Jack Topalian

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Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Sherwood, NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

Hopefully, you still have room for the main course after such a filling appetizer, as “The Blacklist,” followed up “Dembe Zuma,” with a rather mind-bending second episode. Entitled “Requiem,” the hour presented the history of Kathryn Nemec,  the woman fans of the series know as Mr. Kaplan. Long time viewers of the series, likely noticed some inconsistencies during the hour, from the stories we previously heard during the show’s run. I believe that some of the new wrinkles stem from seeing history through Kate’s perspective, while others got omitted or altered in Raymond’s recounting of the past to Elizabeth Keen.

The opening scene begins in 1962, as a man and a little girl stand over the open casket of a woman. The little girl asks the man if she’s in there, and says she can’t see her. The man replies that they’re looking at a skin-sack full of bones, and the woman abandoned her body due to all the sorrow and pain it absorbed. The man then tells the child, “What happens in life, writes a story in our flesh.” He then tells her to dry her eyes and say goodbye to her mother. The little girl puts on a very familiar pair of horned-rimmed glasses and says “Goodbye Momma.”

We return to the present, as we see Kate driving a pickup truck attached to an RV, while the Gloria Gaynor hit “I Will Survive,” provides the soundtrack. She pulls over to the side of the road, and takes some pills and makes a call on her cellphone. She tells the man on the other end she’s fine, but complications have risen. She’s cutting her trip short, but she’s got one more stop to make. The man asks her if she’s getting migraines and she once again assures him she’ll be okay. After finishing her call, she pushes her hair aside and we get our first glimpse of the horrifying scar she received when Raymond shot her.

Once again in the past, we rejoin Kathryn Nemec, now a young woman applying for a position as a nanny. Her prospective employer’s a woman we know quite well, Katarina Rostova. She tells Nemec that she’s very impressed with her résumé and references, then asks why she dropped out of the medical program at Northwestern University. Kathryn replies that she had an odd fascination with corpses, and decided instead to dedicate her life to child-care.

Rostova informs Nemec, that her duties revolve around taking care of her daughter Masha, when ever she’s not around. When Katarina’s in the house, Kathryn’s job is to observe exactly how Rostova treats her child, and to duplicate it when she’s not there, with one exception. She will not love her.

A graphic states that the next scene takes place three months later, and we join a conversation between the two women. Nemec informs Katarina, that she’d give up her life for Masha, and that they’d formed a pact. Every time that the child takes a bottle from her, or falls asleep in her arms, she shows Nemec that she trusts her.

We rejoin Mr. Kaplan in the present, as she turns into a motel parking lot, and then pulls out a fistful of phony licenses. She presents one to the motel manager and says she’s got a reservation for room eight. He gives her the keys for room twelve, and tells her the young couple in room eight, decided to extend their stay. She asks for the adjacent room.

Later that evening, Kate sits in her motel room listening to the young couple arguing, and it brings back a memory. Nemec’s upstairs, while Katarina’s arguing in Russian, with a man in the kitchen. The volume of the shouting increases, and suddenly Kathryn hears bangs and thuds, She runs downstairs to find Rostova and the man in the midst of a tussle. Nemec sees a steak knife by her feet, and kicks it over to Katerina, who uses it to slice the man’s neck.

Rostova then looks at he corpse and all the blood on the floor, and says that her husband’s on his way home and he can’t see this. Kathryn tells her employer to go upstairs and shower while she cleans up the mess. She pulls on the yellow rubber gloves, that will one day seem like part of her own anatomy, she does her first job as a “Cleaner.”

Returning to the present, we watch the young man from room eight, leave the room and start slamming on the locked front desk door. He starts screaming that all he wants is a pack of cigarettes, he’s surprised when he hears Mr. Kaplan’s voice behind him, as she tells him she’s got an extra pack in her trailer. The two enter the mobile home, and that’s the last we see of the young man.

Kate flashes back to her memories of the next morning, as Katarina greets her with a smile. She tells Nemec that she seriously considered killing her the night before. Rostova says that the nanny witnessed something that she’s kept hidden from her husband and their friends. Kathryn asks her employer if she works for Russian Intelligence, then explains that she saw some papers in the man’s pockets when she buried him. She informs Rostova, that she took ample precautions so that the body would never be found. She also says that her pact with Masha, includes protecting Katerina.

A sudden pounding on her motel room door, jolts Mr. Kaplan from her slumber. She opens the door and it’s the young woman from the next room, and she asks Kate if she’s seen her boyfriend? Mr. Kaplan says that perhaps he bolted, but the young woman says he left his car and his keys behind. She then scowls as she says she’s got to try to find him. We watch a cleaning woman leaving room eight and handing Kate the key to the room.

