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All posts for the month February, 2017

Photo by: Will Hart/NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Raymond Reddington’s watched his universe collapse before his eyes over the last few episodes of the NBC series “The Blacklist.” Red’s seen his organization hemorrhaging millions in capital and long-time friends and associates methodically killed, including his money launderer, and the man that ran his Mediterranean shipping operation  The man that courted death on a daily basis for decades, suddenly became concerned about his own mortality, and he’s vowed not to go gently into the night. Last week Raymond discovered that his enemy’s one of his own, when his banker David Levine, informed him that the money used to pay one of his adversaries came from Red’s own bank account.

The final episode before going on a nearly two-month hiatus, ended with a huge question for Raymond and the show’s fans. By breaking his own moral code, did Reddington alienate one of his oldest friends, to the point that his confidant felt they had no other choice but to take Red out? As we reached the final credits, all the evidence seemed to point in one direction, leading to a conclusion that would completely rock Raymond’s world. Have the creative staff of the show, once again pointed the fans in the wrong direction, or should we believe what we think we witnessed in the episode entitled “The Apothecary?”

Our evening opens with Raymond sitting in a hardback chair in his library, while Dembe pours him a Scotch. Zuma asks Reddington, if he believes it’s wise to gather eleven of Red’s associates in the same location? Raymond responds that one of the group’s a Judas and must be confronted, Dembe counters that Red’s putting himself in a dangerous situation. Reddington drinks his Scotch.

The scene suddenly changes, as a graphic informs us that it’s now nine hours later. Raymond’s lying in a makeshift triage unit, with a mask over his nose and mouth and a doctor telling him to breathe. Reddington asks what’s going on, and the doctor says his name’s Dr. Haverkamp and he’s part of Raymond’s emergency team (Should we take this as a sign that Reddington killed Dr. Nik Korpal, when he thought Lizzie died?) Red asks where’s Dembe, and the physician responds that he doesn’t know who that is. He then says that the man that brought Reddington into the facility, took off when his condition stabilized.

Haverkamp tells Reddington he got poisoned and unless they can identify the toxin, Raymond will die within 48-hours. Haverkamp gives him a bunch of steroids and an inhaler and says the combination will control the symptoms and Raymond unhooks himself from the IV and the monitors and asks for a cellphone. He calls Elizabeth Keen and asks her to gather the Task-Force together to solve a murder.

An ashen-faced and wobbly legged Reddington arrives at the Post Office and Ressler asks what’s wrong? Raymond responds that Donald’s prayers got answered, and he’s apparently dying. He tells the Task-Force members that he believes a member of the Blacklist, known as the Apothecary’s responsible for the toxin that’s killing him. The Apothecary’s a man that creates designer poisons specifically targeted to each victim. His toxins can mimic brain-embolisms, strokes and heart-attacks. Sometimes the poisons immediately kill the victims, while other strains, put the victim into a prolonged coma. He then informs them that a building contractor named Panetti, may have recently used the drug maker’s services, to put one of his employees into a coma.

We get our first view of The Apothecary, as he’s handling snakes and extracting their venom for his designer toxins. We then see him leave his lab, and enter his bedroom, where he takes off his lab-suit and strips down to a tank-top. We see a nearly comatose woman lying on their bed and the drug maker lies down next to her, and tells her all will be fine and he hasn’t given up on her. We see tears falling from the woman at the sounds of his words.

Reddington goes off in search of Zuma, while Ressler and Keen talk to the District Attorney about Panetti. The D.A. says that he’s been attempting to bring charges against the construction magnet for years, but he lacked the evidence. However Panetti got greedy and fire-bombed a competitor’s facilities and Panetti’s accountant Helen Dahle, agreed to testify against him, saying she wrote a check to the people that were responsible for the bombing. However with Dahle in a coma, he’s got no case. Liz tells the District Attorney that she and Ressler need to contact the victim’s doctors.

Raymond takes out a burner phone and tries contacting all those who were with him at the restaurant the night before, but he only gets their voice-mails. He then pays Dr. Haverkamp a visit, in the physician’s hospital and Haverkamp freaks out that somebody might see them together. He pulls them into a patient’s room and Red asks him about Dembe, Haverkamp responds that the only thing he remembers was that he drove a green station wagon that he parked outside the facility. Reddington finds the car, breaks into it and finds the registration. He then drives the vehicle to the address on the form.

The Apothecary’s keeping the woman, who we learn is his wife, sedated so she can’t run away again. However he gives her a way to call him, by tying a string on her finger that’s attached to a bell. When she moves her finger, the bell rings. He then puts an inhaler in her mouth, that puts her back to sleep.

Elizabeth and Donald, meet with Helen’s doctor, who tells the pair she thought that Dahle reacted from a nut allergy, but the medicine she used to treat her patient made her worse. Liz notices Helen’s husband and parents sitting outside her room and the two agents go and talk with them.

