Erin Cummings

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Photo Courtesy Of NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT:

During its five season run, the NBC series “The Blacklist,” has featured some extremely disturbing and unnerving scenes and plotlines. The show’s never flinched while showing graphic images, or taking a beloved character and turning them into monsters. The characters are multi-dimensional and the show runners and story writers have shared “TEAM-RED’S,” flaws and shortcomings. Jon Bokenkamp and company, have shown us from the start that Raymond Reddington, doesn’t occupy a black and white universe, it utilizes a color palate composed of different shades of gray. An angel can easily be lead astray, while no demon’s ever beyond redemption.

We’ve witnessed mortal enemies develop a grudging respect for each other, as well as a decades old alliance get dashed upon the rocks. We’ve seen the old bromide that there’s “Honor Among Thieves,” disproven countless times, as loyalists of Raymond Reddington’s have turned against and paid the prices with their lives. We’ve met a rogue’s gallery of ghoulish Blacklist members, including “The Stewmaker,” a giant taxidermist who enjoyed setting up tableaus filled with his human trophies, and a man who drugged and raped his wife to produce a child.

The first three seasons of “The Blacklist,” prominently featured a notorious organization known as “The Cabal,” a virtual shadow government comprised by powerful people from across the globe. Loosely based on the Tri-Lateral Commission, and other fantasies courtesy of paranoia and fiction, this group of people secretly ran the planet behind the scenes. Lead by Peter Kotsiopoulos, known as the Director, The Cabal had infiltrated the upper echelons of our Government, including Tom Connelly, the Attorney General of the USA.

With the deaths of Connelly and Kotsiopoulos, and the release of the contents of the Fulcrum to an All-Star panel of prominent global journalists implicating most of its leadership, The Cabal seems to have gone into deep hibernation if it still exists. One of the last members ensconced in the government Laurel Hitchin, died in the season finale last May, cracking her skull open during a tussle with Agent Donald Ressler.

Although The Cabal may no longer be a factor, we’ve seen that political leaders in Raymond Reddington’s universe, are no more paragons of virtue, than those that occupy the real world. The current POTUS in Reddington’s universe Robert Diaz, had a deal in place to take campaign contributions from Alexander Kirk, until Red interceded and bankrolled the politician himself. That contribution forced Diaz to ask his predecessor to pardon Elizabeth Keen, allowing her to rejoin the FBI.

The series introduced a new storyline involving the government, in the episode entitled “Ilyas Surkov (No. 54),” one that this viewer believes will play out through the course of this season. It touches upon a subject that plagues this nation currently, the inherent distrust we have for our officials from both sides of the aisle. America suffers from “Institutional Distrust,” giving many of us a jaundiced view of the media, elected officials, and those in charge of the very agencies established to protect us.

That lack of faith whether earned or unfounded, puts us in a collective mindset that makes the fantastic seem credible. What we might have perceived as the creative musings of a fertile mind three or four generations ago, suddenly doesn’t seem that implausible in our current era. Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean somebody’s not out to get you!

This episode does not lend itself to our usual linear format, instead we’re going to concentrate on plot point, some of which will overlap. It’s worth speculating if we are witnessing the birth of a trend, for the second straight week Raymond received no benefit from “TEAM-RED,” capturing those whose trail he sent the Task-Force after. His motivation in apprehending The Endling, was simply to rid the world of a heinous criminal. Whether Reddington knew where the information he gave to Lizzie lead to its eventual source, or just to satiate his curiosity, Red’s fortunes and fate weren’t altered.

The Blacklist Member Of The Week

Our evening starts out in a posh neighborhood of Leeds, England at a lemonade stand in front of one of the handsome homes. Inside the house the mother’s preparing more lemonade while talking to her husband, when her son Ethan, excitedly enters the home and tells her it’s snowing on a beautiful autumn day. She comes outside and indeed at first it appears to be snowing, however they soon realize the sky’s filled with ash. Not just any ash, but the cinders emanate from a nearby chemical explosion, and a dangerous looking brown cloud’s heading straight for them. The mother yells for everybody to enter her home, before the cloud reaches them.

