Aram Mojtabai

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Photo Courtesy Of NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

This should be a gas! After an extremely dark fourth campaign the NBC series “The Blacklist,” returned to the airwaves on a new night and time (Wednesdays at 8:00pm) and a very enjoyable kickoff to its fifth season. Life has changed drastically for Raymond Reddington, the former concierge of crime finds himself broke, and his empire destroyed. However it appears that Raymond’s become reenergized by the prospect of starting over, and there’s a bounce in his step that’s been missing for the last couple of years.

That doesn’t mean that all of Reddington’s and “TEAM-RED’S” problems are in the past however, beginning with the suitcase that Mr. Kaplan recovered from Tansi Farms in the final episode of last season. That valise’s now in the possession of Tom Keen, although Raymond and Dembe are clueless about its whereabouts. There’s also the death of NSA Director Laurel Hitchin, who slipped and hit her head during a scuffle with Agent Donald Ressler in that same episode. Ressler utilized the services of fixer Henry Prescott to hide his involvement in her death.

Our evening begins with Raymond having a coffee near a valet station at an upscale New York restaurant. We see a red Corvette convertible pulling up to the station, when Reddington approaches the valet with a claim ticket, saying he’s been waiting 20 minutes for his Range-Rover. When the attendant says the car on that ticket had already left, Raymond demands to see the manager.

As the attendant runs off, Red masquerades as the supervisor of the valet service and apologizes to the driver of the Corvette, who cuts him off and tells him to do his job. As the couple enter the restaurant, Reddington drives off with their car, and we hear “Back In The New York Groove” on the soundtrack. Two cruisers start chasing Reddington, who takes a call from Liz on his cellphone while he attempts to elude them. Raymond tells Lizzie to meet him at his new place and tells her he’ll speak to her later. With cruisers approaching from both directions, Raymond at the last-minute maneuvers the sports car out-of-the-way and the two cruisers collide, with one flipping on its roof.

Reddington brings the car to a chop shop, and with the proceeds he gets for the vehicle he pays off a man named Dariush, who manages the Terra Vista Motor Lodge, for his outstanding balance and to pay off his room until the end of the month. He also tells the manager that he wants to foot the bill for that evening’s happy hour, for all the motor lodge’s guests. With James Brown’s “Paid The Cost To Be The Boss,” as the soundtrack, we realize that Raymond’s become a regular at the poolside of this rather seedy establishment. He plays with a young girl, throwing quarters into the pool for the child to dive and scoop-up.

After many seasons of will they or won’t they; Samar Navabi and Aram Mojtabai, have become a very passionate couple, as we watch them making out in the elevator in the Post Office. Aram, reminds Samar that they promised to keep things professional at the workplace, and she grumbles that they didn’t break any laws.

Ressler greets them at the elevator, informing the couple they’re late and Cooper’s looking for them. The Task Force Director informs them that a new Bureau Director got sworn in that morning, and his first task is an in-depth review of all of the Bureau’s special operations. Aram says that the new Director will discover that Reddington’s empire’s in ruins. but Navabi counters that the Task-Force’s been incredibly successful in capturing major criminals.

Harold responds that he’s not concerned with the Task-Force proving their worth, but he’s going to have to reveal the results of the DNA test he performed on Lizzie and Raymond, proving that Reddington’s Lizzie’s biological father. He realizes this will cause problems for Keen, but he feels obligated to disclose the information.

Keen’s flabbergasted when she sees the sub par living arrangements that Raymond finds himself in, but Red makes it sound like paradise. He’s become very chummy with Dariush and the eclectic clientele that the motor lodge services. He tries to temp Liz into dipping her toes into the pool, but she responds with a look of revulsion. She tells Raymond that Cooper sent her to find him for a new Blacklist member, and Red responds he’ll have to change into pants.

Reddington takes Liz to the office of a bail bondsman named Maurice, who immediately recognizes Red and says he wants no trouble. Raymond quickly informs him that he’s in search of employment because he desperately needs the cash, and asks for the bondsman for his toughest case. Maurice tells him he needs to find a former carny named Smokey Putnum, whose being tried for embezzling $2 million from a carnival operator. If Putnum’s not in court in 48 hours, Maurice will forfeit 80 grand in bond money. Reddington makes a deal to have Putnum back in time for 40 grand, and tells Lizzie they’re going on a road-trip as he doesn’t have a car.

Before the pair head down to Russell Springs, Kentucky, Raymond gets a call from Dembe, who is in search of the suitcase. He tells Reddington that he tracked the valise down to a bus station in Columbia Heights, but it had vanished by the time he got there. Raymond stresses to Dembe how crucial it is for them to recover the valise. As they hang up, we see Tom Keen examining the skeleton in the suitcase.

Lizzie and Reddington reach a carnival grounds in Kentucky, and we view a phone call between Keen and Cooper. Harold demands to speak to Red and starts to read him the riot act, but Raymond stops him in his tracks. He tells Cooper that the FBI will help him rebuild his criminal empire, so that Reddington can return to the status of getting the information to capture more members of the Blacklist. He then tells Harold that he’s the equivalent of deep-fried butter, unhealthy and irresistible.

Back at the Post-Office, the Task-Force’s informed that Laurel Hitchin’s body was found at her home, and she might have been the victim of foul play. Cooper tells Navabi and Ressler to head to the crime scene, he thinks Reddington’s behind her death, and he wants to make certain nothing points back to the Task-Force.

