Relationships with television shows are like relationships with people. Sometimes it’s mad, hopeless love at first sight, and you know that a show just understands you and shares your values, and other times you get used to a show over time and say “Y’know, you’re not half bad.” If given the choice, nearly everyone will choose the former experience over the latter, but both are beautiful in their own way. I didn’t get Blindspot at first, and I’m not completely sure I get it now, but over the past few episodes I’ve begun to tune into its wavelength. And part of that is just accepting what Blindspot is and what it isn’t, but the show has also just grown more confident and , and “Authentic Flirt” is its high-water mark.
“Authentic Flirt” is crazy fun and even manages to pack an emotional punch, which comes as a pleasant surprise considering how bumpy it starts out. The cold open is a bit dull and doesn’t provide much of a hook to pull the viewer to the other side of the title card. Also, this is by far the dumbest tattoo clue the team has discovered yet. Patterson notices a series of letters in the same font scattered across Jane’s body and obscured by the other designs. She assumes they form an anagram, and after running through the various possibilities, Patterson’s best guess is the name of a kennel, which leads to an online forum for dog lovers. Weller and Company quickly discover an address on the forum and head off to investigate a suspicious open house.
None of this is terribly different from the team’s standard method of discovering and investigating one of Jane’s tattoos, and the use of anagrams is a cute nod to Blindspot’s episode title convention. (This week’s title unscrambles to form “lift the curtain.”) But there’s nothing visually interesting about the letters, and it might be the tattoo that most calls attention to the silliness of the “tattoo conspiracy” macro story. I’m sure whoever wiped Jane Doe’s memories and covered her in crazy, crime-busting tattoos had their reasons for doing what they did, and I assume there’s a method to their madness. But honestly, if the point is to help thwart these crimes, why go to such effort to bury the clues in an elaborate tapestry of symbols? Admittedly, there’s less sex appeal in a show about a woman with a bunch of names and addresses inked on her body in 18-point Helvetica, but it would be less distractingly ridiculous.
But once the episode gets going it never lets up, with Weller’s team on the hunt for a leaked list of witnesses under government protection, and Weller and Jane Doe all gussied up to attend an art gala. Blindspot has been trying to sell the Weller and Jane Doe romance since the pilot, and I’m still not buying, but this is the closest the show has come to making them a couple to root for. The upside of sending them in undercover as married assassins is a softer side of Weller that takes the irksome edge off Sullivan Stapleton’s performance. As Jane’s beau, Weller behaves like a human being rather than like the first Great Dane to become a high-ranking federal agent. The faux spouses are whisked from the gala via helicopter to a private party hosted by Gord Enver, aka Rich Dotcom, an early adopter of Bitcoin who has since become one of the most dangerous men in the world.
“Authentic Flirt” has the same mix of elements that made “Cede Your Soul” a surprisingly solid outing. It’s heavier on the case of the week than on anything related to the tattoo mythology, Jane’s true identity, or the CIA/FBI rivalry. It’s also elevated by a lively guest star, this time Turkish actor Ennis Esmer, who imbues Rich Dotcom with exactly the right kind of comic menace. Katherine Collins’ script does a good job of making Rich as eccentric and unpredictable as the best summer blockbuster villains. He tries repeatedly to woo Weller and Jane into a threesome, the sort of thing a guy like that does not because he’s a hedonist, but because violating social boundaries in such an overt way unsettles people and keeps them off their balance. (He’s also serving vintage wine and expensive caviar alongside jalapeno poppers, which is just crazy.) The charming, smarmy criminal type is easy to overplay (see: Lou Diamond Philips as Saul Guerrero) but Esmer has a light touch and plays Rich quite deftly.
Weller and Jane can’t manage to escape with the list on their own, luckily Rich throws the type of party that ends with the arrival of an FBI chopper, and the team is able to extract them. The team is celebrating their victory when Patterson gets a call from Mayfair, who is at the hospital with poor, sweet David, who only wanted to solve puzzles and sample molecular gastronomy creations with his girlfriend. David’s death has been written in the tea leaves for some time now, but it landed with more of an impact than I expected it to, in part because of Ashley Johnson, who’s kind of killing it. Joe Dinicol was perfectly cast and performed the role well, and I’m sorry to see him go. I’m less bummed about the death of Saul Guerrero, who is taken out by Tom Carter, who is paranoid about the secrets of Operation Daylight being exposed. Guerrero wasn’t a character I was looking forward to spending time with, and the decision to kill him off as part of a montage shows that the Blindspot team is trying to find ways to tell this story in a less gimmicky, more satisfying way. It’s working.
- The three-way fight scene in the pool/rec room is really fun and well choreographed.
- It’s not totally clear why Mayfair is so against killing Guerrero in the first place, considering she seems to have no problem putting his fellow inmates on the job should he refuse to play along. Maybe after Sofia’s death, she doesn’t want anymore bloodshed associated with Daylight.
- Jane speaks Hungarian too, so if the federal agent thing doesn’t pan out, she can always teach language.
- Zapata has arrived at the part of her arc where she regrets going along with Carter to begin with and starts refusing to do his bidding. She also got to be the episode’s comic relief by outright refusing to call Enver Dotcom.
- I assume Rich Dotcom is inspired by the infamous Kim Dotcom. Or maybe they’re brothers!
- Dotcom: “You can let loose man, it’s Friday night for crying out loud.” Weller: “It’s Tuesday.” Dotcom: “Well it’s Friday somewhere.”
- I know Jane Doe was supposed to be the knockout, but Patterson was wearing that damn dress.
- This marks the last week of weekly Blindspot coverage here at The A.V. Club, but I may drop back in for the winter premiere and season finale. Thanks for reading!