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'Blindspot' spot of the week: Uncovering Kurt Weller's tragic history

Season 1 | Episode 2 | “A Stray Howl” | Aired Sep 28, 2015

The writers of Blindspot weren’t kidding when they said we’d get a big clue about Jane Doe in episode two. What they didn’t say was that it tells us almost more about Kurt Weller than it does about Jane.

In case you missed it, here it is again: The scar that Weller noticed on the back of Jane’s neck at the end of the pilot episode is (at least according to him) the same as that on the neck of Taylor Shaw, a childhood friend who disappeared when Weller was just 10 years old. An FBI investigation took place, but the end result wasn’t good. As Weller’s sister explains at the end of this episode, their father was accused of Taylor’s abduction and murder and has spent the last 25 years with that hanging over his head. The elder Weller is now dying of lung cancer, so it’d be best for his son to find out the truth sooner rather than later.

Two words (at least the two I can print): Holy crap.

Temporarily postponing the argument over whether Jane’s identity is about to be given, “A Stray Howl” was basically like sitting down for an entire therapy session with Weller. That one potential fact revealed so much about who this man is, why he behaves the way that he does, and why it still makes no sense that Sullivan Stapleton doesn’t have at least an Emmy nomination. He showed us the emotional, softer side of Kurt Weller in a few wonderful moments while still preserving the general stoicalness of the character; if you didn’t love Weller already, you do now. Not only that, but he basically sold the audience on why this show is worth following.

It’s obvious from the episode that Taylor’s abduction is something that has plagued Weller for a long time, because his interaction with Mayfair indicates this isn’t the first time they’ve had a conversation about it. She also suggests that he talk to someone again, so we know he’s been to some amount of therapy because of this. It’s not a huge leap to say this could be the inciting incident that led him to join the FBI, either to clear his father’s name or to get closure or both. In fact, it seems likely, considering there’s an underlying theme in the episode about how much a moment or choice can change your life. Taylor Shaw is Kurt Weller’s defining moment.

Once you know that history, a lot of things about him come into focus. His commitment to the FBI, wanting to do the right thing. His almost big-brotherly instincts toward Jane (those adorable hugs!). His aim to keep professional and maintain a certain emotional distance. You can see how Weller has been shaped by his experience, which is fantastic because there is nothing more annoying than a backstory reveal that has nothing to do with how a character has been established. With Weller, you can actually connect the dots.

The tease is almost more valuable to him than it is to Jane, from a big-picture point of view. The audience has always known that they are connected; it was established that none of her tattoos are random, which obviously includes his name on her back. The only question left is to what extent. It could be something professional, like one of his old cases (as he initially suggests), or it could be something personal like this. That whole side of the story isn’t new.

But by adding this discussion to the mix, Blindspot is immediately fleshing out the character of Kurt Weller, and also saying that his past and his journey are going to be as much a part of the show as Jane’s is. As mentioned in our discussion of the pilot, it was obvious by how he reacted to Jane when he met her that he had his own story arc, and now we know what that is. Regardless of whether or not Jane Doe is Taylor Shaw, we have so much more of Weller that’s out there and that we care about. And if she does happen to be revealed next week as his childhood friend, that’s going to have a much bigger impact on Weller than it will on Jane.

This is why Sullivan Stapleton was such a fantastic choice for the role of Kurt Weller. “A Stray Howl” drops a major bomb for his character, and we essentially watch Weller have a couple of moments where he starts to crack—but Stapleton conveys all that turmoil without letting him break. It would be out of character and also pretty distracting if the script had this stoic FBI agent off crying in a corner or throwing a chair.

Stapleton shows every ounce of vulnerability and confusion that the audience would expect for something this big, but he never moves away from his character’s established baseline, and it all falls into place. Whether or not he ever finds Taylor Shaw, Blindspot has, in one episode, given us a great understanding of and appreciation for Kurt Weller.

Blindspot airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

TV Families | EW.com
February 23, 1990 at 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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