Warning: Spoiler Alert
How could the NBC series “The Blacklist,” possibly hope to meet fans expectations when the show returned from a two-month hiatus on January 7? The show concluded 2015, with an episode ending with the capture of fugitive Elizabeth Keen by her former FBI partner Donald Ressler. Both Ressler and Keen were fully aware that her arrest put her life in imminent danger as The Cabal wanted her dead as soon as possible. Donald promised Lizzie he’d keep her safe, however he had no idea what kind of a hornet’s nest he stepped into with that move.
For this viewer the series exceeded my hopes, airing possibly the best episode of the show since it began in September of 2013. It showcased the incredibly talented cast, that sometimes gets lost in the shadow of James Spader’s masterful portrayal of Raymond Reddington. With the extra time allotted to other series regulars besides Red and Lizzie, we saw facets of familiar characters never displayed before in the joint effort to clear Elizabeth Keen’s name and save her life.
The episode opens with Ressler coming to transfer Liz from the holding cell she’s locked in back to the task-force headquarters. Keen tells Donald she’s not ashamed of anything she did and Ressler replies through gritted teeth she killed the United States Attorney General. She responds that Tom Connolly was a bad man and would have hurt many innocent people if still alive.
The scene switches to a meeting between The Director Peter Kotsiopolus and Presidential adviser Laurel Hitchin as they’re discussing that The Director’s prediction that Keen would never get captured turned out wrong. Kotsiopolus shows a lack of concern for the development, telling her he’ll have CIA agents take her into custody. Hitchin tells him that the President’s counsel Cynthia Panabaker already had made plans with Deputy Attorney General Reven Wright for Keen to meet in a private session with Judge Trotter. She tells The Director he has three hours to gain control of Keen, he tells her he’s taken down entire governments in less time.
As Keen and Ressler get driven in an SUV back to the task-force building, Ressler gets a call from Raymond. Donald says he’s got every precaution in place and he’ll keep Liz safe. Red responds that the FBI agent has no idea what he’s up against, that a shadow government will use every resource to get custody of Lizzie. He tells Donald that he’s come up with a meticulous plan to clear Keen’s name but he needs a day to get it in place. Ressler tells him to go for it, however Reddington says that Ressler, Samar and Aram have to team together to keep Keen protected. Ressler tells Raymond that he dismissed Navabi from the task-force and hangs up.
Ressler and an FBI SWAT-Team bring Elizabeth into the task-force building and Laurel Hitchin congratulates him as he walks past her with the prisoner. Lizzie’s put into the glass-cell that Ressler and Red got locked in back in the show’s first season. He once again assures her he’ll keep her safe, she tells him that she doesn’t blame him for what will soon take place.
Aram’s in his office when his cellphone rings and Red’s on the other end. He tells Mojtabai that Lizzie’s life’s in danger and he’s the only person who can save her. Aram’s jaw nearly hits his desk hearing Raymond’s words and asks Reddington what he needs to do?
Ressler’s becoming concerned because he can’t contact Reven Wright. Just then the fox enters the henhouse as Kotsiopolus comes into the building with a squad of his men with documented orders giving him custody of Keen saying that she’s a Russian agent and Homeland Security has evidence of an imminent Russian attack on the United States. Donald tells him that Wright will never allow that to happen and The Director asks where Reven’s at, as people have been looking for her all day?
The Director says he’s opening the cell and Ressler tells him he won’t give him the code, however Kotsiopolus tells him he got it from the FBI Director’s office. When he punches in the code on the keypad the cell remains shut, he asks Ressler what’s going on and Donald says he didn’t do a thing. We then see Aram quietly smiling in a corner and we realize that he changed the code before The Director arrived.
As Kotsiopolus continues to try to open the glass cell, Ressler’s phone rings and he’s relieved to hear Red on the other end. Raymond tells him that everything’s fine as long as he doesn’t let the Director get Liz, he says that Karakurt should be in the city within an hour. Donald asks what he’s got to do with things and Reddington informs him that he’s going to confess to the FBI that he set Liz up and was working for the Cabal. He tells him that Cooper and Tom have him in a cabin in Yvonne, Maryland, they tried to tell Donald but he refused to listen.
