NBC’s Blindspot pulled from its own history this week, making a callback to its ninth episode “Authentic Flirt” with its eighteenth, “One Begets Technique.” It’s a decision that some may second-guess as this wasn’t necessarily a story that needed a second chapter and the plot doesn’t flatter any of the show’s main characters – although the final scene takes a step toward giving this series a real shot in the arm.
Gord Enver (Ennis Esmer), the annoying guy who renamed himself Rich Dotcom, is now in prison and just as endearing there as he was playing at being a rich dude. While he’s being deservedly roughed up, Weller (Sullivan Stapleton) has to tell his sister Sarah that the outlook is grim for their father (Jay O. Sanders) who’s now hospitalized, and Mayfair (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) is going outside the FBI to continue her own investigation into who killed Tom Carter.
Meanwhile, Jane (Jaimie Alexander) is struggling with whether or not to follow her latest marching orders to lie to Weller about having recovered fake memories. She hears him come into work after spending the morning at the hospital, and awkwardly asks if there’s anything she can do. “I don’t think anyone can,” he admits, but still earns himself an awkward hug – of course two seconds before his girlfriend Allison (Trieste Kelly Dunn) walks in, because that’s how things happen on TV. (Interestingly, “Authentic Flirt” was also the episode in which Allison first appeared.)
She wants the FBI team’s help in working on information that Gord/Rich has given them about Shohid Ahktar, the terrorist-funding banker that’s number eight on the Most Wanted List. Naturally he only wants to pass this intelligence on to Weller and Jane because he thinks they’re friends even though he doesn’t even know their real names. Gord/Rich thinks he can lure Ahktar with a series of very valuable stolen paintings, facilitating a deal within 72 hours if the FBI team keeps him from being murdered in custody. “You just got the band back together,” he quips while Weller considers playing the drums on his skull.
While Gord/Rich comments on Weller and Jane’s chemistry with Allison standing right next to him, he also reveals that he lied initially and does not actually possess the paintings. He’s expecting the FBI to steal them from the home of the art historian and former Marine who originally lifted them in the first place (that’d be Neil Jackson of Sleepy Hollow fame). Naturally Turner’s house is less a home and more a super-vault and there’s no other way to close the deal without proof of the paintings. Never mind that art seems to be very unlucky for Weller and the CIRG squad.
And never mind that Gord/Rich is using every opportunity to squirm his way onto the operation, which creates professional tension between Weller and his girlfriend. Mayfair argues that the end justifies the means no matter whether her subordinate is happy with it or not. She sends Zapata (Audrey Esparza) and Reade to keep an eye on Turner while Weller, Jane, Gord/Rich and Allison break into the house. Of course he didn’t know that there’s an eye scanner outside the vault and there’s no time to scoop Turner’s eyeballs out, so the team is forced to cause a power cut that alerts Turner to their presence in the house.
This sequence provides some wonderfully deadpan comedic material for Sullivan Stapleton, but otherwise is exactly the heist sequence you’d expect from any other show. While we wonder how Gord/Rich has already learned to call Allison “Allie,” Turner shows up with a sword and starts slashing, which seems fitting if you remember Jackson’s Sleepy Hollow stint but otherwise random. To get rid of Turner before he turns either of the ladies into sushi, Weller is forced to trigger one of his hidden shotguns, which takes Turner out but also blows a hole into one of the paintings.
While one of Gord/Rich’s many black market associates works to repair the damage (which is remarkable only because Weller has to literally hold Patterson back from attacking the condescending guy), Jane naturally must have a conversation with Weller about Allison because again, that’s how things go on TV. Allison shows up another two seconds later to help celebrate the fix and learn where the meeting with Ahktar is set to go down. Gord/Rich muscles his way into taking Jane as his date to another high-end party so that the audience can enjoy another look at Jaimie Alexander in a very expensive outfit.
Said party is even more ridiculous than the one in “Authentic Flirt” and equally not entertaining. The host is played by Ajay Naidu, whom you may recognize from his role as Samir in the cult classic movie Office Space. That film was a lot funnier than this awkward scene in which he greets his new guests and begins to inspect the paintings. He deduces that they’re forgeries and shoves a gun into Gord/Rich’s mouth as a few more armed guys storm the party. This swings the FBI into action and suddenly everyone has weapons and everyone is shooting.
Gord/Rich takes a bullet in the leg on the rooftop, but the gun is empty by the time the host takes aim at Jane. The two of them engage in a fistfight while Reade correctly identifies the other party crashes below as members of Pakistani intelligence. In their native tongue he gets them to stop shooting about the same time that Jane knocks out the host. The FBI realizes that Gord/Rich blew his own plan and tipped off the foreign agents, so they rush out just before he parachutes off the roof to meet his friend with the rest of the paintings. His last words are to Jane: “You tell Weller how you feel.”
