All posts for the month March, 2018

Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Sherwood/NBC


It was back in nineteen forty-two,
I was a member of a good platoon.
We were on maneuvers in-a Louisiana,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,
That’s how it all begun.
We were — knee deep in the Big Muddy,
But the big fool said to push on.

Pete Seeger

With “MARCH MADNESS” in the air, it might be a good time to break out this analogy. I covered the NBA for nearly twenty-years, in a previous lifetime, and consider myself a basketball purist. Growing up in the sixties, I got to witness  two of the greatest coaches of all time: John Wooden, the bench-boss for the UCLA Bruins, and Red Auerbach, head coach of the Boston Celtics.  Both men stressed the fundamentals of the game, and chastised their teams for taking last-minute, desperation shots. A major part of the success of their teams, was the ability to get the ball close to the basket, before attempting to score.

A strategy employed by both coaches to get into position for high-percentage shots, was a crisp passing-game. It served three purposes, advancing the ball closer to the basket, keeping the defensive team off-balance, and eating valuable minutes off the clock, to keep their opponents possessions down. A great passing game’s a beautiful sight to behold, and as graceful as ballet. However there might not be a more deflating moment during a game, when the offense makes “one pass too many,” leading to a turnover.

The NBC series “The Blacklist,” decided to shake-up the snow-globe throughout the show’s fifth season. We rejoined Raymond Reddington, back in September, when the former “Concierge Of Crime,” found himself living in a cheap motor-lodge, and wearing hand-me-downs. Many viewers assumed that this campaign would be devoted to the restoration of Raymond Reddington, to his former status. However a fortunate encounter with a postman named Anthony, quickly restored his depleted coffers after he setup a network of high-end safe-houses, used by criminals on the lam.

The series went into its fall-hiatus after altering the show’s dynamic irrevocably, in a move that angered many of the show’s long-time fans, and cheered by others. Jon Bokenkamp and company, decided to put an end to the tempestuous relationship between Lizzie and Tom Keen, as Tom became a casualty of this season’s “BIG BAD” Ian Garvey, dying in November. The show also fast-forwarded rejoining Liz and Raymond after she awoke from a ten-month coma. When the series returned in January, viewers reentered their universe after another time leap.

Liz completed her physical-therapy, and living in Alaska under an alias, trying to deal with her grief. She pronounced herself healed and returned home, after she channeled her inner Charles Bronson, and executed four contract killers. She felt no remorse for her actions, considering it just a warm-up for the carnage she would wreak on those who took her husband from her.

Thus began a long and drawn out dance as Keen started embracing her demons, as she first explored and eventually started to inhabit her dark-side, while searching for those responsible for Tom’s death. She even took inspiration from Blacklist members, utilizing the Stewmaker’s skill set to dispose of Bobby Navarro’s corpse. She became so laser-focused on her mission, that she sent her daughter Agnes to live with Tom’s mother, and gave up her badge.

This new dynamic altered the series cadence, with episodes branching off into three different story-arcs, sometimes but not necessarily intersecting. While the Task-Force primarily deals with the Blacklist members after Samar meets with Raymond, we follow Reddington and Keen on their journeys. Red and Elizabeth share a common goal, making Garvey pay for killing Tom and Nik Korpal, however he’s intent on keeping the occupant of the duffel bag’s identity from Keen, while she’s determined to learn Reddington’s secret.

Here’s where we get back to the basketball analogy. While the game carried on in a slow-downed pace, the execution remained top-notch. Bringing in key players off the bench such as Dominic Wilkinson, Earl Fagen, Raleigh Sinclair, and Abraham Stern, kept the action entertaining. Until the squad made “one pass too many,” and threw the ball out-of-bounds.

