Season 2 Episodes 9 & 10
Red breaks into prison to confront arch criminal Luther Braxton, who's in pursuit of The Fulcrum. Ron Perlman and David Strathairn guest star. Liz undergoes chemical interrogation to unlock memories from her childhood. Ron Perlman, Gloria Reuben and David Straithairn guest star.
Breaking news: Reddington has been apprehended in Hong Kong in full view of the public - and in a tuxedo. After being transferred into the custody of U.S. Marines and hooded, Red is loaded into a Blackhawk and transported to a black-site prison somewhere in the middle of the Bering Sea. The hood comes off at The Factory, designed to drain intel from detainees who have been trained to withstand torture - a veritable slaughterhouse where spies disappear forever. Red sets his site on a guard named Desmond, offering him $50,000 cash in exchange for a word with the warden.
Back in Washington, Cooper's worried. No one seems to know Red's location, and the CIA won't talk. Ressler figures Red wanted to get captured, and Samar theorizes he wanted to be in proximity to something. It takes a while for Ressler to get confirmation that Red is being held at The Factory, which makes Cooper think Red is after a specific prisoner being held there... which he is. Having gained an audience with warden Ramsey Mills, Red inquires after Luther Braxton, who will break out of his solitary cell within 12 hours to steal a classified intelligence packet vital to national security. If Mills doesn't move fast, he and all his guards will die. In fact, Braxton is currently in interrogation, being shocked with more electricity than most humans can withstand. When the lead guard orders Braxton be taken back to his cell, another guard sticks a wire in Braxton's mouth. Braxton sucks the wire down, then swallows.
Cooper finds the Director of Clandestine Services, known henceforth as The Director, and his number two, Kat Goodson, in his office. The Clandestine Service knows all about the relationship between Red and Cooper's task force, and Mills has cabled Red's warning about Braxton. So what's their relationship? It's not long before Liz is presenting the file on Braxton, a meticulous thief wanted by Interpol, who has been sent to The Factory for extraction of secrets stolen from the Chinese and Iranians. Goodson gives the task force authorization to infiltrate The Factory to find Red, just as Braxton uses his regurgitated wire to electrocute the guard bringing his dinner. Klaxons summon The Factory's Extreme Reaction Force (ERF) to Braxton's cell, but he's ready for them, and poof! They're dead. Mills berates Red - how did he know this would happen?! - and offers the latest update: Red is to be evacuated by an incoming team. Red demands Mills radio the chopper with orders to turn around. But the warden is pulled away as Braxton releases his 13 team members from various cells, gathers weaponry and heads to The Nest, the ops center at the heart of The Factory. After taking out most of The Nest's video feeds, Braxton and his men don gas masks, lob tear gas bombs... and moments later, they're in control of The Factory.
A prison employee tries to wave Ressler, Liz and Samar away just as their chopper touches down, and one of Braxton's men, Yousef, starts popping off shots, hitting Samar in the ankle. Ressler and Samar are taken, leaving Liz entirely on her own. Inside, Desmond is still doing his job, transferring Red to a more secure cell. Red promises that his $50K is still on the table - all Desmond has to do is help Red help him stay alive. That's when Braxton's tech Carl invokes The Factory's emergency lockdown sequence: banks of lights blink off as doors automatically lock - only The Nest is still alive. When the call comes in for authentication, Braxton demands to speak to "someone who matters." Meanwhile, Yousef has rigged up Ressler, Samar and some other guards in one of The Factory's torture chambers. They're chained by the neck to the ceiling, with their feet barely touching blocks made slippery by their own blood. With her injured ankle, Samar can barely keep her footing and is thus slowly strangling to death. Back in D.C., a worried Aram tells Cooper they've lost contact with the team, just as Goodson patches a call from Braxton over to her hotshot hostage negotiator Phillip Rosenberg. Braxton has no desire to "dialogue." So when Rosenberg insists on talking to Warden Mills, Braxton quickly obliges, since he's already tied to a nearby chair. But then he shoots Mills dead, and demands to speak with someone of real authority. Once Cooper is on the line, Braxton explains that from here on out, he gets what he needs, or somebody dies. Braxton is the warden now.