When the agents arrive at Hitchin’s home, it looks exactly the same as it did when Ressler left in a panic after she slipped and fell during their scuffle. One of the examiners at the scene tell Donald, that although there’s no sign of forced entry, Hitchin had a surveillance system in her home, That should let them determine if her death was an accident, or indeed caused by foul play. Ressler tells the examiner that he wants the results from the surveillance system yesterday.

Liz and Red burst in on two scraggly looking guys who work for the carnival, asking about the whereabouts of Putnum. One of the guys starts telling the other something in what almost sounds like Pig-Latin, Raymond explains to Lizzie that it’s a carny lingo known as Cant, to keep outsiders in the dark about their conversations. Reddington puts his pistol to the head of one of the pair, and soon Keen and Red are given the address of Putnum’s girlfriend, Tammy Lynn Thompson.

Raymond tries to convince Thompson that he’s an attorney trying to find Putnum, because a sister that Smokey didn’t realize he had left him a fortune. Lizzie walks over to an ashtray and sees a cigar sitting in it, and it’s still warm, which means Smokey’s in the house. The carny’s hiding above the suspended ceiling, and comes crashing though to the floor, after Red fires a couple of rounds into the ceiling.

Ressler panics and when he gives Henry Prescott the fee for covering up Hitchin’s death, he asks him what’s going on. He says her body was found at her home and it opened up a huge interagency investigation. Prescott tells “Mr. Sturgeon,” the name he knows Ressler by, that he removed all the evidence and the death will be ruled as accidental. As long as Mr. Sturgeon keeps his mouth shut, his involvement will never get discovered.

Putnum pleads with Liz and Reddington to let him go, he gives them an address in West Virginia, and tells them that’s where he hid the money. Raymond thanks him for the info, and says he’s turning him and then he’ll take the money. It turns out that Red knows quite a bit about Smokey Putnum, as the carny headed up all the logistic and travel plans for the Ringling Brothers Circus. Military officers studied his plans as they were far more effective   than any plans that the pentagon had come up with.

Suddenly Keen sees two black SUVs behind them and she thinks they’re Federal Marshalls. Raymond says they have to lose them or he’ll get taken into custody, but Liz stops the car and says she’ll handle things. As Lizzie approaches the vehicle, Raymond realizes they’re not Marshalls, they’re actually assassins trying to take out Putnum. Keen and Red engage in a shootout with the gunmen, taking most of them out but two keep firing at their vehicle as the trio speeds away.

They get the car to a deserted road in the woods before it breaks down. Putnum tells the pair that the assassins were members of a skinhead group, that utilizes the carnival company to launder their money that they use to run a vast drug network through the prison system. He got set up by his partner, a female accountant that goes by the name of Hawkins. She struck a deal with prosecutors to testify against him in return for a lighter sentence. He tells the pair that if he goes to jail, he won’t survive long before they kill him. The car won’t budge, so the trio end up taking the bus to Cincinnati. As they reach the outskirts of the city, Putnum says he’s having a diabetic attack and Liz gets the bus-driver to drop them off at a café.

After eating a good size piece of pie and a glass of orange juice, Putnum informs them he’s feeling much better. Red’s cellphone rings, and speaks to Maurice the bail bondsman. He tells Maurice that they have Smokey in custody and they’re taking the train from Cincinnati to DC, and should arrive with time to spare. What both men are unaware of is that the skinheads have tapped Maurice’s phone and now they know exactly where the trio are.

Cooper calls Donald into his office, and starts asking him about being at Hitchin’s home the day she died. Ressler says he included that in his report, but Harold asks why he didn’t mention the bad blood between them, Donald says he didn’t think it was relevant, and Harold asked him if the woman he despised died shortly after he left her home, was just coincidence? Ressler responds either that or Karma, and Cooper says he’s satisfied with Donald’s response, but he had to ask.

Sitting at the Amtrak station in Cincinnati, Raymond starts to freak as their bus keeps getting delayed. Fearful of not making the deadline, Red tells Lizzie he’s going to steal a car. When Keen starts to object, Reddington asks her for an alternative solution. She pouts and tells him not to treat her like a child, he smiles and heads out to the parking lot to look for a vehicle he can heist.

As Red heads outside, Smokey tells Liz she’s helping Reddington because he’s her dad. He realized she was a cop when she got the bus-driver to drop them at the café, but he couldn’t figure out why she was helping Red. She says she’s helping capture a fugitive, but Putnum realizes he stuck a nerve. He then tells her he needs to use the men’s room, at first she refuses, but then she accompanies him inside. A trucker comes out of a stall, and Putnum walks over to a urinal. Liz’s modesty gets the best of her and she waits outside the restroom.

A couple of minutes later the trucker emerges from the bathroom, and Liz goes back inside to see what’s taking Putnum so long. She discovers that the carny knocked out the trucker and took his clothes. Liz gets out to the street just in time to see the skinheads abduct Putnum and drive away. She tells Raymond, who just got their getaway vehicle. He tells Keen he believes he knows where they are.

Lizzie contacts Aram and he sends her pictures of men who match the kidnapper’s description. She identifies a picture of a man named Odin Nieland. Aram tells her that he’s connected to Roman LeMarc who heads up the Friedrich Brigade, a criminal organization that runs a drug trade through the Federal Prison system.