Nemec’s in the woods taking Masha for a walk in her stroller, when she comes upon a parked car. She quickly sees a couple in the throes of lovemaking, and realizes that Rostova is the woman in the car. She quickly turns the stroller around, and heads back to the house. Later Katerina asks Nemec, if she’s got any questions, and the nanny responds it’s none of her business. Rostova says the man was a target, and now she’s not sure what their relationship is. Nemec asks if the man’s American, and if she loves him. Katarina confirms that the man’s American, but she says the only person she know she loves is Masha. Kathryn then says that she should end the relationship.

Kathryn sees police cruisers in front of the house when she returns from an errand, and runs into the home. Katarina tells her that she broke things off with Raymond, and that he took Masha, as he believes the girl’s his daughter. Nemec asks if that’s true, and Katarina says she never checked, as she didn’t want to know the answer. She says she’ll find Masha on her own, and Nemec corrects her, saying she won’t be alone.

Mr. Kaplan pulls aside a bureau and a painting and starts marking the wall, as we hear the band Cake’s cover of “I Will Survive.” She then pulls out a chainsaw and starts cutting through the wall, revealing the body parts of a corpse she buried there, in 2006. She puts all the body parts into a large suitcase and drives away, the cleaning woman’s astonished when she goes to clean the room.

A traumatized Katarina, enters the home carrying Masha. She says they had escaped a fire, and then she tells Masha that he was a very bad man. We realize she’s talking about the man that the child shot, but we receive no explanation of the fire or the man’s identity. She tells Kathryn to take Masha to a motel, she needs to hide but will contact them soon.

Katarina calls Nemec from a phone booth, about a week later. She tells Kathryn that the KGB know about her affair with Raymond, which means US Intelligence, also knows or will soon find out. Nemec says that the child can’t stay in a motel, and suggests that she and Masha go to live with her sister in Chicago. Rostova, tells her that Masha wouldn’t be safe with her, and tells her to take the child to a friend of her and Raymond, named Sam Milhoan, who lives in Kearney, Nebraska. She also tells the nanny, that she needs to disappear so that nobody can question her about her relationship with Rostova. She tells Kathryn she loves her and hangs up.

Kathryn gets to Milhoan’s home, and he apologizes but says he can’t care for the child. He tells her that he’s a grifter, and he’s attempting to go straight, however he can’t provide a stable environment for Masha. Nemec pleads with the man, saying he’s their only hope. Masha then realizes that her nanny won’t be living with them, and Sam’s emotions get the better of him. He tells Nemec that the girl needs her mother, but she’s got him until the heat’s off. With that statement, Masha Rostova ceases to exist, the child become Elizabeth Scott, taking on Milhoan’s birth name, Scott, as her own.

A few weeks later, Nemec’s sitting in a bar reading a newspaper. She hears some of the men in the bar making some lewd comments about an attractive young blonde woman, and she looks up to see the woman selecting a song on the jukebox. Returning to reading, she starts to cry when she sees an article with the headline that authorities have ended their search for a missing Russian woman, Katarina Rostova.

The blonde sits down next to her at the bar, and says she hopes she’s not intruding, but she needed to get away from those guys. She then introduces herself as Annie, and asks Kathryn if she’d like to dance. Nemec’s rather shocked by the invitation, but Annie leads her to the dance floor. As the pair start to awkwardly dance, she asks Nemec what’s wrong? Kathryn replies that her friend died, then says she thinks she was her best friend. Annie hugs Nemec and shares her pain.

Later that evening, as the women share some beers at a table, Annie asks Nemec what her plans are. The former nanny says she’s unsure, she had devoted her life to Masha and her family. Annie says that she’s heading to Amarillo, Texas. Her uncle Nikos lives there, and he’s going to teach her how to become a bail bondsman. Kathryn asks what’s the job market like in Amarillo?

A few months later, Kathryn’s working in a morgue and living with Annie in Amarillo. Annie gets off early one night, and comes over to the morgue to meet Nemec, but she gets squeamish when she sees Kathryn washing off a table covered with blood and body tissue. She suggests that Kathryn find another line of work, and then the pair kiss.

Mr. Kaplan turns on a cassette recorder, and opens the suitcase. She then proceeds to give an autopsy report on the victim, who died from a blunt trauma to the head in 2006. The victim’s name was Everett Oldfield. Apparently he died at the hands of Raymond, or one of Reddington’s associates.

