The Blacklist – Natalie Luca (No. 184)
By: MaryBeth McMahon
The episode opens fourteen years prior in Moldova, where a young girl (Elle Campagna) wakes up in a hospital room and finds all of the staff dead. The cause is most likely related to the sores on their bodies. A group of people in hazmat suits enter the building and are surprised to find her.
Flash forward to present day and the young girl, now grown up, poses as a masseuse with a deadly touch. After briefly massaging a man (Nick Reynolds) and giving him a kiss goodbye, she leaves and he dies in her wake, in similar fashion to the sore-ridden hospital staff.
Reddington (James Spader) informs Elizabeth (Megan Boone) about the millions of dollars he lost, a direct result of his accountant’s death. Reddington states that he has an image to uphold in the criminal underworld and at times relies on help from the FBI to help him keep that image. In the absence of his accountant and millions, Reddington’s need for help is at an all-time high. He says, “I’m under attack, Elizabeth. And I need to find out by whom.”
Elizabeth takes the information to Harold (Harry Lennix), Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff), Samar (Mozhan Marnò) and Aram (Amir Arison). She reports that Zach suffered from symptoms associated with something more severe than acute meningitis. Later, Dr. Nina (Geraldine Hughes) of the CDC informs Ressler and Elizabeth that the disease is called Luschen’s, which is transmitted through physical contact and presents immediate symptoms leading to death.
Meanwhile, Samar isn’t keen on helping Reddington and says that she doesn’t feel she is paid well enough to protect his interests. In conversation with Aram she says that he makes thirty-two percent more than she does and she is appropriately agitated by the gender inequality. Her frustration makes sense, considering she graduated from the London School of Economics, shares the same “clearance and responsibilities” as Aram and “people actually shoot at me.” Aram can’t help but agree and sympathize with her and urges her to speak to Harold about the issue.
After sharing a rather heated and brief phone call with his most recent enemy named Baldur Magnusson (Daniel Davis), Reddington speaks with Elizabeth. He refers to a 19th century woman nicknamed “Typhoid Mary” who carried a disease that killed many while she exhibited no symptoms. Long story short, Elizabeth is now on the hunt for the “asymptomatic” woman carrying the deadly Luschen’s disease. He says, “To find your suspect, you need to know when and where was the outbreak that she survived.”
Natalie (Elizabeth Hail) and her boyfriend, Malik (RJ Brown), are disappointed that her spinal tap did not give them the research results they wanted. He encourages her to give him more time because they are close to figuring out a way for him to contract and live with her disease so they can live a happy life together. Their apartment, separated in half by clear plastic walls, prevents Natalie from exposing him to her disease. They share a tender moment and touch their hands together against the plastic.
Reddington surprisingly pays a visit to see Tom (Ryan Eggold), someone he doesn’t often seek out under good circumstances. While Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) plays with Agnes, Reddington and Tom talk about a famous assassin by the name of Edgar Legat. Reddington wants Tom to pose as Legat and not to kill Magnussun, but rather to get hired by Magnussun to kill Red. The plan is to put Tom on the inside so he can “deliver” Magnussun straight to Red. The first stage of the plan is executed when Tom and Red stage the death of a man to get the attention of Magnussun inside of a hotel. The bait works and Magnussun “wants a word” with Legat, A.K.A. Tom.
In a briefing Aram tells the team that the most recent outbreak of Luschen’s occurred in Moldova in 2002, killing a family of nine and leaving behind a living daughter, Natalie Luca. He finds that Hawthorne Biologics, an infectious disease response company, treated Natalie following the outbreak.
At Hawthorne Biologics, Samar and Ressler speak with a woman (Florencia Lozana) who previously cared for Natalie. She says that Natalie left the facility on her own free will. As much as she wanted Natalie to stay for treatment, she couldn’t force her to stay, as she was personally ready to leave and pursue her romance with Malik, who previously worked as a bioresearch tech for the company. The company approved Natalie’s departure in exchange for Malik’s agreement to keep her in quarantine and submit regular reports to them.
The woman previously questioned by the FBI speaks with Hawthorne executives (James Lloyd Reynolds and Adam Trese) about the research they were investigating. She thinks they should halt the research in the midst of the FBI probing, but is quickly shot down. They all agree to bring Natalie back, alive.
