Leon Rippy

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Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Sherwood, NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by: Will Hart/NBC

Photo by: Will Hart/NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

With two episodes remaining in the Fall Season for the NBC series “The Blacklist,” the show’s close to wrapping up the Alexander Kirk/Constantin Rostov, story-arc. However, plenty of questions remain unanswered, concerning Elizabeth Keen and Raymond Reddington’s past and Lizzie’s relationship to Rostov, and the future of our characters and the Task-Force. Although the episode concluded with Agnes back with her parents and Constantin imprisoned in the glass cell in the Post Office, we’re really not more informed about our characters’ history, then we were before the former FBI Agent faked her death last spring.

This episode did remove some layers and showed us the dynamic will change once again, as new loyalties get formed and some established ones look tenuous presently. Whether next week’s episode provides more information for the characters and the fans remain to be seen. We’ll also find out if the show gives us a preview of the next upcoming adventure, or simply decides to let our cast catch its collective breath and enjoy the moment?

For the second straight week, the characters in the opening scene are all strangers to us. We’ve landed in a rather posh conference room in Minsk, Belarus, as the host tries to entice his four guests into a business proposition. The man’s named Rene LeBron and the four men are criminal bosses that had their assets seized by the United States government.

LeBron tells the four criminals that the President of the United States, isn’t God and his decisions aren’t final. He says that although the government perceives these men as drug-traffickers, violators of human rights and impediments to democracy, he’s got a different point of view. LeBron says he sees the men as businessmen, who got their money seized and he’s willing to help them out. The four men collectively are out $760 million, LeBron offers to give them $600 million in cash immediately, in return for the $160 million balance and market rate interest on the loan. Although the senior member of the guests voices objections to the deal, his companions are hot to make the deal.

LeBron gets into the elevator after completing the agreement, with two other men and a woman alongside him. Two floors later, three Asian women and one Asian man enter the car, looking like nondescript tourists. We find out they’re assassins shortly after the doors close, as they eliminate LeBron’s companions and hold him at gunpoint. The loan-shark tells the man that he’s got close to three-quarters of a billion dollars nearby and the man responds that he’s already taken possession of the cash.

The man makes a call from his cellphone and it turns out that Oscar and his crew are contractors for Raymond. He’s told to take his fee from the cash he recovered and to donate some cash to a Belarus charity. He also tells Oscar that he wants the plane.

Raymond meets with the Task-Force at the Post Office and tells the team of his capturing Rene LeBron and Baz and some of Reddington’s men will hand off LeBron to Ressler and Navabi. Liz’s far from happy, especially with Red and she lets it be known without a hint of subtlety. She’s angry with the fact that this case won’t help them recover Agnes and Raymond informs her that Rostov’s a client of LeBron’s. He’s willing to give up Constantin, in exchange for a promise that he won’t get prosecuted. Cooper says he’ll need to get clearance from Cynthia Panabaker. Harold dismisses his team but asks Keen to stay with him.

Cooper says to Keen he can only imagine the pain and the pressure she’s feeling, but he says he believes Reddington’s doing his best to recover Agnes. Lizzie starts breaking down and tell Harold that she got a hold of a DNA report and Rostov’s her father and Red wants to kill him. However she states that she’s enough of a professional to work with Reddington.

After a week of being M.I.A., we rejoin Mr. Kaplan and her captor the Hunter. He comes inside with his dog and he says to Kate we’ve got a problem. He says the guy who shot her will kill somebody else and dump the body where he shot Kate. When he realizes she’s not there, he’ll come sniffing around. Or somebody will report her missing and the cops will search for her and they’ll come looking for her. He says he could let her go, but she’d tell somebody about him. He says he doesn’t like company, so he’s not sure what to do with her.

Kate tells the Hunter she tried to commit suicide and he asks her where’s her gun? She says she dropped it but she’s not sure where. The Hunter says she left a trail and he’s a tracker, so he’ll go out looking for the gun.

Harold calls Panabaker and tells her about the situation. Although she’s not happy about granting LeBron immunity, she tells Cooper to pick up the loan-shark and bring him in.

What Harold fails to realize is his phone’s tapped by some of Kirk’s contractors and the man monitoring the call contacts Rostov’s number one, Olga and passes on the information. She calls Rostov and tells him that Reddington’s the one that captured LeBron and asks Constantin if she should take him out? Rostov tells her to go ahead and Olga says to him that the seeds of doubt he planted with Masha have taken root. Constantin says he should reach out to her but they should take adequate precautions. Olga calls him a fool and says she doesn’t trust Masha. Rostov smiles and says Olga doesn’t trust anybody, but he’s asking her to trust him on this.

