Original air date: April 30, 2021
The Task Force hatches a plan to steal a Soviet-era cipher machine needed to decrypt coded messages. Townsend puts Liz’s loyalty to the test. Red and Dembe are called to an unexpected meeting.
* * *
Please hurry, Ms. Keen. He doesn’t like to be kept waiting.
Is this how it works around here?
[FINGERS SNAP] He snaps his fingers and everyone just trembles?
If they have any sense.
Aren’t you coming?
TOWNSEND: Ah. Thank God you’re here. The boys and I were chatting about failed expectations. I’ll catch you up. First I said… “Kansas was an awful bloodbath, and, sure, that was fun, but you let Reddington get away.” Then they said, “So sorry. We promise to do better next time. Please, Neville, what about my wife and kids?” To which I said, “Wife and kids? What about my wife? What about my kids?”
Why? Because I stabbed a man who was suffocating? I suppose that was rather crazy of me. Almost as crazy as partnering with an FBI agent.
You find him at his girlfriend’s.
You have him at gunpoint, but somehow he gets away.
Why is that? Why don’t I have everything you promised me, Agent Keen?
I have a lead.
I can prove he’s N-13 and that he’s in communication with the Russians.
Do you, now?
I suppose there’s only one way to find out. Go. Pursue. Live the dream. But, Elizabeth…
Don’t disappoint me again.
Anne? Stay with me.
Belsky reached out. He said it’s urgent.
Anne had a daughter. Has a daughter.
You must put that behind you. Belsky has information that concerns Townsend and Elizabeth.
Then I suppose we’ll act on it.
Raymond, there’s something else. Paula called.
Glen’s mother, Paula?
Yes. She wanted you to call or come by the house. And then she said something about “new irons in the fire.” Hot ones, she said.
[LAUGHS] Oh, my God. Sounds like she’s dating.
[CHUCKLES] That’s what I said.
And she laughed and said, “No, nothing like that. This is business. Serious business.” And then she said, “Alright, then, Dembe. I’ll see you and Raymond at the house.”
What happened to Bill and Steven?
She knows, Raymond.
Histiaeus. What’s to be learned from him, other than tyranny and duplicity?
There you have it. The history of mankind… Tyranny and duplicity.
[CHUCKLES] You’ve come a long way from the 8th Directorate, comrade… Uh, Professor Belsky. Although I see your affinity for authoritarians hasn’t changed.
Histiaeus wanted to organize a revolt but feared discovery by the Persians, so he shaved the hair of his favorite slave and had the treasonous message tattooed on his head.
When the hair grew back, he sent him off to spread the word, which became the first recorded act of steganography in warfare. Of course, my KGB ciphers are no more relevant today than tattooing a head, so you can imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this.
COOPER: I don’t understand. Are you getting leads from a psychic now?
RED: To predict the future? I don’t know, Harold. At $5.99 a minute, Madame Zorba might be a bargain at twice the price. If there was a Madam Zorba. But there isn’t.
You’re showing me a fake ad?
It’s not an ad. It’s a message. A code that I believe Townsend and Elizabeth may be using to communicate with an associate.
“Love is a knot that even death cannot untie.” It sounds more like a Hallmark card than a code.
Having failed to kill me, I suspect Elizabeth and Townsend may be planning to move against those around me… In my world and possibly in yours.
Her fight is with you, not us.
Yes, but you’re with me, and she’s with Townsend, who takes great pride in displaying his utter disregard for human life. “Love is a knot” isn’t an aphorism. It’s a clue to decrypting the code. As you well know, during the Cold War, nobody mastered the art of clandestine communication better than the Soviets, their pièce de résistance being a cipher machine capable of encrypting or decrypting text into 10 different languages. The Russkiy Uzel… The Russian Knot. The Kremlin destroyed most of them just prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, so Lord knows how Townsend got his hands on one, but clearly he did, and if we want to decrypt that message, we need to get one, too.
Somehow I don’t think this is something we can order on Amazon.
The only other machine I know of is on display in a museum in Minsk. Beautiful city. Amazing opera house. I’d forgotten how beautiful until yesterday.
You were just in Minsk?
Yes. In order to make a generous donation to said museum from a private collection.
Nana was born in Minsk. I can think of no better way to honor her passing than with this gift.
