Season 2 Episode 11
While Liz, Red and Ressler broker a complex deal in Russia around a kidnapped priest who may or may not be a CIA agent, certain matters back home...
At the Sacred Cross Church, located in the snowy village of Khumhara, Uzbekistan, Father Nabiyev is performing the consecration when several men armed with assault weapons storm the altar. After locating a hidden secure national security phone (SNFU), their leader, Ruslan Denisov, tosses the phone at Nabiyev's feet, saying, "You're no more priest than I am... so talk to your God." Speaking perfect American English, Nabiyev calls HQ to report his situation.
Remember when Liz was keeping Tom prisoner on the old boat and Tom killed the harbormaster? Well, his wife, Susan Ames, has called the cops, since her husband's been missing for several days. She tells Detective Wilcox that Eugene said he received an anonymous tip about trespassers at the marina docks and ran into an FBI agent... and luckily Susan still has Liz's card...
Back at the Post Office, Liz has turned over The Fulcrum to Aram with instructions to figure out what it is and get back to her. Red just misses seeing it when he sticks his head into Liz's office, upset she's not returning his calls. Full of cold fury, Liz reminds Red that the only reason he's been interested in her is that he wants The Fulcrum. So from now on, there's no reason for them to talk unless it's about work. Red tosses a newspaper on Liz's desk and directs her to a tiny story on page 20 about Nabiyev's kidnapping. Red knows Nabiyev works for the CIA, and that using a religious figure as a spy is a crime that's all kinds of bad. And he knows that his associate, Ruslan Denisov, head of a band of militant separatists called the SRU, is the kidnapper. To fund his objective to free Uzbekistan, Denisov has become something of an expert at kidnapping international corporate executives. Lately, he's been breaking promises, and it's costing Red and his partners money. Knowing the CIA will do whatever it takes to keep the situation quiet, Red warns Liz to be careful.
Per Red's prediction, CIA Operations Deputy Arnold Heyworth denies any knowledge of Nabiyev to Cooper and Reven Wright. Wright slaps back: the kidnapping of an American citizen is FBI jurisdiction. So if Nabiyev is Heyworth's asset, she'll keep him involved, otherwise he's out. Heyworth stays mum, so Wright puts Cooper in charge of the operation, and Liz and Ressler fly to Tashkent that night. They're met at the airport by the head of the Uzbek Army's counter-insurgency force, Commander Kushan, who asks them to surrender their firearms and informs them that the courtesy of his invitation will expire if they try to negotiate with anyone at all. Liz and Ressler know they're being followed to their hotel by guys in suits too nice to be feds, and lo and behold, there's a surprise waiting for them in the lobby: Red is holding court, regaling several business associates with one of his colorful war stories. When Liz asks the identity of his "friends," he tells her to get cleaned up so he can take her to dinner. Liz and Ressler step into the elevator to go to their rooms. Suddenly, the lights go out, bags go over their heads, the back panel of the elevator slides open... and when the bags come off, they're at Denisov's SRU compound, meeting the man himself. He's happy to finally have grabbed America's attention, but he kidnapped Agent Burke, aka Father Nabiyev, for another reason. Twenty-five years ago, Uzbekistan sold the rights to build a pipeline through Tashkent to an American company called Anecca Oil. Now the pipeline is leaking and killing people. Uzbek lawyers are no match for Anecca's lawyers, and no one's doing anything. So he has kidnapped one of Anecca Oil's VPs, whom he has in a cage that's submerged in the very toxic waste that's killing Denisov's countrymen. Denisov offers the man to Liz and Ressler as a sign of good faith, then announces that negotiations for Agent Burke will commence tomorrow.
Liz calls Cooper, asking him to pinpoint the location of the SRU compound. Oddly enough, Anecca never reported VP Jeffrey Hanover missing, which leads Cooper to conclude they're trying to cover up the leaky pipeline. After Ressler talks to Dean Walker, the doctor who's treating Hanover, an Anecca EVP introduces himself with a friendly offer of help. But Ressler recognizes him as one of the men from the airport. Once his secret is out, Walker admits he was sent to negotiate with Denisov, whom the company blames for sabotaging the pipeline to create the leak. In the hallway, Liz argues with Commander Kushan, who's angry that she and Ressler are negotiating with Denisov and confines them to their hotel under military guard. That night, Ressler sits at the bar with Red. The next sit-down with Denisov is scheduled for tomorrow morning. Do Liz and Ressler need Red's help to attend? They don't - because Denisov uses his old elevator trick to escort them to the meet. Once again, they're surprised to find Red's already there, having volunteered his services as negotiator to Denisov and pretending like he's never seen them before. Once Denisov's out of earshot, Liz lays into Red - what the hell is he doing? What he's doing is taking them on a field trip to the village of Khumhara, where most of the residents are suffering from melanoma, internal organ damage and lung, liver and kidney failure. Visibly affected, Liz suggests contacting the State Department to help prove the truth about what's happening. Claiming there are no sides, only players, Red offers to see that Agent Burke is released unharmed in the exchange.