Baz releases LeBron from his bonds and then puts a white-hood over his head as he prepares to pass the loan-shark over to Donald and Samar. As we watch the exchange take place, we see a sniper putting together his rifle and he takes out LeBron. Raymond looks at Dembe and says the loan-shark died right on schedule and now it’s time to send out the invitations.

Welcome To The Past: The next morning, Aram, Samar, Ressler and Cooper receive pizza deliveries from Nick’s Pizza. Inside the box is a formal invitation stating their cars will arrive at 7:30 am and their discretion’s appreciated. The four get greeted by Reddington’s newest employees, Sweater-Vest-Man, whose name’s Chester. He maybe Mr. Kaplan’s replacement as he has the four agents deposit their cellular devices and then puts them through an airport type body-scanner.

Once they’ve passed the inspection, they’re sent deeper into the building and Raymond greets them saying welcome to the past. The building they’re standing in can’t be penetrated by any digital signal and all the equipment in the facility’s analog. Cooper asks why they’re in a museum and Lizzie enters and says because they’ve been breached. Aram can’t believe it, saying their system’s unhackable. Raymond smiles and says exactly and that’s why Rostov hired the Thrushes.

The Thrushes were formed in 1982 by a man named Plemen Radkov. Radkov got arrested in 1986 and died in a Soviet gulag a few years later. That’s when the Thrushes went underground and they’ve taken on jobs based on degree of difficulty and the money offered. They’ve been involved in some high scale operations over the years and many lives were lost due to their activities. Cooper tells Navabi and Ressler to find out what they can about the other incidents and tells Aram to contact the NSA.

Who’s The Mole?: Navabi finds out first as she meets with another intelligence operative about the incident they were involved in, in Jaipur. The operative brings a book with pictures of all the Thrushes operative and says all 38 were engineers and perished in the incident. Samar going through the pictures realizes that the agent’s incorrect, one of the people’s not an engineer and is still alive. Although she’s identified as Kate Bond, she’s in reality Aram’s new girlfriend Elise.

Navabi tells Cooper and Donald and both men tell her they’ve got to keep this from Mojtabai, that he’ll be heartbroken and will blow their cover. Just then Aram walks into the Post Office looking desolate, he’s been working on the problem for the last 18-hours and he realized that Elise’s the mole. He’s hurt and angry, but he wants to get involved in her capture. They’ve got a date that evening at his apartment and he’s going to download a virus on her laptop.

Samar sets up Aram for the sting in a van that’s right below his apartment, she gives him a pen that’s also a wire and then hands Mojtabai a pistol. He asks if she wants her to shoot his girlfriend and she adamantly says she’s not his girlfriend. She also tells Aram that if he gets into trouble, to say the word banana and the cavalry will burst in.

Elise realizes something’s up with Aram but he keeps saying he’s fine and then he goes to the refrigerator and pulls out a bottle of wine he bought for her. As he pulls the cork out, he spills wine all over the front of his shirt and says he’s got to change. He goes into his bedroom and takes her laptop out of her bag and inserts the thumb drive into it, but she enters the room before he can put it back in the bag. She enters the room and she tries to seduce him as he’s shirtless, but he rebuffs her advances, saying they’ll have a fire on the stove.

Now Elise knows something’s wrong with Aram and demands to know what it is. Ressler’s ready to charge into the apartment, but Mojtabai says that he’s actually in love with somebody else. Elise says that it’s Samar but Aram denies it, just then her cellphone rings and Olga’s on the other end. She tells Aram she’s got to take this work call and walks into his bedroom.

Olga asks her operative if her laptop’s secure and Elise responds it is. Olga replies she best make sure of it as her life could depend on it. She gets off the phone and goes into her bag for her laptop, but sees it’s missing. She lifts up Aram’s shirt and sees it and the thumb-drive Mojtabai installed, he walks in with the pistol drawn, but she knocks it out of hand.

The two start fighting and Aram says banana, about six times before the SWAT-Team and Donald and Samar burst in. Elise is about to hit Aram with a piece of wood, when Ressler tells her to drop it. At gunpoint, Elise calls back Olga and tells her all’s well.

