‘The Blacklist’: Scrambling For A Foothold

Published 1 year ago by

James Spader in The Blacklist season 1 episode 19 The Blacklist: Scrambling For A Foothold

[This is a review of The Blacklist season 1, episode 19. There will be SPOILERS.] 


Too often, The Blacklist is forced to divide its time unevenly between the plotting of Elizabeth Keene’s increasingly awkward and dangerous domestic situation with husband/operative Tom, and the often banal, auxiliary storyline granting the series the procedural element that gives Ressler, Cooper, and Malick something to do. Generally, then, Red falls somewhere between the two, often participating as an omniscient observer, adviser, or all-powerful Svengali, depending on how interested the episode is in advancing the story around him.

For its part, ‘The Pavlovich Brothers’ was touted as “the episode you cannot miss,” promising some kind of interaction between Liz and Tom that would finally bring questions of what he’s been up to and why to light. The confrontation between the two has been a long time coming, as the series has spent most of the season in a state of overemphasized suspense, doling out revelations piecemeal, in an effort to, among other things, establish talking points about the series via a central mystery that offers an incentive to watch beyond the procedural and titular blacklist elements.

If ever there was an episode that could have allowed the series its chance to break away from the procedural, this was it. And for the most part, The Blacklist took that opportunity and ran with it.

In that sense, a surprisingly small portion of the episode actually focuses on the titular brothers Pavlovich and the scientist they kidnapped, due to her connection to a germ warfare program that sounds like it took its name from a ’70s disco outfit. Unless White Fog somehow factors into the larger storyline, the brothers’ plotline is about as ancillary as can be, seeing as their principal function here briefly shifts from packaging a woman in a shipping container, to providing Red with the means to capture Tom and deliver him to Liz. Of course, all of this is before the brothers are ultimately dispatched in a shootout with Ressler and the FBI.

Ryan Eggold and Megan Boone in The Blacklist season 1 episode 19 The Blacklist: Scrambling For A Foothold

The Liz and Tom showdown is the centerpiece of the episode and to the writers’ credit, they at least moved past the issue of the characters hiding their knowledge of one another, to outright confrontation. Liz’s interrogation of her fake husband admirably takes a swing at demonstrating the effect such a grand scale deception might have on a person. But, in a manner indicative of the difficulties The Blacklist has previously had in pinpointing the emotional core of its characters, the scene bunts, resorting to Tom blankly spouting, “I was doing my job,” while Liz’s shakes the series to its core by revealing not only did she never like Tom’s pancakes, she hates pancakes in general!

“This is an end,” Red tells Liz, finding her bruised and alone, pondering Tom’s insistence that he’s one of the good guys. The episode may have been an ending of sorts, but it’s not a conclusive one – which actually works out to be a good thing for The Blacklist, as Tom’s parting gift is yet another suspense-building mystery, itself promising to reveal some truth about Red (a shocking distaste for deviled eggs, perhaps?) that will alter his mysterious relationship with Liz forever.

While the efficacy of continual suspense building in lieu of greater, more meaningful story progression likely depends on the viewer’s level of engagement in the characters outside of Red (i.e., Liz and Tom), ‘The Pavlovich Brothers’ does at least offer one of the series’ better examples of mashing its two primary elements together. We’re no closer to the show demonstrating it is really about something, but one has to applaud The Blacklist for at least sticking to its guns and choosing to jump from mystery to mystery while it figures that out.


The Blacklist continues next Monday with ‘The Kingmaker’ @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below:

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  1. Ressler is Berlin. Something about the way he said Liz was having marital problems.

  2. The show keeps getting better and better. After all of that. Maybe Tom is working for the good guys after all. I cant wait to see what happens next

  3. Can’t wait to see this on Friday. It’s pretty cool because it seems like we finally caught up instead of being several episodes behind.

    Not gonna comment on this episode yet because I obviously haven’t seen it or read the review but I have to say, I can’t agree with any of the negative comments this show has received. I think people these days don’t have enough patience to let the plot play out over the course of a season and then complain that it’s “too slow moving”.

