Brian Dennehy

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WARNING SPOILER ALERT:

Denial Ain’t Just A River In Egypt.”

Mark Twain

The fifth season finale for the longtime NBC series “The Blacklist,” left the show’s faithful fans in one of three subsets. Elation, Anger/Sorrow/Denial, or just outright Confused. Despite series creator Jon Bokenkamp’s statements that James Spader’s portrayed an imposter since entering our lives, there’s many diehard fans still refuses to believe it. There’s yet another group that’s stated that they’re disgusted by the news revealed in the season ending episode, and vow they won’t ever watch the series again. They feel tricked, and deluded, some even fell they’ve wasted five years, falling for the “ULTIMATE CON MAN.” Isn’t that exactly what this show’s always been about? “Criminals Are Notorious Liars.

Some incredibly intuitive viewers, realized early on that “OUR RAYMOND,” wasn’t the Naval Intelligence Officer that fathered Masha Rostova. I failed to catch on until it became apparent when Mr. Kaplan left her going away present, a valise she dug up from Tansi Farms, in the season four finale. That gift that kept on giving, along with Dembe Zuma’s reaction to the news that Raymond didn’t deny being Elizabeth Keen’s father, felt like waking up from “The Matrix,” for this viewer. It felt like shields being lifted from my eyes, this season’s purpose was always about how they’d reveal that news.

Let’s get the formalities out-of-the-way early on, lest we forget. congratulation to Samar Navabi and Aram Mojtabai, on their engagement! May they have a long and happy life together, and remain the example that functional relationships do exist; even in The Blacklist Universe.

We’re not going to delve too deeply into this episode or the latest Blacklist member, Sutton Ross. It seems that Ian Garvey’s legacy was a softness for young girls in the Witness Protection Program, and sympathetic thieves. Garvey granted Ross his freedom years before, rather than arrest him, so Ian knew exactly where to turn to ensure the bones would be revealed to Lillian Roth. The supposed kidnapping of Lizzie from the witness interrogation room, was handled ham-handedly. How on earth did Sutton get his kidnap victim to voluntarily crawl through an air-duct system?

However this episode’s intention wasn’t meant to be put under a microscope, and combed for clues to solve the mystery, this was the payoff we’ve waited for, or at least part of it. The whole kidnapping ploy didn’t need to exist, save for the chance for Liz and Jennifer to hear the imposter almost say “I am not Raymond Reddington.”

Next season should get broken down into three sections; revealing the identity, acceptance by Keen and willing to continue working with “OUR RAYMOND,” and finally gratitude. Although John Waters expressed admiration of the name, the man we’ve watched for five seasons remains Lizzie’s “SIN EATER.”

We’ve made some rather bold predictions on these pages, especially since late December, and admittedly the sense of validation’s welcome. However it’s only being mentioned in the hopes that our theories have proved credible, and that there’s a method to our madness. With that in mind let’s delve into speculation as to the true identity of “OUR RAYMOND.”

Why did he assume the identity of “THE AMERICAN,” in Katarina Rostova’s journal, a once well-respected Naval Intelligence Officer, who at the very least betrayed his marital vows and had an affair with Rostova, producing a child we know as Elizabeth Keen? We see the love and protective quality that in the end guides his every move. If not for the SWAT-Team breaking into Ross’ compound, he’d have said the words he vowed would never leave his lips. We soon would have heard his entire back-story, in order to keep Lizzie safe.

Who Is The Man In The Hat?

He is not Elizabeth Keen/Masha Rostova’s father. Raymond Reddington’s Lizzie’s father, he died when she shot him as a four-year-old the night of the fire. The scenario she remembers actually took place, we saw the aftermath in “Requiem,” as Katarina consoles her daughter, telling Masha he was a very bad man. Raymond Reddington took Masha from her home and away from her family. The night of the fire, a confrontation took place between Rostova and Reddington, possibly and likely physical. Masha somehow got a hold of a gun and shot the bad man to protect her mommy. Unfortunately that shot doomed them both, KGB, CIA, The Cabal, and possibly all three would soon be looking for Raymond Reddington. What could Rostova do?

The Third Family.

Sorry to burst the bubble of the Katarina’s Actually Raymond contingency, but “Our Raymond’s,” a man. The Imposter’s daughter’s the little blonde-haired girl we’ve seen with the bubbles in the flashbacks. She’s the ballerina, and it’s her house that Raymond purchased in season one and subsequently blew up. The story he told Madeline Pratt of coming home to find his family executed took place. That’s the family Diane Fowler refers to just before Raymond says she talks too much and shoots her.

Dominic Wilkinson AKA Oleander.

Dominic Wilkinson appears for the fourth time in the series, since being introduced in the show’s third season. This time “Our Raymond,” and Dembe bring the Real Reddington’s bones to his place to finally burn them. (I’ve seen some fans question why the bones weren’t burned originally instead of buried? My guess would be that Rostova buried the bones at Tansi Farm, in a panic and didn’t consider that option.) We’ve been able to perceive a bond between the two men, since the first time we met Dom. One that never added up if it existed between the old man and the Real Reddington.

Raymond takes a sip of milk and his face shows his displeasure. Dom tells him it’s buttermilk, and Reddington’s about to spit it out, when the old man stops him with the words don’t you. Dom’s stopped playing his piano, because he’s got a broken key. While Wilkinson’s away doing chores, Raymond heads to the old man’s work bench and painstakingly crafts a replacement, before he departs. Reddington saying to him at one point that he realizes he’s not what Dom wanted him to be.

Combine that with the obvious love he’s got for Lizzie, and in this viewer’s eyes’ the answer’s obvious. Certainly there’s a chance that he’s just another former KGB operative that worked with Dom and Katarina, but it makes a lot more sense if our imposter’s Dom’s son and Katarina’s brother. Desolate after the loss of his own family, “Our Raymond,” agrees to become Raymond Reddington. With that move he effectively killed the man he once was, that’s why Kate and Dembe always referred to him as Raymond.

How He Fooled The World?

Obviously he didn’t fool everybody, we know that Mr. Kaplan and Dembe have always known, however it’s unclear because of “Requiem,” when Kate actually found out. Was she referring to the imposter, when she initially refused Sam Milhoan to talk with that awful man, or did she believe the Real Reddington was still living? I’d also venture a guess that Alan Fitch and Peter Kotsiopoulos, knew that he wasn’t the Real Reddington. I’m also in the camp that believes Naomi knew as well, and not on board with the idea that she’s dead.

As for everybody else, it seems pretty obvious that he became Raymond Reddington’s Doppelgänger, courtesy of the skills of renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Abraham Maltz. Longtime viewers remember his introduction in the first season, portrayed by Andrew “Dice” Clay. We may have sneaked a peek at one part of the rest of the process, when we watched Raleigh Sinclair III, coach Anthony to ape the characteristics of Ian Garvey a few weeks ago.

However the entire process would be far more entailed. Over the last few months we’ve learned that our intelligence officers, are well-trained in the art of taking meticulous notes. That certainly would have been a valuable resource that the imposter used to garner as much information as possible about the Real Reddington. Likely there was also a large trove of video and audio tape of Reddington, given his position, and the imposter probably spent weeks perfecting Reddington’s sound and cadence. Who was his trainer, was it his father and sister?

Obviously this new “Reddington,” couldn’t return to the original’s old life and family, for fear of being found out. Perhaps with the aid of The Cabal, the imposter used the name and reputation of the former Naval Intelligence Officer, to create a criminal empire worth millions. How much of that empire was actually used to keep Elizabeth safe, would be up for debate.