Mr. Kaplan And The Hunter: The Hunter goes to the area where he first found Kate and checks out some old camera’s he’s got set up monitoring the area. He opens the third camera and shakes his head. He heads back to the camera and tells Mr. Kaplan she lied to him. She denies it, but then he shows her the camera and says three went in but only two came out.

Perhaps seeing the pictures gave the Hunter sympathy for Kate, as the last time we see them, they’re sitting at a table and the Hunter’s feeding Mr. Kaplan with a spoon.

The Capture Of Constantin Rostov: Liz receives a phone-call from a shoe-repair shop that she’s never visited and the owner says she left her cell phone there. She realizes that Rostov’s attempting to contact her and she picks up the phone. When she brings it back, she sees just one number on the burner-phone and calls it. She immediately asks about Agnes and Constantin replies she’s in good health but wants her mother.

Lizzie tells Rostov that she got ahold of his records and she saw a DNA report confirming that Constantin’s her father. He asks if she, Agnes and he can meet, she says she’d agree to that and Rostov says he’ll call her back with arrangements. When she gets off the phone Raymond asks her why she believes the lies Constantin’s told her, she says when she went to the Summer Palace, she recognized things and had memories of her childhood. Reddington replies just because he was married to Lizzie’s mother, it doesn’t make Rostov her father.

Keen gets a call from Constantin and sets up the meeting at an abandoned station on the Bowery Line. Reddington tells Cooper that his men will handle capturing Rostov. However Liz calls back Constantin and tells him it’s a trap, Rostov asks if she’d still be willing to meet him and gives her a new location.

Reddington sets up his plan of attack, but it appears he and his crew are heading into a trap. When Liz arrives at the new location, Rostov and some of his soldiers meet her but Agnes’ isn’t there. Constantin says that she’ll join them soon, but first he needs to kill Reddington. Lizzie reacts horrified, that Rostov’s set a trap for Raymond, but in reality Reddington and his team are right downstairs. As Raymond’s soldiers arrive, Rostov summons the woman who traveled with Matos and she’s cradling Agnes in her arms.

Rostov grabs the infant and stands on the ledge of the roof, he says if he can’t have his granddaughter, he’ll take her with him. Raymond tells him that’s insane and Masha says please father give her back to me. Constantin puts down his pistol and gives Agnes to Liz. Rostov’s taken into custody.

For the first time this season we get a pleasant montage ending the episode as Harry Nilsson’s version of One plays in the background. Raymond goes to visit Tom and Liz and he asks to see Agnes and Lizzie invites him in. She says to Raymond now that Rostov’s been captured the three of them will find a new place, Reddington nods and says he realized that.

The final image of the evening’s Constantin Rostov locked away in the glass cage inside the Post Office, a broken and defeated man.

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

“Woke up this morning my house was cold
Checked out the furnace she wasn’t burnin’
Went out and hoped in my old Ford
Hit the engine but she ain’t turnin’
We’ve given each other some hard lessons lately
But we ain’t learnin’
We’re the same sad story that’s a fact
One step up and two steps back.”

Bruce Springsteen One Step Up

Tempers flaring, patience running thin and we’re witnessing long-term relationships hitting the danger zone. That could be an accurate summary, for Season Four of the NBC hit-drama “The Blacklist,” but that level spiked in Episode Four, entitled “Gaia.” When Aram Mojtabai let’s the fur fly, we know we’re traveling in unchartered waters.

Our episode begins out in the woods as we see the speaker horn of an old Victrola and sound of Classical Music fills the great outdoors. We then see a man who appears to be in his mid-thirties and as the camera pans to a long shot we see that he lives in an old school bus and he’s raising his own potted crops. He starts looking at his tomatoes, when blood starts dripping from his nose and he goes inside the bus. He grabs a pair of surgical scissors and extracts a large wad of blood-soaked cotton gauze out of his nostril.

He then picks up a radio phone and we hear him talking to a woman named Maya, he tells her he’s got two new targets and that she has to get her and someone else out of the state. The call doesn’t last long, as she either hung up on him or he reached her voice mail.

We follow the man to a retirement party, for a man who owns a helicopter charter service. The man retiring pokes fun at his head mechanic for being a Cubs’ fan and the man from the woods, puts a beer down in front of the mechanic and says he’s from Wrigley Ville. The mechanic nods in appreciation for the free beer.

The next scene, the mechanic and the guy from the woods run into each other again and start making small-talk, but the mechanic’s unaware that the guy from the woods laced his beer with poison and he dies of what the coroner believes was a heart-attack.