Nemec’s now back in child-care, and gets an unexpected evening off as the couple she works for decided to stay at home for the evening. She surprises Annie at the bail bond office, bringing some Chinese food that they can enjoy, while Annie finishes her paperwork.

Suddenly a guy bursts through the front door, holding a pistol, and demanding to see Little Nikos. Annie informs him that they’re closed, and that Little Nikos isn’t there. The guy starts screaming that he wasn’t in court, because he was at his father’s funeral, and that Little Nikos’ thugs broke his brother’s jaw, in an attempt to find him.

Annie’s flustered, and she offers to give him his money back, the guy gives her a dirty look, and says he doesn’t want her money. He then asks what her name is, and she relies Annie Kaplan. The gunman then says to Nemec “That must make you Mr. Kaplan.” He then shoots Annie in the abdomen, when Nemec tries to help her, he shoots her in the head and then shoots Annie once again, before he flees. Kathryn drags them out to the street, where Annie takes her last breath.

Kathryn wakes up in the hospital, with a doctor standing over her, he tells her that the gunshot didn’t cause any lasting damage, but they had to put her in a coma for three weeks, due to the swelling. Little Nikos walks into the room and tells her she got an upgrade, a metal plate in her head. She then asks about Annie, and the doctor says he’ll give them some privacy.

Little Nikos tells Kathryn that Annie died before the ambulance arrived, and she completely breaks down, letting out these primal howls of grief. Little Nikos takes her in his arms, and tells her that Annie was family, and he knows the way they felt about each other, so that makes her family as well. He says we’ll get through this together.

Kate gets another migraine attack, so she pulls over to the side of the road and parks there. She takes some of her pills, but the attack’s too severe for her to keep on driving. So she goes into her trailer and lies down in the bed to take a nap, until the pain subsides.

Kathryn’s taken over Annie’s old job, when one day a man she never expected to see again, comes to the office. Sam Milhoan quickly reassures her that Lizzie’s fine, however Raymond Reddington’s reaching out to her, due to his concerns about the girl’s future. Kathryn erupts into a ball of fury, saying that man destroyed the life she loved. She calls him an outlaw and a traitor, and says he had no regard for his own family. However Sam convinces her to meet with Reddington.

My curiosity had been piqued, as to how the show-runners would present the young Raymond Reddington. They elected to go with James Spader in the role, obscuring his appearance with lighting, so the only things we saw clearly were his eyes. He tells Kathryn that he’s built a criminal empire in order to protect Elizabeth, but he realizes he needs somebody by his side for counsel. She agrees to work for him, with the understanding, that if she ever has to choose between he and the girl, she’ll always come down on Lizzie’s side. He says he wouldn’t expect anything less.

Kate’s jolted awake by the pounding on her trailer door, she opens it to find a female State Police Officer, standing outside. She asks if Kate’s been drinking, and Mr. Kaplan replies that she gets severe migraines that make it impossible to drive. The officer says she parked illegally and she needs to see her license and registration. Kate accidentally pulls out two licenses, and the officer says she’ll have to search the trailer.

Kate refuses to allow her inside, and then begs the officer not to call it in. She says that she’s on the run from her husband, who abuses her badly. He’s a State Judge, so his word’s sovereign. The officer starts talking about a shelter, when Mr. Kaplan reveals her scar. The officer asks Kate if she’s got a gun, and Kate replies she does. The officer then tells her to high-tale it to a stand your ground state, and wishes her good luck.

We rejoin Kathryn and Raymond, in 2013, as he informs her that he’s made up his mind to reveal himself to Elizabeth. Mr. Kaplan says he can’t just waltz into her life again, and he replies that he’s got no choice. He hired Tom Keen to watch her, but he married her. Because of Katarina, there are too many dark forces swirling around Elizabeth, and he’s got to protect her.

The next scene takes place outside the Bureau headquarters, as Raymond sits on a bench before surrendering. A young man identified by IMDB, as the character “Grey,” sits down next to him. He asks Raymond if it’s good to be home? Raymond responds we’ll see about that, and heads towards the building, while Grey joins Kate and Dembe in the car. Grey says he’s in FBI custody. What could go wrong. We then see a series of images flash by, ending with Raymond shooting Mr. Kaplan in the head.

Raymond finally recovers The Tracker’s phone from the debris, and calls Mr. Kaplan. He says her friend put on quite a show, and Kate replies she told him it wouldn’t work. He then suggests that they talk, and Kate scoffs at the notion. She says she told him that when they first met, she’d always take Lizzie’s side, and he says she was misguided and betrayed him. She counters that she catered to his every whim for over 20-years, and he tried to take her out like a mad dog.