Known Unknowns.

Exactly why did “Our Raymond,” enter back into Keen’s life five years ago? Was it a combination of his disapproval of her marriage to Tom, his need to recover the Fulcrum, or to protect her from Alexander Kirk? Or is there another purpose that we’re unaware of? Is Naomi Hyland, truly dead and if so why wasn’t Raymond informed of her death? He’s the one who arranged for her and her husband Frank, to assume new identities in a new location. It would seem logical that he’d be made aware of her death by his people. Does Jennifer have her own agenda? When will Lizzie reunite with Agnes, and where is the dog?

We’ve got until next January to kick around these subjects. Thanks to you for joining us for this ride, and we look forward to getting more answers in season six.

Photo Courtesy Of Will Hart/NBC

WARNING SPOILER ALERT

The NBC series “The Blacklist,” went into its two-week Olympic Games hiatus, (Personally, I think Raymond’s a luge enthusiast) with an episode that confirmed some theories, and set in motion the inevitable confrontation with Ian Garvey. One week after featuring Tommy Wattles, a Blacklist member that will remain embedded in viewers minds for years, the group that the Task-Force brought to justice paled in comparison. We’ve seen vigilante groups such as “The Invisible Hand,” countless times in fiction over the last couple of decades. (Think low-tech version of F-Society, from Mr. Robot.)  Frankly the writers and show-runners did nothing to advance the concept, resulting in a rather flat and predictable story-arc, which may have been by design.

This episode’s true strength was to put the pieces together to set the course for the balance of season five, including a bitter-sweet reunion between Lizzie and her grandfather Dominic Wilkinson. Although Dom didn’t identify himself as Keen’s grandfather, the exchange provided a glimpse into the past of the man we’ve only known as Katarina’s father. Raymond continued building a force to be reckoned with, for his upcoming war with his unknown foe. We also obtained some game-changing information concerning Ian Garvey, hinted at in this corner before the series returned from its Autumn vacation.

The Blacklist Members Of The Week.

We’re going to cut right to the chase on the story-line of The Invisible Five. The plot revolves around six kids who lived in a seemingly paradise-like cul-de-sac in the town of Brenford, New York, in the nineties. Suddenly their world got rocked, as their parents died after being ravaged by cancer they contracted as a result of Atria Chemical Corporation, dumping hazardous waste into the ground. The EPA eventually declared a ten-mile radius around the town as a toxic dump, warning people to stat away due to the massive dose of radiation emanating from the land.

The six kids scattered to different parts of the country, but got reunited at the funeral of one of the group, as a result of the radiation poisoning. The remaining five formed a vigilante group they dubbed The Invisible Hand, dedicated to punish an Atria executive, a judge and a lawyer, who settled a lawsuit with one of their neighbors and then sealed the records. The rest of the neighborhood remained ignorant of the danger, and slowly succumbed to the radiation poisoning.

They quickly got their revenge on the judge and the attorney, burying both men alive in the toxic wasteland. However the remaining member of the troika, the Atria executive Anna Hopkins, moved to England. They then decided to expand their scope, taking out people who do things within the law, but that they considered morally reprehensible. Seven more people would suffer their wrath, until some teenagers jumped the fence on a dare, and discovered their latest victim.

When the five members see the news reports they meet at a restaurant owned by Zeke, a member of the hand. Another member Stephen Altman, who seems to be their leader, says they’ve always done things together, and if any of the group wants to stop, they’ll immediately disband. However he says they might want to carry out one more mission, as Anna Hopkins’ in town to make a speech. They can finally punish the third member of the troika.

Navabi and Ressler arrive at the toxic dump, and one of the investigators tells them they’ve recovered seven bodies at that point. He also informs them of a camera the EPA installed at the site, similar to the one “The Tracker,” used last season, except this camera takes just one picture a day. Ressler asks for the contents of the camera, and when they return to the Post Office, Aram sees Stephen Altman standing in the woods without a hazmat suit on. They soon identify him as a former resident of Brenford, who unsuccessfully sued Atria, as a teenager.

Samar and Donald drive to the cul-de-sac the in Brenford, it looks as if it went through the apocalypse. Although the entire neighborhood’s deserted, Ressler notices smoke coming from Altman’s chimney, and calls in for a SWAT-Team. Altman escapes into the woods, however the agents discover the monitoring equipment set up in the house and bring it back to the Post Office.

The Invisible Hand undertakes their plan to capture and kill Anna Hopkins, staying at the Braxton Hotel. One of the group, a reporter named Bobby, interviews Hopkins about her new project, and slips a tracking unit into her purse. After he leaves, Altman poses as a courier saying he needs Hopkins to sign for two packages. She senses something wrong and calls the hotel’s front desk, and asks if they authorized a courier to come to her room? The attendant says no, and says he’ll send security up to the room.

Aram discovers the tracking unit that Bobby put into Hopkins’ purse and he’s able to triangulate the signal. He discovers it’s originating from the seventeenth floor of the Braxton Hotel. Navabi and Ressler head to the hotel, and the hotel front desk clerk’s informed that Hopkins might be in danger. He responds that he just sent security up to her room.

Two security guards head up to Hopkins’ room and tell Altman that he’s got to register at the front desk before delivering any packages, as Hopkins watches through the peephole in her door. When Altman leaves, one of the men knock on her door and she opens it to thank them, however it’s Zeke and Bobby posing as security. They quickly overtake her and bring her to a maroon van in the parking lot.

The agents arrive just as the group puts Hopkins into their van, and a shootout ensues. The agents take out Zeke and wound Bobby, and Emma. Bobby and Altman escape with Hopkins in the van, and Navabi and Ressler take the remaining member, Sophia into custody. After arriving at the Post Office, they convince her to help them find the van by threatening her with never seeing her two young children again. She leads them to where Altman was burying Hopkins, while Navabi and Sophia rescue Hopkins, Ressler tackles Altman as he tries to escape.

During Ressler’s interrogation of Altman, we learn that he’s dying of radiation poisoning, and found out two years before. He says he’s proud of what the Invisible Hand accomplished, he says they’re a corrective unit, and they carried out corrections against injustice. Although none of their victims broke the law, they all took advantage of the law and in the process ruined other people’s lives.

Raymond And Lizzie’s Discoveries

There’s a knock at Elizabeth’s apartment door, and she finds Detective Singleton on the other side, ostensibly there to deliver Tom’s last effects. However he quickly reveals his true reason for his visit, to attempt to intimidate Keen into admitting she killed Bobby Navarro, and she stole the bloody rag from Singleton’s station’s evidence lock-up. She spits back at him that she’s still a federal agent, and for him to stay away from her. He says he’ll be back soon to arrest her.

Among Tom’s effects, she finds a set of keys and immediately fixates on one. We next see her in one of Tom’s storage units, and she uses the key to open an electronic box she seems to know resides there. Opening the unit, she finds a pistol and a leather-bound journal. She sees an entry about Oleander, and then finds a travel brochure for the Oleander Hotel in Slovenia. She immediately calls Cooper asking for help.

Dembe informs Raymond they’ve got an unexpected visitor, our old fiend Anthony Pagliaro the postman, enters the room apologizing profusely. He says he’d never show up unannounced but for a dire emergency. Raymond asks the postal-worker his definition of emergency, and Anthony responds somebody’s going to kill him. Reddington deems the situation an emergency as well, and tells Pagliaro to explain his situation.

