Brian D. Coats

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Photo Courtesy of Will Hart/NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

Any thoughts that the NBC show “The Blacklist,” morphed into a “kinder and gentler“” series in season five, can officially be put to rest. Raymond Reddington, may have an extra bounce in his step, after ending up victorious in his battle against his former confidante turned deadly foe Mr. Kaplan, and he’s thoroughly enjoying rising from the ashes and rebuilding his once vast empire. The series added two new comical characters to Reddington’s band of misfit toys, and they appear to be welcome additions to Red’s motley crew, joining the ranks of Jellybean and Brimley.

However in Raymond Reddington’s universe, there’s always a sense as Bruce Springsteen would put it, of “Darkness On The Edge Of Town.” During the last three episodes, we’ve watched that darkness advance from the perimeters and invade the lives of the members of “TEAM-RED.” Some ramifications of bad strategy have already been felt, however it’s likely that over the next few episodes, far more damage will occur as secrets unravel. We’ll watch as relationships crumble and lives become endangered. We ended the evening with a bitter-sweet moment, hoping that two characters learned enough from past mistakes to ensure a happy future, but fearful that their relationship maybe doomed.

The installment entitled “The Travel Agency (No.90),” contained far too many interwoven plots, to recap in linear fashion, so once again we’ll concentrate on plot points. Before we continue however; let’s take a look at what might be plot trends that slip under the radar. For the third straight week, Raymond Reddington received no financial benefit or any kind of kick-back, when the Task-Force stopped a member of The Blacklist. An associate did reach out to Red, requesting his assistance but Reddington told the man he couldn’t help him. He instead turned the information over to Elizabeth Keen, and allowed the Task-Force to do their work unimpeded.

Long-time fans of the show realize that there’s always a method to Raymond Reddington’s madness, so why the sudden change of heart? Are these “Freebies,” being supplied to keep the new FBI Director off of Harold Cooper’s back, which in turn keeps him off of Red’s? Is he giving up this information to strengthen the bond between he and Elizabeth Keen, who now believes Reddington’s her bio-father? Or is Raymond simply collecting chips, so that the Task-Force will help capture a yet unknown member of The Blacklist, leading to a huge payday for Red?

The season opener concluded with a scene featuring a bloody Tom Keen, lying on the floor as Reddington and Dembe Zuma burst into the room with guns drawn. That scene became the subject of much debate, as fans wondered if Tom envisioned a worst-case scenario of the future, or if we actually witnessed a flash-forward. Many took for granted that Reddington and Zuma had beaten and tortured Tom, and returned to finish the job. I couldn’t believe that Red would jeopardize his relationship with Lizzie, by torturing her baby’s daddy, so I perceived it was a premonition when I first saw it.

My opinion changed during the most recent episode, and I now believe that we did see a glimpse of the future in that scene. However I don’t believe that Raymond and Dembe left Tom beaten and bloodied, nor do I think that they entered the room to kill Keen. I now believe that the path Tom’s currently taking will lead him into the hands of those who now possess the suitcase, and we witnessed Raymond and Dembe arriving to regain the suitcase and hopefully save Tom in the bargain.

The Blacklist Member Of The Week

This was an extremely entertaining and complex story, making us question whether the series adopted a sci-fi tone, and dealing with a character that could travel through time, along with an homage to the Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day.” If the old-school General Electric digital clock radio, wasn’t enough of a giveaway, the morning DJ announcing that Roxette finally knocked Janet Jackson off the top of the charts, made it clear that we were back in the late 1980’s. A thin, pasty-faced man sits on the edge of his bed and prepares for his day. He goes down to his kitchen to find his wife watching Tom Brokaw reporting on the destruction of the Berlin Wall. He asks if his daughters are still asleep, and his wife tells him that a friend already took them to daycare. He then provides her the answer for a crossword puzzle she’s working on.

Suddenly his pager goes off, and he glances at it and sees the number 342. He tells his wife that he’s off to work, and she protests that it’s too early. He smiles and says “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” He then kisses his wife who smiles back at him and he leaves the home and travels to the local post office, and opens up his PO box number 342 and pulls a folder out of it.