Liz Keen’s sitting on the floor, scouring through documents that she hopes will lead her to the location of her infant daughter Agnes, when her laptop emits a tone informing her somebody’s attempting to contact her. She opens her computer and she’s getting a video-feed from Constantin Rostov, he says he wanted to speak to her when she was alone and Lizzie only wants to know how Agnes’ doing. Rostov adjusts the camera to show Keen her cooing daughter and though she’s relieved her child’s safe, she tells Rostov she’s on to him and his plans.

The former FBI Agent tells Rostov that she’s aware of the blood disease he suffers from and that’s the real reason he’s been searching for her and Agnes. Rostov admits that his health’s at stake, but tells Lizzie that he just wants his family reunited and he says the only way that can happen is for her to cut ties with Reddington. He then tells Masha that the link will remain open, so she can check in with Agnes at any time. There’s an unspoken agreement that she won’t try to trace the link, or he’ll cut off contact.

Rostov’s getting another transfusion and Constantin asks if he has six-months, the doctor replies possibly less. He says Rostov always realized that the transfusions were only a temporary fix and a young dark-haired woman says that Rostov’s got to use the child. The doctor vehemently disagrees, saying even if Agnes’ and Rostov are a genetic match, the procedure would put the infant in mortal danger. The young woman scoffs at the doctor’s words and says that he’s not the one who’s dying.

Tom heads back to where he’s staying with Liz and she tells him about her conversation with Kirk and the link he’s set-up so she can see Agnes. Keen immediately wants to trace the link, but Lizzie begs him not to. She says that she can play on Rostov’s ego and gain his trust and then they can rescue Agnes and ensure her safety. Tom remains silent on the issue, so naturally Liz assumed he’d follow her wishes, you’d think that after all this time she’d realize that Keen always believes he knows best.

Raymond and Liz meet and he says he’s got a kind of, sort of clue that could lead them to Agnes. Reddington says that he’s searching for an eco-terrorist known only as Gaia, which is Mother Earth in Greek. Raymond explains that the eco-terrorist disguises his attacks as accidents, so that the people force Government Agencies to fix the problem.

When Keen informs the rest of the task force, they review some of the accidents that Gaia engineered in the past and that some of the incidents took innocent lives in order to save other innocent lives. Harold sends Navabi and Ressler into the field to see what they can find on Gaia, however Aram stops Samar and apologizes that he basically blew her off the previous evening on the phone.

Mojtabai, asks Samar if she’d like for them to talk about her possible transfer later, but she informs him that she already decided to request a transfer and that its being processed. Although shaken, Aram congratulates her on her upcoming move and she says she’d better not keep Donald waiting.

As Donald and Navabi search through records trying to find some info on Gaia, Ressler tells Samar that he Googled Aram’s new girl-friend. She asks why he did that and he responds that he wanted to see if Elise was hot and Donald says she’s quite hot indeed.

The Gaia poisons a second victim an inspector for Borron Energy Service. He lambasted the inspector for allowing environmental dangers to exist, the guy replied that just about everything in this world can kill you. He takes his laced coffee back to his vehicle and shortly thereafter as the inspectors taking his last breaths, the eco-terrorist goes out to the guy’s vehicle and says that he was right about so many dangers out in the world. He then grabs the guy’s clipboard and hard hat.

We find ourselves in a shack and see Mr. Kaplan lying on a cot with a piece of cloth covering the wound on her cheek. Suddenly the door opens and we see the dog and it’s owner enter the cabin, however without Kate having her glasses the shapes are too blurry for her to identify and she falls back to sleep.

Aram tells the rest of the Task Force that he might have identified their suspect, as he’s been pretending to be an inspector doing spot inspections in energy plants. Aram’s tracked him to an energy facility he’s doing a spot inspection on at that moment and Navabi and Ressler head to the plant to apprehend the suspect. Security informs them where the suspect’s at, but he eludes them and steals a security vehicle with Donald and Samar in pursuit.

The Gaia thinks he’s made his escape but then he’s cut off by police vehicles in front of him and when he attempts to back up, he realizes he’s boxed in by law enforcement. The Gaia then goes forward and slams against the two police vehicles and escapes.

They recover his forged ID card and Keen tells Harold that Raymond’s in contact with one of his guys to track down the Gaia. Dembe and Raymond arrive at a bowling alley and Red shouts to our old friend Glen Carter, finder of lost people, that he needs his services immediately. Jelly Bean says he’s off the clock now and Dembe starts giving Glen pointers on how to improve his game. Raymond shows Glen the badge and he immediately recognizes it as the work of Ji Ming a Chinese associate of his.