She says it took a bullet in the head for her to remember it, but her father was right. “What happens in life, writes a story in our flesh.” Raymond starts boasting about how impenetrable his organization is, when she interrupts him. She says I know where all the bodies are buried dearie, or at least where they were buried. Now I’ve got them all and they’ll end up putting you in the ground. The camera pans to a wide shot, and we see that Kate’s speaking from an ice-skating rink. There are dozens of corpses staying cool on the ice.

The Story Continues Next Thursday Night, at 10:00pm on NBC.

Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC

Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

While watching the final few minutes of “The Blacklist,” I realized that I really DON’T know Raymond Reddington, as well as I thought I had after spending the past three-seasons-plus with him. Although killing became as normal to Raymond, as breathing over the past 20-odd years, I allowed myself to believe what Raymond told Katarina’s ghost in the Cape May episode from last season. “I’ve never killed anyone who didn’t deserve to die.” If Reddington still believes in that code, then his definition of deserving and mine, aren’t in the same area-code.

The second episode of season four, entitled ”Matos,” will likely become one of the most controversial and polarizing chapters of the series, even if the show lasts another decade. The entire episode messed with our sensibilities and with the knowledge we’ve acquired since Raymond turned himself in to FBI Headquarters in 2013. Lizzie Keen, spent most of the episode unsure of what’s real and what’s fictional, her surroundings evoke memories, long since buried and forgotten. Could both sets of memories she has of her childhood, be true? Or was one of these ”realities” implanted in her brain as a child?

The action begins just moments after the conclusion of the previous episode, Constantin Rostov, Liz and a pilot, are escaping Cuba in a sea-plane. The pilot’s purposely flying low, trying to remain undetected by radar. After some back and forth sniping between Rostov and Keen, Liz attacks the pilot and attempts to crash the aircraft into the ocean. A gun appears and Keen gets possession, shooting the pilot and firing a shot into Constantin’s thigh. We never see the actual crash as the credits roll.

Back in Cuba, Tom locates the wreckage of Raymond’s car and they realize that the hitman took Agnes, when he T-Boned their car. We find out that the hitman’s named Matos, he’s incredibly proficient and has worked for Kirk/Rostov for years. He’s full-blooded Native-American, and legend has it that he’s a Shaman. Matos and Mr. Kaplan, also have a mutual friend, a bail-bondsman named Little Nikos, who operates out of Amarillo, Texas. Reddington, Dembe, Kate and Tom, hop on Red’s jet and head to the Lone-Star State.

The other plane in this scenario’s now floating on the ocean, the pilot’s dead, Rostov’s unconscious as Lizzie wakes-up to find the ship’s radio’s on the fritz and the aircraft’s taking on water. Constantin comes to and realizes that Keen’s got him tied up and tells Liz that he’s her father and she can’t let him die. Liz responds with an evil gleam in her eye, just watch.

Now in Texas, Mr. Kaplan begs Reddington to be allowed to talk to Little Nikos first. Turns out that decades before Kate had her skull bashed in and Nikos basically saved her life. Raymond agrees to allow Kate to try to convince her friend to give them Matos’ location.

Team-Red, could not have picked a worse time to land in Amarillo from Little Nikos’ vantage point, though Reddington perceived the timing as a strategic advantage. The bail-bondsman, had a surgical team in his facility in the midst of performing lap-band surgery. Reddington insists that he be revived immediately, the surgeon responds that could put Nikos’ life in jeopardy. Red flashes his pistol and tells the surgeon that his patient’s life’s already in danger, the question’s whether the doctor wishes to put his own life in jeopardy?

The plane that Lizzie and Kirk are floating on’s taking water on at an enormous rate, but suddenly Keen finds a flare gun and fires off a flare into the sky. Unfortunately, she forgets to keep her weapon on her and Rostov grabs the pistol and points it at Lizzie, he tells her the only way they can survive is to trust each other, then hands her back the gun.

The surgeon tells Reddington that the patient’s conscious, but in incredible pain, so the conversation needs to be brief. The bail-bondsman’s strapped to the operating table and there are four excavation sites on his torso. Kate tries talking to him first, telling her that Reddington’s with her, and he’ll kill Nikos unless he gives up Matos’ location. Reddington walks into the room and assures Nikos that he won’t kill him, he actually admires his loyalty.

Unfortunately Reddington says his associates don’t share his convictions and he invites Tom into the room and tells Keen that Nikos knows how to contact, the psychopath that kidnapped Agnes. As Reddington leaves, Keen picks up a drill like instrument and asks aloud what this instrument’s used for?

