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All posts by Jeff Sack

Photo Courtesy Of Will Hart/NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Facing the threat of her team getting destroyed,  and her friends and allies going to prison, FBI Agent Elizabeth Keen, took matters into her own hands, at the conclusion of the second season of the NBC series “The Blacklist.” Acting purely on instinct and emotion, Keen eliminated the threat, killing United States Attorney General Tom Connelly, and plunging her life into chaos. As we reach the final episodes of Season Four, with “Team-Red” under attack, will she once again be forced into killing the person bent on destroying her team?

Actually the FBI Task-Force, set up to utilize the services of Raymond Reddington’s, facing threats on multiple fronts, including an obsessed FBI Agent, the corrupt and compromised National Security Advisor to the President, and a nutty scientist, who can manipulate memories. However the person orchestrating those attacks and more, was one of the original members of “Team-Red,” now bent on destruction.

What’s the simplest way for writers to transform a beloved character into an evil being? By taking away their humanity, a feat achieved in the episode entitled “Dr. Bogdan Krilov (29).” Kate Kaplan’s broadened her scope, she’s decided to take down everyone in her way in her mission to see Raymond destroyed. She’s now attacking the members of the Task-Force, after Lizzie rejected her overtures for the Bureau to cut ties with Reddington. With this move, she may have lost any remaining sympathy fans of the series felt for her. She had justification for going after Raymond, but not for going into scorched earth mode, and destroying those around him.

With so many battles going on simultaneously, we’re going to dispense with our regular format, and instead concentrate on the attackers. Two of the opponents, want nothing more than to see Raymond Reddington pay for all the crimes he’s committed, while the other two basically just want to cover their own behinds.

Mr. Kaplan: Kate Kaplan’s convinced that Raymond’s become a monster, beyond salvation. Unfortunately in her mission to take him down, she seems to have morphed into that creature herself. Realizing that the Task-Force’s existence impedes her plans to see Red brought to justice, she’s now targeting the members. In this episode she went after Donald Ressler, exploiting his desires to put Laurel Hitchin behind bars for the murder of Reven Wright.

After setting her plans in motion on the domestic front, Kate started a European skirmish, one she assumed would lead to the deaths of Reddington and Dembe Zuma. Mr. Kaplan paid a visit to one of Raymond’s most powerful allies, Werner Von Hauser, at his estate in Lucerne. Von Hauser’s delight at finally meeting the legendary Mr. Kaplan’s short-lived, as Kate explains his relationship with Reddington’s built on a lie.

Twenty-five years earlier, Raymond was in the midst of establishing his reputation in the hierarchy of the criminal world. Werner was an established Kingpin, greatly admired by Reddington, but the admiration wasn’t mutual, as Von Hauser perceived Red as a lesser being. Determined to form an alliance with Werner, Raymond coordinated a fake kidnapping of Von Hauser’s son Hans.

The kidnappers sent a note demanding four million dollars, for the young man’s return. Raymond would intercede in the situation, convincing the phony kidnappers that he wasn’t a man to be trifled with, and securing Hans release. The plan unfortunately went awry, as the Taddicken brothers, who Reddington hired to abduct the young man, got careless and Hans suffocated during the transport. Raymond never told Werner the truth, but Von Hauser was so pleased that Red obliterated the Taddicken brothers, that he established a strong alliance with Reddington.

After Kate informed Raymond that she was traveling to Lucerne, Reddington called Von Hauser and begged for a chance to explain himself. Dembe and Red, realized they’d stepped into a bad situation when Von Hauser’s Majordomo, Niklaus, relieved them of their weapons.

Von Hauser told Reddington that he underestimated Werner’s love for his son, and that mistake would cause he and Dembe to pay for it with their lives. Two of Von Hauser’s goons cocked their pistols against the pair’s heads, but Niklaus suddenly turned on his co-workers and shot them dead, eliminating the threat. Niklaus actually had been on Reddington’s payroll for the last twenty-five years, in preparation for the day Von Hauser discovered the truth. Raymond apologized for his role in Han’s death, and then apologized before he pumped two bullets into Von Hauser’s abdomen.

Niklaus tells Raymond and Dembe to hightail it out the backdoor and sneak through the woods. With Von Hauser’s men conducting an extensive search for the pair, their options for escaping are quite limited. Reddington tells Zuma that they’ll have to be comfortable with chaos. We see the duo escape the area in a truck transporting livestock.

Dr. Bogdan Krilov: Krilov has perfected the science of memory manipulation, he’s in fact the scientist that wiped Lizzie’s memory twenty-five years earlier. Krilov can erase memories and implant new ones, depending upon the situation. Kate shows up at his facility in Vienna, introducing herself as a friend of a friend, and invites Krilov out for lunch. Next thing you know, Krilov shows up at JFK, and books a room at the Winthrop Grand Hotel. Lizzie and Samar head to the hotel, and Liz’s able to confiscate a shipping invoice giving the agents the location of Krilov’s equipment, which they subsequently impound.

Krilov calls Kaplan and tells her he can’t do anything without his equipment. Kate gives him the address of our old friend Selma Orchard, who practices the same science. Keen realizes that Orchard’s now Krilov’s target and she calls her, but it’s too late as she’s overcome by Krilov’s henchmen. Orchard tells Krilov, she’s a great admirer of his work and had he asked she would have gladly given him her equipment. Krilov replies he wished he could have taken that chance, then knocks her cold with the butt end of her pistol, just before the FBI SWAT-Team arrive at her office.

Although Orchard’s clueless as to where Krilov fled to, she informs the team that her EEG machine’s tied into a communication network, and they’ll be able to track it once he turns it on. Elizabeth and Raymond, believe that Lizzie’s Krilov’s target, however the scientist’s after Donald Ressler, and he’s set up a scheme to trap him.

Donald receives a call from a Philadelphia Police Detective named Bell, who tells him he may have unwittingly discovered a witness in the Reven Wright murder case. The woman’s named Linda McFadden, a former neighbor of Laurel Hitchin’s, who fled to Philadelphia for her own protection.

Ressler heads to McFadden’s home in Philadelphia, and she says she saw three men exit Hitchin’s home carrying a rolled up rug. She then saw a foot sticking out of the rug, and packed up her stuff to seek safety with her sister in Philadelphia. Donald tells her that she’ll have to go back to D.C. with him, when an incendiary device crashes through the window. The explosion stuns Ressler and then the device emits a gas that knocks him out, as three goons kidnap McFadden.