You gave the museum a Cézanne?
A stolen one, which, like all good and greedy bureaucrats, they’re trying to decide whether to report. Imagine their embarrassment when the FBI finds it in their possession.
You donated the painting. Now you want us to go and get it back.
Yes. Along with the Russian Knot.
And why would they give us that?
Last I checked, your country had sanctions in place against both the president of Belarus and his son. They’re not giving you anything.
You want us to steal it.
Of course. What the hell do you think we’ve been talking about?
ARAM: Okay, this cipher machine is actually The hpretty fascinating. You use the little keyboard to type up your message, which it then jumbles into a random series of letters. Then, on the receiving end, you need another machine to turn the gobbledygook back into regular text.
RESSLER: Okay, but this thing’s like 50 years old. I mean, can’t you crack the billboard code without it?
Well, it’s not exactly Orphan Annie’s decoder ring. The complexity of the Knot’s algorithm compounds every letter after it is entered, netting us a trillion, trillion, trillion…
[KEY CLACKS, BEEPING]
PARK: I know we’d like to find out what Keen and Townsend are up to, but are we really talking about robbing the Belarusian War Museum?
I, uh… I feel like we’ve done worse.
Reddington made it clear there’s no diplomatic angle here. Townsend has illicit relationships with the Council of Ministers. If we reach out for help, he’ll be tipped.
Yeah, but to what? We don’t even know what Keen’s planning.
Okay, Ruddiger, what do ya got?
[CHUCKLES] This bores through rock using ultrasonic vibrations.
Ha ha! Hell of a lot quieter, too.
It’s not very deep. Don’t we need to get through two feet of concrete?
Only needs to be deep enough for the SCDA to do its thing and to keep me out of the boss’s heavy bag. Of course, what you gain in noise reduction, you lose in predictability. It takes time to heat up and expand, for the pressure to build, until finally… Boom.
Talk to me about access.
Once we’re in, we need a way to smuggle the cipher device out.
The lab’s mocking up a fake to leave in its place as we speak.
We’ll need to loop the security feeds to make the swap.
Okay, but how do we gain entry into their security passage?
ESI: Silva Terzian. Immigrated from Armenia. Gets a tea at the same café every morning before she goes to work.
She’s our in.
Pack it up. It’s time to go.
Wait. Like, now? Why so soon?
COOPER: The breach happens Friday night. That’s when the museum is hosting its fundraiser. Staff won’t like the FBI presence, won’t want to cause a scene in front of the donors, which means they’re more likely to fall for our diversion.
Oh! I am so sorry!
No, it’s okay.
Let me help you with that.
Don’t… Don’t worry about it.
Oh, hey! You forgot your wallet.
COOPER: Anyone unclear? Any questions?
I think the big question is, what’s Liz really up to?
If we’re successful in bringing this device home from Minsk, we have a good shot at finding out.
[SPEAKING RUSSIAN] What’s going on? Something wrong?
Let me know if we have a problem.
ESI: At the terminus, go left. Then straight ahead 200 feet. Once you’re on site, you need to be 12 feet, 2 inches off the center of the north wall.
MUSEUM DIRECTOR: Your credentials appear to be in order, but I’m afraid you’re in the wrong country.
COOPER: I go wherever he takes me. Notorious fugitive Raymond Reddington. I’m told you accepted a stolen painting from him.
He called himself Lloyd Wilke.
I could alert INTERPOL. I’m sure they’d love to swarm your museum and arrest you as an accomplice after the fact. But that might kill the mood of this lovely evening.
Yes. That would be terrible.
Or you could have your people show my team your security feeds while I look at that Cézanne.
Alright. You get started. I got the sensors.
Beautiful city, by the way. It’s true what they say. Minsk isn’t just concrete. There is some really beautiful concrete.
Hey, Aram. It’s Cooper. Something about a legal attaché. We’ll catch up in a second.
[CONVERSING IN RUSSIAN] We need to pull up the logs from Tuesday afternoon.
What for? Who’s this?
American cowboy. Real big gun.
ARAM: Not trying to cowboy anyone, guys. Just want to take a quick peek at the footage.
[SPEAKING RUSSIAN] Excuse me. Where is the restroom? Small bladder. Friends call me… Peanut.
On the left.