Anthony recounts how he discovered a shipment meant for Big Willie Wilkins, and deduced that it contained massive quantities of drugs, so he stole it. He figured he could convince the drug kingpin that the shipment got lost in the mail, but Wilkins didn’t fall for the story. He then told Big Willie, that the shipment got stolen by a rival drug-dealer Momo Marinello.  However when Momo got word that Pagliaro fingered him, he decided to take Anthony out. Raymond asks why he needed the extra money, and Pagliaro says he’d rather not discuss it. When pressed he admits he’s dating a woman out of his league and he wants to get liposuction surgery.

Raymond says that they’ll pay Wilkins a visit and Anthony will admit the truth. Pagliaro balks at the idea, but Reddington says that he’s found over the years that telling the truth is the best course of action. At least most of the time.

Elizabeth and Harold are meeting in Cooper’s office and he’s giving her the information he’s been able to track down on Oleander, and the first point of info’s that Oleander’s a man. He was a legendary Soviet operative, rumored to have come to the States after the Cold War ended. He give’s Keen the name of the man believed to be Oleander, but warns her that if he’s actually the operative, he might not take kindly to questions about his past.

Keen arrives at a house we’ve seen before, and when she knocks on the front door a familiar figure appears. He recognizes her identity immediately and his eyes gleam, but he soon realizes she’s unaware of their relation. She asks if he’s Dominic Wilkinson, and identifies herself. When he asks how he can be of service to her, she asks if he’s the former Soviet operative Oleander?

He lets out a cynical laugh, and says that old ghost story got disproven years before. The CIA cleared him of being Oleander, however she cuts him off and says the Agency didn’t have sufficient proof to charge him. He asks why she’s interested in a former Soviet operative, and her face softens as she explains that her husband was killed over a year ago, and she found information about Oleander among his belongings.

(Her statement doesn’t coincide with the time-line that the show runners have established. Tom died in November of 2017, and she didn’t come out of her coma until September of 2018. Professional athletes would take at least two years to recover from the injuries she received, pushing the time of her departure for Alaska to around September of 2020. When we had a glimpse of Agnes in “The Cook,” she appeared to be about four, she was born in April of 2016.)

Dom apologizes for her loss, but he says he was just a systems analyst for the Soviet Union, not an agent. When the Cold War ended he got granted asylum and a new identity by the American government, and went to work as a systems analyst for them. He’s sorry he can be of no help to her, but she asks him if he interacted with any Soviet operatives. He says he did and she asks if he knew Katarina Rostova?

Dominic breaks into a broad smile and says he knew Rostova quite well, then feigns surprise when he “realizes” he’s speaking to Masha. He says that Katarina used to come into the office he worked out of all the time. When Keen asks if they’d been friends, he quickly changed the subject to a time that Katarina brought Masha to the office when she was about three-years-old.  She asked him if he knew Raymond Reddington, and he said that he didn’t want to discuss him.

She then asked if he thought Katarina could still be alive, and mentioned the former Soviet operative she met in season one, who said he saw her at a hotel. Dom’s face softened as he said he never heard from Rostova after she moved to the States. He once again apologized for not being more informative.

Reddington, Dembe, and Anthony, go to met Big Willie, Raymond’s tickled to find the drug establishment operates out of a candy factory. He says his mind’s filled with visions of Sammy Davis Jr. Seeing the drug kingpin, he thanks him for making the time for them. Wilkins’ surprised that Raymond actually showed up for the meeting, he thought somebody was putting him on. He’s also surprised that Pagliaro works for Red.

Reddington prods Anthony to begin his confession, but the postal-worker says he’s suddenly feeling light-headed. Clearly frustrated, Raymond tells the chief of the drug syndicate that Anthony stole the cocaine, then panicked and blamed Momo for the theft. He says Pagliaro’s sincerely sorry, and he will pay Wilkins back in full, with interest. He then says since it’s no harm no foul, he thinks that Big Willie should forgive Anthony and call off the hit on him.

Wilkens sneers and says “No harm no foul, eh? Follow me.” He takes them into another room where we see some of his men disposing of the remains of Momo Marinello. Big Willie says you have to respond quickly, or his foes perceive it as a sign of weakness. Suddenly the lights cut out, Marinello’s gang’s arrived for their revenge. A shootout ensues, and the air suddenly becomes dense with smoke courtesy of a device one of Marinello’s men set off.

Raymond takes cover but joins in on the action, although at a disadvantage armed just with a pistol, while the others carried long guns. We suddenly see a pair of feet heading towards Red, and Dembe shouts to Reddington to watch out. Raymond turns and fires, realizing too late that the man approaching him was Anthony. Dembe and Reddington carry Pagliaro out of the facility, and the post-worker says he doesn’t want to die. Raymond says he won’t die as they’re getting him help.

Pagliaro wakes up in a recovery facility, Reddington tells him he’s going to be fine, but he needs to watch out for his lap-band. Anthony pulls up the blanket covering him, and realizes that Raymond had the doctors perform the liposuction procedure. Reddington tells him that as long as he was under, he figured they might as well perform the procedure. He wishes Anthony good luck with his new girlfriend and leaves.

Red then meets with Wilkins, telling the drug kingpin he wants him to take on a mission for Reddington. He wants Big Willie to start a war with the Nash Syndicate. Wilkins replies Reddington’s already a big fish, why would he want to take on another? Raymond responds he’s not a big fish, he’s Moby Dick, and for Wilkins to get things in order to proceed with his plan.

Raymond heads to the Post Office, and a look of concern crosses his face when his cell phone rings, and he realizes the caller. He asks what’s wrong, and Dom on the other hand asks him why he thinks something’s amiss. Reddington replies because Wilkinson never calls unless it’s an emergency. Dom informs him that Masha had been at his place that afternoon, seeking information on Oleander. He says he didn’t reveal that he’s actually Oleander, or say anything about Reddington. The old man then grumbles that’s all Raymond cares about anyway.

Dom tells Reddington he should tell Masha the truth, but Raymond sees Elizabeth at that point talking to Samar, and says he can’t talk about that now. Turns out that Bobby the reporter might have some information, that could lead Reddington and keen closer to Tom’s killer.

Raymond heads into the reporter’s hospital room, and he tells Bobby that most bullet wounds to the abdomen aren’t fatal. He then recounts a story of a confederate of his, getting shot 24-times in the abdomen, and surviving. He then asks Bobby about a man The Invisible hand employed, known as the Toy-Maker, and where he’s located. The reporter glares at Reddington, says he’s definitely not a cop, and asks why he should share that information with him? Raymond replies that if he doesn’t he’ll make certain that Bobby won’t survive his gunshot wound.

Lizzie and Raymond head to an electronics repair shop, and find an elderly round little man behind the welding bench. Raymond calls the man by his surname, but the man responds that Mr. Reddington should call him by his first name, Cleveland. Red smiles and says he’s pleased Cleveland knows his identity, as he’s aware that Cleveland’s the Toy-Maker, and hands him Navarro’s glass eye, asking him whom he made it for. Cleveland stammers and stutters, while Raymond puts his pistol on the welding bench, and picks up his welding gun.

Cleveland then says that the eyeball was just the first thing a mysterious man wanted from him. He says the man never introduced himself, and the Toy-Maker identified him as a man that one should never ask his name. He says the guy’s an electronics expert, that the first time they met they had a 20-minute discussion on RF-gain. When Raymond asks Cleveland if he believes the man’s a cop, the Toy-Maker remained silent. Reddington thanked him for his time and the pair left the shop.