Helen’s husband Robert says that his wife had dinner with a friend from college, and then lapsed into a coma. He says that the police already cleared the friend, so they believe Panetti’s behind her poisoning. He then says that Helen’s parents had kept a constant vigil outside his wife’s room, but that he had gone to a hotel in Sarasota Springs last weekend on his own to get away and sort things out. He then begs the agents to find the person responsible.

Samar meets with Panetti and his attorney. The builder denies trying to murder Dahle and says her testimony wouldn’t have hurt him in court. Helen did indeed write a check to the people responsible for the fire-bombing, but the attorney says the check got cut so that Panetti’s business didn’t suffer the same fate. Panetti then says that he likes Helen, and if Navabi and the Bureau don’t find the ones responsible for her being in a coma, he will.

Raymond arrives at the address on the registration and finds the home’s front door’s ajar. He pulls out his pistol and calls out hello, he then sees signs of a scuffle, and his fedora on the floor. He puts on his hat and walks into the garage, where a car’s parked and we hear someone whimpering in the trunk. Reddington opens it, and finds a young woman inside, bound with duct tape over her mouth. He asks her who put her in the truck, and she responds by asking him if he’s playing a sick joke? She then informs Red, that he put her in there.

Aram tracks Panetti’s check and finds out it went to a non-existent charity, and then got sent through an elaborate money-laundering setup, making it untraceable. Liz did some digging and finds out that Robert Dahle, wasn’t alone in Sarasota Springs, as surveillance footage of him at the front desk of the hotel show him getting cozy with what appears to be his mistress. Cooper tells Ressler and Keen, to track down the girlfriend and try to get her to talk.

Raymond tries to get information from the young woman he took prisoner, after apologizing for his actions. She tells him that he’d been very polite given the circumstances. She then says that Red and his friend had broken into the apartment across the hall from her, and she called the cops. She then told the duo what she did and Reddington told her she was coming along with them in his car’s trunk. Red then nearly passes out and the young woman, named Lulu tries to escape, but Raymond gets to the door and asks for her help.

Ressler and Keen bring in Robert’s mistress, a woman named Brooklyn in for questioning. Ressler says that Dahle told them she poisoned Helen, but she denies it and says she wanted nothing to do with it. She says that the only thing she knows, is that he gives her the toxin twice a week. We see Robert in the hospital, opening Helen’s eye and putting drops from the Toxin into it. The mistress says she can tell the agents where the toxin’s hidden.

Liz and Donald, head to Robert’s home with a search warrant and find their suspect’s taking a bath. He stands up and Keen says that he best get dressed, unless he wants to go to jail naked. They find the poison, and inform Dahle they’re aware of the prenuptial agreement he signed, that keeps him from getting any money until their tenth anniversary, coming up in two weeks.

Raymond and Lulu, break into a pharmacy in search of steroids and another inhaler. Lulu finds both and Raymond takes some of the pills, but before he can use the inhaler he collapses on the drug store’s floor. Lulu doesn’t abandon Reddington, instead she brings him back to her apartment. After she gets some pills in him he returns to lucidity and thanks her for saving his life. She tells him that while he’d been comatose, she discovered the owner of the apartment across the hall, is Red’s attorney Marvin Gerard.

The apartment actually belongs to Gerard’s fiancée Becky, when Lulu and Red enter the apartment, it appears the couple left the place in a rush. Raymond notices there’s a message on the answering machine, he plays it to hear his own voice, telling Marvin that everybody’s gathered at a restaurant called John’s and are waiting for him. Lulu says she knows where the restaurant’s located and can take Raymond there, but he says he’s caused her enough trouble and tells her to take off. She wishes him the best.

The Bureau’s lab analyzes the toxin and it contains the venom of a very rare breed of snake. Aram’s located the only known member of the breed in the States, it’s the property of a defunct reptile farm in Pennsylvania. Aram tells Keen and Ressler, that records show the former operator, Asa Hightower still lives in an apartment on the property. The two agents head to check the facility out.

Raymond heads to John’s, and finds the kitchen door’s been barricaded with a coat rack. He removes the wooden rack and opens the kitchen doors, to find ten of the associates he summoned inside. While they are angrier than a bunch of wet-hens, Red’s banker David Levine and his money launderer Abe, try to fill in the blanks in Reddington’s memory. Raymond was in the midst of telling the group a parable about betrayal, when he realized that Marvin Gerard, wasn’t among them. He then sent the restaurant staff home and demanded his associates go into the kitchen.

Levine starts to pour himself a glass of wine, but Red slaps the glass from his hand. He informs his associates that he got poisoned, and asks the group if the wine he drank came from one of the bottles on the table? A young attractive woman tells  Reddington, that the waiter poured his glass from another bottle and gives it to Red. There’s a note on the bottle, apologizing for not being there, signed by Marvin Gerard.