After Ressler regains consciousness, he pulls his pistol and heads to the street hoping to catch the perpetrators. Instead a black SUV pulls up to him, and when the back window goes down, we see that Laurel Hitchin’s the passenger. She tells Ressler it’s time for them to have a heart-to-heart, and beckons him inside. Laurel tells Ressler that he’s to give up his investigation of Reven Wright’s murder immediately. When he flat-out refuses, she says that she’s got no choice but to eliminate McFadden. She throws him out of her SUV and tells him to shoo, that’s when we realize that Donald’s actually under the effects of Propofol and Krilov’s implanted this scenario into his brain.

McFadden and Bell actually work for Krilov, and they concocted the whole scheme so that Ressler will go after Hitchin. They transport him to right outside her house, and when he comes to he’s sitting in his SUV believing McFadden’s imprisoned in Laurel’s home. He bursts into the home as Hitchin’s meeting with a foreign minister. After drawing his weapon, he forces the minister to leave and Hitchin to take him on a room by room tour of her home. Obviously Donald’s search’s fruitless, which makes him even more determined to find where she’s got McFadden hidden.

His mind clouded by the drugs, Ressler appears ready to take Hitchin out, when Liz arrives and after encountering resistance, she finally convinces Donald, he’d been drugged and the false memories got implanted in his brain. She tells Ressler that he’s the victim, causing Hitchin to scoff. Lizzie responds by calling Laurel a murderer and telling her one day soon she’ll pay for her crime. Unfortunately it’s Ressler, whose taken out of the home in handcuffs and placed under arrest.

Krilov tells Keen that he last saw her two-years earlier, as Reddington hired him to remove some information she discovered about Raymond. He says that he’ll gladly clear Ressler’s name and tell Keen the information he removed from her memories as a child and an adult, in exchange for full immunity. Keen of course refuses, then places a call to Reddington, demanding an explanation. Raymond denies Krilov’s accusation and says he hasn’t seen the scientist for twenty-five years.

Laurel Hitchin: The “Ice Princess,” returned to the series in dramatic fashion, with Krilov’s version of Laurel, even more cold and capricious than the genuine article. Hitchin in reality, didn’t do anything wrong in this episode, but she gloated when the one man that may take her down got arrested. Laurel’s the only member of the Cabal, that we can identify, however Raymond’s assured us that the shadow organization’s still thriving. With that knowledge, it’s likely that other major players in the government, also belong to the Cabal.

It’s rather strange that Hitchin’s still in her position as National Security Advisor, under a new President. We don’t know if President Diaz and his predecessor hail from the same party, but none the less, it’s rather out of the ordinary that Diaz decided not to put a new person in the position. Could President Diaz, be a member of the Cabal, and if so will that story figure prominently in Season Five? Whether the writers explore that story line or not, I’ve got the feeling we’ll see lots more of Laurel, in upcoming episodes.

Julian Gale: There’s a faction of the series’ fans that believe Special Agent Gale’s crooked, or he’s got an ulterior motive. I don’t subscribe to that theory, I strongly believe with Julian, that what you see is what you get. That may make Gale the most dangerous of all the Task-Force’s foes. I previously stated, that I think Gale straddles the line between genius and madness. Last week we saw some of the madness emerge, when he watched Raymond shooting Dianne Fowler in his mind, and he aimed his pistol at Ressler.

This week we saw his brilliance at work, in the episode’s final encounter. After a non-stop barrage of calls to Keen throughout the episode, Liz finally arrived at the ice rink to meet with Julian. Gale tells Lizzie that he finds dates incredibly useful in his investigation, and dates have led him to all the answers he’s searched for. Julian then recounts the day Liz got transferred from her role as an obscure profiler and put on a classified mission. He then states that the Reddington Task-Force, that he’d been apart of, started to fall apart a week later. Shortly after that a series of arrests commenced, which seemed to come out of nowhere.

Julian informs Liz that he’s figured out that she’s part of a Task-Force that’s working with Reddington, providing him protection in exchange for information leading to this slew of arrests. He then says Keen’s the agent that Reddington deals with. She asks him if he’s got any questions, and he tells her he didn’t call her down to the ice-rink for information. He told her he’d already apologized to all the victims on the ice, and now it’s her turn to apologize.

The Story Continues Next Thursday Night at 10:00 pm on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of Will Hart NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Our most dangerous enemies always come from within our circles, former friends and confidants, turned foes. Battling strangers or those we’ve kept at a distance, quickly becomes a game of whack-a-mole, smacking indiscriminately and hoping to cause damage. Former allies know our strengths and weaknesses, exploiting our fears and zeroing in on our soft underbelly. The battle that could rightfully claim the title of “Mother Of All Wars,” escalated greatly on the latest chapter of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” opening with a sneak attack that left “Team-Red,” reeling.

Our evening begins in a bustling night spot, an attractive young woman sits alone at a table looking gloomy, when a waitress approaches with a drink. A young man sitting at the bar, tells the waitress to put the drink on his tab. He tells the young woman there are no strings attached, it appears she’s having a tough night. He joins her at her table, and he breaks the ice telling her that he knows the best bridges in the city to jump from. He introduces himself as Joe, and she tells him her name’s Philomena.

We soon join the couple in the midst of a make-out session in his car, and we hear some awkward giggling as the young woman says she’s stuck. The laughter ends quickly, when she puts a Taser against his throat and knocks him out. He awakens to find himself bound to a chair, with a bag over his head. The bag’s removed and Joe sees Mr. Kaplan standing before him. He gasps and says he thought she was dead, she replies that the reports were greatly exaggerated.

Raymond and Baz explore the woods near the spot where The Tracker’s cabin once stood, and Reddington discovers the hunter’s surveillance equipment. Scrolling through the images on the cameras, Red finds a photo of the pickup truck that picked Kate up on November 10, the night she left The Tracker’s cabin.

We head to the Post Office and check in with the Task-Force, as Lizzie congratulates Samar on being nominated for the prestigious Katai Fellowship. The mood quickly turns somber as Aram informs them that Cynthia Pannabaker, just arrived and she doesn’t look happy.

There’s not a trace of sweetness in Pannabaker’s Southern drawl, as she informs the Task-Force that an anonymous tip lead law enforcement officials to an ice-rink in Reston. They discovered 86 bodies on the ice, that according to the tipster are the remains of Raymond Reddington’s associates and opponents. Harold Cooper replies that none of the members of the Task-Force are responsible, as the group came together at the request of Dianne Fowler at Main Justice.

Pannabaker responds that the investigation’s already begun and the agent in charge is someone she describes as a “peach-orchard hog.” She tells the agents that if he’s able to find evidence that links the Task-Force to Reddington, Justice will disavow any knowledge of the operation, and the agents will find themselves behind bars.

