WARNING: SPOILER ALERT
Remember when we thought this was going to be the “light and breezy season?” The NBC series “The Blacklist,” excels in the game of bait and switch, getting the viewer to think zig, while the story-line veers off into the land of zag. The device’s one of the most intriguing aspects of the show, beginning with the revelation that Elizabeth Keen’s life was just an illusion. Since then we’ve witnessed the show-runners and story-writers lead us down the path in one direction, only to realize that they’ve surprised viewers once again.
Viewers went into the show’s fifth season, prepared for a new dynamic centering on a down-and-out Raymond Reddington. The former concierge of crime, wiped out financially thanks to the efforts of Mr. Kaplan, and living in a seedy motor-lodge and wearing hand me downs. Adding two new members to Raymond’s “Island Of Misfit Toys,” it appeared we were on the verge of witnessing Red’s bumpy road back to respectability. There was an ominous feeling in the final scene of the season premiere, seeing a beaten and bloodied Tom Keen, lying on the floor, as Reddington and Dembe burst in brandishing pistols.
Any thoughts of an airy season dissipated long ago, culminating with Tom’s death in the fall finale. The series returned on January 3, showcasing a vigilante Lizzie, a woman obsessed with taking justice into her own hands. She went off to find herself in a cabin in the woods, returning after channeling Rambo, in a killing spree. Her execution of the four felons that threatened her life, made her feel whole again for the first time since she woke from her coma.
Elizabeth’s not the only member of the Task-Force battling inner demons, as the Boy-Scout, Agent Donald Ressler’s been dealing with the ramifications of his actions since the season four finale. Ressler’s been under the thumb of “Fixer” Henry Prescott, after Prescott made certain that evidence connecting him the accidental death of Laurel Hitchin, would never get discovered. Panic caused Donald to contact Prescott too many times, alerting the “Fixer,” to the concept that Frank Sturgeon had other secrets. Upon realizing that Ressler belonged to the Bureau, Prescott kept him on a short leash, and used his new pet to do his bidding.
“The Informant, (118)” proved to be an interesting contrast in how Lizzie and Donald are dealing with their dark-sides. While Keen chooses to embrace the anger bubbling within her, Ressler’s mortified by the situation he finds himself in. He’s going against his moral grain, feelings and values that he’s had since childhood. He remembers all too well that his police-officer father, died at the hands of a dirty cop, and he’s disgusted with himself for bending and breaking the rules.
The episode, sprawling and unwieldy, and jam-packed with information, can’t be done justice in one recap. Instead we’ll divide the episode into two recaps, with the first one focusing on the main story line, and the second recap dealing with the trials and tribulations of Elizabeth Keen.
The Blacklist Member Of The Week.
The show returned to its standard cold open format, dealing with characters stricken by nerve-gas in a Toronto Disco, causing all who ingest the gas to start gagging and vomiting, followed shortly by death. A terrorist cell claimed responsibility for the 57-victims, were in custody and the Fed planned to freeze their bank accounts on Monday.
Raymond informs Samar Navabi, that a person known as the Informant accessed the account information and plans to take possession of the assets, and then sell them back to the owners. The information was accessed by somebody using Senator Cooligan’s credentials, however the Senator was at a party when the hack occurred. Aram quickly determines that Cooligan’s got 11 staff members, and all have legitimate alibis except for a man named Howard Bishop. Harold sends Ressler and Navabi to question the aide.
Samar and Donald watch Bishop walking down the street using a burner phone. When he enters a restaurant, Navabi enters shortly after, only to find that Bishop gave her the slip. He actually went to the nearest police station and reported to the desk sergeant, that he witnessed a crime.
The aide claims that he witnessed a hit and run accident, at the time of the hack but he didn’t report it because he was with his lover, a married woman. The woman’s Judge Sonia Fisher, and she admits to the agents that she and Bishop are embroiled in an affair, and when she reported witnessing the accident she left out the fact that she was with Bishop. She says her husband’s hired a private detective to spy on her, and that Howard thought Navabi worked for Fisher’s husband, and that’s why he left the restaurant. The agents don’t think all is on the up and up.
Harold pays Raymond a visit, and Reddington’s back to his opulent living style, complete with a private elevator in the apartment, and his new valet Paris, who he hired away from La Berdanin. Harold tells Raymond they’ve got the Informant, but they lack the evidence to put him away. Harold gives Raymond a list of the bank accounts and asks if Raymond can obtain information on them.
