Now that the Operation Daylight cat is out of the bag, Blindspot is taking things into another gear. The big secret that the FBI has kept all season long is finally revealed to the audience in major detail, while one of the show’s heroes takes an emotional beating that has him questioning his entire career, and there’s the not unexpected midseason tease that someone might have died/could die/might still wind up dead. Yeah, this is pretty much what you expect from a show two episodes away from its winter finale.
But as we sometimes do on this show, here’s a flashback. Five years ago, Bethany Mayfair and CIA director Tom Carter (Michael Gaston) are meeting for the first time with a White House deputy director named Sofia Varma (Sarita Choudhury). All three of them have been assembled for an audience with the White House Chief of Staff. Cue Mayfair explaining to Kurt Weller that the NSA was gathering data on the American public until a whistleblower shut down the operation, codenamed Daylight. Saul Guerrero was the front for where any actionable information came from, and in exchange he got to remain at large.
Mayfair believes the ends justify the means, but Weller sees the situation a lot differently. “What else do you know that you’re not telling me?” he demands, before nearly taking her office door off its hings when he storms out. He can’t brood for long, though, because Patterson is soon briefing the team about two shot NYPD cops who had previously been on the scene of a highly charged officer-involved shooting. Oh, and one of Jane’s tattoos happens to be the symbol of the group that wants revenge on these officers. It does make you feel like there aren’t a lot of clean hands at the moment.
The CIRG team – including Mayfair – heads to the NYPD’s 65th Precinct, where a mob has already formed outside the front doors. The fact that they’re taking over the investigation doesn’t go over well with the rank and file, but the Assistant Director is done being yelled at for the day and silences the room. The team brings back the partner of one of the wounded officers, Officer Dunn, who wonders why she wasn’t killed. Zapata placates her by saying she also spent six years with the NYPD and lost a partner during a routine traffic stop. Dunn says her partner was dead by the time she got there, and adds that one of the victims, Officer Schultz, seemed distracted.
Weller notices that she’s wearing a body camera, so Mayfair goes to procure the footage from the last shift in question. Cue the painful moment where everyone has to watch the footage; Zapata can’t take it and walks off. Standing there, Mayfair has another flashback to five years earlier, as she’s arguing against Operation Daylight. “This is about the complete invasion of privacy for every citizen in this country,” she insists to her new company, but Carter says they’ve just gotten a direct order from the White House Chief of Staff and he intends to follow it. Mayfair’s back is to the wall.
In the present day, Jane asks Weller about the tension between himself and Mayfair. He doesn’t want to talk about it; she points out that if they’re friends, she wants to help. “What do you do if someone you trusted lets you down?” he replies, theoretically. “It’s forgivable. I think you forgive her,” she replies. Weller isn’t sure he can forgive Mayfair. But he’s interrupted again when Zapata spots pro football player Ricky Holt in Schultz’s body cam footage – and Reade points out the guy owns a registered gun the same caliber as the murder weapon.
Everyone rolls out to Ricky’s house, which is obviously full of groupies. As soon as he sees Weller’s badge, he takes off running, but there’s Jane to sweep in with a flying tackle as she comes to the rescue one more time. While Ricky sits in the FBI interrogation room, Jane then has a heart to heart with Zapata about her past. “When Andy got shot, there wasn’t anything I could do about it,” the agent says. “I can do something about this.” That’s if Ricky doesn’t stop ranting about Schultz busting him on a noise complaint.
But wait: he goes on to say that the cop was blackmailing him with explicit photos of Ricky with another man, pulled off Schultz’s own body cam. That’s why Ricky was on the footage getting into his face, and it suggests these two cops weren’t clean after all. When the word “corruption” comes up, a startled Mayfair has another flashback to her reservations about Operation Daylight, and Sophia trying to convince her that the spy operation is for the greater good. As her resolve continues to crumble, the FBI team has a huddle that’s interrupted by the announcement that Officer Dunn is the third victim.
The whole case unravels in minutes after that. Zapata adds that Holt’s gun isn’t the murder weapon, so we’ll need a new suspect. Reade has stumbled across an offshore bank account that seems to imply Schultz has been extorting a lot of people, which then implies that there could be a lot of potentials. The specs on the bank account make the team wonder if it’s Schultz or there’s someone else behind the blackmail, too. When Weller makes a comment about “doing things the right way,” Mayfair drags him into her office and tells him to stand down. Weller’s not having any of that either. “I can’t trust you anymore,” he says, and gets back to work.
Mayfair flashes back to sitting in a car with Sofia, hearing a news broadcast about the shutdown of Operation Daylight. They’re waiting for Carter, who tells them that the White House Chief of Staff is now denying the operation’s existence. An argument breaks out between Sophia and Carter, while Mayfair stands frozen to the spot.
