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WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

This gives the writers the chance to indulge their “Raymond In Prison Fantasy,” while ensuring that the story-arc should wrap up around episode five or six. Episode four will center around Raymond exerting his influence on the facility in record time. Perhaps Reddington can talk his new friend John Waters, into directing a musical starring the inmates?

Regular readers of these pages have seen many theories discussed over the last five years. Some of them have panned out, while others were completely off base. (Raymond, will never kill Kaplan!) The opening paragraph of this piece’s an excerpt from our previous recap. There wasn’t a whole lot of thought put into that paragraph. It was a guess a casual viewer of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” could have made.

This viewer could enjoy James Spader, inhabiting the character of Raymond Reddington, for the next 20-years. In fact if Spader, just sat in a chair in a library sharing Raymond’s tales for an hour a week, this viewer would be pleased. Jon Bokenkamp, if you want to utilize that format and call it “Tales From The Blacklist,” please feel free. One thing for certain, your costs will go down, and you’ll likely retain most of your viewership.

While finding the “Raymond In Prison-Land,” story-arc entertaining, it was alas totally predictable. Reddington picks up a new member for his “Island Of Misfit Toys,” in Vontae Jones, and shows his fellow inmates that Alfonse Baldomero’s, nothing but a poser. He gains the inmates’ respect when Alfonse gets gutted by one of Annunzio Ross’ goons, his first night back on the street. In the process Vontae gets some cred, and Raymond receives a record-player and some great old discs, to entertain him during the rest of his stay in the facility.

Capturing our Blacklist Members Of The Week, the Uhlmans, might have uncovered a huge score for the Bureau, but they didn’t make for memorable characters. Dorothy Lyman’s performance as Delaine Uhlman, likely shocked viewers who last saw her in the role of Nadine in “Mama’s Family.”

The Uhlmans own a mom and pop pawn-shop, with a clientele that’s just as likely to bring in a block of C-4 explosives, or a prototype from an NSA contractor, as bring in a class ring. Because of their ask no questions policy, their reputation’s well known by the denizens of the underworld. Their backstory, as Delaine, recounted to Samar Navabi, was far more interesting than the story we watched unfold.

The only part of that story-line that intrigued this viewer, centered around the reoccurring incidents that have plagued Navabi, since she returned to active duty. In the previous episode we saw her quite concerned over the fact she couldn’t recall the word sabotage. This go-round, in attempting to call 911, after Delaine got shot, she dialed 119, twice.

We saw Samar, near the end of the evening on her laptop, researching a medical condition known as Aphasia. According to the website Aphasia.org/, “Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language, but does not affect intelligence. Aphasia impairs the ability to speak and understand others.”

The condition’s usually the result of a stroke, or a severe blow to the head, although it makes sense that Navabi, being deprived of oxygen, might have brought on the condition. If Samar’s suffering from the condition, she and Aram, should have a wonderful life together, but her career in law enforcement’s likely over.

Many long-time fans of the series had expectations going into season six, that this would be the final year for our beloved show. Although I’ve yet to check how its currently doing in the ratings, the absence of “The Blacklist,” from NBC.com, is quite telling. Not only has the website stopped promoting the show on its landing page, they haven’t posted photographs since S6E2. Six seasons, is an impressive run in this era of television, and the series has floundered in the ratings for a myriad of reasons.

While this viewer would be saddened by it’s departure, my greater fear is for the series’ reputation to be tarnished, by a lackluster and convoluted final season. Unfortunately the show-runners and writers have painted themselves into a rather uncomfortable corner. Now they need to find a way to extract themselves from it. Here are a few ways they might consider to get the show back on track.

Get Rid Of The Character Known As Jennifer Reddington

Why is this character still in the series? Last season introducing the character known as Jennifer Reddington, made sense, as she provided the connection between Ian Garvey and Raymond. However, why is she still hanging around, and why is she so eager to learn the identity of a man she’s got no connection to?

If the woman formerly known as Lillian Roth’s truly Jennifer Reddington, what purpose would she have in finding out who the Concierge of Crime, truly is? She supposedly spent her entire lifetime hiding from her biological father. This man’s never attempted to contact her, or encroach on her life in any way. What’s she got against him?

