Will Tom Keen ever be able to truly be a family man?
On Thursday's episode of The Blacklist, Red Reddington (James Spader) recruits Tom (Ryan Eggold) to go undercover for him and pose as Edgar Legatt, "the gold standard of assassins," in order to lure a sworn enemy of Red's named Magnussen out of hiding. But Legatt actually doesn't even exist. He's, according to Red, an alias Red uses to take credit for some of his best assassinations. And now he wants to dangle Tom-as-Legatt as bait for Magnussen, whom Red believes blew up his cruise ship deal and killed his accountant in the previous episode, causing Red to hemorrhage millions of dollars in the process. Because, once he gets wind that Legatt is in town, Magnussen will want to hire him to assassinate Red.
But none of that matters much. What really matters in the grand scheme of the Blacklist universe is the pitch Red makes to Liz (Megan Boone) as he's explaining to her why Tom is the best man for the job. "Tom is very good at what he does," he tells Liz. "It defines him. He can no sooner choose to stop than a great white shark can choose to stop swimming and eating."
He's talking, of course, about assassinating people — and that phone conversation sounds eerily similar to the characterization we hear Red make in the recently-released trailer for Tom's upcoming spin-off series, The Blacklist: Redemption. Red also points out that, if Tom's going to keep giving in to his killer instincts, it's better for everyone involved if he's at least working for Red while doing so, because Red cares too much about Liz and baby Agnes to ever double-cross Tom or let anything ever happen to him.
This is a hard pill for Liz to swallow on all sides, and when her husband returns feeling "great" from a business trip in which he killed at least one man and (for all he knows) hand-delivered another one to his death, she looks stricken. Despite Tom's reassurances that their family is the most important thing to him and his worst fear is losing them, she points out that this is the first time in their relationship that they haven't been united, working together against a common enemy. "It's not going to work if you can't be who you are. I guess I'm just scared I'm not going to love that person."
Given that we already know that The Blacklist: Redemption features Tom joining a team of underground assassins led by his mother, I guess we all know where this story is heading. Sad!
Back to Red's financial issues: After discovering that Magnussen actually wasn't behind his accountant's assassination, Red — who earlier in the episode tells Liz he's "under attack" — has another existential crisis moment like we saw a couple of weeks ago, and confesses that he feels like death is closing in on him. It's dark stuff.
Thankfully, Red has the FBI's help to track down his accountant's assassin, having pointed out that his mutually beneficial relationship with the bureau only works if he can maintain some stature within the criminal world. The investigation leads them to a young woman who has a rare, deadly form of meningitis that can be transmitted by minimal physical contact and who has been essentially held hostage by baddies who want to develop a biological weapon.
Red's accountant wasn't the young woman's only victim, but when she's caught by the FBI and Red asks who hired her to kill the man, she gives up a name: Isabella Stone. Who is she? We'll have to wait until next week to find out, but the name alone is enough to render Red speechless and unable to get up from her seat. (Also, spoiler alert, it's Melora Hardin.)
And, in another small but sweet point of note in the episode, Samar (Mozhan Marno) is outraged when she's mistakenly given Aram's (Amir Arison) paycheck (because, as she puts it, they're both brown) and discovers he makes 32 percent more than her. Then she's further insulted when Payroll offers her a 16 percent raise — until she discovers that it's because Aram offered to give up part of his salary in order to put them on equal footing. They have a sweet exchange in which he tells her he'd do anything for her (except giving up even more of his salary because, you know, student loans and whatnot). A big moment for them, and a nice gesture by the show in support of equal pay in the workplace. Even if that workplace is a fictionalized version of the FBI.
The Blacklist airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC.