Wow, how have I never made the connection that The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” could be the theme song of The Blacklist? Eat your heart out various slowed down Johnny Cash songs.
Sure, Red is much less, uh, Big Brother-y to Liz than he used to be — obviously, or he’d know she’s the one who turned him in and could maybe do a smidge less throwing people off planes as a result — but the man sure does love to watch every breath taken, every move made, and every bond broken of the people he cares about. And in Friday’s episode, as a special treat, he’s really into letting the people he’s upset with know that every word they say, every game they play, every night they stay — yeah, he’s watching ALL those. (Follow up: how do I get that a cappella boy’s choir version of this song on iTunes? It was incredible.)
If you’ve found the plot against America that’s coming from inside the [White] house or Red’s narrow escape from death row via a Rube Goldberg machination of criminals a little confusing in the last few weeks, well then you’re in for a nice little rest tonight. We’ve just got a regular ol’ demented Blacklister keeping a husband hostage in an iron lung plot, coupled with a good ol’ fashion Red settling scores b-story in this episode. The Blacklister is tangentially related to the Third Estate conspiracy, yes, and Red’s score-settling mission is related to constantly saying he’s going to murder whoever turned him in to the police (Liz) and anyone who knew about whoever turned him into the police (Dembe) — but for now, we can just put that to the side and relax a little, because tonight…
Luck be a lady, and that lady be trippin’.
LADY LUCK, NO. 69
The episode opens with Red conducting some business and being uncharacteristically surprised by something: Henry Morris, the man who’s supposed to be overseeing an incoming shipment is missing, and when Henry calls to check in, he tells Red that he ran into some trouble, but he’s got in handled now. “She came to me, my miracle,” Henry says. “We made a deal.”
Knowing that Henry has a gambling problem, Red immediately calls Liz in to tell her that he’s afraid his friend was visited by Lady Luck — and yes, that is a bad thing. He tells her of an urban legend he claims is actually a true legend: “a Blacklister who serves up salvation in one hand, and damnation in the other.” Apparently, this Lady Luck entices gamblers with major debts to “bet on themselves,” a thing everyone keeps saying without explaining. In return, their debts are forgiven and their families saved from ruin.
Lady Luck is played by excellent character-actress-you-know-from-every-single-thing Mary Pat Gleason, and honestly, I wish she’d been given a little more to do, but watching her smile menacingly in sweater vests was a small treat. Henry calls her to say he’s not sure he can do whatever it is he’s sworn to do to get his debts settled, and this kindly looking older woman tells him to get sure: “I’m married to a loser, Henry, trust me — it’s a fate worse than death.” She says this while stacking cash in front of a man, the presumed loser-husband, who appears to be paralyzed.
The next time we see Henry, it is in a truly startling scene where he breaks into a woman’s home and drowns her in her bubble bath to the amped-up tune of Lonnie Donegan’s “Gamblin’ Man.” We have no idea why Henry killed this woman, but Aram soon finds out that she also had gambling debts — gambling debts that had all been paid off recently. But there’s no other connection between Henry and the woman except their gambling addiction.
The Task Force finds Henry’s wife, however, and after telling her that Henry gambled away $200,000, a thing he’s apparently done a few times before, she agrees to arrange a meeting with him and get him to admit what he’s done. What they could not have seen coming was someone else being at that park to kill Henry. So this is how Lady Luck works: she finds a person with significant debt and offers to pay it off for them if they kill someone for her. She pays off their debt…and then she finds another gambler with severe debt and hires them to kill the last person whose debt she paid off. Of course, when they’re hired, they don’t know they’re the next person on the kill list — they just think it’s their lucky day.
But why would this woman be paying people’s debts and then turning around and having them killed? And where on earth could she be getting that kind of money? Hold that thought…
Red is also busy dabbling in debts, mostly those owed to him, both in money and honor. He’s taking Dembe and Smokey with him on a quick trip across the country to visit all the people who “took it upon themselves to do a little freelancing” while he was in prison. Smokey asks what he plans to do to the people who betrayed his trust, which is when you know Smokey is toast. “I’ll know when I see them,” Red answers him. “Ultimately everyone’s fate is negotiable…except the person who turned me in to the police—their fate is sealed.“
So at least we know Smokey didn’t do that. Plus, the first guy Red visits (or rather, the guy he has visit him while he’s julienning some red peppers), he just tells him he’ll need to kick in an extra 10 percent for his indiscretions while Red was in prison. The second guy, however, made Reddington a little angrier. Apparently, he used Red’s infrastructure of drivers, warehouses, and trucks to start running meth all over the country, and then once Red was out of prison, he lied about where all the money came from. Red makes it very clear that though he loves to do crimes, he draws the line at meth. “I’m a relatively forgiving man,” he says, “but that…that I cannot forgive.” And then he shoots the man twice in the heart.
