Season Five Episode One

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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.

Photo Courtesy Of AMC

Photo Courtesy Of AMC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Ain’t no carnage like The Walking Dead carnage cause The Walking Dead carnage’s justified.

Last season, we left most of our surviving crew reuniting in a box car in Terminus, which was quickly determined to be full of bad news and, alas, not the sanctuary it proclaimed. Rick Grimes has come too far, and lost too much, to give up now. “They’re screwing with the wrong people.”

Has Terminus been a trap all along? We flashback to “Then”, in a similar scenario. People trapped and bound, screaming in the background, trembling voices ruing the decision to come to this place. But this time, it’s Gareth who’s the prisoner.

But, that’s a story for another time. Our group (Rick, Carl, Michonne, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Sasha, Bob, Abraham, Eugene, Rosita, and Tara, for those keeping tabs) is quickly catching up on recent events, and arming themselves to the teeth. Their cell’s approached, but their ambush’s foiled as a flash-grenade overwhelms them. Rick, Daryl, Glenn, and Bob get beaten and dragged into the compound.

The inside of Terminus appears to be awful as we could have imagined—the sickening whirr of a bone saw, a few hazy shots of what could easily be a meat processing facility, and, finally, a longer look at the very human body of Alex, Gareth’s recently shot-by-Rick brother, that’s being carved like a side of beef on a table. Glenn, Daryl, Rick, and Bob (as well as Sam, farther down the line) are all bound, gagged, and made to kneel before a trough. They’re about to be executed in a very business-like, detached fashion.

Gareth appears; apparently, cannibalism requires the running of a very tight ship. He’s running numbers and needs some information from the two men who are casually slitting the throats of the other men kneeling before them. As the butchers approach Glenn, the conversation leads to a bit of a snafu with someone’s shot counts, and Gareth gets as pedantic and upset as you’d expect from a psychopath running a slaughterhouse.

It buys our heroes some time, though.

Bob begins pleading through his gag. Gareth indulges him, but is quickly disinterested in Bob’s you-don’t-have-to-do-this message. Rick begins palming the wooden shiv he’s managed to keep in his boot. Because, of course Rick still has a shiv. Gareth’s interested in the bag that his scouts saw our crew hide in the woods before they entered the compound. Knife to Bob’s eyeball, Gareth demands answers from Rick.

Rick eventually gives up the contents of the bag—AK-47s, automatic weapons, a compound bow, and a homemade machete with a red handle that Rick plans on using to kill Gareth.

And then an explosion rocks the building.

Back on the railroad tracks approaching Terminus, Carol, Tyreese, and Judith are still making their way to Terminus. Tyreese is still struggling with the darkness he’s borne witness to—Lizzie murdering her sister, then having to put Lizzie down, and learning that Carol was the one who killed his girlfriend back at the prison. He can’t manage to kill a lone walker that stumbles upon their path. Luckily, he’s with Carol, who has taken to eliminating walkers as violent, desensitizing therapy. They’re soon overcome by a herd. As they attempt to slip away, explosions and gunfire begin to draw the herd towards Terminus.

Cut to a man on a radio, setting up explosives in front of a small cabin and talking some sugar-smack on capturing a “chick with a sword and a kid with a hat.” No sooner than those words leave his douchebag mouth than a revolver’s pressed into the back of his skull, with Carol on the other end of it, wanting some answers.

This unfortunate fool’s name is Martin. He tries to bluff Carol about Terminus and what the fate her friends have met, but the zombie apocalypse has stripped Carol of any gullibility or patience to suffer fools. Like the badass she is, she arms herself to the teeth and sets out to rescue who she can from Terminus, leaving a shattered Tyreese to look after Martin and Judith. Tyreese regards Martin warily; Martin makes no bones about the fact that he is a killer and the “assholes he survives with” are killers, and that the world is simply that kind of place anymore. In another time, with another captor, Martin would have already been fed a bullet; he just happens to be tied up by the one guy whose heart still breaks for the constant loss and inhumanity around him.

Tyreese’s heart’s wounded, but Carol’s has broken entirely and reemerged as the heart of a warrior. She smears herself in walker effluvia and other filth so that she can blend in with the herd as it approaches Terminus. She arrives to see Rick and the others pulled from or put back into the box car while the Terminus staff tries to manage the walkers that are descending on them. With the help of a propane tank, a shot from a sniper rifle, and the kind of fireworks-aiming ability that only a redneck who has played tag with bottle rockets can possess, she triggers the explosion that sends Gareth fleeing from the slaughter area to assess the damage.