Dembe, Raymond, Glen and the Asian fellow meet in the next scene and apparently the Chinese man only speaks Mandarin, which Jelly Bean happens to speak. Reddington tries to hurry the conversation along and tells Glen he just needs an address. The Asian gentleman looks at Red and then speaks in Mandarin and walks away. Glen says the guy doesn’t like Raymond, as Reddington looks like his third wife. At this point Raymond realizes that Glen’s just yanking his chain and he already acquired the address.

Liz, Raymond and Dembe head to where Gaia’s made his base of operations. They find a picture of Maya who’s pregnant in the photo and Keen starts talking about missing babies and now she’s consumed with Agnes. Raymond realizes what’s going on and tells Lizzie that they’ll soon have Agnes back safe and sound.

Tom gets in contact with a former associate named Krantz and the mercenary agrees to gather his crew and to locate Rostov’s link and help Keen recover Agnes.

They’ve identified the eco-terrorist as Owen Ayers, a highly decorated military veteran who retired for medical reasons a few years before. Ayers final mission was Fukushima, Japan, which suffered a catastrophic accident inside a nuclear plant. Ayers inhaled toxic-gas while on the mission, making him a dead man walking and he and his toddler son Skyler share a blood disease, that caused the child to be born with a disfigured face.

We’re back at the shack with Mr. Kaplan, when we finally see who carried Kate away on a make-shift stretcher. So far he’s only been identified as The Hunter, but he’s portrayed by veteran actor Leon Rippy,  who played the school janitor in 11/22/63. The Hunter resembles a retired roadie from the Allman Bros. Band, circa early Seventies, with silver hair hanging down to his shoulders.

He tells Kate that she’s been on her back for too long and he’s going to put her into a sitting position. He then puts his arm behind her neck and although she screams in pain, she’s able to sit. He asks her if she can understand him and then asks if she can nod, which Mr. Kaplan does. He then asks if the men who did this to her will be coming back and she shakes her head no. He starts feeding her some soup, but he realizes she wants to say something to him, she croaks out thank you and The Hunter smiles.

Aram and Liz realize that Ayers is planning a gas explosion in the Hudson River, dangerously close to the biggest nuclear facility on the Eastern Seaboard. Ayers intends to create a Fukushima on the Hudson and when contacted by Ressler on the radio he says there’s no way they’ll be able to stop him as he’s piloting a chopper over the Hudson.

Mojtabai attempts to hack into the helicopter’s controls but he’s unable to do anything. Cooper then asks if Aram can shut off the rotor and the Tech Guru realizes he can, but he says he’s already taken one life and couldn’t take another. Cooper then pushes the button that stops the rotor and Ayers crashes and dies in a field not far from where some kids are playing football.

Keen’s back at her home and she’s singing Rock-A-Bye-Baby to Agnes, just as Krantz, Tom and the other mercenaries are about to break into Kirk’s hideout. Unfortunately Rostov sees them before they can rescue Agnes and Constantin tells Masha that he’s disappointed in her for tracking the signal. She breaks down crying and says she doesn’t know what he’s talking about, then Rostov shows Tom on one of the camera feeds. Constantin says that he’s cutting off contact and cuts off the feed.

Maya and Skyler are sitting in an ice-cream shop when Raymond and Dembe join them in their booth. Red tells Skyler that he’s been looking forward to meeting him and right then the waitress puts down three ice-cream sundaes on the table, chocolate, strawberry and caramel.  Reddington says that he’s always found caramel’s a great lubricant in awkward introductions. Turns out that Raymond just wants the name of Tyler’s hematologist, which Maya gives up willingly. She asks if Raymond also has a special-needs child and Reddington says that an infant’s life’s in danger.

When Tom returns to the place he and Liz are staying at, Lizzie gets in his face about not respecting her wishes and she says she knows Reddington’s involved. Tom says that Raymond had no knowledge of what Keen did, that he got in touch with a former associate. Liz asks him if the associate’s from his skinhead days or when he was Berlin’s goon. Tom responds that nobody’s sorrier than he is that he failed, but Liz replies their daughter feels worst of all where ever she is.

Raymond and Lizzie meet again and Reddington explains that the reason he went after Owen Ayers, was that he Skyler and Rostov have the same doctor. That they’re very close to finding him and then they’ll be able to get Rostov and rescue Agnes. Lizzie tells Raymond she lied to him earlier and that Kirk did reach out to her with the link, but in Tom’s effort to rescue their daughter, Rostov escaped with their child.

