Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Blacklist Recap: The Decembrist, Episode 2.08

The Future Balances on the Fulcrum
Written by Chompstick

What an exciting episode to end the fall season of The Blacklist! Lots of action and developments in the storyline, and outstanding acting from several guest stars. To begin, the show jumps back four months to when season one ended with Liz firing two shots at Tom.  He slid down the wall but didn't die, so Liz assured Red that she would finish Tom off.  “This is between us,” she said. Tonight we discover what we all suspected: Liz let him live. In a flashback, we see her racing through traffic while Tom lies bleeding in her backseat.  She calls Red to tell him Tom is dead and then takes her ex-not husband to their former neighbor and teacher friend, Ellie, who somehow has some decent medical skills because she saves his life. Liz ends up on the big red boat, owned by a friend, with the Samoan standing guard. Over the next four months, Liz works to extract as much intel as she can from Tom – tell me what you know about Berlin, Reddington, Jolene, Gina Zanetakos, the whereabouts of Hudson the dog, their wedding guests, and Monarch Douglas Bank.

In the garage where we last saw Red, Berlin, and Zoe, we discover Berlin’s real name – Milos Kirchoff. I'm finding it hard enough remembering everyone’s name on this show, let alone the aliases many characters seem to have.  Berlin/Milos relates his story:  In 1991, there was a meeting of Russian leaders who were trying to resist the progressives and slow down Russian democratization. The meeting was bombed, killing 15 (although it is later stated that 12 died) and a rumor started circulating that Red was behind it. It was also said that he exposed Zoe as a dissident.  She was jailed and Milos, whose loyalty was questioned, was exiled to the Gulag where Zoe’s body parts (he thought) were sent to him piece by piece by piece.  Zoe tells them she was offered protection from her father by a man called the Decembrist. Disgusted with Milos, she turns to walk away, firing off a parting shot as she leaves, “You destroyed my life once, isn't that enough?”

Aboard the S.S. Dammit, Liz!, the Samoan is insisting that Liz needs to hire someone to exterminate Tom because he’s too much of a liability. “He can’t walk out of here alive.” Tom stops taunting Liz long enough to disagree with this course of action.  The discussion ends abruptly when they hear someone on the boat. The harbormaster has come aboard, saying he got a call about trespassers. Liz ID’s herself as FBI and says she has it under control. I don’t know if “under control” are the words I would use. Desperate, flailing, panicking…you choose.

Next, Red confirms something I’m sure he wishes he could avoid. “You’re working with Berlin?” Liz asks with too little shock and anger for my taste.  I would have enjoyed some righteous foot stomping and a full-on hissy fit:  “You lying, manipulative pond-scum jerk!! (stomp) What do you mean you’re working with that murdering (stomp) conniving psychopath?? (flailing arms) I can’t believe (frothing at mouth) I almost put my trust in your sorry %$#?@ (slap).  Every time you have a chance to stop him, you bottom-feeding !&%$ coward, you let him go.”  Red responds, “Berlin will be held accountable for his actions after I acquire the name of the man who set him against me, a man they call the Decembrist … I suggest you help me find him.” The best part of this scene, and wildly out of place, is Red's Concierge of Torture associate demanding a tuna on rye with a side of coleslaw.

It’s time for Aram’s task force briefing. The Decembrist, named Kiryl Morozov, attempted to put an end to communism and an end to Milos with the Kursk bombing. Morozov is currently Russia’s Minister of Finance and one of Putin’s most trusted advisers.  Deputy Attorney General Reven Wright steps in and tells Cooper to call off his investigation.  Liz is angry, but Cooper tells her his hands are tied. "But," he continues, “Reddington has anonymous sources; I’m sure he’ll get that name [Morozov] somehow. Won’t he Agent Keen?”  “Yes sir, I’m sure he will,” she replies. Does anyone ever abide by the law in this agency?  The “anonymous source” calls her criminal mentor and gives him Morozov’s name, and he in turn tells Milos to pack a bag, they’re going to Moscow.