One of the many reasons that the “Cabal,” story-line successfully played out over nearly three seasons, was the pacing. Bokenkamp and the rest of his team doled out information in small doses, keeping viewers intrigued. Fans watched as the mysterious relationship between Reddington, and Alan Fitch, got revealed leading to our discovery of the shadow organization as well as the “Fulcrum.” Eventually viewers realized that the organization played a large part of Keen’s life since childhood.

The story-arc finally culminated, when Laurel Hitchin asked Reddington to get rid of “The Director,” Peter Kotsiopoulos. That happened in dramatic fashion, getting thrown out of a private jet and crashing to his death in a European family’s living-room., in a move nobody could have predicted. That’s also been a critical factor in the appeal of the series, the writers ability to zig instead of zag. Leading viewers down a pathway that seems familiar, then suddenly veers off into an unexpected direction took this series to a rarefied level.

In this viewer’s eyes, the show-runners’ seemed to have lost some of that magic over the last few episodes. Part of that reason stems from telegraphing its short-term plots. Norman Singleton became “Dead Man Walking,” the moment Liz took him into her confidence, and brought him to the Post-Office. When he told her that after they captured the dirty cop, she needed to pickup Agnes, and he’d get a new lawyer, I suddenly recalled Keen asking Tom, why everybody they love dies?

Why would a police detective in his own station-house fear the threats of a dirty cop, and instead of arresting him, goes on a ride that he realizes will lead to his death? Especially when that detective has an established with a Bureau Task-Force, and Raymond Reddington? Just by picking up his phone, his daughters would either be in protective custody, or safely relocated before Garvey could make his one phone-call.  We saw that demonstrated in the most recent episode, as Reddington safely relocated witness Tony Mejia and his grandmother, keeping them out of Garvey’s hands.

When we met Bureau psychiatrist Sharon Fulton, she reminded me of a combination of Laurel Hitchin and Julian Gale. While being unsure if Fulton would be a friend or foe, she made this viewer feel hinky, thinking that was far more to the character than she revealed. When Keen asks Fulton whether Anthony Hollis could be the man she’s searching for, she failed to realize that it would take someone with the doctor’s intelligence to discover the serial killers’ identities. Her obsession with darkness dulling her skills, she embraced Fulton as a mentor, not realizing the psychiatrist skillfully played her.

While enjoying Aram Mojtabai suddenly taking a more active role on the Task-Force, was there any doubt that Reddington engineered Tony Mejia’s extraction from FBI custody? (It’s just a matter of time until Aram encounters the man with David Bowie eyes again.) Or that Raymond would hand the young man over to Garvey? Tony and his grandmother have likely been relocated to a far more upscale existence, than either of them dreamed of experiencing.

Elizabeth Milhoan Keen/Masha Rostova, was by no means an innocent babe in the woods when the man we know as Raymond Reddington, entered back into her life. Her methods could be questioned, but not her morals. The woman we’ve come to know over the past five years, could be mercurial and impulsive. However unlike Reddington, we’ve never questioned that she had a true moral compass that always pointed north. That’s why Raymond told Lizzie, that when he looks at her he sees his way home. That’s why he described her to Fulton, as everything that he’s not.

When she brutally executed the four men in Alaska, and in Bobby Navarro’s accidental death, we could justify them all as self-defense. However in “The Capricorn Killer,” Keen crossed a huge moral line, she allowed Sharon Fulton to escape, and to continue tracking down and executing serial killers. We’ll never know if Keen would have smothered the “Sandman,” to death, something that seemed impossible to contemplate at the onset of this season.

While the acting’s been incredible throughout this campaign, the story seems stuck “In The Big Muddy,” over the last few episodes. The much-anticipated first encounter between Raymond Reddington and Ian Garvey, proved to be anti-climactic to say the least. There are now six episodes remaining in the show’s fifth campaign, seemingly heading into a sixth season. I made my predictions on this season back in December, if you desire you can read my theories and feel free to leave your commentary. My concerns aren’t with next season at this point, it’s more a matter of getting season five back on course. Hopefully the man we know as Raymond Reddington, will sail this season safely into port.