Before recapping the hour’s final two scenes; let’s take a look back at a guess we made back in our column of December 27, entitled “Suitcase Suppositions.”

I believe Garvey is either a former agent from the Agency or the Bureau, which is why he was able to access CODIS. Ideally, I would love for him to be the new FBI Director, but that’s likely asking for too much. Plus he dresses like an out of work bureaucrat, sporting a tie so wide that it could double as a table-cloth. I had some of the same back in the mid-seventies and they’re likely still sitting in some compost heap.

Garvey looks like a retired or possibly disgraced “Spook,” (old-term parlance for a CIA Agent,) and realizes that if the information that our Raymond’s a fake emerged, Reddington’s reputation would be in tatters and his life would be endangered. So the former government employee’s going to try to put the squeeze on Red, and demanding a percentage of the profits. Personally, I don’t like Garvey’s odds.”

After Elizabeth leaves the repair shop, she heads back to the Post Office, and once again meets with Cooper. She asks to be reinstated back onto the Task-Force. Harold replies that she told him she looked at being a Federal Agent as a handicap in her search for Tom’s killers. She responds that’s until she realized the man she’s searching for, might wear a badge himself. Cooper shakes her hand, and welcomes her back to the Task-Force.

We see Detective Singleton making a call on his cellphone, telling the part on the other end that he’s concerned about Elizabeth Keen. We then see the caller on the other end’s Ian Garvey, and he tells Singleton to clam down, that he’ll take care of things on his end. Just as we realize that Singleton’s working for Garvey, the camera flashes on a star attached to his belt.

The Story Returns on Wednesday February 28, at 8:00 pm on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of Will Hart/NBC

WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AND RAMPANT SPECULATION

With the return of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” almost upon us a myriad of questions, both long and short-term, have fans of the show buzzing with anticipation. The immediate concern for many long-time viewers, centers on the health and well-being of FBI Agent Elizabeth Keen.  We last saw her emerging from an eight month coma, after a beating that took the life of her husband Tom. Published reports inform us that we’ll rejoin the characters, months after we left them in the Winter Finale.

The Lizzie that we’ll encounter on January 3, is a broken woman, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Suddenly her life got put into a blender, then spit her out, and when she came to she found herself in a new life that didn’t make sense. The love of her life taken from her, a daughter that blossomed from a baby into a young girl, that she doesn’t know. Her body and mind atrophied from her injuries and the coma.

Keen’s focused on just one thing, seeking vengeance on the men that took her husband. She says it’s her only motivation for getting out of bed each morning. According to an article published last week, that story-arc will dominate the return episode, described as a “free-standing Cape May, type story.”

We’re going to concentrate on the show’s big question of this season in this article, the same question that’s had fans speculating since last May. Whose bones are in the valise that Mr. Kaplan, wanted Tom to deliver to Elizabeth, and why are they so important to the man we know as Raymond Reddington? That question produced a new query in the last couple of episodes of the Fall campaign, the identity of Ian Garvey, and what he intends to do with the information he possesses?

The following is pure speculation, however I can give you what I consider a logical explanation for my theories. As with any theory, there are flaws and I try to address each one to my satisfaction. We shall see if they meet yours,  or if you find holes in this theory that I’ve yet to discover. As always your thoughts, comments, and other theories are always welcome. So, with that let’s delve down the rabbit hole!

DNA TESTS DON’T LIE.

Raymond Reddington IS the biological father of Masha Rostova.

Harold Cooper, obtained the DNA sample came from the clothes of Naval Intelligence Officer Raymond Reddington, from an evidence locker where the clothe got deposited 30-years before. All that proves is the man that Katarina had the affair with and fathered Masha, was indeed the REAL Raymond Reddington.

However, it’s yet to be revealed whether the man we know as Raymond matches that DNA sample. Also let’s remember in the finale of season four, when our Raymond tells Dembe what Lizzie believes, the first thing he asks is “And You Didn’t Deny It??” Lizzie KNEW that Kaplan’s final mission was to reveal some truth to Keen. When Harold told her about the DNA results, she automatically jumped to the conclusion that our Raymond is her BIO-Dad, Which our Raymond welcomes, because it’s kept Lizzie from seeking out Kate’s real secret, whose in the suitcase from Tansi Farms?

SO WHO IS IN THE SUITCASE?

Many fans theorize that Katarina Rostova’s last remains are in the suitcase now held by Ian Garvey. I’ve never subscribed to that theory, mainly because Kate apologized to Katarina before she retrieved the valise from Tansi Farms. She wouldn’t apologize to Rostova for informing Lizzie that the valise contained her mother’s bones.

There’s another contingent of fans that believe the bones belong to either Masha, or Raymond’s daughter Jennifer. Some believe that the real Masha died the night of the fire, and Raymond’s behind Jennifer believing that she’s Elizabeth Keen. Others believe the bones belong to Jennifer, that Raymond was simply too grief-stricken to bury his daughter, after the events that he described to Madeline Pratt. However once again Mr. Kaplan doesn’t figure into the latter scenario.

Now that we’ve eliminated some names off our list, it’s time to reveal whom I believe occupies the purloined knapsack The REAL Raymond Reddington. Think back to “Requiem,” the flashback story from season four that told us the history of the affair between a KGB Agent and a U.S. Naval Intelligence Officer, through the eyes of Kathryn Nemec. The only time we saw Raymond Reddington, before Katarina disappeared,  was through the back window of a car, as he was passionately kissing Rostova.  The view obscured,  and we only really saw the back and the side of his head.

The man that we know as Raymond Reddington’s not introduced until after Lizzie’s lived with Sam Milhoan for a while. Kate’s working for Little Nikos as a bail bondsman, after she recovered from the shot to the head in the attack that killed her partner Annie. He entices Mr. Kaplan to come work for his criminal empire that he stresses exists primarily to keep Elizabeth safe. If Kaplan’s aware that the man she’s meeting’s a faux Raymond Reddington, we’re given no indication, but remember we’re watching this scenario play out from her point of view.

Alexander Kirk/Constantin Rostov, said to the man that we know as Raymond Reddington, that there was nothing Reddington could say, that would keep Kirk from killing him. Yet after Raymond whispered something in his ear, Red walked away without a scratch. Why did Constantin not follow through on his vow?

After the conversation between Dembe and Raymond in last season’s finale, I believed that the suitcase contained the final remains of Raymond Reddington. My suspicions solidified after seeing Tom Keen’s face after reading the DNA results as he sat in Penn Station, during the episode “Ian Garvey.” Tom opens up the large yellow envelope, looks at the name, and immediately does a double-take. This can’t be right. Then he looks at it again, and it starts to dawn on him, this is real. Then anger sets in as he realizes why the man we know as Raymond, keeps that information from Lizzie. When Raymond has him paged at Penn Station, he tells Red that he know everything, and we watch Reddington’s complexion turn slate gray.

There’s only one name that could cause Tom to have that reaction and subsequent reaction, and cause Ian Garvey to go on a murderous rampage to exploit that information. The REAL Raymond Reddington. Which brings us to our ultimate question: who IS the man that we know as Raymond Reddington?

Dom Is The Wild Card.