Headlines around the globe blame notorious terrorist Ilyas Surkov for the destructive blast, however Raymond informs Lizzie that can’t be the case. Raymond knows the physician that treated Surkov when he died from pancreatic cancer 15 months before. However Surkov’s been blamed for two other attacks, aside from the episode in Leeds. Cooper sends Keen and Ressler to Leeds, to talk with local officials.

Liz and Donald confer with an MI-6 agent Liam Gladstone, and he’s convinced that Surkov’s very much alive. He tells the pair that he put chemical markers inside the C4 used by Surkov’s arms-dealer Raagan Ghaffari, and those markers showed up at the remains of the chemical plant. Ghaffari lives in Belgrade and speaks French and Arabic, Navabi’s dispatched there to make contact with the arms-dealer, and her concerned boyfriend Aram, tags along.

Samar heads into Ghaffari’s hangout the Bruttka Club, and convinces him that she’s Surkov’s agent, after she tells him that MI-6 tracked the C-4 used in Leeds to him. The pair leave the club, but they’re kidnapped and put into an SUV by a team of four. Ressler and keen reach the street just in time to watch the vehicle drive off and they engage in a high-speed chase that ends when the SUV slams into a barrier. Guns get drawn from both sides, but soon holstered once the other team identifies themselves as a CIA Black-Ops unit.

The team’s lead by a man known as Tobias Reuther, played by one of my favorite character actors, Boris McGiver. There are two other men and woman named Calhoun, who left the Agency to start a family, but got enticed back into the game by Reuther. The family thing didn’t turn out like she planned.

Reuther’s team try torturing and interrogating Ghaffari for hours and the arms-dealer remains silent. Lizzie says to them now it’s her turn and she and Samar head into the room to talk to Ghaffari. Less than a minute later, she tells the Black-Ops force that the arms-dealer’s ready to talk.

Ghaffari tells the agents that Surkov’s next target’s in Virginia, and he supplied the terrorist with an explosive far more powerful than C-4, so he could rip through Kevlar. Just then Lizzie receives a phone call from Cooper, who has the Director of the CIA Leon Cox in his office, and Cox says that the team doesn’t exist and the agents are impostors. Reuther shoots Ghaffari at point-blank range, he and the other two guys escape but the Task-Force captures Calhoun, and bring her back to the Post-Office.

Calhoun and the two men that escaped with Reuther, are listed in the Agency’s records as former agents, but no record exists for Tobias Reuther. Calhoun’s incredulous, she says she saw documentation and that Reuther maintained contact with the Director. Cox enters the room and tells Calhoun that Reuther’s actually Brian Osterman, a former top-echelon agent that the Agency dismissed in 2008. Cox tells Calhoun that Osterman suffers from incredibly dark delusions, and that he actually used their team to carry out incidents, and blame it on the deceased Surkov.  Calhoun tells him that they have a staging area in Ivy City, but when they arrive with a SWAT team, they find the facility’s been ransacked, save for an empty file marked cyclone.

With the help of Raymond, Keen realizes that the target’s code name’s Cyclone and that it’s a military target composed of Kevlar. Aram determines that it’s a naval vessel docked in Virginia, and Liz heads there to stop Osterman. She finds him with a rifle on a tripod, his scope aimed on a sailor carrying a black backpack that he says will blow up the naval vessel. As he prepares to take the shot after refusing to stand down, Lizzie shoots Osterman in the shoulder, keeping him from making the shot. seconds later we hear the explosion emanating from the backpack.

The target wasn’t the naval vessel, instead a communications line between the United States and China, that the Agency wanted to get rid of without causing an international incident. So Cox’s actually been using the identity of Ilyas Surkov to cover Agency missions. they set off the bomb at the chemical plant in Leeds, to take-out the foreman, who they realized was a double-agent.