Life with The Bickersons

The nosy Mr. Harbormaster was apparently not satisfied by Liz's excuse. He’s back poking around and sticks his nose right into Tom’s comfy quarters.  He’ll soon be sorry he did that. Liz responds to a panicked call from the Samoan and returns to the floating jail to find chaos as Tom, Big Dude and the snoop are arguing Honeymooners style.

Liz:                         Let the snoop go then move Tom.
Big Dude:               No way, he’ll squeal.
Harbormaster:      I’ll just be on my way …
Tom:                      You've gotta kill him.
Harbormaster:      Um, thanks for including me, but I’ll be leaving now … (a little too late, I say).
Tom:                       Look, if you let this guy go, he’s going to the cops and when he does, we’re all                                         going to jail, starting with you (addressing Liz). Torture, kidnapping, wrongful                                     imprisonment – take your pick, sweetheart.

The day takes a dramatic turn for the worse for Mr. Nosey Parker when Tom jumps up, grabs an overhead beam, and strangles him with the shackles encircling his feet. Liz tries to stop Tom but the Samoan, who just wants to return to his normal life of overeating, restrains Liz, who promptly shoots him in the foot. But the harbormaster has died, and in the face of Liz’s incredulity, Tom suggests, “I think maybe you should call Mr. Kaplan.” Surely this should set off some bells in Liz’s head.

After arriving in Moscow, Milos’ men ambush The Decembrist and his men in an elevator. In this instance, ambush means shoot and kill everyone except the Decembrist, who Milos and Red then confront. “I am retribution. Kursk. The bombing, my daughter, all of it brings us here,” says Milos while pushing a gun in his nemesis’ face. Red grasps that this man is not the Decembrist.  “Who is the Decembrist?” Red demands. With a little further pressure of the gun on his cheek, Morozov breaks. "Fitch!  His name is Alan Fitch!!" (Dun dun duuun!) Whoa!!  I did not see that coming. Milos shoots Morozov and is now out for Fitch’s blood. Red is a bit alarmed and orders Dembe to, “Call the florist”.  Hmm, odd time to say it with flowers.

No Bed of Roses

In DC, Fitch, played by the venerable Alan Alda, is attending a high-level military briefing when a gigantic flowering shrub arrives. On second thought, it’s a rather funereal arrangement of flowers. Fitch is disconcerted and rapidly departs the room without a word.  Apparently, the florist has delivered a silent message from Red! Fitch finds Red in a pleasant paneled sitting room (solid wood, not 1970’s veneer). Red is displeased with Fitch.

“We had an agreement. I don’t come after you, you don’t come after me. You ordered the bombing in Kursk. Then you pinned it on me. You blamed me for killing his daughter," Red says. He continues, "Some years ago, a copy of this photo was left on the corpse of an associate of mine. Taking it as a warning, I traced the girl to a man they call The Stewmaker. He told me a story about the girl. She was sent to him by a man she'd never met. She was in trouble, needed to disappear, so he took her photo, put it in a locket, and sent it to her father. All those years spent searching for the man who supposedly murdered his daughter, and it was you. You sat here in this very room and pretended you had no idea who Berlin was or why he was coming for me. He was coming, Alan, because you sent him.

Fitch counters, “Let me remind you, you stole some very damaging information about us when you disappeared. . . I got the others to hold off, but Milos Kirchhoff, Berlin, whatever the hell name he's using, he chewed through the leash. I couldn't stop him. You have no allies in my group. Without me to protect you, they'll take you down and they'll let the chips fall where they may. So this is as much your problem as it is mine."  I am realizing that Red is always so cool, calm and collected when dealing with adversity, whether he’s being threatened, his life hangs in the balance, or he’s snuffing out yet another unworthy criminal. (My junior high English teacher would be so proud that I incorporated some foreshadowing here.)