Reddington’s hunch proved to be spot-on, as the pair surprised LeMarc and his men, as Liz pressed her pistol to the back of LeMarc’s skull, not far from where Putnum hid the money in West Virginia. Raymond told Putnum to go find his money, and told LeMarc to sit down at gunpoint. When Smokey returned with the cash, Red told LeMarc he could have his money back in exchange for Putnum. Roman said he wanted his money and Smokey, but Raymond told the criminal that he was dictating the terms because LeMarc and his men were without weapons. Liz didn’t want LeMarc to escape, and said she’d shoot the drug kingpin if he took the money, but she couldn’t shoot an unarmed man.

The trio arrived in DC 45 minutes before the trial commenced, and Putnum pleaded to call his girlfriend one last time. He wanted to have privacy to make the call, so Raymond pointed him to a bench right outside their vehicle. Smokey attempted to escape once again as he called in a bomb-threat and tried to vanish in the crowd that soon surrounded them. However Keen chased him down, and tackled him to the ground, handing him off to two policemen who took him to the courthouse.

Liz met with Cooper and told him of their adventure. He then apologized to Keen, and told her of his decision to inform the new FBI Director about the results of the DNA test. She nodded her head and said he was doing the right thing, he responded that he knew the information would make her life tougher and put he under all sorts of scrutiny. However he believed she would come through the experience in good shape as long as she didn’t lose herself.

After Raymond received his 40 grand from Maurice, Lizzie met him back at his car in a parking structure. Suddenly a paddy-wagon pulled up in front of them, containing Hawkins the accountant. However it wasn’t a real police vehicle or real cops, Raymond gave the men the bag with Maurice’s money in exchange for Hawkins. The accountant asked Reddington who he was, he explained he was her guardian angel. The Prosecutors were going to reduce her prison sentence to four-years, he reduced it to no time served. He asked her if she wanted to hear more details and she anxiously awaited the information.

With Hawkins not showing up to testify, Putnum got released and granted his freedom. Liz picked him up at the courthouse and drove him straight to the Terra Vista Motor Lodge, where Hawkins and Raymond were waiting. The two former partners balked at the idea of working together, but Reddington offered them each two percent of his corporation, to utilize their skills. Hawkins for money laundering and Smokey for logistics, Raymond suddenly had the first two members of his new team.

Cooper informs the Task-Force that the Medical-Examiner determined that Hitchin’s death was accidental, and Ressler sighs with relief, thinking he’s now in the clear. However he soon realizes that the waters haven’t calmed for him, as Henry Prescott surprises him when Donald gets into his car a short while later. Prescott realized that Reddington’s security guy, Frank Sturgeon wouldn’t be privy to police reports. So he ran Donald’s fingerprints and found out his true identity. The fixer tells the FBI Agent, that he’ll be doing some favors for Prescott over the next few months.

Dembe arrived later in the evening and Liz offered to get him a drink. He informed Raymond that he came up empty in his search for the suitcase. Raymond once again stressed that neither could rest before they had the valise in their possession.

Our final scene reunited Liz and Tom, after coming back from helping his father get back his company. They embraced and then each said they had news for the other. Lizzie went first and told Tom that Raymond’s her father, hearing that Tom pushed the valise behind the couch so Liz wouldn’t see it. She asked him what his news was, and he told her he loved her and would never leave her again. However in his mind he envisioned Raymond and Dembe shooting him down to get back the valise.

The Story Continues Next Wednesday Night at 8:00pm on NBC.

Photo: Courtesy Of NBC

Photo: Courtesy Of NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The NBC series “The Blacklist,”coming off its largest audience ever on Sunday night, settled into its new time-slot on Thursday nights, with the episode broadcast after the Superbowl’s conclusion. We pick up moments after two United States fighter-jets, fired upon a Black-Ops Site, somewhere in the Bering Sea, by order of the Director of the National Security Council with three FBI Agents and Raymond Reddington in the site.

Our first image’s watching Agent Donald Ressler, fighting one of the men holding him and fellow agent Samar Navabi, captive before the airstrike. The two men battle to a draw, then Luther Braxton’s man runs off and Ressler frees Navabi from the chains that imprisoned her. They soon find Reddington, who just regained consciousness and he tells them Braxton escaped, taking Liz hostage.

Back at Task Force Headquarters, Aram Mojtabai tells Assistant FBI Director Harold Cooper, that they’ve received no radio contact from the site and are clueless about any survivors. Cooper wants to send a search and rescue team out there, but the NSC Director’s Liaison Kat Goodson, says that the site doesn’t exist and without any signal from survivors she’s unable to do that.

Liz wakes up in a chopper and asks if Agents, Ressler, Navabi and Red are okay and she soon sees she’s talking to Braxton, who says he could care less. He asks her how it feels she has information worth dying in her pretty little head and Keen says she doesn’t know a thing. Braxton tells her she knows and he’ll get the answers.

Red’s able to rig an SOS signal from the Black-Ops Site, rescuing Raymond and the two agents as well as two of the facilities guards, including the one that helped Reddington earlier. Aram’s able to get some sightings of Braxton and they’ve narrowed down the vicinity he and Liz are in. While Ressler and Samara follow Aram’s info, Reddington breaks off on his own.

