The Blacklist (S07E09) “Orion Relocation Services”

This week’s episode of The Blacklist, Orion Relocation Services, may have intended to give answers. But that wasn’t the case, as per the norm with this show, when it left us with yet more questions.

It’s more than frustrating now, years in, that we still don’t have answers to the most basic plot points. Who is/was Reddington (James Spader)? Who is/was he to Liz (Megan Boone)? Why did Katarina (Laila Robins) hide all those years, only to resurface now? What happened with Ilya (Brett Cullen), all set to take on Reddington’s identity, yet didn’t? If the show runners are going for mystery and suspense, they lost half their audience years ago. And while a story CAN span years, this one doesn’t have enough meat to it to sustain these continual questions.

A well written story would give answers, then expand on the consequences of said answers, deepening and enriching the mystery.  The Blacklist isn’t doing that. To give answers, then a year later have them retracted is getting old. Very old. It’s no wonder viewers no longer believe a thing they see onscreen. Or trust anyone is who they say they are. I fully understand why so many viewers gave up and headed to greener pastures.

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The episode opens with a flashback to nine weeks previous, with a couple moving out of their home to move to Washington, DC.  Madeline Tolliver (June Ballinger) and Gregory Flynn (Michael Quinlan) sign the final papers, all set to begin their new lives.  But their relocation expert, Stella Bisset (Deborah Rush) has other plans. Her men suffocate the real Madeline Tolliver and Gregory Flynn so that doubles take over their lives. That’s how this criminal relocation organization operates. Not content to make a new identity, they steal real identities, inserting criminals to take over the lives of that person. Kinda clever, in a warped way. This is how Katarina Rostova took over Maddie Tolliver’s life, and Berdy (Peter Bradbury) took on Gregory Flynn’s persona.

Remember the note Aram got by mistake, posing as Frank Bloom? Yeah, the note that said Berdy and Gregory Flynn were the same, giving us part of the puzzle. Red had other parts of this puzzle. He knows Orion gave Katarina a new identity, but he doesn’t know that new identity. Liz, on the other hand, does know. She just doesn’t know she knows. Following? It’s exhausting. Liz, meanwhile, has been doing some detective work on the dead man in the park. The one Agnes (Sarah and Katherine Kell) saw while with Maddie. Discovering he was Russian mafia, she assumed they are after her and Agnes. And since a Russian woman took Red in Paris, it’s all connected. Liz needs to know who that woman was, to keep Agnes safe.

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Back at the war room, Liz briefs the task force on Orion Relocation Services. And in a rather strange scene, all designed to get more intel, Red and Liz attend a dinner. Liz looked stunning with an up-do and a beautiful white Grecian gown. As they ate dinner in the dark – yes, literally in the dark with infra red goggles – their chef host prepared the meal. And the next course was to be exquisite. Owl. Yes, a real live owl that he would slaughter then serve up to the guests. Until Red put a stop to that, and saved the owl. The bird was beautiful! A huge tawny owl, and later Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) drew the bird. So they got more info on Orion, but it was all rather bizarre.

After briefing the task force, they followed up on Orion’s next target, Denise Young (Adrianna Mitchell). She was the next victim in ‘die so a criminal can become you’, and they needed to find her. Unfortunately, Red beat them to it, (thanks to annoying new Agent Park (Laura Sohn), spilling the beans to him before giving it to the task force. ) As Liz arrived, Denise Young was alive, but the relocation lady, Stella Bisset, was dead, courtesy of Denise’s ex boyfriends shotgun. A frustrated Red did not get what he needed from Stella before she died. So he was still in the dark as to Katarina’s new identity, but at least the task force got all of Orion’s files.

And in the most frustrating scene ever (I should be used to this, but ugh) Red refused, I mean REFUSED to come clean with Liz. He still did not tell her who the woman in Paris was, despite Liz demanding to know for weeks. So frustrating. Instead, he was concerned that something had happened to Liz, because she was asking about Russian mafia. Was she in danger, he asked. Had they had threatened her? Well yes, she was. Because you would not tell her Katarina Rostova was alive and well and kidnapped you in Paris. I could scream watching this. It would have been so much easier to just binge watch all seasons when it was all said and done, rather than this painful journey every week!

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While all of this back and forth and mouth zipping was going on, Katarina had her hands full. And this was the most interesting part of the episode. The memory manipulation dude, Victor Skovic (Michael Cerveris) was doing his best to extract Ilya’s memories. But good old Ilya was resisting. Which was great for Ilya, but oh so frustrating for us viewers, demanding answers along with Katarina. But I will say, the method they used on the flashbacks was great. Current day Ilya, drugged to his eyeballs, slipped into memories of 1991. There, young Ilya (Gabriel Mann) relived scenes we got in Rassvet, where he and Katarina (Lotte Verbeek) plotted to take over Red’s life. They were the Orion Relocation Services, before there even was an Orion, come to think of it.

Ilya resisted any further memory manipulation, so Katarina entered Ilya’s memories. We just have to take it at face value that’s even possible. So, we knew what the plan was. But something happened, and Ilya did not become Reddington. Instead, the Townsend Directive were closing in. As a target, Katarina put Masha in danger, so Dom (C J. Wilson) plotted to kill Katarina instead, to get Townsend to back off his granddaughter. Simple enough, if you consider a father killing his daughter a good solution. A reluctant Ilya went along with it, hating that Katarina had to die. The plan was to kill her in a car bomb, while Townsend operatives looked on. Except she didn’t die. Her new husband, whom Dom nor Ilya had any clue existed, died in the car. Their plot to kill Katarina had failed and only showed Townsend she was very much alive.

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And Ilya said something very interesting. That Reddington deserved to know what they’d done, because he was a part of this. If the real Raymond Reddington died in the fire, which Reddington was Ilya referring to? The new mystery man who took his identity under Dr Koehler’s knife? Why would Ilya be that invested in someone who had only taken Reddington’s identity? So we didn’t get the entire story. Of course not… What changed between the events of Rassvet, and the plot to kill Katarina? Who became Reddington? Who had the surgery we saw? Katarina didn’t know, because the plan changed, but Ilya did. And we never got that answer as current day Ilya destabilized, and Doctor Skovic sedated him.

Everyone else, meanwhile, was going through Orion’s files of ‘who became who’. As Red and the task force thumbed through pages and pages of identity changes, Liz spotted someone. And the pieces all lined up. A pic of her neighbour ‘Maddie Tolliver’, and the real (now dead) Maddie Tolliver. Rushing out, after pocketing that file and not saying a word about what she’d found, Liz headed home. There, she confronted Maddie, calmly sitting in her apartment watching Agnes. Liz knew who she was, and drew her weapon on her. Maddie Tolliver would never kill a Russian mafia hit man in a park bathroom. But Katarina Rostova would. Liz said that deep down, she’d always known. I somehow didn’t buy that. Maddie/Katarina feigned shock, as Liz demanded to know why she shouldn’t shoot her. Katarina only smiled, knowing the reason. “I’m your mother.”

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Next week’s Blacklister is the lady herself, Katarina Rostova, number 3 on Red’s list. Everything finally comes to a head. Red will know Katarina is Maddie Tolliver. Liz now knows Maddie is her mother. Let the fireworks begin.

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

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