Although Osterman’s arrested, Cooper tells Cox that he’s informing his superiors about his antics and he hopes that they hold the Director and his methods in as much disdain as he does. As I wrote earlier, I expect that we’ll be seeing far more of Leon Cox over the next few weeks and months.

Liz, Tom, Nik, Pete, Raymond, And It’s Complicated

Nik Korpal’s body showed up in an empty lot, miles away from his home or any hospital. Lizzie instinctually blamed Raymond for Korpal’s murder, thinking that because he wanted to cut off contact with them, Reddington perceived him as a threat and disposed of him. Tom discounted her suppositions, mainly because he realized that Nik’s death was likely a result of their joint investigation into the suitcase.

Does it strike anybody else as odd that Korpal, who escaped death after helping Liz fake hers, and having started over again with a new fiancée, risked everything to help the man Lizzie dumped him for? If you’re Tom Keen, don’t you feel the least bit hinky, that this surgeon still carries a strong enough torch for your Baby’s Mama, that he’s willing to risk it all just to help her? That was actually th first thought that came into my head when Korpal died of strangulation in the previous episode.

Elizabeth pays Raymond a visit and Korpal’s death comes as a surprise to him. He tells Keen that he supposes somebody with a connection to him could have killed Nik, but he’s unaware of any connection. He promises Lizzie that he’ll do his best to find out whose responsible for his death.

Tom heads to Pete McGee’s apartment and of course McGee’s long gone. after some exploration he finds that McGee’s employed by a medical facility that uses paid volunteers as human guinea-pigs, to test some pretty dangerous substances. After filling out the paper work, Tom’s informed that he’ll receive an extra fifty dollars as he’s going to get injected with some heavy-duty stuff.

After the attendant Carly, starts pumping the drugs into Tom’s veins and leaves the room, Tom disconnects himself from the intravenous tubes and starts exploring McGee’s work-space. The only clue he discovers is Carly’s heart-tattoo reflected in Pete’s eyeglasses in a photo in the work area, leading Tom to the conclusion that Pete and Carly are romantically entwined. He confronts Carly with that when she comes to check on him, but she refuses to talk to him.

Raymond pursues a far more direct route for information, as he and Dembe track down a little fire-plug of a man named Lou, as he’s out walking his bulldog Coco. Lou’s the evidence clerk at the facility that Korpal’s body’s in, and Raymond tells the bespectacled man he has 24 hours to get Reddington Nik’s last effects. He tells Lou that he’ll be holding Coco for collateral, and she’ll be spending the day at a doggie-spa.

Lou returns the next day with Korpal’s possessions and Raymond gives him back Coco along with some assorted ointments to cure a skin ailment. Within the envelope containing Nik’s stuff, Raymond discovers the keys to the suitcase, leading Dembe to believe that Kate entrusted the suitcase with the doctor. Raymond also finds a burner phone, containing several phone numbers.

Tom’s contacted by Carly and the two meet on a park bench. Keen tells the technician that he believes Pete killed his friend, but regardless he possesses something that’s putting his life at risk. Carly doesn’t believe McGee’s capable of murder, his divorce become final the following month, and they’ve got plans to get married. However he hasn’t been to work in weeks and she hasn’t heard from him, so she’ll help Tom try to locate him. We then see Pete his hand in a cast and he’s just shaved off his long hair.

Tom and Elizabeth attend Nik’s funeral, but Liz can’t bring herself to even make eye-contact with any of the other mourners, until she sees Raymond standing in the distance. Raymond says that Nik saved his life, and did other services for him, and he grieves his passing. Elizabeth asks him if he’s found out any info on Nik’s killers and Reddington nods.

Liz meets back up with Tom and they agree that it was a nice gesture that Raymond came to pay his respects. She says that Raymond seemed to infer that he had a lead, but when Tom tried to pursue the conversation, she said she believed Meera was buried nearby and wanted to visit her grave. When he asked if she wanted company she replied she wanted to do it alone.

