The Blacklist (S05E17) "Anna-Gracia Duerte”

After a break of two weeks, The Blacklist returned last night with the 17th episode of the season, “Anna-Gracia Duerte”. 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’s soon 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 killed while on the phone with Reddington.

This leaves a rather sticky problem for Red who needs a ledger that our victim was about to hand over. It’s 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 gets a little cooking in also.

Raymond Reddington (James Spader), Dembe Zuma (Hisham Tawfiq), Liz Keen (Megan Boone). The Blacklist (NBC)

Aram, meanwhile has marriage – or not marriage – thoughts of his own. He’s procured a ring for Samar, and Ressler asks the obvious question as soon as he sets eyes on it. 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 is 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 work on who shot Jerry Juyal. Red shootsup a Confederate loving (and Dembe hating) biker bar in his quest, but soon realizes it wasn’t Garvey or the biker dude who shot Jerry. They’ve stumbled into a forced child marriage ring. After seizing 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 much older husbands. 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 face justice.

Car bomb that missed its intended target, thanks to Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff). The Blacklist (NBC)

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 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 explodes 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 had 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 it’s a 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 regarding the vehicle he was in the day they took the witness against Garvey. Grabbing Liz, they head to the garage, and they view an item placed on the vehicle to disable it. 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 Mojtabai (Amir Arison), Liz Keen (Megan Boone). The Blacklist (NBC)

As a side note, the episode promotion featured a big “Red vs Liz” showdown. We’d all seen the promo with an angry Liz shoving Red up against a bookcase. When the pieces align on who took her witness, she was furious with our well dressed criminal. Slammed up against a bookcase, Reddington assures Liz he did not betray her. He’s made it 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 he kill Garvey. 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 can’t think of him as a trained field agent) they meet the agent who saw their witness taken on a jet by a man in a fedora. Gee, I wonder who that was? But Liz smells a rat, and sure enough, it’s a set up. All hell breaks loose with shots fired from everywhere. Then who should appear, like a white knight – or a red one – comes Reddington, guns blazing. After a hasty getaway in Red’s vehicle, they get out of there.

Red is not happy.  Liz was set up by Garvey after Red made it clear Liz was important to him. He 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 obvious Liz will still do her thing and get to Garvey to incarcerate him, and get to that duffel bag behind Red’s back.

Raymond Reddington (James Spader). The Blacklist (NBC)

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 wants 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 tried as a juvenile, not an adult.

Not all Blacklisters should spend the rest of their lives in jail, or be burned alive. But what of Jerry Juyal’s ledger Anna took that Red needs? She threw it away. And 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 that it comes from his grandmother. Pleased with the ring, Samar gives no hint 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 should have given her the gift and then (as I thought he would 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.

Thoughts…
This wasn’t a great episode, but it was a good one – if you could unsee the man kissing the tearful teen girl in bed. Yeah, stuff that makes you cringe. It was good to see they helped the Blacklister, and saw why she was killing the men. Cooper was right, but Samar was also right. A good compromise for the team. This was a good Samar episode. She struggled with the case and got what she wanted for the girl. 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 on the same side. This is their show, and they go back and forth a lot. I was glad to see Liz calm down and thank Red and Red apologize to Liz. She’s maturing more now, 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?
About once a season, and he’s survived every one 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 reaching the end. We’re counting down to his demise now, folks.

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