The episode opens in New York where a group of friends are in the back room of a restaurant that has just closed for the evening. Everything seems quite normal, with the group of five being introduced to a new boyfriend, when the questions start sounding rather forward. Insulting, in fact. This guy makes very cheap guns for a living, that supply criminals and drive up homicide rates. He profits off misery. Our gun maker, Tim Gorman, cottons on to the fact things have just taken a bizarre turn, especially when it’s revealed the group brought him here to punish him, right before he’s clocked with a bottle of wine. When he comes to, he’s no longer in the restaurant, but bound and gagged in a shallow grave, surrounded by five folks in gas masks and hazmat suits. And if that weren’t disturbing enough, he is horrified when shovels of dirt are thrown in on him. He’s being buried alive.
We switch to Liz’s apartment and that uber snoopy Detective Singleton paying her a visit, returning Tom’s personal effects. He’s onto her though, knowing she killed Navarro and stole a bloody rag from the evidence locker that would implicate her in Navarro’s murder. He just doesn’t know how she did it. Don’t these cops have security cameras in their precincts, that would have picked up Liz being there and Glen doing his big Oscar-worthy heart attack feint? Liz cooly reminds him he is talking to a federal agent, but he’s not impressed, promising her the day is coming when he will arrest her.
Among the items that Singleton returns is a lock box key, and when Liz delves into the storage locker she finds Tom’s little box of secrets. Flipping to the last page in his notebook, she finds the name Oleander, someone or something Tom was looking for. Liz is going to need some help on this one and she calls Cooper, who looks into who or what Oleander is.
Red, meanwhile, is smooching with an adorable puppy at his Dog Grooming and Money Laundering business. He’s giving Samar their next case, while news footage is showing some young boys who discovered the grave of our recently deceased, buried alive gun maker in upstate New York. Turns out there was a reason for the hazmat suits. The land he was buried in is toxic. Red fills in the details, explaining that Tim Gorman was the owner of a controversial gun manufacturing group, Ballistic Nine, making guns a fifth of the price of an iPhone, and murdered by a provocative group known as The Invisible Hand. Vigilantes, who are under the radar because they’re targeting people who aren’t actually committing crimes under existing law. His guess is that there are more bodies there than just Gorman’s.
Back in the war room, the task force is discussing the case. The EPA closed off the Superfund site after its biggest employer Atria Chemical Corporation dumped so many toxins, that the town of Brenford had to be abandoned. All that remains are 10 square miles of fenced in, uninhabitable land where people once lived and raised families. The perfect place to dump bodies. After getting all the info, Ressler and Samar are sent to the toxic land – looking very chic in their gas masks – where a team is digging up more bodies. The State Police investigator explains there are pockets of highly toxic areas within the fenced off land, and so far, they’ve found nine bodies, including Gorman, in one such hot spot. In addition to Gorman, they’ve dug up Ralph Ellis, a representative of Ace-Gen Pharmaceuticals, Edward Waybur, a retired Judge, and David Flynn, a Philadelphia lawyer. None seem related. The investigator hands them a tape, which takes one photo a day of the area. It might give them something to go on.
Back at Red’s doggy grooming clinic, he gets a visit from a very agitated Anthony the mailman, one of Red’s employees in his safe house for criminal’s business. Seems Anthony, rather stupidly, kept a package of cocaine that belonged to drug dealer Big Willie Wilkins, then blamed another drug dealer, Momo Marinello, for stealing it and now Momo wants him dead. All Anthony wanted to do was look slim and svelte for his new girlfriend, and needed some quick cash to get some lipo sculpture. Red barely hides his bemusement, then proposes a visit to speak with this Large William in person, much to Anthony’s consternation.
Meanwhile, our five friends who we now know are The Invisible Hand, are stressed out that Gorman’s body has been discovered, meeting hurriedly. They’re concerned about being exposed, and the option is given to stop what they’re doing. But before the group can take a vote, they are handed a file. Stopping is not an option when they see who has just flown back into the country. Their next target, Anna Hopkins.
Returning to the war room, Ressler and Samar are greeted by Aram whose been going through the daily photos taken at the toxic body dump site. The chances of the camera grabbing something once a day are slim to none, but wouldn’t you know it, one image reveals a man in the toxic area, not wearing any protective gear. He’s one of our Invisible Hand, of course.