We get our first glimpse of the investigation, and we hear a uniform complain to one of his peers about the stench in the air. A plain-clothes agent, tells the uniform that what he smells is injustice and the uniformed officer scoffs at the remark. He says that the corpses aren’t victims, they’re criminals who used to work for or against Reddington.

The plain clothes agent asks the uniform if that means that their wives don’t miss them, and their children are better off without their fathers? He then introduces himself as Special Agent Julian Gale, and tells the rest of the officers in the facility to get out. He then walks alone among the corpses, and apologizes saying this is all his fault.

Raymond and Baz have tracked down the owner of the truck, a mechanic named Carl. Raymond says that a witness informed the sheriff’s department, that they saw Raymond’s Aunt Kate, in the mechanic’s truck and he shows him a picture of Mr. Kaplan. Carl replies that she said her name was Sheila, and Reddington responds that she must be off her medication. He says that her car was found in a ravine, with her medication inside. Raymond tells the mechanic that she suffers from senility, and she quickly loses touch with reality when deprived of her medication.

Carl informs Reddington that he dropped Kate off at a motel, and we watch Raymond the motel office to speak with the manager. Realizing the manager’s visually impaired, Reddington identifies himself as a State Police Officer and tells the manager that he needs to inspect the room that Kate stayed in back in November.

Kate’s captured Joe Peracchio, the man who handles all of Raymond’s financial affairs. She tells Peracchio, that his life he knew is over, but she’s giving him the chance she never got. He can turn on Raymond and cut a deal with law enforcement to implicate Raymond and insure his freedom, or spend a long stretch behind bars. Peracchio tells Kate that he’ll never turn on Reddington.

Lizzie explains to the Task-Force that Raymond’s “Cleaner,” Mr. Kaplan, unearthed all the bodies and Cooper asks why she suddenly turned against him? Donald Ressler’s cellphone rings and he leaves the meeting to take the call, he’s taken aback to hear a familiar voice from his past on the other end of the line. Turns out that Julian Gale and Donald worked side-by-side, on the Task-Force formed to capture Reddington, and after some time away from the Bureau, he’s heading the investigation at the ice-rink. He tells Ressler to get his tail down to the facility, and help him finally put Reddington behind bars. Ressler tells him he’ll have to think about it and will get back to him.

Cooper realizes that Ressler appears shaken and asks if all’s well. Donald informs him that unfortunately, that’s not the case, as he just got off the phone with the “peach-orchard hog.” He tells Harold that Gale wants him to join his investigation, and Cooper thinks it’s a good idea, so Ressler can keep one step ahead. Donald says that Gale will eventually find the truth, and Harold replies that it’s better to find out things sooner, rather than later.

Raymond’s going over the motel room with a fine toothed comb, when his cell phone rings. It’s Marvin Gerard, who informs Reddington that Joe Peracchio wound up hog-tied in front of the ninth precinct, with a detailed financial statement pinned to his chest, connecting him to Red. Raymond says that Kate’s begun her war, and tells Marvin to spread the word to the troops for all to lay low and seek cover. He also tells Gerard to move to another location, but Marvin says he’s been on the lam for two-years and he’ll be fine.

Raymond checks the air vent in the room and finds a microphone. He heads back to the manager, puts the microphone in his hand and tells the manager he needs to listen to the tapes from Kate’s stay in the room. The manager’s clearly embarrassed and says he’s not a sicko, that he’s just fascinated with people. Raymond replies that he’s not there to judge, just to listen to the audio recordings.

The first few minutes of the recording’s mundane conversation, but Raymond hears a snippet of conversation that intrigues him, as he listens to Kate’s first meeting with a woman who calls herself Philomena.

Reddington informs the Task-Force that Philomena’s turned bounty-hunting into performance art. She captures her unwilling prey by befriending them and becoming part of her target’s life. Then when she earns their confidence, she swoops in for the capture.

As Raymond’s explaining this, we see Philomena in action as she’s working in her cover job as a waitress at a coffee shop. Her intended prey’s a woman named Alexa Feist, a rather average woman who among other things is a member of the PTA. However the reason that Philomena’s targeted her, is to get access to Feist’s brother, Marvin Gerard. She engineers a traffic accident, as she starts riding her bicycle as Feist starts to leave the parking lot, causing a collision.

Although the “accident,” was clearly the bicyclist’s fault, Feist immediately feels guilty and offers to pay for any damages to the bike and any medical bills the young woman may encounter. Philomena, tells her that she’ll be fine, but Alexa insists on exchanging information.

Raymond and Elizabeth go off to speak with somebody that Reddington says used Philomena’s services. The pair enter a synagogue, and hear a boy practicing his Bar Mitzvah prayers. Raymond startles the boy, his father and another man by chuckling and clapping. He then congratulates the father Congressman Edelstein, saying that his son will make his parents very proud. Edelstein asks Reddington if they’ve met, and Raymond comes up with an alias and says they met at another family event. He says that families need to uphold traditions, even if they have to hire outside help, such as Philomena. The member of Congress, then asks his son and the other man for some privacy, so he can talk with Reddington.

Edelstein hired the bounty hunter to break up a torrid affair between the Congressman’s wife and her tennis instructor. She did so by unearthing information that put the tennis instructor in a compromising position, forcing him to end the affair. Raymond tells the member of Congress that he just wants to find out how to contact Philomena, and Edelstein tells him to head to Randy’s Boot Emporium on 29th street. Go to the repair counter and ask for ticket 652. After he’s vetted, if he passes Philomena will contact him.

Aram walks into Cooper’s office and tells his boss that twenty seconds after Reddington left the boot shop, the man at the repair counter made a call. Mojtabai tells him he’s tried to trace the call but it’s too heavily encrypted. Samar then walks in and says they’ve recovered Peracchio’s car, and they found traces of cement mixed with copper on the floor boards, which likely emanated from an active construction site. Cooper tells Navabi to come up with a list of sites near the bar where he was captured, but Aram reminds Harold that Samar’s got her interview for the Katai Fellowship, and says he’ll generate the list.

Julian Gale’s clearly pumped to see his old associate Ressler, and greets him with a hug. He then tells Donald he should thank him, as they’ll finally get closure and put Reddington behind bars. He identifies a few of the corpses, Tiger Branson, Lou Capote, and Junior Wallace. Ressler gasps and says these were guys, that they tried to turn, Gale replies that instead they got them killed. Donald says that the Lou Capote’s of the world, won’t put Red behind bars. Gale then directs Ressler to his prize catch.