A storm is brewing back at the post office.  Deputy Wright meets with Cooper and is struggling to keep her anger in check. Morozov is dead, Milos is suddenly interested in killing Fitch, and Red thinks Fitch’s life is in danger. Poor Liz is taking the heat: “Are you accusing the Assistant Director of National Intelligence of being a terrorist?” she barks at Liz.  Fitch is informed of the threat on his life, and Homeland Security agents, in a couple of those big black SUVs, arrive to transport Fitch to safety. Unfortunately for Fitch, one of the drivers starts talking into a cell phone -- in Russian. So, it's not the U.S. Feds, it's the Russians – they are actually kidnapping Fitch! Back at the post office, Cooper is ordering everyone to do everything to find Fitch, when Red, with Dembe in tow, arrives to have a little chat with Liz. He catches her off guard and she is flummoxed, not able to think fast on her feet, which seems like it would be a good skill to have as a grifter, an FBI agent, a secret operative, or if you happen to be all three.

R:  Elizabeth, we need to talk.
L:  Now?
R:  Tom.
L:  What?
R:  You told me Tom is dead.
He's not.

L:  Who told you he's alive?
R:  I'm disappointed you haven't felt that you could trust me enough to tell me this.

L:  [Sighs] Look, okay, I lied. But I only kept it a secret because I know you want him dead.

R:  No, you kept it a secret because you didn't want to admit to yourself that you still love him, that even after everything he has done, after how horribly he treated you, you still can't let him go.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

We return to the S.S. Dammit, Liz! for *surprise* more arguing between the lovely couple. Tom is working hard to break down Liz, and he is succeeding. “We both know that you are in over your head. You are not equipped for this, Liz, because you are not a killer. . . Now, I told you there is a way out of this. I can give you Berlin, and all you have to do is let me go."  He’s right about one thing – she is not equipped for this and she can’t handle the truth. The next thing we know, Tom is out on the streets of DC, talking into a payphone.  If you’re a younger viewer, you’ll have no idea what this contraption is. You might find one in the National Museum of American History. Tom calls Berlin and says, “I know everything they know about you and your operation, and you're going to want to hear it, but I'm not telling you anything until you bring me in.”  Liz and Ressler, meanwhile, are sitting in her car observing this.  Ostensibly, Liz has confided in her partner who is none to happy about the situation. “Whether he leads us to Fitch or not, I've got to take him in. Are you hearing me? You had to know when you told me, that this is where it was going to go. Liz, I can't be part of this. He's an informant, like Reddington. The difference is you're not in love with Reddington.” Wow! Astute observation by Ressler into Liz’s psyche.

Back to Fitch who is being guarded by Russian men. He is wearing a most unusual art nouveau necklace that clashes with his usually understated style. I certainly didn't have him pegged as a man eager to build a collection of ostentatious accessories. Ack! It’s actually an explosive device. (That makes more sense.) A SWAT team arrives with a bang, a flashbang that is, and shoots every baddie in sight. “I think we have a problem," Fitch mumbles, as he wins the Pulitzer prize for literary understatement.  A robot rolls in to take pictures that relay the explosive status to Aram, who determines Fitch has to be moved to the armored box at the post office. Surprisingly, the bomb detonation team is not attired in protective I’d-like-To-Avoid-Being-Blown-to-Pieces gear.
Among the ruckus, Ressler helpfully tells Liz that she got played by a Tom. Gee, thanks buddy, you think?

Deputy Wright is still lurking about and demands to know Liz’s source with regard to Milos. As Liz struggles for an answer, Ressler blurts out, “It’s Red," thus saving Liz’s butt. Now that’s the way to pull through for your partner. Well, he does owe her for not reporting his drug problem to Cooper. Elsewhere in DC, Zoe climbs into her car only to find it occupied by His Lordship. You get the feeling Zoe will agree to do almost anything for Red if he gets the heck out of her life. And that is an accurate assumption because in the next scene, Zoe is in a restaurant sitting uncomfortably across a table from her father. She makes a valiant effort of civility toward Milos, but is thankfully rescued from more awkward small talk by Red’s “surprise” arrival. “Hello, Milos,” Red says, then turns to Zoe. “Thank you my dear. Passports, tickets, and my eternal gratitude.” He hands her an envelope and Zoe walks out without another word.  Red holds a gun to Milos’ head, demanding to know how to disarm Fitch’s explosive necklace, but Milos doesn't have the answer.