Raymond and Dembe take the private jet to the Cayman Islands, and pay a visit to a bank managed by a prissy and uptight guy named Herman. He treats Reddington with disdain, until he finds out that Red’s net-worth’s now in nine figures. At that point Herman can’t be gracious enough, but Red informs him that if wants any of his business, he must perform a service for him first. He then presents him with the information on the bank accounts, and says he’s certain Herman has a way of getting the relevant information.
Raymond’s introduced to a young woman named Ms. Isaacson, a hacker who tried breaking into the bank’s server. She got granted early release from prison, in exchange for her pointing out vulnerabilities in the bank’s computer network. She however outright refuses to assist Raymond, telling him that money doesn’t interest her, but Red quickly comes up with an offer that entices her. Turns out that he’s owed a favor by an elusive tattoo artist Sosi-San, whom the heavily tattooed woman idolizes, and Raymond gets her to help him in exchange for getting tattooed by the legendary artist.
After receiving the list of the account holders from Reddington, Aram quickly determines that they’re looking for Rozmin Hamzah, who arrived earlier that day at Dulles from Brunei, under a false identity, and agents tracked him to the hotel he’s staying at. Navabi will trail Hamzah, while Ressler follows Bishop. Donald has Bishop in his sights when his phone rings and Prescott’s on the other end. He tells Ressler that he’s a client and unless the agent backs off he’ll release the information that will end his career and send him to prison.
Thinking of self-preservation, Ressler calls Navabi off and directs her and the other agents elsewhere. He then stands outside a door, watching Bishop and Hamzah switch briefcases. His instincts as an agent override his fears and he arrests Bishop and directs Samar to where Hamzah’s heading. Bishop glares at Ressler and through gritted teeth, tells him he’s made a costly mistake.
Prescott and Ressler meet and the “Fixer” shows the agent images of him standing over Laurel Hitchin’s corpse. He then laughs as he proudly informs Donald that the judge wasn’t having an affair with Bishop, she’s just another play thing. He laughs even harder when he tells the agent that the hit-and-run accident, was actually a murder carried out by yet another person under his thumb. He then slaps Ressler across the face, Donald grabs him by the collar and puts his pistol to Prescott’s face.
Prescott flashes a rather maniacal grin and asks Ressler if he’s going to arrest him, when the agent doesn’t even know the “Fixer’s” real name. Frustrated, Donald cocks the gun at his antagonist’s head and says he can’t arrest him, but he’ll kill him if Prescott contacts him again, a truly empty threat. Prescott assures him he’ll contact him soon.
Ressler heads back to the Post Office, and Samar asks him if he remembers Henry Prescott, then she tells him that Bishop and Fisher are clients of his. Bishop admitted that the affair was a ruse and that the hit and run was actually a murder. Harold enters the room and congratulates Donald on the fine work he did, capturing the two men and stopping the money from falling back into the hands of the terrorists. They find out that the murder victim was an Internal Affairs officer named Perez, and they surmise that perhaps a dirty cop killed her. Cooper sends the pair to speak with her superior officer.
The pair interview Detective Farwell, who not only allows the duo to search the fallen officer’s apartment, he supplies them with her computer password which she entrusted to him. The password “Frank Sturgeon,” makes Ressler naturally quite nervous, and he zones out on Navabi as they head to the apartment. Donald tells Navabi to search the bedroom, but she stops first and asks him what’s up? He replies that he’s engrossed in trying to catch a cop killer, but she senses it’s much more than that.
While Samar searches the bedroom, Donald quickly finds the woman’s tablet, and types in her password. He finds a file with his name on it and finds an audio file within it. The audio file’s a doctored recording of the officer answering her phone, followed by Donald threatening Prescott, so that it sounds like he threatened the woman. At that moment his cellphone rings, Raymond’s on the other end and says it might be a good time for them to have a talk.
Turns out that Raymond orchestrated this whole affair, realizing that Donald was indebted to Prescott, and knowing the informant was one of his clients. He tells Ressler he wanted to know how far he had fallen down the rabbit hole. and Ressler passed the test. He then suggests that they visit Sonia Fisher together, and try to obtain some information from her.
Navabi heads back to the Post Office, and voices her concerns about Ressler to Cooper, and he replies that Ressler’s seemed unfocused. She says she’s worried about him, that he left he apartment they were searching without telling her. Harold assures her that he’ll talk to Donald, but he assigns her and Aram to go and speak with Judge Fisher again.