If Lillian Roth’s not Jennifer Reddington, was she playing Garvey all that time? Because Garvey, likely looked at protecting Lillian, as one of the few redeeming acts of his life. We’ve never been told exactly when Jennifer enlisted Garvey’s help, but this viewer’s assumed she was either a child or a teen. It’s difficult to believe that a girl of that age could come up with such a byzantine plot on her own. If she’s not Jennifer Reddington, could she be a plant by some organization that has an agenda with Raymond?

If she is Jennifer Reddington, then why is she so eager to go on this mission? Any misconceptions she might have had that this man killed her father and took his place, got cleared up in the season premiere, when Liz told her she killed their father when she was a four-year-old. Let’s resolve this plot as quickly as possible.

Just Ask Him Lizzie

Ever get the feeling Elizabeth Keen’s more upset with herself than with Raymond? Poor little princess wanted so badly to have a family, that she completely disregarded the fact that she remembers killing her father as a toddler. She immediately allowed her emotions to override her logic, and her training as an FBI Agent. If Raymond Reddington’s my father, and I shot my father, that means Reddington’s dead, and this guy’s an imposter.

“Our Raymond,” had made it clear since the first season that Lizzie’s father’s dead, but she never truly accepted it. First she thought Constantin Rostov, was her father. When Harold told her that the DNA from the real Reddington’s clothes matched her DNA, she reacted like a teenager, and didn’t question it for a moment. That lapse in judgement lead to all the pain and losses she suffered in season five.

If she doesn’t tell Tom that Raymond’s her father, he immediately tells her about the valise that Kaplan left for him. The valise’s inspected by the Task-Force, so Tom, Nik, and Ian Garvey’s other three victims are still alive. The Task-Force’s discovery that the bones belonged to the real Reddington, should have reinforced what Lizzie had already figured out. The man she’s been working with is not the original Raymond Reddington. So what’s his interest in her, why did he seek her out? Why did he take on the identity of her dead father?

Of course Raymond, realizes that Lizzie knows the truth. After her constant demands that Raymond share his secret with her, she suddenly drops the subject when he gets the bones back? How could she feasibly believe she’s pulling one over on a man that’s been ten-steps ahead of the entire planet’s law enforcement for decades?

Instead of putting her cards on the table, and confronting Raymond with her knowledge, we’ve been subjected to “The Three Faces Of Eve.” There’s the version that she shows to Raymond, the version she shares with the Task-Force, and the one she reveals only to Jennifer. She’s not convincing Ressler, how could she possibly think she’s fooling Reddington?

It’s time for these games to cease. I have been waiting far too long for Dom, to tell Lizzie he’s her grandfather, and to finally reveal what we’ve all been waiting six seasons to find out. Who is the man we know as Raymond Reddington, and what’s his connection to Elizabeth?

The Story Continues Friday, February 1, at 9:00 pm, on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of NBC

WARNING SPOILER ALERT:

This will now be my tenth attempt at writing this column, which has changed in tone and format throughout this past week. This writer became hooked on the NBC veteran series “The Blacklist,” the moment James Spader, doffed his fedora and dropped to his knees in the Hoover Building in September, 2013. Beginning in September, 2014, we have faithfully recapped the last four seasons of the series.

Returning readers to these pages are well aware that we are not afraid to share both bold opinion, as well as speculation. There have been times when these pages expressed disagreement with series creator Jon Bokenkamp, and his staff of writers. Despite those disagreements, this viewer kept faith that the writing staff knew exactly where they wanted to take this epic tale. After watching the two-hour-premiere of Season Six, this viewer now doubts that premise.

It’s been almost nineteen-months, since Tom Keen picked up a battered old suitcase containing a skeleton, per the last request of Kate Kaplan. The contents of that valise would lead to the demise of two beloved characters, and stood the show on its ear in the process. The man who said “criminals are notorious liars,” shortly after meeting FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen, turned out to be living an existence built upon a foundation of falsehoods. Although the man we know as Raymond Reddington IS the “Concierge Of Crime,” he’s not the former United States Naval Officer, who decades before had a torrid affair with Katarina Rostova.

After surviving a near-apocalyptic battle against his former “better-half,” in the series fourth season, season five started out on a lighter note. Nearly penniless, Raymond was reduced to living in the seedy Terra Vista Motor Lodge, wearing borrowed clothes. Rather than being crushed by the loss of his empire and many long time associates, the situation seemed to energize Reddington. He knew that it was just a matter of time before he’d be back amongst the criminal elite, as they had left him with his greatest asset. He still possessed the mind of a chess player, who had deduced the next ten moves he’d make on the board.

