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The Blacklist Recap: May I Be Frank Whaley?

Remember those episodes of The X-Files, the ones where they pretty much forgot about the mythology arc and instead focused on an individual "monster/murderer-of-the-week" case? The ones that made you think, Sure, there's a huge global conspiracy afoot, with millions of lives in danger when the aliens finally invade, and people have been kidnapped and there are bees involved and you can't trust anyone at work, but go ahead and take the time to investigate a murder in Ohio, Mulder?

NBC's The Blacklist is sort of like that. I don't know about you, but I want to see more of the agent stuff. Red and the international intrigue and the assassins and the secret headquarters. You know, the blacklist? Instead we get episodes with creepy, Criminal Minds–ish killers who kidnap and torture people in gruesome ways. Sometimes I wonder what show I signed up to watch.

Tonight's episode featured Frank Whaley at his most Frank Whaley–ish, a doctor who inflicts pain on people who have inflicted pain on others (wife beaters, child abusers, etc.). He doesn't kill them outright; he actually calls 911 after he punctures a lung or rips out an eyeball. They don't always live, of course, but, hey, at least he tries.

But this killer has nothing on Red. Sure, Red is gregarious and knows fine cigars and wine and wears that stylish hat, but he's a freakin' killing machine when he has to be (and he often has to be). While the team tries to find out who the mole is and who was behind the attack on HQ, he's doing his own investigation. He and Dembe track down the people responsible for taking him and Red forces them to explain how they were hired.

Now, this is the part of a TV show where the antihero would let then let them go, because they were only doing a job they were paid for by an unknown boss and he's not a ruthless killing machine. But Red? He's a ruthless killing machine. He just kills all of them immediately and dumps their bodies while Johnny Cash plays.

He's not kidding around. He'll shoot, strangle, and torture to get what he wants.

Agent Malik figures out that Aram is the mole (and if you believe that ...), but before the team can get to him Red does, and tells him to transfer $5 million into one of his accounts or he'll empty his gun into his head. ("Don't worry, the first one will kill you.") If he doesn't do the task by the time Red is done putting his gun back together, he'll shoot him. Sort of like a really intense version of the clock game on The Price Is Right. But it's all a test. Red knows Aram isn't the bad guy, but he's going to find out who is.

Red goes to the money man's house and makes nice with his wife. The wife makes Beef Stroganoff, but Red really can't stay. He shoots the husband in the leg and threatens to do it again in the stomach if he doesn't get a name. He gets the name. Newton Philips. He quickly dispatches of the man by placing a bag over his head. He goes back to Liz and the team and says there's still a mole inside. Meanwhile, we find Fitch (Alan Alda) in a meeting with Fowler. Cue dramatic music ...

Oh, yeah, about that killer. Liz tracks him down to his home and shoots him before he can kill again. Predictability factor, on a scale of 1 to 10? 27. Sigh.

A few random notes:

— One of the reasons why plots like tonight's good samaritan killer plot are so boring is that they've been done so many times before. It's Criminal Minds, CSI, Profiler, and approximately 312 other shows we could all name. Sure, you might have a good actor in the role of the killer, but in the end it all comes down to him doing something because it was done to him and the good guys have to race to find him before he kills again (and they find him just in time). There's even a mom obsession thrown in for a Psycho touch. They should have concentrated on Red and his quest the entire time, since that's the real meat of this show.

— Liz was actually a non-factor in this episode. She had nothing to do with Red's search (besides a quick phone call where he gave a clue on how to find the good samaritan killer). It was almost like two different shows going on, with Liz the secondary character.

— I didn't have a calculator or abacus with me to figure it out, but I'm pretty sure that Red killed more people tonight than Dexter did the entire run of that series. I wonder if Red got his name because he has so much blood on his hands?

— Red seems almost godlike, doesn't he? Not only does he know things, people seem to do his bidding or do what he wants without much question. Stand here by the water and let you kill me? Sounds logical!

— Tom's going to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a job interview? Sure, Liz, believe that with no questions asked.

— Questions for one of you fine readers to answer in the comments: Fowler is the only one in that group who knows the asset is Reddington? Doesn't Fitch know too? And what is his connection to Fowler and the team, especially after we saw his connection to Reddington a couple of episodes back. I'm not 100 percent clear on that part of the story line.

— I love how Red is now known by his jaunty hat! The man with the money knows exactly who is inside his home talking to his wife by the hat hanging on the hook.

— Quote of the night: "Janice, my sincerest apologies. I'll take a rain check on the Stroganoff. It smells delicious!" —Red, to the money man's wife, shoved in a closet.

Photo: NBC