Liz is speaking with Cooper, who has cashed in a few favors and asked around. Turns out Oleander was the name of a Russian operative active during the Cold War. No one knows if he’s still alive. The CIA thought he might be in the US under an assumed name. Cooper gives Liz the information, and a warning. If this man is in fact Oleander, he could be extremely dangerous and won’t appreciate a visit from the FBI. But Liz is determined, and off she goes to find this guy. At the address on the CIA file, Liz parks and looks at the remote home. She rings the doorbell, and who should open the door, but Dom. “Dominic Wilkinson?” she asks, and introduces herself. Dom is looking at his granddaughter, and Liz has no clue who he is to her.
Meanwhile, Red is amused to be meeting Big Willie in a candy factory, unable to get Sammy Davis Jr. out of his head. I think we were all singing “Candy Man” after that line. Red explains the situation, that it was a big misunderstanding, that Anthony will pay him back, and Momo was innocent of the theft he was accused of. But he’s a tad late. In the back room of the candy factory, that apparently also doubles as a butcher’s store when necessary, poor Momo has just been chopped into pieces, causing Anthony to lose his lunch.
Aram has been busy, typing fast on his keyboard as only he can, and come up with some information on the bodies of the judge and the lawyer found at the dumping ground. Both were involved in a court case regarding Atria Chemical Corporation, the company that poisoned Brenford. The records were then sealed, but one plaintiff tried to unseal them years later. When Aram shows them the photo of plaintiff Stephen Altman, they’ve seen him before. The man walking within the toxic area of Brenford, from the EPA camera footage.
Back at Dom’s house, he’s not letting on who he is to Liz. But Liz isn’t falling for his line that he’s just a retired system’s analyst, and tells him he was a former Russian operative code named Oleander. He denies it, but admits he’s been investigated by the CIA and cleared. When he asks what all of this is about, Liz tells him her husband was killed over a year ago and she’s trying to find out why. He relaxes a little, but we know he’s trying very hard to answer her questions, yet not tell her the truth. Yeah, who does that remind us of? Dom assures her he was just an analyst for the civilian sector in agricultural production, and he was granted asylum and U.S. citizenship, changed his name and started over.
Meanwhile, back at the candy factory, Momo’s sudden demise has started an all-out drug war. Before Red, Anthony and Dembe can leave, gunfire erupts. In the ensuing melee, Red sees someone approaching in semi darkness, and shoots. Only then does he realize he’s shot poor Anthony. Only Reddington could say “Oh, shoot,” after actually shooting someone and get away with it. Dragging Anthony between them, Red and Dembe flee the candy factory to get the mailman to a hospital.
The task force is still busy out at the toxic wasteland, and pull up to the abandoned houses of the town of Brenford. Everything is deserted, except for the house with smoke coming out of its chimney. Ressler and Samar breach the house, but Stephen Altman has already gone. His house is full of surveillance gear, very similar to what was in Ian Garvey’s fake house the week before. Back at the post office, Aram does his techy thing and using the info from Altman’s home, triangulates their tracking signal, and ascertains that The Invisible Hand’s next target is on the 17th floor or the Braxton Hotel. She is Anna Hopkins, former senior executive at Atria Chemicals, the ones who made Brenford a ghost town.
Back at Dom’s, he and Liz are still talking, sitting comfortably in the kitchen. When she asks about Katarina, he tells her that he knew Katarina ‘quite well’. He even admits he met Liz once when Katarina brought her to work in a hurry, when Liz was three. The look in Dom’s eyes as he sits with his granddaughter is both sad and lovely. If only Liz knew who he was. He’s fine talking about Katarina, but when she asks about Reddington, Dom does not want to talk about him. Liz can’t get anywhere on that front.
Ressler and Samar arrive at the Braxton Hotel to find Anna Hopkins. They are too late though, and witness Anna being hustled into a van as shots ring out. Firing back, Ressler and Samar are unable to prevent them from taking Anna, but they do injure one of their members, Bobby, before he drives off. They take one of the surviving members of The Invisible Hand into custody, and from her, they find out exactly where on that 10 square miles of property Anna is to be buried.