Ressler and Keen arrive at the Hightower’s apartment, but Asa’s not there. They do however hear a bell ringing and they follow it to the bedroom and discover Mrs. Hightower. They call paramedics to treat her, as the two agents look around the facility.

Raymond calls Keen and tells her he’s sending the wine containing the poison to her. Elizabeth tells Reddington that he’s going to be fine, but suddenly Raymond goes into a coughing jag and collapses on the floor while he’s on the phone with Lizzie.

Mrs. Hightower’s become more lucid since the paramedics treated her and she starts talking to the two agents. She informs them that her husband raped her, while she was comatose and got her pregnant. She tells them that she believes her husband’s at a baby-supply store, to find a mobile for the nursery he put together. Lizzie phones Aram and she and Ressler travel to the nearest baby-supply shop. After Hightower tries to take the sales clerk hostage, Keen knocks him to the floor with a table made for toddlers.

Navabi and Ressler question Hightower and he tells them he’s willing to cut a deal. Take the death-penalty off the table and he’ll tell them how to cure Reddington. Navabi asks The Apothecary if he’s afraid of death, and Asa responds that he’s not, however now he’s got something to live for. Even in a prison cell, he’ll still be a father.

Raymond’s being treated with the antidote back at the triage unit. Haverkamp comes out and tells Liz, Cooper and Aram, that he doesn’t want to raise false hopes, but Reddington’s stabilized and the antidote seems to be working just fine. Keen asks if they can go and see him, but Haverkamp says they should give him a few minutes to recover.

We see Raymond coming to, and in through the back door slip Baz and Glen. Reddington asks if they found Gerard, and Glen says they found “the little weasel,” at the airport with Becky, heading to the South Seas. Raymond asks about Dembe, but Baz gives him a look that Red recognizes as he’s still M.I.A. He gives Baz an address and tells him to bring Marvin there and he’ll meet them later.

Lizzie gets a call from the Bureau’s lab, telling her that the wine Raymond sent to her didn’t contain any of the toxin. She goes into the triage unit to inform him, only to find that Reddington left the facility without informing anybody that he took off.

Raymond’s back in his library , this time joined by one of his goons and a bound Marvin Gerard. Red’s lawyer asks what’s going on, and Reddington replies he’s not falling for Marvin’s innocent act, and asks where Dembe’s at? Gerard says he hasn’t seen Dembe, and he’s got no idea what’s bothering Reddington. Raymond tells him that he knows all about The Apothecary, and that Marvin’s the one who hired him and Isabella Stone. Red then talks about being held in a South Seas prison for 47-days, thinking he’d die there. On the 48th day, the gates swung open and Raymond was given two tins of Beluga caviar, that Marvin had somehow gotten to him, even though Gerard was also in prison.

Reddington says he’d been so touched by the gesture, that he arranged for Marvin to get released from prison. Gerard says he realizes all of that, hence he’d have no reason to betray Red. Reddington says they’ll get to Gerard’s motivation later, but right now he wants to know Dembe’s location and pulls out his pistol.

Just then Raymond’s goon comes back into the room and gives Red the cellphone, telling him Elizabeth’s on the other end. Keen tells Reddington that the wine didn’t contain the poison, and the toxin would need a higher alcohol content than wine to get released within Raymond’s system. She asks if he might have had some whiskey that day, and Reddington’s mind flashes back to the Scotch he had at the beginning of the episode. Raymond says that’s impossible, that only two people had access to that bottle, and he was one of them.

The scene shifts one last time, to a busy city street as Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” plays on the soundtrack. “There must be some way to get out of here, said the joker to the thief,” plays in the background as we watch Dembe Zuma enter the subway, pulling the hood of his coat over his head.

The Story Resumes Thursday, April 20, at 10:00 pm on NBC.

Photo by: Will Hart/NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

We’ve witnessed the once unflappable Raymond Reddington, starting to question everything during the last few months, on the NBC series”The Blacklist.” The self-assured “Concierge Of Crime,” whose instincts seemed flawless, (Apples, everybody likes apples.) morphed into a man watching his empire crumble in front of him. Raymond now evokes comparisons with King Lear, and Tony Montana, like the protagonist in Scarface, he’s making rash and impulsive decisions, that come back to haunt him. Reddington feels his power slipping away, as the aging British monarch did, which eventually drove the King to madness.

Red’s concerns are many, the underworld’s abuzz with talk of his series of defeats. Death’s claimed many valuable members of his operation, including his money-launderer Zach Smoll. Smoll died in the middle of a monetary transaction, costing Reddington 20 million dollars, along with an old friend and trusted associate. Dissension’s reared its head within the Task-Force, as the “Boy-Scout” Agent Donald Ressler’s started to question Team-Red’s mission. Task-Force leader Harold Cooper shows his displeasure with Reddington, in an escalating power war.