Down at the cabin Tom chains up Karakurt so he can’t escape, Cooper tells Tom he’s taking Charlene to her sister’s house as the Cabal will be looking for Karakurt and he wants to keep her safe. He tells Keen to guard Karakurt until he gets back.
Ressler lets the frustration of not getting in contact with Reven get the best of him and he goes into the office that Laurel Hitchin’s occupying. He asks if she can order The Director to leave the building as she did in an earlier situation, she says that if Reven calls her she can intercede then asks if he knows where she’s at. Donald decides to trust his gut and the move backfires big time. He says to Hitchin that Reven said he could trust her and then tells her about Karakurt.
She looks intrigued and tells Ressler she’ll do some digging. She then says the last time she talked with Reven, Wright mentioned a young associate named Tommy Markin and asks Donald if he knows him? Ressler says he never heard the name before and then tells her needs to get back to work.
Reddington’s enlisted the services of Samar Navabi to get back his “care-package” that the Bureau took into custody when they arrested Keen and Dembe. She tells him that the package would be in an evidence vehicle taking the highway to Pittsburgh to bring it to a facility for storage. Red tells her they’re going to stage a drug-bust to divert the drivers so Samar can get the “care-package.” He also says he needs to meet that day with the Argentinian Foreign Minister.
Ressler realizes he messed up badly and grabs Aram and tells him that Hitchin killed Reven Wright. Mojtabai asks him why he believes that and Donald tells him that Laurel mentioned Tommy Markin, the most corrupt cop ever and he told Reven about him the last time he saw her. He tells Aram that Hitchin’s calling The Director as they speak and telling him about Karakurt and Kotsiopolus will send men to the cabin to take out Karakurt. Aram tells Ressler to head to the cabin that he’ll control things at the task-force then admits he changed the code.
Red unpleasantly surprises Rafael, the man who promised to set-up a meeting with the Argentinian Foreign-Minister when he delivered terrorist Zal Bin Hasaan. He tells Rafael that he needs to meet with the minister today but the man says it’s impossible as he’s traveling all day. Raymond then hands Rafael a wrapped package and wishes him happy birthday. The man responds his birthday’s in August and Red apologizes for being late with the present, then suggests that they go somewhere quiet to talk and head into Reddington’s car.
When the pair sit down in the backseat, Raymond points out Navabi with a 35mm camera and tells Rafael that she’s a stringer for UPI. He then says when her pictures show up in the Argentinian media things will look pretty bad for Rafael, consorting and taking gifts from a renowned criminal. Red’s promised a 15 minute meeting with the minister at 3:15 pm.
Ressler finally contacts Cooper on his cellphone and tells Harold that they’ve got to leave the cabin as the Cabal’s heading there to kill Karakurt. Harold tells Ressler he’s on the way to Charlene’s sister and they realize Ressler’s closer than Cooper to the cabin and has Harold text him the address.
Reddington take Navabi to a storage-facility he owns in West Virginia and tells Samar he has many of them in states all across the nation, with a couple in most Red-States. He breaks open a crate filled with kilos of cocaine and he explains he’s not a drug-dealer, but the only payment he could receive in a bad deal in Cartagena was the crate. They grab about a dozen kilos and leave the facility.
Raymond’s arranged for some of his associates to stage what looks like a two-car crash and the vehicle with the trunk filled with the coke’s all shot-up. He’s got two guys disguised as West Virginia State Troopers and Navabi calls the Bureau dispatch saying she’s been standing all day waiting for the evidence truck to pick up the cocaine. The dispatch tells her they’ll reroute the vehicle heading to Pittsburgh and says they should be there shortly.
Aram goes over to the glass cage to console Liz and tells her she just needs to hold on for another hour, that helps on the way. Lizzie suddenly says she’s having trouble breathing just as Kotsiopolus walks over to talk to Aram. He says that he believes Aram changed the code of the cell and though he can’t prove it, he’s pretty certain that’s the case.
