Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Blacklist Recap: The Deer Hunter Ep 2.13

Taking a Bite Out of Crime
Recap by Chompstick

To the strains of haunting music, a hooded, bespectacled creep creeps down the road with a crossbow. A mutilation killer, Liz explains during a presentation to graduate students. She gets on her big-girl profiler pants and (almost) gets her prediction correct: an incredibly smart, highly organized, 35-40 year old white male who lives for the ritual of the hunt and the rush of control over the prey.  This is the Deer Hunter (#93), a serial killer in search of total domination by gutting the victim’s body and chomping on the liver. (Blech, that was an unfortunate word choice for me!)

Liz would be distressed to know the Samoan was meeting with Detective Wilcox, who is investigating the harbormaster’s death. Wilcox reminds Samuel Aleko, the Samoan, that he will be charged as an accessory until he testifies in open court, in front of a grand jury. Aleko looks none too happy, probably cursing the zebra mussel ruse. Later, the detective informs Liz that Aleko places her and Tom at the scene. And, oh by the way, a body was found; this is no longer a missing persons case. (The FBI really should consider offering Prevarication 101 to its agents; Liz is a pathetic liar.) 

Please Hang-Up and Try Your Call Again

Elsewhere, Red is on what must be one of only two functioning payphones in the District…the other was the relic Tom once used. The disembodied voice at the other end is that of the man whose number was on the card from Fitch’s safe.  After apologizing for cutting the previous call short, Phone Number Man ominously tells Red “It’s Happening Now”, but he will only divulge more in person. A rendezvous is scheduled.

Liz strides down the street approaching Red, who without preamble announces, “We need to talk about the Fulcrum.” Her unconvincing reply: “I told you I don’t know anything about it.” He tells her he’s a student of reading people’s facial expressions and body language, and calls her out on her lie. (Red, we’ve all been schooled in reading Liz.  Not much skill is required. There’s sad face, lying face, disappointed face, and angry face. The library of emojis on her iPhone must be rather sparse.)  “How about we make a deal? I help you find your serial killer and you tell me about the fulcrum,” Red proposes. Back at the Post Office, he tells the team that their primary assumption about the Deer Hunter is wrong – he is a she, a doe not a buck. We Blacklist addicts were already fairly certain of this since the featured guest star this week is Amanda Plummer, known for her roles in Pulp Fiction and The Fisher King.

Before leaving, Red ruffles Aram’s feathers, literally, by tousling his hair. When the barren-domed Red discloses, “I used to have a teeming mane just like that,” Aram is horrified to picture his follicular fate. It ignites a nose-dive in his self-esteem and he spends much of the remaining episode absent-mindedly dragging his fingers through his hair.

Crucial information is revealed at the morgue when Liz and Ressler catch a man who disturbed the latest victim’s body. The man turns out to be a crime reporter who has been following, and is obsessed with, the Deer Hunter case. Ressler finally gets some action (so to speak) and takes the lead on interrogating the reporter who postulates that the first six murders were perpetrated by an "artist"; the last six murders were committed by a "forger", a copycat killer.

The CopyCat and the Canary

At home, the Copycat, indeed a woman, is conducting a dead-end conversation with a caged canary, but the scene turns solemn when she (woman, not canary) opens a dossier on a man she has to “go see”. I’ve never seen a cat roll its eyes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Himalayan in the chair glanced to the heavens and uttered, “So help me, Cat.”

Elsewhere, Edgar, a corrections officer with the demeanor of a street smart cop, joins Red in his office – the back seat of Red’s car – and announces that Aleko will be transferred the following afternoon. Before departing, Edgar slides a bag containing homemade coffee cake across the seat. Red certainly gets around. But he doesn’t get round, even though he chomps(!) on calorie laden food every week.