Photo Courtesy Of Will Hart/NBC


It remains to be seen how or if, the dangling threads left hanging at the conclusion of the latest episode of the NBC series”The Blacklist,” factor into the long-term story arc of season five. Whether this episode’s Blacklist member, Mr. Raleigh Sinclair III, returns to the series or not, fans of the show got to witness some magnificent acting performances.

DISCLAIMER: This viewer could watch John Noble read the phone-book for hours and be entertained. Noble created one of television’s most iconic characters, Dr. Walter Bishop, in the FOX series FRINGE. Bishop’s a discredited scientist, who constantly crosses the median line between genius and madness, assisting an FBI task-force that deals with scientific anomalies. After spending years locked away in a mental institution, Walter lacks any social graces, however he’s capable of amazing insight.

Noble’s ability to play quirky characters that still retain their humanity. made him the perfect actor to inhabit the skin of Raleigh Sinclair III, another character with a superior intellect, who maybe as crazy as a loon. Sinclair pushes his clientele like a Marine Drill Sargent, yet later in the hour we see another side of him, a mild-mannered seemingly feeble-minded old man.

As if the casting coup of Noble wasn’t enough the show doubled-down, bringing in Martha Plimpton, to portray Dr. Sharon Fulton, a Bureau psychiatrist, who must approve Elizabeth Keen mentally fit before she’s reinstated to active duty. Once again I have to admit to a bias in her favor, having watched her grow-up from the gawky tom-boy character she played in Goonies.  Fulton’s not a warm and fuzzy character, and the actress makes her suitably prickly and combative.

Three plot-lines intertwine throughout this episode, two of them will certainly carry on throughout this season, with the third one remaining open-ended. We’re going abandon our normal linear recap-format, to concentrate on those three paths, and what they might portend for the future.

The Blacklist Member Of The Week:

Raleigh Sinclair has an extensive list of satisfied clientele, who have been able to murder the subject of their revenge, or people who just got in the way, while having seemingly airtight alibis that they were miles away when the murders took place. The elderly man who resembles a librarian’s known in the criminal world as “The Alibi,” due to his ability to make it appear that his clients’ are in two places at once. Sinclair establishes a regimen for his clientele, over an extended period of time, interacting with regulars they encounter daily.

After the client becomes known to the people they interact with, Sinclair hires somebody that looks similar to the client, and enhances their resemblance with prosthetics. The day the client commits the murder, the doppelgänger takes their place in their daily routine, so that the people the client encounters tell law enforcement, that they saw the client while the crime took place.

Sinclair just helped a man named Sam DeMarco, murder his business partner and get away with it, after hiring a homeless man named Kahil Shula to perform DeMarco’s daily rituals. When law enforcement interview the folks DeMarco regularly interacts with, they all assuredly respond that they saw him the day his partner got killed. Shula, who Sinclair promised would be handsomely compensated for his efforts, wound up dead at the hands of “The Alibi.”

Sinclair’s latest client’s named Brian Barrett, a man consumed with a desire for revenge, after he came home early from work, and caught his wife having sex with another man. We quickly determine that despite Raleigh’s mild-mannered appearance, he’s as much of a disciplinarian as a football coach during training camp. Barrett’s five minutes late for their meeting, and Sinclair’s ready to walk away, until Brian assures him it won’t happen again.

Raleigh then gives Barrett a shopping list, including running shoes in a color that stands out. He also provides him with a route that he wants him to run every morning, and to interact with the same people daily, so that they expect to see him each morning. Sinclair informs Barrett that he’ll be in touch once he determines it’s time to carry out the crime.

After Raymond informs the Task-Force through Samar about “The Alibi,” Aram takes a look at the photograph that the surveillance camera took of DeMarco’s doppelgänger, and realizes it’s not an exact match. Through facial-identification software, he’s able to identify the man as Kahil Shula, a homeless man without a permanent address. Harold gives the file to Raymond, who heads over to a homeless shelter that he funds.

