Friday, March 22, 2019

Blindspot 4x16 Review: "The One Where Jane Visits an Old Friend" (Rage and Remorse) [Contributor: Jen]

"The One Where Jane Visits an Old Friend"
Original Airdate: March 22, 2019

Blindspot finally deals with Jane's compartmentalization of her identities in "The One Where Jane Visits and Old Friend" and spoiler alert: the writers agree with me. Yeah! I always enjoy when that happens. An old friend (enemy?) returns to psychoanalyze Jane and just when I thought it was a flawless episode, they do something to make me want to tear my hair out. You are a fickle friend, Blindspot.


Does anyone even care about Madeline Burke and her stupid plans anymore? Ugh. She's starting to become a cliche, mustache twirling villain. Her swerves can be spotted a million miles away. End my misery, Blindspot. Please.

The Mexican cartel's hit man is in town and Tasha thinks there's a kill order out on her and Boston after nearly being taken out by a hail of bullets. All evidence points to yes. Honestly, I can't remember why the cartel is ticked at Tasha and Boston. I have a dim recollection it had something to do with the foiled Air Force One plot. Unfortunately (fortunately?) when said hit man is arrested, his silver gun case is filled with clothes and he swears he's in town for business. Sure, Jan.

The cartel is also hunting Madeline; but instead of laying low, she uses the cartel as cover to deal with her own loose ends. Some of the data Tasha pulled from the zip drive miraculously unscrambles and the team finds a hit list of MCI Global executives and the code word: "Helios." Which is some big bad plan I am sure they are clueless about.

The team figures out the cartel is not responsible for the MCI Global killings and convinces Madeline's pilot J.B. to tell them where she is. He agrees to the deal for $10 million. And they say crime doesn't pay.

Luckily our main characters are smartening up and only pretend to wire the money, courtesy of Rich Dotcom. It becomes clear to Boston that J.B. is conning the FBI. He's led them to the wrong extraction site and has absolutely no intention of handing Madeline over.

The real extraction point is the helicopter pad at the local hospital. Pretending to be a medical a chopper performing a bogus rescue is moderately brilliant. I will give Madeline that much.

This all leads to the big showdown at the hospital. Jane gets to kick butt again (yeah!) and use a magnetized MRI machine to disarm Madeline's goons. At first it didn't feel like real science, but then I decided I didn't care because it was cool. Tasha finally gets to put the cuffs on Madeline, which was a satisfying moment for her character.

There's not a lot of room left for rejoicing because typically when Blindspot arrests the Big Bad this early in the season, either they have something more awful planned or the Big Bad isn't the real Big Bad.


The team is pretty busy trying to take down Madeline Burke, but there's a sweet subplot about Rich Dotcom buying all of Boston's art in secret. Patterson plays couples therapist and warns Rich not to tell Boston because it will devastate him. But Boston knows Rich is the one buying all the paintings all along. Half the fun for these guys is the push/pull. And as Boston remarks points out earlier in regards to J.B., you can't con a con.

Jane is really spiraling and it forces her to visit a frenemy, Borden, for help. Of course, she is worried about the team's reaction, particularly Patterson. But her reaction is perfectly Patterson when she says: "I just want Jane back, so whatever she needs."

Reade and Tasha chime in with their respective dittos and I absolutely love how Team Blindspot loves Jane. I also am thrilled Jane did not lie to Patterson about Borden. The truth is a rare and precious jewel on this show. I'm taking the win.


Jane is pretty shaken up over her confrontation with Cameron Gibbs in "Frequently Recurring Struggle for Existence." All her Remi chickens are coming home to roost and our girl cannot deal. This show doesn't let Jane fall apart very often, so it's nice they are taking a minute to let the character freak out a bit. It's easy to forget Jane is not a machine in all the never-ending crisis. She's a person.

Kurt suggest Jane see a therapist. HOLY CRAP. Advice from Kurt that doesn't include his usual "Remi isn't you" pitch?! It's a miracle. Therapy feels so normal, and Blindspot always throws me for a loop when they do anything normal because this show is anything but. Meanwhile I'm thinking "Hey! Remember the last time Jane went to therapy her therapist turned out to be evil?" Good times.

The first therapist Kurt sends her to is a nice enough guy, but he feels Jane is a little outside his area of expertise. This is a sign of a good therapist/doctor. It's about getting your patient the best care and not about ego. Jane is a little bummed because she liked this guy. Me too, Jane!

But not all referrals are the magic fairy dust we hope them to be. Unfortunately, the therapist with all the expertise can barely keep up with Jane's winding tale. She has to explain her story again and again and is exhausted before the therapy even begins. It's not shocking the therapist is having trouble keeping up. We've watched this show. We know.

That said, I related to this scene in my bones as someone with a complicated health history. It's difficult getting new doctors up to speed. You want nothing more than someone who knows you in those moments. Familiarity is comforting, especially when you don't know what's going on in your own mind and body.

