WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
This was not Cape May, and it’s quite probable that we shall never see an episode of that caliber again, from the NBC series “The Blacklist.” That statement’s not meant to demean the series, creators or writing staff, but there’s a reason why the nineteenth episode from season three, became a touchstone for the show’s longtime fans. That episode featured a searing performance by James Spader, as Raymond Reddington interacting with spirits from an opium dream. The viewer slowly realizes that the entire time he’s inside the home by the sea, he’s actually by himself, reacting to the memory of a woman that he hasn’t seen in three decades.
Surfing the internet over the past couple of weeks, one could easily find websites comparing the winter return of the long running series with that much beloved episode. Sorry to say that the analogy doesn’t fit; the only real similarity between the two episodes, shows Elizabeth Keen going off to heal on her own. While this episode had merit on its own, attempting to put it on the same lofty plateau with the earlier episode’s rather ludicrous, and demeaning to the original.
Music didn’t play as prominent a role in the first installment coming off the Autumn hiatus, however the hour started and ended with powerful selections. We open the evening taking in some majestic mountains, and then we find ourselves in the forest, watching Lizzie doing wind sprints. We then hear the acoustic guitar of Leonard Cohen, playing one of his prettiest songs, Famous Blue Raincoat.
Lizzie’s pretty handy with an axe, as she chops firewood. A twinge from her shoulder flashes her back to her first days in rehab, and we see Elizabeth’s confined to a wheelchair, and struggling doing reps with three-pound barbells. Her physician tells her that pain’s good, as it tells the body it’s alive. Keen says she just wants to get out of the wheelchair and the doctor responds she’ll get there.
Liz’s living way off the grid, in a cabin in the woods with her German shepherd Kate, miles from the nearest town. The cabin’s powered by a cantankerous kerosene generator, which needs a new plug. She heads to the local hardware store, and during a conversation with the store owner, we learn that she’s using the name Grace.
A while after the power’s restored, Grace gets a visit from the local Ranger, Colin, who arrives with a package that she’s yet to pick up from the post office. There’s an early winter storm about to hit the area, and the temperature’s dropped radically in the last few hours. We can tell he’s got a crush on her, and while Keen has no desire for any romantic entanglements, she’s very nice to him. Grace sends Colin off with a fresh thermos of hot coffee.
We flash back to the DC area, as Elizabeth pays a visit to Tom’s grave, and she’s walking with the use of a cane. She falls apart when she reaches the gravestone, telling Tom she’s not doing well, then chastising herself for telling him that. She also tells him that she’s thinking of going away.
She’s jolted back to the present by Kate’s incessant barking at the window. Grace and the dog head outdoors and she sees an unconscious lying on the ground just yards from her doorstep. She touches him to see if he’s alive and the man opens his eyes and grabs her hand, in a plea for help.
With the aid of a toboggan, she drags the injured man to her cabin. Once she gets him inside, she opens his coat and sees a deep gash in his abdomen. She sterilized her hands and the wound with a bottle of whiskey, then sewed up the gash. She then heads to the barn and tries broadcasting out a plea for help on her weather radio, but nobody responds to her call. She’s put the wounded man in her bed while she watches over him in a chair by his side.
Realizing the man’s condition’s rapidly deteriorating, she tries starting her vehicle, however the battery’s drained by the cold and the engine fails to turn over. Frustrated she starts banging on the steering wheel. which causes her to recall another memory before she chose her new nomadic life. Her apartment’s filled with the other members of the Task-Force, and Harold and Donald start reminiscing about their tracking down Karakurt in season three. Harold recalls Tom pulling up to his home with Karakurt imprisoned in the trunk of his car. He says that although he was upset with the surprise, Tom’s charm convinced him to help bring Karakurt to justice. The Task-Force then toasts Tom’s memory.
With the prospect of the stranger dying in her bed a realistic possibility, Grace heads into town and goes into the Ranger’s office. Seeing the office vacant, she calls for Colin, but he’s not on the premises. Her patience exhausted, she leaves a note for the Rangers, stating that she’s in an emergency situation and for them to head to her cabin as soon as possible.
We once again go back in time as Lizzie’s packing up her belongings into boxes which Dembe starts carrying them out to her car. She attempts to explain her rationale to Raymond on why she must leave the DC area, Raymond counters that she’s only running away from her problems, and she’ll never find peace until she comes to grips with her emotions. Raymond fears Elizabeth’s heading to a very dark place, and Keen reinforces those fears, by telling him the only motivation she’s got to jump out of bed each morning, is to avenge Tom’s death.
She then asks Raymond to grant her two promises. The first being that Red continues supplying names on the Blacklist to the remaining members of the Task-Force. Reddington responds that the dynamic doesn’t work without her being a part of it, and she begs him to promise to keep the important work going. Reddington spits out a promise that he’ll honor her wishes.
