The Blacklist (S05E17) "Anna-Gracia Duerte”

After a break of a couple of weeks, The Blacklist returned last night with the 17th episode of the season. Things on the Garvey front were a little more toned down than of late, but there was still one very important piece of evidence obtained in the war against him. Our Blacklister of the week was not your normal run-of-the-mill crazy, which made a welcome change from the gross characters who have graced our screens on occasion.

Underage marriage and child brides was the case of the night, complete with some rather skin crawling creepiness with the men kissing their school aged wives. At first glance, you assume the girls are their daughters, but it soon becomes very clear that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Things get interesting when one of these child stealing husbands,¬†Jerry Juyal, is on the phone with Reddington, and is gunned down in cold blood. This leaves a rather sticky problem for Red who needs a ledger that our victim was about to hand over, full of information on the Nash Drug Syndicate – who we know Ian Garvey is in bed with. But now that deal is as dead as Jerry, as the gunman took off with the ledger. Red fills Liz in on all of this, and not to be outdone by Dembe’s skills in the kitchen, Red manages to get a little cooking in also.

Reddington, Dembe and Liz, discussing the case while Red cooks.

Aram, meanwhile has marriage – or not marriage – thoughts of his own. He’s procured a ring for Samar, and as soon as Ressler sets eyes on it, he asks the obvious question. As in, when is Aram going to pop the question? A flustered Aram assures Ressler that it’s not an engagement ring, but his grandmother’s ring that happens to be Samar’s birthstone. It’s just a gift, and Samar will see it as just a gift, right? Ressler assures Aram she’ll think it’s an engagement ring, but also admits, “what do I know about women?”

Red dives in to retrieve his ledger, and after a couple of wrong ideas on who shot Jerry Juyal, including Red shooting up a Confederate loving (and Dembe hating) biker bar, Red realizes it wasn’t Garvey or the biker dude who shot Jerry at all. They’ve stumbled into a forced child marriage ring. After procuring the computer of Jerry Juyal’s teen wife, the task force discover an online group of these brides, where the girls talk of a guardian angel. One who is freeing them by killing their husbands who are three times their age. Feeling for the girls, Samar doesn’t see a problem with what this guardian angel is doing. Cooper assures her it’s still murder and the perpetrator needs to be brought in.

Car bomb set by the Blacklister, that missed its intended target, thanks to Ressler.

Meanwhile, they’ve found the next target, and while Ressler goes off to talk to the man, Samar visits the young teen wife in school. There is indeed a hit out on the husband, and it’s too late to stop it. Talking with the husband, a very astute Ressler realizes a few seconds before a car bomb goes off and shoves the man to safety. Recovering from the blast, Ressler spots a teen girl running from the site, but can’t get her. She did, however, push past two men. Ressler tears the jacket off the man, claiming it has finger prints they need to identify her. And identify her they do, thanks to the jacket. 17 year old Anna-Gracia Duerte, who at 13 was forced to marry a man who had raped her. Rather than side with their daughter, her parents forced her into a marriage with her rapist, rather than have her bring the family shame. I’d say that’s a pretty good motive for what she’s been doing, and killing these men and freeing the teenage brides. I’m kinda with Samar on this one.

Aram gets a call from the FBI impound yard on the vehicle he was in the day the witness against Garvey was taken. Grabbing Liz, they head to the garage, and they are shown an item that was placed on the vehicle to disable it deliberately. The big mystery though, is that it had to have been installed on the vehicle in the Post Office’s garage. And who could have done that? Back at the Post Office, Aram has surveillance images outside the Post Office from the day of the kidnapping, including one with a man with two different colored eyes. It’s here that Liz realizes Reddington took their witness, when she remembers seeing a man with one blue eye and one brown eye at Reddington’s place that morning. Cue angry Liz.

Aram and Liz at the FBI compound, looking into the witness kidnapping.

As a side note, this episode was promoted as a big “Red vs Liz” episode, since we’d all seen the promo with an angry Liz shoving Red up against a bookcase. And she was very angry with our well dressed criminal once the pieces fell into place on who really took her witness. Slammed up against a bookcase, Reddington assures Liz he did not betray her. He’s made it perfectly clear all along that his primary goal is to procure the duffel bag from Garvey. We all know the bag contains those darn bones, but Liz doesn’t know that. Once Reddington has his item back, he assures Liz that only then will Garvey be killed. And I have to side with Red on this one. He’s been more than clear with Liz that his primary goal is to retrieve this item from Garvey.