Liz is skulking along a darkened hallway when she's apprehended by Red. Getting right to the point, Red claims Braxton is after The Fulcrum, a blackmail file full of proof of the existence of a powerful clandestine organization. If the file's contents were to be made public, some of the most powerful people in the world would be unseated, thus chaos. Red believes information crucial to locating the Fulcrum is at The Factory, which is why both he and Braxton are there. Liz wants to know why Red didn't mention any of this before, but he's only interested in getting her out of there. Of course, Liz won't leave without Ressler and Samar, so Red jogs off to see if any of his "old friends" are among The Factory's prisoners. Before long, Red, Liz, Khan, Quintano and Gernert are sitting in the warden's office, drinking his scotch and hatching a plan. If Braxton is looking for The Factory's archive of secret intel, it would be located in the server room. Since the boiler room is next door, Gernert suggests reprogramming the boiler to overload and explode, taking the server room with it - if they're lucky. The only way into the boiler room is a single, narrow air duct, thus Liz elects herself tunnel rat. But before she can get started, the phone rings. Braxton knows they're there, and he quickly falls into chatting with Red about old times in Belgrade, when besting Red made him a criminal to be reckoned with. Clearly, there's no love lost here. Red promises Braxton he won't get The Fulcrum, but Braxton doubts Red has the balls to stop him.
With Cooper on the line, Braxton moves to the room where Yousef has Samar and Ressler hanging from the ceiling. Braxton explains that since the prison went into lockdown, all the codes that once ran it are no longer valid. The mainframe has generated a master code granting the CIA all access, and this is what Braxton wants. He shoots another guard in the head to underline how bad he wants it. Cooper has 10 minutes to get the master code if he wants to save Samar. Goodson tells Cooper that he can't turn over the code, which they already have, because Braxton doesn't want to use it to break out of the prison. He wants the keys to their entire intelligence network. Cooper gets back on the phone to learn that even if he does hand over the code, Braxton will give him no assurances whatsoever. Indeed, Braxton starts choking the life out of Samar, so Cooper gives over the code and Braxton hangs up. Meanwhile, Aram tells Cooper that there's literally no way to keep Braxton out of the deepest recesses of the country's most secret intelligence network.
Back at the Factory, Khan guides Liz through the ducts to the boiler room, just as Braxton's tech guy Carl uses the master code to access the server room to start rebooting the prison's computer network. Meanwhile, The Director meets with an Egyptian, an Indian, a German and a Chinese person at an undisclosed private club to discuss Braxton's pursuit of The Fulcrum - which proves Reddington doesn't have it. Braxton is a liability, and Red, who's stayed alive all this time by bluffing about The Fulcrum, needs to be eliminated, too. So, the German wonders, would the American public notice if The Factory were to disappear altogether? After the meeting, The Director explains to Goodson the reason why Braxton must be stopped. It's more than just a death toll of thousands. With the keys to the kingdom, Braxton will own every single asset in the free world. Goodson begs for more time, but The Director insists she order the air strike. Now.
Once Liz lets Red and his friends into the boiler room, Gernert discovers a big problem: redundant computerized safeguards. Someone will have to manually override the system and reset the pressure relief valve until the boiler hits 700 PSI. Then whoever mans the controls will have 10 to 20 seconds to bail out before the boiler explodes. Red's pals want out, but Liz is determined that the two of them can handle it. Back in D.C., Aram receives confirmation that two F-22s are headed to The Factory with an ETA of 24 minutes. Cooper orders Aram to get Goodson on the phone as Carl begins extracting The Factory's data, and Liz and Red start driving up the boiler pressure. This is when Liz decides to press Red: why can't he allow Braxton to get his hands on The Fulcrum? Red explains that the secret power cabal believes that he has The Fulcrum; it's the reason he's still alive. So is all this about self-protection? Explaining that he was once reasonably normal, Red relates a parable to indicate that he's become hideous through the evolution of surviving. The only thing he knows right now is that he didn't want Liz to follow him to The Factory - and if he doesn't stop Braxton, he'll discover he can't get The Fulcrum without Liz. Just then, Braxton's men start shooting through the door. Liz and Red are returning fire when the boiler explodes. Liz emerges unscathed, but Red is unconscious and trapped under a door. Since The Factory's computer systems have been knocked out, Liz knows it's only moments before Braxton's men descend... and descend they do, taking her captive.