There are just three people out there that know the true story of the man we know as Raymond Reddington. Raymond, Dembe, and Dom, Katarina’s father and Lizzie’s grandfather. There’s an incredibly strong bond that we’ve seen play out between Dom and Raymond, far more of a bond that one would expect from a man that impregnated a married woman and her father.

Why would Dom welcome into his home, the disgraced American Naval Officer, who helped lead to his daughter’s apparent demise? What could have compelled him to enter an agreement with that man, thirty years earlier to safeguard his granddaughter?

Why would that American Naval Officer, have taken the time to rebuild and replace a new piano key, for a man whose only connection’s Elizabeth? Why would that same man care that he didn’t turn out the way that Dom expected, that he didn’t measure up?

Truly doesn’t make sense that bond existed between Dom and Raymond Reddington, however it would be perfectly logical, if the man we know as Raymond’s actually Dom’s son and Katarina’s brother. He’s masqueraded as Reddington, since Masha shot her father to death the night of the fire. Why would he takeover Reddington’s identity? Likely for the safety of Katarina and Masha. Reddington’s name trashed in Intelligence circles and likely wanted for treason, gave this man the perfect gateway into the criminal world.

We learned in season one that Raymond had utilized the services of renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Abraham Maltz, whose claim to fame’s his ability to give underworld figures new identities. This young man likely had plenty of audio and videotape recordings of Reddington’s voice and he studied it until he mastered it. When the question of the veracity of his identity surfaced during Mr. Gregory Devry, Ressler informed Cooper that they lacked a DNA sample to compare our Raymond’s DNA to.

Keeping a thirty year distance between himself and Cooper, likely hid any tells that our Raymond might display. We know that Fitch and Peter Kotsiopoulos, knew the younger Reddington, however they might have been on the whole thing due to their connection through the Cabal.

This would explain the bond between the man we know as Raymond Reddington and Lizzie, as well as his fears for her finding out the truth. Dembe’s asked him to be forthright with Elizabeth since the early episodes of the series. If this man had only been upfront about his identity from the onset, at the very least Tom would still be alive.

When Raymond last spoke to Dom, he told him to seek Elizabeth out if Reddington hadn’t contacted him. I’m willing to make an educated guess that call never got made and Dom will seek Elizabeth out. I believe that’s when everything will finally get revealed, as Dom explains the true story of her parents and their fates. Will Elizabeth still perceive Raymond as her Sin-Eater, and continue to work with him and accept him as an uncle and surrogate father? Guess that will determine how long the series airs.

Bring Us The Head Of Ian Garvey!

The Blacklist has given us an array of sick, twisted, depraved, sinister, villains, over the years, from zealots to career criminals. Criminals involved in every facet of the underworld, some operating deeply underground, while others did their dirty work, in full view of the whole planet. However their may be one breed of “BIG BAD,” that stands out from the rest, they’re colder, and seemingly without a soul. People like Peter Kotsiopoulos, and Laurel Hitchin, Government.

I believe Garvey is either a former agent from the Agency or the Bureau, which is why he was able to access CODIS. Ideally, I would love for him to be the new FBI Director, but that’s likely asking for too much. Plus he dresses like an out of work bureaucrat, sporting a tie so wide that it could double as a table-cloth. I had some of the same back in the mid-seventies and they’re likely still sitting in some compost heap.

Garvey looks like a retired or possibly disgraced “Spook,” (old-term parlance for a CIA Agent,) and realizes that if the information that our Raymond’s a fake emerged, Reddington’s reputation would be in tatters and his life would be endangered. So the former government employee’s going to try to put the squeeze on Red, and demanding a percentage of the profits. Personally, I don’t like Garvey’s odds.

I always believe if you’re going to make a prediction, swing for the fences! We shall see what develops starting January 3.

The Story Continues Wednesday Night January 3, at 8:00 pm on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of William Hart/NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Fans of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” are probably still reeling from the two-hour bombshell, that concluded season four. The show runners have bombarded viewers with information, since they returned from hiatus on April 20, and the two-hour season finale followed in kind. With all the action that took place, including murders, betrayals, relationships dissolving , while new ones formed, there’s likely one revelation that shook long time viewers to their core. Apparently, Raymond Reddington’s the biological father of Masha Rostova, however the man that we’ve known as Raymond for the past four seasons, maybe an impostor.

The concept of the character that Spader portrays, actually being a man that adopted the identity of Raymond Reddington, had gotten bandied about by some of the show’s fans since the second season. This viewer never bought into that concept, however the show runners certainly left viewers with that conclusion heading into the summer. By taking the story down this path, it opens up a myriad of questions. Exactly who is this man, that the world knows as Raymond Reddington? Does this mean that four-year-old Masha Rostova, actually shot and killed the real Raymond Reddington? Did Mr. Kaplan realize that the man she worked for and loved, had adopted the identity of another man?

There’s a deep connection between the man we’ve known as Raymond, and Katarina’s father Dom, who returned to the series in the evening’s first hour. Raymond apologizes to him as he leaves his home, for not becoming the man that Dom hoped he would. The conversation sounded like a son apologizing to his father, could this man really be Dom’s son and Katarina’s brother? Is this man responsible for the suitcase filled with bones, that Mr. Kaplan unearthed? Perhaps even more importantly whose bones are in that valise, Katarina’s, or the real Raymond Reddington’s?

Should the show’s long-term fans feel cheated if the character we’ve invested four seasons into following, turns out to be an imposter? It’s a question that I’ve wrestled with since the final few minutes of episode 23, and I’ve come up with a rationale that I can live with. Whom ever this man that we’ve been intrigued by turns out to be, he’s the guy that’s kept us glued to our respective screens for 89 episodes. He’s the man who could end Diane Fowler’s life, with a bullet to the gut while telling her she talked too much. Yet he showed empathy and gentleness, when treating a young boy to three ice-cream sundaes, in order to obtain the name of his hematologist from his mother. This is the man filled with information on almost any subject, who can entertain you all evening with his anecdotes, and seems to get perverse pleasure out of emasculating husbands, in front of their wives.

If this man’s not Raymond Reddington, it doesn’t truly matter to me. If Red proves to be a phony, it just proves that the rabbit hole’s deeper than many of us previously thought. Was this man ever married to Naomi, or was the story he revealed about coming home to a Christmas Eve massacre, his true fate? If he’s not Raymond Reddington, then why would he have buried that suitcase full of bones at Tansi Farms? These are just some of the issues, that fans will be chewing over this Summer.

Can We Survive?

Team-Red’s on the ropes as the first hour opens, getting attacked on multiple fronts. Raymond finds out after surviving a shoot-out, that his suppliers have cut him off and his bank accounts drained. Trusted allies such as Brimley the geriatric torturer, and another crime-boss named Don Julio, are keeping their distance from Red, proving the old adage that nobody loves you, when you’re down and out. After asking Don Julio for help in locating his former driver now employed by Mr. Kaplan, he tells Red that the man just bought a Ferrari. Reddington tries tracking the driver through the dealership he bought the car from, but a shell-corporation’s listed as the legal owners.

Things aren’t going much smoother for the Task-Force, as Julian Gale’s gathered enough evidence for prosecutors to convene a grand jury. Aram Mojtabai’s been granted immunity to testify against his friends and colleagues. Because of the immunity deal, Mojtabai’s compelled to testify or risk being jailed for contempt of court. Aram’s warned that he’s not to share this information with any of his teammates.

