The Blacklist (S05E14) "Mr. Raleigh Sinclair III"

If there’s one thing The Blacklist does well, it’s delivering top guest stars appearing as the titular Blacklister of the week. This episode was no exception, with guest stars John Noble as our Blacklister, Raleigh Sinclair, and Martha Plimpton as psychologist Dr. Sharon Fulton.

The case of the week was a simple one as cases go. How could someone have committed a crime when witnessed elsewhere at the time of the crime? With airtight alibis, they were innocent. Or were they? Enter our Blacklister, who can make a person be in two places at once. Very handy when you want to, you know, kill your wife or boss.

We first meet Mr. Raleigh Sinclair with a new client, Brian Barrett (David Call) who wants to do away with his wife, but get away with murder. It’s then we discover just what Raleigh Sinclair’s secret is. By drafting people who share a physical resemblance to his client, he makes body doubles who fill in while the real person is off killing and committing crimes. And so begins the preparation for Barrett’s alibi, jogging each day and making a special point to wear the same running outfit and greet the same folks on his route. Familiarity and being seen by all and sundry, including the falafel guy, is the name of the game.

Barrett’s body double will run that same route, filling in for Brian while he’s otherwise engaged in murdering his ex-wife. It’s a simple idea, but one that takes a great deal of planning and preparation. With the promise of a large pay out at the end of their job, the doubles give it their all. But Raleigh Sinclair is not a man of his word. His payment is a bullet and a shallow grave. He can’t have them around, and risk them growing a conscience one day at the expense of his client’s alibi.

Red has got wind of our Mr. Sinclair and his doppelgänger doings. He gives the task force the case, via Samar, citing several instances, including one Sam DeMarco, where guilty people got away with it, thanks to Mr. Sinclair’s particular skill set. He’s also known as The Alibi, and that would have been a better episode title, but that’s just me. Armed with this information, Ressler and Navabi interview a woman who swears black and blue she saw Sam DeMarco getting coffee and buying his usual lottery tickets at the time his business partner died.

He also visited the ATM, and after running his photo, Aram finds it’s not DeMarco, but a brilliant double. An 81% match, but not 100%. They send ATM guy’s photo out to the local PD hoping to find who the double was. I have to wonder why no one in law enforcement had the same facial recognition software that only Aram seems to have.

Liz is still trying to get her badge back and get back on the task force. But we all know her ulterior motive is to find the man responsible for Tom’s death because we’re looking for dirty cops who did the deed. But Cooper isn’t just going to let her waltz back in and shoot bad guys in Tom’s name. He tells Reddington that he’s well aware he’s been helping Elizabeth in her revenge quest, and it needs to stop. Red getting chastised in the principal’s office is always fun.

Cooper is playing it safe and sends Liz to see a psychologist before she reinstatment, and a reluctant Liz agrees. And what choice does she have? Uncomfortable, she sits opposite Dr. Sharon Fulton as they size each other up. And after a few mentions like “I need closure by finding out who killed my husband, and for that I need my badge back”, the good doctor seems more intrigued by Liz’s connection to Reddington than anything else.

Meanwhile, it turns out the guy who was the double for Sam DeMarco is a missing homeless guy by the name of Kahil Shula. Red takes up the cause, ending up at a soup kitchen where he can pass the photo around. And wouldn’t you know it, our kind hearted criminal supports the place, keeping the homeless fed. Just when you think you know everything about Red, he can still surprise.

They get a hit on the photo from a homeless woman named Delores who saw Shula getting into a gold car with an EZ pass weeks prior, with the promise of a job. Intrigued, Red invites Delores to dinner to get all the details. He has her look at photos Aram has dug up of everyone who owns a gold car with an EZ pass, and she points to Sinclair’s pic. We love charming Red. He might be Number 4 on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, but it was lovely seeing him wine and dine a homeless woman.

Meeting with Liz, Red isn’t happy when Liz announces that to get her badge back, her new shrink wants to have Reddington come to therapy. He’s rather gob smacked, but still agrees to see the woman if it’s helping Liz get reinstated. What they don’t know is that while they’re talking, Detective Singleton is spying on them and taking pics from across the street. Armed with this new information, Singleton meets with Garvey and members of the DEA, telling him his theory that Reddington has an FBI agent in his pocket, and that explains who killed the guys in Tom and Liz’s apartment that night.

Garvey orders them to keep following Liz and keeping tabs on Reddington and let it play out. At this point all I could think of was that after a few months, you’re only now noticing Liz talks with Reddington? Perhaps Ian Garvey is not as smart as he likes to think he is.

Later, despite being forced to have to see Liz’s shrink, Red is doing it Red’s way. This calls for a back seat office meeting. Dr. Fulton has the tables turned when Red invites her to talk in his car. She’s very blunt with him. He disgusts her. He’s a glorified serial killer. Red takes it all in his stride. He’s heard worse. Dr. Fulton tries to make out that Reddington is who is stopping Liz from getting her badge back, since she is embracing his criminal side. That old line about the apple not falling far from the tree.

Red shuts Dr. Fulton down. Elizabeth’s future with the Bureau is not dependent on him giving it his best shot, but on Elizabeth giving it her best shot. And then stopping any further discussion, he tells Dr. Fulton that time is up, but it was a good session. I love sassy Red. He’s always a joy to watch.

Ressler and Samar have found Raleigh Sinclair’s workshop, complete with plaster casts of faces, teeth and many things that will turn one person into another. They find info on his next client and a plaster cast of his face, but his dossier is missing. Red beat them to it and already has the file on Brian Barrett. Red wants to get to Sinclair before the task force do and is slowing them down. Because that’s how Red rolls.