Speaking of food, back at the Post Office, Ressler is chomping gnawing on an apple which gives him the impetus to compare the bite marks on each victim’s liver. After performing an analysis, Aram (while caressing his teeming mane) confirms the theory of a copycat killer. You can hear the panic thick in Liz’s voice when she confides in Ressler the details of the detective’s call, kindly putting him one step closer to being an accessory after the fact. As her resolve crumbles, her partner urges her to go to Cooper (who has been noticeably absent from this episode thus far).

We get back to the procedural story, which is interrupting what we really want to see. In a suburban home, the Copycat, formally Tracy Solobotkin, is meeting with a younger woman, Mary Henning. She nurtures and encourages her. “Is it not just and right to eliminate evil?” (If that were true, she’d be rotting in a grave.)  Shortly thereafter, a man’s eviscerated body is seen hanging in a tree.  We find out that Mary is the wife of the Copycat’s latest victim. Upon questioning, Liz determines Mary is lying, and she successfully rattles her.

Dembe answers a ringing payphone (I understand that this streetside communication system is convenient for the writers, but let’s get realistic). At the other end, Phone Number Man isn’t happy about not hearing Red’s smooth timbre. He’s watching Dembe from a window, a la Jason Bourne, and relays that Red better have a good reason for standing him up.

Achy Breaky Heart

And, his reason - saving Lizzy’s hide - can’t get much better. A prisoner transport van is being escorted by a police car under lights and siren.  The vehicles pull over, Edgar alights from the van, and Red enters. Inside is the confused and concerned Aleko. Red begins a rambling story of a boy - dancer, mesmerizer, womanizer. “Pops, who the hell are you?” interrupts Aleko.  Red blithely continues, ignoring the disruption. Long story short(er), the boy grew up, developed a heart condition, and needed a transplant. He died breathless and gray before he acquired a new organ. Lucky for Red, and Liz, Aleko’s brother also needs a new, healthy heart, which Red can serve up on a silver surgery tool tray, complete with the best surgeons and post-op care. The real hook – it won’t cost a dime. “Why would you do that for me?” asks Aleko. “Because you’re going to do something for me,” answers Red.

The task force (Aram) determines that each victim’s spouse had contact with Whitehaven Shelters, a non-profit association assisting victims of stalking and harassment. The miscreants all had records of some sort for “dangerous fixation” with these women. The Copycat killer is misguidedly working to protect the women by murdering the offenders with a lethal shot from a crossbow. When L&R meet with a boss at Whitehaven and request a list of all employees and volunteers, Tracy, who indeed works there, is lurking outside the office eavesdropping.

I had to re-watch the next scene twice because the increasing population of animals in the Copycat’s house was so distracting.  One cat glances at the bird while licking his chops. I wonder if he’s thinking about devouring an avian liver. Copy Catwoman again carries on a one-way conversation with the atmosphere. She doesn’t know what to do about Mary Henning; she is worried that all the other women will be put at risk.  Her instincts are good because across town, Henning just called the FBI and is ready to spill. 

The Big Gulp

Liz and Ressler are on their way, but not before Red walks into the Post Office. Liz seems a bit miffed that Red is there to see Agent Mojtabai. Who? Confused looks are exchanged. Crickets chirp. Who? Oh! Aram. As everyone else walks away, Aram is standing taller as “The Chosen One”.

Red:     I need your assistance in locating the source of a call placed to a payphone.
Aram:  I’ll need a warrant.
Red:     You won’t need a warrant.
Aram:  Of course I won’t need a warrant. (Aram visibly gulps.)

