NBC’s Blindspot kept its plot train moving last week, with the two revelations that Weller’s father had decided to walk back into his son’s life and that Tasha Zapata was having secret meetings with the Assistant Director of the CIA. In “Cede Your Soul,” the show fans the flames of those looking for a relationship between Weller and Jane Doe, while also continuing to unravel further mysteries about Jane and the world in which she lives.
Apparently Weller’s been sleeping at the FBI office, because his sister Sarah (Jordana Spiro) shows up with a bag of his stuff and an apology, kind of. She’s still convinced that their father is innocent and doesn’t understand why Weller won’t forgive him. “Have you just been made at him so long you don’t know how to stop?” she asks her older brother, who is not enthused. Their conversation is brief and a bit brusque on his end before he’s being called into Mayfair’s office for another lecture about how he’s not seeing things clearly. She wants him to consider stepping down as lead agent on Jane’s case.
And once Jane arrives at work, she admits to Borden that she had a sex dream the previous night and Borden immediately wonders if the man she was thinking of is Weller; she denies it, pointing out that her mysterious beau had a tattoo of a tree on his arm, which wouldn’t describe her colleague. Borden keeps pressing, and tells Jane that she needs to limit the rest of her interactions with Weller to professional ones. While a large subsection of the fans start squealing, Jane walks out and right into Weller, who’s still in a terrible mood.
Elsewhere, a government town car is ambused by a handful of assailants who murder a Saudi prince, springing the FBI into action. Patterson explains that the hitmen beat the Secret Service thanks to an application called Trakzer that allows bad guys to follow government vehicles by way of tracker, and the app’s logo just happens to be tattooed on Jane’s leg. Enter our next case. “Every single government agent is now a potential target,” Weller deduces. “Including us.”
But where do they even start? Patterson to the rescue again, tracking the app’s source code to a recent hackathon, which allows the CIRG team to identify and locate the person behind the program. Understandably, they show up at the address armed and ready to kick behind. But all they find is a 17-year-old who swears that she works for the federal government and created Trakzer for the NSA. Under interrogation, she immediately invokes security clearance, which does not go well for her. Zapata plays good cop for two seconds (we learn she had a troubled past), before Jane – of her own volition – decides to do her own questioning.
As Mayfair and the team find out that the kid’s NSA contact doesn’t exist, Jane coerces her to talk about the origin of the Trakzer logo, which came from her brother. Weller interrupts their conversation and tells the kid that she’s just been conned by someone posing as a government agent, and by the way, here are the photos of the crimes her app has enabled. “You didn’t give your software to the good guys,” he corrects. “You gave it to someone very dangerous.” Too bad there’s no way for her to shut the software down, because it’s on the server of the guy who allegedly introduced her to the NSA. Someone needs to be a lot less naive.
Using the information they give her, the CIRG team sets their sights on Palmer. Since he apparently lives in a vault, they decide to draw him out once we get past the obligatory scene of the two computer experts arguing. While Weller waits for the bickering to end, he chastizes Jane for doing her own interview and not staying objective; she points out that he hasn’t been objective with her. He mutters that he’s working on it, while Zapata and Reade get to mess with some wires and blow up some fuse boxes. That starts a fire in Palmer’s place, but rather than evacuate he decides to try and put it out himself, so Weller and Jane have to rescue him.
When they get back to the office, Palmer immediately begins to roll over and Patterson believes that she’s disabled the app. Weller points out that this case has been different from all the previous ones that Jane has led them to, and wonders if that means anything. Jane continues to bond with the hacker, offering to talk or maybe even catch a movie with the kid. Weller tries to rein Jane in again, leading her to argue that the kid deserves “something in her life other than her work,” and it’s clear that she’s no longer talking just about that hacker. Weller offers for her to spend time with the team or with Sarah, but Jane declines, saying that she needs room to breathe.
Patterson approaches Weller to ask about the Guerrero/Daylight case file, since Mayfair isn’t playing ball with her. “I wouldn’t read into it too much,” he says, but promises to look into it and shoots a look in Mayfair’s direction for good measure.
If you looked at your watch, you probably noticed that this episode is only half over. We need more story, so the hacker is returning to her apartment and being surprised by some unpleasant-looking men. They want her to resurrect the app so that she can help them find a truck, and that’s not negotiable. Patterson soon discovers someone trying to hack her office terminal, and knows exactly who it is. She alerts the team to show them an SOS message from the hacker, but when the team gets to the apartment it’s empty. Their only clue is the truck’s VIN number, which the hacker left as the username on her computer’s login screen.
She’s currently bound and gagged as her captors, revealed as Russian drug runners, work to intercept a Homeland Security truck with a cache of weapons inside. They kill the driver and open the truck, leaving them armed and very dangerous when the CIRG team rolls up on the scene. Lots of gunfire and the deployment of a rocket launcher ensues; we’re going to need a third Bureau SUV. Jane breaks rank to rescue the hacker from the nearby van, while Weller lobs a perfectly timed grenade to keep the drug runners from getting away with the truck. Ladies and gentlemen, one more fantastic explosion on Blindspot.
After all the fireworks, Jane checks up on the hacker and informs her that she, too, will be in protective custody for a while. “It’s not that bad,” she assures the younger woman, who informs Jane that the square on her arm is hiding something other than her Navy SEAL tattoo. Let’s go to the lab, where Patterson reveals a whole other pattern. The idea that some of these tattoos can have double or triple meanings means that the FBI now has double or triple the workload to get answers, and we’re going to need a lot more coffee.