Raymond and Dembe are still at the cemetery and Reddington starts exploring the burner phone. He calls one of the numbers from his own cellphone, and Tom picks up on the other end. Tom says hello, and then asks who it is and Raymond quickly disconnects.

Raymond And Hawkins Excellent Adventure

This week there was very little interchange between “TEAM-RED,” and Raymond, in fact except for his meetings with Lizzie, they didn’t enter each other’s airspace. As expected, Reddington wasted no time and had Anthony The Postman’s safe-houses turning a tidy profit, of 45 Grand in a week. Hawkins got so excited that she said if she felt the least bit of physical attraction to Raymond, she’d bare his child. Reddington told his financial chief that next week they’ll expand their base from two lists to eight, and Hawkins nearly chortled in glee.

Reddington however didn’t share her excitement, as they had no plan on how to launder the money. However in aiding Elizabeth, Red discovered the perfect vehicle for introducing the money into circulation. The dog grooming center that he treated Coco to, serves as groomers for all the area’s pounds to freshen up the pups and make them more presentable for adoption. Although they do some grooming on the side for cash, all the money goes back into the business, and they’ve got branches in cities throughout the country. Best of all the organization’s a non-profit, so it provides a perfect cover to launder their funds. Looks like Raymond’s on his way back.

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

Photo Courtesy Of AMC

Photo Courtesy Of AMC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The most important goal for the characters on the AMC Network’s Original Series “Halt And Catch Fire,” is to establish a connection on a myriad of levels. Although they’ve attained success making those connections electronically, they’ve each failed to secure those connections with the people they most care about. The episode entitled “10Broad36,” illustrated that point throughout the hour, making for painful yet compelling television.

I truly believe that Joe MacMillan, Cameron Howe, Donna and Gordon Clark, are good people who strive to do the right thing, however they approach Grand-Master level when it comes to self-destruction. Sometimes ego’s behind their bad decisions, although anger and fear, figure prominently in each character’s mind-set. So these four visionaries that want to advance global communications, find their biggest problem’s a failure to communicate with each other.

MacMillan’s embraced the “Miami Vice Look,” over the past couple of episodes, switching from suit and ties, to unstructured jackets and t-shirts. He’s eating breakfast, while going over notes when he glances up and notices an empty beer-bottle on his counter. He goes into the closet holding Sara’s clothes and realizes she was there the night before getting some of her stuff.

Joe calls his fiancée, but gets her answering machine. He leaves a message saying he knows she was there and he keeps leaving messages, but she’s yet to return one. He says it’s been a week, that he loves her and for her to please call him. He puts the phone into the cradle and it rings, he thinks it’s Sara but it’s her father, telling him he wants to meet with him.

Jacob tells Joe that his financial people have tweaked the deal they want to sign with Mutiny, chiefly raising their rate for renting the mainframe from three to five dollars an hour. MacMillan says that upping the rate that high will hamstring Mutiny and restrict their chance for growth. He says there’s a lot of talent over there, but it’s raw. However once it’s developed Mutiny could become an advantageous ally for Western-Group Industries.

Wheeler softens his stance, telling Joe to ask for five, but he’ll go as low as $3.50 an hour. Jacob says if they don’t jump at that offer, then MacMillan should move on and they’ll find new clients. Joe can now go marching over to Mutiny and come off as a hero, for offering the $3.50 an hour rate, but things are never that smooth and simple with MacMillan.

Joe and his daughters arrive at Clark’s brother Henry’s house in California. Henry’s portrayed by Kevin Rankin, whose last few roles (Gracepoint, The Newsroom) have been troubled characters and Gordon’s brother has plenty of flaws as we soon find out. However the reception’s warm as Henry gives Gordon a strong hug and his children help Gordon’s daughters get settled. Gordon tells his brother that they’ll talk about what’s troubling him later on.

