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.
The worst kept secret with my affection of television is that I believe The West Wing is the greatest achievement in television history. I would gladly debate that point with anyone brave enough to try. That line in and of itself seems to be a microcosm for the political landscape we find ourselves in. Let’s be clear, the notion that I am right and you are wrong if you disagree with me in the slightest, is not a new idea when applied to political dialogue. For at least the last 50 years (maybe even longer) the two-party system has created a divisiveness among its electorate, suggesting that there is an absolute right and absolute wrong way to see things, depending on which side of the aisle you sit.
At some point the narrative changed. From the ‘I believe this and give me a moment so I can explain that and see if you feel the same way’ that eventually gave way to the ‘I’m right, you’re wrong and until you agree with my stance, you’re an idiot’. We are going to try to use The West Wing as a vehicle to explore what the problem really is at its core while still maintaining some sense that we can always get better. And secondly, that the gold standard of modern scripted fictional television can provide the ideals of government that we should continue to strive for.
The nature of democracy, specifically our democracy is that we are never going to get there. We will never wake up with 100% of the country completely in agreement about everything. So the next most logical goal to reach for is to create a political landscape where we keep talking. Not to slam the other side. Not to create further division. Not to widen the gap but instead, to narrow it. When it comes to politics and the practical sense of the governing of a nation’s people, we should act like intellectuals, not school yard bullies. As articulated by Jeff Breckinridge (a Black Civil Rights Lawyer from Georgia) debating reparations with Josh Lyman (a White jewish man from New England) in the episode, “Six Meetings Before Lunch”.
Jeff Breckinridge: You got a dollar? Take it out. Look at the back. The seal, the pyramid, it’s unfinished. With the eye of God looking over it. And the words Annuit Coeptis. He, God, Favors our Undertaking. The seal is meant to be unfinished, because this country’s meant to be unfinished. We’re meant to keep doing better. We’re meant to keep discussing and debating and we’re meant to read books by great historical scholars and then talk about them.
Sadly, it seems, this 2016 Presidential Election campaigns have been worse than I’ve ever seen. I’ve been following the political process and Presidential Elections specifically since the first George Bush. Every year it seems the popular cliché is that this election is a “lesser of two evils” situation. It’s always been popular to say, but this year I’m afraid the sentiment is more accurate than in past years. For the first time I can remember, there are more people wishing there were other options than those set on who they will vote for. While choosing who to vote for is every American’s right, there is a great deal of vitriol being tossed around from both sides. When the very nature of our system is to keep talking, keep evolving the debate. As opposed to spewing hatred for ‘the other side’.
Disclaimer: If you are waiting for the portion of this article where I divulge my political allegiance. Explain why my candidate is better than the other side. You are misunderstanding the point of this exercise. I have no intention of getting into the meat and potatoes of the political debate. The point to be had here is that neither side is right or wrong, but that the process was never intended to be this angry or combative. Something to consider the next time you get into a political discussion with someone who doesn’t share your view. In the “Game On” episode when President Bartlet faces off against Governor Ritchie of Florida many things are said, but one thing rings out stronger than all the others. A quote I think of every time I hear a politician or pundit drop the “partisan politics” line as a means to create animosity for the other side.
Jed Bartlet: I don’t think Americans are tired of partisan politics; I think they’re tired of hearing career politicians diss partisan politics to get a gig. Partisan politics is good. Partisan politics is what the founders had in mind. It guarantees that the minority opinion is heard, and as a lifelong possessor of minority opinions, I appreciate it.
Politicians will be politicians. In order to be one, the individual has to engage in a game of sorts. This plays out in every election cycle. One elected official cannot possible appeal to all voters. So, they play a numbers game. Using whatever resources at their disposal they will identify trends, tipping points, hot button issues and hopefully present themselves to fall on the winning side of those issues. For the politician, it’s about serving their best interest which generally means doing what is required to get re-elected. The day we discover a politician that is willing to fall on the grenade, throw away his lifestyle, security and career away for standing up for an issue they believe in is the day that politician decided to stop being a politician. My more pressing concern is that of the electorate. The people need not adopt the attitude and persona of the politicians they vote for. And that my friends is the crux of my issue.
I am sure it hasn’t always been this way. I remember watching my grandparents around election time. My Grandmother was a blind democrat. Put simply, she grew up the daughter of farmers and believed Democrats were for farmers. She really needed no other criteria. My Grandfather who did lean Democratic at times was much more open. He took the approach of “Show me what you’ve got, you have to earn my vote” and he would have no problem voting the other way. So by the time I was 10, they would not even speak to each other about politics. If the conversation had the potential of going south, they’d prefer not to talk about it, then vote however they were going to vote. That sense seems to be gone now. They both paid attention, both took in the debates of the issues of the day, but never dug in their heels to belittle or attack someone who disagreed.