Raymond meets a homeless woman at the shelter who was friend’s with Kahil, named Delores. (Yet another great acting performance by guest star Marcia DeBonis.) After telling Raymond that he’s got an honest face, she tells Reddington she saw Shula get into a gold car with an EZ-Pass on the windshield. Mojtabai’s able to narrow the list to one hundred vehicles and puts the drivers in a binder. Delores quickly picks out Sinclair from the book. None too soon it turns out, as Barrett’s about to shoot his estranged wife in a parking garage, while his doppelgänger runs his morning route.

Raymond finds Sinclair’s safe-house and it’s filled with head-molds, and prosthetic pieces. He also finds information on Barrett’s situation, including his daily route and how he intends to kill his estranged wife. He gives the Task-Force enough information to apprehend Barrett, while he and Dembe go off to meet Raleigh.

Barrett’s waiting in the parking garage when his estranged wife arrives. She tries to dismiss him and walk past him, however he stops her in her tracks when he pulls out a pistol. He then tells her he wanted to kill her the night he caught her, with the wine bottle he held in his hand. He didn’t follow through on that impulse, because he didn’t want to go to prison, but now that fear’s gone.

He fires off two shots and hits her in the shoulder, she runs and attempts to hide. We watch as his double goes through Barrett’s morning routine, interacting with all the regulars. Brian finds Nicole crouching between cars and says goodbye to her as he raises his pistol. Just then Ressler and Navabi drive up, and Barrett fires at the shot at their windshield. Navabi chases him through the stairwell, while Donald attends to Nicole.

Barrett fires off a shot at Samar in the stairwell, then tries to flee by going back into the garage. Ressler stops that escape quickly, as he knocks him to the floor while doing about 20 MPH. Navabi thanks her partner for the assist, and Donald replies anytime.

The double named Eckhart, after finishing his assigned route returns to Sinclair’s car, and doesn’t comprehend what’s going on when Raleigh says about your payment, then pulls out a pistol. Suddenly we see Dembe knocking on the driver’s window with his gun, as Raymond climbs into the backseat. Eckhart asks about his money, and Reddington responds that if he leaves now, he’ll live to die another day. He then tells Sinclair he’s been looking for him, and suggests they go for a little drive.

Sinclair believes Raymond’s been sent to kill him by a man he somehow wronged in Jakarta, but Reddington quickly assures him that’s not the case. He tells Raleigh that he’s heard whispers of his work for some time, and admires him greatly. He tells him that he’s brought Sinclair to their present location, to save him getting captured by the FBI, if Raleigh will agree to his requests.

We of course don’t know yet what those requests were, but I think we can be assured that Raleigh Sinclair III, is now another member of Raymond’s “Island Of Misfit Toys.” The Task-Force had to settle for Sinclair’s client list, containing names of 51 murderers. Even those acquitted of the initial murder they committed, can be charged with the murders of their doppelgängers. Raymond provides a burial and a funeral ceremony for Kahil Shula, and stands with Delores at his grave.

Family Counseling

Although we’ve yet to determine if Dr. Sharon Fulton’s friend or foe, her personality conjures up memories of both Laurel Hitchin and Julian Gale. She’s proud of her self-proclaimed blunt, pull-no-punches style, pushing and prodding to get at what she perceives as the truth. It’s up to her whether Lizzie gets to return to active status, and she’s not going to just rubber stamp anything.

She asks Keen why she wants to return to the Bureau, and Elizabeth responds that her goal’s to capture Tom’s killer. She tells Fulton she needs her help in overcoming her anger and grief, but the psychiatrist replies that she thinks anger keeps people sharp and willing to take chances. However she does have great interest in talking about Keen’s father.