Mayfair dresses down everyone for missing Gord/Rich’s hidden escape mechanism and not realizing that they were getting misled all along. The show employs a “here’s what happened” type series of flashbacks to show how the entire plot of the episode was one big scheme and all that’s left is a ton of regret. Walking out of the meeting Allison tells her boyfriend that “there’s something between you and Jane” and that she wants some space. It’s ironic because she’s the one who most obviously noted something being between them in her first episode, so it’s not like she just now came to this realization.
Without her Weller returns to the hospital, and he brings Jane. Of course this means Jane has to answer whether or not she remembers Weller’s father; she says she does even as another quick cut to the last episode proves she’s only recalling information gleaned from the photos that Oscar gave her. So why is she going through with Oscar’s orders? Is she trying to give Weller’s father some peace, or is she that on board with Oscar’s plan now, or both? That would be a fine note to end this episode on, but wait there’s more: Mayfair’s ex-girlfriend Sofia (Sarita Choudhury) is appearing in the back of her car.
It’s hard to figure out why “One Begets Technique” had to pick up from “Authentic Flirt” from a story point of view. Gord Enver/Rich Dotcom was a distractingly over the top character when he first appeared and he’s still one now. He’s a wonderful example of the “show, don’t tell” rule of storytelling. All he really does is give running commentary on the relationship between Jane and Weller. His jokes get old very quickly, and while that provides a moment or two of fun reactions from the leads, that only goes so far. So why bring him back instead of coming up with an entirely stand-alone plot?
Maybe because the writers are once again being a little heavy-handed. From an off-camera standpoint, both “Authentic Flirt” and “One Begets Technique” are episodes in which the plot really serves as a device to push the Jane/Weller storyline forward, and “push” is a good way to put it. Gord/Rich is telling Jane and Weller how they feel about one another, and telling the audience the same. Allison spends half the episode showing up just in time to see or hear a moment between her boyfriend and Jane, in what can only be called a case of TV timing. It all sends a message as to what we should be thinking here.
But the ball doesn’t quite make it into the end zone. The episode’s primary goal – to break up Weller and Allison in order to free up Weller to be with Jane – is never convincingly established. Allison never sees anything particularly incriminating, unless she’s so insecure in her relationship with Weller that him offering to look out for Jane during a professional operation bothers her. Gord/Rich says that Weller looks at Jane before he looks at Allison, which might be true, but that’s not necessarily damning: Jane is technically his responsibility so naturally he’s going to look to her first because it’s his job to protect her.
Allison’s stated reason for “needing space” from Weller doesn’t make any sense. It’s the same thing that she brought up herself when she was first introduced. In “Authentic Flirt” she was the one giving Jane advice about Weller and now she’s bothered by the closeness of their relationship? It has stayed the same since the last time she was there. It’s not as if she caught them making out in the locker room. Her feeling of being threatened doesn’t match with her previous characterization, so the only conclusion is that she’s had a change of heart because it’s convenient for the overall story arc that’s been plotted out here.
The last moments of “One Begets Technique” are its best but there’s still a minefield of questions here. We know that Jane lied to Weller and his father, but we don’t know why. There are two possible motives and one makes sense while the other is a reach. If Jane misled them because she doesn’t want to disappoint Weller’s dead (which seems more likely since she starts to tell Weller about seeing the look on his face), that’s altruistic and seems like a very Jane thing to do. If she did it because she’s doing what Oscar told her to do, then we need to understand why she’s had her own change of mind. There’s nothing in the episode that should’ve eroded the opposition she expressed at the end of last week’s installment.
Having Mayfair’s ex-girlfriend Sofia re-emerge could also be a good thing for the show. It would have been a bigger surprise if NBC hadn’t emphasize the Sofia story in the episode’s “previously on,” which isn’t the writers’ fault. But Mayfair has lacked a storyline since Operation Daylight was concluded, so this should give more screen time to Marianne Jean-Baptiste and hopefully open up more plot possibilities with why she’s there – because it’s obviously not just to invite Mayfair out for drinks.
Blindspot is consistent in that it has one of the best casts on television and they can do everything they’re being asked to do. Yet it’s increasingly having more moments where characters and plots aren’t doing things because they make sense or are organic, but instead they’re motivated by a planned agenda of what the writers want or think the fans want. Ideally you want an audience to always be able to understand within the context of the episode or show why characters are behaving the way they do, and not have to spell it out for them. TV viewers are smart, smarter now than they’ve ever been, and this show is certainly capable of taking bigger risks than it is.
Before it starts hauling out more characters from the past, it’s time to just forget any expectations and take that massive leap forward into the future – especially because we already know there’s a whole second season where this series can do anything it wants to do. The only thing that’s holding Blindspot back is whatever other people think it should be. But it’s not other people’s show. It’s a series full of brilliant people and they deserve to tear down the walls like they did at the beginning of the season. Let’s hope that as we close in on the finale, they begin to do just that.
Blindspot airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.