Braxton landed the helicopter on the helipad of Grace River Hospital, Keen’s strapped to a gurney with one of Braxton’s men’s hand’s over her mouth. The gang come in with weapons raised, they get the drugs they came for and head off for Braxton’s hideout. Braxton tries waterboarding Keen to get the answer, but his Minister Of Pain says, if she’s got any memories, they’re deeply repressed, Luther knows just the women that can help.

The phone rings and Braxton thinks it’s one of his men, instead it’s Raymond and Luther starts laughing saying this is the second time he’s going to defeat the great Raymond Reddington. Red compliments him on his skills as a thief, calling him meticulous, however Luther has problems improvising and that’s what he has to do now and that’s how Red will catch him.

The NSC Director meets with the extremely unhappy members of the extremely powerful clandestine organization, whose lives would turn chaotic if the Fulcrum’s released. Many say that the Director assured them that by taking out the Black-Ops Site the problem would get eliminated and ask where’s Reddington. He apologizes for the failure of the air-strike and admits Reddington’s whereabouts are unknown, but once again assures him he’s got the Fulcrum situation under control.

Braxton kidnaps the child of a hospital psychologist that’s involved in blocking traumatic memories and replacing them with pleasant ones. The doctor, Selma Orchid treated him when he returned from the Gulf War and blocked some of his worst memories. He tells the doctor her son’s life depends on her extracting memories from Keen.

Red gathers together all of Luther Braxton’s business associates in a conference room and tells them that their working relationship with Braxton’s ended. He also says that, he will reach out to one of them in that room and when he does, they’re to call the number he’s provided, asks any questions and starts to turn away. There’s always one dimwit, in every situation and this one says, what’s in it for us? Reddington brusquely spit out your lives and left the room.

The drugs that Braxton obtained at the hospital are given to Liz and Dr. Orchid talks her back 26-years, to the traumatic night when she was just four-years-old that she’s blocked-out. The doctor tells her they’re going back and Keen starts to cry she doesn’t want to, however Orchid eases her fears. She puts her through an exercise and takes her back 26-years, we see four-year-old Lizzie standing there with her eyes closed and as the doctor counts down from three we see her open them.

The doctor asks Keen what she sees and she responds a little girl, whom she acknowledges is herself at four-years-old. A man says to the little girl it isn’t safe and stay here and he puts her in a closet, we see the adult Liz sitting next to her and the little girl’s holding a live bunny. She asks the toddler if he hears her and the little girl clasps her hand, we hear a man and woman talking, but it’s distorted, however, the man’s voice’s not Reddington’s.

All of a sudden the rabbit jumps out of little Lizzie’s hands and she runs to the back of the closet to get it and Keen chases her, suddenly they’re in the snow laughing and the little girl looks all excited as she sees her father, but Liz misses his face. They’re back in the closet when Keen decides, to go out through the closet’s front door, Little Lizzie, tries pulling her back in then finally runs back into the closet herself. Keen starts seizing and Orchid has to give her a shot to bring her back, when she awakens, she’s wide-eyed and said my father, I saw my father.

Of course the guy who hears from Braxton’s the wise-guy from the previous, meeting and he hands Red a device containing information about an off-shore bank-account that he wants Reddington to pay him a finders-fee, for turning in Braxton. Raymond says that perhaps he doesn’t understand, but Braxton’s holding a hostage that he wants to save. The guy looks at his girlfriend, then tells Red that another 15-seconds won’t hurt anything, Raymond gives Dembe a nod and seconds later he tells Red it’s completed.

The man tells Red that Braxton needed a place to meet an important person in a safe spot and gives him the address, Reddington looks at it, puts it in his pocket, then pummels the man’s face while his girlfriend groans. Raymond looks at her and says he’s right another 15-seconds won’t hurt and hits him again.

The room where Liz’s treatment’s taking place just has three occupants, Keen, Orchid and Braxton’s guard, when Orchid’s cellphone rings and it’s her young son, Luther soon gets on and says the doctor’s got until 9:00 pm. After Braxton hangs up, Orchid says that’s too soon but Liz says she wants to get the information, for herself, so she finally knows what went on that night.

Braxton shows up for his meeting and lo and behold it’s the Director, who’s trying to obtain the Fulcrum from him. Luther tells the Director that his price went up ten percent, after the artillery attack he survived. He said to the Director to have the money and get ready to meet at 9:00 pm.

As Braxton walks out to his Mercedes, he sees Red there, waiting for him. He pulls out a pistol, but quickly hears the click of Dembe’s gun behind him, his shoulders slump and he just says Son Of A B. Red then tells Braxton he barely remembers Belgrade, but this will be engraved in his memory for the rest of his days.

Red and Dembe take out the two guards on the stairs and then kill the guard in the room. Raymond tells Dr. Orchid she’s in no danger and asks how Liz is and what she remembers, Orchid says bits and pieces but we were so close. Reddington asks while she’s still under the drug can she go any further and Orchid says if they’re cautious and don’t push her. Raymond starts talking to Liz inside the closet and suddenly we hear a gunshot in the house that little Lizzie’s in and then smoke starts to seep through the closet. Keen tells the little girl she knows she just saw something awful, but there’s a fire and she needs to scream for help and they both scream together, we’re rushed through a blurry room and there’s nobody recognizable. Suddenly Liz wakes up looks at Red and says you were there.