Liz, meanwhile is back talking with her new best friend, Dr. Fulton, wishing she could be anywhere but there. Sharing her thoughts on why she needs to get info on who killed Tom so she can get the closure she needs and get her life back. But closure requires a reckoning, Dr. Fulton tells her, and she will not reinstate her until Liz can profile herself and look at what happened, why it happened, and her and Reddington’s role in it. Liz looks uncomfortable. The truth can be hard to take, huh, Liz?

Red may have slowed Ressler and Samar down, but through piecing together what they have, the task force find out Sinclair’s client is Brian Barrett. They find his ex-wife to warn her she’s in danger. As Ressler and Navabi are en route to her workplace, Brian Barrett is already with his ex-wife while his double is doing his morning jog elsewhere, creating his alibi, waving to everyone. Gun drawn, Barrett shoots. And he’s a terrible shot. I lost count of how many times he fired at his ex-wife at almost point blank range and I don’t think he hit her once. Which was good because he took off running as Ressler and Samar arrived. A little fancy driving by Ressler took care of the fleeing Brian. Don’t mess with Ress when he’s behind that wheel.

Meanwhile, Raleigh Sinclair is taking care of unfinished business on the case, and about to shoot Barrett’s double after his successful jogging run. But he’s stopped by Reddington climbing into the car. After sending doppelgänger jogger on his way minus his payout, but with his life, Red takes Sinclair for a little chat in a creepy tunnel, away from prying ears. After sharing their love of books (where I did a little geek out when Red mentioned Ursula Le Guin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea”), Red gets to the point. He admires the skill Sinclair has in making a person be in two places at once.

At that moment, the FBI are crawling all over his workshop and they have everything. But Reddington can keep Sinclair out of their clutches–if Sinclair does as he asks. What does Red want The Alibi for? We know he’s working on something. He collects people and now has an arsonist and a double maker under his wing.

Liz has finished talking with the shrink for the day and heads back to her apartment that’s doubling as an active crime scene, when she walks in on Detective Singleton in her apartment. Having set up a camera and seen that he’d been in there, she’s already dialing to report a burglary. Singleton needs to talk fast. After going from good cop, to bad cop, now he’s trying to convince Liz he is a good cop. Because you can ask around, and people will tell her that. I don’t know if he was telling the truth, but he had a point she’d been surveilling him, while he’d been snooping on her.

Since each of them think the other is a dirty cop, they call a truce. Singleton knows Liz killed Navarro, and with Reddington around, he’s not sure how she can explain that away, yet somehow still believes Liz is on his side. She likewise has to concede that perhaps this guy is clean. And in what appears to be a snap decision, Liz takes his word for it, but with one caveat. If Singleton betrays her, Reddington will kill him. Sometimes it’s good to have criminals in high places on your speed dial.

Red is meeting with Cooper and Ressler, trying to talk his way out of having let Sinclair walk. Cooper doesn’t look surprised. He’s been down this road too many times with Red. To appease them, Red hands over a list of 51 names of Sinclair’s doubles, and information on where to find their bodies. With those names, they can now convict half the people on the list who got away with murder.

It’s a good outcome, yet Ressler isn’t buying it and knows Red got more out of the deal. And yes, Red wants something. Once they unearth the body of the homeless guy Shula who filled in for Sam DeMarco, Red wants to give him a proper burial. And in a wonderful scene, Delores is crying at Shula’s coffin, and Red comes to comfort her. Dr. Fulton might be right he’s a glorified serial killer, but darn it, he wins us over repeatedly.

Ian Garvey meets with one of his dirty cops, Judson, who wants to move in and take Liz down. But Garvey has a better idea. Why do all of that when he can have Singleton do his dirty work? By tracking Singleton while he’s tracking Liz Keen, she’ll lead them to Reddington and then Garvey can get to him first. Now I’m more convinced Singleton is a good cop, because Liz has just invited him down to the Post Office, where he’s meeting the team and being shown around. Now Liz can explain their arrangement with Reddington and convince Singleton she’s not a dirty cop.

We finish the episode with one more session with Dr. Fulton, and Liz again gives her litany she’s a widow, mom, cop. Only that. I don’t think I was alone in thinking Liz should think of herself as a mom first, and widow second. She has a daughter who is growing up without her. But Dr. Fulton pushes more, asking her to examine herself deeper and push past the anger and grief to see who she is. Liz thinks a moment, then relays her list again. A widow. A mom. A cop. And a daughter.

You can feel the tension ramping up a little more in this episode. The pieces are falling into place and we know it won’t be long before Garvey gets his comeuppance. I believe Singleton is not long for this world either. You can’t remain in Ian Garvey’s presence for too long if you betray him.

It was great watching James Spader go head to head with John Noble. Two fine actors who had some great moments together. Likewise, Spader with Martha Plimpton was a great scene. I love the way they keep the mythology of Red never being in one place long enough to have an office, and the back seat suffices. And loyal Dembe, sitting in the driver’s seat carries the secrets of Reddington’s world on his shoulders.

The case of the week was rather simplistic, but sometimes it’s good not to have to stretch the brain too much to figure out what’s going on and who is double crossing whom. The task force were kinda light in this episode, with more focus on Red and Liz. I like to see it more balanced, but also know James Spader is the star and Megan Boone the costar. This is Red and Liz’s story.

So what were your thoughts on the episode? Is Singleton good or dirty? And is Liz getting anywhere except frustrated in therapy?

The Blacklist airs on NBC at 8/7c on Wednesdays.