‘Kuwait’ is one of those very rare episodes of The Blacklist which doesn’t have a Blacklister as its title, which generally presages A Very Special. This one isn’t, though, and it’s a slightly odd choice, as there’s a perfectly good megavillain whose name could have been used.
All in good time. We start in Kuwait in 1989, with Cooper – then serving in the Middle East – under fire while sharing a vehicle with Daniel Hutton, a colleague who then went missing, presumed dead. But someone claiming to be Hutton has turned up at a CIA outpost in Iran. Cooper, of course, feels duty bound to travel to Iran to confirm his identity and bring him home, and he’s accompanied by Red, for reasons which never really feel sufficient – Cooper is planning to tell Panabaker Red’s real identity, and Red has the dirt on what Cooper was up to that day in 1989 when he came under fire. The real reason, one suspects, is that the writers wanted to put Red and Cooper in a men-on-a-mission situation, and I’m good with that.
In Iran, Cooper meets Hutton at the CIA, and discovers that he was traded, tortured, caged, and so on, all under the direction of The Simoon, a mysterious, legendary and long-standing scourge of US forces in the Middle East. And The Simoon is after them – willing, picturesquely, to “burn the city” to find them – so they need to return to the airstrip stat. On the way, though, they get stopped at a roadblock, and Cooper is himself thrown into a cage. As ever this calls for a Red-inspired deus ex machina, and Ressler and Francesca are back in America making contact with one of Red’s familiars in order to bring it about. “Mr Reddington called in a drone strike. From a gaming store”, Aram will later summarise. Indeed Red did, and he also gets his way: Cooper meets Panabaker, and doesn’t disclose Red’s real identity. But he does hand over evidence about what he, Cooper, was up to in Kuwait all those years ago. (It seems to have been a payment of cash money to the Kurds; a payment which was both authorised and not authorised. Or something.)
There is, however, a real danger that my irritation with the Katarina Rostova arc will overshadow my enjoyment of the rest of The Blacklist. To recap: Liz is not only a highly-trained FBI agent, but one who works for a top secret task force, which might incline one to even greater circumspection. She has had to go through, over the past six seasons, quite the most remarkable crash course in deceitful behaviour, on the part both of others and herself. She lives under an assumed name. And she knows that her mother might be trying to gain access to her.
And yet she is, apparently, quite willing to welcome a complete stranger of around her mother’s age into her life; to confide in her that there are people outside the apartment block who are “there for my protection… from my mother”; to consult her about the recruitment of a nanny; to allow her to babysit her daughter; and, apparently, to turn a blind eye to such raised-eyebrow glance-to-camera dialogue as “Sometimes people just aren’t who they seem to be” from her. Come off it. I’m absolutely fine with ludicrous fun; in fact, the older I get the more I realise that’s sufficient for most of my TV viewing needs. But this isn’t that. It’s just stupid. At this stage my feeling is that the only possible justification for this plot is that Liz actually knows. I haven’t looked for spoilers, so I have no idea whether that’s the case. But if it isn’t I may throw something at the screen. The rest of the episode, though, was fine.