Me: Hey remember when I said, "Remember when Jane used to have an evil therapist?" Turns out he's the "old friend" in the episode title. You can't get anything past me!

Unpopular opinion: I really liked Borden and (if memory serves) I was bummed he turned out to be a Sandstorm operative.

It makes a lot of sense to bring Borden back for a couple reasons. First, he is familiar with Jane in more than one way. He knows Remi, Jane, and even Alice Kruger. He was also a victim to Remi's manipulations. Jane wasn't able to get through to Cameron Gibbs, but that doesn't mean her list of sins stops there. Borden is definitely on it.

I have been extremely frustrated with the way Jane has been approaching all her identities. She separates herself into different selves like Remi, and even Alice, are removed from Jane Doe. This isn't the first show I've watched where the main character has an "Other" as Borden classifies it. For Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer it was Angelus and the Gypsy curse. For Stefan on The Vampire Diaries it was The Ripper and his humanity switch. For Oliver Queen on Arrow it was man versus mask. Didn't watch any of those shows? Okay, how about Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vadar or Kylo Ren/Ben Solo? This is a tried and true hero trope.

We all struggle between light and dark. These stories are an allegory for the push/pull between our sinful nature and our virtue. The center between these two opposing forces is where redemption lies. There may be an outside force triggering the "evil" side of all these characters, but when they find their way back to the light there are two irrefutable lessons they all learn. First, they are responsible for the actions of their dark side persona. Second, the darkness is not separate from their identity. It is part of who they are. They have to accept their darker self in order to control it, so it no longer has total power over them.

Acceptance is the first step to redemption. It is the first step to forgiveness. So sorry Jane sweetie you don't get to talk about Remi in the third person anymore. As Borden says: "You talk about Remi as if she's a different person."

This differentiation is something Borden tackles immediately and he asks Jane why she does it. BECAUSE KURT DOES. Obviously, we know Kurt Weller loves Jane, but his need to constantly push all the Remi issues to the side by dismissing it as "not Jane" is a little off putting, quite frankly. It's easy to see why Jane is hesitant to accept this part of herself when it seems like the person who loves her most can't accept Remi either.

Before you start throwing things at me, I'm not saying Kurt doesn't accept Remi. He wouldn't be with Jane if he doesn't, but his way of helping her with Remi isn't really helpful. Kurt wants to push all of Jane's sins as Remi under the rug because he's long forgiven her for them. He loves her unconditionally and once you've truly forgiven someone, the past is past. All you want to do is move forward.

But Jane isn't in the same place as Kurt. She's not just stuck in her past. She's reliving it one memory at a time as they flood into her mind. Kurt may have forgiven Jane, but she hasn't forgiven herself. Borden hasn't forgiven Jane either, and at first it sounds like he's manipulating her into self-hatred, but he's really not. He's actually being a really good therapist and forcing Jane to look at some cold, hard truths about herself.

The zip took Remi's memories, which is how the Jane persona evolved. In all fairness, Jane is the "Other" and not Remi. Jane is Remi without all the rage and manipulation, which allowed her natural instincts to love and protect selflessly rise to the surface. The Zip gave Jane her soul and conscience back. It reprogrammed her morality and sense of justice. However, the Zip didn't erase Jane's culpability. Remi chose to erase her memories, but the zip didn't erase her actions. Remi's past was simply in stasis waiting for Jane to remember.
Borden: "The division between you isn't. It's an invention designed to deflect any blame you might feel for the things you've done in your past."
SO. MANY. TRUTH. BOMBS. Borden accuses Jane of remaining a victim so she doesn't have to face the things she's done. If she's a victim of Shepherd and Sandstorm, then she has no culpability in the things Remi did. This is basically crap. It might sound harsh, but it's true. Borden was a victim of Remi's manipulations just like Cameron Gibbs was and he's sitting in prison for his actions. Being hurt isn't a free pass to hurt others. Being victimized doesn't absolve you of personal responsibility. We are accountable for our actions.

Jane (and Kurt mostly) is deflecting. She's latched onto this defense mechanism of division between identities to keep the flood of regret at bay. It's a wall that has worked for awhile until she came face to face with one of those sins: Cameron Gibbs. He was a crack in the dam and now it's exploded. The pain and guilt is flooding in. Jane is drowning, but Borden is going to show her how to swim again.
Borden: "I met this you a long time ago and the love of my life was wiped off the face of the planet. Because you came into my life. Not Alice Krueger, not Remi Briggs, not Jane Doe. Just you."
Borden doesn't compartmentalize Jane like Kurt does. Alice, Remi and Jane are all HER. There is no separation now that her memories are back, which means it's time to deal with your crap Jane Doe.