On the left. Thank you.
Sensors are down.
The Task Force.
What the hell are they doing here?
What do you think? Reddington must have sent them to get the device before we can. We have to hurry.
RESSLER: Hey, Aram, we’re in place.
ARAM: Okay, just give me a minute to record enough footage to loop the feeds.
That him? In the hat?
Yeah, that’s him. Where’s Peanut?
Okay. The cameras are bypassed. You’re good to go.
Okay. Any minute now.
Don’t answer that. It’s about to blow.
I just had a dream about you.
I’m sorry, Neville. Now’s not a good time.
No, don’t interrupt or I’ll forget. I was at a wedding, about to greet the bride and groom, but everyone was crying. And suddenly I realized… This isn’t a wedding. It’s a funeral.
Aram, we’re ready to open the case. Are the sensors down?
ARAM: Uh, guys? This is weird, but the sensors are already off.
I hate funerals. I’m absolutely squeamish about open caskets. I was terrified. And that’s when I felt someone squeeze my hand. And it was you. You were holding my hand. And I wasn’t afraid anymore. Oh, and guess who was in the casket.
LIZ: I don’t know.
Reddington. And he looked hideous, all sunken and yellow.
I’m sorry, Neville. I really have to…
I know I was harsh before, but this dream is a good sign. I am rooting for you, Elizabeth.
I gotta go.
He said he had a dream about me.
He is creepy.
What the hell’s going on?
What are you doing?
The badge. I left it in the furnace room.
Forget the badge!
We can’t get through the security gate without it.
We’ll go on foot!
I’ll be back. I’ll meet you in the van.
PARK: It’s her. She’s in the building. Keen’s got the cipher!
RESSLER: Aram, tell me you have eyes.
ARAM: Got her. Basement, near the east stairwell. Agent Park is right around the corner.
It really is a lovely piece.
[CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYING]
[UP-TEMPO MUSIC PLAYING]
I always wanted a hero moment. I got the badge. Let’s go! Grab the Knot!
Yeah, I got it. I’m right behind you.
RESSLER: Where’s Park? What, are you gonna shoot me? For this?
You don’t understand. I’m dead without the device that’s in that bag.
Shoot me, then. Show me there’s nothing left of the old Elizabeth Keen.
The cipher. I have to have it.
Why? You mean for Townsend so we can’t read his messages?
Townsend? He doesn’t know I’m… Why would you say that?
ESI: Liz, where are you?
Liz, we need to go right now.
RESSLER: Park! Hey.
Is she okay?
PARK: Yeah. I’m okay.
Where’s Liz? Where’d she go?
You’re not taking the painting?
My concern is finding Reddington. Agents from our Art Theft unit will be in touch, and they’ll want to discuss the details.
RESSLER: We got a problem.
What kind of problem?
A Liz Keen problem.
PAULA: My pumpkin cheesecake thumbprints are sort of legendary. They were Glen’s favorite.
Thank you, Paula.
Yes. Thank you, Paula.
You’re welcome, Steve, Bill.
Paula, is there anything you’d like to tell us?
I used canned pumpkin.
Ahh. You know who I am.
I do. I am so sorry. I know it’s a big secret.
How did you find out, Paula?
I found this under Jelly’s bed. I say “manuscript,” but it’s really more of a memoir.
Glen was writing a book?
About your time together, the hijinks and shenanigans.
Oh, don’t worry. I don’t think he sent it to any publishers yet.
I can’t believe this.
Me too! It makes a whole lot more sense than Jelly being Huey Lewis’ muse.
Paula, why are you telling me all of this now?
That’s the thing. I’ve been retired from Ma Bell for some time now, and I’ve been keeping to my budget, but after Jelly died, without his income, um, things have gotten sort of… tight. Now, I-I’m not asking for a handout. I went back to work at the phone company part-time, but if you could maybe lend me…
How much do you need?
$172. And I’ll pay it back with interest. Or I could work it off, pressing that suit or maybe cooking you two a nice cream can dinner.
Well, that does sound nice, but, Paula, this is a gift… One I offer you in exchange for your continued discretion.
No gifts. I have to insist on paying you back.
Then let’s just say I’m purchasing Glen’s manuscript.
Well, that would mean a lot to him.
You say you’ve gone back to work at the phone company?
