Well, that one was macabre. Is it wrong to kidnap men, perform illegal medical procedures on them, and forcibly impregnate them? Yes. But is it also wrong to forcibly take away a woman’s agency over her own body in increasingly intrusive ways when she’s already been physically violated? Also, yes. I felt it when tonight’s Blacklister stood in front of the man who raped her — and then got out of prison early and tried to claim parental rights over the daughter that the woman was forced to deliver because her state had laws that sent her to prison for attempting to end her pregnancy-by-rape — and screamed out, “What kind of example would I be to [my daughter] if I didn’t fight those who try to command control over me?”
Unfortunately, that woman’s form of fighting skirted a touch outside the limits of — well, lawfulness. The most challenging Blacklisters are the ones whose emotional motivations you can have empathy for, but whose execution you simply cannot agree with…because they’re, well, sadistic and involve extremely disturbing metal pig masks.
Tonight’s episode was all about women pushed to the edge by the men who seek to control their bodies and choices. Even if the main Blacklister storyline was a lot, it did dovetail nicely with Katarina’s own fight. Even though there’s still much to be discovered about why Katarina is doing what she’s doing — why she’s done what she’s (allegedly) done in the past — when she screamed out, “I AM DONE WITH MEN CONTROLLING MY LIFE,” well, I felt that too.
Indeed, this episode was a whole lotta feelings, a few bug-eyed shocks, and one final reveal that we’ll likely be sorting through for the rest of the season. Let’s get going…
HANNAH HAYES, NO. 125
Whether you loved this episode, hated it, or it just left you a little nauseated, we must all admit — you had to assume it would be a doozy quite from the moment you saw a man in a metal pig mask chained to a wall. The cold open reveals just that, as a man who is clearly imprisoned scurries around a basement, readying a homemade knife to attack his captor. But when said captor comes down the stairs, it’s a very normal looking woman who’s onto him immediately. “You know how I feel about playing games,” she says, pressing a button that quickly shortens the metal cord he’s attached to, slamming him back to the wall by his neck. It is…difficult to watch. Get used to that feeling.
The woman — who is, of course, the titular Hannah Hayes — tells the man that today is the big day they’ll be “giving one lucky man the gift of a lifetime.” At that moment, we see a different man waking up in a room full of balloons and streamers, with a note by his bed that says, “FAILURE TO FOLLOW WILL RESULT IN DEATH.”
That room turns out to be a unit in a storage facility, and that man turns out to be a missing governor. The FBI believes Governor Sweeney was abducted by a crime family he refused to grant a gambling license, but Red (who’s dabbling in RV camping these days) informs Liz that he believes whoever did this was looking to accomplish something “far more interesting,” given the way Governor Sweeney is refusing to give any details about his abduction. At the same time, we see Sweeney at his home with his wife, lifting up his shirt and saying, “What kind of person is sick enough to do this?”
(And, yes, I’ve kind of given away the reveal already, but let me tell you, at the time he lifts his shirt up to show one large older scar, and one small, fresh one — you just really don’t see “involuntary male pregnancy” coming.)
But Red is correct that Governor Sweeney ain’t talking. Cooper sends Ressler and Liz to interview him, and though we’ve just seen him finish a conversation with his closest political aids saying, “I am never repeating this story to anyone else,” when Ressler and Liz show up, he’s all: It’s a total blank, can’t remember a single thing about the three months I was missing. But keen FBI agents that they are, Ressler and Liz notice that Sweeney is moving surprisingly well for someone who claims to have been drugged unconscious for the last three months, so they do some digging and find out he was kidnapped from a Chinese restaurant. When they get the security footage from across the street, they see a van leaving around the time Sweeney disappeared. It belongs to a man named Wendell Willis, and when Liz and Ressler arrive at his address with a warrant, a little girl answers the door, telling them she’ll go get her mom.