The Immediate Threat:

When we last saw Reddington, his world had gotten rocked when Natalie Luca told him that Isabella Stone forced her to kill Zach Smoll. This week’s episode opens with the sound of a car crash and a graphic informing us that we’re in Paris, then we hear the AC/DC recording of “Shake A Leg,” on the soundtrack as we see the victim’s now dead body’s crashed through the windshield and his head’s now on his car’s hood. A man and woman emerge from the vehicle that slammed into the man’s car, the woman smiles and says they got him good.

We soon discover the victim wore a prosthetic leg, as the man reaches into the car and removes it from the corpse. The woman removes a cover on the top of the appendage allows several rolls of bills to hit the pavement, she’s after the bonds also stored within. She then tells her colleague she gets a kick out of their job and they flee the scene.

Turns out the victim was one of Reddington’s couriers and the bonds belonged to Red. We find this out as Raymond meets with an old and trusted associate Stratos Sarantos, during a meeting at a café. Reddington tries spinning it as a momentary setback, but his associate reminds him the loss is one of many recent defeats for Raymond’s operation and people have begun talking.

Reddington displays a forced smile and tells Sarantos that he’s got his eye on three cargo ships in France and wants his associate to evaluate them. He gives Sarantos tickets for Stratos and his wife Corina to Monte Carlo, and tells his old friend to romance his wife and enjoy the gambling. He smiles again and says they’ve been through worse, and then sees Elizabeth Keen arriving for her meeting. Sarantos leaves and thanks Raymond for the free vacation.

Lizzie asks Reddington the identity of the man, and he replies that he head’s Red’s Mediterranean shipping fleet. Keen’s surprised at the revelation that Raymond has shipping operations, but he quickly changes the conversation to inform her he’s got the latest member of the Blacklist for her. The Task-Force’s next target’s the person who engineered the murders of Smoll and the courier, Raymond says he only knows the woman by her alias, Isabella Stone.

Back at the Post Office, Keen explains that Stone’s a character assassin whose latest mission’s to destroy Reddington’s empire. Just at that moment, Ressler gets a call on his cellphone and he’s clearly shaken when he hangs up and rejoins the team. Cooper starts assigning his agents their roles in the case, but Ressler objects to doing more heavy lifting for Reddington. Cooper says he understands his agent’s mindset, but they’re pursuing the case.

Donald and Samar, reach out to a DGSE official, in an effort to get information on the car accident that killed the courier, but the official’s reluctant to cooperate. That’s until Ressler reveals that the victim in the accident was a courier for Reddington, suddenly the man agrees to give them everything they need in order to capture Reddington.

The French send a copy of a surveillance tape from inside a tavern that the courier visited just before the accident. Once again Aram Mojtabai puts the team on the right path, noticing a man keeping tabs on the courier, who then leaves the pub shortly after the courier departs. Using facial recognition software, Mojtabai identifies the man as Chip Murphy, a former NCIS Agent who fell off the grid after leaving his position. He’s got a storage facility in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where Keen and Ressler head to.

The manager of the facility refuses to let Donald and Liz search the storage unit without a warrant, but Keen decides to bend the law and picks the lock of the unit. The unit’s filled with computers and filing cabinets containing information. Lizzie quickly finds a folder with pictures of Smoll, the courier, and Stratos and Corina Sarantos. She immediately calls Raymond and informs him about the file, when she mentions Sarantos’ name, Reddington abruptly says he needs to go and disconnects.

We find ourselves in the Sarantos’ hotel suite in Monte Carlo, Stratos wants to head to the gambling tables, while Corina wants to bask in a hot shower before joining him. Stratos puts on his white dinner jacket and kisses his wife goodbye, pleading with her to hurry as he needs his good luck charm.

Corina starts to get ready for her shower, when she’s startled by two women standing in the suite, one holding a pistol. We recognize one of the women, as Chip Murphy’s partner in the murder of the courier, the other woman’s holding the pistol. Corina begs them not to shoot her, the woman clutching the firearm assures her she’s not getting shot, the gun’s to keep her quiet as her associate strangles her. She then grabs the gown that Corina had planned to wear, telling the corpse she needs to borrow it.

Sarantos finds himself having quite a run at one of the tables, when we see Murphy standing nearby disguised as a waiter. He pours a sedative into Stratos’ drink and then informs his associates. A crowd’s gathered around Sarantos’ table, so it’s too loud for him to understand Raymond when he calls to warn him. Murphy once again communicates to his associates, and the woman carrying the pistol storms into the casino in Corina’s dress and wearing her sunglasses. She then slaps Stratos face and screams she’s had enough of him and Raymond Reddington. Sarantos believing it’s Corina tries to find out what’s wrong, but she starts to walk off with Stratos in pursuit.

They get to the Sarantos suite and Stratos sees his wife’s dead body on the floor, and soon after falls to the floor himself as the sedative takes effect. The woman’s joined by Murphy and her female associate and they call the front desk from the room next door, saying that the couple in the next suite are having a terrible row. The other woman screams in mock-terror as they hang up. They position Stratos’ body right next to Corina’s now wearing the gown, and place his hands around his wife’s neck.

