WARNING SPOILER ALERT:
The NBC series “The Blacklist,” crossed the meridian line of season five, with an entertaining installment, that explored new ground, but in may ways harkened back to the show’s first season. The episode featured a sick, obsessive, and twisted, member of the Blacklist, a new addition to Reddington’s “Island Of Misfit Toys,” as well as Lizzie and Raymond working side by side. Add in a semi-confession to Elizabeth from Red, stating that he knows why Tom and Nik Korpal were murdered but refusing to reveal that reason to her, tells us there’s plenty of rough seas ahead for the pair.
The evening opens with the Blacklist member in action, as he’s using a stove to mix up a deadly brew of chemicals, and then pours the concoction into a bunch of mason jars. He ten strips down and soaks his clothes in water, before putting them back on, then soaks his bald dome and face.
The scene shifts to another home, and we see that the man’s suspended the jars from the ceiling, all connected by some twine in an intricate puzzle. The man then sits down in an easy chair, and starts drinking from a beer bottle, while he pulls a lighter from his pocket and sets the twine hanging down net to him on fire. Within seconds we watch his work explode into flame, which soon envelops the room. A door opens and we hear a woman screaming. The man raises his beer bottle in salute, then gathers his equipment and walks out.
We join Dembe, Raymond, and Keen, as they meet in what appears to be a parking lot. Reddington’s summoned Elizabeth, telling her he’s got a lead on Bobby Navarro’s glass eye. He’s hooked up with a new technology expert, who believes he can track the device back to Tom’s murderer. However there’s a complication as the tech guy lives with his mother, who hasn’t taken to Red. He asks Elizabeth to deliver a peace-offering to her office, a terrarium containing four Jaro spiders, which are a delicacy for the Japanese. She asks why he can’t take them, and he tells her he’s about to talk with the Task-Force, about the next Blacklist member.
Samar’s at Raymond’s place when Dembe and he return, and Reddington soon starts giving Navabi a dissertation on the art of arson. He then explains that despite the multitude of purposely set fires each year, very few people die in those blazes. An arsonist only wants to destroy property not people, the few misfortunates that perish in those fires were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Blacklist member known as “The Cook,” deviates from most arsonists, because he’s actually a serial-killer who masquerades as an arsonist. Raymond explains that he’s thought to be connected with a series of fires across the country, without any apparent rhyme or reason of how he chooses his victims.
Samar heads back to the Post Office, and Aram pulls up the files on all the blazes that Reddington attributed to “The Cook,” and he states there’s no connection among the victims. Cooper asks if Reddington can prove that the arsonist’s true purpose was to kill his victims. Navabi responds that he can’t but he knows somebody who can, however it’s complicated.
Earl Fagen was a highly regarded Fire Department Inspector, and his specialty was arson. However Fagen’s knowledge of arson stemmed from his Jekyll and Hyde existence. The admirable life he lead was actually a cover, to hide the fact that he was an arsonist. The fire filled the void within him, and it earned him a 14-year stretch in prison. Fagen’s up for parole after serving 11-years, if he’s able to help them capture the Blacklist member, the Task-Force will go to bat for him at his Parole Board hearing.
Once again the show-runners go outside the box in the casting of an almost unrecognizable C. Thomas Howell, in the role of Earl Fagen. I’ve not seen the former “Brat-Pack Member,” since he starred in an ill-chosen movie with Rae-Dawn Chong in the eighties. Howell looks every bit of his 52-years, with a mane of silver hair and a weathered face. We meet him at the apartment that we witnessed getting torched in the open, and immediately we feel the tension between him and Navabi and Ressler.
He takes a huge whiff of the accelerants in the home, as if one were standing over a pot of soup. He then starts examining the crime scene while exchanging stilted banter with the two agents. Suddenly he stops in front of one wall, and he’s found some sort of clue. He asks the agents if they could access a black-light. When they look at the wall under the black-light, they find an inverted pentagram and the words “DISCIPLINE NOT FAITH.” Fagen’s overwhelmed, and tells the pair they’ve got one humdinger of a firebug on their hands.
Raymond’s quite put-off when Keen tells him she left the terrarium outside the office door, with the note that Reddington wrote. As they head up the walkway to the tech-expert’s house, Elizabeth asks Red why he’s so concerned with the guy’s mother, is he sixteen? Raymond replies that he’s 15, and Tadashi Ito corrects him saying he’s fifteen and a half. Lizzie looks mortified until Raymond explains Ito turned down a scholarship from Harvard, two years before as a plum position with Facebook.
Raymond’s a self-confessed “Luddite,” having zero interest in interacting in a digital world, so he surrounds himself with people who can access it. However we learn in this episode that he has virtually no knowledge of “Pop Culture,” he’s even ignorant of the entire Star Wars mythos. He describes the poster hanging in Tadashi’s room as a man dressed in a bear-suit piloting a space-ship, accompanied by a small green man whom he believes is inadequate to fight with the sword he clutches. Ito starts examining the eyeball and tells them it doesn’t have a video or audio device within it, which only makes him more curious as to its purpose.