Jane and Weller run into each other at the elevator. He asks her if she wants a new lead agent to work her case, given Mayfair’s suggestion and her comment about him not being objective. “I shouldn’t have said that,” she replies. “I was upset.” He concedes that there may be too much baggage between them, but she points out that it could also be beneficial since no one else would be more invested. Although, when he offers to give her a ride home, she turns him down. Speaking of getting rebuffed, Reade is surprised that Zapata doesn’t want to go have some wings with him – she’ll be busy paying off her bookie with the money from Carter – and begins to wonder about her, too.
Let’s redo the ending scene from last week in the conclusion of this week. Weller gets home to find Sarah and his father both still there, and Sarah insisting that they need to tell their father about Jane. Welcome to the most awkward family conversation ever, and Weller doing a lot of glaring and not speaking. While his father celebrates, Jane asks her security detail if they want to grab a drink, but they’re just drones who are not allowed to do that sort of thing. And there’s a guy outside her apartment with that tree tattoo on his arm, so he does exist.
“Cede Your Soul” will be popular with the fans and critics who are rooting for a romantic relationship between Jane and Weller, but it will not go down as Blindspot‘s best episode. It’s simply on the nose in a way that this show normally isn’t. Every aspect of the episode is something that a seasoned TV viewer can see coming, which denies the episode any chance of having true resonance and a lot of its suspense. It’s still entertaining, but like a book you’ve read five times before rather than a new one you’re just cracking.
While the last moments of the episode indicate that Jane’s dream is not about Weller, the episode definitely plays on the idea of the two of them being attracted to each other; when Jane is discussing it with Borden, he’s incredibly insistent about the idea. The way the script is written, it’s content to run with this idea until it literally can’t anymore. The result is as if Blindspot is saying it knows what the buzz is and it’s going to tease the fans with it. It’d be one thing to leave a certain ambiguity, but the way it’s handled is quite obvious.
Yet much of “Cede Your Soul” is readily apparent. The episode draws clear lines between the hacker’s relationship to Palmer and the one that Jane has with Weller, and how the two women are in similar predicaments. Whether it’s the hacker talking about how she thought Palmer was looking out for her or how she winds up in protective custody at the end, it goes out of its way to show how alike they are. Having parallels in storylines can really enhance them if they’re done right; the common example is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where the monster of the week often reflected something going on in the lives of Buffy and her friends. But the parallel loses its impact if the show has to point it out, which is exactly what happens here.
Even little things are a little overdone – after Weller tells Patterson that he’ll look into the Daylight file, do we necessarily need to emphasize him looking warily at his boss? We don’t gain anything from that extra shot that we didn’t already know.
In addition, this episode heads into a territory that Blindspot hasn’t been in before: characters doing dumb things strictly to advance the story along. This is a very smart show, and to this point there hasn’t been a thing about it that would make an audience member second-guess what’s happening. That’s before the introduction of the hacker character. This is a teenager who’s smart enough to create this very dangerous code, but so naive and/or desperate for attention that she believes this Palmer guy when he says he can get her a job with the NSA.
At no point does it occur to her to do any fact-checking, because she trusts him so completely. She’s esssentially another female character whose emotion overrides her brain. No matter how much you trust someone, when phrases like “NSA” get thrown around, you should do your due diligence. Or at least wonder why a guy with NSA contacts is working out of a heavily fortified apartment. It’s all cringe-worthy, but there it is because without it there would be no story, and no parallels for Jane to identify with.
Thankfully, that issue doesn’t extend to the regular cast, who continue to do solid work. We now know that Zapata took Carter’s money and used it to pay off her gambling debt, so does that mean she’s now in Carter’s pocket? Or what might she have told him in that car? And there’s a nice step forward for Reade, with the series using his established skepticism to its advantage.
He’s already gone over his apprehension about Jane; now he can focus his attention on his friend Zapata and how dodgy she’s suddenly acting. Since Reade has been fleshed out as a cynic already, it makes sense that he’d notice a new issue, particularly with someone he’s close to. And Blindspot needs a character who is going to ask about all the different things that the team is experiencing. It would make no sense if there wasn’t someone a little tense, all things considered.
Plus, after Patterson’s been dogging Mayfair to get answers about Daylight, thank heaven she finally asks Weller, because again it would be off kilter for her to find this information and then just give up once Mayfair ducked her about it. This may not be the greatest case of the week, but it does preserve the ongoing plot threads that have made this show so interesting to date.
And while its execution is lacking, the episode does introduce an idea that’s worth playing around with in future, which is Jane’s right to – and the extent of – anything that could be termed a “personal life,” romantic or otherwise. TV audiences tend to have a myopic view of characters, because we only see them within the boundaries and setting of their shows, particularly procedurals, but they’re supposed to exist in complete worlds. That includes having everyday lives; we just don’t see them unless they service a certain story.
Jane wants to, should and probably will get a chance to do all the things we take for granted, because the FBI can’t keep her cooped up forever. She should go to a movie. Do her own grocery shopping. Maybe Jane goes to Ikea and finds out that one of her tattoos is the map for how to get out of there. (This could make an excellent web series.) While that wouldn’t be what you’d see on TV, it does still exist within the scope of her life and so has to be addressed, as would any idea of her dating anybody – Weller or otherwise. That Blindspot is putting it out there for discussion is commendable regardless of the fact that it isn’t presented in the best way.
At a little under a third of the way through the first season, “Cede Your Soul” is Blindspot‘s first underwhelming episode, but that in no way affects the great ones that have come before and those that will happen after. Every show has one or two (and often more) installments that just don’t work for a variety of reasons. But the carrying through of all the important ongoing plot points suggests that next week this series should get back to form – and continue to be one of TV’s best and brightest.
For more on this week’s episode, check out our New York Comic Con interview with Audrey Esparza about what audiences can expect from Zapata.
Blindspot airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.