Patterson’s tech savvy continues as she finds an email that proves Schultz was actually turning in the blackmailers to Internal Affairs. “This wasn’t revenge,” Weller says with distaste. “It was a cleanup.” So who are the guilty parties who’ve been taking money and killing their own kind? Patterson’s poked around in the financial web again, and thus the FBI likes two patrol officers named Costello and Johnson, who are showing up on Schultz’s widow’s doorstep as they speak.
Weller and Jane – who’s taken the car ride over to try and convince him to cut Mayfair some slack – arrive at the home just in time to get into a shootout with Costello and Johnson. The cops deploy a flash-bang grenade, and Weller slams the front door shut to save Jane and the widow from it, while he’s going to need some time to get the ringing out of his ears. He’s still smart enough to see the reflection of Johnson in a mirror and take him out as he himself goes down, and still witty enough to mess with Jane a little bit once she checks on him. She just gives him that wide-eyed look again, glad he’s not dead.
Jane does tell him one more time to talk to Mayfair, who’s explaining to the NYPD captain that one of his corrupt cops is dead, the other one is headed for the hospital, and he would’ve been their next target. She agrees to drive him to the hospital, while she has one more flashback about coming home to Sophia, who’s freaking out and wanting to flee the country as the fallout from Daylight begins. “I don’t want to start over,” Mayfair says, which puts their romantic relationship in the ground.
But she’s got bigger problems now. The captain has let slip in their conversation that he was in on the blackmail scheme, and he’s just pulled his gun on her, trying to justify it all by talking about how little money they make and how “things just got away from us.” Rather than keep driving, Mayfair runs her SUV into another parked car and knocks them both unconscious. Rest in peace, sacrificed Bureau SUV number four. Seriously, where do they find the money to keep wrecking these?
Once she gets to the hospital, Mayfair is visited by Weller. “I’ve got reports to write,” she insists, and we hope she means about the car. He asks how many people she put away using Daylight, pointing out that all those convictions will be thrown out when the truth comes to light. She admits that they were wrong and that she never meant to put him in this situation. Weller knows that sooner or later, this big secret is going to come out, and that his boss will then be a target. “I hope it was worth it,” he tells her, to which she responds, “It has to be.”
Back at the office, Zapata invites her colleagues for a drink. Reade declines because he has a date who may or may not be real, and Weller needs a nap after getting his eardrums blown out, but Jane agrees to go out with her. The two of them and Patterson are soon getting very drunk, which prompts Jane to admit she’s slipped out of her safehouse a few times to wander around and ride the subway aimlessly. It’s her own New York Renaissance!
Weller can’t seem to come home without it being awkward anymore. His dad (Jay O. Sanders) is sitting at his living room table again, but at least this time Weller is willing to have a drink with him. “Rough day at the office?” Dad asks, and his son admits that it seems like they all are these days. Apparently, everyone’s drinking, as Mayfair is in her office writing those reports and flashing back to how Sofia ignored her phone calls before she disappeared in an apparent suicide.
And as Zapata walks home, Carter pops up behind her, wanting more than the FBI file she gave him on Jane. She can’t have thought that he’d stop with just one demand, did he? He pulls the old-fashioned “This is over when I say it’s over” line, before walking away as quickly as he got there and leaving us all with a desire to punch him repeatedly in the face.
“Persecute Envoys” is the episode that “Cede Your Soul” should have been. The fact that a case about law enforcement corruption happens in the same episode that Weller discovers the truth about Operation Daylight cannot possibly be a coincidence; the investigation is a mirror for him, and for Mayfair, to look into and reconsider their own careers and life choices, with a little sprinkle of Zapata there at the end. For fans, that means it’s an episode to gain greater insight into and appreciation for the talents of Sullivan Stapleton and Marianne Jean-Baptiste.
The biggest piece of the puzzle for the audience is seeing through Mayfair’s eyes how she became involved with Daylight, what made her believe it was worthwhile, and how she continues to handle it today. Almost everything we learn in this episode is stuff that she wouldn’t tell Weller or anyone else, so the only way for us to know it is through the use of flashbacks. It’s interesting to see how Mayfair originally started out as being against Operation Daylight, and then to watch her opposition crumble in the face of continued “greater good” arguments from Carter and Sofia, using some of the same rhetoric she’s then pushed forward today.
The show tells us everything we need to know about Daylight without telling us; it uses flashbacks and dialogue within those flashbacks to lay out the history, from that first meeting to the program’s downfall. There are still a few questions out there (like what made Saul Guerrero the right bad guy to get in bed with? And is anybody going to ever call out the White House Chief of Staff for this – wait, that sounds like season two, doesn’t it?), but we get the basic facts that we need to move forward with the story in an organic way.
