The Blacklist: The Enemy From Within?

Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC
Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

While watching the final few minutes of “The Blacklist,” I realized that I really DON’T know Raymond Reddington, as well as I thought I had after spending the past three-seasons-plus with him. Although killing became as normal to Raymond, as breathing over the past 20-odd years, I allowed myself to believe what Raymond told Katarina’s ghost in the Cape May episode from last season. “I’ve never killed anyone who didn’t deserve to die.” If Reddington still believes in that code, then his definition of deserving and mine, aren’t in the same area-code.

The second episode of season four, entitled ”Matos,” will likely become one of the most controversial and polarizing chapters of the series, even if the show lasts another decade. The entire episode messed with our sensibilities and with the knowledge we’ve acquired since Raymond turned himself in to FBI Headquarters in 2013. Lizzie Keen, spent most of the episode unsure of what’s real and what’s fictional, her surroundings evoke memories, long since buried and forgotten. Could both sets of memories she has of her childhood, be true? Or was one of these ”realities” implanted in her brain as a child?

The action begins just moments after the conclusion of the previous episode, Constantin Rostov, Liz and a pilot, are escaping Cuba in a sea-plane. The pilot’s purposely flying low, trying to remain undetected by radar. After some back and forth sniping between Rostov and Keen, Liz attacks the pilot and attempts to crash the aircraft into the ocean. A gun appears and Keen gets possession, shooting the pilot and firing a shot into Constantin’s thigh. We never see the actual crash as the credits roll.

Back in Cuba, Tom locates the wreckage of Raymond’s car and they realize that the hitman took Agnes, when he T-Boned their car. We find out that the hitman’s named Matos, he’s incredibly proficient and has worked for Kirk/Rostov for years. He’s full-blooded Native-American, and legend has it that he’s a Shaman. Matos and Mr. Kaplan, also have a mutual friend, a bail-bondsman named Little Nikos, who operates out of Amarillo, Texas. Reddington, Dembe, Kate and Tom, hop on Red’s jet and head to the Lone-Star State.

The other plane in this scenario’s now floating on the ocean, the pilot’s dead, Rostov’s unconscious as Lizzie wakes-up to find the ship’s radio’s on the fritz and the aircraft’s taking on water. Constantin comes to and realizes that Keen’s got him tied up and tells Liz that he’s her father and she can’t let him die. Liz responds with an evil gleam in her eye, just watch.

Now in Texas, Mr. Kaplan begs Reddington to be allowed to talk to Little Nikos first. Turns out that decades before Kate had her skull bashed in and Nikos basically saved her life. Raymond agrees to allow Kate to try to convince her friend to give them Matos’ location.

Team-Red, could not have picked a worse time to land in Amarillo from Little Nikos’ vantage point, though Reddington perceived the timing as a strategic advantage. The bail-bondsman, had a surgical team in his facility in the midst of performing lap-band surgery. Reddington insists that he be revived immediately, the surgeon responds that could put Nikos’ life in jeopardy. Red flashes his pistol and tells the surgeon that his patient’s life’s already in danger, the question’s whether the doctor wishes to put his own life in jeopardy?

The plane that Lizzie and Kirk are floating on’s taking water on at an enormous rate, but suddenly Keen finds a flare gun and fires off a flare into the sky. Unfortunately, she forgets to keep her weapon on her and Rostov grabs the pistol and points it at Lizzie, he tells her the only way they can survive is to trust each other, then hands her back the gun.

The surgeon tells Reddington that the patient’s conscious, but in incredible pain, so the conversation needs to be brief. The bail-bondsman’s strapped to the operating table and there are four excavation sites on his torso. Kate tries talking to him first, telling her that Reddington’s with her, and he’ll kill Nikos unless he gives up Matos’ location. Reddington walks into the room and assures Nikos that he won’t kill him, he actually admires his loyalty.

Unfortunately Reddington says his associates don’t share his convictions and he invites Tom into the room and tells Keen that Nikos knows how to contact, the psychopath that kidnapped Agnes. As Reddington leaves, Keen picks up a drill like instrument and asks aloud what this instrument’s used for?

Kirk and Keen are now both in the water hanging onto the fuselage of the plane, Liz says help’s on the way. Rostov replies they’ll save her and that’s what’s important and then he lets go of the fuselage and sinks under the water. Surprisingly, Keen dives under the water and rescues him. Shortly thereafter a boat sees them and rescues them.

Back in Amarillo, we join Reddington and Mr. Kaplan in a room, as we listen to Nikos’ screams of pain and cries of agony. Kate tells Red, that she betrayed Nikos for the same reason she betrayed Raymond, to keep Lizzie safe. She recalls the first time she met Lizzie, when Raymond put the infant in her arms. Just then Tom enters the room and he’s got the way to contact Matos. Nikos text messages the mercenary with a password and Matos heads to Nikos’ storefront within two-hours. They text the message to the kidnapper, who when he receives the message heads North.