  4. Another great episode in the biggest surprise series of the season!

  5. Problem is, Megan Boone’s acting hasn’t improved during the season so the big “episode you can’t miss” didn’t really deliver. Spader is still terrific but otherwise, this show is still a one trick pony. Maybe they’re setting it up so Boone is killed at the end of the season but if not, I’m having a hard time in continuing to watch the show.

  6. This show is OK, but ranges from very good at times to a bit confusing at others. I do not know if it will merit yet another season after this next one is done. I do kind of like Spader at times, though.

  7. The problem has become, there are two story lines per show, the Blacklist and what is going on between Liz and her assassin husband. Does anyone really care about the Blacklist plot line? I know I haven’t for awhile.

    • The Blacklist plot line feeds the overall Red/FBI/Keen storyline.

      I agree that Megan Boone’s acting is bleh.

      Funny how the Pavlovich Bros are the go-to team for incursion and kidnapping yet were taken down so easily by the FBI when they couldn’t do it before.

      Holes abound… but I still like it.

      Their IT guy has nothing on Felicity, Sky or Claudia. :)

  8. We can all complain about the relative scarcity of substance that the procedural element has every week. I suggest that never really was what this show was about. I see in this show a strong sense of duality. Even if they don’t always get the exact balance right, they are still doing something new and interesting with the concept.

    There are the dual natures of criminality: the “normal” criminals the FBI typically chase, versus the more important ones that Red offers access to (and, then there is the duality between these criminals that Red knows and does not fear, and an even higher echelon of shady actors he fears but does not know). There is also the home/work duality: The things that Liz is dealing with at home (and, in private meetings with Red) is in conflict with the things she’s supposed to be doing at work. We can see by the very way the show is constructed that even though some of these blacklisters are abject monsters, Liz can’t bring herself to pay them an appropriate amount of attention. There’s a woman in a box, but Liz is too preoccupied by Tom to participate in the rescue.

    I like the shifting alliances. First Tom was good, then Red was good, now Tom claims to be good and he seems to have evidence. I’m looking forward to seeing what is on that paper.

    The part of the episode I found myself most frustrated with was the interrogation with Liz and Tom. But then again, most of my frustrations stem from the character of Liz: She’s such an inexperienced rookie and she’s so emotionally drained, that she can’t seem to do anything right. She asks things that were prompted by Red (“Who do you work for?”) and not things that might have more personal importance (“Was any of it real?”, “Was your mission to hurt and/or kill me, eventually?”, etc). She attempts torture and fails so miserably at it that Tom is able to escape. I wish the scene had lasted a little bit longer and that a little bit more substance was revealed, but then again that would have been a betrayal of her character: out of her depth, woefully inexperienced, lacking the important information that the people around her seem to have in droves.

    I was thoroughly entertained by this episode, and am looking forward to see what the consequences are next week.

    • Yeah that’s what I’ve always got from Liz too.

      She was brand new to the FBI at the start of the season and it feels like Red’s the main reason she looks competent, otherwise she’d be completely out of her depth. Which is quite brilliant since most shows of this genre tend to have an expert as the lead character who manages to find the solution quite easily.

      The Pavlovich brothers extracting Tom from that building was pure entertainment, that whole sequence was just brilliant.

  9. Sorry for me this was the worst episode of the lot. Silly platitudes from Red at the end that sound so cliche even coming from her mentor. From breaking surveillance that was set up for her, to staying alone when she interrogates Tom to the obvious busting his thumb as he frees himself from the handcuffs. I was disappointed when I heard he whine not once but twice about the “Love” she had for this man. That girl like spurned anger was beneath the writers, who up until this episode kept the lines at least fresh. In this show each sceen could have been lifted from any show from “Everybody Loves Raymond” to “Charlie’s Angles”.

    And the Mustang commercial that “Hints” at the bombshell Tom then drops in the following act about who the bad guy really is. Talk about telegraphing to your audience this was the worst, and the actor playing Tom was even unconvincing in the commercial. Oh let’s not forget that Ressler and Keen go to the first encounter with the Brothers with out any backup, and in their next confrontation the Brothers are for the first time ever over-powered and the scientist is rescued but screaming like this is the first time she has been abducted, or heard gunfire.

    This was such a poor episode like the writers finally ran out of ideas. I’m about done with this show if next week doesn’t keep telegraphing what is going on.