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“The Blacklist" Recap: Last tango in Uzbekistan

THLBAULT, FLICKR

Note: The following post contains spoilers for “The Blacklist,” season two, episode 11, entitled “Ruslan Denisov.”

This week’s episode of “The Blacklist” attempted to pose several statements and questions regarding international politics, corporate corruption and trust. The interpretation of east-meets-west law enforcement tension, interagency deception among American defense organizations and individual protection proved to be sharp and successful, with a dose of “The Blacklist’s” signature smarmy humor. However, this episode delivered only one fedora worn by Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader, “Secretary”).

In Uzbekistan, an armed separatist leader called Ruslan Denisov (Faran Tahir, “Supernatural”) takes undercover CIA Agent Burke (Arian Moayed, “Rosewater”) hostage, among several other European hostages connected to politics and business in the region.

Agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone, “My Bloody Valentine”) brings the microchip/data device she found inside the stuffed bunny from last week’s episode to Aram Mojtabai (Amir Arison, “Girls”) and asks him to investigate what the thing is or what it might contain.

Meanwhile, Metro Police Department Detective Martin Wilcox (Michael Kostroff, “The Wire”) looks into the disappearance of D.C. Harbormaster Eugene Ames, to whom Keen is connected with from her using the docks to hide her double-agent-husband, Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold, “90210”).

Elizabeth Keen and Agent Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff, “Homeland”) travel with a team to Uzbekistan, where Reddington meets them to discuss negotiations with Denisov, a former colleague. Ressler and Keen are almost immediately kidnapped by Denisov, who explains his motivations behind taking hostages. An American oil company called Anneca built a pipeline in Uzbekistan, which now has a leak, contaminating the air and water of several villages. The leaking pipeline caused hundreds of deaths and continues to make people sick.

Denisov takes hostages related to the deal with Anneca in retaliation to American greed, corruption and apathy to the situation in the villages. Keen and Ressler suspect Agent Burke is being held at the hostage compound, and FBI Director Harold Cooper (Harry Lennix, “Man of Steel”) confers with CIA Director Hayworth (James Naughton, “Gossip Girl”) on how to retrieve the hostages.

Keen and Ressler meet with an executive vice president of Anneca in Uzbekistan named Dean Walker (Jonathan Walker, “Michael Clayton”), who denies any company knowledge or involvement.

Denisov takes Keen and Ressler to a nearby village to show them the effects of the contamination on a small village. Reddington agrees to negotiate a deal between Denisov, the FBI and Anneca, much to the dismay of local authorities, who attempt to keep Keen and Ressler under military guard.

Hayworth informs local authorities of the hostage compound, who then conduct a raid and kill several of Denisov’s men. However, the hostages had been relocated to preempt the attack. Denisov and Reddington question Burke, and discover that Anneca made a deal with a former Soviet leader named Zhabin to build a pipeline in Uzbekistan.

Reddington brokers a deal with Walker, Denisov and the FBI: Anneca is to leave Uzbekistan and pay reparations to victims of the contamination, Burke will be released, and Denisov will be arrested. However, a French company is revealed to be building a new pipeline after Anneca’s departure, another deal brokered by Reddington. Before the exchange for Burke occurs, Cooper stops Hayworth from ordering Denisov’s assassination and Reddington’s arrest. This is a lot of action for a forty-two minute hybrid procedural.

Back in Washington, Wilcox continues his investigation into Keen, and the guard whom Keen asked to watch Tom makes a deal to tell Wilcox everything. Mojtabai tells Keen that he was unable to figure out what was on the device, only that it appears to be from the 1980s or 1990s and may be capable of recording. So, no new answers on Keen’s repressed memories or the fulcrum situation, instead a glimpse into international politics, human rights and interagency distrust. These are major issues that “The Blacklist” sometimes wades into without careful consideration. This week’s episode nailed them, providing just the right amount of action, commentary, Spader being Spader and motivation to continue watching.

Other thoughts..

*This show is worth watching, if only for Ressler and Keen’s knowing glances/eyerolls at Reddington’s vaguely offensive and sexist stories.

*“I know a wonderful hole in the wall. It’s actually in a hole in the wall.”

*The “negotiation as dance” scene in the hotel, cut against the local police’s raid on the hostage compound demonstrated the level of deception in every relationship in this week’s episode. I was impressed.

*Next week’s episode teases a raid on a doomsday-type cult, with Ressler getting captured. Ressler appears to be this season’s (and the show’s, overall) damsel-in-distress, with Keen and Reddington coming to his rescue more often than the other way around. I’m glad this is handled without addressing the fact that the dynamic is subversive, even in 2015. And this is what’s great about “The Blacklist,” it quietly addresses big-picture issues under the ruse of being a platform for Spader to be a ham. Keep on “Blacklist-ing,” “The Blacklist.”


Tune in to “The Blacklist,” Thursdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.


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