Jekyll Island. We see an elderly man in a tuxedo, in an electric wheel chair, an IV bag attached to his arm. We then realize there are three younger men in the room, all wearing formal evening-wear, one of them smiles and says good evening father, you’re looking sharp. The old man ignores him, then touches his throat activating an electronic voice box, he then says Mr. Valmont the tallies
The elderly man’s named Earl King, patriarch of one of the wealthiest families on the planet for generations, with him his two sons, Francis the oldest and his brother Tyler. Valmont’s apparently some sort of family accountant and reads the assets of both sons as the clock’s about to strike midnight. Tyler ends up with the larger ledger sheet, subjecting Francis to a game of Russian Roulette, he draws an empty chamber, then looks at his brother and sneers next time.
Back in New York City in 2015, we find ourselves in the company of the man we love to hate, Tom Keen as he meets with his handler Bill McCready. Keen tells the older man he wants to go back under and McCready says he doesn’t have a job that’s worthy of Tom’s skillset. He tells the man who tormented Liz Keen’s life, that he’s too classy to take the nickel and dime jobs he has, then he asks if he fell for Liz. Keen remains silent, but his silence is telling, McCready says if you really want to get back in the game, I’ve got something for you, if you speak German, Keen’s fluent.
Reddington and Dembe show up at Liz’s motel room and Red tells the FBI agent that a member of the Blacklist, they encountered last season, Madeline Pratt’s missing, it seems Raymond has a little thing for Miss Pratt. He then says she got kidnapped by the King family, who augment their already family treasure-chest with proceeds from auctions they hold. These auctions deal in human trafficking, stolen masterpieces, by artists like Van Gogh and uranium.
Liz informs the task force, as Ressler grumbles their busting one Blacklist member to rescue another. Aram tracks a South American kidnapper, who likely has Pratt to a place called the Palace. Keen calls Red and tells him of the location, he and Dembe beat the two agents to the Palace. They go in with guns at the ready, find the corpse of the kidnapper, and suddenly surrounded by about half a dozen gunmen, one holding Madeline.
Red asks how much they want for her and the guy holding her says here, take her and pushes her towards Dembe, who she knocks out with a Taser. She was in cahoots with King to capture Red, who’ll be the star attraction of their upcoming auction. Francis King’s the brother who engineered this scheme and he’s quite proud of himself.
Dembe contacts Keen and she and Ressler inform the Task Force, that Red got duped and now being held by the King family in preparation to sell him at the auction. Cooper asks Aram where the Kings could hold the auction and the tech-genius replies they’ve got hundreds of properties across the globe. Keen says let’s concentrate on possible guests and where they’re heading.
Aram gets success quickly with that search, a man named Alexey Koskov’s, known to have coveted the Van Gogh for a decade, although he’s on the no fly list, his attaché Josephine Sullivan’s in town. Cooper says to bring her in for questioning.
Samar and Liz intimidate Sullivan enough to reveal all the details she knows about the auction, she’s to register at a certain hotel and request a room with a view of the capital. That alerts the hotel’s staff that she’s part of the King entourage. Due to lack of a better plan, Liz take’s Sullivan’s place going undercover at the auction.
Liz leaves the meeting with Cooper and Navabi, when her cellphone rings and it’s Tom and she’s surprisingly sociable. He tells her he’s leaving town he’s got a new gig, she asks his new name and he says it doesn’t work like that. She tells him she’s going undercover, for a few hours and he advises her if she’s stuck for an answer to sneeze, that will distract the questioner. She thanks him and then basically says I don’t know why I’m talking to you and hangs up. Of course she knows why, she’s still in love with him.
Harold gets a visit from Tom Connolly, the senior FBI official, that got Harold into the experimental medical treatment program. He tells Cooper that an old friend of his will have all his assets seized and it would be nice if he had some warning so he could put aside some cash for his kids, then tells Harold to tip him off. Cooper’s appalled, but Connolly says he takes care of his old friends, then asks how the treatment program’s going.
Donald and Samar are in the lobby when Liz registers as Josephine Sullivan, she says she’d asked for a view of the capital and the desk clerk says that can be arranged. He tells her, that she’s in 1861 and she gets on the elevator, the attendant works for King, and asks for her purse, phone and jewelry. She’s then taken to a parking garage and she walks to spot 1861, a man comes out of the car and says good evening Miss Sullivan, she enters the car. He hands her a glass and says drink, she asks what’s in the glass and he repeats his instructions. She does and soon becomes unconscious.
Red’s gotten measured by a tailor for a tuxedo, now he’s getting a barber to shave him, when Earl wheels into the room, turns out that the pair are old running buddies, involved in a deal that turned bad in South America. Although Red took off and advised King to follow suit, Earl stayed and the beating he ended up getting from the local police put him in the wheel chair. King tells Reddington, this is strictly business and he believes the great Raymond Reddington will command a mighty price tag.
Liz wakes up in one of the mansion’s bedroom’s as Earl and a woman attendant enter the room, she’s holding a platter of jewelry and he tells “Miss Sullivan,” to pick anything she likes, to accentuate her beauty. He then kisses her hand and presses it to his face as he closes his eyes, creeping Liz out.
Tom starts getting ready for his new identity, he shave his head to a buzz-cut, then gets tattoos applied, including a quote in German at the base of his neck. He sees that the man he’s supposed to get close to is an elderly man with a thick head of white hair, he’s bristling with anticipation.