A graphic informs us that we’re now in York County, Pennsylvania, and the man goes through the contents in the folder. There’s a dossier and photograph of a white-haired gentleman, who appears to be enjoying good health in his early seventies. When we see the man in the photograph, he’s splitting firewood with an axe, until the man we’ve followed approaches him brandishing a pistol. He tries to run away, but he gets hit with the second bullet the man fires.

The man throws the axe at the gunman, but his aim’s off and the axe ends up embedded in a tree. The gunman looks rather shocked at first, but then shoots the man again and this time his victim falls to the ground. The gunman then pulls the axe from the tree and goes after his victim with it as the opening credits roll.

We start to realize that our gunman’s involved with this week’s Blacklist member, as Raymond informs Lizzie that an associate of his Mitchell David Dunning, contacted Red seeking protection. Although Reddington couldn’t provide the security Dunning needed, he found out that the furniture-importer believes he’s the target of The Travel Agency. Raymond explains that The Travel Agency operated as a murder for hire operation for 30-years, before going dark a dozen years back.

Liz informs Cooper and the Task-Force about the information Raymond shared with her, and Harold sends Keen and Samar Navabi to bring Dunning and his wife to the Post-Office for protective custody. When the pair arrive they find Dunning and his wife packing the car to leave town and head up their home in the country.

Keen says they’ve come to give the couple protective custody, but Dunning scoffs at the idea. Seconds later, two shots to the chest end his life, Keen and Navabi keep the wife safe. Samar finds a newspaper on the front seat of Dunning’s car, with the headline of an axe murder in York County, Pennsylvania. Dunning’s wife says she never heard of the victim from Pennsylvania. We see who killed Dunning, it’s the same man that killed the man with the axe.

The first victim’s named Knobbs, Lizzie and Samar, travel to the man’s property in Pennsylvania, and talk to his daughter. She says her father became somewhat of a hermit after closing his business the Seawall Travel Agency, and she’s never seen or heard of Mitchell Dunning. Keen asks if she and Navabi can look through her father’s company records, and find logs filled with details on all the murders committed by the agents of The Travel Agency.

It’s Deja-Vu all over again, as we watch the gunman shut off his radio alarm, go down to the kitchen to find his wife watching Tom Brokaw’s coverage of the destruction of the Berlin Wall. She asks for the same answer on the crossword puzzle she’s working on, and once again the gunman leaves right after his pager goes off while his wife protests that it’s too early. He responds once more “Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.”

Aram does some digging and finds that Knobbs and Dunning were the principal owners of the Seawall Travel Agency, and there’s just one former operative still alive. Ressler and Navabi go searching for Argun Wright, who now works on a construction crew. They find Wright and tell him they’re bringing him for protective custody, when a gunshot rings out and wings Wright. Ressler sees the gunman’s driving a 1986 Oldsmobile, equipped with a high-powered rifle that’s hidden in a compartment in the car’s rear-end. The gunman leaves far too quickly for Donald to fire a shot.

Questioning Wright back at the Post Office, the former Seawall Travel Agency employee tells the agents that nobody knew the other operatives names, they all went by numbers. He does however remember an operative he knew as number five that had a car like the Oldsmobile that the gunman escaped in. He tells the agents that he used to leave dossiers for the operative at PO Box 342 in Seven Valleys.

Navabi and Keen talk to the postmaster and he tells them the PO Box belongs to Calvin Dawson, and he’s owned since before the postmaster started working at the branch. Dawson now lives in a local convalescent home, which the agents head to and talk to Dawson’s physician. He explains that Dawson suffered a traumatic brain-injury after a terrible accident. He can remember things perfectly until the late eighties, but he can’t retain any new memories. In his mind every day’s November 1, 1989. The physician then tells the agents that he’s currently at home with his wife, and he regularly spends a few days a week there.

Eleanor Dawson receives a phone call and she tells Calvin that their daughter Mia’s been injured and they have to pick her up at daycare. Navabi and Keen arrive at the house moments after the couple left, as they search the home they find a ladder leading to a floor above the kitchen, and they discover the elaborate system that Eleanor uses to recreate November, 1989 on a daily basis.