She then asks for one more promise and tells Raymond this will be a difficult one for him to keep. She asks for Reddington to vow that he’ll let her go off on her own, that she’s got to be on her own to work through her grief and find herself again. Raymond asks what about Agnes?
Grace and Kate head back to the cabin, and finds four strange men waiting for her. She quickly brandishes her pistol, but the spokesman for the foursome tells her to take it easy. He then introduces himself as Billy and introduces Grace to the other three men.
Billy tells her that the four of them plus the man in her bed, survived a charter plane crash that killed the pilot. He then says the man in her bed’s named Mike, and though he got badly wounded, he disregarded the advice of the others and took off on his own seeking help. Billy says that their plane crashed about ten miles away, and they were fortunate to come across her cabin. We can see by the look on Grace’s face that she’s at best skeptical about their story.
One of the series strong points has always been the casting of guest stars, and this episode followed in kind. The actor portraying Billy’s William Mapother, who played one of the creepiest characters on the ABC network’s classic series Lost. Mapother’s character Ethan Rom, masqueraded as one of the plane crash survivors, but was in reality a member of the “Others.” The “Others” were indigenous to the island the plane crashed on, a secret society, that either converted the survivors of the plane crash to their mindset, or killed them. Just the sight of his face, made this viewer realize that the foursome were up to no good.
We encounter another flashback, but this one takes place in New York City, as Famke Jensen reprises her role as Scottie Hargrave. When it was first reported that Jensen would appear on this episode, my initial instinct was that Lizzie would leave Agnes in Tom’s mother’s care. That was indeed the case, and we join Liz, Scottie, and young Agnes in Scottie’s apartment, as the two women sit on the couch while Agnes furiously scribbles on a pad of paper while sitting on the floor. We never see the little girl’s face, whether this was done purposely, or was just the best footage of the girl playing Liz’s daughter remains to be seen in future episodes.
Fans of the ill-fated spinoff, “The Blacklist: Redemption,” received some closure in this exchange. Turns out that Tom testified against his father Howard, and was a strong advocate for Scottie, putting all right in the Hargrave’s. Keen says she can’t hide her anger and pain from Agnes, and it’s having a detrimental effect on her daughter. She asks Scottie if she can mask the pain and anger, that she’s feeling after the loss of her son?
Hargrave responds that she went through the emotional rollercoaster Lizzie’s currently riding 30-years before, when her three-year old son got taken from her life. She considers the time she got to spend with Tom over the past couple of years a bonus. She promises her daughter-in-law, that Agnes will remain healthy and happy, until the day comes when Liz can take her daughter back.
Grace leaves the cabin once again, and when she returns she’s greeted by the smiling face of Ranger Colin, who asks if everything’s okay. Grace states the obvious, that she’s far from okay with a complete stranger near death in her bed. Colin says that the roads are impassable, Liz then asks Billy about the radio in the charter craft, and he responds that it’s not functioning. Liz then says that they could access the plane’s black-box, sending out a signal that would send authorities to the area.
Colin and one of the foursome go out to try to find the plane, Grace wants to join them but Billy says they need her to take care of their friend. He begs her to stay so that he doesn’t have to inform Mike’s wife that he died on his watch. Grace pulls Colin aside, and tells the Ranger that she feels hinky about the men’s story, and she finds it hard to believe that there could have been a plane crash without her hearing it. Colin laughs and says she’s just paranoid and that he and the other guy will return shortly.
Grace heads into her bedroom to check the patient’s condition, this time he’s conscious and can speak. She informs him that his friends are also in the cabin, and the victim croaks out that they’re not his friends, but instead hitmen from a prominent crime family. The victim testified against the family and the government put him in the witness location system, and relocated him to her community with a new identity. However the hitmen tracked him down nd they’re going to kill him, and he says they’ll kill Grace as well. She gives him her pistol, and he hides it under his blanket.
Returning to the kitchen, Grace starts cleaning up the area around the sink, when Bill says he never expected their hunting trip to turn out to be so treacherous. Grace says that Billy had told her they were on a fishing trip, he tries to cover his mistake by saying the other four guys were going fishing, while his goal was killing a bear. Grace responds that it’s a crime to go bear-hunting, and Billy smirks and asks her if she’s ever broken any rules?
Grace drops a glass that shatters on the floor, Billy offers to help clean up the mess, but Grace tells him to stay put. She then realizes that her dog Kate’s been missing for a while and she starts to call for her. Just then the guy that went out with Colin returns saying they had no luck finding the plane. Grace asks where’s Colin, and the guy replies that another Ranger showed up on a three-wheeler, and took Colin back to town, and help should be on its way.
Grace decides the time’s right for her to begin her attack. She puts on the garbage disposal which she realizes will cause her generator to stop running. She says she’ll brave the weather and go out and repair it, Billy offers to help her, but she responds the one thing she’s learned in the mountains is men only get in the way.