Take a step back from the details. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Trump supporter, Clinton supporter, or even a steadfast Sanders or Johnson fan . Maybe it’s the 24 hour news cycle. Maybe it has something to do with how social media and technology have made the world smaller. I think the clear takeaway is that no matter who you think you’re going to vote for, it is a lesser situation. Despite popular belief, I do not think Trump’s attack on political correctness would fly 50 years ago. Similarly, I can’t imagine anyone 50 years ago voting for a candidate with real trustworthiness issues. I’m not going to so far as to call this a lesser of two evils, but it is less. Less than we should expect. Less than what came before them. We are not raising our expectations for our future President we are diminishing it. We are so used to looking at the landscape and thinking, “That’s the least crappy candidate. That’s my pick. The one I hate the least.” When did we decide this was good enough. Both parties want to believe they are rolling out Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. It may not be a choice of lesser of two evils, but there is no doubt the expectation has become lesser.
Idealistic as it may seem, we should expect more. For the moment, forget the issues. Forget the economy, forget foreign policy, forget education reform, forget national defense. We should expect more from the candidates. College educated shouldn’t be enough. Serving two terms as a Senator who took a vulnerable seat shouldn’t be enough. To be completely transparent about it, this aspect of the conversation isn’t left to Trump or Hilary. I’m sorry to be so harsh, but no President I’ve been legally of age to vote for fits that bill. Not Trump or Hillary. Not Obama, not George W, not Bill Clinton. Maybe George Herbert Walker Bush, maybe. Ask yourself if any President in the last 25 years even comes close to measuring up to what you once believed a President should be. The one thing that Herbert Walker on back had (Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Kennedy, etc not even talking about the Lincolns, Roosevelts, and Washingtons of our history) was gravitas. The moment they spoke there was a reverence. The idea that issues aside, we are in good hands. Intelligent hands. Hands of a leader in control. We can debate the subtle merits until we’re blue in the face, but the bottom line is that these candidates in today’s politics lack most of that. The sensibility of intelligence, leadership and gravitas.
Sam: Before I look for anything, I look for a mind at work. No one’s saying a President has to have a tenured share in symbiotics, but you have to have
Ainsley: And how do you measure that?
Sam: You don’t. But you know it when you see it.
Political correctness made its way back into this discussion. Again, with no intention of pumping up one or discrediting the other, this needs to be addressed. When did we decide treating all people with the same level of reverence or respect was a bad thing? Political Correctness is necessary. It sets a guideline for acceptable language in scenarios that call for it. Am I going to request political correctness when I’m watching Monday Night Football with the fellas? No, but I do think it has a place in dialogue by governmental leaders. And when did we decide telling it like it is was anything other than excusable bad behavior? To take that further, when did we decide we wanted average Joe’s in positions of power and leadership? Despite what some said years ago, Joe the Plumber would make the worst public servant imaginable. To quote a completely different Sorkin show, “I’m a fan of credentials”. I want my leaders to at the very least create the illusion that they are more educated than me, more cultured than me, more aware than me, more adjusted than me, and better at working with people and solving problems than me. We all really, should want the best the country has to offer. And being just another guy/girl, ‘being just like the rest of us’, or being plain-spoken are not good things to look for in the leader of the free world. At the end of the day, if our leaders are just like the rest of us, then get everyone in the mix and work off shear numbers. If the sample size was larger, maybe the cream would rise to the top. Barring an asinine theory like that, give me the smartest, most qualified, engaged people this country has. Or in other words, I want a heavyweight.
I know that it flies in the face of what we’ve been programmed to believe, politically. We now live in a very divided America. Granted, I could suggest any number of topics from Black Lives Matter to the 2nd Amendment to Military Funding to the Economy. Chances are pretty good that anyone chosen is likely to fall any number of ways on those issues. As if we use the issues to define us. To say, I am different from you because of this. Why has that become the approach we take? Why is our default position to be combative? Black Lives Matter ALONE seems to have divided the nation in half. There is no middle ground. At least 20 years ago, two adults could discuss the issue of Abortion or Gay rights or Government spending and they could have that conversation with it never getting anywhere near the verbal violence such debates incite now. The fact of the matter is and has always been that what we are arguing about are slight. We all support free elections. We all believe that all of our citizens deserve certain rights. We all want our children to grow up in safe schools where education is a priority. We all want a strong America. We just disagree on some of the nuances of how to get there. A sentiment that is beautifully articulated by Sitting President Walken (played wonderfully by John Goodman).
This brings me to a point that is bound to rub some people the wrong way. The fact that any subject is given the distinction of being an ‘issue’ generally means it is important to enough people who it is worthy of the discussion. However, I have always seen ‘issues’ as rankable and not just some grocery list absent of order. Towards the top, we are always going to have ‘issues’ like the economy, education, taxes, citizen’s rights, foreign policy, right to choose, and military issues. Those and some others have always inhabited the top. In sports rankings we tend to refer to that as the top tier. Grouping certain things of like importance together.
It may not be an important first step, but it seems logical that certain issues should take a back seat. To cite specific instances from The West Wing (just for the fun of it), changing the name of North Dakota to just “Dakota”, Topography Equality, Legal protection against the burning of the American Flag, campaign finance reform, a ‘wolves-only’ highway, all should not be the thing that derails your opinion of a would be public servant. Now yes, some of that is done to make light of the point I’m trying to make. But I have run into many of the “Amy Gardner’s” or “Lt. Commander Jack Reese’s” of the world. Those who will weigh one thing that is particular or special to them allowing them to rationalize the derailing of bigger issues.
