Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Blacklist Recap: The Scimitar, Episode 2.07

Whining and Dining

Written by Chompstick

With a title like “The Scimitar” can we assume that some heads are going to roll? This episode was definitely a cut above the previous few - not too difficult to follow, with an edgy procedural story, and a sharp ending. As usual, this recap includes a lot of dialogue for our Cracklister sleuths. The clues are in the smallest details!

When Good Dates Go Bad

The action begins in the vibrant city of Dubai. Samar is perched at a swanky bar, flirting with an attractive man who smoothly introduces himself as Kian Nouri. The scene cuts to the corridor of a posh hotel, outside Nouri’s room. Hands and lips are everywhere. Ah, the things exotic top-secret agents must endure in the line of duty! Moments later in the street outside the hotel, people look up in horror as Nouri plunges to his death from the twelfth floor. 

Back in DC, we find Liz and Tom on a dilapidated old boat. Tom is whining again and Liz demands the name of Berlin’s arms supplier. He taunts her, whines some more, and complains that he’s going to morph into a Tomsicle from the cold unless she lets him go. Yeah, he’s not going anywhere. But he does squeal on Sevan Volkov, Berlin’s arms supplier, and Liz throws him a light blanket as positive reinforcement. Good boy, Tom!

An Agonizing Decision: Classical Cello or Jazz Drums? 

At a vintage record shop somewhere in DC, Liz and Samar arrive for a confab with the musically confused Mr. Reddington. After several dry weeks, Red’s rapier-like wit has returned. “Ah, ladies! Thank God you showed up. I took a left turn in the Rostropovich. I’ve ended up completely lost in the Chico Hamilton. This is an addiction. I just can’t decide between … Please pour some cold water on me, will you?”

Instead, Liz pours a cold stare on him, and Red quickly launches into the business at hand: “A Persian man walks into a bar…” I’m waiting for the man to be joined by a priest and a rabbi, but alas, this doesn’t develop into a joke. Red’s talking about Nouri, Samar’s hot date who ended up falling for her. He was one of Iran’s top nuclear scientists. Samar reveals that Mossad and the CIA have a joint mission to undermine Iran’s nuclear program, and Red reveals that he knows she assisted Nouri’s unfortunate flying leap by shoving him off the balcony in Dubai. Red gives the ol’ eye for an eye sermon – you kill their top scientist, they’ll kill yours.

And now we arrive at the point of this week’s story. According to Red, the biggest threat right now is The Scimitar. A Middle Eastern sword with a curved blade? NoThe Scimitar Red is talking about is “One part hit man, two parts con man.” Hmm, what ratio would Red use to describe himself, I wonder?

Time for the first Post Office briefing.  Cooper is meeting with the Assistant Secretary of NCB, a fictitious group that handles international nuclear matters, to share intel on The Scimitar. Cooper’s tip came from a “confidential informant with an extremely reliable track record.” (Like 100% reliable.) The Assistant Secretary says that if Cooper is correct, the nation’s top three nuclear scientists are in danger. “If any of them fell into the hands of a rogue nation, that country’s nuclear program would advance decades, overnight!”

Cooper insists that the three nuclear scientists be put into lockdown.  He is told that two can be protected immediately, but is advised against taking any action on the third, Amalia Collins, the senior engineer of the warhead design team. Collins is the scheduled presenter at a conference at a DC hotel, and cancelling her appearance might draw the attention of the Iranians.

Elsewhere, a priest and a rabbi two men are busy inside a fake-wood-paneled office that, sadly, looks like the 1970's era basement rec room in my childhood home.  A fax arrives. It’s a photo of Defense Security Services (DSS) agent Jonathan Reese.

The S.S. Dammit Liz!

The S.S. Dammit Liz!

After receiving a 911 text from The Samoan, Tom’s guard, Liz arrives at Tom's cozy dockside abode. The mussel-bound Samoan (Samuel Aleko) tells Liz that inspectors are running random searches of boats looking for invasive zebra mussels. It’s time to move either the boat or Tom, but first Liz tempts Tom with a bagful of warm clothes.

Tom:  Now you care about me. Is that it now, you’re concerned for my well-being? You can try and make yourself feel better about what you’re doing, but I told you the truth. I delivered on my word. So, when are you going to deliver on yours?
Liz:  We’ve been over this. You help me eliminate Berlin, and as far as I’m concerned, this whole thing is over. Until then, enjoy the view.
Tom:  Liz, you can’t keep me in here! Liz! You can’t keep me in here! Damn it, Liz!

