The Blacklist (S07E12) “Cornelius Ruck”

Following on from where we left off last week, The Blacklist gave us a classic murder mystery in Cornelius Ruck. A very Red (James Spader) centric episode, with no case of the week for the FBI task force was a fun change of pace.

Last week, Reddington obtained one of a set of miniature gold nesting caskets. This week, he and the other collectors gathered to sell them. The location was perfect. A spooky mansion on a deserted private island covered in snow, with a storm moving in. Loved that! As Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) left, Reddington met the broker who had assembled everyone. Cassandra Blanchi (Joely Richardson) a British blonde who definitely has intimate history with Red.

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From there, we meet the rest of the casket owners. Annika (Adeola Role) the nervous, inhaler puffing security specialist. Margo (Katie Thompson), currently inhaling alcohol and picking 5 padlocks in under 30 seconds.  A half deaf explosives expert, Mahmoud ( Ajay Naidu) and Joko (Hugo Armstrong) the disgruntled hitman unhappy with his share. And in their midst, Reddington, familiar with each of their personality quirks.

Despite Annika quivering that the caskets are cursed, each lay out their own casket on the table, from the largest down to the smallest. A collective gasp of awe ensues. That is, until Margo keels over, dead. Way to ruin the moment, Margo. A vindicated Annika blames the curse, but Red isn’t so sure and suspects foul play. Something he confirms that night, when he escorts Cassandra down to the morgue. While Cassandra has other ideas, Red is all business. Only Red could perform a super quick autopsy with a knife and a kitchen ladle. But his suspicions are confirmed when it’s obvious Margo was poisoned.

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We got a quick explanation of Red’s past with Cassandra, over the dead body of Margo . After a theft in Marseille, they spent an intimate few days in their hotel suite. And all was going swimmingly, until Red discovered they had stolen $40m, not $30m. Cassandra had duped him of that $10m. Honeymoon over, Red left Cassandra and her feminine wiles in France. With Red still distant with Cassandra, they left the morgue, only to find that Joko, sans a few fingers, was now dead.

Annika, terrified she’s next, gathers her belongings, about to flee into the storm. Anxiously puffing on her inhaler, you knew what was coming. Her inhaler poisoned, she too dropped dead. Mahmoud doesn’t wait around to be the next victim. Heading for the gun safe, he makes short work of blowing it open, and grabs a gun. Perfect plan – until he drew his gun on Red. Big mistake. Red shot him dead, and now, only Red and Cassandra remained from the initial party of six.

Now Red knows he’s not the one killing his cohorts. Which leaves Cassandra. And knowing she has swindled him before, he wants answers. Cassandra admits she was untruthful, but she hasn’t killed anyone. She did want the caskets, though not for the collector, Cornelius Ruck, but for the CIA. A former undercover CIA operative obtained one of the caskets. But when compromised, and unable to get intel back to the CIA, he placed the information on the casket in the form of a micro dot. The caskets were almost incidental compared to the information contained on one of them.

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After a little bit of MacGyvering a phone and a binocular lens, Red read the micro dot, which contained information on Turkish operatives in the US. That  explained why Turkish gunmen were now crawling all over the house wanting the information kept in Turkish hands. Turns out Cornelius Ruck was fictitious. He was in fact Arthur, the butler. Red, as only Red can, relished telling Cassandra “You know what this means? The butler did it.”

But Red wasn’t born yesterday, and had a trick or two up his sleeve. As did Cassandra. Unarmed, with only their wits to save them, Cassandra jimmied the gas line to the fire, and pocketed the remote. With Turkish gunmen surrounding them and time running out, Cassandra hit the remote, and the resulting gas explosion dropped everyone to the deck. As a gunman recovered, holding Red at gunpoint, Red improvised. He might have been unarmed, but he did have a weapon. As the camera panned to the swordfish above the mantel – minus it’s sword – you just knew. And sure enough, Red used the sword to stab the gunman, and end the situation.

As the dust cleared, and the sun came out, signalling the end of the storm, Red and Cassandra walked out of the mansion. Having decided to return to that suite in Marseille for a repeat performance, they first stopped at a collector to have the caskets appraised. We didn’t see how many millions it was worth, but Red cracked a very big smile at the number. But before they whisked off to France, Red had one obligation he had to keep.  Agnes (Sarah and Katherine Kell) dancing in the ballet.

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While Liz (Megan Boone) watched her daughter dance, Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff), Aram (Amir Arison) and Cooper (Harry Lennix) smiled along with the proud mom. And in the wings, Red and Cassandra watched. Red was rapt, watching Agnes. And Cassandra watched him, knowing that this was where Red’s heart lay. She kissed him and left, and Red let her. After the performance, Liz spoke with Red. Yes, she needs to move forward in her life, but so does he. Neither of them know quite how to do that. But as Liz tells him, they have each other. Aaaww.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This should have aired last week to finish off episode 711 and flow on as a two part episode. But it was still a fun break from the case of the week. While I missed the task force, I did enjoy Red in the mansion. It was Clue meets Agatha Christie meets Raymond Reddington. Mr Red in the living room with the sword fish.

While I liked Cassandra, I kept wishing she was Madeline Pratt (Jennifer Ehle). And it turns out, there was a reason for that. This episode was written as a Red and Madeline escapade, but Jennifer was unavailable. So, enter Cassandra, yet another blast from Red’s intimate past. But I think it’s always good to be reminded that Red is a competent, handsome man who has had dalliances with many capable women.

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

Images courtesy NBC Virgina Sherwood | Sony/NBC | 2020 NBC Universal Media, LLC