Season Five Episode Five

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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

For a really tough-looking dude, Abraham doesn’t mind it when Rosita pets him like he’s a lap-dog. He’s driving the bus, headed along a leaf-covered state highway, heading north (presumably), and Rosita’s chiding him about how his hair is longer than a military man should have it.

He was getting ready to retire, he explains. Slacking on the grooming, thinking about he might become a plumber or a sheep-herder (two very logical careers for a military man, right?) The group has a laugh, but Eugene continues to wear his thousand-yard stare. But is he staring off into the distance, or is he burning a hole in the back of Rosita’s hand and Abraham’s head?

Tara ribs him about how wild his mullet is getting. If he’s not too worried about his powers being stunted with a haircut, she suggests that he let Rosita take a run at him with some clippers after she finishes to Abraham. Eugene is still completely unamused. Flatly, he relates the story of how T. Brooks Ellis, the head of the Human Genome Project, liked his haircut, and isn’t that as good a reason as any to keep such a distinctive style? The group laughs again, but he retreats into his own world before the chuckles die out. Oh, well. Everyone has become used to Eugene’s weird-antisocial-scientist thing. If he’s going to save the world, he’s maybe allowed his personality quirks.

Their drive continues quietly. They pass along a dozen or so walkers doing the dead-thing shuffle along the road, but the walkers don’t seem to notice the vehicle much. They’re not very far ahead of the pack when something explodes beneath the bus, sending the it careening into some wrecked and abandoned vehicles, up into the air, and onto its side along the highway with a fire burning the engine.

By the time everyone comes to, the walkers have reached them, and they’re beginning to flail at the windows of the bus. The group springs into action, Glenn and Abraham leading the way, with Tara covering Eugene in the rear. The fighters begin dispatching the walkers, but the herd is coming faster than the group can handle them. Tara implores Eugene to help fight. He refuses, stating that he knows he can’t and doesn’t want to try. Tara points out that they’re in a bus that’s on fire, surrounded by walkers. He’s screwed either way. Might as well at least try, right?

The crowd of walkers is thinning, but there are still plenty moving around. Tara is attempting to cover Eugene and gets taken by surprise from behind. Eugene manages to snap out of his horrified daze to stab it in the back of its head. He looks disgusted, but he’s killed very first walker. If it weren’t the zombie apocalypse, I’m sure someone would have posted a picture on Facebook.

Once the walkers have gotten eliminated (and the bus explodes), Abraham pushes for the group to move on. Eugene protests—the church is only 15 miles back. They can turn around and regroup and maybe even meet up with everyone they left behind before they set out again.

Abraham isn’t moved. They’ve been delayed enough, he reminds them. And, in his military-man fashion, he begins shouting about war and retreat and winning and losing. The failures he’s experienced in this mission are beginning to wear on him, even as he claims to the group that they’ve only made him more determined. Glenn, who has had some experience with leaders going a little bananas, assures Abraham that the group is on his side. They know he’s in charge, and they’ll follow his orders.

Shortly, they come across a bookstore in a small town, where they decide to spend the night. Some of the group secures the perimeter and windows, some start fires so that they can boil water to drink, and Rosita pulls apart a hardcover book to stitch Abraham’s hand back together. It’s been torn open again and again over the last few weeks and the cut is beginning to tear deeper.

Glenn has the first watch at the door. He’s gazing into the twilight as the walkers begin to stagger around. Abraham approaches him to thank him for being so solid earlier. Glenn doesn’t think a thank-you is necessary. He’s helping the world change. He needs the world to be able to change. Abraham and his mission’s about more than just surviving, and he’s grateful to have that purpose.

That seems reasonable enough to Abraham. The world, he says, is still changing. The only people who are left are those who are strong. And they’re either strong like Rick and Glenn, and try to help people so that everyone can be stronger, or they’re strong enough to overtake you and kill you, in which case, they have to be killed themselves. Even though people say “it never gets any easier”, he hasn’t found that to be the truth. Killing the people who would try to kill them first is the easiest thing in the world for him. Glenn might be strong, but he’s uncomfortable with Abraham’s matter-of-fact manner. He isn’t prepared when Abraham announces that he’s going to go pull some ass, either.

Abraham and Rosita are going at it on a table in the corner of the library. Eugene watches them from the self-help section. The couple know that he’s watching, but can’t be bothered to do more than make a quick joke at his expense.

Tara finds Eugene and delicately tries to interrupt his live-porn session. She wants to thank him for saving her life. Awkwardly, he dismisses her thanks. She persists, trying to impress upon him that joining the fight and taking out that walker were important for him. Ruefully, he suggests that if he weren’t going to be saving the world, that they would have left him die already. Tara denies that any one of them would leave him behind. He’s a friend. Friends mean something, especially in a world where mostly everything else is trying to kill you.

Eugene, perhaps feeling a little guilty, admits that he sabotaged the bus as he was fixing it. He didn’t want to go on the road to DC without the rest of the group, he claims. He put broken glass in the fuel line, to cause the bus to fail before they were so far away from the church. Tara’s stunned, but she promises to keep Eugene’s secret. She understands that he became scared to move on, she says. But they’re on their way now and must continue.

Glenn and Maggie are settling in to sleep, finally getting to share a night spent under a roof without a dying or missing companion. Maggie feels guilty for leaving the rest of the group behind, but the pull of trying to fix the world is important to her right now. Glenn echoes her sentiment. The two of them finally have each other and something to look forward to.

The next morning, Rosita redresses Abraham’s wound and tries to convince him to stay in town for a day. The bookstore is a secure location, she reasons, and they’ll have time to gather supplies. Abraham, of course, wants none of it. He’ll waste no more time. Rosita counters that maybe the reason they’ve had so many delays is because they’ve never started at full strength.