It’s great anytime Liz has the upper hand, although I do wonder why she’s bringing him the weather-appropriate duds. He’s at no risk of succumbing to hypothermia or death by giant falling icicle, as in this 1960 Peanuts strip. It’s 70 degrees today here in DC.

Strong-Arming the Arms Guy

Liz arrives for her rendezvous with Volkov and demands to know where Berlin is.  Liz’s threat to Volkov is short, sweet, and oh so entertaining:

Liz:  Sevan Volkov. Thank you for meeting with me.
Volkov:  And what choice did I have?
L:  Berlin. I know you supply him with arms shipments.
V:  And how do you know this?
L:  Tell me where to find him.
V:  If you know anything about Berlin, you know I can’t do that.
L:  Thought you might say that, which is why I nominated you for our “Most Wanted” list. CID has approved it. We’re just waiting for the director’s signature.
V:  Eh, if you’re gonna arrest me, arrest me.
L:  So you can sit silent in a cell with an expensive attorney? Mm, I’d rather leave you out there, let the world know we’re looking for you. Once news of this hits the streets, Berlin will know the U.S. government is spending limitless resources and time looking for you, a man who has intimate details about him and his business affairs. You have two options: either you lead me to Berlin, or I lead Berlin to you.

Next, Liz meets with Red in his car, and we’re treated to some absolutely fascinating dialogue by Dembe. No, we’re not -- the writers have, once again, refused to provide Dembe with so much as a single line. The “splendid” man sits silently staring out the windshield of Red’s car, probably wondering if this role is worth the 16 hours a day he probably spends on set. Red, meanwhile, is asking Liz how she managed to track down Volkov. 

"Someone in the Bureau," she lies. "I don’t believe you," Red says. "If the Bureau had a lead, they’d follow it. You came to this on your own, and you’re hiding it from them, coming to me instead. You’d rather see Berlin dead than arrested. If you hadn't told me you’d killed Tom, I might think he was your source." Without missing a beat, she counters, "But I did kill him." "Of course you did," Red mutters.

Back at the Post Office, Aram reports that the DOD has discovered a hidden surveillance camera at the Annapolis field office. The camera contains sophisticated Iranian technology. Aram is eventually able to trace the video transmission to a construction site in the Maryland suburbs. At the site, we finally see a SWAT team precede Liz and Ressler into a high risk situation – having to look at fake wood paneling. It’s the construction trailer and they find the photo of Jonathan Reese along with files that log his every movement. Reese, they discover, works for the DSS and is tasked with protecting nuclear scientists. Further reading reveals that he takes the train from Annapolis every day. 

The Train to Nowhere

Fake rant alert ... There is no train into Annapolis. The only trains in Anne Arundel County are Thomas The Tank Engine toys in every 5-year-old boy’s playroom. 

Liz and Ressler catch up with Reese, but before they can secure him in their vehicle, bullets start flying. They speed away, but are pursued by two men on a motorcycle. Bullets shatter the vehicle’s window, and in flies a flashbang grenade causing Ressler to lose control of the steering. In a scene reminiscent of the pilot episode, the SUV flips over several times, coming to a stop on its roof. Ressler is bloody and unconscious while Liz fades in and then out again, just as she catches the sound of voices speaking Farsi.

At the Post Office, Aram is on edge and coming unglued about losing contact with Liz and Ressler. Liz regains consciousness in a hospital room in Bethesda [Naval Hospital/Walter Reed]. She has a cast on her arm, and Ressler is lying unconscious in a nearby bed. A man in a medical uniform walks in, introduces himself to Liz as Dr. Rivera and tells her Ressler has suffered a severe head injury. Liz inquires about John Reese, the agent who was in the car with them.  There was no one else in the car, Dr. Rivera informs Liz. After he leaves the room, Liz calls Cooper and they determine that because she heard Farsi being spoken, the Iranians must have abducted Reese. Cooper sends Samar to the hospital and orders the team to find Amalia Collins and take her into protective custody. When Cooper updates the DOD guy, he is told that there is no Jonathan Reese in any defense sector. Then Aram reports that Bethesda has no record of Liz or Ressler. Where the heck is everyone?

When she hangs up, Liz notices concealer makeup on the phone that Dr. Rivera handed her. This sets the gears in her head into motion. Suspecting her injury is fake, she filches scissors from the nurse’s pocket and slices off her cast. She finds two large, long nails that had been hammered into her arm as a way for her to feel pain and believe her arm was broken. In our Eww! moment of the night, she pulls out the nails, along with some sinew.