Julian informs Donald that they are looking at the corpse of Dianne Fowler, yes that Dianne Fowler! He tells Ressler that somebody actually hates Reddington more than they do, and they’re the beneficiaries of what he describes as a wet sloppy kiss. All their efforts over the years will soon be rewarded.

Baz drives up to Lizzie’s apartment, and Raymond asks about Agnes, she responds that her daughter’s doing fantastic. He asks if he can see her, and she replies if she does her a favor, and he says name it. She says that when she thought Kate died, she felt complicit. She says she’ll help Raymond stop her, but not harm her. She then asks Reddington to promise he won’t kill Mr. Kaplan, and he says he can’t make that promise. She replies then he can’t come upstairs and leaves the car.

Raymond’s refusal to adhere to Lizzie’s wishes, prevented what at best would have been a tense encounter, and likely would have been far worse. Keen opens her apartment door to find Kate sitting there with Agnes in her lap, and remarking how big she’s grown. (Who the Hell was babysitting Agnes? Are viewers supposed to accept that an infant would be fine left to her own resources, while Mommy goes off to work?)

Liz tells Kate that she wants to protect her, but the only way she can do that is if she can put Mr. Kaplan into protective custody. Kate puts Agnes in her crib, kisses the baby on the head and says “You are safe, you are loved, and you are wise” Elizabeth mouths the last words with her, and tells Kate she know that phrase, Mr. Kaplan responds that she used to say that to her many times every day, when Lizzie was a baby. She tells Keen, that she’s her nanny and Liz used to call her Katya, Katarina hired her and Kate vowed to protect Elizabeth with her life.

Mr. Kaplan says that she’s provided enough evidence to put Reddington away for life, but the Task-Force needs to disavow any relationship with him. Liz asks if Kate did all that to protect her, and she responds that she already failed Lizzie, now she’s trying to protect Agnes. Keen says she can protect her own daughter, and Mr. Kaplan points out that wasn’t the case this time. She begs Keen to walk away, and don’t make the same mistake that Katarina did, by waiting until it’s too late.

Alexa Feist starts to fly too close to the flame, as she calls Philomena to find out how she’s doing. The bounty hunter invents a story about an ex-husband and a non-existent daughter. She says that if his lawyer’s found out she’d been in an accident, they’ll try to keep her daughter away from her. She asks Feist, to please forget about her and the accident, knowing full well she just ensnared Feist in her web.

Deep inside of the “Concierge Of The Criminal World,” lies the remains of the once proud Naval Intelligence Officer, Raymond Reddington. We’ve seen him emerge every so often, throughout the series. We last saw him when he first heard the name Kathryn Nemec, causing him to tell Lizzie that he received absolution through admitting all his most heinous sins to Mr. Kaplan. He returned in this episode, as he paid Dembe a visit to check up on him.

Raymond gives Zuma a wrapped package, and tells him it’s a parting gift. He then says that most of the people that work for him, are under the misimpression that they must always stay with Reddington. He says that’s not the case at all, he says he attempts to induce his employees to stay with him, by rewarding them handsomely. He tells Dembe, that he’s only got one friend and that’s him. He then says he can never attempt to apologize for misjudging him, and that his instincts should have kicked in and woken him up. He then says that when Dembe leaves him, whether it’s today, tomorrow, or ten-years in the future, that will be the time to open the package.

Liz and Samar have discovered Philomena’s hideout, but she’s not on the premises. Liz wonders how long she’s lived there and Navabi finds a scrap of paper on the counter, with the name Alexa Feist written on it. Finding no other clues, they send the name to Aram and wait for his response.

The Justice Department, put all of Dianne Fowler’s living room furniture in storage. Gale’s got it all assembled on the ice-rink, recreating the crime scene, save for the chair that Fowler sat in when she got shot. He even plays the record on the turntable, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Sundown.” We then get a glimpse at what might have caused Julian to leave the Bureau. He literally envisions himself as Raymond, shooting at Dianne Fowler, in reality he’s taking aim at Ressler. His ability to actually see the crime scene play out in front of him, makes him a superb agent, but he maybe straddling the line between genius and madness.

Every inch of the crime scene’s devoid of fingerprints, except for one, the brush Fowler used for cleaning her albums. Mr. Kaplan missed it, and the brush contains fingerprints. Donald takes the print back to the Post Office, but he fears running it through the system, as it could lead to all of “Team-Red,” spending the next few years behind bars.

No Good Deeds Go Unpunished.” Alexa Feist’s about to learn that lesson the hard way, as she pays Philomena a visit at the coffee shop she works at. The two women sit down together, and Feist tells the younger woman that her brother’s a brilliant attorney, and he’s agreed to meet with her. Philomena asks if they can drive to his place right now, and Alexa says let’s go.

Just as Feist and Philomena enter Marvin’s apartment, Liz and Samar get the report from Aram containing the information about Feist. Keen realizes that Alexa’s Gerard’s sister and immediately calls Raymond, and head to Marvin’s apartment. Reddington calls Gerard, but it’s too late as Philomena’s already pulled out her pistol and she’s pointing it at Alexa. Marvin says he’ll do what ever she wants, as long as she doesn’t hurt his sister. She tells Gerard to put the Taser against his forehead and pull the trigger, he does and slumps to the ground.

Samar and Liz arrive at Marvin’s ten minutes after Philomena’s made her getaway. She remembers that the woman was driving a green SUV with a sticker on the window. Aram identifies the vehicle as a rental and through the GPS unit, Keen and Navabi are able to find the vehicle and force it off the road. They pull their weapons and order the woman from the car, but she’s alone.

Marvin’s strapped to a chair with a bag over his head and when it’s removed, he sees Kate standing in front of him. She tells him she wishes she could say it was good to see him. She then offers Gerard the same deal, that she offered Peracchio, and Marvin also refuses it. She says she’s sorry to hear that and puts the bag back over his head.

Keen talks to Philomena, now in custody. She pleads with her to tell her Kate’s location, as she wants to help her. She also says that if Reddington finds her first, Mr. Kaplan’s a dead woman. The bounty hunter asks Lizzie why she should believe that Keen wants to help her. Liz replies, because she just found out that Kate helped her when she was a baby.

Samar sits down with Scott Middleton, who heads the board that grants the Katai Fellowship. He asks her about her extensive writing, about what he refers to as the perceived bias that law enforcement officials have against Muslims. She replies, that she believes it’s not perceived, it’s fact. She then points out that America’s leaders instill fear in their citizens, while statistics show that there have been less than 100 deaths in the United States, since 9/11, that came at the hands of Muslim terrorists. She apologizes for her passion, and Middleton says no apology’s needed, and asks her about growing up in Iran.