As Eleanor drives Calvin to their destination, she reveals the horrific details behind his brain injury. The couple and their two daughters were on a family vacation when Eleanor’s appendix burst and she underwent emergency surgery. Calvin left the hospital to carry out a hit, and foolishly brought his daughters’ with him, fearing they’d get traumatized waiting alone at the hospital. Dawson’s intended victim knew the hitman was coming and he got the upper hand, leaving Calvin near death in an alley.

Unfortunately the girls were locked in the car and something occurred that caused fatal damage to the girls’ hearts, and they died from heat failure before they got discovered. Eleanor then went on a mission to find out the truth about the man she was married to and discovered he was a monster. Once she put all the pieces together, she manipulated Calvin to kill the remaining members of the Seawall Travel Agency.

They’ve stopped at a cemetery and Eleanor leads her husband to the graves of their daughters. She tells him that she’d hoped to feel some sort of closure after Calvin killed his associates, but it never came. She then pulls out a pistol, just before Liz, Samar and a SWAT team arrive at the graveside. Lizzie pleads with Eleanor to put the gun down, and tells her that she too is a mother. Eleanor says then Keen will understand what she must do and pumps multiple shots into her husband’s abdomen. Seconds later she’s taken out by a member of the SWAT unit, and the four Dawson’s are finally together in death.

The Continuing Suitcase Saga

There was no game of cat and mouse, nor a little dance between Raymond and Tom, instead Red cut right to the chase after he and Dembe trailed Keen to the DC Court Of Records. Reddington told Tom that he knew Kate gave him the valise, and that he enlisted Nik Korpal to identify the bones, leading to Nik’s murder and the theft of the suitcase.

Raymond goes onto say that the murderer discovered the identity of the skeleton, and realizes their value, especially to Red. He says he’ll make himself known to the thieves, and then kill them and rebury the bones which will then be lost in the sands of time, and keeping the identity a secret. Tom then proceeds to get all high and mighty with Raymond, telling him secrets put people in harm’s way. A rather hypocritical statement coming from the man whose responsible for his friend’s death.

Reddington basically tells Keen to stand down, but we realize Tom’s not going to take the advice. Raymond then asks him the contents of the envelope that Keen was holding when he came out of the court of records, to which Tom responds, what envelope?

Pete McGee’s fiancé Lena Mercer’s surprised by an uninvited guest in her apartment, carrying a baton and saying he hopes nobody needs to get hurt. He then tells Mercer to say aloud that she doesn’t know Pete McGee, and she should forget he ever existed. She asks the man named Crespin, if McGee sent him there, but he ignores her question and repeats his demand that she say she doesn’t know Pete McGee. She does so and he leaves saying he hopes they’ve got an understanding.

Tom arrives at her apartment a short time after and tells Lena that he’s got all sorts of info on McGee, that he obtained from the Court Of Records. Scared because of her earlier visitor, she tells Tom to go, but she changes her mind after Keen informs her McGee’s never been married. So his excuse of waiting for his divorce to become final was just another scam.

She leaves her apartment with a suitcase, and Crespin calls his superior and tells him the message was delivered and the target stood down. He’s unaware however that she’s gone to the medical lab she works at to access and download all of McGee’s files.

She and Tom meet later on a park bench, and Tom tells her that the reason Pete’s not leaving a trail’s because he’s using Lena’s identity. The camera pans and we see Crespin talking on his cellphone while he spies on the pair, saying that apparently he’ll need to deliver the message again.

Harold’s Fight For Justice

Task-Force Director Harold Cooper’s life outside of the Post-Office, remains pretty much a mystery after five-years. We’re aware that his marriage to Charlene survived a rocky-stretch, after she admitted to infidelity, because of Cooper’s devotion to his work. We found out earlier this season that Harold’s got at least one grown son, as he told Lizzie he learned some tricks raising a teenage boy.

We’ve witnessed his wisdom, loyalty, and his anger, but we’ve never been provided with any insight into what shaped this man, until this episode. We find out that Cooper’s reasons for joining the Bureau, weren’t solely based on feelings of patriotism and service to country. Part of his motivation stems from what he witnessed as a child.