Red and Liz talk as she starts to regain her bearings and she says they were arguing about the Fulcrum. Then she says you came in with that woman and those people looking for the Fulcrum, then you left my father to die in a burning house. Red’s eyes fill-up and he says a four-year-olds memories can be complicated, but she cuts him off. She says you came into my life because of the Fulcrum and you came back into my life for the Fulcrum, you’ve never cared for me, just the information I had. Then she said that all his charm and pretend caring didn’t work because she knows what he is, then tells him to leave her alone.

Red meets the Director and the NSC chief quickly loses his smugness, when he sees Braxton hanging on a hook like a side of beef. Red tells him you sent a thief to get what I had all along and you can see what I did with him, the Director asks if Reddington has any idea who he’s talking to and Red tells him all too well, the tells him he possess and has always possessed the Fulcrum. The Director says he believe Raymond’s bluffing and he’s going to hunt him down and skin him alive. Red just looks the Director right in the eyes and says, please call my bluff, PLEASE, call my bluff, then chuckles.

The next scene’s Ressler and Navabi in a room with a TV set and Donald says check this out, as Kat Goodson’s conducting a press-conference about the air-attack on the Black-Ops Site and Raymond Reddington’s whereabouts, are once again unknown.

Liz back in her apartment goes through the precious few possessions she’s got of her childhood and she pulls out the charred stuffed bunny, we’ve seen off and on throughout the past two seasons. However, this time, Liz notices something stuck inside her childhood toy, the Fulcrum.

The Story Continues Next Thursday, at 9:00 pm on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert:

It’s nearly three-months since NBC has shown an episode of “The Blacklist,” waiting to showcase it’s return after the airing of the most viewed TV broadcast of the calendar year, as the network hosted Super Bowl XLIX. Raymond Reddington and company, surely must have gained a large quantity of new viewers in their return, as the show lacked any slow moments and lots of questions that have intrigued viewers  from the start of this series, got revealed or are tantalizingly close to getting discovered.

The Blacklist,” roared out of the gates last season, as the freshman entry combining an intriguing story of the number one wanted man by the FBI, who turns himself into Federal authorities, with an outstanding performance by the series lead James Spader. The show lacked the spark, the excitement, the chemistry, that made it a ratings hit last year in the first few episodes, though it found it’s footing in the fall finale.

The show-runners built on that momentum in their return, as we came out of the game seeing a supposed news bulletin, with the graphic reading “Reddington In U.S. Custody.” A series of talking-heads inform us that Raymond got captured in Hong Kong and they had no reports of where he would get taken to. Red’s looking dapper in a tuxedo sans tie, handcuffed, when a soldier puts a black-hood over his head and tells him, from that moment forward he cease’s to exist, Red responds with that’s a load off and gets whisked into a helicopter.

We approach what looks like an oil-rig, but the graphic tells us we’ve arrived at a Black-Ops Site, somewhere in the Bering Sea. Red’s taken off the chopper, with the hood still over his head, then his hands get shackled to opposite walls and the hood’s removed. As soon as it comes off he says to the guard 202-555-0511, then repeats the number. The third time he repeats it, he tells the guard to ask for Housman and $50,000 will get wired into any account the guard requests. He leaves the cell remaining silent.

At FBI Task Force Headquarters, Tech-Wizard Aram Mojtabai, tells Assistant FBI Director Harold Cooper that Reddington’s fallen off the grid, they check reports and find he’s gotten arrested by the CIA. Reddington’s partner FBI Agent Elizabeth Keen, asks why they can’t just get him back and Cooper informs her that only 41 Intelligence Agency Officials are in the loop about Red’s status. So Don Ressler, starts working the phones working on his contacts.

Back at the Black-Ops Site, the Warden comes into question if Raymond offered the guard a bribe and Red replies that within 12-hours, a prisoner Luther Braxton will escape from his cell and steal a Classified Intelligence Package, that will put United States national security at stake. He says the plan’s already in action and the Warden laughs him off, saying that Braxton’s in solitary confinement.

What the Warden was unaware of was that Braxton was getting electro-shock therapy and some guard slipped Luther a piece of electrical wire, that Braxton swallowed. After he got the wire back, he somehow rigged his cell so that the door became electrified and when the guard put his metal key in the door, he got fried. Braxton, aware that the guards would use tear gas, covered his nose and mouth with a bandanna, then came out of his cell with a flamethrower, burning a couple of guards, then grabbing a machine gun and wiping out the rest.

Ressler’s found out that they’re holding Reddington at a Black-Ops Site called “The Factory.” Mossad and FBI Agent Samar Navabi, exclaims they’re in trouble, Aram asks if it really exists and Keen asks what it is. Cooper reveals that it’s a level-10 Black-Ops Facility, known as a Spy Slaughterhouse. It’s said when they’re done with you, you’re just an empty husk, ready to serve out existence lost and forgotten, or killed immediately. Keen says they’ve got to get Raymond back and Ressler says, it’s going to get tough, pulling off that stunt.

Suddenly the Director of the NSC (the now deceased’s Alan Fitch’s boss,) and his Liaison, enter the Task Force Headquarters and the Liaison asks what’s Red’s status? Cooper, hems and haws and she responds that the NSC is well aware of the ongoing arrangement they’ve got going on with Raymond and Cooper, tells her where he’s at, but states he lacks the authority to get him back. She says that Cooper now has that authority and send a team to extract him.