We pick up where the last episode left off: two raptors have just firebombed The Factory, per the CIA's directive. The blast has nearly destroyed the room where Ressler and Samar have been hanging from the ceiling by chains, allowing Ressler to get free, kill their captors and save Samar from strangling to death. Red revives to find himself alone, no Liz, no Braxton - but he does find a working shortwave radio. With all communications down, Cooper wants Goodson to send in the Coast Guard, but she insists the bombing never happened. If Cooper wants to press matters, he will be relieved of duty. Fully aware of this scenario, Red starts wiring up his shortwave, hoping to get a signal out before The Factory slips into the ocean and everyone on the rig drowns.
Liz wakes up on a medevac helicopter, which lands at a hospital outside Juno, Alaska. Luckily Aram has picked up the flight, so Cooper dispatches a TAC team that IDs Braxton, as he pushes Liz's gurney into a waiting vehicle. Aram taps all surveillance cameras within a one-block radius, just as Red's SOS signal comes through. Cooper tells Goodson that he's calling the Coast Guard whether she likes it or not. Red, Ressler and Samar are rescued, while Braxton has Liz waterboarded at the bottom of a drained pool enclosed in his Alaskan safe house. Looking for specific memories from childhood, Braxton is frustrated when the waterboarding fails to produce anything. Liz must have repressed these memories so deeply that she actually doesn't remember. But Braxton has an ace up his sleeve in the form of neurologist Selma Orchard, an expert on the tetL gene, and a chemically enhanced process called recovered extinction. Using this therapy, she once helped Braxton deal with unpleasant incidents from the first Gulf War. Now Braxton has kidnapped Orchard's young son Max to persuade her to use the inverse of this process, recovered memory (RM) therapy, to help Liz remember the trauma of her youth.
Having scored a phone off one of Braxton's dead men, Red calls, promising that when Braxton makes a mistake, he'll be there to say, "I told you so." Braxton announces his intention to find the answers he seeks in Liz's head, then crushes his phone. Red turns to Samar and orders her to look for known associates of Braxton with a background in neurology, and it's not long before Aram sends the crew off to hunt for Orchard. But how does Red know Braxton is searching for a memory Liz has no memory of...? Meanwhile, in a private club, the shadowy international cabal lays into The Director for the botched missile strike on The Factory, but he's not bothered. He's got a plausible cover story for the loss of life, and "people" working on procuring both Red and The Fulcrum.
Back at Braxton's safe house, Orchard is pumping Liz full of the risky pharmaceutical cocktail that, together with hypnotherapy, makes up RM therapy, which is kinda like lucid dreaming on steroids. Liz doesn't want to go back, but within moments she's sitting next to her four-year-old self in a closet when a man wearing a ruby ring, whom we'll call Ruby, hands her a live rabbit and an order to hush. They're hiding while a man and a woman argue. When another man joins the argument, we hear Ruby say, "We're dead. We're all dead." Both the rabbit and Little Lizzie scamper further into the closet until they emerge in a snowy Christmas tree lot. When Braxton hears Liz laughing, Orchard tells him that Liz is likely experiencing a tangent memory as her mind tries to replace a terrible memory with something good. But the past is turning dark, as Little Lizzie runs into the arms of a strange man, and then they're back in the closet with the rabbit, listening to the argument. When the woman says accusingly, "You abducted Masha," Liz asks Little Lizzie, "Who is Masha?" "You are," Little Lizzie replies, then warns Liz not to leave their closet; Daddy told them to stay put. Back in reality, Liz goes into V-tach, so Orchard injects her with Lidocaine to save her life. After an enormous gasp of breath, Liz's eyes pop open, and she says, "My father. My father was there."
Red gathers several of Braxton's business associates in a speakeasy to announce that their relationships with Luther have come to an end. When Braxton reaches out to one of them for help, they will contact Red, who will allow them to live. In fairly short order, a man named Foley comes forward. Braxton contacted him, asking for a wire transfer, and Foley is willing to sell this intel - for a price. Once Red makes a wire transfer of his own, Foley hands over the address of Braxton's safe house, and earns a beating from Red, just 'cause.
