The Blacklist (S05E13) "The Invisible Hand"

This episode of The Blacklist, “The Invisible Hand”, 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 normal, with the group of five being introduced to a new boyfriend, when the questions sound rather forward. Insulting, in fact. This guy makes 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, 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. 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 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 will 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 deceased, buried alive gun maker in upstate New York.

Turns out there was a reason for the hazmat suits, as the land 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 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 Brendford case. The EPA closed off the Superfund site after its biggest employer, Atria Chemical Corporation, dumped so many toxins the town was no longer inhabitable. 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 visit the toxic site – looking chic in their gas masks – where a team is digging up more bodies.

The State Police investigator explains there are pockets of toxic areas within the fenced off land, and so far, they’ve found nine bodies, including Gorman, in one such hot spot. Besides 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 kept a package of cocaine that belonged to drug dealer Big Willie Wilkins, then blamed another drug dealer, Momo Marinello. 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 somewhat 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 meet after the discovery of Gorman’s body. They’re concerned about being exposed, but 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 talk with Aram whose gone 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.

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 dangerous and won’t appreciate a visit from the FBI. But a determined Liz sets off 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, an amused Red meets Big Willie in a candy factory, unable to get Sammy Davis Jr. out of his head. Red explains the situation, that it was a big misunderstanding, that Anthony will pay him back, and Momo was innocent of the theft. But he’s a tad late. In the back room of the candy factory, that also doubles as a butcher’s store when necessary, poor Momo is in pieces, and Anthony loses 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. A court case against Atria Chemical Corporation, the company that poisoned Brenford, resulted in sealed records. 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 he’s just a retired system’s analyst. She tells him he was a former Russian operative code named Oleander. He denies it, but admits the CIA investigated and cleared him. When he asks what all of this is about, Liz tells him of her dead husband and she’s trying to find out why he died. 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, granted asylum and U.S. citizenship. He then 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 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. But one house has 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. He determines 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 in the kitchen. When she asks about Katarina, he tells her 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 cannot prevent them from taking Anna. But they 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 where on that 10 square miles of property Anna will meet her demise.

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 digs Anna out from her grave. After Altman’s arrest, he explains why they did what they did. They were six kids from the same street in Brenford who watched as their town got poisoned and their parents died of cancer. At the funeral of one of their group, the remaining five agreed to kill everyone responsible for what had happened, who had faced no legal ramifications.

With Anna rescued and Altman in custody, we find out what Red’s doing after taking the injured Anthony to the hospital. He’s with Big Willie, explaining he needs Willie’s experience with selling narcotics 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 impossible. The Nash Drug Syndicate never gets caught, and never gets a shipment stopped at the ports. And why? Because they have the cops protection.

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 his own granddaughter came to see him and he couldn’t say a thing. He also didn’t let on to her 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 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 he built Navarro’s GPS tracker eyeball for one client. 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 being Red. He shot Anthony, 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. A grateful Anthony checks out his new figure under the blanket.

Liz is back in Cooper’s office, wanting reinstatement. Cooper’s no fool, and knows why. That her quest for Tom’s killers now requires her to wear a badge, because the one she’s after wears a badge. Meanwhile, Detective Singleton has just picked the lock to gain access to Liz’s apartment, when he gets a call. He tells the caller 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.

Thoughts…
Another good episode, and one with lots going on. I had not thought Dom was Oleandar, so that was a cool reveal. I 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. The abandoned liquid nitrogen tanks, and empty homes on Staten Island gave those scenes the forlorn, deserted feel 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.