The Blacklist (S07E16) “Nyle Hatcher”

In a change of pace, this weeks episode of The Blacklist gave us a cold case from Liz’s (Megan Boone) past. And with the task force occupied, Red (James Spader) and Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq)  had problems of their own.

We opened on a 10 month old flashback to a plane crash, and hazmat suited folks sifting through the wreckage for bodies. And here, we meet Nyle Hatcher (Sean Bridgers) identifying bodies, photographing them, and seemingly doing his job. Until he pulls out a syringe, after identifying a body he was apparently looking for. In a hotel room later, Hatcher is visited by prostitute Angela (Gus Birney). but not for sex. Knowing who she is and all about her father’s medical debt, our Mr Hatcher has an offer Angela can’t refuse.

Cut to the present day war room, where Liz briefs the task force on a cold case. Having met with Red that morning, he’s happy that she’s happy, and leaves her to attend to her own case. Eight years previously, bodies of young girls had been buried in fresh graves, above the intended occupant of said grave. The perfect place to hide a body. When Liz’s former colleagues dismissed her profile – that the killer had another agenda, and not murder – she was off the case. But now, flash flooding at a cemetery revealed a new body with the same signature, reopening the case. All victims were drugged, then buried alive, so they never knew what was happening. How considerate on the part of the killer.

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Liz and Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) pay a visit to the coroner, Dr Maguire (David Berman), and discover the latest victim had a c-section scar. The victim, Mara James, had given birth approximately a month before her death. A visit to Mara’s family confirms they had no idea she had a child. Who was the father? Turns out, the father was happy marriage guru, Jonathan McClair, but here’s the kicker – he died 11 months ago. McClair’s widow reveals that she had discovered her husbands infidelity after he died, when pregnant Mara came calling. When a DNA test proved Jonathan was the father, his widow paid the blackmail.

With this new information, a new look at past victims unraveled a network of pregnant mistresses and blackmail. All the fathers had been well to do, wealthy men, and each mother was a sex worker. Definitely a pattern. After Red ‘persuaded’ a file clerk for the information, it was noted that every death certificate was signed by Nyle Hatcher. Turns out, Hatcher is a mortician by trade, and attends mass casualty events, such as the plane crash. Liz and Ressler don’t find Hatcher at his place of business, but instead find a thermos in a deep freeze. That then brings about an awkwardly funny scene as Liz and Ressler report their findings to Cooper (Harry Lennix), without wanting to actually say what they found – that the thermos contained frozen sperm.

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So, this was how Hatcher was impregnating the willing sex workers, with the lure of a big payout from the ensuing blackmail. His plan was ‘simple’ enough. Extract sperm from dead wealthy men at accident scenes, impregnate the girls, have them drop the baby off at a fire station, then blackmail the widow. Hatcher splits the money with the girls, and everyone moves on. It’s all perfectly feasible in The Blacklist universe. Except, the girls don’t get the money, when Hatcher buries them alive.

The team discover one victim of blackmail without a dead girl. Angela, who we met at the top of the episode. The deal is in play, the widow has been blackmailed, and all Angela needs to do is drop her baby off at a fire station. But Angela can’t do it. She can’t part with the baby, and meets Hatcher – at a cemetery – for her share of the money, baby in tow. Of course, Hatcher continues with his plan, and injects Angela with a strong sedative. As she passes out, he places her in a new grave, on top of a recently buried coffin. And all is going great – until Liz and Ressler show up, having tracked them to the cemetery.

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As backup arrives, they fan out, frantically looking for Angela. Finding a newly dug grave, Liz and Ressler dig down, finding Angela, who is still alive. Hatcher is arrested, and while questioning him, Liz and Ressler uncover the whole picture. While Hatcher did this for the money, soon that wasn’t enough. It was the ‘abandoned’ babies that provided him more happiness. All those babies dropped off at fire stations? Hatcher forged adoption papers. Children of all ages are all at his huge home, their upkeep paid for with the blackmail funds.

With Hatcher going to jail, thankfully most of the families step up and claim their own offspring, with the knowledge that their husbands were not unfaithful. Kind of a happy ending, but those poor kids knew Hatcher as their father, so not so happy for them, I’d imagine. Angela is seen with her own mother as they fawn over her baby girl. Oh, and Liz’s original profile was correct, so vindication for her. End of the story? Not quite. A whole lot more happened in this episode.

Red and Dembe visited the mosque where Dembe’s Imam had disappeared. When Red gets Cooper involved, a phone call reveals the mosque has been under surveillance for perceived ties to Syrian terrorists. Positive that is not the case, Dembe and Red tackle the case themselves. Things don’t look good for the Imam’s followers though, when Red and Dembe track a shipment from Syria coming into the US. Could the Imam really be connected to terrorists and has been abducted for it?

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After a tense few moments, Red and Dembe open the container, expecting to find ammunition or terrorism supplies. What they find instead? Refugees seeking asylum.  This was never a terrorist operation, but humanitarian. So if it wasn’t about terrorism, who would have abducted the Imam? As Red and Dembe join the refugees for a much needed meal, we discover who abducted the Imam. Katarina Rostova (Laila Robbins) is back. If she can’t get to Red through Ilya (Brett Cullen), she will get to him through Dembe, using the Imam as bait.

Liz, meanwhile, has a little chat with her PI, the one that Brimley  (Teddy Coluca) had chatted with last week over board games. Liz, who isn’t often on the ball, but is in this case, knows Red got to the PI. But in return, she gives Liz something she heard while listening in on Ilya. He was obsessed with something called the Sikorsky Archive. If Ilya has information that could help Katarina clear her name, it will be in that archive. Cue another after hours search for Liz.

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Ressler, done for the day walks up to his apartment to find someone waiting for him. His brother, Robby (Anthony Michael Hall). Yes, the one Ressler was ignoring calls from. And he was still set to ignore his older brother, until Robby showed him an image on his phone. Ray Field, the old baseball fields that are about to be torn up for a new strip mall. And when they do that, what’s under Ray Field will be discovered. Ressler and his brother Robby have a secret buried under that field. We’ll get the scoop on that in next week’s episode, Brothers.

But that’s not the end of the episode. We return to Red and Dembe at the meal with the refugees, with Red coughing a little. And you know, that is NEVER a good sign on The Blacklist. (Yes, we’re all still traumatized from people coughing up live bugs). Dembe steps away to talk to someone, but when he returns to give Red some news, Red isn’t there. And when Dembe looks closer, he finds Red unconscious on the floor. What a place to leave us!

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

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