As does Lady Luck’s new gambling addict target Ned when he shows up to kill Henry at the park where he’s meeting his wife and is taken into custody by the FBI instead. Ned arranges a meeting with Lady Luck so that the Task Force can arrest her, but this is not her first rodeo; she recognizes many of the people in the diner as non-regulars through the binoculars she’s spying on him with from afar and knows it’s set up.
She gets away without anyone seeing her, but after reviewing nearby surveillance footage, Aram gets a license plate and an I.D.: Lady Luck is Agatha Tyche, a formerly upstanding citizen of the community, married to Lou Tyche, a gambling addict…who also happened to win an $87 million lottery in a story so notorious that Cooper remembers it from decades ago. While Agatha was giving birth to their second child, Lou slipped away from the hospital to buy a lottery ticket, and on the way back, was in a car wreck that killed their little boy and badly injured Lou. A medical examiner returned the lottery ticket to Agatha after she’d had the baby girl, and she won $87 million.
That baby girl is now a grown woman with a son of her own who adores his grandma. She’s also under the impression that her mom gave all the lottery money away because of its association with the accident, and that her father is dead. But her father isn’t dead. He’s holed away in a cabin where Agatha keeps him alive inside an extremely vintage iron lung while she runs her gambling-addict-murdering enterprise. “We had a good run, didn’t we,” she says to Lou as he lays there mute and paralyzed, knowing that the jig is up. “I had plans for the rest of the money, more families to save — but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing some of this blood money protected others from our hell.”
When the FBI arrives, she throws a toaster in the sink and shorts out the circuits in an attempt to cut off Lou’s air supply and kill him. But she’s unsuccessful — Cooper tells Agatha’s daughter Moira that her mother is going to jail forever, but now she has her father back, and several millions of dollars.
Smokey, on the other hand, is well and truly caught. Back on the jet returning to D.C., Red tells him that he knows that he was the logistical mastermind behind the idea to use Red’s infrastructure to move meth across the country. Smokey swears he’s not the one who turned him in, knowing that’s Red’s main objective. But as Red later tells Dembe, he had to make an example out of someone, and the last time we see Smokey, it’s dead on the ground in the middle of nowhere after Red asked him if he’d ever had a “falling dream” on the jet.
While they listen to a boys’ choir sing “Every Breath You Take,” directed by a woman that Red gave a new life to a few seasons ago, Dembe tells him “that was the wrong example to make.”
Red asks him: “If you knew the truth, would you come forward to stop me from taking a life?” Of course, Dembe tells him. “Well then, I can only hope that anyone who actually knows is as principled as you.
A FEW LOOSE ENDS
And speaking of principled! Normally all-honesty-all-the time Ressler is still on the hunt for Katarina Rostova, and not telling Liz about it. But when she finds some of his research, he lies to her and says the intel was from a request he made weeks ago before she asked him to stop digging. And then once he gets even more intel, he almost tells her about it, decides not to, and lies again.
So what is that intel, you ask, since Liz is literally the only person who doesn’t care about Red’s real identity? There’s an unidentified woman on a ferry manifest from the last time and place Katarina Rostova was seen, who Ressler’s CIA friend helps him identify as Virginia King, a woman living in Chicago…
But Virginia King is 81 years old. She’s can’t be Katarina Rostova — but she could be Katarina Rostova’s mother. A grandma for Lizzie!
Liz: “Why would Agatha lie? To her daughter or all people.” Ressler: <a look> Liz: “Okay, I get it, we can’t always trust family.”
Final twist: the daughter did know about what her mother was doing, was super cool with it, and is going to continue her murdering legacy. MOIRA TYCHE, NO. 69.5, I guess.