Dining à Deux on Small, Smelly Fish

Red and Zoe are at her food truck, where Zoe accepts a glass of wine from Red to wash down the anchovies.

Z:  Do you have any kids, Kenneth?
R:  I do. A daughter.
Z:  The two of you close?
R:  It’s complicated.
Z:  She doesn't like anchovies?
R:  You know, I don’t know about that. I wish it were that simple.
Z:  My father, he … my father did things. I hated him for, things that were unforgivable.
R:  Have you told him?
Z:  I haven’t seen my father in a long, long time.

Zoe is beginning to look dazed. It’s soon clear to her and to us that she’s been drugged. She whimpers:
Z:  What have you done?
R:  It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.

Oh, but he already has! Actress Scottie Thompson has clearly studied at the James Spader Dramatic Arts Conservatory, because her acting, especially during the latter part of this scene, is exquisite. Her eyes silently convey panic, sadness, disappointment, and fear simultaneously.

The task force realizes they got played by The Scimitar. The construction trailer was a setup to make them think Reese was with the DSS.  Once he disappeared, the Iranians were banking on being led to Professor Collins by the FBI who would inevitably rush to protect their asset.  Indeed, The Scimitar listens to a recording of Liz’s earlier phone call and obtains Collins’ name and the locale of her speech. We see him wipe the makeup off the back of his hand where it was concealing his unique tattoo. At the hospital, Liz and Ressler are able to escape their room after Liz stabs the nurse with a sedative-filled syringe and then knocks out the guard with her Kung Pao moves. Meanwhile, Aram decodes their location from Liz's phone call. Cooper sends six teams to the hotel to protect Collins.

A Life of Leisure: Massages, Golf, and Doing Time

Red is conducting another business meeting in his office, meaning the back seat of his sedan, this time with Samar. Red wants to know about her lead, a man named Ali Hassan, the target of a major Mossad initiative. Naturally, Red has had past dealings with him. Then Red relays news that shocks her – The Scimitar is the man who ordered the bombing that killed her brother. “That’s why I brought this case to you,” he tells her. 

Red and Samar drop in on Hassan at his elegant mansion, which is clearly not decorated with 1970’s paneling. Hassan is enjoying a massage, his face smushed into the table, when suddenly he hears glass shatter.

He runs outside with just a towel hanging by a thread onto his portly, fuzz-covered figure, which is a concern when he lifts a gun with both hands. He swears when he sees Red, who is driving golf balls at him and aiming the projectiles at the mansion’s windows. Samar, holding a gun to his head, tells the wooly mammoth that her unit of Mossad has been surveilling him for months. “Just by being here I have everything, and therefore nothing, to lose,” she sneers, in a memorable line. They want to know the whereabouts of The Scimitar, and correctly suspect that Hassan has been aiding him since his arrival in the U.S. While poking Hassan in the chest with his golf club, Red suggests that Hassan visualize spending his life in an Israeli prison, and not surprisingly, Hassan gives up the location of his warehouse in which the bogus hospital was set up. 

Later, Liz and Ressler attempt to escape the building when back-up arrives in the form of Samar. She blows a bullet through another guard’s chest. Didn't we see this same scene in Monarch Douglas Bank? It's satisfying to see a strong woman take charge. Meanwhile, Cooper arrives at the hotel where Collins has been isolated in a room after the event was cancelled. She opens the door to a man when he announces himself as FBI -- dumb move for a smart woman --  and of course the FBI turns out to be The Scimitar. Don’t astrophysicists ever watch movies? The Scimitar chillingly tells Collins, “You are going to pay the price for the crimes committed by your government. But first, you’re going to help us create the weapon that will be used to bring this country to its knees.”

After Cooper finds Collins missing from the room, Liz, Ressler, and Samar arrive. Liz spies a man pushing a luggage cart away from the hotel, and she recognizes the tattoo on his hand.  The Scimitar, a.k.a. Dr. Rivera from the hospital, turns around to face her. Showdown at high noon! It’s a tense moment. Suddenly, the noise of gunfire explodes. The Scimitar's minions are shooting from their car, and that distraction gives him the break he needs to flee with them. However, he leaves behind a large moaning and groaning suitcase. Surprise! Inside, the agents find an unharmed Professor Collins.