Although Reddington praised therapy, saying that it turned him into an entirely different person, (Was that line confirmation that “OUR RAYMOND’S,” is in fact an imposter, or laughing at those of us who subscribe to that theory?) he’s got no desire to meet with Fulton. In fact the only meeting he agrees to, takes place in the back seat of his car, with Liz in the front seat, and Zuma standing outside the vehicle.

She prefaces her remarks by announcing how blunt she’s about to get, then tells Reddington that he disgusts her and he’s a glorified serial killer. She tells him that if he wasn’t Keen’s father, that she’d have already signed her reinstatement papers. She then recounts Keen shooting down Tom Connelly, and going on the lam with Red, as Lizzie defends her actions. Fulton then asks Reddington if she should believe that any child of his could live up to the standards of the Bureau?

Raymond stares her in the eye, and exclaims she wouldn’t believe a word he said. He says that it’s her job to push Keen past the anger and the grief, and to discover what her true essence’s composed of. Fulton then asks him what would that be, and Red smiles and says everything that he’s not. He then looks at his watch, says their time together has ended, and says good session tough stuff.

Keen and Fulton have two more sessions, the first one doesn’t go smoothly. The shrink tells Elizabeth that she’s holding back, and she’s afraid of admitting stuff to Fulton and to herself. She says that until Keen’s ready to do a profile on herself, as she would a subject, she can’t approve of her reinstatement.

Lizzie returns near the end of the episode to Fulton’s office, and she said that it’s her turn to be blunt. She sais that the two of them are just wasting each other’s time, and she needs to be reinstated to capture the man behind Tom’s death. She then tells Fulton that as a young girl she loved ballet, and at ever recital she felt a presence in the audience. she went on to say that she felt that same protective presence at her graduations and her wedding.

Keen says that she knows that Raymond’s capable of some heinous acts, however he’s also capable of incredible kindness, as he’s displayed to her over the years. She then tells Dr. Fulton that she would describe her own profile as widow, mom, cop, and daughter.

Bring Me The Head Of Ian Garvey.

One large piece of information about the season’s major story-arc got revealed in this episode. Although Detective Norman Singleton, works with  Ian Garvey, he’s not a crooked cop. He’s been naïvely keeping Garvey in the loop as to the whereabouts of Keen and her involvement with Reddington. However that spigot of information will likely run dry for Garvey after this episode.

Elizabeth’s set-up surveillance cameras in her apartment, and she’s come up with some photograph’s of Singleton breaking into her place. She naturally assumes he’s a dirty-cop, but actually believes that she works for Reddington, and that the two of them took over operation of the Nash syndicate.

Seems that Singleton’s also a member of some law-enforcement Task-Force, apparently lead by U.S. Marshall Ian Garvey. After telling the members of the unit of the connection between Reddington and Keen, Garvey tells him to keep tracking her and reporting his findings.

The moment of truth arrives, when Elizabeth catches the detective in her apartment, pulls her weapon and tells him to put his hands up. She starts to call the police to report a robbery, when he tells her he’s got pictures of her and Raymond, if she turns him in, he’ll return the favor. She puts down the phone and they start talking.

He says his instincts tell him that they’re on the same side, but how can she explain the connection to Reddington. After she establishes that she can trust him, she says that if he reveals any information he’s about to learn, Reddington will kill him. She then says she needs to make a phone call.

Some of the cops on Garvey’s Task-Force, meet with the Marshall, and one of them suggests they grab Keen and get her to give up Reddington. Garvey dismisses the plan, saying if they do that they’d have Federal Agents all over them. He tells them to stay patient and allow Singleton to unwittingly do their dirty-work.

However those odds likely greatly decreased, after Lizzie took Singleton to the Post Office, and Navabi told him the particulars about the Task-Force. Liz smiled at Singleton and said she told him she could justify her connection to Reddington, he nodded and said it was indeed valid. He also told her he thought he could help her find the dirty-cop responsible for Tom’s death.

The Story Continues Next Wednesday Night at 8:00 pm on NBC.