Back at the Black-Ops Site, the Warden asks Reddington how he knew what was going down and Raymond says the conversations useless, that Braxton’s already got control of the prison. The Warden says that they’ve sent a chopper in to extract Red and he tells them to tell them to turn it around. Ressler, Navabi, Keen and the helicopter pilot land just then, all but Keen get caught and imprisoned, she hides in the shadows.

Braxton’s got a crew of eight in place in order to complete every angle of the mission he intends to complete. He’s after the Fulcrum, the object that Fitch talked about with Red prior to exploding in the fall finale. We now realize, why Raymond’s gotten in there, to assure that Braxton, doesn’t gain possession of the Fulcrum and that Red does, although we’re still in the dark to its identity.

After Braxton takes control of the facility, he calls in on one of the FBI agents phones and gets attached to a Bureau Hostage Negotiator, Luther says he wants to speak to someone higher up the food chain. The Negotiator attempts to form a bond with Braxton and says everything’s okay and he just needs to speak to the Warden and Luther says no, The Negotiator, asks again and the prisoner puts the warden on the phone with the Negotiator, after Braxton takes back the phone, he kills the Warden and says give me someone with authority.

Cooper grabs the phone and identifies himself as the FBI Assistant Director and Braxton tells Cooper, he knows how it works, either Harold gives him what he wants or someone dies. From now on he’s the Warden. Keen’s sneaking around, when Reddington, grabs her from behind and asks what she’s doing there. She says she came to rescue him and he tells her to turn and run, but she tells him about the other three held hostage and says she won’t leave without them or him.

She then asks Red’s purpose in being there and he reveals that he’s there to stop Luther from finding and stealing the Fulcrum, which she’s never heard of. Red tells her it’s a blackmail file, proof of the existence of an extremely powerful clandestine organization. If their activities get made public some of the most powerful people on the planet, will get sent to prison or executed. He explains, that this cartel believes he has the file, hence he still lives. She asks how they’ll stop Braxton and Red says that sadly he knows at least one person on every prison on Earth.

Braxton calls back Cooper and says he’s aware that when security gets breached, all computers go offline and he’s provided with a code-number to reboot the machines. Cooper says that’s true and he’ll look into what he can do to provide Luther information, Braxton shoots a hostage and tells Cooper his reflexes are slow, he’ll call again.

Keen and Reddington joined in the Warden’s office by the guard, and three prisoners, that Red knows. One guy’s on a laptop searching the ship’s schematics and tells Red where the facility’s server’s located, but he says they can’t access it due to Braxton’s lockdown. However the guy referred to as the German says that if they can access the boiler room, they could cause the boiler to explode, knocking out the server. The rub’s that the only access is a 24 inch single air-duct that only Keen’s small enough to crawl through. She’ll get into the boiler room, let Red and the German in. The other prisoner asks what’s his job and Red shoots him in retaliation for killing some of Reddington’s soldiers.

One of Braxton’s people see a security breach in the Warden’s office, so Luther calls the extension and Raymond responds the Warden can’t be reached can he take a message and Braxton remains silent as he immediately recognizes the voice. Red says nothing, a hello, how are you and Luther spits out his name, to which Raymond responds it’s him. Braxton immediately brings up Belgrade, a previous battle between the two that Luther claims to have won, but Raymond says that his opponent, chewed and clawed his way into his pockets and killed innocent people.

Braxton, says they both know it takes guts and someone willing to run the gauntlet, to take him out and after Belgrade, Red showed he lacked what it takes and asks what’s he going to do?

Reddington: A Wise Man Can Learn More From A Foolish Question, Than A Fool Can From A Wise Answer.

Braxton: Who said that, Nietzsche?

Reddington: No, Bruce Lee.

Luther calls Cooper again and demands the code and Cooper tells him he’s not giving it to him. Then Braxton tells him that he’s got his agent Samar Navabi, chained up and unless he gives him the code in ten-minutes, he’ll be down one agent. Aram asks Cooper if he’s going to give Braxton the code and Harold and the Liaison enter his office. He says he’s got three agents on the ground and he’s not going to let them die over a code. He says that if Braxton escapes they can recapture him, then she tells Cooper that it’s information that Luther’s trying to obtain that’s the problem.

Braxton calls again and he’s hanging Navabi and as Cooper hears her groans he gives the prisoner the code. Braxton sends his team down to the server to reboot it and get what he wants. The Liaison fires off a text to the Director of the NSC and the following scene’s the Director meeting with the organizations members. Although some think that Reddington will release the Fulcrum if killed, the Director says that this incident, proves Red doesn’t possess it.

The National Security Director meets with his liaison in his car and he tells her to send two air fighter jets to destroy the facility. She tries convincing him otherwise due to the three agents, but he says he can’t take the risk that Braxton can have that power over so many important people.

The German can’t override the computer settings, says the boiler needs to get overridden manually and he’s not taking that risk with his life. Liz says that she and Red can do it and the other two prisoners high-tail it out. As they’re overriding the boiler, Liz asks why Red’s obsessed with stopping Braxton and Red says that if Braxton gets the information he’ll realize the only way he can get the Fulcrum’s through Keen. The boiler’s about to explode and they run out, both knocked out by shrapnel.

The Liaison tells Cooper and Aram that the order’s sent to have the Black Site Ops Site destroyed, Aram says that two fighter jets just took off heading for the target. Cooper asks how far out are they and Aram responds that the jets will reach the facility in 24-minutes.