Cooper and Wright meet with Heyworth, who wants to hit the SRU compound. He could care less about the trust the FBI is trying to build with Denisov. But since it's the FBI's operation, Wright sides with Cooper, and the raid is postponed for the moment. Back at the hotel, Liz receives a call from Detective Wilcox, who's got some questions about Harbormaster Eugene Ames. Liz insists she told Ames a cover story; she couldn't share the truth then, and she can't share it now. Then it's on to dinner with Red in the hotel lounge. She wants to talk about the negotiation, but Red certainly doesn't. Unbeknownst to them, Heyworth is on the phone with his guys discussing deniability for the impending strike on the SRU compound, which is about to get underway. Caught by surprise, Denisov's men are cut down - by Commander Kushan and his men! - but there's no sign of the hostages.
Cooper calls the next morning to tell Liz and Ressler about the raid; everyone knows Heyworth is behind it. Just then Red knocks on the door, saying, "The CIA did what the CIA does." So why did Cooper share the compound's location with the very people Red told him not to trust?! Now there's no way Red can control an unstable and violent Denisov, and since he no longer trusts Cooper, the negotiations are over. Red returns to Khumhara to meet an apoplectic Denisov - who in fact moved the hostages, just like Red advised. Even better, he's got a new hostage, a wounded solider Kushan left behind. The man is currency, but Denisov shoots him in the head, then rushes off with intent to treat Agent Burke to the same fate. Red manages to dissuade Denisov with a story about Bobby Fischer, who lost to Boris Spassky because he had no end game. Turning to Burke, Red asks about Zhabin. The CIA violated federal law by hiding Burke among the locals for a reason - there's a secret they want to protect. Taking Red's death threat seriously, Burke explains that former Cabinet Minister Leonid Zhabin ran the region Soviet style from the late '70s to the early '90s. Ruthless and corrupt, he sold Anecca the right to build the pipeline, receiving a massive kickback and ownership interest. Now he is a recluse, possibly insane. All the sickness and devastation in Khumhara is his fault.
One thing's for sure, Zhabin is pious. After flagellating his bare back in an Uzbek church, he shuffles to the confessional, where Red and Denisov lay in wait to ask for the details of the Anecca Oil deal. Denisov plunges Zhabin into the holy water font to help him start talking...
Back at the hotel, Liz tells Ressler that she didn't kill Harbormaster Ames - Tom did, to protect her. And yes, there was a witness who is at that very moment being questioned by Detective Wilcox. Wilcox knows The Samoan's real name - Samuel Aleko - and he pretty much has him dead to rights. Just then Red calls with good news: negotiations will resume immediately. Since Kushan won't let Liz and Ressler out of the hotel, Red promises to come to them, as long as they summon Walker, who refuses to negotiate. Red introduces Zhabin, who has a wonderful story to tell about the history of the pipeline. It turns out the pipeline isn't the worst thing in the world - it's the first pipeline, the one Anecca built in 1988 - that killed entire villages. Then the Soviet Union fell, chaos descended and Anecca paid Zhabin to cover it up and destroy any record of the first pipeline's existence. Luckily, Zhabin kept a complete set of the original documents, in hopes that one day, he could set things right. Walker claims Anecca can make reparations, but Red has another goal in mind. The Uzbek people want Anecca to leave. And if they don't, Zhabin has led Denisov to a mass grave filled with hundreds of victims, which Red will make public in the next 24 hours.
Per Red's design, Walker makes the announcement that Anecca Oil is quitting Uzbekistan altogether. Meanwhile, Ressler gets a text summoning him to a drop point to pick up Agent Burke. What the FBI doesn't know is that Heyworth has snipers in the woods with orders to kill Denisov and take Red into custody. Just as Red and Dembe deliver Agent Burke, Cooper charges into Heyworth's office, threatening to out his illegal actions to the Justice Department. Heyworth orders his men to stand down, and Denisov and Red return to Khumhara. Fearing arrest, Denisov wants Red to smuggle him out of the country, but Red refuses, telling Denisov he still doesn't see the end game. Denisov may go to prison for a bit, but he'll emerge a hero, capable of running the country. And while Commander Kushan was standing in his way, he isn't any more...
While packing her suitcase, Liz notices a TV news report: hours after the Anecca announcement, French oil conglomerate Savillion has made a billion-dollar deal for a brand-new pipeline. She heads to the lobby where Red is hobnobbing with SVP of Savillion Claude Hippeau - the same guy Red was drinking with on the day of their arrival in Uzbekistan. Disgusted, Liz accuses Red of engineering the whole exercise to gain his finder's fee. He doesn't bother to confirm nor deny, but does toast to everyone winning.
Back in D.C., Aram returns The Fulcrum to Liz. He's thinking it's late '80s beta tech - a recording device - but he has no idea how it works. Liz makes him promise not to utter a word to Reddington. Somewhere in the woods outside the city, storm clouds are gathering. The Samoan has made a deal with Detective Wilcox, bringing him to the harbormaster's gravesite in exchange for immunity.