Raymond meets with Cooper and they discuss whether Stratos will give up information on Reddington, Red assures Harold that Sarantos’ loyalty’s not in question. He just doesn’t want his friend to disappear down some black hole, because he refuses to cooperate with French officials. Cooper sends Navabi and Ressler to Monte Carlo to try to bring Sarantos back to the States.

Samar’s excited about the assignment as she’s never been to Monte Carlo, but Donald’s almost comatose. He finally reveals to her that the phone call came from his mother, and his brother’s about to have bypass surgery. He wishes he could be by his brother’s side and he’s angry he’s on a mission for Reddington, instead of with his family. He says to Navabi that it’s like they work for Reddington, and he should sign their checks.

When the agents arrive in Monte Carlo, they find that their efforts to bring back Sarantos to the States, blocked by a French detective named Gautier. Sarantos keeps stating that he got set up but Gautier scoffs at his story, saying that there’s only one means of exit and that witnesses from the next room called security during his fight with his wife. Navabi realizes that the room next door has an adjoining door to the suite and asks for access to the room and the information of the former occupant.

Upon receiving the information, Aram identifies the woman who occupied the hotel room as Charlotte Hart, and finds a connection between her and Chip Murphy. They both worked for a well-known Washington socialite, Judith Pruitt, widow of a former high-powered CEO who got tried and convicted in a pyramid scheme in the nineties. Pruitt believed her husband Gavin was innocent and she was devastated when he was murdered by a fellow convict.

Keen believes that Pruitt’s motivation to destroy reputations centers on revenge for her believing her husband got unjustly convicted. So she goes after guilty individuals, exposing their sins to the planet, despite any collateral damage she causes. Pruitt’s scheduled to attend a function that evening honoring philanthropist Dr.Justin Sperry, head of the Justin Sperry Medical Foundation.

We find Raymond in Monte Carlo, going by the alias of Mr. Bloom and telling two officers that his gray Mercedes got stolen right in front of him. He describes the two car-jackers, saying the white one had a pony-tail and the black one was all bulked up and must drink a lot of muscle-shakes. He annoys the officers with his extended way of giving them the vehicle’s license plate number.

A woman named Joy welcomes the guests to the event honoring Sperry, and informs the audience that they’re donations have assured that they’ll be able to continue helping children around the globe. She then introduces Sperry who comes onto the stage in a motorized wheel-chair. His enthusiasm’s apparent as he asks the audience doesn’t it feel great to help others. The applause gets interrupted as news alerts on guest’s cellphones report that one of Sperry’s medical volunteers just got arrested in Nigeria, charged with trying to smuggle $22 millions in bonds, held by one of Raymond’s shell corporations. Sperry’s informed by Joy, excuses himself and gets wheeled off the stage.

The Task-Force realize that Stone’s behind the effort to discredit Sperry in order to hurt Reddington. Cooper tells Liz to assemble a SWAT Team and get over to the event. Stone’s sitting in the audience and informs her team that Sperry’s been wheeled off the stage and for them to get ready.

The Monte Carlo police arrested Dembe and Baz for stealing Mr. Bloom’s car and Raymond identifies the pair as “Pony-Tail and Muscle-Shake.” The officers ask Red for his passport again to finish up the paperwork, when Raymond socks one of the cops in the jaw, grabbing his pistol and pointing it at the two officers. He then grabs the other gun and instructs the officers to release Dembe and Baz. He’s about to lock them in the same room, when Gautier shows up, and gets locked up with the uniforms.

The trio then go and spring Sarantos from his cell, Stratos tells Red that he knew he’d come. The foursome start to run, but are soon confronted by prison guns with rifles and Sarantos gets shot badly in the back. Dembe tells Raymond they can escape, but Stratos wouldn’t survive. Sarantos tells Reddington to give him a pistol and leave him there. Raymond knows he’s got no choice and kisses his friend and tells him what ever happens he’s got Reddington’s support. The trio run off and we soon hear the sound of a gun and realize Stratos took his own life.

Liz arrives at the event and she’s informed that Sperry went home via the service that transports him and that Judith Pruitt insisted on following them, so Justin wouldn’t be alone. Joy says that Pruitt was the only sympathetic person in the hall, that most people had left the event screaming and cursing.

Pruitt and her team wheel Sperry into his home and he calls for his housekeeper Charlotte, but Judith informs him that Murphy slipped a sedative into Charlotte’s brandy. They’ve wheeled into the room containing an indoor pool and basically give him a choice, he can read a false statement implicating himself and Reddington, or be dropped into the pool strapped into his wheelchair. After initially refusing, Sperry agrees to do it after Pruitt rolls his chair to the edge of the pool.