Liz wakes up and finds Red not breathing, she gives him CPR, getting him breathing again, but he’s still knocked out. She hears voices, hides him under some rubble and quickly gets caught, she gets taken back to Braxton who whacks her and asks where Reddington is, she responds he’s dead.

Red’s found by the guard and he takes him back to the Warden’s office, they don’t know where Liz’s at. All the prisoners escaped when the server exploded and they’re rioting. Red loads up a shotgun and tells the guard he’s getting her back. Reddington struts like Al Pacino in Scarface, taking down anyone and everyone in his way, he shoots Braxton, but he tries to fight when Liz pulls a pistol on him. Amar tells Cooper that the fighter jets just released their missiles.

Raymond tells Braxton’s he’s not getting a golden ticket, all he’d gain’s a target on his back. Luther says he knows the stories, about the fire and the girl and he looks over at Liz and his jaw drops. Braxton says that’s her, that’s the girl and Raymond shouts to Keen to shoot him now, when we see the bomb start to hit the facility.

The Story Continues, Thursday, February 5, at 9:00 pm on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of NJBC

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The United States Government’s conducted some barbaric experiments on some of it'[s citizens over the last 80-years or so. Back in the thirties, they introduced syphilis into Federal Prisons, without informing the convicts. In the fifties, the CIA and other Intelligence Agencies, experimented on soldiers with LSD and other hallucinogens, to test its effect as a mind controlling subject. It’s too scary to even contemplate what our Government’s doing in the current era, when elected officials show their constituents how little they care about them.

That’s one of the storylines introduced in the latest episode of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” as a scientist involved in “Black-Ops” for some branch of the Government, now’s working independently on experiments involving the “warrior gene”, an anomaly in some folks genetic makeup. Dr. Linus Creel’s found a band of subjects he’s experimented on, turning docile souls into killing machines.

The other story-arc in the episode, involved Raymond Reddington’s former wife Naomi Hyland, whom Red has kept imprisoned since he got her back from his adversary Berlin in the second episode of this season. Berlin planned on killing Naomi and sending her to Raymond in pieces, as he claimed that Reddington did to Berlin’s daughter, but Red got control of his enemy’s assets, returning them in exchange for Naomi.

Before we explore this installment’s plot, let’s take a moment to discuss the current state of  “The Blacklist.” The series rocketed out of the starting blocks last year, in its freshman season and maintained its velocity throughout the entire season, concluding with a no-holds barred finale, that got fans even more excited for season two. However, in this young television season, the series has yet to recapture the magic from the first season.

James Spader’s Red’s, a far toned down less grand version of the former Government Operative turned Master Criminal, we enjoyed last year. We’ve experienced a more brusque, less charming Reddington, so far this year.  That made Reddington a larger-than-life figure, showing a charm and sophistication of an earlier era, while able to switch gears to ruthless, without bating an eye. Even the childlike joy and laughter he displayed when he and Dembe laughed like six-year-olds over an old “Three Stooges” short, while holding a prisoner. These contradictions made Raymond Reddington a charismatic character.

Megan Boone’s Lizzie Keen, morphed from a sweet naïve girl, who thought she lived the perfect life, into a cynical, bitter, paranoid woman this season. The transformation’s understandable, given the year she experienced finding out her life was essentially a lie, however it makes for a far less sympathetic character and dampens the viewer’s desire to watch her succeed.

Mozhan Marnò’s former Mossad agent Samar Navabi’s joined the team and while she’s an attractive woman, so far we know little about her and she has yet to show her abilities as an asset. Former member Agent Meera Malik’s not a character that I enjoyed, as she sold out her team to Government bureaucrat Diane Fowler, but she served a purpose. Navabi’s yet to show any reason for the character to exist, other than as a place holder. The one character that’s improved from the first season’s Amir Arison’s techie Aram Mojtabai, the team’s techie and biggest team player. He’s incredibly loyal to Kean and follows suggestions without questioning.

The series has yet to find its cadence this season, starting with the strained relationship between Lizzie and Red, the secrets that have remained unanswered for the past year and the distrust that’s forming on both sides. Except for the deal he consummated with Berlin to get back Naomi, Raymond’s not played a prominent role in any of the investigations he’s given as leads to Harold Cooper’s Task-Force, instead working on his own separate agendas.

The show seemed to start finding it’s footing in this episode, although still not clearing the bar set last year. Red’s new name’s Creel, not only experiments on his subjects without their knowledge or permission, he seems certifiably insane complete with a fetish that causes him to pull out a patch of hair from the back of his head, every time one of his subjects commits violent acts. We first meet the scientist as he monitors one of his subjects, a formerly docile single mom that he’s turned into a ticking bomb.

Creel orchestrated her losing her job, her longtime boyfriend and she’s close to losing her home. After standing outside the bank that holds the loan on her home in a trance for a while, she walks into the building and deals with an unsympathetic loan officer. He says the bank’s got no choice but foreclosure and she leaves the building, upset, distraught and incredibly angry. She stomps to her car, grabs a revolver from her glove compartment, goes back into the bank and opens fire. After she’s captured she’s sent to a mental hospital to evaluate her.

Back at the cabin, Red’s holding Naomi in, he asks her where their now grown daughter’s at, but she refuses to tell him. He then tells her he’s gotten new passports and new identities for her and her husband Frank as they must leave Philadelphia, or face danger on a daily basis. Hyland argues at first then realizes Red’s right and just then Frank pulls up in his car to the cabin. He however refuses to give up their lives and start anew and convinces Naomi to return to Philadelphia with him.

