The Blacklist (S07E05) “Norman Devane”

The Blacklist returned to its tried and true Blacklister of the week format, with Norman Devane. We also got one of the grossest episodes this season, thanks to the magic of make-up SFX guru, Anthony Pepe.

Our Blacklister, Norman Devane (Jefferson Mays), was a germophobic, experimenting on teenage boys. He gave them cancer and all sorts of horrible diseases, looking for a cure. We have seen this before, with the Season 1 episode, Frederick Barnes so it’s not entirely new territory. Devane’s latest subject was Howard Keller (Zachary Unger) a young boy (not suspiciously, at all) awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Abbott boarding school. Once Howie arrived at the school, Devane got to work. He drugged Howie and took him from his room, and in a basement lab injected him with ‘Pathogen A-21’.

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All was not going to plan though. Another student, Theo Wolf (Ty Doran) witnessed Devane taking Howie, but his concerns were ignored. On investigating the secret lab that night, Theo soon found himself on the wrong end of Devane’s experiments. Here’s a hint, kid, never go poking around secret labs by yourself on a Blacklist episode. RIP Theo.

Now, here is the interesting thing. Howie Keller’s blood type is B negative. The same as Reddington’s (James Spader) – and Donald Ressler’s (Diego Klattenhoff), but I digress. Could Red’s interest in Devane also be part of finding a cure for the as yet unnamed illness Red is suffering? So, back to Howie, who woke up the next morning feeling less than stellar. On visiting Dr Mitchell (Kevin O’Rourke), the school doctor, Howie didn’t quite receive the help he’d expected. Seems Mitchell was in cahoots with Devane after Devane cured Mitchell’s sick son a few years back. But now things had gone too far with a dead student, and the police were on their way. Time for Devane to get out.

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The task force were indeed on their way, and while Liz took care of Howie, Ressler cuffed Devane, who didn’t go down without a fight. Devane’s attempt to inject Ressler with a pathogen failed when Ressler turned the tables and injected Devane instead. And with Devane now breaking out in a bleeding, blistering rash, Ressler raced the blacklister to Walter Reed hospital. But Red and Dembe cut off his mercy dash, intending to take Devane. And they did – but not before Ressler handcuffed himself to Devane. “Where he goes, I go”. Ressler made his point, and Red was not amused.

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So, we got another warehouse hospital, and a very gross looking Devane who wasn’t feeling too whoopie at this point. And a surprise – Spalding Stark (David Wilson Barnes) was there. Way back in Season 6, his partner set him up to fail while he was also helping cure terminally ill patients. I sense a theme here – Stark has been treating Reddington for a year now. What is wrong with our concierge of crime?? While Devane asked repeatedly if his treatment had cured Howie, Reddington demanded information on a Russian operative he had recently worked for. A Constance Drucker (an alias of Katarina’s, we assume?) who was looking for a treatment for someone she cared about. One Patrick Masuda. That will be Red’s adventure next week, I’m sure.

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And in true Red fashion, Red kept his word and delivered the ‘cure’ to Devane. Two bullets to his torso. Red can be so ruthless, yet because he’s so charming, we forgive him. But Ressler saw something. Stark’s medical file on Reddington. I was silently begging him to look and give us the answer to Red’s disease. But no, Ressler didn’t look. Red and Ressler watched Red’s cleaners take out Devane’s body – showing us just how far down the rabbit hole Ressler has gone for Red since Season 1. Red appreciated his discretion and asked that he not tell Elizabeth anything. He did not want her to worry. And Ressler kept Red’s secret.

But Red wasn’t alone. This entire episode, the Stranger (Brett Cullen) tagged along. There is history here. Red referred to him (we’ll call him Brett for now, because ‘The Stranger’ sounds so nefarious) as ‘my friend’. So not a brother, as I had previously wondered. Is Brett really Ilya? That is very likely. And if Brett is Ilya, what happened with him becoming Reddington in 1991? These are things we need to know, writers.

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Brett was struggling with what had happened in Paris. Having given Red word of where Katarina was, we know Red got kidnapped and almost killed. Red, being Red, was nonplussed. These things happen. What Red really needed Brett to do was meet with a contact at his goddaughter’s wedding. Something Brett wasn’t too thrilled about, but did setup the meeting. That meeting could help solve what happened in Paris, and give Brett some peace.

Meanwhile, Aram (Amir Arison) was having a crisis of conscience. He’d slept with a married woman, Elodie (Elizabeth Bogush) two weeks ago, then had not called her back. So… his problem wasn’t that he’d had a woman commit adultery. It was that he hadn’t followed up. Liz (Megan Boone) told him she was happy he’d slept with someone, even if she was married. Ugh. I really don’t like this story line. Fine, have Aram get it on with a new woman in his life, but Elodie stepped away from her sick husband to take Aram’s call. Yet the task force are all on board with this and think it’s wonderful he’s bedding a married woman? Ugh. So, after both Liz and Ressler encouraged Aram to call Elodie, she set up a date. A wedding actually, one they were crashing.

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And here is where my suspicion of Elodie came to fruition. Guess who’s wedding it was? Yup. Brett’s goddaughters. And guess who’s name tags Elodie ‘just happened’ to take? Mr and Mrs Frank Bloom – the name tags Brett and wife were to use. WAAAY too much of a coincidence. So, Aram, as Frank Bloom, had a secret spy conversation with a lurking guest, and got a note and the message, ‘The man you’re looking for is Gregory Flynn, real name Berdy Chernov.’ The message Brett was supposed to receive, and now a confused Aram has it. But I think that is EXACTLY what Elodie wanted. She’ll get hold of that note and learn the names.

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Brett informed Red of the botched wedding meeting, and that he did not get the name. And Red told Brett of Stark’s prognosis. The treatment had failed. A quiet Red reflected on that. Things happen for a reason, and sometimes he just doesn’t know what that reason is. Red is dying, that much is clear. Now he needs Brett’s help to find Patrick Masuda, the name Devane gave him.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This was a good episode, even though we got another week with no Red and Liz interaction. A phone call doesn’t really count! But it appears that Megan Boone was working on another project for several weeks during 702-705, only working one day a week. So THAT explains her limited screen presence and scenes with James Spader. It’s why we got an Aram episode and a Harold episode, (and more Ressler in 705) making up for her lack of scenes.

The episode was written by Noah Schecter, former assistant to John Eisendrath. He’s one of their stable of established writers, and it shows. His writing is more in depth, and he gets the characters consistently, unlike some of the newer writers.

And kudos again to makeup artist Anthony Pepe, king of all things gross and blistering! I felt sorry for the actors having to wear those oozing prosthetics!

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

Images courtesy NBC Virginia Sherwood | Sony/NBC | 2019 NBC Universal Media, LLC