Donna takes the morning off from work and has her mother over at the house and her mother tells Clark she looks tired and has bags under her eyes. She asks her daughter if everything’s alright and Donna says she had a miscarriage, she says that she didn’t even get a chance to tell Gordon she was pregnant. Her mother offers her sympathy and Donna says perhaps it was for the best.

Lev tells the Coder-Monkeys that he’s figured out that Tom Rendon and Cameron are sleeping with each other and says Rendon’s in her room right now. He runs to Cameron’s bedroom door and yells that the network got hacked and someone’s giving out free memberships.

The couple scramble to get dressed, while Cameron yells she’ll be right there. Tom sneaks out her bedroom window, but the Coder-Monkeys are standing there waiting for him. Rendon smiles sheepishly, as he realizes that they weren’t fooling anybody.

At the same moment, Cameron comes out of her room and starts yelling what’s happened, when she’s unpleasantly surprised at who she sees walking through the house’s front door. It’s MacMillan, who takes off his sunglasses when he’s right in front of Howe and exclaims well this is Mutiny.

Donna, Cameron and Joe enter Cameron’s room and Donna starts looking over the contract, then her eyes wide as she sees the rate’s been changed from three to five dollars an hour. Howe reacts angrily and starts saying this is bait-and-switch, Clark asks her to join her in another room to talk privately.

She tells Cameron that if she can keep her emotions in check, Donna will negotiate a better deal. She says he’s just posturing and that the mainframe’s the reason why their business has expanded, so calm down and Clark will get them a better rate.

Joe and Tom meet in the kitchen and they chat uncomfortably, each sizing the other guy up and making sure they don’t divulge too much information to one another. Joe thanks Rendon for the coffee and heads back to meet with Donna and Cameron.

Clark attempts to be the voice of reason in this second round of negotiations and she does a good job of it, saying to MacMillan the exact reasons that he told Wheeler, Mutiny couldn’t afford the rate increase. He smiles back at her and says the rate’s $5.00 per hour and if Mutiny can’t ante up, some other client will take their place. Donna says to Joe, this is the part where I offer $3.50 then you counter with $4.50 per hour and we settle for four dollars an hour, which is fair. Joe smiles again and says the rate’s $5.00 an hour.

Donna looses it, she starts to cry and throws the contract at MacMillan and says he’s playing dirty. MacMillan calmly stands up and walks out of the room and the house. Donna says he’s bluffing, within three-hours he’ll call back with a counter-offer. However, less than an hour later the plug’s pulled and the network goes offline. Cameron starts freaking out on Donna, until Bosworth tells Cameron to stop. Clark says she’ll fix the problem.

Gordon and Henry go to a local bar and Gordon tells his brother about his medical condition. However instead of Henry being the strong one for Gordon, Clark has to tell his brother his situation’s not that bad and he’s sorry he laid all his troubles on Henry.

Doesn’t take long before Henry’s three-sheets to the wind, while Gordon seems relatively sober. Clark asks Henry about the auto-shop started by their father, that Henry now runs and his brother says his father wants to sell the shop to Midas. Gordon suggests that he speak to their father on Henry’s behalf, but the brother says Clark’s got enough on his plate.

Henry notices the time and says they need to get back home, he asks Gordon to settle the tab while he uses the restroom. The waitress smiles as she walks over to the table, she’s Henry’s girlfriend from high school Jules Duffy. The two joke with each other for a bit, before she puts down the bill and tells Clark she expects a big tip.

Donna meets with Joe at Western-Group and apologizes for over-reacting and being unprofessional. She says she’s not leaving without a deal, so she asks Joe to tell her what she has to do. He says he’s willing to give them discounts on the rate, if they’d be willing to make some changes. The first two are simple, he wants the landing page to be multi-functional, he says he wants a news-feed or a stock-ticker on the page. His second desire’s for Mutiny to have a mail-service, aside from the chat-pages.

The third request’s the tough one, Mutiny currently only operates on Commodore 64 computers. He tells Donna that Commodore will be extinct within five years and he wants Mutiny to be able to run on the AT&T system Unix. He says that if they can make all three changes, he’ll cut their rate to $3.50 per hour.

