'The Blacklist' Season 7 Episode 18 Review: Who will Elizabeth choose — Katarina or Red?

With her mother's imminent return and her mentor's deteriorating health — whose side will Liz choose eventually?

                            'The Blacklist' Season 7 Episode 18 Review: Who will Elizabeth choose — Katarina or Red?
Megan Boone as Liz Keene (NBC)

Spoilers for Season 7 Episode 18 'Roy Cain'

"Neither can live while the other survives," says Katarina Rostova (Laila Robins) in the final moments of what is the finest 43-minutes of NBC's 'The Blacklist' so far in this seventh season.

Making her re-entrance after she was believed to be dead by everyone except her daughter Elizabeth Keene (Megan Boone), the Russian spy returns with every bit of grandeur, poise and panache that has always been associated with her.

She reminds us why she is pretty much the only contender of Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader), and also why both of them can continue living at the same time.

For now, we know Liz has chosen her mother's side, teaming up with her to dig up dirt on the man she is being mentored by. But Episode 18 offers Liz with choices she hadn't seen coming — which only makes us wonder whose side she will eventually step over to.

The abduction of Dembe's (Hisham Tawfiq) Imam orchestrated by Katarina brings out a whole ring of crimes being overseen by a warden at a federal prison. The episode surrounding eponymous Blacklist 'Roy Cain' sees the warden send his inmates into solitary as a ruse to send them out for criminal purposes — murder, kidnapping, and the likes.

And all of this comes to light when the Imam's abduction scene lead them to fingerprints of an inmate at the same prison where the corrupt warden presides.

But while all of this information comes to Red from his former lawyer Marvin, in exchange for the man's bar status getting restored, that isn't the last of all the help Red seeks from Marvin. In due turn, he also tells him to make changes in his will as his entire criminal empire is going to his mentee.

Before all of this happens, Katarina's very elaborate plans to get Red's details out of Dembe, by blackmailing him with the Imam's life almost bears her fruits of pretending to be dead for all these months.

Sinister and alarming as ever, Robins reminds us why she is up in the leagues of the very few, but kickass Russian spies and assassins on TV that we can't get enough of. But it is not in her scenes of threatening the Imam or blackmailing Dembe that she shines Katarina as the highlight of the episode.

It is after everything is over and the FBI arrive right in time at her hideout for her to run off leaving Dember and the Imam behind that we see Katarina in a layer never seen before. 

Red from 'The Blacklist' (IMDb)

Right at the end of the episode, Katarina meets her daughter. She tells Liz she has missed her and is almost compassionate, unlike the ruthlessness we have known to associate with her. Liz confronts her about abducting the Imam, and in her poignant monologue says how both she and Red can't stay alive at the same time.

Katarina warns Liz Red must know about her being alive, but that isn't the only warning she offers. While Red and the Imam are having a discourse on Dembe's allegiance because of how close he came to spilling Red's secrets in exchange for the Imam's life, Katarina and Liz discuss how Red will try to pose her with choice far bigger than her ability to fathom.

At this point, Liz knows Red is going to hand her his entire empire - something she has also discussed with Donald Ressler (Diego Klattenhoff) about how it couldn't come without an ulterior motive. But when actually posed with that choice, whose side with Liz choose?

Boone channels Liz's dilemma tastefully and with precision; it's almost as if the writers are teasing us with what Liz is about to do. Technically, even Liz knows there's no way she can save her mother, and take Red down at the same time.

However, whose side will she choose in the long run is something that keeps looming like a ticking time bomb with just one episode to come in this season cut short due to stalled production.

As if the three-month-long mid-season break wasn't enough, now we have a whole season of added Katarina and Red face-off cut short. But our first world problems compare nothing to the web Liz finds herself entangled in. 

'The Blacklist' Season 7 airs on Fridays at 8 pm only on NBC.

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