In a truly excellent reveal, the scene switches to Hannah in the basement telling the pig-mask man about their next victim, only to then hear a little voice calling out, “Mom!” The house Liz and Ressler have arrived at is Hannah’s house with the torture chamber in the basement, but Wendell Willis happens to be her tenant who lives in a studio apartment in the backyard.
But first, speaking of little girls — who do you think is watching Agnes while Liz is out there hunting criminals? Why it’s the super-spy herself, Katarina Rostova! Maddie seems to be doing regular nannying for Liz now, and when she gets a call saying that her MI-6 contact has the information she was looking for while she’s babysitting, she arranges for a playdate in the park. While Agnes makes mud pies, Katarina meets with a man named Skip Sutherland who tells her he’s found Ilya Kostov. The photo he has is old (it’s the Ilya Kostov we’ve seen in flashbacks), but the address is current and local.
Unfortunately, Sutherland was followed to the park, he and Katarina get into a violent fight with three men in the park bathroom while Agnes continues to make the most intricate mud pies you could imagine, and while Katarina manages to kill her assailant with her bare hands, Sutherland is dragged off by the other two. She’s certain they work for Morozov, the Russian who agreed to giving Reddington any information he heard about Katarina. And though Morozov is currently beating Sutherland senseless, we’ll soon find out he’s not doing that on Reddington’s behalf.
Because Reddington has his own thing going on. Frank Bloom — formerly known as The Stranger, always known as Red’s BFFL — has found Patrick Masuda, the person they know Katarina hired Norman Devane to cure of an illness. But when they find him, Patrick turns out to be just a nice kid, and certainly no accomplice of Katarina’s…
He’s basically her Lizzie.
After being forced into Red’s RV, Patrick explains that the woman who paid for the cure that saved his life is his friend Constance. When he was little, Constance lived across the hall from his family, and one day his parents heard a man hurting her in the hall. They rushed out to help, and the man shot and killed them, but it gave Constance/Katarina the chance to get away. She found Patrick a few days later, and told him she’d do everything in her power to look out for him, including saving his life with that cure. Red tells him they’re about to see about that.
He calls Katarina from Patrick’s phone, and the moment she realizes Red has Patrick, she looks stricken with horror. “Raymond, there are rules,” Katarina pleads. Reddington explains that she played outside the rules when she shot Dom, and he’ll shoot Patrick if she doesn’t come to him. Katarina starts crying, and tells Red to tell Patrick she loves him, and she’s sorry, but she is done with men controlling her life. Luckily, Dembe keeps Red from killing Patrick who has already been through enough, but Red insists he only let him go because they now have another lead. In the conversation with Katarina, she let slip that Morozov abducted her informant, which she assumes Morozov has told Reddington…
But he hasn’t. He was working on his own, hoping to get to Katarina and sell her to the highest bidder. So Reddington hunts down Morozov, kills him, and offers Sutherland to come over to his side instead of Katarina’s. Sutherland tells him the information Katarina hired him to find: the address of Ilya Koslov. And now it’s Red’s turn to look stricken with horror.
Of course, the real horror around here mostly has to do with pig masks. In Wendell Willis’ apartment, Ressler and Liz find the identity of a new kidnapping target: James Robson, a lobbyist who runs a conservative advocacy group. But they’re too late — Wendell Willis has already managed to abduct Robson.
The Post Office is able to figure out that Robson and Governor Sweeney are both powerful, politically active, socially conservative men, and then research other kidnapping victims who fit that description. That’s how they end up at the home of Pastor Andrew Darvis who, a year out from his kidnapping, is a little more willing to talk. As he gets started telling his story, we also see Governor Sweeney talking to his doctor who says she’s sorry, but there’s nothing she can do: “If I take out what they put inside you, I could spend the rest of my life in prison — that’s a law you passed.”