Yeah, the cellular one, the big one. 18 hours a week now. Why do you ask?
What on earth?
COOPER: Reddington must have donated the painting so he could case the museum.
What do you think he was after?
PARK: The Russian Knot.
That machine is one-of-a-kind.
COOPER: Lucky we stopped him.
Yes. Thank God for the FBI.
Your local police are gonna want to secure the area. We should clear everyone out.
Tell me that was the fake.
Hm. Thank God for the FBI.
COOPER: We got the device, and the Art Theft unit got the Cézanne.
RED: Excellent. Please tell me you made it to the opera.
We didn’t. Keen made sure of that.
Oh, of course. She was there.
That’s what I can’t square… Is the “of course” of it all. You told me that she and Townsend were using one of these devices to encrypt their communiqués, that you’d intercepted those communiqués but couldn’t decrypt them unless we went to Minsk and got the other device.
Something Elizabeth would never have wanted you to do.
What I can’t square is how she knew we were doing it.
Or why, when I mentioned Townsend’s name, Keen acted like he had no idea she was there.
Well, I can’t speak to any of that, but all that matters is that you have the device and I have the ability to show you how to use it to read the text on that billboard, which I’ll do as soon as I finish with a pressing appointment.
More pressing than stopping Townsend and finding Elizabeth?
For the moment.
Paula, tell me something good.
Well, you know Ernie in billing has had his eye on me since his missus passed, so I took him up on an offer to have dinner at Perkins. I sort of sweet-talked him. Anyway, I told him I did one of those spit tests, found out I had a half-sister, and was just desperate to get an address.
Emma Foster. Date of birth, address, phone number.
And he just went and got it for you?
I always told Jelly you get more bees with honey.
You are the bee’s knees, Paula.
Oh, and what’s this?
A receipt from Perkins. If it’s not too much, I’d like to get reimbursed for the chicken dinner. Ernie wanted to go Dutch.
LIZ: Reddington’s lying to you.
You want to tell me about it? How about you turn yourself in?
He told you I wanted the device to keep him from reading messages between me and Townsend.
Yeah, a theory you proved by trying to prevent us from getting it.
I wasn’t there to keep you from reading my messages. I was there to get it so that I could read his.
Wait. The billboard’s his?
Billboard? I don’t know anything about a billboard. What I know is Reddington uses the Knot to decrypt messages in classified ads in The Washington Post.
If he’s decrypting messages using a Russian Knot, then why send us to Minsk to get another one?
So that I couldn’t read what he and his handler are saying to each other. That’s who he’s talking to. If I can prove he’s talking to the Russians…
You can prove he’s N-13.
I am not the enemy. He is. Please. Let me prove it to you.
Keen wants to meet.
What she wants is to destroy the device so we can’t know what she and Townsend are planning.
No, I think she wants to use the device to prove that Reddington’s communicating with his Russian handler.
I feel like we should at least hear her out.
You think we should give her a big hug.
She probably needs one. Look, the Russian Knot is a relic of the Cold War that creates an analog code. Newspaper classifieds barely exist anymore. This sounds a lot more like Mr. Reddington than it does Agent Keen or Neville Townsend.
I appreciate your reluctance, Agent Park, but if there’s a chance this could finally prove that Reddington’s a Russian agent, I think we need to hear what Agent Keen has to say.
She’s gonna want to know that I have your word on this, that we’re not gonna double-cross her.
You have it. Now call her back.
[PHONE CLICKS, SPEED-DIALING]
Cooper signed off. Tell me how this is gonna work.
Grab a pen. And listen carefully.
This is Assistant Director Harold Cooper, authorization code 39587. I need to requisition a team for surveillance and apprehension.
Who is it?
RED: Emma Foster?
My name is Farwell Smith. Your mother’s attorney.
You worked with my mom?
I helped her with some of her estate planning.
She never mentioned you.
Most of my clients don’t mention me to their children. Wills and trusts can be awkward. It’s all part of the job, in order to deliver a little bit of good news at an otherwise mournful time.
I’m… I’m sorry. I thought you knew. Anne passed away.
I am so sorry for your loss.
Hey, Keen. I’m here.
LIZ: There’s a man selling pretzels at the 72nd street crossover above the fountain. Buy one.