We end this episode with two quick scenes. Raymond visits Dr. Sebastian Reifler and he recognizes Reddington. He informs Red that Skyler Ayers, has done well and Red says he’s aware of that. However he needs to accompany the doctor the next time he has a house call for Kirk.

Kate wakes up in the cabin and after calling out hello, she realizes she’s alone. She gets up from the bed and realizes that one of her ankles has a shackle around it. Apparently The Hunter is not just a nice guy.

Photo Courtesy Of Hulu

Photo Courtesy Of Hulu

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Many pundits have stated over the years that America lost its innocence the day that President John F. Kennedy got assassinated. While that statement’s debatable, I can attest as a seven-year-old President Kennedy’s execution affected me greatly and is still the seminal world-event of my life. I’ve always perceived that moment as knocking the planet from its axis and over 50-years later we still have yet to recover. The thought of traveling through time and stopping Kennedy’s assassination has intrigued me since childhood, hence my excitement and enjoyment when author Stephen King released his novel “11.22.63,” earlier this decade.

Last year the streaming service Hulu announced that they’d present King’s novel as an eight-part miniseries and I have to admit to being less than enthusiastic after reading the announcement. The news that the production chose James Franco to bring protagonist Jake Epping failed to excite me, as I couldn’t imagine him using the distinctive Maine accent that the character spoke with.

Whether Franco could fool someone into thinking he’s from Bar Harbor isn’t at issue in the miniseries, as just one character in the first chapter entitled “The Rabbit Hole,” sounded like a New England native and he appeared briefly in one scene. However the act of stripping away any regional accents North of the Mason-Dixon line’s commonplace on the small screen and if that’s this series biggest sin, I can easily live with that. While condensing King’s original story significantly in the two-hour premiere, it still proved to be an entertaining story that remained faithful to the tone of the book.

Our story starts out in the present-day in Lisbon Falls, Maine as we watch a man in his late fifties read his report in front of his adult-education classmates. The man’s named Harry Dunning and he’s the custodian at Lisbon Falls High and is trying to get his high school diploma to gain a promotion. The assignment’s the most significant day in the writer’s life and Dunning stuns his classmates with his recounting of Halloween night in 1960. Dunning’s father killed his mother, sister and brother and hurt young Harry badly attacking them all with a hammer. The custodian suffered brain-damage as a result of his beating but he persevered and made a life for himself.

Teacher Jake Epping’s blown away by the story and how open Harry was in relating his tale and gives him an A+ as a grade and the class spontaneously applauds for their classmate. After the class lets out Dunning asks Epping to write a letter of recommendation for him which the teacher gladly agrees to do.

We head to Al’s Diner, a restaurant that most of the townspeople stay away from as the prices are far too low to be serving real beef. However Epping’s a regular and loves the food as well as having a good relationship with the proprietor Al Templeton. This will not go down however as a happy memory for Jake as his soon to be ex-wife Christy shows up for Epping to sign their divorce papers. When Christy pulls out the papers Templeton goes into his storage closet. Jake signs the papers and they both wish each other the best in the future.

Christy leaves the restaurant and Al emerges from the closet looking like he’s aged ten-years in the past two-minutes. His hair which was dark with gray-temples is now steel-gray and he looks gaunt and sickly, Epping asks what happened and Templeton tells him that he’s fine and for Jake to leave. However Al passes out and Epping helps him back to his home. He tells Jake to come back the following day and he’ll clue him in on what’s going on.

We watch Epping try to keep his class of high-school students occupied with a video, however they’ve all zoned-out and one teen laughs as he watches a video on his cellphone. Jake realizing he’s lost his students shuts off the monitor and asks why the video of people in the past suffering from disease should mean any thing to them and gets met with silence. He responds that all people’s lives matter, not just important people.

Jake heads over to Templeton’s after school and they head down to the diner. Al asks Jake to go into his storage closet and spend as much time in there as he wants. Epping looks at him as if Templeton had gone insane but reluctantly agrees to walk as far back into the closet as he can go. He suddenly finds himself outside in the street but in a far earlier era. Two-Toned American Muscle Cars dominate the streets a huge billboard for Moxie’s dominating the horizon and bobbysoxers and working men are bustling around the area. Epping’s trying to get his bearings when an elderly guy walks up to him and says he’s not supposed to be there. Jake gets spooked and runs out of the closet asking Al what the Hell he just went through.