If you’re not sure what we mean by this, look at last night’s premiere of TNT’s Agent X. That show chose to introduce us to main character Natalie Maccabee (Sharon Stone) in the most obvious way. Clips from her recent history and data screens of her resume were examined by the show’s other lead character, John Case (Jeff Hephner), as he returned from a mission. The show just tossed all that information at us without any human context; it was like reading a dossier. By contrast, Blindspot makes scenes out of every key beat in Daylight’s past and shows us how Mayfair’s part in it was a lot different than we initially figured.
Her initial opposition and the emotional toll of the operation don’t get her off the hook, however, and kudos to Blindspot for having Mayfair realize that and not turning into a raving, soapbox-toting maniac (see: Carter). Firstly, raving, soapbox-toting maniacs are not fun to watch because they’re just one-dimensional blowhards (see: Carter). It’s much more interesting to explore the shades of grey and to see what could make Mayfair change her position and how she regrets it. Now that we have the backstory, it frames all of her actions in just a bit of a different light. She wasn’t plotting some dastardly evil plan; she was trying to save her own hide, which is more understandable even if it ends in the same place.
Allowing her to be in that grey area then also provides her the potential for redemption later down the line. If she’d gone full steam ahead with a cover-up and continued to stick to her guns, there’s nowhere to take that character but in jail or dead. This is not to say that she won’t end up in either of those places anyway, but because we see her sort of half-assed trying to make amends (she did still lie to Weller the first time), you can toy with the idea of her turning herself in, or sacrificing herself for somebody else (more on that later), or anything that’s a bit more positive. We’re still not convinced that she’ll be allowed to keep her job in season two, but at least she has the possibility of a decent outcome.
Now, it’s outlandish conspiracy time again: What if her ex-girlfriend Sofia isn’t really dead? What if she pops up sometime before the end of the first season just to make things even more complicated for Bethany? TV shows love to drag out people from a main character’s past to increase the drama, especially near season finales, and while Blindspot has generally avoided the usual moves we can’t rule this one out just because we haven’t seen a body.
Things get even more interesting if you pair that with the promotional spot for next week’s episode, “Authentic Flirt.” One must take that teaser with the caveat that promos often get edited together to make things look way different than they are. But stating “Someone won’t survive” seems pretty matter of fact, and in the shot where the team appears to enter what looks like a hospital, you only see three people for sure: Jane, Weller and Zapata. That puts Reade and Mayfair as the two folks who could potentially be at risk.
Frankly, if the show is in fact killing somebody off next week and if that clue is accurate (again, two big ifs), it’d be a mistake to get rid of either character. Rob Brown is the show’s comic relief as Reade, and he actually makes a very reliable right-hand man to Weller besides. But Mayfair would be a plausible person to axe, character-wise, because that would complete her redemption arc especially if she goes down protecting anyone else. You could see her saving the girlfriend she still thinks about, or one of her own team members. It’s not a fantastic idea, but it’s one that does make sense (like George Mason in the second season of 24).
But going that route would mean losing Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and not to belabor the point we’ve stated since the beginning of the season, but you don’t want to do that. She’s an Academy Award nominee and someone who’s particularly suited for this type of show and this type of role, what with her seven seasons on CBS’s Without A Trace. (Does anyone else ever wonder what Vivian Johnson would think of Mayfair?) It’s hard to imagine how the show could come up with a better character than her, and then find an actor or actress the same caliber as Jean-Baptiste, to be the new boss.
One of the things the show would lose in getting rid of Mayfair is the relationship that she has with Weller. The mentor-student perspective between them is interesting and hasn’t really been explored, except for the fact that Mayfair knows Weller enough to be aware of his history with Taylor Shaw, and now Weller knowing about Daylight. There’s a lot of history there that lends itself to interactions between the two characters more than just the average boss and subordinate, and you can feel it in how the two actors play off each other.
In fact, what should be really fascinating over the next two episodes is to watch how that relationship either continues to degrade or may rebuild. While it’s sweet that Jane continues to want Weller to make up with Mayfair, it’s not that simple. He has a problem with her both professionally (from an ethics standpoint as far as what she did) and personally (because she lied to him and now she could be in trouble). The fact that they don’t make up is what makes it worth watching.
Is he ever going to trust her again? If so, what’s it going to take for that to happen? Does he have to trust her again? This is a big wound, and it’s worth poking around in rather than just slapping a Band-Aid on it. It’s one of those great character exploration arcs that Blindspot has already proven so great with, like when it introduced Weller’s past.
