Kapil Bawa

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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.