Knowing they are almost out of time, Stephen Altman drags Anna Hopkins to her shallow grave that has already been dug for her. But as soon as he’s buried her, Ressler and Samar arrive. Ressler takes off after Altman, while Samar frantically digs Anna out from her grave. After Altman’s arrest, he explains why they did what they did. Originally six kids from the same street in Brenford, they watched as their town got poisoned and their parents died of cancer. At the funeral of one of their group, the remaining five made a pact to kill everyone responsible for what had happened, who had never faced any legal ramifications. And so, The Invisible Hand was born.
With Anna rescued and Altman in custody, we find out what Red’s doing after taking the injured Anthony to the hospital. In a meeting with Big Willie, he explains he needs Willie’s experience with selling narcotics. And he needs that expertise to go after the Nash Drug Syndicate. Yes, the ones who supplied the hired thugs to kill Tom and attack Liz. Willie tells him it’s virtually impossible. The Nash Drug Syndicate never gets caught, and never gets a shipment stopped at the ports. And why? Because they are protected by the cops.
Later, we see Red with Liz at the hospital to talk with the injured Invisible Hand member, Bobby. Before going in, Red receives a call from Dom, letting him know that his own granddaughter came to see him and he couldn’t say a thing. He also didn’t let on to her that he was Oleander. Ignoring Dom telling him he needs to tell Masha the secrets (Dom and Dembe have a lot in common), Red hangs up. At Red’s prodding, and effective threats of death, Bobby unwillingly provides them info on the man who built their surveillance equipment, The Toymaker (why do these bad guys feel the need to have handles?) They leave to speak with The Toymaker, Cleveland Bandicott.
Arriving at Bandicott’s little workshop, Red and Liz pry out of him that he did build Navarro’s GPS tracker eyeball for one client, and he also built what might be the most advanced surveillance and counter-surveillance system ever for the man. And from what the client knew about conical R-F energy frequencies for handheld wall-penetrating Dopplers in both azimuth and elevation, he could only be one thing. A cop. Confirming what Big Willie had said, the man they are after, Damascus, is someone with a badge.
Red heads back to the hospital to visit Anthony, carrying a “Get Ready to Party!” balloon. They were all out of “Sorry I Shot You” balloons. And it’s Red totally being Red. He shot Anthony accidentally, but he made it right. Since Anthony had to go under the knife anyway, Red had them do the lipo sculpture the mailman had wanted. Anthony is touched, grateful and checks out his new figure under the blanket.
Liz is back in Cooper’s office, asking to be reinstated. Cooper’s no fool, and knows completely why. That her quest for Tom’s killers now requires her to wear a badge, because the one she’s after wears a badge also. Meanwhile, Detective Singleton has just picked the lock to gain access to Liz’s apartment, when he gets a call. He tells the caller that they need to get everyone together. Agent Keen killed Navarro, and she’s working her way up. We pan to who he is talking to, and it’s Ian Garvey. He will call a meeting and deal with Agent Keen. The last thing we see is the U.S Marshall’s badge on his belt.
Another good episode, and one with lots going on. I had not previously thought that Dom was Oleandar, so that was a cool reveal. I really enjoyed Liz going to visit Dom, and not knowing he was her grandfather. That was a nice twist, and gave the scene a much edgier feel. Dom is great. I love it when he’s on, but I have to admit, I’m afraid for his life. We know Garvey is tracking Liz and where she goes. With that said, Garvey also has to know she meets with Reddington. What is Garvey waiting for before he makes his move on Red?
The Blacklister story was a good one. These weren’t ‘bad’ people, but something terrible happened to them in their lives and they retaliated. Yes, their methods were harsh, for sure. But when Altman was talking with Ressler at the end I think even Ressler understood what had pushed these people into it. I also loved the location they used for Brenford. The location scouts do a great job on this show, and the abandoned liquid nitrogen tanks, and empty homes on Staten Island gave those scenes the forlorn, deserted feel that it needed.
A well rounded episode. Lots of action for the task force, and a lot of Red being Red. His scenes with Anthony the mailman added a personal touch to the episode. Who knew we’d become fond of the mailman?
We now have to wait until February 28th for our next episode, “Mr. Raleigh Sinclair III,” Episode 514.
The Blacklist airs on NBC at 8/7c on Wednesdays.