Ressler and Reddington speak to Fisher, who at first denies all their allegations, but quickly crumbles when she finds out the FBI are about to arrest her for being an accessory in a crime. We find out during this exchange that our old pal Brimley’s enjoying his golden years working at an ostrich farm.
Fisher asks Raymond if he had ever been honest, and he replies that he considers himself to be quite honest. She responds that she once was honest and moral and had convictions, but that part of her life ended when her teenage son got busted for assault. The young woman he’d assaulted had gotten a rape kit, and her son’s promising future appeared to be over before it began. Then she got a call from one of her son’s classmate’s father, an attorney who told her he could make the situation go away. The rape kit turned up missing the next morning, she didn’t ask for it to be taken, but she didn’t protest.
A few months later, the lawyer came looking for favors that she felt obligated to fulfill. She allowed guilty parties to walk free, and looked the other way countless times. Raymond says he can supply her new identity in a new country overnight, if she gives them Prescott’s real name. She reveals Prescott’s real name Mitchell Hatley, then excuses herself to get her coat in the bedroom.
Reddington starts relating a parable to Ressler about self-forgiveness, but his story’s quickly interrupted by a woman’s scream. Donald rushes to the bedroom to find that the judge took her own life by leaping out her bedroom window to the pavement below. Samara and Aram arrive just after she hits the pavement, and miss seeing Ressler in the window by a millisecond.
While Dembe drives, Ressler and red have a discussion in the back seat of the car. Donald says that he never thanked Reddington for avenging Audrey’s death and preventing the agent from taking the law into his own hands. Raymond told Ressler at that moment to go home, instead of going searching in the darkness, as he might find things down that path, he can never return from. Although Donald didn’t go home, he did heed Raymond’s advice, keeping himself from committing an unforgivable act.
He tells Reddington that the reason he wanted Hatley’s identity was to arrest him, not to kill him. Raymond responds that if Hatley goes to prison, than Ressler will as well. Donald says it’s his only way for him to escape the darkness and find the light again.
Ressler tracks down Hatley playing in a neighborhood football game, with parents and kids all participating. Hatley’s face goes gray when he sees Ressler, and asks “Sturgeon,” what he’s doing there. Mitchell’s wife asks him if he knows Donald and he introduces himself and tells her that her husband’s been doing an awful lot of lying to her. As the neighbors start to chime in, Hatley runs off with Ressler in pursuit. Dembe and Raymond, just happened to be in the neighborhood, and Raymond stops Hatley from running with a strategically placed car door.
Hatley flashes that maniacal grin once again, this time his teeth stained in blood, and goads Ressler to kill him, saying it’s the only way to save them both from going to prison. Ressler cocks his pistol and glares at Hatley, until Raymond calls out his name, then he holsters his pistol and arrests Hatley.
Donald heads back to the Post Office and makes a beeline for Cooper’s office. Both men want to talk at the same time, but Harold takes command and tells him that Mitchell Hatley died in an accident on his way to getting booked. The scene switches and we see Hatley trapped inside an empty vehicle that’s tipped upside down and is leaking gasoline all over the interior of the vehicle. Raymond sticks his head into the vehicle and tells Hatley that Donald Ressler sends his regards and then sets the vehicle ablaze.
Donald tells Cooper that Reddington killed Hatley and got rid of the evidence incriminating him, but Harold refuses to discuss the matter. Then Ressler gives him a sealed envelope containing a signed confession. Harold tells his agent that he’s realized the pain and anguish he’s been suffering for months. He then says that none of them are the same people that first signed onto the Task-Force. He says he’ll hold onto the confession until the Task-Force’s completed it’s mission, then he’ll give it to the proper authorities. As long as Ressler gives those same authorities Harold’s signed confession at the same time, and hands the agent another sealed envelope.
Ressler angrily heads over to Raymond’s apartment and demands to know why he killed Hatley despite the agent’s wishes. Reddington tells him not to flatter himself, that Hatley knew all about Red’s relationship with the Bureau, and that he needed to be silenced. Ressler says that he didn’t extract himself from being under Hatley’s thumb to in turn being obligated to Reddington.
Raymond replies that sins should be buried like dead, not that they be forgotten, but for us to remember them but find our way forward nonetheless. He says he hopes this serves that purpose for Donald, and besides blackmail’s too nasty a business to be brought up between friends. Ressler leaves the apartment grabbing a pricey looking liquor decanter on his way out the door.
Coming Up: PART TWO: She’s Not Coming Back Is She?