COOPER: He’s headed into the park. Keen knows our vehicles will have to pull back. Beta team, stand down.
Delta, can you go on foot?
Drop your cell in the trash.
Down the steps, by the fountain.
I don’t have a visual. Somebody get me eyes.
Beta, clear emergency access.
So you have bodyguards now.
Is that it?
You have Reddington’s ad?
Did Reddington tell you how he knew I’d be in Minsk?
I think he thinks I told you. Guess that’s the romantic in him.
Okay. Enter the number first.
That belong to your mother? Please tell me that you at least tried calling that.
It’s not a phone number. It’s a key meant to orient the machine’s settings. And, yes, this book belonged to my mother, along with a storage locker filled with half-solved clues about Reddington and a series of encrypted messages.
There’s more than one?
And if we can decrypt this one, we can decrypt all of them.
Okay. Now what?
The circled letters, in order.
DELTA TEAM LEADER: I have eyes. Should we move in?
Yes, but keep your distance until units are in place. We don’t know what kind of protection she has, and I want to keep this clean.
LIZ: C. M. A. That’s it.
You okay? Keen, what is it?
I don’t know how Reddington knew I was coming. I don’t know how he knows half the things he does. But I do know that I’m right about this. I just wish you’d believe me.
I do believe you.
[SCOFFS] I wish you didn’t need proof.
That’s the message? Numbers?
I don’t understand.
Maybe we did it wrong. I mean, maybe we need to try again.
Damn it. Keen, hey! This isn’t me! Hey!
Send them in. Now.
COOPER: We’re made. Go. Now! Move in.
Keen, wait! They lied to me!
Keen. Hey. Stop. Stop. Keen, they lied to me. I had no idea. I swear.
Oh, my God.
She’s somewhere under the terrace.
All units, move in. I repeat, move in now.
EMMA: This can’t be right.
Your mother had a considerable estate.
We talked about it as recently as a year ago.
I was gonna get like $3,000, not $3 million.
Perhaps she wanted it to be a pleasant surprise.
Did you know she was in love with a wanted fugitive?
She told you that?
She called last week, about him and how these people had come to where she lived to kill him. I tried asking her what was going on, but all she wanted was for me to protect myself, that the people who were after him might come after her or me. I thought it was crazy talk. But she insisted I drop everything and… go into hiding. So I came here and waited. She told me she was hoping to stay with a friend in a cabin on a lake, and she’d call me when everything settled down. That was the last time I ever spoke to her.
I don’t know what to say.
Did you know her well?
Then you can understand why I want to remember her love and kindness, not her connection to a criminal. I can’t do that if any of this money comes from him. Can you promise me that it doesn’t?
I can’t promise you that. But I can promise you that your mother wanted you to have everything that she could possibly give you. That would include this. Think about it. You could always donate it to charity, set up a scholarship. Put on a play. At the very least, pay all your bills, buy something for yourself, and then, if you want, you can give the rest of it away. Just think about it.
How did she die?
It was an accident.
Caused by the fugitive?
No. But he… He was responsible.
Tell me, a man like that… Do you think he’ll ever get what’s coming to him?
ESI: You’re crazy. You do know that.
I like to think of it as determined.
Yeah, determined to get yourself killed. And for what? We couldn’t crack the code. You had the messages and the machine to decrypt it, and what did you get? A whole lot of nothing.
I must be missing a step… An input my mom didn’t know about.
Say there is, and we figured it out. You think the FBI’s letting you near that machine again? Ressler gave you a shot. He’s not giving you another one.
How did Reddington know we’d be in Minsk? We didn’t tell anybody. We found the folder of classified ads. We reviewed my mom’s notes on encryption. We were told we needed the Russian Knot to decrypt it, and we went to Minsk to try and get it, but where’s the opening for Reddington in that?
We trusted you.
And I value that trust, but I value my life more.
Which is why you told Reddington.
I was told to report any inquiry about a code that requires the Russian Knot to decrypt. He was quite clear on how important that was to him, and I know what that means.
So the minute we showed you the ads, you showed him.
PROFESSOR BELSKY: She heard I was an expert on the Russian Knot. She knew the ads were a code and was hoping I could decrypt them.
“Mid-30s. Brown hair. Blue eyes.”