The captain who rescues them speaks Spanish and apparently can understand English but doesn’t speak it. Keen attempts to get the seaman to alert the local authorities about Rostov, but Constantine figures out what’s going on and shoots the Captain.

Waiting for Matos to arrive, Kate and Tom are in a car in front of Nikos’ building. Tom apologizes for what he did to Nikos’ blaming his concern for Agnes for showing no mercy. Mr. Kaplan asks Keen why he’s telling her that and Tom replies that Nikos’ is Kate’s friend. Kate then says that Tom wants her to grant him absolution for his actions, then says people count on her to make their lives happier. To make others lives “cleaner” hence her job title. She says Keen and Reddington want her to make things easier for them, but she won’t grant their requests.

Mr. Kaplan steps out of the car, telling Tom she needs some air, but her timing was terrible, stepping out of the car at the exact moment Matos pulls up. He steps out of his car and looks around, then he sees Kate and starts to run in the opposite direction. Dembe and Tom chase after the mercenary, but Kate ends the chase knocking him the ground with the car.

Raymond decides he doesn’t want to play his usual game of cat and mouse with Matos’ so he cuts right to the chase. He tells Matos that he realizes his prisoner has no fear of pain or death, but he’s fully aware that members of his tribe possess a fear of being stuck on earth surrounded by rotting flesh with his soul trapped for eternity inside his coffin.  The threat works and Matos says they’re heading to the Summer Palace, a location Reddington remembers quite well. He calls Harold Cooper and requests that Cooper send a team to raid Rostov’s complex in Nova Scotia.

Keen and Rostov, arrive at the Summer Palace and Constantin tells Keen he needs to meet with his doctors, but tells Liz to explore. Lizzie starts checking out the house and soon discovers a room that bring a flood of memories into her head. Rostov walks into the room and Keen says this was her bedroom, but it’s impossible as she remembers a fire and shooting her father. Rostov says those memories were just lies concocted by Reddington, he was in love with her mother and he’s obsessed with her.

Keen looks out a window and sees a child’s swing hanging from a tree. She runs downstairs and onto the grass, but we see Masha Rostova as a toddler when she appears. Suddenly she runs over to Katarina and sees her mother working in the garden. Mother and daughter speak to each other in Russian, Katarina’s burying a coffee-can into the ground and tells her daughter, that the can’s a time machine and one day when Masha’s older, she can return and dig up the treasure. Katarina take the yarn bracelet to her daughter and the toddler puts it the can and buries it. Back in the present, Keen finds the can containing Katarina’s bracelet and puts it on her own wrist.

The idyllic moment’s shattered as an FBI SWAT-Team invades the “Summer Palace,” killing most of Kirk’s guards in the process, while Rostov makes his escape. Ressler who accompanied the SWAT-Team hugs Lizzie when he sees her while Keen breaks down and cries, as Agnes’ whereabouts are still unknown.

Keen’s transported back to the States. Raymond stays just long enough to verify that Lizzie’s safe then he and Dembe drive away. She’s reunited with Tom who assures her that they will get Agnes back safe and sound.

Dembe drives Reddington and Mr. Kaplan out into the country when he finally pulls over, Reddington asks Dembe to stay with the car. Kate’s fully aware these are her final moments and she’s determined not to go out meekly into the night. She calmly and coolly explains to Reddington that she devoted her existence to him, but she realizes that Reddington now perceives Kate as a liability, as she knows too much about him. Red responds that even if he could put aside his anger and betrayal, he’d never be able to trust her. He says when he looks at her it’s like seeing a stranger. He then fires a shot at her from about 20-feet away and she collapses to the ground. Showing no signs of remorse or guilt, Reddington walks back to his car, unaware that Mr. Kaplan’s alive.

2 thoughts on “The Blacklist: The Enemy From Within?”

  1. (Seldom one to be picky but as we are both writers I know you will appreciate me telling you to edit spelling (Katrina = Katarina)). With this out of the way, great summary of the episode.

    I would like to add although, I do not feel Raymond walked away after shooting Kate with no emotion. Mastery of masking emotions he learned early on I am sure in his capacities for Intelligence work. I would think shooting Kate was almost the aftermath of his truest pain for which he has spanked her for 3 episodes, one last season, other two this season. I thought this would be the most he would do to her and Bokenkamp/Eisendrath delivered a shocker much bigger than Liz ‘dying’ imho.

    Her death was instantly seen by most to be a fake, Lizzie’s that is. At least I saw it for what it was and my only measure on it’s truth was how many episodes would take place to cement it into reality or reveal it for the ruse it was. I was happy to be correct.