Raymond contacts Harold and Cooper’s madder than a wet hen, chewing Red a new one for trying to break Sarantos out of jail. Reddington replies he did what he thought was necessary and Harold gets irate, telling Raymond that he lost a friend that he said would do anything for him, due to a rash decision. Reddington tries to change the subject to Isabella Stone and Cooper tells him that Navabi, Ressler and Keen are heading to try to stop her as they speak. Reddington says he needs to speak to her as soon as they take her into custody and then says that wasn’t a request.

Cooper nearly strokes out as he tells Raymond that he’s stood by him as his agents and his superiors have complained. He then basically tells Reddington that he’s gone way past crossing the line, and soon finds himself talking to air as Red hangs up. After Reddington hangs up, Dembe quietly says that perhaps they shouldn’t have gone there. He says that Raymond’s putting himself in more danger every year, every day and that people are dying around him. After a moment of silence Raymond says he doesn’t know how to respond to that.

Sperry starts to read the statement that Pruitt handed him, when the SWAT Team arrive. Pruitt pushes Sperry’s wheelchair into the pool and he sinks to the bottom. Keen gives her weapon to a SWAT Team member and dives into the pool to rescue Sperry. Murphy pulls his gun and gets shot to death, the officers arrest Pruitt and Charlotte Hart, Liz’s able to save Sperry.

Pruitt’s questioned by Ressler and Navabi about who hired her to go after Reddington, but she refuses to cooperate. She says to the agents she’s surprised that they don’t commend her for going after a member of their most wanted list, but the agents stay quiet. Ressler says that she’s facing a life sentence, but she could strike a deal if she’d be willing to tell them something. She smiles and says she could tell them a lot, but she won’t.

Pruitt’s being transported from the Post Office to a prison facility, but the vehicle she’s in gets ambushed and ends up crashing. Reddington’s team extract her from the vehicle bruised and bloody. Raymond says to her that it’s time for the two of them to talk.

The Build Up To Redemption:

I’ve purposely divided this recap into two sections, as the Tom Keen subplot will serve as the introduction to the Blacklist spinoff, that debuts on February 23, while the main series goes on Winter hiatus. Once again the writers have put a Red Herring into the mix, as we find out right after the credits, when Lizzie wakes Tom up, after he fell asleep on the couch.

She tells him that while she was feeding Agnes, she watched the news and saw a report that his father died. They turn on the TV and there’s an anchor giving a report stating that Howard Hargrave died after his private plane crashed. She starts talking about his career and his starting Halcyon Aegis, when Tom shuts off the TV. He gives off a rather blasé attitude, saying he’s not going to pretend to grieve for a man he never knew.

Lizzie’s surprised by his reaction and Tom says that when he met his mother, she offered him a job and he turned her down. He tells Liz that they’re his past and he wants to concentrate on his future, which revolves around her and Agnes. Lizzie counters that he can still have them while searching for answers, he replies the only answer he’s seeking is when he became the old guy that falls asleep on the couch?

Before we proceed, time to reveal the Red Herring to those who are still unaware. Howard Hargrave CAN’T be dead, as he’s scheduled to be a semi-regular character on Redemption. The man pictured is actor Terry O’Quinn and he’s scheduled to appear as Hargrave in some of the upcoming episodes. So unless we’re going to explore science fiction in the spinoff and Hargrave’s a ghost, we’ll find out in the upcoming weeks why Howard faked his death.

Tom starts watching the news reports about Hargrave’s death and his curiosity gets the best of him. He calls up Dembe and tells him that he needs to set up a time for him and Raymond to sit down and talk. Keen comes to visit Reddington as Red’s assembling some sort of mechanical device, which we find out later is a cuckoo clock for Liz and Agnes.

Tom starts asking Raymond for answers about his father, but Reddington says that he knew Howard Hargrave many years ago in a strictly business capacity. (Possibly, yet another Red Herring. How could Raymond possibly know that Tom’s Christopher Hargrave, if he had just a cursory relationship with Hargrave?)  He says he knows that Hargrave struggled against his own inner demons and that he didn’t even trust his own wife, Tom’s birth-mother Scottie Hargrave. Red goes onto say that he knows Scottie and finds her to be an unlikable creep and warns Tom to stay away from her.

Tom goes back to the apartment and starts digging through piles of newspaper clippings, he must have gathered after finding out his true identity last year. We see article after article, about both Howard and Scottie Hargrave and their son Christopher’s disappearance.

After doing some digging, Tom rings the bell of a former police detective Harold Kotchwar. The former cop almost slams his door in Tom’s face, but Keen catches his interest when he brings up the Christopher Hargrave disappearance. Kotchwar says that kid didn’t disappear he got killed, but Tom says that’s impossible as he’s Christopher Hargrave.

In the final scene of the evening. Liz comes home and tells Tom that she thought about what he said and he should leave his past alone. Then she sees the police tapes that he got from Kotchwar. There’s a tape on pause that Tom was watching when Liz came home, it’s the videotaped confession of the man that says he killed Christopher Hargrave.