The two butchers remain to watch over Rick, Daryl, Glen, and Bob, complaining like they got delayed in their product processing by bad work order, instead of temporarily delayed from murdering humans by an explosion. Their distress is short-lived. Rick manages to cut through his zip-ties and proceeds to stab both of those dudes in the head. The rest of the group’s freed and they set out to rescue the rest of their crew.

I feel like the utter gore of the scene the men find themselves in can’t be understated. While carnage of “bad guys” and walkers has been a constant throughout the series, the blatant, ritualistic murder that’s being performed at Terminus is a game-changer for this story. Food is scarce in this world, but is it necessary to lure survivors from miles around so that they can be killed and eaten? The wickedness that humanity is facing continues to escalate. But, at least a slaughterhouse has plenty of walker-killing weapons to pillage.

Carol continues her assault on the compound, unsure what kind of evil she’s facing. She finds the room of belongings stripped form Terminus’ victims—weapons, accessories, clothes, and a heartbreakingly big pile of toys. She enters the creepy shrine, where presumably the citizens of Terminus light a candle for those who they are about to chow down upon. She’s caught by that ultra-bitch Mary, who begins tearfully explaining the story of Terminus—“It wasn’t like this in the beginning, people came and raped and killed. We got the message, though. You’re either the butcher or the cattle…” And though possibly true, Mary, but we notice how you’re still alive and were very cozy with the folks who were trying to kill the actual good people in our story. Carol has completely had enough of everyone’s nonsense today—she shoots Mary in the leg, and then opens the door for the walkers to feed on her.

The men fight their way across the compound, laying waste to as many walkers and Terminus inhabitants as they can. I’d do no justice to the calculated ferocity in which these characters battle through the herd if I tried to describe it here, but this episode might be worth watching solely for the way that Rick can wield an automatic rifle.

The remainder of the group waits in the box car, discussing the possible cure that Eugene can produce (Spoiler alert: weaponized diseases vs. weaponized diseases, there might be something in DC that will trigger a mass-extinction of the walkers), but they aren’t idle for too long. Rick rips open the doors and they spring into action, clawing their way across the herd, shooting Gareth in the chest (so no way is he actually dead), and escaping the burning wreckage of Terminus.

They reach the cache of weapons that Rick hid in the woods before they got captured. He’s eager to go back in to finish the job, but the rest of the group wants to move on. A burning horde of walkers and no defensible borders is enough to seal Terminus’ fate, according to them.

The discussion might have continued, but they’re approached by a familiar, armed-to-the-teeth face. Daryl sees Carol first; they can barely stand up to embrace each other, weighed down with relief that the other is still alive. Rick understands that Carol was responsible for the ambush that lead to their freedom. Her past crimes are, at least temporarily, redeemed.

Back at the cabin, Tyreese is still waiting with Judith and Martin. A small group of walkers approaches, clawing at the windows. Tyreese looks outside and, in an instant, Martin is grabbing Judith by her neck, threatening to kill her unless Tyreese goes outside, unarmed, and lets the walkers take him. Tyreese’s anguish over his situation paralyzes him, but he slowly drops his weapons and steps outside. He’s out there just long enough to take care of the walkers with his bare hands, before launching himself back into the cabin to wrestle Martin away from Judith. He doesn’t exactly mean to punch Martin in the face until he dies from it, but that’s what happens.

However, the situation has stabilized by the time Carol leads the crew back to the cabin. Rick and Carl reunite with Judith. Tyreese’s reunited with Sasha. Terminus is burning. The group sets out to find shelter for the coming days, recommitted to protecting each other and staying alive. The trauma and gore of the earlier bloodbath slips away for a breath or two, and we’re given a chance to smile and cry with relief that a father can hold his daughter, that a brother can hold his sister. The hope for the future is tenuous and temporary, but in this moment, it’s so real that it’s the only thing that matters.

Rick defaces the sign for Terminus as they depart. “Sanctuary For All” now reads “No Sanctuary.” Not in this world. Not right now.

We then flash back to Gareth imprisoned in Terminus. He’s flung into a train car with Mary, the two now revealed to be mother and son. Another young woman’s taken off, presumably to be raped. They shake in fear and devastation, but Gareth promises his mother that they’re going to “take it back.” But,  the message is clear, you’re either the butcher or the cattle.

The episode closes with a hooded, masked figure approaching the sign for Terminus that got defaced by Rick. I was hoping it would be Beth (since I haven’t watched any of the trailers for this season and have no idea what’s happened to her), but, in an even better reveal, it’s Morgan! He appears to have more of his marbles than he did in our last encounter. Let’s hope he’s shored up his bravery and can join the rest of the group soon. They need to go find Beth!

The Story Continues Next Sunday at 9:00 pm on AMC.