And just as my mind starts going, Oh. OH. No…no! Ooooh nooo, Pastor Darvis calls for his mother to come in the room, “and bring Luke.” She brings a baby in. Ressler first assumes that Darvis is explaining that he disappeared because, as a conservative pastor, he had an illegitimate child with a woman. But Darvis explains: “There is no mother — I gave birth to Luke myself.”
Back at the Post Office, Ressler relays what Darvis told them. After he was abducted, he was administered two involuntary procedures: one to transplant a uterus from a donor, and once the organ too, then a fertilized embryo was implanted. The kidnappers waited to release him until there was a viable heartbeat because he lived in a state with restrictive abortion laws. Jarvis thinks it was a lesson: “The kidnappers target men who advocate for the government to control women’s bodies, and then they take control of men’s bodies in the same way.”
Ding, ding, ding that is correct. In a clinic in Alexandria, Dr. Hannah Hayes is prepped for surgery and has gathered with her team in front of James Robson: she tell them that the FBI is looking for them, and while she plans to continue on with their mission, she understands if they want to go. But they all proclaim they’re sticking with her just as Robson wakes up and asks what they’re doing to him. “No less than you did to me,” Hannah tells him. “You hijacked my body and forced your beliefs on me, and now, I’m going to force them on you.”
But soon, thanks to some investigative work by Park and Aram, the FBI is at the clinic’s door. When Hannah hears, she cries out, “It’s too soon, I can’t let them take him, I need to get to him!” But she’s not talking about Robson. While the nurses distract the FBI by calmly cooperating and bringing them back to the operating room, Hannah drives her car through the door of the parking structure, and speeds off toward her house…
The one with the man imprisoned in the basement. And suddenly, it becomes pretty clear his role in this.
Well, I say that. But what was clear to me was that the man in Hannah’s basement had raped her, causing the pregnancy that bore her daughter (who she’s thankfully already taken to her parent’s house). What was not clear to me, but she soon explains to Aram and Ressler with a gun pointed at her rapist’s head, was that she used his sperm to impregnate all of the men she abducted. She also tells them, as I previously mentioned, that she was imprisoned for trying to get an abortion, forced to have a baby that she does now love, but who still reminds her of the violent act perpetrated against her, and when her rapist was let out of prison early due to overcrowding, he tried to file for parental rights. “And you think I’m crazy,” she says. “Fortunately I had room for own prison.”
Hannah seems to know that her own personal form of justice against the men who created the laws that controlled her body after her attack couldn’t last long, but she needed to know that her daughter would be living in a world “where everyone will know that actions have consequences.” She shoots her rapist dead.
As Ressler later leads Hannah out of the house, we see Governor Sweeney sitting in an office with a different doctor who tells him that he can legally get an abortion in New York, but because of his own state’s laws, his Attorney General could still charge him with conspiracy to commit murder. “I know the damn law, I wrote it,” he growls back. “And yet, here you are,” the doctor replies knowingly.
And after all! of! that! the episode ends with Katarina showing up at the address of Ilya Koslov, and the door opening to reveal…
A FEW LOOSE ENDS:
Due to the resemblance of Brett Cullen and Gabriel Mann, I have assumed for a while that Red’s friend might be Ilya Koslov, but the actual reveal just brings up a whole slew of new questions. Like: if Frank is really Ilya, and Reddington is not Ilya, but they are actually childhood friends…then who is imposter-Raymond-Reddington in relation to Ilya?
Is he actually just…Raymond Reddington?
Or could there possibly, maybe, ever-so-slightly be a chance that one ever-pervasive Reddinton’s-true-identity theory could come back out swinging again?
And speaking of Katarina: she didn’t seem to know Ilya when she found his photo in Liz’s apartment, but when Frank opened the door, she said to him, “Hello Ilya, it’s been a long time.” Hm.
And finally, Liz, sis — everyone on the Task Force is reassuring you on the daily that you are highly loveable and trustworthy. Did you really need to tell Agent Park the Fraymond Freddington secret before she’s even filled out her H.R. paperwork just so she would trust you? Feels suspect!