Aram’s contacted authorities involved with the other homes that “The Cook” torched, and similar messages were discovered at all the other locations. Mojtabai identifies the messages as Bible passages. Ressler sits down with a religious expert, whose written books on Satanic cults, who tells the agent that an inverted pentagram is used by those who worship Lucifer.
Navabi meets with Corrine Egan, an emergency room doctor and the only one of the victims of the Blacklist member who escaped injury, as she wasn’t home when the fire took place. She’s dumbfounded when Samar tells her that the arsonist intended to kill and about the message found on her wall. She says that it was an act of providence that she wasn’t home, as her brother flew in from out-of-town and they went out. She can’t figure who might have wanted to kill her.
Aram once again comes through with some critical information, as he’s been able to track a red Honda that “The Cook” rented to carry out one of his murders. They’ve identified him Willen Seavers, and he lives in Baltimore. Navabi and Ressler go to the location and realize it’s Seavers’ laboratory. They figure out too late that Seavers’ right there with him, he’s got the place rigged with accelerants and he sets the place on fire and escapes, Ressler gets trapped within the flames, finally escaping by crawling through a window he shatters. Navabi pulls him from the window just before flames reach the spot.
The agents get Fagen transported to Seavers’ facility, and he complains that their bargain only called for him to help out once. He expects that this time will increase the agents efforts to get him released. They look at the room under a black-light and see the walls are covered with Biblical passages. Fagen wonders if the messages are intended for Seavers’ himself, and not his victims.
Aram’s able to track back one of the chemicals that Seavers’ used back to the hardware store that they purchased it at. When they access the security footage, they’re shocked to find out he’s actually a priest. He wearing a button on his jacket, from a sect known as Traditum Primerus.
We join Seavers sitting at an airport bar, when a slightly buzzed young attractive woman asks to sit at his table. She tells him that her fiancée’s flight’s landing soon and she’s been wrestling with a moral dilemma. She tells him that she’s not religious but her fiancée’s a regular church goer. She then admits that she had a one night stand, and was going to tell her boyfriend when he landed, but now she’s unsure.
Seavers asks the young woman her name and she replies it’s Claire Homan. He then tells her to confess everything, that her sins were of the flesh and not the soul. He says that because of her fiancée’s religious beliefs, he’ll accept her mistake and keep on loving her. She asks if he’s sure, and he replies God’s sure. She hugs him and kisses his cheek and thanks him, we can see that he’s fighting back desire, and she leaves.
While Tadashi tries to deduce the purpose of the glass eye, Raymond and Elizabeth have a long overdue conversation. She had asked him earlier in the episode if he knew the what truth Tom tied to convey to her before he died. He responded that her husband was a man of many truths, which one he was about to divulge, he couldn’t say. She asked Reddington if he lacked the knowledge or the desire to tell her?
Suddenly Ito removes his headphones and tells Reddington that he knows what the device does, it’s a GPS unit and its transmitting their location to Ian Garvey. The door to the basement opens, and Dembe, Liz and Reddington draw their weapons, only to find Tadashi’s mother’s entering the room. She screams at her son that he turned down Harvard to work for criminals.
Raymond asks if she received his peace-offering and she glared back at him. He mentions the women’s sister’s restaurant, and that they’re considered a delicacy. However Reddington’s gift wasn’t appreciated as he chose to send her four of them, which represents death in Japanese culture.
The mood quickly changes when they realize Garvey and his hoodlums are in the house. After Dembe gets Tadashi and his mother out, Liz wants to stay and fight them, but Red realizes they’d be out-numbered and whisks her away. His instincts proved to be correct, as Garvey and about six goons entered with pistols drawn seconds after they left.
Navabi and Ressler pay a visit to the Spiritual Director from Seavers’ sect, and he quickly identifies him as Tommy Wattles, a priest they threw out of the order for breaking his vow of celibacy. Navabi asks if he had conversations with Wattles, and the priest responds that everything they discussed came during confession and he couldn’t divulge anything. He quickly changes his tune when the agents reveal that the former priest’s killed multiple people in the fires he set.
The priest’s face turns ashen when he hears them out and he says that Wattles told him they were just visions and nightmares. Despite Tommy’s desire to be a priest, he couldn’t control his carnal urges. He told the Spiritual Director that he believed attractive women were put on earth to tempt him, and he envisioned burning them to death. Navabi chastises the clergyman, telling him she hopes he can be forgiven by his sect for withholding the information.
The agents split up again, each carrying a photo of Wattles. Ressler’s able to track Tommy to the airport bar, and the bartender says he saw him talking with an attractive young woman. Through airport surveillance footage they find the young woman, and somehow Mojtabai finds a match through facial recognition software.