Photo by: Will Hart/NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The NBC series “The Blacklist,” returned with a new episode that revolved around a love story, between two people who couldn’t have physical contact and that couple’s desire to rectify the situation. That relationship caused some of the members of “TEAM RED,” to question their own romantic entanglements. Raymond also had interest in the case for his own reasons, revealed during the hour.

Our evening begins with a graphic, telling us we’re in Moldova 14-years ago, and we quickly realize we’re in the hospital room of a little blonde haired girl. She wakes up and calls out to someone, but receives no response. She grabs her rag doll from the night stand and ventures out into the hallway. We see that all of the staff and patients in the hallway died. Suddenly there’s the sound of a telephone and the little girl follows the sound, only to find the operator and all around her are dead as well.

The child starts exploring the hospital via the staircase, when we hear the sounds and see the lights from an elevator. The girl stops and waits to see who comes out, and it’s a team of men wearing hazmat suits. One of the men sees the little girl standing in the stairwell, and his eyes become as large as melons.

The scene changes and another graphic informs us that we’ve flash forwarded to just eight-days ago. The little girl’s now a beautiful young woman and she’s in a massage parlor, with a guy on the table. The guy’s lying face down and has a sheet covering him, he greets the woman with surprise, saying she must be new at the parlor. She asks him his name, and climbs on his back and starts massaging him. She then tells him to turn over, kisses him on the lips and leaves the room.

The regular masseuse enters the room and asks the man if he’s ready for his massage and he asks where the new girl went. The woman asks what new girl, when the man’s back and arms are suddenly covered in a purple rash. He then starts spitting out bile and quickly dies.

Raymond’s visiting his money launderer Abe and he tells him that Zach Smoll was dealing with $200 million of Reddington’s funds when he died. He asks Abe how much of that sum was lost and Abe replies all of it. Lizzie then arrives and Red tells her he’s going to need the Bureau’s help in finding out who was responsible for Smoll’s death. He believes that his rival Baldur Magnusson’s responsible, but he lacks any proof. He says if he can’t solve this, his reputation will be forever tarnished and his relationship with the Bureau would come to a screeching halt.

Keen brings Raymond’s request to the Task-Force, and it’s unanimously rejected. However a fly in the Vaseline quickly changes their mind. Turns out Zach Smoll’s the guy who died in the massage parlor and his body’s been claimed by the CDC. Smoll died from Luschen’s disease, he got infected from the woman’s lipstick. The virus is transmitted by physical contact or sweat. Now the Bureau’s got to track down that woman.

Back at the Post Office, Samar’s in another one of her moods which Aram quickly catches onto. She got Mojtabai’s check by accident and it turns out that Aram’s paid 32% more than she earns. She’s rightfully upset about not getting equal pay, but she’s taking it out on her hapless friend. Mojtabai soon shows Navabi and Cooper street cam footage of their suspect, she not only killed Smoll, she also killed and robbed a pawnshop owner a few weeks earlier.

We see the young woman lying on a table while a young man wearing a protective clear mask tells her that he’s sorry but this is the only choice they’ve got. The young woman with tears streaming down her face, nods yes and the young man injects a long needle into the base of her spine. She writhes on the table in pain.

We see a graphic that says Boston, and we get our first look at Baldur Magnusson, as Raymond calls him. Reddington asks his rival if he killed Smoll, and Magnuson responds it doesn’t matter what the truth is. What counts is the appearance of the truth, and right now all their peers believe Magnusson ordered the hit. That makes Reddington look weak that he’s yet to respond, which will lead to a standoff between the two men.

We’ve found out the young woman’s named Natalie Luca and the young man’s Malik Rounain, and they’re romantically involved. Rounain tells Natalie that the spinal tap didn’t yield the results he needed and she’s going to need to kill and rob again in order to buy the equipment they need. She reluctantly agrees.

Tom and Agnes, who’s got her grandmother’s red hair, are returning from a walk when Keen realizes the door’s been jimmied and he grabs his pistol. Raymond and Dembe are waiting in the living room and much to Tom’s surprise, Red came to see him.

Reddington asks Keen what he knows about Edward Lagate and Tom says that he’s a hitman with an impeccable resume. Raymond starts to laugh and he tells Tom that Lagate doesn’t exist, he’s actually a fictional character that Reddington invented. Raymond says he and some of his associates committed the crimes attributed to Lagate and now he wants Keen to portray the assassin. He wants Magnusson to try to hire Lagate, but in fact Tom will lead Raymond right to his rival.

Malik and Natalie’s target’s an armored truck, she pretends she’s a college girl trying to join a sorority. She tells the truck’s guards that she’s got to kiss two guys carrying guns and of course they allow her to. Minutes later they’re dead in the street and the couple’s got the money and flee the scene.

The Task Force identifies Luca, and discovers she was a patient for years at Hawthorne Biologics. Rounain had been a researcher for the facility and the couple fell in love. The facility found them a place to live, but the administrator tells Ressler that she just found out they moved months before. She says that the facility had no legal right to keep her locked up and had to adhere to her wishes. She expresses her concern for Natalie, but Donald says she best be worried about her next victim.