Donald heads back to the ice-rink and tells Julian that the print didn’t match any print in the system. Gale replies that the system’s fixed and Reddington’s the guy who fixed it. He then says Red must have somebody inside, that’s helping him out, and then asks about Lizzie. He says that’s going to be their next target, they’re going to find out what Liz knows.

Philomena tells Liz that Kate’s en route to Vienna, she lets Harold and Raymond know. Cooper says he’s going to get the Department of Homeland Security involved.

Donald and Samar talk about Ressler doing the right thing and running the print. He tells Navabi, that Gale’s an inspiration in his doggedness, and that he’s going to prove that Laurel Hitchin murdered Reven Wright. He tells Samar that he knows in his bones that she’s guilty.

A cruiser finds Marvin Gerard shrink-wrapped to a lamp-post. They cut him free and then take him into custody. A Federal Agent tells Joe Peracchio, that as he’s explained to Peracchio’s lawyer if he testifies against Reddington, he’ll get full protection, and then starts asking about their relationship.

A chauffeur greets Kate and welcomes her to Milan. She asks how long it will take them to reach Vienna, and he replies eight hours. She tells him to wake her when they are a half hour out.

Our final scene shows us Dembe arriving at the Post Office, and Raymond asking him why he’s there? Zuma responds he’s looking for Raymond, and Reddington says he should be resting. Dembe says he’s had his share of rest and now it’s time for them to find Kate. Raymond agrees, but suggests that they have dinner first.

The Story Returns, Next Thursday Night at 10:00pm on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Sherwood, NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

Hopefully, you still have room for the main course after such a filling appetizer, as “The Blacklist,” followed up “Dembe Zuma,” with a rather mind-bending second episode. Entitled “Requiem,” the hour presented the history of Kathryn Nemec,  the woman fans of the series know as Mr. Kaplan. Long time viewers of the series, likely noticed some inconsistencies during the hour, from the stories we previously heard during the show’s run. I believe that some of the new wrinkles stem from seeing history through Kate’s perspective, while others got omitted or altered in Raymond’s recounting of the past to Elizabeth Keen.

The opening scene begins in 1962, as a man and a little girl stand over the open casket of a woman. The little girl asks the man if she’s in there, and says she can’t see her. The man replies that they’re looking at a skin-sack full of bones, and the woman abandoned her body due to all the sorrow and pain it absorbed. The man then tells the child, “What happens in life, writes a story in our flesh.” He then tells her to dry her eyes and say goodbye to her mother. The little girl puts on a very familiar pair of horned-rimmed glasses and says “Goodbye Momma.”

We return to the present, as we see Kate driving a pickup truck attached to an RV, while the Gloria Gaynor hit “I Will Survive,” provides the soundtrack. She pulls over to the side of the road, and takes some pills and makes a call on her cellphone. She tells the man on the other end she’s fine, but complications have risen. She’s cutting her trip short, but she’s got one more stop to make. The man asks her if she’s getting migraines and she once again assures him she’ll be okay. After finishing her call, she pushes her hair aside and we get our first glimpse of the horrifying scar she received when Raymond shot her.

Once again in the past, we rejoin Kathryn Nemec, now a young woman applying for a position as a nanny. Her prospective employer’s a woman we know quite well, Katarina Rostova. She tells Nemec that she’s very impressed with her résumé and references, then asks why she dropped out of the medical program at Northwestern University. Kathryn replies that she had an odd fascination with corpses, and decided instead to dedicate her life to child-care.

Rostova informs Nemec, that her duties revolve around taking care of her daughter Masha, when ever she’s not around. When Katarina’s in the house, Kathryn’s job is to observe exactly how Rostova treats her child, and to duplicate it when she’s not there, with one exception. She will not love her.

A graphic states that the next scene takes place three months later, and we join a conversation between the two women. Nemec informs Katarina, that she’d give up her life for Masha, and that they’d formed a pact. Every time that the child takes a bottle from her, or falls asleep in her arms, she shows Nemec that she trusts her.

We rejoin Mr. Kaplan in the present, as she turns into a motel parking lot, and then pulls out a fistful of phony licenses. She presents one to the motel manager and says she’s got a reservation for room eight. He gives her the keys for room twelve, and tells her the young couple in room eight, decided to extend their stay. She asks for the adjacent room.

Later that evening, Kate sits in her motel room listening to the young couple arguing, and it brings back a memory. Nemec’s upstairs, while Katarina’s arguing in Russian, with a man in the kitchen. The volume of the shouting increases, and suddenly Kathryn hears bangs and thuds, She runs downstairs to find Rostova and the man in the midst of a tussle. Nemec sees a steak knife by her feet, and kicks it over to Katerina, who uses it to slice the man’s neck.

Rostova then looks at he corpse and all the blood on the floor, and says that her husband’s on his way home and he can’t see this. Kathryn tells her employer to go upstairs and shower while she cleans up the mess. She pulls on the yellow rubber gloves, that will one day seem like part of her own anatomy, she does her first job as a “Cleaner.”

Returning to the present, we watch the young man from room eight, leave the room and start slamming on the locked front desk door. He starts screaming that all he wants is a pack of cigarettes, he’s surprised when he hears Mr. Kaplan’s voice behind him, as she tells him she’s got an extra pack in her trailer. The two enter the mobile home, and that’s the last we see of the young man.

Kate flashes back to her memories of the next morning, as Katarina greets her with a smile. She tells Nemec that she seriously considered killing her the night before. Rostova says that the nanny witnessed something that she’s kept hidden from her husband and their friends. Kathryn asks her employer if she works for Russian Intelligence, then explains that she saw some papers in the man’s pockets when she buried him. She informs Rostova, that she took ample precautions so that the body would never be found. She also says that her pact with Masha, includes protecting Katerina.

A sudden pounding on her motel room door, jolts Mr. Kaplan from her slumber. She opens the door and it’s the young woman from the next room, and she asks Kate if she’s seen her boyfriend? Mr. Kaplan says that perhaps he bolted, but the young woman says he left his car and his keys behind. She then scowls as she says she’s got to try to find him. We watch a cleaning woman leaving room eight and handing Kate the key to the room.

Nemec’s in the woods taking Masha for a walk in her stroller, when she comes upon a parked car. She quickly sees a couple in the throes of lovemaking, and realizes that Rostova is the woman in the car. She quickly turns the stroller around, and heads back to the house. Later Katerina asks Nemec, if she’s got any questions, and the nanny responds it’s none of her business. Rostova says the man was a target, and now she’s not sure what their relationship is. Nemec asks if the man’s American, and if she loves him. Katarina confirms that the man’s American, but she says the only person she know she loves is Masha. Kathryn then says that she should end the relationship.