Despite the lighter tone throughout the first episode of season five, our evening concluded with what proved to be a flash-forward, giving us a brief glimpse of a horrific event that took place later in the season. After a surprisingly brief period, Raymond’s financial coffers filled quickly and the comedic tone of the first few episodes receded into the background.

When the series went into it’s Fall hiatus, the show-runners’ ended the romance of the star-crossed-lovers Tom and Elizabeth Keen, killing off Tom, for getting too close to the truth. We also met the “BIG BAD” of the season, Ian Garvey, a corrupt Federal Marshall who had personal reasons for going after Reddington. Garvey took possession of the bones, after he and his goons invaded the Keen’s home, and then beat up the couple so severely that Tom died and Lizzie lapsed into an eight-month coma.

We fast forward to May, 2018. We’re introduced to a woman claiming to be Jennifer Reddington, Red’s long lost daughter, living under an assumed name thanks to the witness protection program, and the aid of Garvey. A showdown takes place in a Baltimore bar, concluding with Garvey shooting Reddington, and Keen killing Garvey. However the location of the knapsack containing the bones remained a mystery.

Season five concluded with Raymond and Elizabeth receiving what they wanted. Reddington reclaimed possession of the skeleton, and then burned the remains with Dembe, and Dom, by his side. However Elizabeth attained the knowledge she’d been seeking for months, the secret that Red refused to share with her. The man that Garvey sent the bones to Sutton Ross, revealed to Keen, and her half-sister Jennifer, that the bones were the last remains of their biological father, the actual Raymond Reddington. Sutton would not live long enough to share that information with the authorities, as Reddington snuffed out his life, while Sutton was being arrested.

Renewing “The Blacklist,” became an eleventh-hour decision for NBC, and it came with a caveat. Although season six would run a complete 22-episode schedule, the network wouldn’t air the episodes until January, 2019. So began the interminable wait, replete with rabid fan speculation, including a faction that refused to believe that James Spader’s character wasn’t a man who had taken on a new identity decades earlier.

Reading that the series would kick-off the season with a two-hour premiere, I hoped that the fan’s patience would be rewarded by transporting us back to the 20th Century, revealing the true story. Although we’ve seen that era through the perspective of four-year-old Masha Rostova, as well as Kathryn Nemec, that gave us only glimpses colored by perception. The origin story of the man we’ve come to know as Raymond Reddington, would have made for a powerful premiere, and set the tone for the season.

Instead of providing answers Bokenkamp and company, decided to venture down a new path. In the midst of a rather convoluted mish-mash, that had it’s share of highlights, every thing suddenly ground to a halt. While stopping to pick up three pretzels from a street vendor, a uniformed officer walks over to Reddington and asks for identification, and notices Raymond’s packing. The cop’s soon informed by some other uniforms, that he’s captured the man atop the FBI’S Most Wanted List. Welcome to our new adventure “Raymond Reddington Goes To Prison.”

In a nod to our current political atmosphere, Harold Cooper’s informed in no uncertain terms by Cynthia Pannabaker, that the Justice Department will deny any agreement the Task-Force has with Reddington. Cooper arranges a meeting with the prosecutor from the Southern District of New York, hoping to persuade her to kick Reddington loose. The woman who has political ambitions and her eyes on the Governor’s mansion, scoffs at the suggestion. Upon returning to New York City, she holds a press conference announcing to the planet that she’s got Raymond Reddington in custody, and intends to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.

While Keen and Donald Ressler attempt to track down the Blacklist member of the week, The Corsican, they receive a call from Aram Mojtabai, informing them of Reddington’s arrest. Keen’s overcome by emotion and rushes to the holding cell Raymond’s in. He tells her not to worry about his imprisonment, however he wants her to find out who tipped off the cops. He tells her he believes that it’s somebody close. She asks if he wants the person’s identity in order to kill them, and he responds, that depends.

Keen returns to her apartment, where Jennifer informs her that she’s the one that tipped off the police. After an earlier conversation, when Keen expressed second thoughts about going after Raymond, Jennifer decided to take matters into her own hands making certain Liz couldn’t back out. Despite the betrayal by her half-sister, Keen takes responsibility for Reddington’s arrest, and fears the results of Raymond finding out she’s to blame.