Raymond sets Tom up as Legate, by arranging a fake murder of one of Magnusson’s associates, at Magnusson’s flagship hotel. Soon Tom heads out of the hotel and gets greeted by one of Magnusson’s enforcers, who puts a gun to Tom’s back and he’s told that the man’s employer wants to meet with him.

Malik’s elated as he gets the equipment they needed with the money from the robbery, but his joy quickly evaporates as he realizes the cops have raided their apartment. They’ve lost everything they had, meaning Natalie’s got to pull one last job to pay for their lost equipment. She makes Rounain promise this will be their last job.

Turns out the folks from Hawthorne aren’t on the up and up, as they want Luca for their own nefarious purposes. The female administrator we saw earlier, meets with two men who say they must get Natalie back. The man who appears to be the leader says they’ve got to be there when the FBI find her.

Aram searches through Rounain’s computer files and finds that the researcher had large caches on three very wealthy people. Lizzie calls Raymond and finds out that all three are guests of Xavier Holcomb’s poker party, which takes half a million dollars just to sit at the table. Malik and Natalie plan to attend the party disguised as caterers.

Liz asks Raymond why he hired Tom to portray Legate, and says they were just starting to have some semblance of normalcy. Reddington says that Keen’s been aching to get back in the game and that better he work for Red, than for somebody else who’d betray him.

The Bureau come to realize that Malik wasn’t looking for a cure for Luca, he was trying to become like her so they could finally have physical contact. They’ve got Holcomb’s party staked out and when Natalie and Rounain enter, they’re not far behind. Luca had tried to serve dinner to one of the guests, but Ressler started chasing her.

Navabi traps the young woman who says she’s not going back to a cage and that Samar will have to kill her. Suddenly we hear a crackling sound and Ressler’s knocked out Natalie with his Taser.

Edward Legate’s brought up to Magnusson’s hotel suite and the crime boss offers Legate a claw from the lobster he’s eating. Legate declines and the two men get down to talking business. He asks Legate about one of his celebrated crimes and Legate says he never reveals his methods. Magnusson compliments his discretion and says he’s looking to hire him.

Raymond and Dembe burst into the room and Magnusson says that Reddington’s going to kill him. However Red tells Dembe and Tom to take away his rival’s henchmen, as he wants to talk to Magnusson privately. He then says he’s been thinking about what his rival talked about, truth versus the appearance of the truth.

He says that he long ago stopped worrying about death, as it could be lurking around any corner at anytime. However recently he’s smelled death everywhere. He says his death’s slouching towards him from the corner of the room and inching closer.

Magnusson tells Reddington that he didn’t kill Smoll. He says that Raymond’s deal with the cruise ship line was falling apart, so he came in and grabbed it. Red thanks his rival for the truth, then says that he almost wishes that Magnusson had been behind it, as it would have made things easier.

Malik’s gotten away, but the Bureau apprehended Natalie and put her in an ambulance that will take her to a hospital isolation ward. Except Aram informs Navabi and Ressler that the ambulance hadn’t arrived yet, they actually gave Luca back to her captors at Hawthorne. The pair drive after the ambulance, but they’re not alone in the chase as Rounain tries to force the ambulance off the road.

Malik rams the other vehicle off the road and Natalie jumps out of the back of the ambulance. She starts to run towards her boyfriend, when a man emerges from the vehicle and shoots Rounain. The FBI SWAT team soon arrive and subdue the Hawthorne people.

The wound Malik suffered is fatal and he knows time’s short. For the first and last time the couple make contact and then kiss just before Rounain takes his last breath. Natalie tells the agents that Malik was the only person who ever cared for her and Hawthorne was trying to engineer her disease into a bio-weapon. The Hawthorne team are taken into custody.

Earlier Samar told Aram that Cooper offered her a 16% raise but she turned it down as an insult. She comes back up to Aram at the Post Office, and tells him she realizes he gave up some of his salary to get them at the same pay grade. He tells Navabi that he’d do anything to keep her happy and she responds that she’s figuring that out.

Tom comes back home and Lizzie asks him how it felt to get back in the game. He tells her he loved it, but that their relationship’s still the most important thing in his life. Liz says she realizes Tom’s got to do what fulfills him but she’s afraid of what he’ll turn into. He says she’s looking at it.

Cooper brings Reddington To Luca’s hospital room so he can question her about Smoll’s death. He tries to console her over her loss and she responds to his words. She asks who he is and he reveals that Zach Smoll was his associate and he wanted to know why she killed him. Natalie replies that the woman said she’d turn her and Malik over to Hawthorne unless she killed him. She tells Raymond her client’s Isabella Stone and Raymond’s dumbfounded. He thanks her, then says he needs to sit there for a moment as he can’t move.