Kathryn sees police cruisers in front of the house when she returns from an errand, and runs into the home. Katarina tells her that she broke things off with Raymond, and that he took Masha, as he believes the girl’s his daughter. Nemec asks if that’s true, and Katarina says she never checked, as she didn’t want to know the answer. She says she’ll find Masha on her own, and Nemec corrects her, saying she won’t be alone.

Mr. Kaplan pulls aside a bureau and a painting and starts marking the wall, as we hear the band Cake’s cover of “I Will Survive.” She then pulls out a chainsaw and starts cutting through the wall, revealing the body parts of a corpse she buried there, in 2006. She puts all the body parts into a large suitcase and drives away, the cleaning woman’s astonished when she goes to clean the room.

A traumatized Katarina, enters the home carrying Masha. She says they had escaped a fire, and then she tells Masha that he was a very bad man. We realize she’s talking about the man that the child shot, but we receive no explanation of the fire or the man’s identity. She tells Kathryn to take Masha to a motel, she needs to hide but will contact them soon.

Katarina calls Nemec from a phone booth, about a week later. She tells Kathryn that the KGB know about her affair with Raymond, which means US Intelligence, also knows or will soon find out. Nemec says that the child can’t stay in a motel, and suggests that she and Masha go to live with her sister in Chicago. Rostova, tells her that Masha wouldn’t be safe with her, and tells her to take the child to a friend of her and Raymond, named Sam Milhoan, who lives in Kearney, Nebraska. She also tells the nanny, that she needs to disappear so that nobody can question her about her relationship with Rostova. She tells Kathryn she loves her and hangs up.

Kathryn gets to Milhoan’s home, and he apologizes but says he can’t care for the child. He tells her that he’s a grifter, and he’s attempting to go straight, however he can’t provide a stable environment for Masha. Nemec pleads with the man, saying he’s their only hope. Masha then realizes that her nanny won’t be living with them, and Sam’s emotions get the better of him. He tells Nemec that the girl needs her mother, but she’s got him until the heat’s off. With that statement, Masha Rostova ceases to exist, the child become Elizabeth Scott, taking on Milhoan’s birth name, Scott, as her own.

A few weeks later, Nemec’s sitting in a bar reading a newspaper. She hears some of the men in the bar making some lewd comments about an attractive young blonde woman, and she looks up to see the woman selecting a song on the jukebox. Returning to reading, she starts to cry when she sees an article with the headline that authorities have ended their search for a missing Russian woman, Katarina Rostova.

The blonde sits down next to her at the bar, and says she hopes she’s not intruding, but she needed to get away from those guys. She then introduces herself as Annie, and asks Kathryn if she’d like to dance. Nemec’s rather shocked by the invitation, but Annie leads her to the dance floor. As the pair start to awkwardly dance, she asks Nemec what’s wrong? Kathryn replies that her friend died, then says she thinks she was her best friend. Annie hugs Nemec and shares her pain.

Later that evening, as the women share some beers at a table, Annie asks Nemec what her plans are. The former nanny says she’s unsure, she had devoted her life to Masha and her family. Annie says that she’s heading to Amarillo, Texas. Her uncle Nikos lives there, and he’s going to teach her how to become a bail bondsman. Kathryn asks what’s the job market like in Amarillo?

A few months later, Kathryn’s working in a morgue and living with Annie in Amarillo. Annie gets off early one night, and comes over to the morgue to meet Nemec, but she gets squeamish when she sees Kathryn washing off a table covered with blood and body tissue. She suggests that Kathryn find another line of work, and then the pair kiss.

Mr. Kaplan turns on a cassette recorder, and opens the suitcase. She then proceeds to give an autopsy report on the victim, who died from a blunt trauma to the head in 2006. The victim’s name was Everett Oldfield. Apparently he died at the hands of Raymond, or one of Reddington’s associates.

Nemec’s now back in child-care, and gets an unexpected evening off as the couple she works for decided to stay at home for the evening. She surprises Annie at the bail bond office, bringing some Chinese food that they can enjoy, while Annie finishes her paperwork.

Suddenly a guy bursts through the front door, holding a pistol, and demanding to see Little Nikos. Annie informs him that they’re closed, and that Little Nikos isn’t there. The guy starts screaming that he wasn’t in court, because he was at his father’s funeral, and that Little Nikos’ thugs broke his brother’s jaw, in an attempt to find him.

Annie’s flustered, and she offers to give him his money back, the guy gives her a dirty look, and says he doesn’t want her money. He then asks what her name is, and she relies Annie Kaplan. The gunman then says to Nemec “That must make you Mr. Kaplan.” He then shoots Annie in the abdomen, when Nemec tries to help her, he shoots her in the head and then shoots Annie once again, before he flees. Kathryn drags them out to the street, where Annie takes her last breath.

Kathryn wakes up in the hospital, with a doctor standing over her, he tells her that the gunshot didn’t cause any lasting damage, but they had to put her in a coma for three weeks, due to the swelling. Little Nikos walks into the room and tells her she got an upgrade, a metal plate in her head. She then asks about Annie, and the doctor says he’ll give them some privacy.

Little Nikos tells Kathryn that Annie died before the ambulance arrived, and she completely breaks down, letting out these primal howls of grief. Little Nikos takes her in his arms, and tells her that Annie was family, and he knows the way they felt about each other, so that makes her family as well. He says we’ll get through this together.

Kate gets another migraine attack, so she pulls over to the side of the road and parks there. She takes some of her pills, but the attack’s too severe for her to keep on driving. So she goes into her trailer and lies down in the bed to take a nap, until the pain subsides.

Kathryn’s taken over Annie’s old job, when one day a man she never expected to see again, comes to the office. Sam Milhoan quickly reassures her that Lizzie’s fine, however Raymond Reddington’s reaching out to her, due to his concerns about the girl’s future. Kathryn erupts into a ball of fury, saying that man destroyed the life she loved. She calls him an outlaw and a traitor, and says he had no regard for his own family. However Sam convinces her to meet with Reddington.

My curiosity had been piqued, as to how the show-runners would present the young Raymond Reddington. They elected to go with James Spader in the role, obscuring his appearance with lighting, so the only things we saw clearly were his eyes. He tells Kathryn that he’s built a criminal empire in order to protect Elizabeth, but he realizes he needs somebody by his side for counsel. She agrees to work for him, with the understanding, that if she ever has to choose between he and the girl, she’ll always come down on Lizzie’s side. He says he wouldn’t expect anything less.