Maggie and Glenn join the conversation, trying to reinforce Rosita’s ideas. Rosita, though, has had a change of heart. With a stern look at Abraham, she declares that she wants to keep moving. Abraham seems glad for the support. He then introduces the gang to their new ride—a big red fire engine that’s sitting across the road.

They clear the area around the truck, and Abraham and Eugene climb into the cab. It takes a few tries, but the engine finally turns over. Abraham’s spirits get buoyed, but the truck sputters and dies once its twenty feet from the door. The air intake’s clogged, Abraham reasons. And, since the truck’s smeared with blood and walker chunks, it’s a pretty reasonable guess. He moves to clear the intake (once Rosita informs him that the intake is on top of the truck, and the screen he’s pulling body parts from is for the radiator), but the door that swung open when they pulled the truck away now has walkers pouring out of it.

The group goes to work, but there are more walkers coming from the building than they’ve had to deal with in some time. Thinking fast, Eugene climbs to the top of the truck and turns on the fire house. These walkers have been hanging around for some time, and their bodies are basically rotting sacks of detritus hanging on a skeleton. The pressure from the fire house virtually explodes them on contact; they burst like undead water balloons.

Abraham’s delighted, once the walkers are all dead. He climbs to the top of the fire truck to finally clear out the air intake, and from his vantage point, sees the warning that’s been spray painted on the sidewalk: Sick inside, let them die. This warning, received too late, is just another punch in the balls for Team Abraham. What else can you do but burst into unhinged-sounding laughter? If you’re Abraham, there’s nothing else in the world you can do.

Throughout the episode, we’ve seen flashbacks of Abraham’s life before he began escorting Eugene to Washington. He’s in a post-looting grocery store, punching someone’s face in with a can of soup in his fist. The man quits fighting so hard, and Abraham finishes him off with a boot in his throat. Abraham seems lost in a violence-induced haze, but the blood on his hands snaps him back to life. He needs to find someone—Ellen, he needs to find Ellen. He finds her and two children cowering behind a register at the front of the store. He’s relieved. They’re okay. His family is okay. They’re possibly intact, but they’re absolutely terrified to see just how blood soaked Abraham is. The signs of his recent fighting seem to disturb them more than anything, undead or otherwise. They settle down to sleep in the store that night, but when he wakes the next morning, his family is gone. They’ve left a note telling him not to look for them.

Back in the present, the crew isn’t far out-of-town, and the truck has broken down again. Abraham is attempting to fix it, the rest of the group is standing watch, and Eugene is reading some H. G. Wells and sitting on the back bumper.

Maggie approaches him. She’s been puzzled by him since she’s known him, but she thinks she’s at least figured out his hair. It makes him different, she explains. And she knows that he wants people to know that he’s different. Even if he’s just a socially inept scientist, there’s a part of him that has more to offer.

Well, it’s a thought, at least. The wind picks up, and brings some truly awful stench with it. Abraham choses to abandon the truck and press forward. Over the next hill, though, they come across the odor’s source. There’s an industrial farm ahead, and it’s teeming with walkers on either side of the road. They’ve covered the highway as well.

Abraham has a full-on, ants-in-his-pants-to-get-to-DC meltdown. The rest of the group protests, even Rosita and Glenn. There are hundreds of walkers ahead, there’s no way they’ll be able to get through, even if they could manage to fix the truck. Abraham again maintains that they continue to Washington and proclaims every detour or retreat a sign of failure. The group tries to reason with him, but Abraham has gone beyond reason. He grabs Eugene and begins to pull him forward. His mission won’t wait a minute longer.

Eugene tries to struggle away, but he’s no match for Abraham. Glenn and Rosita try to push Abraham back, and a scrum breaks out. Everyone begins shoving and shouting. Tempers are lost. Punches get thrown. Eugene, who has lost his sense of triumph from the walkers he took out earlier, gets panicked by the violence around him. He has something to say, and it can’t wait a minute longer.

He’s not a scientist.

He’s NOT A SCIENTIST.

HE MADE THE WHOLE THING UP.

Everyone stops, and he explains. He’s smarter than most people. He wanted to go to DC because he knew that if anyone had survived, that would be the place to be. So, he concocted this mission to get some people who were good at surviving in this world to escort him there. He knew his lie would come out eventually, and he owns up to sabotaging the bus and doing other things to delay their arrival.  The news devastates Maggie and Glenn. Rosita’s incensed—people died trying to protect him! But Abraham? That man has just lost his last marble.

He lunges at Eugene, striking him in the face again and again before slamming him into the front of the truck. Eugene goes stiff as a board and then falls flat onto the ground, bleeding profusely from the nose and mouth. The group tears Abraham off of Eugene, and they attend to Eugene as Abraham staggers away.

He sinks to his knees on the road behind the truck. His hands now covered in blood again. Eugene’s, and his own—the stitches in his hand got torn out. Focusing on the blood, he slips into the past again…

He’s wandering through the streets of a carnage-wrecked town when he finds the eaten bodies of the his wife and kids. They died without him, but they wouldn’t let him protect them. He’s about to eat his own bullet when he hears screams for help.

Down the street, a pale, chubby man with a mullet is barely jogging away from a couple of walkers. Abraham, needing some sort of violent outlet, systematically stabs them in the head before turning back to his deceased family. He doesn’t have any time for the man who was shouting for help.

That is, until Eugene tells him that he’s on an important mission.

So, I guess the big question is, will we find out any sort of resolution to this episode next week, or are we going to switch to a totally different story all over again?

I don’t care either way, I just want it to be Sunday night again.

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