She heads immediately to her weather radio, only to find they’ve cut the microphone line. She then reaches for her pistol, which she had retrieved from the injured man, but somehow they got to the pistol and emptied out the magazine. She starts hearing a beeping sound inside the barn and follows it, she discovers that the man who went with Colin killed Kate and Colin and left both their bodies in the barn.
The foursome arrived with walkie-talkies and had given Grace one to communicate with them. She turns on her unit and calls for Billy, he asks why the power hasn’t returned. She replies because they killed her dog and the Ranger, and she’s aware that the injured man’s their victim not their friend. Billy starts gloating and says the only reason the man and her are alive, is Billy’s boss wants to question the man before they kill him. They kept her alive to tend to his injuries, but now that the pretense’s over, they’re coming after her. He then starts coughing.
She asks him if he’s okay, and then she giggles and said of course he’s not. She then reveals her name’s not Grace, it’s Elizabeth and she’s an FBI Profiler, and sized them up the moment she saw them. Billy’s coughing due to the shards of broken glass she put into his glass of ice, that he incessantly chews. She tells him now every time he breathes he’s sending tiny pieces of glass into his lungs. She then says that if the four of them want a battle they best bring it, because if they come out there, she’s just going to look at them as practice.
What follows is a rampage worthy of Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan, or Charles Bronson in the Death Wish series. Long time viewers saw a glimpse of Elizabeth’s dark-side in season three when she nearly killed a fellow patron in a diner, when she and Raymond were on the lam. You may recall that the incident terrified Lizzie, realizing what her fury and anger could override her humanity. There were no misgivings this time around, as Keen waged a campaign that Rambo would have admired.
Seconds after disconnecting, one of the men fall to the floor foaming at the mouth. Lizzie poisoned him with spiked peanut-butter, that he’d been spooning out of the jar. The other two men get nervous, but Billy reminds them that she’s outnumbered three-to-one. All they have to do is encircle her and keep shrinking the circle until they capture her.
The trio head out to the barn but find it’s abandoned, the guy that killed Kate and Colin notices a cellar door’s open and goes down the steps to investigate. Of course it’s a trap, and Lizzie latches the cellar door shut, then lights a match, igniting the kerosene in the cellar and roasts the man to death.
Their advantage down to just two-to-one, they go to the bedroom and realize their victim’s gone, and we see Lizzie dragging him to town on the toboggan. The second man overtakes Keen and a scuffle ensues, promptly ended when she sticks the axe into his chest.
Liz and the victim reach the Ranger’s office, and she assures her companion that she’ll get him to a hospital soon. She flashes back once more to DC, and the conclusion of her conversation with Raymond. He’s flabbergasted that she’s leaving Agnes in Scottie’s care, after she order a hit job on her wedding day. She counters that Scottie didn’t know who they were, and she’s a good woman and will take good care of her daughter. Raymond asks her to make a promise to him, that she always look for the light.
Back in the present, she scours the facility looking for anything she can use for a weapon if Billy decides to follow them. She finds among other things a flare gun and a box of flares, none too soon, it turns out as Billy bursts into the office. He pays her a compliment, saying from one professional to another you’re very good, but the game ends now. Keen then douses Billy with some liquid that burns his eyes and allows her to leave the facility.
She doesn’t get far, before he catches up to her. He pulls out his pistol and she brandishes the flare gun, and shoots a flare the hitman. The liquid she doused him in was highly flammable, and fried him extra crispy style. Her enemies vanquished, Keen could now concentrate on getting the victim medical attention.
The next day law-enforcement officials descend on the town, incredulous with what they discover. Four well-known felons dead, two burned to death by a lone mysterious woman. Grace Talbot’s left town, without a trace, not even a piece of tissue or any of her hair in the drains. The woman obviously received help from a professional, covering her tracks.
Officers interrogate the few townspeople who knew her, including the owner of the hardware store. The description’s consistent from all interviewed, a very pleasant young woman who kept to herself, and always paid cash. We find out that the victim’s resting comfortably in an area medical facility, after some personnel found him on the facility’s doorstep like a Christmas present.
As to who was that un-masked woman, the hardware store owner theorizes that she’s a ghost, one of many that we encounter in life. We see Lizzie standing on the side of the road with her thumb out looking to hitch a ride to her next destination.
Turns out that destination was Raymond’s place, Dembe answers the door with a big smile visibly pleased to see her. Raymond tells her she looks stronger and she replies that she’s healed. She thanks him for keeping his promise, but admits she failed to keep hers. She tells she killed some men, not because they deserved it, which they did, but because of the pleasure she received. She says she hasn’t lost a wink of sleep over it, he replies that she will.
Elizabeth asks Raymond if he can forgive her? After a momentary pause he says he can, but the more prescient question’s whether she can forgive herself?
The Story Continues Next Wednesday Night, at 8:00 pm, on NBC.