Keen realizes that Red’s holding Naomi and she desperately wants to talk to her about what Hyland knows about Lizzie’s connection with Raymond. So she gets Amir to monitor the cell phone records of both Naomi and Frank, plus their frequent contacts to determine where Hyland’s being held.

Cooper calls Liz into his office and tells her that the rumors over the years about “Black-Ops,” are factual and he begins listing some incredulous sounding projects, he then pulls out an old photo from his desk of the “Black-Ops” team that worked on stimulating the “warrior gene,” before they lost their funding. Keen asks who a familiar face in the corner of the photo belongs to and she’s told the research assistant, Linus Creel. He gives her a classified document on the project but it’s almost totally redacted, making it impossible to derive info from.

A report comes in that another man with a connection  to Creel, went on a shooting spree, killing many until gunned down by police. Liz speaks of her frustration about the redacted document and Navabi asks if the Government employs a polyglot, a person who can determine what redacted documents actually say. She calls Red and asks if he’s aware of such a person and he laughs at the term and takes her to an old associate, who possesses a clean copy of the document. The experiment works in three parts, first reducing the subject’s self-esteem, then taking away important possessions and relationships, finally pushing them to the point of anger. They realize that’s what Creel’s doing with his subjects.

An old friend, whose opinion I greatly value told me that he got put off by Paul Reuben’s character Mr. Vargas, introduced in the previous episode, but I happen to enjoy the character and the out of the box casting choice. He returns in this episode, in a scene that begins with an attractive young woman talking on her cellphone as she enters her house. She’s talking to a man she’s having an affair with, who promised to leave his wife for her. She tells him she doesn’t care if it’s a bad time, either he tells his wife about them or she will, then hangs up the phone.

At that point the woman’s startled as Mr. Vargas marches over to her from the living room and starts berating her about the way she treats her dog, a white, pudgy, Lab mix. He says it’s shameful, leaving the poor animal locked in the house all day and having the choice to relieve himself inside the house or wait until his owner comes home. Mr. Vargas says, he’s cleaned up four messes in the last twenty-minutes, then demands the dog’s leash and tells her he’s taking the pup for a walk. She tells him no, instead she’ll call the police, until one of his enforcers pushes her down into a chair.

Creel’s programmed 18-subjects over the previous 18-months and all have carried out his plan except for one young man he’s held back for this occasion. He invented a beautiful girl on Facebook, that seduced the hapless teen online, then told him there’s somebody else and she and he are deeply involved. The teen starts to lose it and heads down to a question and answer session conducted by a US Senator, he believes the fictitious Amanda Palmer supports. Creel’s talking to the Senator about the “warrior gene” and that he can stop subjects from acting on the impulses in their heads, but the Senator cuts him short. Linus then reveals he’s attempted to contact the Senator for over a year and the Senator’s refused to speak with him.

Back at the cabin, Red asks Frank to take a walk with him, when they reach a parking lot, Mr. Vargas and crew drive up with the woman’s dog. The woman’s named Monica and Frank’s the man she’s having the affair with. Raymond tells Frank the affair’s over and that he and Naomi will relocate and assume new identities. He then picks up a sharp stick and holds it to Hyland’s jugular vein and says the only reason he’s still living’s the fact he makes Naomi happy. Keep her happy he says.

The teen and the Task-Force arrive at the Q&A session at the same time and the kid starts looking for Amanda, but Creel tells him he set the whole thing up. He purposely tricked him and broke his heart so the teen would kill him, make him a martyr and cause people to study and eventually adopt his work, but Liz and Ressler attempt to talk the kid out of it. But the boy’s confused, finally shooting Creel but just winging him. Liz goes to him and tells Ressler to call for a medic, but Linus rises, grabs Keen and holds a pistol to her head. Ressler tells him to let her go but Creel says if he shoots Liz they’ll kill him, but Ressler tells him he won’t get killed, just injured. Just then a shot rings out striking Linus in the back killing him instantly, the agents look up and see a sniper who then disappears.

Frank and Naomi talk and he tells her he thought things through and the biggest priority in his life’s her safety, so he believes they should move and start over again. Although she’ll never realize it, Red saved her marriage and probably both hers and Frank’s lives. Lizzy gets some info from Amir on being able to triangulate the phone calls of the Hyland’s and he’s located where Naomi’s at. Keen drives to the cabin to find Naomi alone, Hyland starts to talk about Berlin and her being held by Raymond, but Lizzie cuts her off. She says she came to talk to see if Naomi can shed light on her connection with her former husband. Although Naomi’s got the info Keen wants, she feigns ignorance, then tells her Red’s just using her until she’s no longer an asset. Red’s been standing at the door listening and chooses to come in the cabin at that point. He says something disparaging both of them then tells Naomi it’s time to leave.

As she’s leaving she tells Red she’s got no idea where their daughter is, the girl knew Raymond would attempt to find her and lives off the grid. Reddington clearly appreciates  her telling him that and kisses her on the forehead, then her and Frank take off for their new lives. We can see that Raymond’s more than perturbed at Liz for trying to get info from Naomi, driving them just a bit more apart.

The Story Continues Next Monday at 9:00 pm on NBC.