Season 2 Episode 13
"The Deer Hunter"
Liz struggles to keep her secret under wraps while making a deal with Red to catch a serial killer. Amanda Plummer guest stars.
In a college classroom, Liz lectures 40 students about a serial killer named The Deer Hunter: he spends hours stalking his prey and is only interested in big men, bucks that are hard to take down. After the ritual of the hunt, the killer guts his victims on site, removing organs with surgical precision and leaving them behind in a pile. Liz believes her guy is a rather small, weak young man, trying to gain control over someone who once dominated him. As we hear Liz's words, we see a diminutive hooded figure take out a man in an alley with a crossbow, then start butchering him. After hoisting the flayed carcass to hang spread-eagled and upside down from a fire escape, The Deer Hunter takes off his hood to reveal mousey Tracy Solobotkin. In what Liz calls "a final act of domination," Tracy swallows her revulsion and takes a single solitary bite out of the liver she just harvested... the signature of a serial killer.
Across town, Detective Wilcox is just wrapping up his interrogation of Samuel Aleko, aka The Samoan. After testifying at Liz's murder trial, Aleko will walk away scot-free. But, Wilcox threatens, if Aleko tries to change his story one iota, he'll spend the rest of his life in prison. Meanwhile, Red picks up a ringing pay phone and takes a call from a man we'll call Caul, even though he won't tell Red his name. So why did Alan Fitch want them to talk? "It's happening," Caul says, then sets a meeting at 92nd and Broadway for the next day. Red hangs up and greets Liz, whom he's summoned to talk about The Fulcrum. Liz claims she knows nothing. Positive she's lying, Red offers to help her find The Deer Hunter if she'll tell what she knows about The Fulcrum. When he insists her most critical assumption about the serial killer is wrong, Liz bites, and brings Red back to the Post Office to argue his case: the reason Liz hasn't found her man is because The Deer Hunter is a woman.
Ressler and Liz visit Medical Examiner Phil Ryerson, who has just finished the autopsy on The Deer Hunter's latest victim. When they enter the examining room, the corpse has been uncovered - could the man they passed in the hallway be The Deer Hunter? Liz and Ressler run after the guy who's just getting into the elevator. Across town in a spare apartment, tears stream down Tracy's face as she tells her cats and canary to stop looking at her like that. She doesn't want to do what she has to do, but someone has to, and it's time for a trip out of town to see Chad Henning.
Liz and Ressler drag their quarry, student Chuck Kruse, back to the Post Office for questioning. Not only did Chuck attend Liz's lecture, but yes, he used false credentials to access the ME's office to research a story on The Deer Hunter for Metro Crime Diary. When Liz asks how they can be sure he's not The Deer Hunter, Chuck scoffs. The person they're looking for is not The Deer Hunter! Chuck points out that the serial killer evolved his technique with his first six victims, but the last six kills were all identical. Claiming The Deer Hunter is an artist who never would have repeated himself, Chuck insists this new killer is a forger - a copycat. That's when Liz's phone rings. Detective Wilcox wants her to know that he's recovered the Harbormaster's body; Liz's classified case story can no longer protect her from testifying since Aleko has come forward to accuse her and Tom of murder. Once a federal judge hears Aleko's testimony, Wilcox's case will supersede Liz's, and he'll be given full access to her allegedly classified material. This threat is very real, and that fact isn't lost on Red, who meets with a corrections officer named Edgar. Aleko is scheduled for transfer tomorrow afternoon, and it will be Red's only opportunity. Since it's the same time as the meet with Caul, Red asks Edgar to reschedule, but it's just not possible.
Liz confesses everything to Ressler, who reminds her that she didn't kill the Harbormaster, Tom did. He advises her to ask Cooper to call in a favor, because they both know Wilcox will gun for the "FBI Agent goes to prison," headline... which gives him an idea of how to prove Kruse was right about the copycat. Meanwhile, Tracy meets with single mom Mary Henning at her home in Silver Spring, Maryland. Concerned for the safety of her son, Mary is having second thoughts about their plans. Filled with zealous intensity, Tracy reminds Mary that she's tried everything else; this is the only way to stamp out the evil in her life. Back at the FBI, Aram has completed his analysis of the bite marks on the livers of the first six victims and those of the second six. It's official: they're looking for a copycat.
