The conundrum Blindspot faces is the fact that it’s never more boring than when it’s focused on its mythology and Jane’s origin story, which are supposed to be its biggest selling points. “Cede Your Soul” worked as well as it did because for once the show wasn’t bogged down in the story behind Jane’s tattoos or the whereabouts of Taylor Shaw. “Soul” was simply a strongly structured, well-performed case of the week with little emphasis on the foundational elements that make Blindspot exhausting. “Sent On Tour” dives back into Jane’s origins, as well as the mysterious “Daylight” program Mayfair has been fretting about since Jane first appeared, and just as quickly as Blindspot started to get interesting, it loses a good bit of its momentum.
To be fair, “Soul” also benefitted from a strong guest star in Aimee Carrero, who turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise as the teenage hacker behind Trakzer. “Sent On Tour” has a guest star too: Lou Diamond Phillips in the role of Saul Guerrero, the man whose case file Mayfair has worked so intently to bury lest the secrets of Daylight see…y’know, the light of day.
Phillips is a talented actor, but those skills weren’t put to good use in “Tour,” which mostly had Phillips spouting goofy quips as Weller and the team attempt to smuggle him out of a Michigan territory ruled over by an anti-government, anti-cop secessionist militia. A scenery-chewing villain is a necessary component of this type of show, and in Blindspot, that role has been ably filled by Michael Gaston’s eeeevil CIA director. Another one isn’t necessary, and Guerrero is a burden with Phillips overacting to this degree. The performance is so hammy and cheesy, the episode could be called “Our Micro Queens,” the best anagram that can be made out of “croque monsieur.” Oh, and in that episode, Weller and Company could be trying to stop a terrorist attack on a child beauty pageant. (I just pitched an episode of Blindspot!)
It’s a shame Phillips is so distracting because the actual premise of the episode is strong and suspenseful in theory, with Weller’s team pinned down and surrounded by hostiles in an unfamiliar place where the usual rules of engagement don’t apply. But the suspense never coalesces thanks to an opening flashback in which the The Man With The Tree Tattoo hides a crate in an undisclosed location for Weller and the team to discover later.
The brief appearance from Tree Tattoo impacts “Sent On Tour” in two ways. One, it stacks the deck in the FBI’s favor. Before Weller and the team are stranded in the Michigan wilds, Jane’s creator or co-conspirator has already gone to the trouble of showing them exactly how to get out and has even left them a generous supply of weapons and armor to shoot their way out. Obviously no one is going to die on this mission, but to the extent the audience would be able to suspend disbelief and trust that the Weller squad is in legitimate danger, that tension is undercut by all the advantages they’re given.
One of those advantages is a series of maps and markers on Jane’s body to show the team the way to get out of Michigan with Guerrero in tow. The oil derricks above Kurt Weller’s name on Jane’s back show the team the way to go, and when they arrive, a bit of intrepid investigation reveals the care package left for them by Tree Tattoo. “What is this, a scavenger hunt?” says Guerrero in one of the many lines intended to use smugness as proof of malice. The episode frames the line as just one of Guerrero’s ploys to escape custody by exploiting the interpersonal weaknesses within the team, but it’s just the plainspoken truth. They are, in fact, on a scavenger hunt, and Jane might as well be an actual treasure map.
Of course, a treasure map can’t suddenly figure out that it knows how to fly a helicopter, nor can it utilize its special forces training to methodically shoot its way out of an ambush. The most intriguing thing about Jane’s background is exactly this, the idea of her not knowing what she knows and having skills suddenly come back to her the moment she needs them most. There’s something kind of cool about the treasure map aspect of the tattoos as well, with the team scrambling to figure out what they mean while in a combat situation rather than decoding them in the sterile laboratory setting. But the Tree Tattoo flashback and all the context-specific tattoos only serves to remind me that someone went to the trouble of doing all this bullshit. And maybe that means Blindspot just isn’t for me, because I shouldn’t feel so resentful about the basic premise of the show. But anytime I have to give conscious thought to what’s been done to Jane and why, I start to check out mentally.
The bright spot of “Tour” is that its structure allows for some quality time with Patterson, who’s trying to negotiate her domestic situation with her puzzle-geek boyfriend David. I’m really enjoying Ashley Johnson’s performance, and there were several points in “Tour” when I found myself wishing the show was about Patterson, because the episode was more fun to watch whenever she was the focus of it. When a supporting character’s B-story, which is primarily about her personal life, takes attention away from the running and gunning, there might be a problem.
- I hate that Reade’s whole character has become “Doesn’t trust Jane’s tattoos and gets injured.”
- There’s more information coming about Daylight! Which is…exciting?