Well, I didn’t tell him it was you, but he seemed to know that already.
You told me I needed a Russian Knot to decrypt the message. Well, I got one, and I still can’t read it!
There are keys. You need them to read the code.
I had them. The phone number.
[SCOFFS] Well, maybe there are more, or the ones you had were wrong.
Well, give me the right ones, then!
I don’t know them!
Well, then find me a person who does!
The only person who has the keys is the one who encrypted the message.
DEMBE: Is there anything on Elizabeth?
Not a word.
Dembe has the faith that comes from belief. All I have are questions. Why, how, what for, was it worth it?
The answer’s no. Whatever the outcome, it most certainly was not.
Well, at least you have it.
I do. Along with the hope that I’m not being played.
Alright. First, type in the telephone number. I assume the Cézanne has been returned to its rightful place at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford?
Now the first letter of each word in order. I gave up the commission on the sale of a $20-million painting and enraged the consigliere who entrusted me with the task. Do you really think I’d do all that just to play you, Harold?
A bunch of numbers?
Yes, until you substitute each number for the corresponding letter of the alphabet… 1 becomes A, 2 becomes B, and so forth. Do you have a pen? Ah, good. Alright, let’s hurry. I’m morbidly curious to find out what painful end Elizabeth has in store for me.
COOPER: The code was the address for some abandoned warehouse, a date, and a time.
PARK: Instructions for a hit.
But the device was spitting out random numbers. What… What were we missing?
One more step. Each number in the sequence represents a corresponding letter of the alphabet.
So the billboard was a message.
Which means Reddington told us the truth, and Keen didn’t.
I understand why you’re upset. I wasn’t honest with you. For what it’s worth, I wish I’d been wrong to doubt your judgment about Keen.
You were wrong.
How can you say that?
She said this was about keeping her from Mr. Reddington’s intel when we now know it was about keeping him from reading hers.
Look. I know that’s what it looks like.
It looks that way because it is that way. You need to accept that.
[SCOFFS] Why? So you stop following me?
Hello, Paula! Thank you for coming. How was the drive? Did Dembe talk your ear off?
[CHUCKLES] It was just great. Sometimes I like to lean my head on the window next to me so I can feel all of the little bumps on the road, and my vision starts to flutter and I just space out, like I’m in a dream.
That sounds nice. You know what also sounds nice? Employment.
Did you get a new job?
I did not. I’m offering one.
[CHUCKLES] What kind of job?
A service provider.
Are you asking me to find people for you? Like Jelly Bean did?
Why don’t we sit, have a cup of tea, share some tawdry tales, have a laugh or two, and then we’ll drive you home. You can put your head up against the glass and go to your happy place, and I can tell you what it is I have in mind.
Thank God you’re alright, Keen.
I don’t even know why I’m returning this call.
Look. I’m sorry. They used me to lure you out.
Yeah, well, a lot of good that did.
You’re right. But at least now I know what those numbers mean.
Because Cooper handed the device over to Reddington.
So they decoded his fake message. They think I’m a liar.
No, but I don’t, and I’ll prove it. I know the step that you’re missing. Look. Each number stands for a letter… 1 is A, 2 is B, 3 is C.
They’re using alphanumeric substitution.
Hang on. Okay. 17 is Q. 16 is O. No. 16 is P. 18 is R. 1 is A. 14.
2 is B. Wait a minute. That doesn’t make any sense.
What does it say, Keen?
QPRANPB. It’s not a word.
Maybe it’s backwards or the letters of each word are jumbled. I mean, Reddington told us this is how it works. It has to say something.
Oh, my God. That’s it. The Cyrillic alphabet.
We translated the numbers into English because that’s what Reddington did, but his message was a fake meant to throw us off.
DECOY WORKED. SITUATION AVERTED.
Oh, my God.
Keen, what does it say?
“It’s time. Mobilize assets.”
A message from a Russian handler to a Russian spy.
But what does he mean? “It’s time.” Time for what?
Rise and shine, sleepyhead!
You wanted proof? I got your proof. Proof that Reddington is N-13. Proof that he’s responsible for what happened to your family. And proof that my mother was innocent.
I can walk you through the details after you catch your breath and after you get it through your thick skull that you do not threaten me! Because while we may be partners in this hunt, I do not work for you!