The Scimitar arrives at Casa du Hassan, telling someone on the phone that he has suffered a setback and needs a safe house, money, and credentials. As he turns the corner, there is Red relaxing in an Adirondack chair enjoying the view of the Anacostia Hudson River.  Another Red witticism -All this running around. Really? I'm so relieved when the people I'm chasing come to me.Samar soon arrives to find The Scimitar bound. 

Samar:  I can call it in.
Red:  Yes, I suppose you can. The question is, do you want to? I offer him to you as a gift.
S:  What am I supposed to do with him?
R:  Whatever you like. Nobody else knows he’s here.

Red is interrupted by a phone call from Lizzy, who is calling with Berlin’s location. After excusing himself, Red takes leave of Samar with one line of advice: “Don’t do anything I wouldn't do.”  

Nostrils flaring, Samar confronts The Scimitar -- the man for whom she has harbored hatred for so many years -- the man responsible for the death of her beloved brother. But The Scim insists that Samar’s brother wasn't an innocent bystander in the crowd. When she repeats her threat, he isn't impressed. He sneers right back at her and reminds her, “There’s no country insisting you do your duty. If you kill me, it’ll be cold-blooded murder. So call the Mossad or the CIA or whoever’s coming, and be done with it.” A flood of conflicting emotion clouds Samar's eyes.

Time to Cut to the Chase -aka- All the Good Stuff is in the Last Two Minutes

Liz and Samar identify a body fished out of the Anacostia River. It was shot at point-blank range and matches the description of The Scimitar. We must assume that Samar killed the snake and pushed his body off the cliff into the river below. She has a talent for crimes in high places. Now, as I am writing this recap I am riding on a school bus (chaperoning a field trip) and moments ago we crossed the real Anacostia River. I am not making this up. I was afforded a view that most certainly did not include humongous mansions perched on a cliff. No sign of Liz’s boat, either.

Ressler is dumping his vial of pills down the drain, apparently because of his earlier conversation with Liz about his addiction.

Liz is on the boat with petulant Tom. He challenges Liz to look him in the eyes if she’s going to kill him. With her piercing eyes locked on his, she steps back through the doorway, pulls the door closed, and stares at him through the window. She never breaks her hard-boiled gaze. 

These final words and stare down were filmed masterfully, and artfully captured Tom's anger and despondency, and Liz's steely resolve, despite her internal conflict. 

Berlin is Foiled Again

Now for THE BIG MOMENT... Red and Dembe arrive in a garage where Berlin is waiting for Volkov.  Red tells Berlin, “I know you were expecting Volkov, but, as luck would have it, he sold you out to Agent Keen.”

Red:  It’s surprising she came to me instead of the Bureau, with the hope that I would kill you. I have other plans. First, understand I didn’t have to come here alone. In fact, I didn’t have to come here at all. I could’ve sent seven men and put an end to this war.
Berlin:  Why didn’t you?
R:  Because this entire affair -- every ounce of suffering that all of us have endured -- has been the result of a tragic and, frankly, mysterious misunderstanding. One I intend to correct. There’s not much left I truly cherish in this world, but I swear on those few things I still hold dear, I did not kill your daughter.
B:  Words, words. The greater the words, the larger the lie. My daughter is dead. But yours … my men tell me you’ve been spending a lot of time together. Maybe, when I’ve done to your daughter what you did to mine, we can finally be even.
R:  I’m sorry.

Behind Red, Dembe turns and from the car he draws Zoe into view. They approach Berlin. As she slowly raises her sorrowful eyes to her father, Red asks Berlin, “Is this the daughter you’re referring to? Because she’s not my daughter. She’s yours.”

Again, it was a great episode even if we didn't learn much aside from Zoe's identity. Sometimes a well-written, thoroughly entertaining show is a welcome respite from the constant chasing of clues. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

                     * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
A note of congratulations is due Blacklist Support Group regular CES2 for her superior sleuthing skills. Her Keen fashion sense and advanced degree in Russian Culture (or maybe not), combined with a sharp eye for detail, enabled her to hone in on Zoe’s scarf in the preview pictures, and identify it as a Russian folk shawl. This pointed us in the direction of believing Zoe was Berlin's daughter. Good use of the Spoilers Page!

And as always, thanks to Steve at Springfield! Springfield! for his transcripts of every episode. It's worth a read-through every week to catch those all-important details.

Feel free to share your thoughts on our newly created

Spring Break Reruns Discussion Page

It will cover both The Scimitar and The Decembrist.  Bonus points for every scimitar related pun you find in the recap.

Originally written November 5, 2015