Although the premise of Raymond, running a maximum security prison’s somewhat intriguing, if they introduced this story-arc during the series’ fourth season, I’d likely be far more receptive to it. If the speculation’s correct that this could be the final season for this show I’m so emotionally invested in, I don’t want episodes wasted going down this rabbit hole.

Once again James Spader proved that despite the lack of recognition, he’s turned Raymond Reddington into one of the medium’s most iconic characters. The “cold-open” for Dr. Hans Koehler, may have been the best the show’s ever produced. While Reddington and Dembe case a bank they plan to rob the following week, a masked gang break into the facility carrying heavy artillery. Raymond then precedes to dress down the would-be robbers, and offers to help them escape for the lion’s share of their take. The group escape in a dump truck Reddington’s arranged for, and when the police start pursuing the vehicle, Raymond dumps the crooks, their weapons, and their money onto the street and into the officer’s arms.

Spader used his added girth to his advantage in these two episodes. The weight that he’s gained the series’ run, makes him look far older than the svelte man we were introduced to in 2013. The image accompanying this piece, evoked the aging Don Corleone, brilliantly portrayed by Marlon Brando, in my mind.

His journey to the maximum security prison was wordless, but there was no need for dialogue, as Spader’s face told us exactly what he was feeling. Despite his bravado, a primal fear gripped him, a fear that he’ll keep to himself in order to survive this ordeal. It’s just a matter of time before all the gangs within the facility, start reporting to him on a daily basis.

This won’t be Raymond’s last stand, switching from the chess analogy to poker, Reddington’s got at least two or three Aces hidden up his sleeve. It would not surprise me in the least if the POTUS from the Blacklist Universe, Robert Diaz, who of course has a history with Reddington, enters the mix. Let’s keep in mind that it’s sometime in October, 2019, in Raymond’s world, making it that much closer to Diaz entering a reelection campaign.

Raymond’s address to the empty chamber of the General Assembly at the United Nations, ranks with some of the best soliloquies Raymond’s ever performed. A long and rambling speech starting off with depreciating remarks, including tales of Cary Grant and LSD, making it sound that “Our Raymond’s” found solace through use of the chemical. We know of his taste for opium, it’s not that far a leap to surmise that Raymond’s had his share of acid-trips.

That scene lead to Elizabeth’s revelation about the man we know as Raymond Reddington. Yes, the man who assumed the identity of her biological father 30-years-earlier; is a cold-blooded killer, capable of committing heinous, unspeakable, inexcusable, acts.

However, he’s not soulless, and is indeed just as capable of showing kindness. Whether that be to a young boy born with birth-defects he buys three ice-cream sundaes for, or saving the lives of those in the United Nations Building. Reddington got nothing in return by getting Max to disarm the bomb, nor will he ever receive credit for it.

There was another nice exchange between longtime partners Keen, and Ressler, as Donald told Lizzie that she wasn’t fooling him that she was “fine” still working with Reddington, after Raymond killed Sutton Ross, and walked away with the skeleton. He told her he was willing to accept her explanation, but he wasn’t buying it. She thanked him for backing off.

There’s no doubt in this viewer’s mind that Raymond realizes Keen knows the truth. The fact that she’s yet to question him about his actions, wouldn’t get by a grade-schooler. That knowledge lead to a script hammering the viewers over the head with puns. There were variations throughout the two-hours, on I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours. The episodes also contained several versions of Raymond stating that he felt like a different person.

I’d also venture a guess that we shall soon encounter Bastien Moreau, and the shadowy organization that hired him to plant the bomb inside the United Nations building. The series has utilized the art of stunt-casting, quite successfully since the first season. Christopher Lambert, whom this writer hasn’t seen since Highlander, portrayed the assassin with a nationalist agenda. What purpose did the organization have for the man known as the Corsican to plant the explosive device inside the UN?


The Blacklist,” has bounced back before from less than stellar episodes, and story-arcs. I’m willing to give Bokenkamp and company time to improve from a rather disappointing sixth season premiere.

The Story Continues Friday Night, at 9:00 pm, on NBC.