Kate’s jolted awake by the pounding on her trailer door, she opens it to find a female State Police Officer, standing outside. She asks if Kate’s been drinking, and Mr. Kaplan replies that she gets severe migraines that make it impossible to drive. The officer says she parked illegally and she needs to see her license and registration. Kate accidentally pulls out two licenses, and the officer says she’ll have to search the trailer.

Kate refuses to allow her inside, and then begs the officer not to call it in. She says that she’s on the run from her husband, who abuses her badly. He’s a State Judge, so his word’s sovereign. The officer starts talking about a shelter, when Mr. Kaplan reveals her scar. The officer asks Kate if she’s got a gun, and Kate replies she does. The officer then tells her to high-tale it to a stand your ground state, and wishes her good luck.

We rejoin Kathryn and Raymond, in 2013, as he informs her that he’s made up his mind to reveal himself to Elizabeth. Mr. Kaplan says he can’t just waltz into her life again, and he replies that he’s got no choice. He hired Tom Keen to watch her, but he married her. Because of Katarina, there are too many dark forces swirling around Elizabeth, and he’s got to protect her.

The next scene takes place outside the Bureau headquarters, as Raymond sits on a bench before surrendering. A young man identified by IMDB, as the character “Grey,” sits down next to him. He asks Raymond if it’s good to be home? Raymond responds we’ll see about that, and heads towards the building, while Grey joins Kate and Dembe in the car. Grey says he’s in FBI custody. What could go wrong. We then see a series of images flash by, ending with Raymond shooting Mr. Kaplan in the head.

Raymond finally recovers The Tracker’s phone from the debris, and calls Mr. Kaplan. He says her friend put on quite a show, and Kate replies she told him it wouldn’t work. He then suggests that they talk, and Kate scoffs at the notion. She says she told him that when they first met, she’d always take Lizzie’s side, and he says she was misguided and betrayed him. She counters that she catered to his every whim for over 20-years, and he tried to take her out like a mad dog.

She says it took a bullet in the head for her to remember it, but her father was right. “What happens in life, writes a story in our flesh.” Raymond starts boasting about how impenetrable his organization is, when she interrupts him. She says I know where all the bodies are buried dearie, or at least where they were buried. Now I’ve got them all and they’ll end up putting you in the ground. The camera pans to a wide shot, and we see that Kate’s speaking from an ice-skating rink. There are dozens of corpses staying cool on the ice.

The Story Continues Next Thursday Night, at 10:00pm on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Sherwood, NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

The Blacklist,” returned to television with a sprawling two-hour episode, jam-packed with revelations. The evening was split into two separate episodes, the first one entitled “Dembe Zuma, Number 10,” while the second episode’s titled “Requiem.” While the first hour took place in the present, the second episode centered around the past, revealing the history of an integral character in the series. The second hour, provided some answers to long-standing questions, however many questions that fans of the series have remain mysteries. Once again the identity of Elizabeth Keen’s biological father came up, and once again fans walked away from the two-hour extravaganza without a definitive answer.

We’ll be splitting the two episodes into two separate recaps, as there’s far too much information to absorb in just one sitting. The recap of “Requiem.” will soon follow.

Our evening begins with a glimpse of the Metro-DC skyline, before taking us into the shower of Aram Mojtabai. As we see Aram through the glass doors, we watch an unidentified character come into his apartment, and open the bathroom door. Despite the ominous music, we soon realize his guest’s his on-again/off-again girlfriend, Janet Sutherland, who soon joins him in the shower. He asks how she got into the apartment, and she replied he left his front door unlocked. This doesn’t sit well with Mojtabai, as he’s certain that he locked the door, so he puts on his robe to investigate.

Aram’s instincts served him well, discovering he’s got an uninvited visitor. Dembe Zuma tackles him to the ground and soon has him hogtied on the floor. Janet hears a commotion emanating from the living room, so she slips on a towel to investigate. She discovers Aram’s bound and gagged on the floor, then she turns around to see Zuma, who orders her to remain quiet.

Next scene begins with Samar Navabi entering Aram’s apartment, as Donald Ressler and the police are doing a sweep of the premises. She asks Donald if they know where Aram’s at, and Ressler replies they’re still trying to piece things together. He escorts Navabi, into the bedroom and she sees Sutherland sitting on the bed. Jumping to the conclusion that Janet’s involved in Aram’s abduction, she starts to attack her, only to be stopped by Ressler as he explains Sutherland’s a victim and not a suspect.

We find ourselves in Harold Cooper’s office, joined by Raymond and Lizzie. Cooper asks Raymond the status of his investigation into Zuma’s location, after his month-long search. Harold tells Reddington that he and the Bureau are getting involved, as Dembe abducted Aram the night before. Red tries to assure Cooper, that Mojtabai’s not in danger, and that Dembe took a calculated risk, because he needs Aram’s help. Raymond wants to search for Zuma by himself, but Harold insists that Keen accompany him and report back to Cooper.

To avoid detection Dembe switches cars, taking Aram from the trunk of one vehicle, and then ordering him to get into another vehicle’s trunk. Zuma then takes the plates off of the car he abandoned and drives off to parts unknown.

Navabi and Ressler question Sutherland at the Post Office, about the abduction but she’s unable to provide much information, as she got stuffed into a closet. She says that she can track Aram, as he’s got a key-finder on his key ring, which she can access from his work station. Despite her innate distrust of Janet, she convinces Cooper and Ressler to allow Sutherland to use Mojtabai’s computer, as she truly believes the woman’s on their side.

Baz’s replaced Dembe as Raymond’s driver, and Reddington explains to Lizzie that they’re in search of the Sanctum Corporation. He explains to Keen, that it’s “an underground railroad for miscreants.”  Criminals that need to elude the law, or former allies turned enemies, utilize Sanctum Corporation’s services to escape the country and obtain a new identity. Liz asks if Dembe used the services, and Raymond replies that he used them last year, to hide his daughter and granddaughter, after Mr. Solomon poisoned Zuma’s grandchild.

As Raymond and Elizabeth attempt to track down a former client of Sanctum Corporation, Dembe takes Aram to a warehouse district, opens a garage type door revealing one of Reddington’s multitude of lockers stashed across the country. Mojtabai assumes that Zuma wants him to crack the code, so he can steal from Reddington and refuses to do it. Dembe punches in the code and opens the empty locker, and tells Aram he needs his help to find out who stole the contents, as that’s the identity of Raymond’s true enemy.

Aram asks him if he’s trying to help Red, and Dembe acknowledges the fact. He says he gave Raymond the poison drink, but he didn’t poison it. He can’t go back to Raymond until he finds out the identity of that person, who tried to kill Reddington, and sabotaging his operation.

