This bag of bones has accumulated more frequent flier miles than most U.S. citizens. After last week's bloody conclusion to the Ian Garvey (Jonny Coyne) arc, The Blacklist offered up a palate cleanser of sorts, with a case of the week buoying the ongoing drama surrounding that majestic black duffle — which has now reportedly made its way to Costa Rica.
At this juncture in the season, when the opportunities for great storytelling have already been lost, there's little need to go back over what could have been. It remains true that The Blacklist's desire to continuously move the goalposts with reveals and answers is frustrating. It is, however, also true that the show can do that exact thing while also turning in solid hours of TV like this one.
Though the duffle is apparently in Costa Rica, Red's (James Spader) more immediate concern in this episode was reconnecting with his other daughter, Jennifer (Fiona Dourif). Sort of. We all know that Red rarely does anything out of the kindness of his heart, and what worked about the scenes between the two of them in "Nicholas T. Moore" was that Jennifer seemed to know that as well.
When the master criminal put on his charm offensive in trying to explain why he abandoned a daughter — for her safety, of course — she didn't buy it. In fact, Jennifer used Red's pleas as a set up for a gut punch of her own; Red wanted to see Jennifer's birth mother, but unfortunately for him, Jennifer revealed that her mother had died, reportedly gunned down by one of Red's enemies looking for a location, leverage or both. Thus, for all Red's monologues about doing the "right" thing to keep people safe, he didn't accomplish much at all.
In the macro, these exchanges don't mean too much. Red's parenting methods have never been particularly strong; relationships are, far the most part, a means to an end. He was still fishing for information that he could use. But in the micro, they made for a compelling episode. With a clearer perspective on how Red's actions have affected her life, Jennifer was a bit more willing to call Red out on his nonsense than Liz has been (especially early on). The pushback worked.
Elsewhere in the episode, "Nicholas T. Moore" went full Village, crossed with L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. That's right, the case of the week involved a group of people living in self-policed woodland community, all of whom believed the world was taken over by a deadly virus in the 1970s. Their leader? A mediocre sci-fi novelist who penned a story about that exact idea, then crafted a group in his image.
It's a well-worn formula, but for good reason. The group not only had retrograde technology and living conditions, but an especially diabolical method for avoiding contamination: burning people alive in a heinous grill-like contraption. The Blacklist occasionally goes to this disturbing place and it doesn't always land. But with this community, it at least made for immediate, recognizable stakes.
Speaking of stakes, Samar (Mozhan Marno) is now missing! That's a development attempting to pay off the season-long story involving her relationship with Aram (Amir Arison). Points to the show for trying, even if it's not the most compelling long-term bit, or a great turn this late in the season with a few more pressing matters to handle — like the vacationing duffle bag.
The Blacklist airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on NBC.