Gale informs Donald Ressler, that he’s the guy that took the shot at Reddington, during their meeting with Kaplan. Ressler tries to explain the rationale of the Task-Force to Julian, but Gale’s disgusted at the concept of making a deal with such a heinous criminal, and refuses to listen. He then tells Ressler that he’s going to put him and each member of the Task-Force behind bars.

Kate’s morphed into the monster that Dembe said she’d become, in the previous episode. Her obsession with destroying Raymond, seems to have stripped her of her humanity. She’s so fixated with her mission, that she looks at anybody that gets into her way as collateral damage. Kate hires a master-thief named Mario Dixon, to break into the Stone Canyon facility, a government warehouse that contains all sorts of classified documents. In order to obtain the document that Raymond signed from the Justice Department, finalizing their agreement, she removes a man’s eyeball without anesthesia, to get past the facility’s security device.

Raymond realizes that his accountant Abe’s assisted Kate with cleaning out his bank accounts, and after getting Dixon’s name from a ledger, he repays Abe for his betrayal. Reddington gives the name to Keen and Navabi, who track down his younger brother in a correctional facility. Offering to take five years off his sentence for cooperating, the younger Dixon tells them he’d have given up his brother for free, and directs them to a store in Baltimore.

After threatening Dixon’s business partner, Reddington’s told that Dixon’s in Philadelphia. Navabi and Keen engage in a chase with Dixon, but they get help from a collection of government agencies, who got alerted when somebody from Stone Canyon informed them about the break-in. Dixon says he’s got no intention of talking, since he’s aware of the deal Reddington signed with the Justice Department. He tells the agents that he’ll start singing the moment he’s arrested. The agents inform him he’s not getting arrested, and instead leaves him in Raymond’s care.

Raymond and Dembe drive to Dom’s home, then Raymond and the old man head into his barn. He digs up a red strong-box that he buried there decades earlier, with strict instructions to Dom, never to dig it up. He then tells Dom about Kate, and how she’s destroyed his empire. However the reason he says he’s willing to give up the contents of the box, is to save Masha’s life. He says he thought he lost her once, and he’s not going to chance it again.

Dom’s enraged when he finds out his granddaughter’s alive, and he demands to know why Reddington didn’t contact him, instead of allowing him to grieve for the last year? Raymond replies that Mr. Kaplan knew every detail in Reddington’s life, except about Dom’s existence. He says he purposely stayed away from him, so that Kate wouldn’t find out about him. He then tells the old man, that if he fails to return Dom must find Masha and tell her whom he is.

Red offers the contents of the box to Dixon, in exchange for Kate’s location. He tells the thief that the box contains travel vouchers, and the deed and key to a 96-acre mansion, on an island near Dubai. When Dixon asks how can he be certain Reddington won’t kick him out once he takes residence, Raymond explains that the staff and the guards will pledge their undying loyalty, to whom ever holds the key. After obtaining the location, Raymond ends Dixon’s life with a shot at point-blank range.

Theaters seem to play a prominent part in this series, and Raymond and Dembe ambush Kate and her two henchmen in the theater she’d planned to meet Dixon in. After taking out the two henchmen, Raymond says he wants to end things peacefully and offers Mr. Kaplan all he’s got left, the contents of the box. Kate says the island would be her prison, Reddington agrees but says she’d be imprisoned in paradise. She refuses the offer, and suddenly we hear Julian Gale shouting out hands up this is the FBI.

Gale and his partner George start firing and go after Dembe and Raymond, but they lose them. They return to the theater to find Kate’s waiting for them. He says without the document that Reddington signed, the case he’s presenting to the grand jury will fall apart. Kate corrects him, saying she’ll gladly testify in open court, in exchange for immunity. She then asks Gale what he’s waiting for, and tells her to go ahead and arrest her.

Rising From The Ashes.

Lou Reed’s “Vicious,” brings us back for hour number two, as Raymond and Dembe sit in a seedy motel room, while Reddington destroys a fistful of phony id’s that Kate made invalid. At the same time Kate’s meeting with Federal Prosecutors, to see if her testimony qualifies giving her immunity. After a few minutes of conversation, the prosecutors agree to a deal, she informs them that she needs 24-hours to tie-up odds and ends, before she goes into custody. After the prosecutors initially refuse, she informs them that if she doesn’t get released she’ll remain silent, Kate wins yet another battle.

We see her next out in the country, and she walks up to a tree with the initial K carved into it. She then takes five steps from the tree, and removes a collapsible shovel from its carrying bag. She then says “Forgive Me Katrina,” and starts digging into the earth.

Raymond’s got one more card to play, and this move ends up tipping the balance of the game. He and Dembe pay a visit to the location of a nightclub, that former NFL player J.J. Brickman’s on the verge of opening. Raymond requests that Brickman contact his “Fixer,” Henry Prescott. When the former NFL player refuses, Reddington puts a slug into Brickman’s drug dealer, and tells him that he either contacts Prescott, or the dealer will bleed out there, which would end the club’s future that night.

Henry Prescott’s a man that rectifies situations, getting his clients out of scrapes with the law, and other assorted annoyances. Besides having Brickman among his clients, Prescott did a job for a highly placed member of the government, back on November 19, 2015. Henry’s got a warehouse where he stores all his “insurance policies,” and Raymond wants access to it. Prescott asks if Reddington’s going to kill him if he refuses, but Raymond informs him that’s not his intention. Instead he’ll make Prescott famous when the authorities find him along with Brickman and “Gun-Shot Wound.” Raymond says that will assure that Prescott’s client base will immediately dry up.

Aram goes to testify in front of the grand jury and he refuses to cooperate. After the prosecutor attempts to intimidate Mojtabai, he says that he’s proud of the work he’s done with Reddington. He then says that if she wants a trial, to give them a trial, let them show the American public all the good they’ve done. The prosecutor, tells the bailiff to remove him from the room and he’s to be held in contempt of court.

Raymond arrives at Prescott’s facility with Ressler, identifying him as his associate Frank Sturgeon. He tells Henry that Sturgeon needs to see the evidence, Prescott nods his head and tells them the facility’s arranged in chronological order.

The pair enter the warehouse and we see countless industrial size barrels, Raymond gives Donald a pair of rubber gloves, and when they arrive at the barrel marked 11-19-15, Reddington uses a crowbar to remove the lid. He then tells Ressler to reach inside, and Donald discovers Reven Wright’s body perfectly preserved. They remove the slug from her corpse, which Raymond predicts will match the bullets in the Glock that Hitchin keeps in her nightstand.

Ressler’s conflicted that after all this time trying to prove Laurel Hitchin murdered Reven Wright, he’s got to let her go now that he’s got definitive proof. Cooper and the Task-Force commiserate, however they tell Donald that he’s got no choice in the matter. He has to make the deal with Hitchin, guaranteeing her freedom, by her guaranteeing theirs.

Turns out that Aram’s on again/off again girlfriend Janet Sutherland, gave him up when she testified before the grand jury. We find this out when Navabi confronts her inside the courthouse, Sutherland says they promised to expunge her criminal record if she testified. Samar tells her that she’s going to let Aram know, but decides not to tell him when he says he’d never make it through the experience without Janet’s support. She tells Aram that Reddington’s attempting to squash the grand jury and not to give up hope.

Laurel Hitchin looks like the cat that swallowed the canary, when Reddington and Ressler enter her home, and inform her about the grand jury. Raymond tells Hitchin that she’s going to shut the grand jury down and she chortles, until Reddington informs her that they’ve met with Henry Prescott, and they now possess the bullet she killed Reven Wright with. If she wants to maintain her freedom, she’s going to make that grand jury go away.

