In the midst of a global pandemic, some of us seek out comfort and predictability. And few things are more predictable right now than The Blacklist getting fully nutty with it on NBC Fridays. Following an uneven Purdue Pharma “ripped from the headlines” hour and a satisfying Agatha Christie riff that ended at a kid’s ballet recital, The Blacklist submitted a peculiar-yet-entertaining episode with no fewer than five stories happening at once.
Most importantly, the show delivered one of its all-time great B-plots: Glen (Clark Middleton), Reddington’s (James Spader) tracker, participating in a “Touch the Truck” competition to acquire a truck that is secretly full of tritium, a rare and radioactive isotope of hydrogen. For the uninitiated, Touch the Truck contests are promotional events put on by local car dealerships in which entrants, uh, touch a truck for as long as possible. Part Survivor and part capitalist nadir, the contests reached peak popularity in the 1990s but still emerge across suburbia today — which, apparently, makes them perfect for an extended gag on a show about the world’s deadliest fedora fetishist.
Glen’s appearances always brighten up The Blacklist, but these scenes were on another level. From his pregame stretching and mid-contest pleas for Red or Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) to come give him a supportive massage to his deep research of his toughest competition (a priest who’d won two years prior), every Glen moment was better than the last. Clark Middleton perfectly plays Glen as a man with so little shame, even as he’s nearly botching a high-stakes transaction because he’s stuck at a stupid dealership gimmick.
James Spader aided in the sublime effect as Red supported his friend and colleague with a mix of frustration and zeal. Red is often amused by the behavior of those around him, but his bemused glee and confidence in Glen showed, yet again, that Spader remains committed to this show even in its seventh season.
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James Spader, The Blacklist
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Somehow, that was just the best part of an exceptionally busy hour. The case of the week had significant, sci-fi-tinged Weird Blacklist energy framed within a standard murder hunt. The titular Blacklister Purcell sought revenge for the hearing damage he received from the steady hum of server farms. Bizarre and sad and scary? Yes. His revenge? Learning the dark arts of sound waves and using it to kill politicians who helped bring the server farms into the safe sounds of the suburbs. Also bizarre and sad and scary! If the Glen material wasn’t so great, the Purcell case would have left me wanting, if only because it’s the kind of classic unreal criminality that the show does so well. A small bummer to bury it with such a powerful B-story.
Elsewhere, a bunch of other stuff happened! Aram (Amir Arison) jumped out of a plane with Elodie (Elizabeth Bogush), second-guessed (or more like tenth-guessed) their relationship over her resistance to kids, changed his mind again, and then learned that her husband finally died. And just when it seemed like their unique relationship could finally flourish, he discovered, during the husband’s wake, that Elodie, in fact, stayed with her beau because of a pre-nuptial agreement and $10 million. Yikes, maybe? Love is fickle, man.
Meanwhile, Liz (Megan Boone) spent the episode A) talking vaguely about trying to track someone who ended up being Ilya, and B) trying to give Agent Park (Laura Sohn) advice about not age-killing criminals like Purcell. Still no sign of her mother, which is weird!
For an episode that’s essentially still trying to kill time until the Red-Liz-Katarina (Laila Robins) tussle can resume, this was delightfully wild. It presented some of the tonal clashes that plagued the episode from two weeks back, but when there’s Glen in a headband trash-talking a priest regarding who can touch a Hemi truck the longest, it’s time to be more forgiving.
The Blacklist airs Fridays at 8/7c on NBC.
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James Spader, The Blacklist
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