Cooper gets off the phone with Connolly’s friend, saying you didn’t hear this from me as he hangs up the phone. Aram walks in and says they’ve gotten the identity who greeted Keen at the car and got her to drink the liquid. Harold tells him to have Ressler and Navabi question him.
The auction’s about to get underway, people are milling around having cocktails, Keen spots a boy about 12-years-old as one of the auctioning lots. She goes over and says hello, when Francis intercepts her, the boy’s named Vincent Peretti, his dad’s a Serbian criminal turning into a witness for the state and young Vincent’s worth some big money to the right people.
Earl King tells his guests that they’ll have 30 minutes to look at all the lots, human and other commodities before the bidding begins and then strikes a triangle to signal the time’s begun. Tyler asks Liz if she’s representing Koskov and she says she is and then starts talking about the Van Gogh, saying legend has it in the right light you can see the grains of sand on the canvas.
Red interrupts their conversation and “Miss Sullivan’s” surprised to see Raymond Reddington among the goods getting dealt, she says they met once before and Red says she’s changed her hairstyle. Tyler asks if she plans to bid on Raymond and she says he’s likely more trouble than he’s worth, then says she’s got her sights set on the Van Gogh. However there’s one very interested prospective buyer, Cameroon War Lord Yubari, whom we met in the Lord Baltimore episode last year.
The reason that I enjoy Yubari, is that he’s portrayed by an incredible actor named Sahr Ngaujah, a man who came to my attention a few years-ago, in an NBC series called Last Resort. Ngaujah played the local strongman, who attempted to play hardball with the commander of a United states nuclear submarine. He’s also been a hit on Broadway portraying Fela, winning accolades for the role.
Surprisingly, some Federal Agency messes up big-time as they ignore Cooper’s orders and allow the real Josephine Sullivan to contact her attorney. That means within the next few minutes, Keen’s cover will get blown and they’ll realize she’s an FBI agent. Cooper decides that the matter needs some more of his hands-on attention.
He tells Navabi and Ressler to leave him alone with the man from the car and when they leave, Cooper sits down across the table from the guy. He then says that the man really doesn’t grasp the situation he’s in, right now he’s just a material witness and there are certain rights he’s entitled to. Then Harold puts his hands on top of the other man’s hands and says, but you don’t know me.
He then tells the man that his doctor found a malignant tumor, in the left hemisphere of his brain and he’ll be dead in weeks. He says however one of the vows he made to himself when he came to grips with his situation, was to ensure that none of his agents died on the rest of his watch. He says since he truly has nothing to lose, he’ll do anything to avoid that situation, so think carefully before he answers his question. Where is his agent?
The bidding starts on Raymond, at two million, Yubari, Liz and a couple of other bidders get the sum quickly up to ten million. Then Red starts bidding on himself until it gets down to just him and Yubari, the man from Cameroon bids $18 million, but Red bids 20 million. Tyler disqualifies Red’s last bid and Yubari gets his prize.
Liz figures out her cover got blown and runs downstairs to avoid King’s men and to locate Reddington. She gets down just as a guard lets little Vincent Peretti, out of his sell to go to the winning bidder. Keen knocks out the guard, grabs the boy and they find Red but Liz can’t figure out the keypad code. He tells her she needs to take the boy and go now, reluctantly she heeds his advice.
Yubari’s cackling when he gets possession of Red, Raymond tells him that if Navabi just listens to reason, he’ll make him a king. His captor responds that a man in Johannesburg’s set a 40 million dollar bounty on Red’s head, Raymond replies they’re a long way from Johannesburg. Yubari says that Reddington’s not listening, there’s a 40 million dollar bounty on his head, he then shows Raymond the bag he’s prepared to transport Red’s head in to South Africa.
Liz and the boy run for a while, then she tells Vincent to run through those doors ahead and run until he reaches outside. She then heads back to where she left Red. Yubari’s got Raymond in handcuffs and has him get in his knees, as he’s about to shoot him in the head execution-style. He’s about to pull the trigger and Red says Lizzie, then he hears a gunshot and watches as Yubari falls dead to the ground. He’s shocked to find Keen there, then tells her the key for the handcuffs are in Yubari’s pocket.
Valmont reads the tallies, this time Francis wins the event and Tyler has to take the pistol and play Russian Roulette. Suddenly Red and Liz burst through the door, gun’s aimed and Red tells Tyler to put down his pistol or he’s dead, he obeys the command instantly. Raymond then says Earl should have died generations ago and shoots him in the heart, we hear the SWAT Team sirens getting closer, Red tells the other three to be careful in prison.
Harold meets with the Assistant Attorney General and tells her about his Task Force’s successful day. She smiles and says she’s glad something went right that day. She then tells Harold a man she was on the verge of seizing his assets and charging him with embezzlement and other crimes, somehow got wind of it and skipped the country. Cooper realizes it’s the man he called.
Red and Liz are in a car heading back to the Task Force and he tells her never to do anything like that again, ever. She says she risked her life to save him, because she cares about him and he has to deal with that. She then says when someone does something nice you’re supposed to say thank you. Red thanks her then once again says don’t do that again, ever.
Tom’s in Germany in a pub and bumps into a guy who looks like a wall with a face, Keen calls him a lousy pig and the guy swings at him. But Tom takes him and his buddy out and then keeps the hitting the first guy till two guys pull him off. He feels a hand on his back and turns around ready to fight, when he sees it’s his target. The man says he doesn’t want a fight he wants to buy Tom a beer.
The Story Continues Next Thursday Night at 9:00 pm on NBC.