Assured that Red didn’t kill her witness, Liz does some checking with other agencies, and gets a hit from a customs agent. With Aram tagging along (because I just can’t think of him as a fully trained field agent) they go to a warehouse to meet the agent who saw their witness being put on a jet by a man in a fedora. Gee, I wonder who that was? But Liz smells a rat, and sure enough, they’ve been set up by Garvey. All hell breaks loose with shots being fired from everywhere, and in the middle of it, like a white knight – or a red one – Reddington shows up, guns blazing. After a hasty getaway in Red’s vehicle, they all get out of their safely. Red is not happy that he’s the cause of Liz being set up by Garvey after he’d inadvertently made it clear to Garvey that Liz was important to him, and apologizes to her. But even though Liz knows Red was following her, and hence there to save her, she isn’t so angry now, and thanks Red. Phew, Liz and Red are now back on the same team. Or are they? It’s pretty obvious Liz is still going to do her thing and get to Garvey to incarcerate him, and get to that duffel bag behind Red’s back.

Reddington, staring down an angry Liz.

The task force, now with the identify of their Blacklister are still hot on her trail, and after a chase, Samar corners the girl on a roof top. Anna-Gracia considers jumping to her death, but Samar talks her down, giving the girl her own story of her family and forced marriages. Samar couldn’t help her cousin, but she does want to help Anna. The girl relents, and they make a deal with the US Attorney where she will be free when she turns 21, and will be tried as a juvenile, not an adult. Not all Blacklisters need to be thrown in jail for the rest of their lives, or burned alive. But what of Jerry Juyal’s ledger Anna took that Red needs so badly? She threw it away. And in order to find it, we have Reddington, complete in his three piece suit, along with Liz and Dembe sorting through the trash to find the book. Red going dumpster diving. Yeah, this show has everything.

As we close the episode, we see a nervous Aram giving Samar the ring, assuring her emphatically that it comes from his grandmother. Samar is pleased with it, and there is no hint that she thinks of it as anything other than a gift. Aram isn’t 100% happy though, since Liz had told him, “if she wants to marry you she’ll think of it as an engagement ring.” It’s obvious Aram wants more, but Samar treats it as a gift. He really should have given her the gift and then (as I actually thought he was going to do) blurt out a proposal to her. He didn’t. Geez, Aram.

Reddington ends the episode where he started – on the phone. But this time it’s with Ian Garvey, and Red tells him he failed, and missed Elizabeth. And also that he’s missing something else. Garvey doesn’t understand Reddington’s meaning. And then the camera pans down and we see that the dumpster diving paid off. The blood stained Nash Drug Syndicate ledger is on the coffee table. Reddington has it at last.

This wasn’t a great episode, but was a good one, if you could unsee the man kissing the tearful teen girl in bed. Yeah, definitely stuff that makes you cringe. It was good to see that they helped the Blacklister, and saw why she was killing the men. Cooper was right, but Samar was also right. In the end, a good compromise.¬†This was a good Samar episode. She struggled with the case and got what she wanted for the girl in the end. But Aram… come on Aram, just ask her to marry you!

The scenes with Red and Liz were top notch. Drama is always great between them, and we got it in this episode. Yes, Red has his own agenda, as does Liz, but they’re basically on the same side. This is their show, and they do go back and forth a lot. I was glad to see Liz calm down and thank Red in the end and Red apologizing to Liz. She’s maturing more now, thankfully, and doesn’t go off on him for weeks telling Red he’s to blame for everything under the sun.

The stunt team did a great job on this episode with the car explosion. And I have to wonder – how many times is that now that Ressler has been blown up? It has to be once a season, and he’s survived every one of them with almost every hair still gelled in place.

Next week’s episode will be on Wednesday, April 11th, entitled “Zarak Mosadek”. We then have no episode on April 18th, before we return on April 25th with “Ian Garvey: Conclusion”. Garvey’s arc is almost done. We’re counting down to his demise now, folks.

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