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WashingTelevision: The Blacklist Recap, Season One, Episode Five, “The Courier”

A murderous mailman who can’t feel pain? Just another week in the life of Elizabeth Keen.

Never has a farmers market been so fraught with danger. Photograph via NBC.

Welcome back,
Blacklist fans (all gazillion
of you
). This week’s episode, “The Courier,” is all about pain: how we experience
it, and to what degree; how we alleviate it, and by what means. The titular villain
suffers from a condition called congenital analgesia. Stab him in the chest—as his
kidnapping victim does early in the episode—and he won’t feel a thing. But pain comes
in many forms, we are reminded, and when you find the key to what hurts someone, you
pretty much control them.

Interwoven with the episode’s plotline is the ongoing mystery of maybe-spy Tom. Elizabeth
Keen’s puppy-eyed husband appears to be wrapped up in a murder that occurred in Massachusetts
around the same time the picture-frame-pretty couple was there on vacation. “The Courier”
begins with a dream sequence—Keen’s—in which she confronts her husband about the crime
and he attacks her. The show ends with the actual confrontation; the last thing we
see is Tom placing the box of spy booty in front of his wife.

Between those bookends, however, there is much to explore. Let’s get into it.

After learning that Tom has found a mother who wants him and Keen to adopt her unborn
child—am I the only one who thought that plan had been backburnered?—we leave the
couple to join a violent night scene in the woods. A masked man restrains a younger
one, who squirms beneath him, begging for his life. His captor forces a gas mask onto
his face. The young guy manages to wrestle away a knife and stab his captor in the
chest, but the antagonist, eerily unfazed by the knife wound, shoves him into an abandoned
refrigerator and buries it.

Daytime. Red is in a book-lined apartment in Baltimore, sipping some sort of unaged
liquor and chatting with an associate to whom we have not been introduced. Red is
interested in intercepting a package to be delivered to “the Iranians.” The associate
warns this could be tricky, as said Iranians have dispatched “the Courier” to pick
up the delivery. Red’s eyes grow milky as he recalls some deadly incident in Cairo
that involved the Courier.

Back at the FBI clubhouse, a phone call from Red interrupts a sex-tinged argument
between Liz and Agent Ressler concerning the value of profiling. Liz heads to Baltimore,
where we learn that Red’s hideout belonged to a brilliant writer. No, not Edgar Allen
Poe. It’s one “Frederick Hemstead,” an unpublished genius who thoughtfully stashed
bottles of moonshine about the place before himself expiring, allowing Red to partake
of it liberally.

We head to the Alexandria farmers market, where the Courier will make contact with
Iranian spy Hamid Soroush. Stealthy as always, the FBI manage to bungle the matter
entirely, and as they run about waving their guns in the air like they just don’t
care, the Courier kills the spy and runs away. Agent Malik boosts a car, then rams
it into the Courier’s. He hides behind a building, rips the stitches from a fresh
wound, and sticks a microchip in his arm. Malik and Keen arrest him, and we’re off
to questioning.

The Courier won’t talk, so Ressler squeezes his wounded arm—just a little casual torture,
no biggie. Of course, you can’t hurt the guy that way, as our brainiac agents soon
learn. Another thing they learn: Their little farmers market shoot-out prevented a
$20 million exchange that would have freed the guy in the fridge. The victim turns
out to be an NSA agent privy to super-giant secrets. Next up, Liz asks Red for intel
on the Courier, but must first divulge her current suspicions about Tom’s murderous
past. In exchange, Red explains that the Courier killed two of his own associates
“in an opium den in Cairo.” He thanks Liz for being honest with him concerning her
husband, an expression of deep sadness on his face. Red’s pain: He lives in a world
of deceit and subterfuge that prevents him from getting close to anyone. It’s a pain
that Keen—given the suspicions surrounding Tom—now experiences too. Through their
shared sense of isolation, a bond begins to form.

Searching through the Courier’s personal stuff, Keen finds a photo of him and his
brother as children. She tracks down the sibling, who is in prison, and he explains
that the Courier is helpless—their dad made him fight dogs as a child, so, yeah, he’s
probably a little off. Keen realizes that the Courier can still feel pain in one way:
He cares about the fate of his brother. Meanwhile, the FBI identifies the woman who
gave up the NSA agent to the Courier. She’s a spy-gone-bad named . . . um . . . Shampoo
maybe? I couldn’t quite catch her name. Let’s just call her Shampoo.

Ressler goes to Shampoo’s nightclub posing as the Courier. Dubious, she asks him to
prove that he has congenital analgesia. Speechy time for Ressler, who divulges that
he has lost everything except for his job, so what does he care? Dude. What happened
to Ressler? Is this why he’s such an uptight whiner all the time? Past tragedy? He
and the Courier share a nothing-to-lose approach to life, but in Ressler’s case we
don’t know why. I’m thinking somebody killed a beautiful wife he once had, but that’s
just a hunch based on everything Hollywood has ever produced ever. Shampoo is arrested,
but then released on Red’s suggestion. He goes to the club himself and convinces her
to spill the beans on where she left the NSA guy in exchange for a private jet ride
out of the country.

NSA guy is about to suffocate, so the FBI and, separately, Keen and Red, use maps
and things to try to find him. Through this, Tom keeps calling Keen and telling her
to come home because he has discovered the box full of passports and such. NSA is
unearthed but is no longer breathing. Once resuscitated, he wonders how he will repay
his discoverers for saving his life—Red clearly has a couple ideas on that front.
He wants NSA secrets, and those secrets have everything to do with why he’s teamed
up with this goon squad in the first place.

Profiling away at her desk, Keen receives a delivery. Red has sent her an un-redacted
version of the Angel Station case. We see photos of Tom at the scene and learn the
name of the victim: Victor Fokin. Instead of returning home to confront Tom, she makes
the journey to Charm City once more. She accepts a glass of the house hooch from Red.
“I don’t even know why I’m here,” she says. But we do. Just as the Courier can only
share his pain with his brother—the one person who understands the sheer screwiness
of his dog-fighting youth—Red has become Keen’s closest associate, the only person
she can talk to about the sheer screwiness of her marital situation. At the end of
the episode she goes home, and we watch along with the mysterious surveillance team
(remember them?) as Keen tells her husband they need to talk. “Funny,” he says, “I
was just going to say the same thing to you.”

Lingering questions: I mean, let’s start with the obvious: Is Tom totally being framed,
or did he kill that Russian guy in Massachusetts? Also, what happened to Ressler to
make him such a Debbie Downer? What is Red’s bigger plan, and how does Keen fit in?
Will he ultimately betray her, once he has gained her complete trust? Did he devise
the whole Tom murder thing to bring her closer to him? Finally, what on earth was
that French lady’s name? I could have sworn they were calling her Shampoo.