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The Blacklist: Season 3, Episode 16 - "The Caretaker (No. 78)"

Anthony Merino

There are times when you wish a TV show would jump the shark; this is one of those times.

The Blacklist

Airtime: Thursdays, 8pm
Cast: James Spader, Valarie Pettiford,Amir Arison, Mozhan Marnò, Diego Klattenhoff, Megan Boone
Subtitle: Season 3, Episode 16 - "The Caretaker (No. 78)"
Network: NBC
Air date: 2016-02-25

This week’s episode of The Blacklist, "The Caretaker (No. 78)", proves that "jumping the shark" isn’t necessarily the worst thing that a show can do. What's bad, sometimes worse, is the way a show can repeat itself. Watching the latest episode of The Blacklist seems a lot like walking on a treadmill: perpetual movement that goes nowhere.

It starts with Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader) telling his protégé, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), about this week’s Blacklister. This sequence has been repeated so much in can be Seinfeld-afacated: a man died, yadda yadda, exposing some secret, yadda yadda, here's a pivotal person, yadda yadda, no telling the damage.

Next, Tom Keen (Ryan Egold) confronts his former lover and cohort in crime, Gina Zanetakos (Margarita Levieva). She appears naked except for a towel and sexy panties. Right. Because clearly that’s what all women do when they get out of the shower: put on a pair of panties, dry off completely, and then wrap themselves in a towel. The two come to an agreement, and Tom leaves, because of course it makes sense to trust a sociopathic assassin and spy when they say something with a gun to their head. Big shocker? At the end -- we find out that Tom's being played.

Then there’s a series of successions. Red and Elizabeth have a heart-to-heart. Red introduces Liz to a criminal mastermind, Hugo (Paul Lazar), who’s socially awkward. This leads to finding the caretaker, which leads to a long domino effect of problems, which ends up with the two terrorists driving a bomb onto a truck and the German government refusing to assist.

There was a moment when maybe not a shark, but at least an "ill-tempered bass", was jumped. FBI agents Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) and, later on, Aram Mojtabai (Amir Arison ) and Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marnò) stop a truck with a bomb in it. The agents kill the two men in the cab, but one of the two men in the truck holds a trigger to the bomb's detonator. When he's shot, this sets off the countdown. One might ask why a terrorist would engineer death trigger to a timer and not to the bomb itself.

Well, if you insist on asking questions like that, The Blacklist isn't the show for you. They call in to a super-geek and fawning puppy love interest of Navabi, Aram Mojtabai for help disarming the bomb. For no logical reason, the smitten Aram makes Agent Ressler apologize to Agent Navabi before advising them how to disarm the bomb. The scene is stupid, far-fetched, and amazingly contrived. But hey, at least they always find new ways to be stupid, far-fetched, and contrived.

Sadly, this insanely stupid moment was a welcome break in an episode that was otherwise comprised of either generic television tropes or standard The Blacklist conventions. The former: a father giving into the demands of his daughter’s kidnappers. The latter: Red having a ridiculous knowledge of everything, from where to get a vintage car, to where to find a ring of international port thieves.

The episode did have one or two redeeming moments. First, even when given bad dialogue, James Spader owns the Reddington character. Additionally, Charlene Cooper (Valarie Pettiford) makes an appearance. While her character, the intensely smart person with a rural accent, isn’t overly original, she does make a good addition to the show.

The treadmill metaphor I opened with is a good description of the issues The Blacklist is suffering from at this moment. "The Caretaker (No. 78)" proves that The Blacklist needs a central story arc. While there are subplots to the episode -- Liz trying to find her mother and Tom trying to get out of his old life -- they aren’t that compelling. The show works best when Red is fighting a near equal adversary over a long period. Without it, there's a lot of motion, and no movement.


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