Photo Courtesy Of TV Guide

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 Eric Liebowicz/NBC

WARNING SPOILER ALERT:

So, have we actually seen the last of Ian Garvey? Although it appeared that the dirty cop’s life was drawing to a close during the final seconds of the most recent episode of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” long time fans of the show realize that appearances can be deceiving. Staring with the first season’s finale, when Lizzie appeared to take the life of her estranged husband Tom Keen, we’ve witnessed many characters cheat death. I’m certainly not ready to accept that the United States Marshall has breathed his last breath.

The episode entitled “Ian Garvey Conclusion (13),” contained more twists and turns than the Appian Way, including the welcome return of two familiar faces in Raleigh Sinclair III, and Postman Anthony Pagliaro. We once again saw that any attempt to double-cross Raymond, turns out to be a deadly mistake for the perpetrator, as Zarak Mosadek realized in his final seconds. If Raymond could withstand the attack on his empire and life, by the woman who knew where all the bodies were buried, it will be an incredibly tough task for any enemy to defeat him.

Once again we will dispense with our normal recap format, and jump right to the final moments of this chapter. Although Garvey never got to share his secret with Elizabeth Keen, and Jennifer Reddington, enough information got revealed to make this viewer feel secure that the man we know as Raymond Reddington’s actually an imposter. In this viewer’s opinion, the only question remaining’s the true identity of “OUR RAYMOND.” While Garvey’s words failed to convey the truth to Keen and Reddington, what he said to Jennifer, solidified my opinion that the man we know isn’t the former United States Naval Intelligence Officer.

Before dissecting the final moments of most recent episode, I would be remiss in not addressing an issue that’s troubling many long time fans of the show. There’s a significant segment that despises the idea that the character we’ve followed for five years, isn’t the man we believed him to be. Many will feel cheated and even betrayed if “OUR RAYMOND’S” an imposter, and I can easily understand that mindset, though I don’t subscribe to it.

From the moment “OUR RAYMOND,” dropped to his knees and doffed his fedora in the series debut, I’ve been transfixed with the “Concierge Of Crime,” portrayed by the amazing James Spader. As I’ve written many times, the character embodied by Spader’s, his King Lear. It’s a disgrace that he’s never even been nominated for an Emmy Award, portraying one of the most compelling characters in the history of Television. It’s an indictment of an organization that seems to believe that the medium begins and ends with HBO and Netflix, and what critics find appealing.

Spader’s part of a select few performers that can cause me to giggle like a schoolboy, and get misty-eyed minutes later. He’s invented a multi-layered character, a man who cattily exclaimed to Diane Fowler that she talked too much, before ending her life with a well-aimed bullet. A stone-faced assassin that takes perverse pleasure in emasculating men in front of their wives. He’s also capable of amazing compassion, treating a young boy with birth defects like any other child, and providing him with an array of ice cream sundaes.

He’s a man without a country, a collector of fine items, but he also enjoys simple pleasures. Throwing quarters into the pool at the Terra Vista Motor Lodge, for a young girl to fetch. Roaring with laughter watching The Three Stooges with Dembe, while giving his full attention to playing Oregon Trail. The elation he experienced acquiring Winston Churchill’s homburg, radiated through the screen.

This character’s the reason I’ve been devoted to this series, it really doesn’t matter to me if his name’s Raymond Reddington, or Latka Gravas. I have no allegiance to the man whose affair with Katarina, resulted in the birth of Masha, Unless he’s the man we’ve spent the last five seasons with. In my eyes “OUR RAYMOND,” being an imposter would only add another layer to the onion.

Let’s return to the bar in Baltimore, as a badly injured Garvey comes inside after Jennifer unlocks the door. Ian just escaped the clutches of Reddington and Zuma, by forcing Dembe to crash the car he was driving into a tree. He’s now a fugitive of the law, after Sinclair turned Anthony into Garvey’s doppelgänger, who then shot Mosadek to death in front of a bunch of witnesses including TEAM-RED. Jennifer’s unaware she’s wearing a bug that’s transmitting her location to the Task-Force, and that Lizzie’s hiding in the back room.

Jennifer’s seen the news reports that Garvey’s wanted for Mosadek’s murder, and she asks him about Tom Keen’s and Singleton’s murders. Garvey quickly realizes his surrogate daughter’s been talking with Liz, and then he discovers the bug when he grabs her coat to get her car keys. He tells Jennifer he didn’t kill Mosadek and he needs to clear his name, he’s got lots to tell her, but he’ll reach out to her when he’s safe. She begs him to tell her then and now.