Harold asks Donald to oversee the Task-Force, shortly after Elizabeth shares the info about The Travel Agency. He tells Ressler that he needs to attend to a personal matter. He’s searching for the son of a friend, a cop that died unjustly, and his son reacted to his father’s death by attempting to numb himself with a combination of alcohol and drugs. The young man’s mother, Cooper’s wife Charlene, and Harold staged an intervention to put Isaiah Hill back on the path of sobriety, a year earlier. However Harold received a call from Hill’s mother, as she believes he slipped back into his old vices.

Cooper heads to Hill’s apartment, but finds another man living there. He says he needed a place to crash and Isaiah handed him the keys. After initially denying he knew anything about Hill’s whereabouts, he eventually provides Harold with some information. Cooper then brings the information to Raymond, who provides him the name of a drug-dealer, and an offer for he and Dembe to be his backup. Harold sincerely thanks Reddington for the offer, but says he can handle it on his own.

Cooper heads to a drug-den, and knocks out the guy guarding the door, who resembles a wall with a face. He then grabs a junkie to lead him to the dealer Castro, and becomes embroiled in a shootout. It appears that Castro’s about to escape, but as he runs out the door, he runs into Dembe’s fist. Harold complains that Raymond and Dembe didn’t adhere to his wishes.

Castro wakes up to find himself bound to a chair, and Raymond standing over him with a syringe filled with a fatal dose of Fentanyl. Reddington says that unless Castro tells them where Isaiah’s hiding, a toxic dose of the substance will soon be flowing through his veins. Castro’s incredulous that Cooper would allow Reddington to kill him, but he says that unless Castro talks he dies. the dealer tells them he sold Hill a gun and gives them the address of where Isaiah’s living in Ivy City.

The trio arrive at Hill’s apartment and Harold knocks on the door, and somehow escapes getting injured from the gun blast that blows a hole through the door. Isaiah’s shocked when he sees “Mr. C.” enter his apartment. After he finishes his tirade about dirty-cops, he admits to them his life’s in danger. After trying to score some Fentanyl from his usual supplier, he tried copping some from a dealer named Zeke Wilson. Unfortunately Hill’s timing was terrible, and he arrived just as Wilson killed a guy. He’s been running ever since. Cooper says he’ll take care of that matter.

Harold’s about to give in to the Dark-Side, planning on executing Wilson with an unregistered handgun. In a scene reminiscent of Tom talking Donald out of killing Karakurt, in season three, Raymond reasons with Harold. He tells him that his position will allow him to walk away from the execution unscathed, his conscience will haunt him for the rest of his days. He then says just in case Cooper’s emotions get the best of him, Dembe will accompany him.

Harold finds Wilson at a table in a club, accompanied by two attractive women, who quickly scatter when he identifies himself as a Special Agent of the FBI. Wilson smirks at him and asks what makes him so special? Cooper says he’s special because he’s arresting him for threatening a witness, and as soon ass Isaiah Hill completes his statement he’ll be charged with murder.

Wilson sneers once again and says that snitches tend to find themselves victims of accidents, and he can’t arrest somebody in an accident. He says to Cooper that he’s not that special an agent, and Harold says he maybe right, but he’s still going to put him away for life, and connects with an uppercut to Wilson’s jaw.

We find out that Isaiah’s father had been a cop and was pulled over one night while off-duty. A white cop said he pulled him over for expired tags and for Hill to remain in his vehicle. However Hill knew he recently put on the new tags and climbed out of his car. As he reached for his badge to identify himself, a white cop shot him to death even though Hill was unarmed. The officer was acquitted on all charges.

Harold tells Isaiah that one of the main reasons he joined the Bureau, was due to the treatment his father received after attending marches organized by Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Cooper’s father got branded as a revolutionary, and the Bureau opened a file on him and hounded him for years. Harold tells Isaiah that was his main motivation for working for the organization that mistreated his father. To protect other African-Americans to be branded unjustly.

As stated earlier, this episode concludes with a bitter-sweet ending. After watching Calvin and Eleanor Dawson get shot to death, Lizzie realized just how fragile life is. She brought Tom down to City Hall, and asked if they could get married right then. Tom of course agreed, and we watched a magistrate pronounce them husband and wife. Will this attempt at happiness survive, or will events separate Lizzy and Tom once again?

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