In need of cash for further research, Malik and Natalie stage a robbery. Natalie kisses two armored car officers on the cheek and they both succumb to the disease’s fatal symptoms just moments later. While Malik hastily steals the money the men were transporting, Natalie sits in their van with a look remorse and guilt. Malik grows increasingly agitated when his security cameras alert him of the police storming their home where all of their research resides. He promises that she will not have to hurt anyone else after all of this and they will finally find the resolution that will allow them to hold hands, touch and kiss one another. Malik looks stunned and doubtful as she walks away.
Elizabeth confronts Red about his choice to use Tom in his schemes. Red makes sense of his motives and says, “Tom is very good at what he does. It defines him. He can no sooner choose to stop than a Great White Shark can choose to stop swimming and eating.” He emphasizes that he could not trust hired help as much as he can trust Tom, and in the process, it shows that he cares for Tom, Elizabeth and their daughter, Agnes.
Tom seamlessly falls into the role of Legat during a meeting with Magnussun. He holds onto his convincing identity until he suddenly takes down Magnussun’s men, making room for Red and Dembe’s entrance. Although it seems as though Red would take this opportunity to kill Magnussun and reclaim his business ventures, he refrains from killing him. Magnussun truthfully admits that he didn’t kill Red’s accountant and just simply stepped in and took his business because it was falling apart. Red states that he would have done the same exact thing if in his position. Red gets rather serious and explains that he feels as if death surrounds him and he could easily be shot and killed each day. Humorously, he tells Magnussun that he wishes he were responsible for Zach’s death because it would have been an easier resolution just to kill him right then and there.
Natalie poses as a food server at an elite party. Samar chases Natalie down, but before she can apprehend her Natalie begs them to kill her so she doesn’t have to be locked up again. Ressler safely takes her down with the use of a taser. Things go awry when a Hawthorne executive brings in a fake hazmat team to take Natalie away. Samar and Ressler are made aware that the actual hazmat team has yet to arrive to their location and they race after the imposters. Malik enters the chase in his van and forces the fake hazmat vehicle off the road. He reunites with Natalie, but in the midst of their relief, the executive shoots him. Samar and Ressler shoot the men, but are unable to help the fatally wounded Malik. His dying wish is to take Natalie’s hands in his own and kiss her for the first and last time. The biological Romeo and Juliet’s struggles end and they have finally been given an opportunity to touch without fear of the disease taking his life; however, this was certainly not the way they envisioned it happening.
While being questioned, Natalie provides Samar and Ressler with shocking secrets about Hawthorne. She reveals that Hawthorne’s weapons lab, Whitehall, was not actually trying to cure her, but rather they were using her to “develop a biological weapon.” She and Malik were fearful to trust people to help them because the company has contracts with the government. She is overcome with guilt for killing so many people along the way, and Samar sympathizes with her.
In another conversation with Aram, Samar exhibits a level of peace and happiness as she reflects on the love and sacrifice made by Malik and Natalie for one another. She feels sorry for herself and is envious of Natalie and Malik for having someone to care for. She changes the topic to the sixteen percent raise that Harold agreed to give her, which she refused because she thought it was an insult. At first, she found the number to be odd, but then came to the conclusion that it is “exactly half” of the thirty-two percent difference between what she and Aram make. She also realizes that Aram actually gave her half of his thirty-two percent, straight from his own paycheck. He says, “Now we get paid equally.” Even though their previous conversation was tense and Samar basically implied that he doesn’t do as much as she does, she redeems herself by saying, “What you did for me, no one else would do.” He says, “I would do anything for you.” The pity she felt for herself vanishes and as she walks away, she places her hand on his, demonstrating that she does have someone whom she cares for and who cares for her in return. She is not that different from Malik and Natalie after all.
Tom returns home from his day of work posing as an assassin, just like any typical working husband and father coming home from a 9-5 job. Elizabeth lets her guard down and tells him that the only way for their already-fragile family to stay together is if she lets him be who he is. However, she fears not knowing who he actually is, but Tom convinces her that as long as she loves him then she knows who he is.
Harold gives Red a pass to see Natalie, but only under the circumstances that he understands that he aids the FBI in their work and the FBI does not work for him or obey his every desire. Red expresses gratitude for Harold’s assistance. Red sympathizes with the grieving Natalie and gives her one of his famous and stirring speeches, this time focusing on what it feels to grieve and suffer. He informs her that she killed his associate and although she was responsible for his death, he knew she that was hired. She easily gives him the name of the woman who hired her to kill Zach: Isabella Stone. The woman’s name weighs heavy on Red, and he is paralyzed in his seat.