He then takes her face in his hands and tells her that she’s been living a lie for the last thirty years. He goes on to say that she’s spent a lifetime hiding for no reason. Those words could only mean one of two scenarios took place. The bones could belong to the REAL Jennifer Reddington, and Lily Roth had memories implanted in her that caused her to believe that she’s Jennifer Reddington, and Naomi’s been complicit in causing her to believe that. We can’t rule that scenario out, but I’d say the odds of that being correct are miniscule.

The more likely scenario’s that “OUR RAYMOND’S,” an imposter, he’s not the man that abandoned Carla and Jennifer on that Christmas eve of long ago. Nor is he the man that had the affair with Rostova culminating in Masha’s birth. That scenario seems even more likely as the action continues, starting with Lizzie coming out of the back room with her pistol aimed at Garvey. He says she doesn’t want to arrest him, or she’ll never learn Reddington’s secret. She tells him he’s got two choices, reveal everything and go to prison, or remain quiet and she’ll kill him.

She tells him to put his hands on the bar and start talking, and Garvey asks why Tom didn’t tell Lizzie what was in the bag, and Reddington and Dembe enter the room with their pistols aimed at the dirty cop. Raymond replies that he killed Tom before he had a chance to tell Liz, and that if the Marshall makes a sound he’s a dead man. Keen then tells Garvey to talk and aims her pistol at Red, saying she’ll take him out if he shoots Ian.

Suddenly, Jennifer starts to speak, she asks Raymond if he’s got any idea who she is? She then starts to recount her memories of sitting in her pink pajamas in her pink room waiting for her daddy to come home for Christmas Eve, but he never arrived. Raymond then says her name, but doesn’t lower his pistol and his eyes remain cold as the arctic. He remains that way as she tells him that she and her mother wondered what happened to her good and decent daddy. However they soon found out that her daddy wasn’t decent, and he betrayed his nation. Garvey became her surrogate father, and he’s the reason she survived all the turmoil in her life. She begs him not to shoot the Marshall for her sake.

Raymond’s face never softens even for an instant, how could this possibly be the daughter he abandoned nearly thirty-years before? How could Jennifer not reach “her daddy,” when we’ve seen this man filled with compassion for those without a child/parent bond? Instead of adhering to her wishes, he asks Dembe to take her out of harm’s way, allowing Garvey the opportunity to shoot Red. Keen responds reflexively shooting the dirty cop who drops to the floor. It appears that Reddington suffered a shoulder wound, and he walks out of the bar as Jennifer calls 911, with Dembe, under his own power.

Garvey’s grievously wounded and Keen shouts to him that he’s not going to die without telling her what he knows. Paramedics soon arrive and Lizzie and Jennifer ride in the ambulance with Garvey. Upon his arrival at the hospital, doctors are not encouraged by his vital signs. Keen screams to Garvey that it’s his last chance to tell them, he pulls off his oxygen mask but he’s unable to speak. A medical team member shouts they’re losing him and wheels the gurney away, leaving Jennifer and Liz in the hallway.

So if “OUR RAYMOND’S” secret throughout this series, has been that he’s indeed an imposter, who is he and why did assume this role? Regular readers of this page will recognize some of what’s contained in the next few paragraphs, but my theory’s been fleshed out since I revealed it back in late December. Once again let me preface the following by stating this is pure conjecture, I’m not privy to inside information, nor blessed with remarkable perception.

We’re going to be doing some time jumping throughout the seasons over the next few paragraphs. Hopefully I’ll prove to be an insightful guide during our journey, instead of wasting your time.

Raymond Reddington’s Elizabeth Keen’s Father.

As we all remember Harold Cooper recovered Raymond Reddington’s bloody uniform, and the DNA from the uniform’s a match for Lizzie’s, in the season four finale. What many seem to forget, is Dembe’s reaction when Raymond told him Keen believes he’s her father. Red explained that Lizzie believes that’s what Kate had prepared to tell her, and Keen’s unaware of the suitcase from Tansi Farms. Her believing that falsehood would buy them time to recover the valise, but things didn’t go according to Hoyle.