Pandora's Box of Doom

Back in the box, only one member of the under-dressed bomb squad remains. Eventually, when it becomes clear the man is not making progress, Fitch insists that he leave the box and return to safety. As time ticks away, Fitch requests a pow-wow with Red. All lights and electronics are shut down to provide secrecy for the men. Red stands outside the box and quotes Jerry Garcia:  “What a long, strange trip it’s been, Alan.” Red a Dead Head??  In an intense dialogue scene between Fitch and Red, Fitch reveals that the people in his group aren't as afraid of Red as they used to be. 

F:  Some aren't so sure you even have it. Do you have it, Ray? Do you have the Fulcrum? They're going to demand proof.
R:  I can't stop this thing, Alan. I tried. I can't.
F:  My death will trigger a series of events. The moderates are already outnumbered. The closer we get to 2017, the more radicalized they'll become. Talk to Mitchum and Hobbs. They might be persuaded. Jasper sides with the Chinese. All right, listen to me, Ray. This is critical. I have a safe. Get to it. The combination is 8, 30, 44 … remember that. Say it back.  . . .it's in St. Petersburg in the wall on the second floor of …

BOOM! There’s a massive explosion in the Box of Blood, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

In a beautiful rotunda, Berlin is sitting in a chair as Red approaches, carrying a bottle of vodka and two small, cut crystal glasses. Russian music plays. Red pours the drinks, over and over, while Berlin reminisces about his childhood in the Soviet Union. The camera keeps tabs on the continually decreasing amount of vodka in the bottle. When it's empty, there is silence as Red and Berlin sit and stare at each other. Berlin drains his glass one last time. Red pulls out a gun and shoots Berlin four times. It’s a stark, sad ending to their private war.

There is one last scene on the boat. Liz is toting cleaning supplies on board when she is startled by Red who is hidden in a recess. In a calm, paternal tone, he chastises Liz for lying to him about Tom. He tells her that she should have come to him, but she claims she didn’t need to. Uh, Lizzy, look around! Cleanup on aisle nine.

I couldn't do it,” Liz whimpers. “I told you I could kill Tom, but after you left, after all the lies and everything he did to me, I told myself I was using him, that I was finally in control…”  Red sighs, “When you love someone, you have no control. That's what love is - being powerless.” Liz confesses that she feels like a loser. No Comment. Red pulls her to him and kisses her forehead. We think the show is going to end on this tender/icky moment with Red acting like a human being. However ...

Bond, TomBond

Are you a dead man or a fake?
– 'Theory of a Deadman' lyrics play

The fall finale ends with Tom walking into a bar.  He passes Dembe and collectively our hearts drop at what we know is coming. Tom slides into a booth . . . across from Red. This is difficult to process, even though many of us suspected Red and Tom had some type of alliance. TomBond is back.

T:  Do you have it?
R:  You are never to see her again.
T:  I got it.
R:  I don't think you do. Look at me. You are never to see her again!

Tom moves to leave, but stops to deliver his final words, ones that wound us deeper. 

T:  You know, for what it's worth, I spent four months on that ship chained up. And I never told her about us. Not one word.

Are you a dead man or a fake?
****** Fulcrum  fo͝olkrÉ™m
noun  1. a thing that plays a central or essential role in an activity, event or situation.

So we can assume the Fulcrum will play an essential role in the mythology of The Blacklist in the second half of season two. But what is it? Does it hold a secret to Red's past? Does it implicate both Red and Fitch in a crime? Will we have the answers before season 8? 

What does TomBond's future hold? He won't be working for Berlin; he seems to have severed ties with Red; teaming up with Gina, maybe? Does he have feelings for Liz? He keeps hinting at it. Is that just another tool of manipulation?

One thing is certain ... losing the acting talents of Alan Alda and Peter Stormare will be sorely felt. They have both added rich layers of complexity to the show.

 do svidaniya,  Mr. Fitch and Berlin. Until we next meet.

Please add your reactions to the episode on our 
The Decembrist Discussion Page.

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