The Blacklist (S07E15) “Gordon Kemp”

The Blacklist took a little break from “gross, over the top Blacklisters” and stayed closer to home for this weeks fare. They also sailed into controversial seas, landing themselves right in the middle of the gun debate.

With Red (James Spader) and Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) decked out to the nines in tuxedos, we expected to pan out to a ballroom or grand hotel. But no, they needed a few bags of ice from a corner convenience store before attending the fancy do.  When Sophia (Camila Perez), the young girl behind the counter appeared to ignore Red, it was due to some very good news on her phone. Accepted into college, she couldn’t contain her infectious excitement. Smiles and congrats from Red followed, before heading to the freezers at the back of the small store. And right at that moment, in came a gunman who held Sophia at gunpoint. When sirens sounded after Sophia hit the silent alarm, the gunman shot her. Horrified, Red shot the gunman, then gazed at Sophia’s body. Unwilling to leave her, Dembe hustled Red out of there before the police arrived.

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So that’s how Red sets the task force on the path of Gordon Kemp (Jim True-Frost), arms manufacturer, and the man he holds responsible for innocent Sophia’s death. Kemp manufactures the FineCal 9, a cheap 9mm gun flooding the criminal market. A weapon easily accessible to the likes of Edward Martell (Daniel Marconi), the man who shot Sophia.  And here ensues the gun debate. Is the man who makes the gun responsible for the deaths they cause? Or does that responsibility lay with the one who fires the gun? Does the task force now investigate crimes of conscience, because Reddington felt an attachment to a victim, Cooper (Harry Lennix) wonders.

But since it’s illegal to sell guns to known criminals, Cooper has Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and Park (Laura Sohn) locate the street dealer, James Dalman (Brian Sheppard), who sold Martell the gun. Turns out it’s the criminals’s girlfriend Carly Ambers (Christine Spang) who is the gun buyer. With no criminal record, Carly legally bought 30 FineCal 9s for her ‘collection’, before selling them to street thugs. Morally wrong, yet all legal and above board, so a dead end.  But, if Carly were to buy another lot of 30 weapons, that ‘should’ raise red flags. So with a prison sentence hanging over her, she cooperates and goes undercover to a gun show.

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With Liz (Megan Boone) and Ressler wired, and Park in the van listening, they hang out near Judson Firearm’s booth. When Carly approaches and asks for 30 more weapons, she is noticeably nervous. That ‘I am wired by the FBI and face prison time if I don’t do this’ kinda nervous. Judson’s seller isn’t happy about another 30 guns, because he wasn’t born yesterday, and now knows Carly is no collector. However, Gordon Kemp – a little perturbed at Sophia’s media coverage – is at the same gun show. And when Kemp sees his dealer hesitant, he pushes his weight around and insists the dealer run the background check and sell to Carly.

And that’s when Kemp puts his big foot in it, because it’s all caught on tape. Arrested, Liz and Ressler sit Kemp down for a little chat, though Kemp is not concerned in the slightest. He’s no more guilty than the car manufacturers when a driver runs someone down, he counters. And when Cooper attends a closed hearing with the judge and Kemp’s lawyers, he gets nowhere. Because it turns out the audio on the FBI gun show tape cuts out right at the pivotal moment of the exchange. They don’t have Kemp on tape telling the dealer to ‘just sell them’. Another brick wall, and evidence of just how difficult it is to prosecute on the gun debate. The judge clears Kemp of any wrongdoing, much to Harold’s frustration.

Red isn’t going to let it go so easily. Of course he isn’t. With a large shipment of FineCal 9’s scheduled for the following day, he intends to ensure that shipment never makes it to Chicago. But Cooper is adamant Red won’t get his hands on the shipment, despite his personal feelings on Kemp. And with Red and Harold playing cat and mouse, the task force arrange decoy shipments to throw Red off the scent. Three vans, each escorted by Ressler, Liz and Park on different routes. Cooper makes it known he’s sending the guns with the badass of the bunch – Liz.

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Red gets word and calls his ace in the hole, Liz, for the scoop. Which truck has the guns, he asks. He begs, actually, and she caves, because she’s not too happy about any of this. Cooper, aware she is talking to Red tells her to get on her way. Yet Red still gets Liz to tell him which truck has the guns without her actually telling him which truck.

Team Red are on it. With Heddie (Aida Turturro) decking out a cruiser as a State Trooper, they stage an accident on Liz’s route. (Didn’t we just see that in Alaska last week?) Knowing it’s Red, Liz slows, gets out of the truck and basically let’s Red take the shipment. Except… her truck is empty. Not one gun in sight. Red is furious. Liz is confused. But that soon turns to anger when she confronts Cooper. So Cooper didn’t trust her to haul the guns? He lied to her? Um, yeah, the proof was in the pudding, Liz. Cooper was RIGHT not to trust you. And Cooper gives her the what for. That she was the one who lied and told Red. She cannot take the law into her own hands while wearing a badge.

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So who had the shipment of guns? Ressler had it, and safely delivered them to Chicago. He apparently was the badass of the bunch. But Kemp may think he is indestructible, having the FBI protect his shipment. But Red isn’t FBI, and pays a visit to Kemp that night. Red, in judge, jury and execution mode, sits down with Kemp, holding him at gunpoint. Coincidentally, one of Kemps FineCal 9s, that Red bought off a street dealer, because they’re so easily accessible. And despite Kemp begging, Red delivers his own brand of justice for Sophia, and kills Kemp.

Meanwhile, Ilya/Frank, (Brett Cullen) has quietly been having a nervous breakdown. He’s a wreck, peering through curtains at a blue car that is watching him. His wife, Linda (Audrey Heffernan Meyer) is worried sick. There is no blue car outside. No one is watching him. But Ilya, visibly distressed, unkempt and unshaven is convinced Katarina is back and spying on him. When Red visits, he also cannot calm Ilya’s fears. He saw no blue car outside. Linda explains Frank has been like this since that woman broke into their apartment and tortured him for his memories.

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Red, concerned for his lifelong friend, tells him he needs help. Something Linda agrees with – but she will not accept help from Red. Her and Frank had a good life before Red came back into it. Dejected, Red agrees. His presence has done this to Ilya. and he steps back, apologizing for ever having done any of this to Ilya. As Red and Dembe leave, Red spots a blue car in the mirror. Ilya was right, he is being watched. And letting Ilya go and get the help he needs, Red looks into who is watching his friend. Enter Brimley (Teddy Coluca), who coaxes information from Liz’s PI using board games! Only Brimley could do that!

The case closed, Liz meets with Red, who pours them wine. And everything is peachy, until Dembe calls Red. He’s got the goods on who has been watching Ilya, and it’s not Katarina’s men. It’s someone Liz hired. Liz knows Red is not Ilya. A hurt Red hangs up, gazing at Liz. And oblivious, Liz raises her glass to them being on the same side. But Red knows they are not on the same side, and the steely glint in his eyes keeps that secret.


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

Images courtesy NBC Will Hart & Virginia Sherwood | Sony/NBC | 2020 NBC Universal Media, LLC