He tells Jane to stop looking at herself through a prism of good and bad. Sure, saints and serial killers make up the outer edges of the good/bad spectrum, but most of us fall somewhere in the middle. We aren't all good and we aren't all bad. Borden saw good in Remi and he's seen Jane do some pretty terrible things. Alice Kruger was a little girl torn from her parents and she's very much alive inside of Jane and Remi.

There is a connective thread among all of these identities. Jane was always searching for the family and home Alice lost. She found it in Shepherd and Sandstorm first. Then, Kurt and Team Blindspot.

She's also someone who fights for justice. Remi's actions were bad, but her intentions were good. She wanted to right the wrongs of the world, which Borden points out isn't all that different from her role at the FBI. Jane realizes now that the wrongs she wants to right are her own, but the magnitude of the damage she has caused is overwhelming. She's paralyzed by the pressure to make it right.

We've all felt like this before. Maybe not to the extent Jane has, but there are days where I have so much to do that it's overwhelming. Sometimes I just hide under the covers or procrastinate doing others things to avoid it. Jane's behavior is no different and it's a very normal reaction to pressure. So Borden tells a beautiful story to help Jane cope.
Borden: "A boy walks along a beach when he comes across a thousand star fish all washed up on the shore, baking in the sun. Dying. So he picks one up and he throws it back into the sea. Saves it. A man walks up to the boy and says, 'You can't save every star fish on this beach. It's impossible.'" 
Jane: "And then the boy says, 'No, but I can save that one.'"
Remi told Borden this story while she was trying to recruit him for Sandstorm, but every good lie has some truth to it. This story has a lot of truth. We rarely find redemption in one sweeping action. There's no magic wand to wave to balance the scales. Forgiveness is a step by step process. It is two steps forward and one step back. We will fall down. We will make mistakes.

Jane couldn't make it right with Gibbs, but that doesn't mean she can't make anything right. The only way she's not going to drown in this flood of regret is by swimming. Our path to redemption can only truly be seen in hindsight. The road we walk is created by a million stones of failures and triumphs. We put down one and then another the next day and another the next until one day we're standing in the sun. We're home.

It's also important to realize it's really not about balancing the cosmic scales. How many nuclear bombs does Jane have to stop before she squares the balance sheet with her Sandstorm criminal activity? It's not a great way to approach life because life isn't math. It's not a balance sheet. Jane doesn't have to be perfect to be deserving of love and forgiveness. What counts is the effort. Putting one foot in front of the other and trying every day to be a good person.

But Jane will never find her way without Remi and Alice. The sooner she accepts that no identity was perfect, the better. Every part of her life feeds into who she is NOW and now is what truly matters. The person Jane is, and wants to be, rather than who she was. The past is the past. Jane has to keep pushing forward. She will win the war inside herself, one battle at a time.

It's really important for Jane to start seeing some positive qualities in Remi or else this will never work. Remi wasn't a great person, but she wasn't the devil either. The rage Remi feels is useful when it's pointed at the right target. The remorse Jane feels is useful when pointed at the right target.

So, Borden offers a thread in which Jane can connect all of her identities - strength. Alice, Remi and Jane all know how to survive. They all have an inner strength which propels them forward.  If there's one concept Jane understands it's fighting.

She also finally gets a clinical diagnosis and it's about dang time! Underneath all the guns, terrorism, tattoos and puzzles, Jane is struggling with plain old PTSD. She's traumatized. YA THINK? Granted, her case is a little more complicated than most, but her paralysis and agoraphobia are all symptoms of PTSD. Sometimes her history as a solider is kind of glazed over, so I think it was really powerful moment in the show when Borden reminded Jane there are many people struggling with the same things as her and there are treatments to help her get better.

He also tells Jane if she's ever struggling to remember how much she is needed. Kurt loves her. The team loves her. Jane has found the family and home Alice longed for. Her recovery will be long, but she doesn't have to do it alone.

I never fully believed all of Jane's therapy with Borden was all manipulation. If Jane isn't good or bad then neither is Borden. He truly helped her this time and by doing so put down a stone in his long road to redemption and forgiveness as well.

The session with Borden enough to get Jane off the bench, back into the field, and ready to kick butt. Blindspot immediately puts her in a two-on-one fight scene. It's a physical manifestation of everything going on emotionally and mentally. She's fighting with her fists, mind, and heart. Jane is starting to put all the pieces together. 

Which is why I was tearing my hair out when Dominic plunged that needle into her leg. I'm hoping it was just something to knock Jane out. I cannot take another memory wipe. Not after the leaps and bounds progress Jane made this week. We already did evil Remi in the first part of the season. NO MORE ZIP PLEASE!

Stray Thoughts:

  • The FBI couldn't think to look under the floor? Really?
  • "That is fantastic. Motel 8 is redecorating." Rich Dotcom zingers are the best kind of zingers
  • This show expects to believe Madeline is some criminal mastermind, but she's also stupid enough to leave a wine glass with her finger prints and DNA all over it. God grant me patience.
  • Worst CGI helicopter ever.


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