Donna goes back to Mutiny and meets with Howe, Bosworth and Rendon and tells them Joe’s demands. The first two they have no problem with, but Cameron’s against building a new operating system for Unix. Rendon says that he doesn’t think MacMillan’s tech-savvy and says they could likely fool him by putting the guts of a Commodore inside the housing of an AT&T machine.

The next day Gordon asks Henry to borrow his truck and says he’ll drive to Sacramento to visit their father and try to talk him into keeping the shop. However Clark calls his father instead and finds out that Henry’s got the shop leveraged to the hilt. He also tells Gordon, his brother has a drinking problem, so he goes to talk to Jules Duffy about Henry instead.

The Coder-Monkeys have found that the AT&T housing’s far too small for the guts of the Commodore to fit inside. So they decide to fake the machine completely, using coaxial cable to connect one of the Commodore’s to the fake AT&T computer, they even put a mini-tape recorder inside it, so it sounds like there’s a modem and a connection.

Gordon and Jewels drive out to a scenic spot and she tells Clark that Henry’s usually in the bar at least three days a week, sometimes coming in as early as noon. Gordon asks how Henry messed up the front of his truck, Jewels tells him that his brother stayed until the bar closed one night, the week before. The next day he said he swerved to avoid a deer, Gordon responds that he told their father it was a rabbit.

The pair smoke a joint in the bed of the truck and start talking flirtatiously. They kiss, then quickly stop they start kissing again and start taking each other’s clothes off.

MacMillan arrives at Mutiny and he sits down in front of the phony AT&T computer. He’s impressed with the new landing page as well as their mail-system. Then he starts playing the games and quickly realizes the set-up’s phony. He says the unit’s melting their table, then he pries it apart. He sees the tape-recorder and the coaxial connection and storms from the house.

Howe follows him to his car and says he can’t do this to her again. He says she did it to herself this time. Then he looks at her and shakes his head and says the saddest part’s she’s so much better than this. He gets in his car and drives away.

Gordon and Jules finish having sex and she says she didn’t expect anything like that. Gordon’s already feeling guilty and says that she has to know why he did have sex with her. He tells her about his brain-damage and how terrified he is. He says he hasn’t even told his wife yet and Jules stops him. She says if he’s looking to unburden himself, he picked the wrong girl. She grabs her purse and starts walking home.

He arrives at Henry’s and Gordon’s youngest daughter’s scared, as she woke up and he wasn’t there. However Henry starts screaming at Gordon, telling him he spoke with their father and Clark never came over. He says he can smell the weed and Jules all over him, then he tells Gordon he needs to leave. Instead Gordon picks up his daughter and brings her into the room they’re sleeping in.

Cameron drives Donna somewhere at night, but we can see by the expression on Clark’s face, that this isn’t a happy mission. Howe says to Donna, Mutiny could die in the morning, don’t do this for the company. Donna smiles weakly and says that’s not the reason. She gets out of the truck and steps into a building, as Cameron follows her we see the sign says Planned Parenthood. Clarks getting an abortion.

Later that evening, Gordon calls the house and gets the answering machine. He calls to Donna and she grabs the phone and asks if everything’s okay. Gordon tells her that their youngest daughter’s scared and says that Donna does something to calm her down. He puts the receiver between he and his daughter and Donna sings the girl a lullaby, that works almost instantly. Gordon starts to close his eyes as well and the screen goes black.

However, there’s one more scene that takes place in Jacob Wheeler’s office. MacMillan says that he gave Mutiny three tasks to complete to lower their rate to $3.50 per hour. He says two of the tasks they got perfect, but they tried to trick him into thinking they completed the third task. However in their effort to try to trick him, they rigged up a broadband system. He says broadband’s too costly for practical use right now, but within ten-years they’ll have replaced most modems. He suggests to Jacob that Western-Group acquire Mutiny.

The Story Continues Next Sunday Night at 10:00 pm on AMC.