    But, I was sure he would continue to use Mr. Kaplan’s gifts in his search, her showing this capacity at the very opening of Episode One tracking the injured Kirk agent and thus showing her value again and again through episodes one and two of this season. None were acts of contrition as she stated clearly. She did what she was told to do when she first appeared, “Located (and/or Protect) her employer and to Protect Elizabeth”….which she did to the very end.

    I think Red was hurt as much as one can be when Kaplan turned on him. “The cleaner turned strategist”, he would say. Seeing all her actions as hubris to take on so much when she should have known better all decisions should go through him because he can never inform others the wealth of angles and information in his head and constantly being fed to him by sources or perceptions. Kaplan made a grave error and I agree with Red he could never trust her again as an employee but her years of service should have granted her reprieve at least until Agnes and Liz were both safe. But, this again shows what I already agreed to last year with Kate’s betrayal and her confrontation in which he was in error in his movements and belief thinking he could ever really protect Liz or the baby as long as he was within proximity, directly or indirectly.

    The shooting was a definitive moment and I agree completely it will further bifurcate camps and twist the many forks already created prior into splintered groups within groups in the TBL fans. Red has always been a cold-hearted killer with sole intent on his own desires. Only when his desires and those of others mesh does he do good things. Take the Djinn for example, he talked of much more productive means of running the business and I believe they will be more positive in the end than just revenge and torture. He has shown time and again to have morals behind his bullets. But, we must wonder, a man who could’ve just as easily put on in her head, did he leave nature to Kate’s fate? In the shooting, instead of just seran wrapping her like Newton, or a bullet straight to the head, did he allow for the possibility of survival for her? Was this his form of reprieve?

    I think it quite possibly was and we will not know until she appears again and whether his response is one to finish the job, be shocked, etc., until then we will not know his truest motive in his action. I for one, think it foolish, as he was doing quite well using her skills still, spanking her at every moment possible (which is also what he meant in the surgery scene…he meant Tom would be his instrument and Kate lacked loyalty). A note on Tom, I am a little satisfied with him using Tom’s skills. He seems to have put up with Tom up to now where he is a little more on the side of allowing Tom into his circle.

    Just a couple thoughts. Again, great summary. OH, one last note – I think THIS Summer Palace is the House by the Sea where the gun was in Raymond’s mouth. I once thought it to be Cape May, but I’ve since changed this assumption given Red’s knowledge of the house and so forth.

    Fantastic episode and they are delivering in every form and function what a great TV show should be delivering. I would hope the next episode or two give us even a moment of retrospection or digestion and then floor it again. I imagine until all is well for Red’s purposes, we will see speeds well above Sammy Hagar’s limits!

    Be well, be kind, be blessed…and most important, be back for more Blacklist!

    1. Joe,
      What a truly pleasant surprise! Ironically, I’ve spelled her name Katarina, since Cape May, just a brain cramp on this recap, I guess. I’ve been a huge fan of Tolstoy’s since I was a kid, so I tend to follow his spelling on Russian names. I’d been using Konstantin, until IMDB listed him as Constantine.

      I went through the entire Summer expecting Raymond and Kate to make amends, truly believing that by surviving S3E23, she was safe. Raymond’s a logical man, and I believed that once he got past the initial anger and sense of betrayal, he’d bring Mr. Kaplan back into the fold. Last week was the first time I entertained the possibility my logic was incorrect, if anything it seemed Reddington’s anger had increased, cutting off the cop’s head was a huge indicator to me, that he no longer thought Kate was part of his team.

      Jon and the writers have let us know from the outset that Reddington’s capable of heinous and brutal acts, but I could ALWAYS see the logic in the actions he took. However, this was purely based on emotion, he refused to entertain Mr. Kaplan’s motivation for her decision. I truly thought he understood in S3E23, when he asked Kate “Had it truly come to that?” However now I’ve come to think of his response as his one moment of clarity in this situation. He understood Kate’s reasoning, however all he could see was Mr. Kaplan’s betrayal.

      Just before he shoots her, he brings up the trust-factor and says when he looks at her, he just sees a stranger. Ironically, that’s exactly how I felt about Raymond at that moment. Having the “bad-guy,” as a story’s protagonist, is far from a novel concept, however you have to give your audience a reason to root for them. Through three-plus seasons, I’ve unabashedly rooted for Raymond, for at least the moment, that connection’s gone. “I don’t know where we went wrong, but the feelings gone, and I just can’t get it back,” to quote Mr. Lightfoot.

      Raymond’s an extraordinary shooter and from 20 foot difference, one would think Red would have killed her. First thought in my head when we saw she was alive, was this was yet another setup, to allow Kate to infiltrate Rostov’s organization and gain his trust. Tis possible but that may be going to the same well too often.

      Thanks for the kind words my friend!

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