On a break, Liz tells Orchard that "the girl" has a secret, and yes, she knows that she is the girl. Orchard explains the girl likely represents Liz's subconscious, trying to embargo her memory of that night. Liz claims she has no recollection of her mother or father; all she knows is that her father gave her the burn scar on her hand. Orchard thinks the therapy is too dangerous to continue, but Liz is certain she'll be fine. She needs to find out the truth about the night of the fire for herself. Meanwhile, Braxton meets with The Director in a chapel, promising he'll deliver The Fulcrum by 9:00. And since the CIA tried to blow him up, Braxton is upping The Fulcrum's price tag by 10%. Red and Dembe intercept Braxton outside the chapel to demand Liz's whereabouts, and stuff him at gunpoint into the backseat of a Mercedes.
The RM therapy continues, with Orchard guiding Liz back to the closet - this time she's listening to the argument and reporting back. Ruby is arguing with the woman, who asks, "Where is The Fulcrum?" Just then Red bursts in and shoots the guard standing next to Orchard. Moments later he calls Ressler to arrange for the pickup of Orchard's son Max. Then he removes Liz's restraints, strokes her cheek and asks what Liz remembered. Does she know the location of The Fulcrum? Orchard admits Liz may have been close to remembering... With no firm assurance that Liz will be safe, Red takes Orchard's place by her side, asking the questions to guide her back into the past. He steers her away from the trauma, instructing her to focus on finding The Fulcrum. In her mind, Liz tries to see past Little Lizzie. We can't be sure what she sees, or if she sees anything at all - but we do hear a gun shot. As Red asks what's happening, Little Lizzie scampers back to the closet. Moments later, when smoke starts seeping under the door, Liz tells her younger self to scream as loud as she can. Someone opens the closet door, and takes Liz by the hand as she becomes one with her child self, leading her out of the closet through the fire. At that moment, Ressler and Samar burst in, guns drawn. Furious, Ressler demands Liz be freed from her reverie, but she stays with it. Carrying a stuffed rabbit, Liz moves through the fire, past Ruby, dying in a pool of his own blood, as three men exit a door. The burn scar sizzles up on her hand, and she stares at it until she returns to the present to tell Red, "You were there."
After being checked by paramedics, Red confirms that yes, he was there on the night of the fire. When she asks if he was with the people looking for The Fulcrum, he replies, "It's not that simple." Now Liz knows Red isn't in her life for the person she is, but because of The Fulcrum - an object. One thing she remembers is leaving her father dying on the floor of a burning house - and one thing she doesn't remember is the location of The Fulcrum. Furious with Red, Liz takes her leave, just as Orchard is reunited with her son.
Red sits in the dark, waiting. The Director enters his home office on the phone, promising he'll meet with Braxton within the hour, and contingencies regarding Reddington are on the table. It's not until The Director turns on the light that he spies Braxton's corpse hanging from a ceiling beam. After shaming The Director for hiring a dolt like Braxton in the first place, Red clarifies that neither he nor what he has are to be doubted. The Director promises that he and his colleagues won't hesitate to use every resource at their disposal to cripple Red... so Red invites The Director to call his bluff. Please.
Back at the Post Office, Aram, Ressler and Samar watch a press conference presided over by Goodson, who announces that the incident at The Factory was set to coincide with the transfer of Reddington, whose whereabouts are at present unknown. Red watches the same press conference on TV, while pounding whiskey beside a roaring fire in his opulent hotel room. Aram and Samar share an intimate moment, while Cooper gets bad news that makes his wife cry. Orchard calls Liz to an urgent meeting at a cafe. Orchard suspects she's not the first one to look into Liz's mind; someone else tried to block her memory of the fire. Liz doesn't believe it - she wasn't making anything up - but Orchard insists that the only people who can tell Liz what really happened the night of the fire are the people who want her to forget. Liz retires to her crappy motel room to look through the cardboard box she received after her stepfather Sam Milhoan's death. That stuffed bunny is there... and Liz finds a tiny box inside of it. Could this be The Fulcrum?