Lizzie calls to Aram with concern in her voice saying she’s having problems breathing. The Director says that it would be unfortunate if the cell’s ventilation system wasn’t working properly and Aram realizes his men shut off the air. He tells Lizzie that he’ll try to override the system from his terminal, but he’s denied access. Liz asks even if The Director stopped incoming air, why would the oxygen have depleted so quickly and Mojtabai realizes The Director’s pumping nitrogen into the cell to deplete the oxygen.
Back at the cabin Karakurt hears a car pull up and Tom goes to the door brandishing his rifle. Ressler knocks and identifies himself and Tom lets him in. He says the Cabal’s heading there and they’ve got to take off, he spoke with Harold and got the address. Keen says he’d rather wait for word from Cooper, but suddenly they realize the Cabal’s right outside the cabin.
The Bureau agents and the evidence car arrive to transport the coke to Pittsburgh, one of the fake cops distracts the agents with a question and Navabi’s able to nick the “care-package.” Before the agents hit the road she asks one of them if he can assure her that the drugs will arrive in Pittsburgh without incident and he tells her they will.
Lizzie’s gasping for air and Aram says he’s got to open the cell to save her life but she shakes her head no then falls to the floor. Mojtabai starts screaming into the surveillance camera that he’ll go to the media that they’re killing her. Watching on a monitor in her office Laurel asks The Director what happens next? Kotsiopolus replies if she dies in the cell they can blame it on equipment failure and nobody can prove otherwise. Hitchin asks what if Aram opens the door and The Director says they go back to the original plan. They take Keen to a remote facility and she’s shot to death when she attempts an escape.
Matias Solomon’s outside the cabin with lots of mercenaries, we hear a window crash and a smoke-bomb’s thrown into the cabin followed by two gunmen. Tom and Ressler quickly kill the two guys and throw the smoke-bomb out of the house. Ressler asks Tom if he’s okay, Karakurt still chained to a chair says he’s not.
Lizzie doesn’t appear to be breathing and rather than let her die he gives The Director the code, it’s Navabi. They open the cell and Aram performs mouth-to-mouth and gets Lizzie breathing again. He then apologizes for opening the cell as he realizes that Kotsiopolus and company will soon spirit her away.
Red greets the Foreign-Minister and thanks him for adjusting his schedule to accommodate Raymond. He asks about the country’s president and the Minister replies he’s got a bad stomach, because he just borrowed five billion from China. He then asks Reddington what’s this all about and Raymond says he wants to help put money into the Argentinian coffers.
Solomon yells to the trio in the cabin that they’ve got one chance to preserve the peace and quiet of the country and that’s to send Karakurt out immediately. Ressler says we’re not sending him out there likely to convince himself it’s the right thing to do. He then tells Tom that he’s the reason the Cabal found out they hid Karakurt in the cabin. He says his father was a cop and he died for not taking a bribe. He always believed in the principles his father stood for, but now he’s not so sure. Tom sarcastically says he never allows principles to figure into any decisions.
Karakurt says that if they’re going to engage in a firefight they best give him a gun, he can’t run away and Ressler tells Tom to unchain him and arm him. Then like a scene from a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti-Western the three men engage in a shootout with all the mercenaries outside the cabin. After no more gunfire comes from the cabin, Solomon tells his men to stop shooting and check the cabin for survivors.
When the men enter the cabin it looks like the trio-escaped as we just see the two dead mercenaries on the floor. Except it’s actually Ressler and Karakurt disguised as the dead men and Tom’s hiding around the corner and they take out all the invaders.
The Director and his men have Liz on an ambulance stretcher and are about to get onto the elevator when Aram stops them in their tracks as he aims his pistol at Kotsiopolus’ head. He says that he’s not taking her and if he tries he won’t get out. Laurel tells Aram to lower his weapon but he’s not backing down.
