The Blacklist (S07E08) “The Hawaladar”

On this weeks episode of The Blacklist, the case of the week was secondary to Red’s (James Spader) mission to find his friend, Ilya (Brett Cullen). Yes, as we discovered last week, Red is not Ilya. The Stranger, Frank Bloom, is and Katarina (Laila Robins) had abducted him.

When Red and Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) arrive at Ilya’s home, it’s very obvious the abductor beat up Ilya while taking him. Red knows who has him. Katarina Rostova (Laila Robins). One step ahead of them. Now Katarina has someone who can give her the answers she needs. Dembe knows Ilya won’t talk. But Red understands that will be even worse for Ilya. Katarina has Ilya tied up in her apartment, of all places. So… she got this bloodied, prostrate guy up the elevator, dragged him to her door, and those FBI agents parked outside to protect Liz didn’t see a thing…?

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Ilya refuses to talk, despite being ‘persuaded’ by Katarina’s henchman, Berdy (Peter Bradbury). Katarina pleads with him, hurt that he betrayed her in Belgrade. The sooner we find out just what went down in Belgrade, the better. Ilya mentioned Dom (Brian Dennehy) and Katarina’s demeanor changed. If Dom survives, she will find him and finish the job. Then she gets back to Ilya betraying her in Belgrade. “You were my friend,” she says, and Ilya tells her that there are things about it she can’t possibly understand. Neither can we, and we really need to get this out in the open.

Katarina says, “I’ve thought a lot about why you chose me as the lamb you could take to slaughter. You thought I was weak. The prey and not the predator.” None of this gels with what we saw in 619 Rassvet. In that episode, Katarina and Ilya were besties and would do anything for each other. What changed?  Ilya does not address that, instead insisting that The Townsend Directive is real, and they are coming for her. “Then tell me how to stop them!” she pleads, and for a split second, I felt kinda sorry for her. But Ilya said he’d die before he’d tell her anything (exactly as Red feared).

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But Katarina had a few more tricks up her sleeve. She didn’t need to wait for Ilya to give her anything. She would extract the information from him, using his memories. Which is something this show has visited occasionally. Liz had her memories wiped when she was a child, then again a few years back. Ressler’s memories were likewise manipulated in season 4 by Dr Bogdan Krilov. Ilya, realizing what she means, refuses to let that happen. As Katarina leaves him to think that over, he unties his shoelaces… On her return, Ilya is hanging from the rafters. Oh, Ilya! But he wasn’t dead. Close, but not quite. Berdy cut him down, and Katarina cried over him, not understanding how Ilya could prefer death to betraying Reddington.

Red also had a few tricks of his own. When he tracked down the Hawaladar (underworld banker) Katarina had used, he went after him. And also gave the task force the case, in that way that Red does, when you know he’s got an entirely different agenda. So with the task force tracking down the Hawaladar, Bhavish Ratna (Iqbal Theba) operating out of restaurants, they get a lead. Staking out the restaurant, Liz (Megan Boone), Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and Park (Laura Sohn) watch as Ratna heads to meet a client. Following at a slight distance, they reach a park. There Ratna meets a man. A man wearing a hat.

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Ressler scowls. He knows, KNOWS, Reddington has done it to them again. Red, meanwhile, is having a grand old conversation with Ratna, letting him know that the FBI followed him. “See that furtive ginger? The woman by the fence?” Red says, pointing out Ressler and Liz hovering nearby. But Red is the man to turn to when you’re up to your neck in FBI agents. Everything then goes south (perfectly planned by Red). The money bags disappear, and Red whisks Ratna out of there. So now Ratna is indebted to Red and spills the beans. Katarina used a company called Orion Relocation Services. Red is one step closer to finding Ilya.

But there is one teeny problem. The money Ratna had with him when surrounded by the FBI is gone. He cannot complete that transaction to save a member of the Zhao crime syndicate, Alfred Yang. But good old Red, he can help with that too! Beaming, he offers Ratna a loan of $3.5 million at a reduced rate of 19% to make the money drop. A relieved Ratna accepts. Which is hilarious, because you know Red stole Ratna’s money in the first place, and just loaned it back at 19% interest! Everyone wins!

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But wouldn’t you know it, there’s another hickey to deal with.  Alfred Yang isn’t a gang member, but an undercover DEA agent. Realizing he’s in danger at the hospital, Ressler, Park and the DEA get there right as armed crime syndicate men shoot their way in. They abscond with Yang, and one attacker almost chokes Ressler to death. But even when he can barely breathe, our quick thinking ‘furtive ginger’ gets a hospital ID card into his attackers pocket. This enables them to track the men who took Yang, and the task force converge on a local warehouse, saving him.

Red is still after Orion Relocation Services, and visits everyone’s favourite DMV guy, Glen (Clark Middleton). And normally, Red tolerates Glen’s banter. But not today. No, not today. Red is in NO mood to listen to Glen harping on about the DMV Casino Night, while delightfully unwrapping his meatball sub.  Red needs to find Ilya and is at the end of his rope. And Red exploded. Honestly, it was a joy to behold. Red tore strips off mortified Glen, threw the hapless meatball sub against the window blinds, and demanded Glen do what Red pays him to do. Aaaww, Glen… A very subdued Glen, sans lunch, complied and got to work.

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A while later, Red returned to Glen, hat in hand. Having blasted Glen earlier, Red is now terribly sorry that he said those things. Glen, still quiet, hardly daring to utter a word, handed Red a file. All the information he’s collected on Orion, a witness protection service for criminals. Red accepts the file contritely, apologizing again. But you can’t keep Glen down for long. Brightening, he’s in Casino Night mode again, and can probably get there in time for a little roulette and some of Trudy’s raspberry sherbet party punch. Roulette’s his game, and he always bets on Red!

Liz, meanwhile, finally (I mean, FINALLY…) gets the inkling that all is not kosher with the kind lady across the hall. The one who took Agnes (Emily & Katherine Kell) to the park to make mud pies. When a friend calls Liz, explaining that Agnes (on a play date with her daughter) drew a rather disturbing picture of a dead body, Liz is initially confused. But the more she talks with Agnes, she realizes Agnes saw something while at the park with Maddie Tolliver.

Liz knocks on Maddie/Katarina’s door, asking if it’s a bad time. Well, yes it is, with Ilya tortured and bloody in the bedroom, so Katarina, all smiles, walks across to Liz’s apartment to talk. She assures Liz that nothing happened at the park, and that this could just be Agnes’ vivid imagination. Her mother is an FBI agent, after all. An unconvinced  Liz visits the park, still uneasy that something happened. And I loved that Liz trusted what Agnes said, more than Maddie/Katarina. Liz stepped in  mud while down at the creek, then washed the mud off her boots in the park bathrooms. And there, she spied a bloodstained shattered mirror. Something happened and Maddie Tolliver lied to her.

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And back in Maddie’s apartment, there is a knock at the door. The memory extraction man has come calling, ready to take Ilya’s memories and give Katarina what she needs to know.


The Blacklist airs on Friday at 8/7c on NBC. The next episode will air on December 6, there being no episode Thanksgiving week.

Images courtesy NBC Scott Gries| Sony/NBC | 2019 NBC Universal Media, LLC