The next morning, Hitchin struts into the room that the grand jury’s convening in, and informs the prosecutor and Julian Gale that she’s shutting them down for reasons of national security. Gale gets in her face and asks if Reddington’s gotten to her as well. She replies to Gale, that his career’s not completely destroyed, but if he makes another remark like that it will be.

Julian calls Mr. Kaplan and informs her that the Grand Jury’s been shut-down. She asks what that means concerning her immunity deal. Gale responds that its off the table, without the testimony, the government won’t give her immunity. She quickly hangs up.

Keen calls Kate and asks to meet with her, one on one. Kaplan responds that she can no longer trust her, and Lizzie responds that she trusts Kate. We soon see Liz walking in the street, when some of Kate’s men inform her that Mr. Kaplan wants to see her, and escort her into a black SUV. She’s dropped off at a beach, where she finds Kate sitting on a bench in a gazebo, she goes over and joins her. asking Kaplan if she’s okay.

Kate replies that she’s tired and she feels lost. She pledged to protect Lizzie with her life to Katarina, and she feels she’s let both mother and daughter down. She asks Liz if she wants to know the truth, the real reason Raymond came into her life. She tells Keen she can show her, but it must be Liz’s decision.

Now assured of their safety, Raymond and Dembe pay a visit to Julian Gale, surprising him in his car. After telling Gale that he looks fit, he says that they’re in search of Kate’s location. Julian asks how he expects to get that info, by threatening to kill him? Raymond once again says killing isn’t on his mind, he’s simply going to steal Julian’s phone to obtain the number from Kate’s burner phone. As they depart, Raymond says he’s sure they’ll bump into each other soon.

Harold’s able to track the burner phone from the number and tells Raymond where Kaplan and Lizzie are heading to, he says that agents are on the way. Reddington responds that his men are closer and they’ll track them down before Kate can harm Lizzie.

Kate’s SUV gets forced off the road by Reddington’s soldiers, she tells Liz that if she leaves the car she’s choosing Raymond, if she remains she’s choosing the truth. Although Liz told Mr. Kaplan on the phone that she trusted her, apparently this experience caused that trust to evaporate, as she leaves the vehicle. Baz walks over to the driver’s side window, and with his pistol drawn he asks Kate to shut off the vehicle and come out. Mr. Kaplan says oh Baz and then shoots him and drives off. Lizzie calls for an ambulance as the rest of the men start chasing her.

The final standoff takes place on a steel bridge, as Raymond and Dembe face Kate. She tells him that she won’t go to prison, and as soon as Raymond kills her, one of her men will present Lizzie with the secret they had buried at Tansi Farms. Reddington tells her that he’s not going to shoot her, and he regrets shooting her the first time. Saying once again she won’t go to prison, she climbs atop the bridge railing and plunges to her death in the water far below. There’s no doubt she’s gone as her lifeless body just floats on top of the water.

With the Task-Force’s problems rectified, Harold calls Keen into his office. He says that she deserves answers as to why Reddington came into her life in 2013, so he took matters into his own hands. He reveals to Lizzie that at one time he’d been considered a Golden Child, and he worked with Raymond in Naval Intelligence. He then says that Reddington got captured and beaten by his Soviet captors, and Harold recovered Reddington’s bloody clothes from an ancient evidence facility. He got a sample of Reddington’s DNA from the clothes and he sent in for testing, to find out if Raymond’s her father. He leaves her with the unopened envelope containing the results, and says he hopes she finds what she’s looking for.

Lizzie arrives at the seedy motel room that Raymond’s living in, and tells him that he lied to her. She then shows him the test results, stating that Raymond Reddington’s her biological father. Red tells Lizzie that she can walk away if she wants to, and she looks at him as if he’s crazy. She tells him they’re family and they belong together. She embraces Raymond, but there’s not the unconditional joy on his face, that you’d expect in that situation.

Laurel Hitchin summons Ressler to her home, as she wants to be the one to give him back his shield. She tells Donald that from this point forward, she’ll be calling the shots. Ressler says that’s not going to happen, and Laurel turns around angrily to yell at him. There’s a struggle and Laurel falls to the floor splitting her head open, her blood pouring from the back of her skull. We soon see Henry Prescott arrive, and tells Mr. Sturgeon that he should vacate Hitchin’s home.

We join Raymond and Dembe in conversation at Tansi Farms, Dembe questions why Raymond didn’t deny it? Reddington says because Liz believes that’s the secret that Kate wanted to share with her. He then says to Dembe they’ve got to find that suitcase. Zuma responds that he doesn’t think Lizzie’s ready to accept what Raymond did to her mother.

We get our first glimpse of Tom Keen on The Blacklist, since January, in the final scene. He’s on the phone with somebody and he says he’s following Mr. Kaplan’s final instructions. In his hand’s the valise, carrying the bones, and setting up season five.

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Fans of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” have found themselves sailing unchartered and rather choppy waters on a ship without a rudder over the last few weeks. The crew’s having difficulty maintaining coordinates for their destination as all their navigation equipment’s failing to operate including the compasses. Complicating matters even more, the ship finds itself enveloped in a thick deep fog every night so the crew can’t even look to guidance from the stars.

The cause of all this turbulence is “Hurricane Lizzie,” which touched down three weeks ago and we’ve still yet to determine how extensive the damage is. The answer to that question, is what’s kept viewers on the edge of their collective seats over the last few weeks; is Elizabeth Keen dead or alive? Did we actually watch the funeral of Elizabeth Keen in the episode entitled “The Artax Network” or was the service part of a brilliant scheme to save Lizzie’s life engineered by Mr. Kaplan?

Regular readers of these pages are well aware that this writer’s part of the camp that believes the former FBI Agent still lives and we’ll get at least a glimpse of her sometime during the final two episodes. So while my heart went out to the characters mourning her loss, I have to admit to having a feeling of detachment while watching the memorial service and ceremony at the graveside. There’s a Dan Hicks tune entitled “How Can I Miss You, When You Won’t Go Away?” I found myself in a similar situation while watching this episode, how can I grieve for Lizzie when I don’t think she’s died?

If my theory’s indeed correct and that Megan Boone’s absence’s temporary, then I tip my hat to the series creator  Jon Bokenkamp and his writing staff. Season three of this show had been an endless roller-coaster ride beginning with Elizabeth Keen on the run from the law and the Cabal with Red by her side. Even when the Cabal’s link to the United States Government got exposed Raymond told Keen they weren’t out of the woods yet and his words proved true.

I’ve looked at these last few episodes as a time-out, a chance to catch our collective breath and to find out some answers that have been just out of reach for almost three years. The last two episodes have opened up windows into Raymond Reddington’s past, giving us an entry way with a limited view. However those openings have been large enough that ghosts and memories that he buried decades before have returned to pay him a visit.

Although the series has been short on arrests over the last few episodes, we’re finding out answers to questions we’ve had since the premiere. The previous episode verified that Raymond had been truthful with Liz that her mother had died by walking into the ocean and subsequently drowning. However we also found out that she didn’t take her life due to overwhelming grief, Katerina Rostova killed herself to protect her daughter Masha. We get another connection to Lizzie’s past in this go-round, however we’ll explore that later.