Lizzie calls out to Aram and tells him to lower his gun, they’ll shoot him without a second thought. She tells him to look at her face and then says she doesn’t blame him in the least. He saved her life and she realizes how much he cares. Aram looks at her and lowers his weapon and he’s quickly handcuffed by one of The Director’s men. However just then the President’s counsel Cynthia Panabaker arrives and says she’s got jurisdiction in this situation and then calls the National Intelligence Director and puts Laurel on the phone.
The Foreign-Minister and Reddington are in Raymond’s car and the Minister’s clearly displeased as he asks Red why he would agree to his plan. Reddington says to stick it to the USA, that they’ve hurt the regime for years. The Minister says that if he does what Red suggests the United States will impose more sanctions and his country will starve to death.
Samar arrives with the “care-package” and gives it to Raymond who thanks her and Navabi leaves. He says to the Minister that he told him he wanted to put money into the Argentine economy and them opens the package to reveal chromium plated master-printing plates for United States 100 dollar bills that are exactly like the ones the Treasury Department uses. Red’s been holding onto them since he captured them from Major Ludd in Season One. The Minister cagily smiles and says you son of a gun and Raymond says he’s been called far worse.
The trio leave the cabin and they find a car they can drive back when Solomon sneaks up on Tom and pulls a gun on him. Matias tells Donald if he doesn’t drop his weapon Tom dies and Keen says take him out, because if you drop the gun he’ll kill us all. Ressler agrees to drop his gun and Solomon cackles and says he should have listened to Tom, when Harold Copper arrives and knocks out Matias with a right to the jaw. He says he figured they could use some back-up.
Solomon regains consciousness and smiles and says good morning and Ressler says he should just kill him, he did so much damage to his friends and his country. Solomon laughs derisively and says he doesn’t care about his friends and he hates this country. Then he amends that and says he loves the fact within hours he’ll be processed freed and on a plane to France. Ressler says he’ll never see the inside of a court-room.
Cooper tells Ressler to lower his weapon, but Donald says he’s right if we bring him in he’ll just walk and he deserves to die. Tom says Donald’s right but not by Ressler’s hands. Donald asks Tom since when did he grow a conscience and Keen responds maybe since I’ve hung out with you. However if you want to know if your father died for something or not, that Ressler will decide that with whether he kills Solomon or not. Donald cuffs him and arrests him.
Hitchin gets off the phone and tells Panabaker she stands corrected and Cynthia does have jurisdiction. The Director says his agents are on the property and Panabaker cuts him off and says and they’ll remain on the property. Reven told me if Miss Keen was being taken into custody only one agent should do that, Agent Donald Ressler. The Director says Ressler’s not there and suddenly the elevator opens and Donald and Solomon emerge. He tells one of the agents to take Solomon into custody and then says to Liz he’s going to escort her into custody. She smiles and asks what took him so long?
Ressler gets into Laurel’s face and says I know about you, you killed Reven Wright and this isn’t over. He then sneers at The Director and says I want you out of here before I come back. Panabaker cheerily chirps she’s got to come around more often and follows Ressler. Liz kisses Aram on the cheek and thanks him before she leaves.
The Blacklist has always used music tastefully and they chose Ben Lee’s poignant and beautiful Gamble Everything For Love in a closing montage. We see Tom get a text and Karakurt asks if she’s alive and Tom smiles and nods. Harold and Charlene are discussing their broken marriage. Dembe’s released from a cell in task-force headquarters and then he stands face-to-face with Matias before he walks away and Solomon’s put into the cell.
Then we see Aram riding his bicycle with a helmet on at night in a cemetery and he meets Red there. Reddington tells him to come closer and Aram sees Raymond’s standing over an open grave with no body inside it. Red says he’s stood over the open grave of far too many loved ones beginning with his mother. He then says he wanted to remember that feeling distinctly so he could properly thank Aram for being a hero. He says you saved Elizabeth’s life today and I’ll be forever in your debt. Then he tells Aram to gather his team for they’re about to take down the Cabal.
The Story Continues Next Thursday Night at 9:00 pm on NBC.