Kirk and Keen are now both in the water hanging onto the fuselage of the plane, Liz says help’s on the way. Rostov replies they’ll save her and that’s what’s important and then he lets go of the fuselage and sinks under the water. Surprisingly, Keen dives under the water and rescues him. Shortly thereafter a boat sees them and rescues them.

Back in Amarillo, we join Reddington and Mr. Kaplan in a room, as we listen to Nikos’ screams of pain and cries of agony. Kate tells Red, that she betrayed Nikos for the same reason she betrayed Raymond, to keep Lizzie safe. She recalls the first time she met Lizzie, when Raymond put the infant in her arms. Just then Tom enters the room and he’s got the way to contact Matos. Nikos text messages the mercenary with a password and Matos heads to Nikos’ storefront within two-hours. They text the message to the kidnapper, who when he receives the message heads North.

The captain who rescues them speaks Spanish and apparently can understand English but doesn’t speak it. Keen attempts to get the seaman to alert the local authorities about Rostov, but Constantine figures out what’s going on and shoots the Captain.

Waiting for Matos to arrive, Kate and Tom are in a car in front of Nikos’ building. Tom apologizes for what he did to Nikos’ blaming his concern for Agnes for showing no mercy. Mr. Kaplan asks Keen why he’s telling her that and Tom replies that Nikos’ is Kate’s friend. Kate then says that Tom wants her to grant him absolution for his actions, then says people count on her to make their lives happier. To make others lives “cleaner” hence her job title. She says Keen and Reddington want her to make things easier for them, but she won’t grant their requests.

Mr. Kaplan steps out of the car, telling Tom she needs some air, but her timing was terrible, stepping out of the car at the exact moment Matos pulls up. He steps out of his car and looks around, then he sees Kate and starts to run in the opposite direction. Dembe and Tom chase after the mercenary, but Kate ends the chase knocking him the ground with the car.

Raymond decides he doesn’t want to play his usual game of cat and mouse with Matos’ so he cuts right to the chase. He tells Matos that he realizes his prisoner has no fear of pain or death, but he’s fully aware that members of his tribe possess a fear of being stuck on earth surrounded by rotting flesh with his soul trapped for eternity inside his coffin.  The threat works and Matos says they’re heading to the Summer Palace, a location Reddington remembers quite well. He calls Harold Cooper and requests that Cooper send a team to raid Rostov’s complex in Nova Scotia.

Keen and Rostov, arrive at the Summer Palace and Constantin tells Keen he needs to meet with his doctors, but tells Liz to explore. Lizzie starts checking out the house and soon discovers a room that bring a flood of memories into her head. Rostov walks into the room and Keen says this was her bedroom, but it’s impossible as she remembers a fire and shooting her father. Rostov says those memories were just lies concocted by Reddington, he was in love with her mother and he’s obsessed with her.

Keen looks out a window and sees a child’s swing hanging from a tree. She runs downstairs and onto the grass, but we see Masha Rostova as a toddler when she appears. Suddenly she runs over to Katarina and sees her mother working in the garden. Mother and daughter speak to each other in Russian, Katarina’s burying a coffee-can into the ground and tells her daughter, that the can’s a time machine and one day when Masha’s older, she can return and dig up the treasure. Katarina take the yarn bracelet to her daughter and the toddler puts it the can and buries it. Back in the present, Keen finds the can containing Katarina’s bracelet and puts it on her own wrist.

The idyllic moment’s shattered as an FBI SWAT-Team invades the “Summer Palace,” killing most of Kirk’s guards in the process, while Rostov makes his escape. Ressler who accompanied the SWAT-Team hugs Lizzie when he sees her while Keen breaks down and cries, as Agnes’ whereabouts are still unknown.

Keen’s transported back to the States. Raymond stays just long enough to verify that Lizzie’s safe then he and Dembe drive away. She’s reunited with Tom who assures her that they will get Agnes back safe and sound.

Dembe drives Reddington and Mr. Kaplan out into the country when he finally pulls over, Reddington asks Dembe to stay with the car. Kate’s fully aware these are her final moments and she’s determined not to go out meekly into the night. She calmly and coolly explains to Reddington that she devoted her existence to him, but she realizes that Reddington now perceives Kate as a liability, as she knows too much about him. Red responds that even if he could put aside his anger and betrayal, he’d never be able to trust her. He says when he looks at her it’s like seeing a stranger. He then fires a shot at her from about 20-feet away and she collapses to the ground. Showing no signs of remorse or guilt, Reddington walks back to his car, unaware that Mr. Kaplan’s alive.