Which brings us to Kurt Weller. Not to take anything away from the awesomeness of Jane Doe, but Weller is a pretty damn wonderful character, too, and “Persecute Envoys” means as much for him as it does for Mayfair. Weller’s personal world got rocked when Jane was revealed as Taylor Shaw; now his professional one is hit with another earthquake in the form of Operation Daylight. The one fellow agent who, by all accounts, shaped his career and to whom he still looks up has lied to his face, participated in a massive covert operation and the subsequent cover-up, and generally let down everything they both stand for. That’s like pulling the rug out from under him.
As Weller points out, he’s not unlike Mayfair. She’s his boss, but he’s the agent who heads up the CIRG team, so he’s in a leadership role of his own. Reade, Zapata, Patterson, Jane and all the other unnamed drones in the office look to Weller for direction as much as Weller has looked to Mayfair in the past. So it’s not just about a disconnect between the two of them – he has to decide what kind of agent, and what kind of leader, he wants to be and what he stands for. After all, it’s not that hard to imagine that he could have her job someday.
Weller has a very staunch moral code, one that is so far very black and white, and he shows no signs of being willing to back off of that for anybody – as he shouldn’t. It’s much more interesting to have an FBI agent that sticks to that letter of the law, when having characters who color outside the lines or bend the rules is the new normal on TV. He not only wants to do good in the world, but he wants to be that good, too. And now he’s dealt with what comes off as a very personal betrayal for him, on top of seeing corrupt cops being willing to kill other cops over some very illegal blackmail. Everything in this episode is totally against everything that Weller is.
And like it or not, he’s the one with the power in the present situation. Mayfair is playing defense here, content to keep Daylight and Guererro under wraps. Weller knows, and he could decide to either keep his mouth shut or he could conceivably blow the whole thing wide open tomorrow if he wanted.
After all, he’s right on the money in his assessment of the situation. Daylight is too big a secret and too many people are involved for it not to eventually become public knowledge. If that’s because of him, or Jane’s tattoos, or just Carter doing something asinine, it’s going to come out and then all hell is going to break loose. Carter is willing to kill for it, after all. So what is Weller going to do when that day comes? Mayfair will be a target, metaphorically and probably literally, and Weller is going to have to make a decision as to whether his loyalty lies with her or with his beliefs. So far, it’s the latter, though it’s hard to imagine an innately gentle soul like Weller allowing Mayfair to take a bullet if he can help it. He’ll likely try and save her life if he can, even if immediately after that he lets her take the walk out of the office in handcuffs.
But that’s the way the chips have fallen. Weller is such a strongly moral character, and the hole Mayfair has dug is so deep, that it’s hard to imagine him handling it any other way. He’s not going to let her die, and he could eventually offer some support as a friend, but he can’t ever condone what she’s done. He can’t justify it the way that she can. They’re not wired the same way in that respect, and so while they might be able to rebuild a decent working relationship for the sake of the team, to have him forgive her for her trespasses – at least without some more perspective – would be cheating who he is. These are two characters who thought they were on the same page finding out that they are, and likely always have been, worlds apart and it’s heartbreaking.
The primary reason it’s so tough to swallow is because of the actors, who have made these characters into folks we care deeply about. Mayfair’s always been a little shady since the pilot (when the first Daylight clue was dropped), but she’s generally had good intentions despite that line about the road to hell. Jean-Baptiste has played her like someone who, while compromised, genuinely still wanted the best for her team and has supported them in key moments. And for a guy that you don’t want to cross, Sullivan Stapleton has really been wonderful at showing the turmoil going on in Weller’s life and how underneath that badge and gun he’s actually an emotional guy – a guy who, by the way, has very little in his life that makes any damn sense anymore. He needs that drink, and a nap, and a hug.
“Persecute Envoys” is a beautiful juxtaposition of the Mayfair and Weller characters. Then in the completely random bin, this episode also tosses out a few general nuggets of awesomeness about the world of Blindspot. We learn that Jane doesn’t actually stay cooped up in her safehouse when we’re not seeing her (which we should’ve guessed because who wants to hang out in a house all day unless you’re Bob Vila). We get more facts about Tasha Zapata. David’s trying to win back Patterson. And Mayfair destroys yet another Bureau SUV, so it’s really about time someone in the motor pool looks at all these reports and asks the CIRG team to please stop wrecking the equipment because this is why we can’t have nice things.
There are just two episodes left in the first half of the season, and while the teaser for next week does make it seem like a bit of a fan-service plot (Jane and Weller going undercover as a couple? Just while the fans are rooting for them to become a couple? Hey, The X-Files called), the show can take a few more risks in the remainder of the first half, because it’s earned our respect and its credibility with episodes like this. It’s showed that it’s come to play, and that’s why it’s one of the best shows out there and why it’s so good for television that this series is coming back for a second season.
For more on Blindspot, check out our announcement of the show’s renewal for season two and our New York Comic Con interview with creator and executive producer Martin Gero.
Blindspot airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.