Al refers to it as “The Rabbit Hole” but the closet’s a time portal to October 28, 1960. Each time someone from our era goes through the portal the era resets and it’s once again that day in late October of 1960. He also tells Epping that if someone spends three-minutes or three-years in the past they return to the present exactly two minutes after they departed. Templeton spent two-years in the past while Jake signed his divorce papers and during that time he contracted lung cancer.

He asks Epping to continue the mission he started, preventing Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, as he’s dying and won’t be able to do it himself. Al theorizes if Jake can prevent JFK’s assassination than Robert Kennedy would also live a full life and Vietnam would never have escalated as it did under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Jake asks how can Templeton prove that any changes in the past would remain in place once he returned to the present. Al gives him his switchblade and tells him to go back to 1960 and carve something in the tree outside the diner. Jake does as he’s instructed and when he returns he sees his carving of the initials JFK on the tree. However Jake says he needs time to think it over.

Jake attends Harry Dunning’s graduation ceremony and he’s told by his boss the school’s principal, that Dunning’s not qualified for the promotion. That decision results in sitting down and talking with Templeton in-depth about his plans to prevent Kennedy’s assassination. Al takes Epping into his study in his home and it looks like a detective’s office during a stakeout. Maps, photos and articles cover all the space on the walls along with a library of books on the assassination.

He asks Jake what he knows of the shooting that took place more than two-decades before Epping was born and the teacher mentions Lee Harvey Oswald and assorted crime organizations and intelligence agencies. Templeton informs him that he met Oswald the day he returned from the Soviet Union in 1962. The former US Marine had defected to the Soviet Union the year before, but returned back to the States a year later. When Jake asks why Al didn’t kill Oswald then, Templeton replies because Oswald might have been innocent. He has no proof that Oswald indeed killed the President.

After hours of information and Al showing Jake the false identification cards he acquired for Epping back in the past, the teacher says he doesn’t think he’s the right guy for the job. The pair argue and finally Templeton curses at Jake and throws him out of his house. Epping goes home but he can’t sleep, he realizes he needs to complete Al’s mission. He goes to Templeton’s the next morning but Al died during the night, deprived of seeing what the world looks like after Jake stopped Kennedy’s assassination. He then suddenly notices all the photos of Al during his tours-of-duty in Vietnam and realizes Al had a stake in different outcome as well. But he packs up the money and credit cards and the journal Al gave him and leaps back into the past determined to finish what Templeton began.

Wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a musician on it, along with his scruffy hair and moustache and goatee Jake sticks out like a sore-thumb and so he gets himself a haircut and shave, a new suit and a fedora as well as a 1955 yellow and white convertible. However that depletes his savings so he asks the car dealer where he can find a betting parlor. Jake or James Amberson as his identification cards list him has a book of sports results that can keep him solvent for years.

He goes to the outskirts of town to a little shack with a plate on the door that says Men Only. He tells an older guy he’s looking to place a wager on that night’s prize-fight. He asks what odds the house will give him on the underdog and he’s told he’d get 3-1 odds. Then he says what if he bet the underdog would knock out his opponent in the sixth round and the guy says he’d give him 35-1 odds. The teacher says he’d like to bet $100 and there’s a murmur in the room, than the man in charge says he’ll cover it. The boss tells James Amberson he’ll buy him a beer and they’ll listen to the fight together.

The group sit a table listening to the fight on a transistor radio and things don’t look bright for the challenger in the sixth as his opponent’s pummeling him. Suddenly the crowd starts to cheer and the announcer becomes animated as the challenger takes control and finally knocks out his opponent with seconds left in the sixth. Suddenly the air inside the shack grows heavy with tension as the boss goes to get the winnings. He insists that Amberson count it in front of him and then the head guy and his enforcer walk him outside and the big guy compliments his car. Jake can’t leave the parking lot fast enough and travels to a nearby motor-court to spend the night. However he’s concerned that the bookie might be after him. After trying to convince himself he’s just paranoid, the enforcer pulls into the parking lot and heads for Jake’s door.

The big guy finds the door’s ajar and though the room’s dark he hears some strange music and sees something lit-up on the bed. When the guy bends over to take a closer look at the I-Phone, Epping knocks him out from behind using a blunt object. He grabs his belongings and high-tales it out-of-town, when he feels he’s driven sufficiently far away he stops his car and throws his I-Phone into a river with a swift current. Then he jumps back into his convertible and drives to Dallas.