Navabi’s gone back to talk with Corrine Egan, and she immediately recognizes Wattles as a regular at the deli she has lunch at. She interacted with him shortly before her fire, she thanked him for buying lunch for a homeless man the day before. She then paid for his lunch that day, as she told him she wanted to pay it forward. She can’t believe that Wattles thought she was trying to tempt him in any way.
Raymond’s got Tadashi and his mom temporarily relocated to a luxury suite. He apologizes for getting her mixed up in his predicament, and that they’ll be his guests until they can return home safely. He tries to diffuse her anger by explaining she and her son will have full access to all amenities. He’s met with the same glare she’s given him since we met the character. It’s rather amusing to see Reddington so flustered, because he can’t get her to like him.
Ito informs him that he’s disabled the tracking device, and now he’s attempting some reverse engineering, to try to track the device back to Garvey. Lizzie’s muttering out loud that she should have stayed at the house, saying she’s blown her only chance to capture Tom’s killer. Raymond interrupts her, by telling her he knows what Tom wanted to reveal to her, but he insists he can’t share the information with her. Although she doesn’t raise her voice or show anger, Keen voices her displeasure with Reddington’s decision. She says she’s given up Agnes, until she gets this behind her, and doesn’t want that to go on one moment longer than needed.
Tadashi gets excited as he’s able to track the eyeball back to Garvey’s location, he gives Raymond the address and says May The Force Be With You. Reddington looks the teen in the eye and says he doesn’t have any idea what that means. Ito looks like he just met somebody from the Flat-Earth Society.
Dembe, Keen, and Reddington drive to Garvey’s safe-house, but they get there too late. All they are met with are a bunch of unconnected cords and the cabinet for some computer equipment. Red tells Dembe to find out where the cabinet emanates from, and Zuma responds that all the guts have been removed, however Raymond still wants him to track it. They also find a note left for them in magic-marker, “WE KNOW THE TRUTH.”
Aram gives Ressler and Navabi Claire Homan’s address and he tries to call her on her cellphone. She’s running around her apartment in her bra and panties, and she picks up the phone, but it’s taken from her by Tommy. He says he’s glad that her fiancée’s not there, and then tells her she needs to get properly dressed, while holding a pistol to her side. Mojtabai gets hinky because Homan isn’t picking up her phone, he asks the agents to get there as soon as possible.
Tommy’s got Claire imprisoned in shrink-wrap, and has set up his elaborate system on her ceiling. She tries to ask him something, but he’s got her mouth covered. He lowers the gag and she asks him why he’s doing this. Wattles stares at her then kisses her on the mouth, but immediately pulls away and gives her a backhand across her face. We hear sirens getting closer, and Tommy’s just about to light the fuse when Samar and Donald burst through the door. Wattles grabs one of the mason jars filled with the accelerant and tries to escape, with Ressler in pursuit. After making sure Claire’s okay, Navabi joins the chase.
Tommy doesn’t get far before encountering both agents, who have their guns aimed at him. Wattles then opens the jar of the accelerant and pours it over his head, as the agents try to talk him out of his suicide attempt. He then starts to laugh madly, saying this was meant to be, and he mentions the Auto-De-Fe, a term meaning an act of faith, used during the Inquisition. He then lights himself on fire and the camera stays on him until he finally falls to the ground.
Ressler speaks to the Parole Board about Fagen, saying he’d been very instrumental in them taking down a serial killer. One of the board members ask Donald if he believes Fagen’s been rehabilitated. He says that he really can’t answer the answer the question as he doesn’t know Fagen. Then his face softens and he says that he used to look at everything as black and white, but he’s not so sure about that anymore. Just because somebody commits an evil act, doesn’t mean they’re inherently evil. He says he thinks everybody deserves a second chance.
We get our first glimpse of Agnes, since Keen left her in the custody of Scottie. She’s in a school-like facility, engaged in a game with the other little kids, as Raymond and Elizabeth watch her through a window from outside the building. He vows to Elizabeth, that he’ll make certain that she’s able to reunite with her daughter shortly. Keen replies that she needs his help, but she’s unsure whether she can trust him. She then looks him in the eyes and tells him that she will uncover his secret.
Samar tells Cooper that Fagen got granted early parole, and he asks her if she thinks he deserved an early release? She says that he served the majority of his term, and that Wattles would still be on the loose without his help. She thinks that the early parole was justified.
We join Earl Fagen as he’s leaving the correctional facility, taking his first steps as a free man after 11-years. Suddenly Reddington’s car pulls up, and Fagen recognizes Raymond and asks what he wants? Red says that he’s the one to thank for his early release, and he demands two promises from Fagen as repayment. The first is that the ex-convict doesn’t even pick-up a lighter or pack of matches. The second demand’s that Fagen be ready to set a fire for Raymond at the appropriate time, Reddington says he’ll be in touch and the car drives away.
The Story Continues Next Wednesday Night at 8:00 pm on NBC.