The first man that Liz and Raymond attempt to question Richard Fickman’s been abducted in a bloody skirmish by the time they arrive. Which leads to our first encounter with Glen “Jellybean” Carter of the evening, who promptly tells Reddington that he’s not surprised Dembe went rogue. He said he never bought the strong, silent, brooding act and his fake African accent. He also tells Red that he found their relationship to be “a little Edgar Rice Burroughs”  (creator of Tarzan.) Reddington quickly cuts Jellybean off, and he gets the information he came for, the identity of Fickman’s abductor, an ex-con named Chuck Shaw.

Shaw admits killing Fickman, as repayment for Dr. Sophia Gallup, his prison therapist gaining him parole. Keen checks with the Prison hierarchy and confirms that Gallup’s in charge of the system’s prisons in the Northeast, however the only contact information’s a post office box. They’re able to access the last guy she paroled, Dennis Cauley, who now lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Aram’s only able to access a proprietary address, and tells Dembe that it would take him days to find out the person behind it. Zuma puts the safety on the pistol and tells Aram he can leave and asks forgiveness for his actions. He then slumps to the ground and sits in the alleyway, a defeated man. Mojtabai asks if he’s truly trying to help Reddington, and Dembe responds that he’s got three people in his life, his daughter, his granddaughter, and Raymond. Aram breaks into a grin and says he’s got an idea.

Baz, Liz, and Raymond drive to Cauley’s place, but he’s not there. A quick search of the apartment reveals a dossier on Gallup’s next victim, Alex Soto. Raymond looks at the file and says the man’s real name’s Daniel Nakamoto, a master forger of antiquities that ran afoul against a very powerful gang leader 13-years earlier. Cauley’s notes reveal that he’s usually at a museum at that time of the day.

Raymond sits next to Nakamoto on a bench in the museum, and after a quick round of you’ve got the wrong guy, Reddington reveals that his life’s in danger from the Sanctum Corporation. Nakamoto replies that if they’re truly after him, not even Raymond can help him. He starts to walk away and nearly gets stabbed by Cauley, however Baz takes the ex-con out. In Reddington’s car Nakamoto reveals that the couple behind Sanctum Corporation, Tony and Maria Lopez, ran a honey company in Ohio. They had set up safe houses in various bee colonies they owned. However they died nearly a year before. Raymond thanks him and tells him to pack up his belongings and Red would soon be in touch.

Aram comes up with the name of the person who robbed Reddington, just as Navabi and Ressler arrive on the scene after using the key-finder to track them down. Mojtabai says the woman’s named Kathryn Nemec, and we can see the shock register on Dembe’s face. It’s pretty easy to determine that Kathryn Nemec’s, actually Mr. Kaplan. He says he needs more proof, and Aram helps him elude Ressler and Navabi.

Our second meeting with Glen takes place in a car, as he’s performing his day job as a driving instructor. He tells them to climb into the backseat, and Raymond expresses his disgust at the situation. Jellybean tells them they can speak freely, as his student Ms. Vasquez doesn’t understand a word of English. We soon find out her driving skills are also non-existent. We find out that the Lopez’s died in a fire nine months before, they sold most of their bee farms, but their daughter Vanessa still owned one. Glen says that she’s a therapist, and Liz and Reddington realize that Vanessa Lopez and Sophia Gallup, are the same person.

Lizzie and Raymond head to the bee farm and walk in on Gallup, shirtless and bra-less with bees covering her entire upper torso, looking as if she’s wearing a bee-sweater. Raymond does his best Mr. Spock, as the only thing he can say is fascinating. He soon collects himself and apologizes for barging in, but says time’s of the essence. She assumes Reddington’s one of her parent’s clients, but he corrects her and says he’s looking for a friend.

She tells them that her parents were living a good life running their honey company, when a friend came to them asking for help. Soon another man arrived, and then another, and suddenly their income from Sanctum Corporation, dwarfed the money they made from their legitimate company. They stored all their money in a Vulcan safe in their basement, only the criminals they assisted knew it existed. Nine months earlier, somebody tried cracking the safe with an acetylene torch, burning down the house and leaving her as the only survivor. The bees seem to be the best way of healing her scars from the fire, as their stingers help her skin heal. After Liz calls the Bureau to inform them to arrest the therapist, she and Raymond head to Dembe’s daughter’s new home.

Dembe drives to the spot where Reddington shot Kate, and finds her gone. The burner-phone that he gave to his daughter Isabella, to contact him in case of emergency, rings. He picks it up and Raymond’s on the other end. Red tells him that his activities are making him look very guilty, Zuma counters with we’re both guilty, Raymond. He says she’s not here, and then screams in pain and drops the phone. Our old pal The Tracker’s carrying a crossbow and shot an arrow into Dembe’s calf. He steps on the phone, crushing it and continues after Zuma.

The Tracker finds Dembe on the ground writhing in pain, and he tells him he knows his identity. That he and the fellow in the hat left Kate for dead, but she survived and now he’s going to kill the two of them. He asks where’s his slick-suited pal, and Dembe pulls the arrow out of his calf and jams it into The Tracker’s thigh. As he stops to patch himself up, he calls Kate and leaves a message on her voicemail.

As Liz and Raymond drive off from the bee farm, Keen receives the information that Aram’s safe and that Dembe’s trying to help him. She then tells Reddington that Aram came up with a name, Kathryn Nemec, but she’s listed as disappearing 25-years earlier. Her words cause Raymond’s face to turn stone gray, and he tells Lizzie that’s Mr. Kaplan’s real name.

They soon arrive at the place where they left Kate, and Dembe comes out of the bushes, bleeding badly. Raymond tells Liz to get Dembe to a hospital, while he and Baz hunt for The Tracker. He shoots Baz in the leg with an arrow, but the duo outsmart the hunter, and take him prisoner. They take him to his shack for questioning.

Reddington orders The Tracker to call Kate, but he says it looks like he’s dead either way. Raymond says he truly abhors violence, and only uses it out of necessity. He then jams his pistol up against The Tracker’s forehead and says that this is one of those times. The Tracker hits speed dial and hands the phone to Red, saying that Kate knew he’d underestimate her.

Suddenly Raymond hears a cellphone ringing below them, and through the floorboards he sees it’s connected to explosives. He and Baz get out of the shack just before it erupts in a blaze of glory, The Tracker going out with a huge grin.

Our final scene takes us to Kate walking on a street at night and listening to The Tracker’s message. He tells her he didn’t give her up and refused to go down without a fight. However her war has arrived, so lock and load.

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.