Jake drives up to right in front of Texas School Book Depository, the building that Oswald allegedly shot JFK from three-years later. He’s comparing his notes to the structure he seeds when he suddenly collides of Catholic school-girls accompanied by a nun and his papers scatter all over the sidewalk. A pretty blonde young woman kind of chuckles over his predicament and says he’d been outnumbered. She starts to walk away from the bench she’d sat on but leaves her purse behind. The woman thanks him for being so gallant and he introduces himself as James Amberson, she responds her names Sadie Dunhill. Suddenly she sees her husband waiting across the street from them by their car and Mrs. Dunhill thanks him again.

Jake gets himself a room at a boarding room outside of Dallas run by a mother and her 14-year-old son Henry who wants to join the army as soon he turns 18 as he wants to serve his country. Jake’s impressed with the teen’s attitude, although joining a branch of the Armed Forces likely never crossed teen Jake’s mind. Jake opens up Al’s journals as soon as he’s set-up, this is the homework Al told him he must keep current with in order to succeed.

Epping takes an evening walk when he’s suddenly to try to call his father on a payphone. He’s connected to his father but the lights begin to sizzle and crackle and the two parties can’t  hear each other’s voices. Jake gets freaked out by the experience and leaves the phone booth, but seconds later he turns around to go back inside, but he’s two late. A woman driving a cherry red car strikes the booth shattering it into pieces and her car to flip over in the street. Epping goes to the front of the car and sees the woman with her head sticking outside the window and appearing dead. However she opens her eyes and stares straight into Jake’s and says he’s not supposed to be there.

Jake freaks out over the experience and runs up the stairs and straight to his room in the boardinghouse and proceeds to vomit in the waste basket in his bedroom. The Landlady asks Amberson if she can get anything for him and he thanks her but says he’ll be fine.

We flash back to the hours the pair spent together going over the material and Al’s talking about a Russian expat that lives in Dallas named George de Mohrenschildt. He knows that the Russian got recruited by the CIA but he never found out if de Mohrenschildt recruited Oswald to kill Kennedy. Templeton tried to trail the Russian to an event where he may have been first approached by the CIA, but following George de Mohrenschildt down a flight of stairs his arm caught on fire and he received some massive burns. Al tells Epping that the past doesn’t like to be changed and will often fight back if you try to alter it too much.

Jake decides to trail the Russian on the same day and follows to a JFK campaign rally in Dallas. Jake waits to see where George sits then chooses a seat a few rows behind. He’s engrossed in Kennedy’s speech but suddenly sees the Russian leave the rally and out the door. Epping follows him and watches as de Mohrenschildt, goes through a velvet-rope in a high-rollers section that will engage with the President and Mrs. Kennedy. Jake scams his way though by saying he works for George and his boss doesn’t like his name on lists.

He bribes the maître-de with some greenbacks and gets a table for one next to the table George and his two companions are sitting at. However the past strikes back again making most of the conversation indecipherable, but Jake hears George say Lee Harvey Oswald. That ends the conversation and Epping tries to follow de Mohrenschildt, when the security guards realize he’s a phony and Epping starts running. He thinks he’s found a safe-haven but soon he sees cockroaches the size of tennis-balls starting to climb up his legs. He runs out of the room and immediately gets knocked unconscious.

When he comes to, the guards want questions and Epping plays it smart. He comes off as a half-crazed JFK zealot who drove all the way from Maine to shake the hand he thinks will be the greatest president ever. The guards let him go thinking he’s harmless but Epping realizes he saw the meeting between George and The Agency take place.

He’s elated as he starts to drive back to the boardinghouse but his mood changes radically when he gets a few blocks way. The boardinghouse went up in flames and the Landlady’s son Harry died in the blaze. The following morning when the fire’s out, Jake goes through his possessions and realized all the information Al gave him got destroyed. He decides he can’t do this any longer and starts driving back to Maine.

He makes it to Kentucky and starts looking at a map and suddenly he realizes he can’t be that far away from Harry Dunning’s home in Holden, Kentucky. He gets directions from a kid at a service station who asks the teacher why he wants to go to Holden and Jake responds because this one thing he can do.

Epping drives up to Dunning home just before the father Frank Dunning stops by his estranged-wife’s home to take his children out for ice-cream. Can Jake stop Dunning from killing three members of his family and badly damaging his son Harry. We’ll find out the answer to that next Monday.