Tom realized the truth when he grabbed his duffel bag filled with the bones and the CODIS report, identifying the bones. In one of Ryan Eggold’s strongest moments in the series, his face registers disbelief, acceptance, and then anger in a matter of seconds. He quickly comprehends that the man’s an imposter and he’s taken on this role in part to get close to his wife. When Raymond pages him, he tells the imposter he knows everything and he slams down the phone in disgust. He then fires off a call to Lizzie, telling her to go to their apartment and wait for him. He never gets a chance to share the information with him.

Voices Carry.

During the series’ first two seasons, we joined Liz on some flashbacks to her childhood. We hear a male voice shouting her name’s Elizabeth, and we’ve come to realize that’s from the confrontation between Reddington and Rostova. Although we’ve never witnessed the scene playing out, we saw the aftermath in “Requiem,” as Katarina returns home with four-year-old Masha, consoling her daughter by saying he’s a very bad man. When Keen shoots Tom Connelly taking his life, she suddenly remembers shooting her father. The male voice we heard in the flashbacks, wasn’t James Spader’s. The REAL Raymond Reddington died that night, and Masha’s memories got manipulated by Dr. Krilov.

Madeline Pratt.

Way back in season one, we’re introduced to the beautiful and deadly Madeline Pratt, and Raymond gains her sympathy by telling her an enthralling tale. It’s Christmas Eve, and he’s heading home with a carload of presents. He runs into a storm, has to abandon the car, and hoof it home. He thinks to himself that this will be an evergreen story that will get revisited every Yule Time. Silly Daddy had to walk home and arrived with no presents. He sees the smoke from the chimney, walks in the house and sees his family’s slaughtered. He picks up his daughter’s limp body and smells the blood on her neck.

When Pratt asks Reddington if the tale’s true, he refuses to confirm it. So was this story just a fanciful yarn concocted to gain Pratt’s empathy, or did it actually take place? Even though Raymond’s the master of deception, I’ve always accepted that story as gospel. He bared his soul, and spoke of an event that he likely only discussed when it took place long before. So did Raymond Reddington have a third family? Or was this story about the Imposter’s family? With everything he loved destroyed, would that make him more receptive to becoming Raymond Reddington?

Dominic’s Unknown Son?

Who would take on the role of Raymond Reddington, and why on earth would he do it? If we take the “Cape May,” episode as anything more than an opium induced fantasy, then “OUR RAYMOND,” had a deep connection and affection for Katarina Rostova. Many of us assumed that his feelings were romantic, but could those feelings have been fraternal? Is our imposter in reality Katarina’s brother and Dom’s son?

We know Katerina was a KGB agent and we recently discovered that Dom’s a former KGB operative known as Oleander. What if Dom had a son who settled in the USA? Possibly another KGB operative, or perhaps a civilian whose family was executed because of his ties to his father and sister? After losing his family, he faced the probability of losing Masha and his sister, if he did not become the former Naval Officer. Perhaps his becoming Reddington actually saved Masha’s life?

We were introduced to Dom for a reason, and he wouldn’t be portrayed by the great Brian Dennehy, if he was an unimportant character. I believe that Dom will reappear in either episode 21, or 22, and he’ll reveal to Lizzie and the world what secrets “OUR RAYMOND’S” hiding.

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

Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Sherwood/NBC

WARNING SPOILER ALERT:

Please consider this your FINAL WARNING: If you have yet to watch Season Five Episode Eighteen, of the NBC series The Blacklist,Do Not Read Any Further!

Now that we’ve gotten those formalities out-of-the-way, the episode entitled “Zarak Mosadek (23),” proved to be a taut, exciting, action-packed installment, that kept viewers on the edge of their chairs. Extremely well written and produced, choreographing the characters expertly, concluding the episode with a left-hook that this viewer certainly didn’t see coming. An episode that could hold its own against some of the highlights during the show’s run. However it won’t be recapped on these pages, except to say I want that language deciphering device featured in the episode.

We have been recapping “The Blacklist,” since the opening episode of Season Two. Throughout our run synopsizing episodes, one recap published back on April 24, 2015, entitled “Has The Fulcrum Arrived In Time To Save Red?” held a commanding lead over every other article we’ve featured about the show. That lead however might have evaporated by the time you read this piece.

