If Liz (Megan Boone) hasn't reached her breaking point, she has to be close.
As last week's episode of The Blacklist concluded, yet another one of her friends, ethically compromised but loyal doctor Nik (Piter Marek), was murdered — very soon after aiding Liz and Red (James Spader). Predictably (in a good way), Liz immediately blamed this tragic event on herself in this week's solid episode, "Ilyas Surkov." We at home know, of course, that Nik wasn't murdered for his kindness toward a sick kid; on the contrary, he was dispatched because of his involvement with Tom (Ryan Eggold) and the never-ending analysis of that literal bag of bones.
It is worth reiterating how frustrating it is that The Blacklist is doing yet another major story that puts Liz directly between dueling banjos of betrayal on the part of her father and lover. However, this episode at least made nice strides in illustrating the impact of that reality. That impact is Liz crying alone in a cemetery and thinking back to all of the people she's lost — dating back even before when Red entered the picture.
"Ilyas Surkov" underlined Liz's tricky predicament with a super-sized Sharpie. The case of the week featured an excursion with supposed CIA operatives, including one woman intended to serve as a kind of worst case scenario (non-death category) for Liz. Although the agent left the CIA in 2015 to start a family, she was quickly pulled back into the muck of chasing an infamous terrorist by an older male mentor-type. And wouldn't you know it, jumping back into global crime-solving didn't lead to a healthy, burgeoning family environment.
To make matters worse, the female agent found herself in the middle of one CIA black project con after another. Her crusading mentor ended up being in the "right" (inasmuch as a dude who took up the mantle of the actually-dead terrorist can be), but he still orchestrated many gnarly ops in the name of patriotism and freedom. In short, she was hoodwinked.
Maybe the episode hit that parallel a little too hard, but if it's going to do this very familiar story for Liz, Red, and Tom, a dramatic result or turn is needed. Likewise, while it's difficult for shows with procedural engines to demonstrate the impact of their stories on characters for any extended period of time — otherwise, the story can't exactly continue in the same way — The Blacklist has the chance to use Red's new status and Tom's return as a way to legitimately shake it up for a bit.
How that shake-up turns out is still unclear. Liz might be on the path toward self-destruction or vigilantism (as she alluded to here), but Red and Tom's circling of one another is bound to get more interesting as soon as next week. Despite Tom's best attempts to keep the bones incognito, he's gotten Nik killed, on the hunt of a potential suspect, and now Red knows he's involved somehow.
The biggest question is somehow still the same one The Blacklist has always asked: who can Liz trust? And how is the answer not "neither of these guys?"
The Blacklist airs Wednesdays at 8/7ct on NBC.