The next morning a mother is walking her daughter to school when they spy the field-dressed corpse of Chad Henning hanging upside down from a tree. It's not long before Liz and Ressler are interviewing his wife, Mary, at their home. When Mary wonders how they'll find The Deer Hunter, Liz senses something's not quite right, so she mentions the copycat, much to Ressler's dismay. On the way out, Liz tells him Mary knows something; now that Liz has ruffled Mary's feathers it's time to let her stew. And Liz has another idea: the original Deer Hunter's victims had nothing to connect them - but maybe the copycat's victims are connected? Meanwhile, Dembe waits in Red's place at 92nd and Broadway, keeping his eye peeled for Caul. When a nearby pay phone starts ringing, Dembe runs across the street to pick up. Caul is not at all pleased Red couldn't make the meeting and hangs up. Of course, he has no idea Red is saving Liz's ass, having paid Edgar a pretty penny for an audience with Aleko in the prison transport van. Knowing Aleko's brother badly needs a heart transplant, Red makes The Samoan an offer he can't refuse...
Back at the FBI, Samar and Aram have connected the copycat's victims: they're all men who get violent when the women they want reject them. That's what Mary Henning was hiding: she was afraid of her husband. Thinking the copycat killer was trying to protect seven women - who all live in different states - Aram connects them through the national nonprofit advocacy group, WhiteHaven Shelters. In short order, Liz and Ressler are meeting with WhiteHaven administrator Rosalyn Dobbins, who doesn't want to hand over information on the seven women, citing privacy concerns. But when Ressler mentions The Deer Hunter, Rosalyn softens while her co-worker, Tracy, stiffens. After work, Tracy talks through her troubles with her cats and canary. She's overreacting, right? Mary would never betray her!
Liz and Ressler head out to question Mary, just as Red arrives to speak with Aram. Handing Aram the number of the pay phone of 92nd and Broadway, Red asks him to trace the call made at exactly 2:00 p.m. yesterday. And no, Aram won't need a warrant. Nervous, Aram looks up to see that a bemused Samar has watched the entire exchange.
Out in Silver Spring, Mary opens her door surprised to find Tracy when she was expecting Liz and Ressler instead. Charging inside, Tracy explains that the FBI discovered the WhiteHaven connection. Mary insists she didn't say anything, but when Tracy spies a fresh coffee service, her eyes widen in betrayal. Mary continues to plead her innocence just as Tracy spies Liz and Ressler crossing the front lawn. Tracy clocks Mary over the head with a heavy cutting board, then makes a run for it. When no one answers the door, Ressler enters the house while Liz heads around back. Spying Tracy, Liz gives chase until her head connects with a shovel, knocking her out. It's not long before a very anxious Tracy is dragging a still unconscious Liz into her garage, belting her, then hooking the belt to a hoist on the ceiling. Just as her feet leave the ground, Liz comes to, and with a rush of adrenaline, she head butts Tracy and starts swinging wildly. Back at the FBI, Aram makes a discovery: of all the wives of The Deer Hunter's victims, only one didn't reach out to WhiteHaven for help: Tracy Solobotkin was hired as an accountant by WhiteHaven three months after her husband's death.
Cooper dispatches every available unit to Tracy's address, while Liz tries to talk her way out of the garage. Tracy confesses: she never wanted to hurt anyone except for the abusive men, including her husband Ron, the real Deer Hunter. But one night, it all became clear to both of them and Ron came after her. Even though Tracy had never held a crossbow, her arrow went straight through his heart. That's when she realized she could continue his dirty work, and give so many women their lives back. Unfortunately, she had no choice other than to carry his work out to a T, including the field dressing and revolting liver biting. Liz takes an aggressive tact, accusing Tracy of being just like her husband. If she's going to commit another murder, could she just shut up and hurry up? In a frenzy, Tracy lunges at Liz, who clamps her legs around Tracy's neck and squeezes while flashing back to the day Tom strangled the Harbormaster. Ressler busts down the door to save Tracy's life in the nick of time... Afterwards, Liz admits to Ressler that she would have killed Tracy if he hadn't shown up. Convinced she hesitated and gave up, same as on the boat, Liz tells Ressler that she's going to confess everything to Wilcox. Ressler lays into her for wanting to become a martyr. And Liz can't expect him to feel her pain, because he has more than enough of his own.
The next day, Wilcox presides over a crowded interrogation room, where Aleko has changed his tune to silence. Suddenly, he doesn't remember what happened on that boat. At the Post Office, Aram calls Red with an address traced off the phone call, 3130 Sheridan Road, Park Slope. Red and Dembe proceed to the apartment with guns out, but it's empty, save for blood splotches leading to the site of a struggle. Red calls Caul's number, then finds the man's ringing cell phone under an overturned chair. Later, Liz meets Red at a coffee shop, where he lays into her for going after Tracy by herself - she could have been killed! After acknowledging they were both right about The Deer Hunter - both a man and a woman - Liz makes good on her part of the deal, admitting she has The Fulcrum. But she'll only tell Red where to find it if he tells her what it is. Red claims that doing so would place Liz in grave danger, and he's already been busy protecting her from Aleko's testimony. Nevertheless Red thinks he knows the real reason Liz doesn't want him to have The Fulcrum: once she hands it over, she's afraid she'll never see him again.