Back on December 27, we published an article entitled “Suitcase Suppositions,” a table-setting piece as the show returned to the air in early January. As the title suggests, this writer provided theories concerning the identity of the bones dug up from Tansi Farms, as well as the identity of Ian Garvey. Without going to deeply into that article, I explained why I believed that the identity of the bones in the duffel bag, is none other than the real Raymond Reddington, and the man we’ve followed for four plus season’s an imposter.

I also theorized that Ian Garvey got the CODIS information on the bones identity through his professional connections, concluding that Tom’s murderer was a member of the government or some branch of law enforcement. My supposition at that point, centered around Garvey holding that information over the Imposter’s head, leading to Garvey walking away handsomely compensated. It turned out that the Federal Marshall wouldn’t settle just for money, he wanted an explanation why the imposter’s gone through this elaborate charade for decades.

Up until this point in time, I believed the bespectacled lawman’s obsession with finding out the answer to the mystery was just professional curiosity.  However information revealed in the latest chapter of the show, has provided a clearer indication why Garvey won’t just take the money and run, without finding out the reason the man we’ve known as Raymond Reddington, is adamant about keeping his secret.  It seems that there’s a connection between Reddington and Garvey that “Our Raymond’s” unaware of.

While Reddington, Dembe, Samar Navabi, and Donald Ressler, pulled off a caper in Paris, that would have been worthy of the Impossible Mission Force, Aram and Liz stayed in the States and tailed the Federal Marshall. Keen discovered a woman about her age that had a deep connection with the dirty cop, and attempted to convince the woman to help her put Garvey away. However Keen didn’t realize that the woman, Lillian May Roth, also had ties to Reddington.

Viewers jaws dropped collectively, during the evening’s final scene when it’s revealed that Lily Roth spent most of he life in the witness protection program. The bond between her and Garvey formed when the lawman got her into the program to prevent her father from finding her when she was still a kid. Her birth father’s a wanted fugitive, and has been a fixture on the Bureau’s most wanted list for 20-years. Lily Roth’s actually Jennifer Reddington, the daughter of Raymond and Carla Reddington abandoned by her father decades earlier.

Long time fans of the show have been aware of Jennifer’s existence since season two, when we met Reddington’s ex-wife Naomi Hyland. When the Real Raymond Reddington disappeared, Carla Reddington’s life got turned upside down. After countless hours fielding questions from government agents, Carla Reddington took her daughter to Philadelphia, where she started life over again. Changing her name to Naomi, she built new identities for her and Jennifer. Years later she got remarried, and apparently her second marriage caused her and Jennifer to drift apart.

Jennifer’s name never got mentioned again, causing some fans to wonder whether Elizabeth Keen was in reality Jennifer and that the bones in the duffel bag were actually Lizzie’s who died as a child. That theory can now finally be put to rest, as we’ve now seen both women at the same time. However if the man we know as Raymond’s an imposter, Jennifer’s father likely died decades before, falling victim to a gunshot by four-year-old Masha Rostova and an intense fire.

This revelation seems to be a major puzzle piece, in Garvey’s thinking process and that “Our Raymond’s,” an imposter. If the man that we know as Reddington’s actually the real-deal, why wouldn’t Garvey have already killed Red? We’ve witnessed many situations showing Garvey won’t hesitate to kill, and his connection to Jennifer, would seemingly be more than ample reason for the Marshall, to have already finished Reddington off long ago. What question could he have for the real Raymond Reddington, that would have stopped Ian from just having his revenge and killing the guy?

If the man we know as Raymond’s actually an imposter, there’s no way he’ll want to encounter Jennifer. Perhaps believing that she’ll realize that he’s indeed a fake, a man who took her father’s name and used it to build a vast criminal empire. We can safely assume that Jennifer’s got zero desire to see the man she believes abandoned her and Naomi. Will Keen still attempt to orchestrate them meeting, or will Garvey end up as the conduit that brings them face-to-face? One thing I’m pretty certain we can count on, is a meeting will occur during the last four-episodes of the current campaign. It’s likely that episode nineteen will be the last episode until May, when the network airs the final three episodes of this season.

Jon Bokenkamp, and the rest of the creative team behind this series, once again radically changed the dynamic of this season and the show, introducing Jennifer, and having Ian Garvey as her surrogate father. However at this juncture, I’m taking her showing up at this time, only solidifies my theory that “Our Raymond’s” an imposter. Although I would have preferred this story-arc to have concluded by now, the show’s hit its stride the last two episodes.

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