Weapons of Body-Mass Destruction

Mary Henning awaits the arrival of Liz and Ressler when the Copycat unexpectedly shows up on her doorstep. She accuses Mary of being the weak link in her network.  (Mary also seems to have failed Prevarication 101.)  Copycat swings a heavy-duty butcher block cutting board at Mary's head.  She's down and out but not dead.  When the doorbell goes unanswered, Liz goes around back and chases a fleeting figure.  As Liz rounds a privacy fence, she receives Full Metal Shovel to the head.  So...the kidnapping du week goes to Liz.  Copycat drags Liz's inert, bound body into a cellar where stuffed heads of creatures great and small eerily adorn the wall. Liz revives as Copycat assembles her disemboweling instruments.  A struggle ensues and round one goes to Copycat as she manages to hoist Liz off her feet with a rope.  She tells Liz that her husband was the original Deer Hunter.  She shot her husband with the bow in self-defense, and realized if she continued the killings, she could help other women. "I'm sick. I know. Disgusting. But that's the way Ron did it. So I have no choice. I mean, from beyond the grave he still pulls the strings."

After listening and speaking gently, Liz suddenly attacks Copycat verbally in an effort to rile her.  Angered to the breaking point, Copycat drops her knife and lunges at Liz, ramming into her suspended form like it’s a punching bag. Liz is able to wrap her legs around Copycat’s neck, and while having a flashback of Tom strangling the harbormaster in the same way, she strengthens her resolve. Ressler and Samar barge in before Copycat dies. Afterward, Liz is having a crisis of conscience and tells Ressler that she can’t continue. (Don’t get worked up, Liz. You’ll have a week or two off before your next scheduled abduction.) She worries that she almost killed the woman who was about to slice and dice her.  She frets that she didn’t try hard enough to stop Tom, and declares that she’s going to turn herself in to Detective Wilcox.

The Real Reason We Watch the Show:  The Last 5 Minutes

The end sequence music kicks in. Aleko sits before Wilcox and the US Attorney. When questioned, the Samoan replies, “I don’t remember.”  The incredulous Wilcox looks physically pained and reminds Aleko he already confessed that Agent Keen was present when the harbormaster was killed, and she deliberately covered up his death.  “That’s what you want me to say. That’s not how it was,”  Aleko replies. He just saved his brother’s life.

While continuing to run his fingers through his lustrous locks, Aram leaves a phone message with Dembe, providing the address where Red's phone call originated. Samar walks up behind Aram, with a disarming smile.

Samar:  I figured it out.
Aram:    What?
What you're doing. The hairline. Guys don’t get it … most women don’t care if men go bald.
Aram:    Did you think ...
Samar:  You’re sexy no matter what.
Aram:    I’m not going bald! I just have a high hairline. Wait, what? Did you just say that??
Samar:  Yep. Just don’t get fat.

Red and Dembe enter Phone Number Man’s house and two-step down the hallway with their guns drawn.  Pools of blood mar the parquet floor. Overturned furniture speaks of an altercation, but the house is empty. Someone got to Red’s quarry first.

Liz sits in her car watching Wilcox exit the police station.  Presumably she’s considering confessing. Wilcox stops to give a homeless man some money, walks on, turns back, and gives the man more. Interestingly, Wilcox is a sympathetic character. He’s a soft-spoken, nervous man who stumbles on his words, yet there are hints of both confidence and compassion as he struggles with serving justice. He's human.

The final scene delivers the best discourse in ages between Liz and Red. He tells Liz that he saved her from indictment today, and she divulges that she has the Fulcrum. 

Red:   I believe I know the real reason you don’t want me to have the Fulcrum. 
Liz:    That is..?
Red:   Because you’re afraid that once you give it to me, you’ll be of no further use to me and you’ll never see me again.
No argument from Liz. 

This entire scene is loaded with clever dialogue that you can read in the transcript at Springfield!Springfield!  

As we await next week, we're left with these concerns:
  • How will the harbormaster’s murder investigation play out?
  • What happened to Phone Number Man?
  • Will Ressler's increased involvement continue to build?
  • Will he abducted next week?
  • Who had fewer lines this week - Dembe or Cooper?
Finally, props to the The Blacklist’s cinematographers. Every scene is delicious!

Please add your reactions to the episode on 
The Deer Hunter Discussion Page.