The episode opens with Agnes displaying her unhappiness as her frustrated father Tom Keen tries to figure out what he can do to have her at peace with the world. We hear in a voiceover Harold Cooper addressing the mourners at the church holding Elizabeth’s memorial service. We then watch a montage of the mourners getting ready to go to the service, including Cooper picking up his estranged wife Charlene who attends the service with him.

As we watch the service unfold we see Liz’s teammates from the Task-Force sitting in the pews along with Kate Kaplan and Dembe, but Raymond Reddington is not among them. (Pardon me for this quick aside, did Samar Navabi get her dates mixed up and thought she was attending the Hell’s Angel’s convention that morning? Sorry I realize I’m a dinosaur, but show some respect for the dead and wear something more appropriate for the occasion. Yes I realize Tom Keen went tieless, but he’s the one who just lost his soulmate.)

Great musical selections once again as Ray LaMontagne with his song “Homecoming,” serenaded us through the service at the church while The Faces with a song from my youth “Ooh-La-La,” accompanied us to the graveyard. That drive provided one of the few humorous moments of the episode, as Ressler and Navabi become aware that Aram’s sparked up a joint in the backseat. He pleads with them not to judge, then Samar signals for Mojtabai to pass the Doobie so she can take a hit. Aram expresses his shock and Navabi shrugs and says it’s legal in Washington D.C.

The group at the graveside’s about to go their separate ways when Aram asks them to please wait and he pulls a sheet of paper from his jacket pocket. He reads a passage from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, then he says that Lizzie loved the Bard and Dr. Seuss as well. He starts mentioning other things she was fond of and then he breaks down and says he misses her.

We find out where Raymond’s been as we see him drive to a house in the middle of nowhere. He knocks on the door and an elderly man answers, when he realizes it’s Red his expression turns into a sneer as he asks what Reddington’s doing there? Raymond responds it’s your granddaughter and there’s no need for him to finish the sentence. This series has had an array of unusual casting choices with well-known actors, such as Peter Fonda, Christine Lahti, Jane Alexander and Lance Henriksen in guest-roles. In yet another piece of casting-magic, the legendary actor Brian Dennehy takes on the part of Katerina Rostova’s father.

Another layer of the onion gets revealed as the two longtime Frenemies start talking about the past. Apparently Raymond and the elderly man known as Dom entered into a pact, that might have included others, to keep their distance from Masha in order to insure her safety. Dom tells Reddington that he loved his granddaughter enough not to break the pact and contact her. He looks at Raymond and says you can’t say that, conveying that it was Red’s contact with her that cost Lizzie her life.

Raymond’s looking for solace and longs to bond with Dom, but the old man quickly clarifies that Red won’t find what he needs in Dom’s home. He then tells Reddington he wasn’t expecting him and he was on the way out for groceries when he arrived, Raymond smiles and says let me give you some money and you can pick us up a bottle of single-malt.

Cooper gets a visit from Government Bureaucrat Cynthia Panabaker who at first requests and then tells Harold that the Task-Force will allow another group to take over the investigation trying to track down Matias Solomon and the person who hired him. After finishing his meeting, he tells his agents what went down. Ressler asks if they’re just going to walk away from the case and Cooper assures him they’re doing no such thing, they’ll just be doing things in stealth-mode.

There’s a knock on Dom’s door and Raymond answers it, he’s more than a little surprised when he sees Aram standing on the doorstep. Reddington quickly realizes Mojtabai got his location from Dembe, Aram begs Red not to get upset with Dembe as he realized how important the matter is.

Raymond asks what the urgent matter is and Aram tells him they need his help in order to bring the people who led to Lizzie’s death to justice. Reddington tells Mojtabai that he’s sorry he traveled all this way to go home empty-handed but he’s not coming back and starts to shut the door. A year ago that’s when the conversation would have ended, but we’re now dealing with Aram Mojtabai 2.0. Aram wedged himself between the door and he told Raymond that wasn’t an acceptable answer.

The usually mild-mannered tech-genius then proceeded to remind Raymond of the night the two of them stood over an empty grave after he saved Liz’s life. Reddington told Aram that he’d be forever in his debt, so now it’s time for him to repay him. He tells Raymond to grab his stuff and head back with him to the post-office facility. Reddington apologized to Aram and told him he no longer has enough to repay his debt and says goodnight.

Although Mojtabai failed to get Raymond to return with him, the next day he realizes that the group that hired Solomon to capture Keen are using a defunct satellite network above our planet to monitor and keep track of their intended victims. They also determine that the group’s next target is a renowned economist Benjamin Stadler whose in the city to give an address that evening, Ressler and Navabi head to his hotel to question him.

They get to the hotel and realize he’s just been abducted. Navabi catches up with Stadler and the would-be kidnapper and discovers it’s Nez Rowan the woman she and Ressler arrested when she was working with Matias Solomon on the day of Lizzie’s wedding. Navabi’s able to stop Rowan from taking Stadler, but she escapes in a van that knocks Ressler to the pavement.

Cooper goes nuclear when Navabi informs him that Rowan’s been released from prison and barges into Panabaker’s office demanding an explanation. The bureaucrat says the decision got made by those higher up on the food chain but refuses to give Harold any more info. When Cooper leaves her office he calls Tom Keen and tells him he’s got a surveillance gig for him if Keen wants it. Tom’s assignment’s to become Cynthia Panabaker’s shadow and to photograph any clandestine meetings she might have.

After questioning Stadler at the post-office complex Navabi and Ressler let him go as his plane’s waiting to take him to Dubai. Unfortunately they find out after they let him go that he wasn’t completely truthful with them. Stadler said he’d never left the suite before getting on the elevator in which he was almost abducted from. Aram shows them security footage from the hotel and they see Stadler’s outside of the suite in the midst of a conversation with an attractive woman.

Raymond asks Dom how he’s been able to live for the past 30-years with the intense feeling of loss that Red’s feeling after losing Lizzie.  The old man scoffs at him and asks him if Reddington calls Dom’s existence living? He says that after losing Katerina he came to this place in the middle of nowhere like a terribly wounded animal. He gave up having any contact with his granddaughter to keep her safe, yet she still died.

He then refers to Aram as “that Arab boy” and says to Raymond that it seems like he’s got a bunch of good and decent people counting on Red to help them. He then chuckles and says God Help Them. However then he says to Reddington that Raymond has a reason to go on and walk out that front door. Red smiles sadly and says to the old man that Dom’s had plenty of reasons to do the same, but he never took advantage of them.

Dom comes back from another trip to the store with another bottle of single-malt and he calls for Raymond, but Reddington’s gone. However Red fixed Dom’s piano replacing the missing key and has the metronome ticking on the piano so the old man notices. Dom chuckles to himself and starts to play a beautiful but melancholy tune, that leads into the closing montage.

Harold drops Charlene off at their home after taking her out to dinner. She asks him to come in but he begs off and asks if they can dine again the following evening and she agrees. We see Tom taking pictures of Cynthia Panabaker and an unknown woman. We see the sorrow in the faces of Samar and Donald as they think about how much they miss their fallen comrade. Tom comes back to Harold with the pictures and the woman with Panabaker’s the same woman talking to Stadler at the hotel. Keen says he believes it’s Katerina Rostova but we know that’s not the case.

Aram’s sitting in his apartment when there’s a knock on the door. He opens it to see Raymond standing there and Red tells him he’s arrived to repay his debt. Aram practically beams as he says your back, Raymond smiles for likely the first time in days and tells Mojtabai to strap on his bike-helmet as they’re going to work.