Liz (Megan Boone) and her team try to track down a hacker who has stolen a valuable NSA device on this week’s The Blacklist. After an NSA employee is killed in a car accident when his airbag prematurely deploys, the Project Skeleton Key device is stolen from his passenger seat. Initially, all signs point to Ivan, a cyber criminal formerly associated with Red (go figure). In an attempt to coerce a confession out of him, Red (James Spader) and the team fly to Minsk, Belarus, where Red meets with Ivan and stages an escape from the FBI. After Ivan admits that he had nothing to do with the Skeleton Key’s disappearance, Liz’s team finds the real culprit: a high school student with an obsessive crush on his classmate, whose father happens to be the project leader.
The episode’s more interesting, serialized storyline involves Tom’s (Ryan Eggold) attempts to keep his identity secret after murdering Jolene (Rachel Brosnahan). A detective visits Tom and Liz’s house to inquire about Jolene’s disappearance. Liz turns to Aram (Amir Arison) to find out Jolene’s true identity. Thinking that she put Tom’s life in danger by having Jolene so close to them, Liz vows to find her. When she stumbles upon Tom’s hideout, he narrowly escapes without Liz catching a glimpse of him. She asks the lead detective to email her photos of the remaining evidence in the lair, leading to the episode’s big revelation.
While this B story effectively grips the audience and makes the episode worthwhile, Liz continues to play the naïf at times. From her needless guilt for putting Tom in danger to accusing Red of ruining her happy life, she spends way too much time in denial, only showing her clever side at the conclusion. She catches Tom practically red-handed at his lair but still can’t connect the dots. Nonetheless, the writers made the right choice in not delaying the revelation another week, allowing Liz to show some wit before the episode came to a close. Red repeatedly holds his tongue despite knowing the truth, deciding that Liz must figure it out and choose to believe it for herself. When she finally does, he consoles her with a music box that plays a song from her childhood. She breaks down in his arms, signifying that her trust in him has finally been solidified.
The A plot of the episode, while significantly less enthralling, has an admirable twist that steers us away from the typical Blacklist villains. The theft of a device as critical as the Skeleton Key would seem to indicate that a very diabolical cyber-terrorist plot may unfold. Yet, the anti-social Harrison merely wants the company of Abby, his classmate who will be relocated if her father continues as the project leader. Although he triggered the NSA employee’s airbag to deploy, he had no intention of killing him or using the Skeleton Key to harm anyone. It comes off as a bit cliché for him to be stalking Abby, as stalkers typically become violent. However, maintaining a distance is what causes Harrison to idolize her and go to such desperate lengths to keep her in his life. Liz demonstrates her profiling skills by identifying with Harrison and preventing him from ending his life (and hers) when his plan to woo Abby goes awry.
“Ivan” features a well executed plot twist in its episodic storyline, but the narrative still takes a backseat to Liz’s series-changing revelation.