Yes, the amount of money set aside for Military spending would be important to someone like Lt. Commander Reese. But should that really be the deal breaker? Reese in the show cites military spending as the end all be all for why he planned to vote for Ritchie (Bartlet’s opponent in the re-elect). Similarly, Amy Gardner. Amy is actually one of only a handful of characters among the 250 some recurring characters on this show I admittedly ‘hate’. Mary Louise Parker is a very attractive woman, but politically speaking, I have a problem with anyone who has that one ‘deal breaker’ issue. In Gardner’s case the ONLY issue that existed was that of a pro-women’s issue agenda. Now that is an important and worthwhile issue to support. However, any deal breaker issue becomes a problem when it derails other positive legislation.
Referencing the show. Gardner does her level best to sink a bill that would provide revenue to the education system along with a few other very important causes because the language of the bill did not advance Gardner’s women’s issue enough. To some degree these deal breakers become weighted just as much as issues like the economy, education and foreign policy. Now I’m sure one could argue they are just as important. I would just politely argue that cannot possibly be true from an objective logical perspective.
Not all issues are equal in weight. That’s factual. How Donald Trump feels about Daylight Savings Time or how Hillary Clinton feels about Congressional Term Limits should not in any way come close to say the economic state of this country. Yet there are people who seem to put too much value in smaller issues. Maybe even issues that aren’t an urgent concern. We should be able to focus on the bigger issues and find ways to seek common ground there before tackling some smaller issues or even issues that really might not be urgent issues to begin with. A notion that was addressed shortly in an episode called, “20 Hours in LA”.
Let’s be perfectly clear, issues are and should be the driving determining factor for any voter. By no means am I suggesting that the issues important to me should overshadow what is important to you. What I am proposing is that we all accept that there are some macro issues that should always take priority. Consider your own financial/bills situation. There’s no one reading this I’m sure that is going to consider their Netflix bill as being more important than their mortgage. Yes after a long and stressful day at work, maybe knowing you can unwind and binge watch a little West Wing is monumentally important. But if you don’t have a home to watch it in, how important really is the Netflix subscription. Yes, I may be underselling the importance of secondary issues with that analogy, but the bigger point should be obvious.
While we’re considering the difference between big universally important issues and those that have a particular significance to an individual, can we also look to shed the combative nature of American Democratic politics? As has been mentioned previously in this article, “the things that unite us are greater than the things that divide us”. Using that idea, it’s high time we take a step back and see the bigger picture. Like an artist painting from six inches away, sometimes taking a step back can re-calibrate our perspective.
At times, the electorate are divided among issues like foreign aid, military involvement, economic bailouts for suffering countries, base closings, support of allies and potential military presence in countries that may or may not appreciate our presence. These issues and questions can often be just as divisive as social issues like a woman’s right to choose or gay rights. At the end of each of those conversations, one very obvious question needs to be asked. Are we for Freedom or are we not? Because if we are for freedom, it can’t be limited to…well anything really. The very nature of the concept of freedom is devoid of limitations.
To say that we’re for freedom within our borders or as long as it doesn’t cost us anything is contradictory to the very notion of what freedom represents. So if you think pulling out of conflicting nations is strategically recommended, don’t think we should put troops in harm’s way, or take the approach that we need to completely fix 100% of our own problems before we put even a single resource on someone else’s soil, then you have a fundamental conflict with being the democracy we are. That is perfectly fine by the way, but call it what it is. When you can realistically identify that a person is against those things just mentioned, then that person needs to come to grips with the reality that they are not for an American Democracy.
The fact of the matter is that if America is the leader of the free world. If America represents what it is supposed to represent, then every one of its citizens has to be in support of Freedom. And not just conceptually. You have to be for Freedom everywhere and for everyone. Now that same Freedom that allows us to choose our own religion, where our kids go to school, what we do for a living, also has to extend to less admired Freedoms. Burning of the flag, saying whatever one wants, the freedom of assembly. Freedom only works if its free across the board. It must also extend to Freedom for all of its citizens even if you don’t agree with other citizen’s choices. It must extend to all religions, even those absent of any such a faith at all. It must extend do those who disagree with you. And yes, it must extend to those countries and peoples who are not quite there yet. Those countries that have yet to break free from the oppressive rule of a mightier and less Freedom loving power.
Never has such a sentiment been more adequately portrayed than in the episode “Inauguration Part II: Over There”. In this fictional masterpiece, one very obvious theme is that this particular President does not, will not put American lives in danger lightly. Often there have been points of conflict. The reluctance to put soldiers into the equation almost always is overshadowed by the greater good of the pursuit of Freedom. Which absolutely is a prime virtue of this American Democracy.
As the episode progresses, it is clear that Jed Bartlet’s epiphany on whether the troops should be used to ensure those that want Freedom can pursue it, is not the end of this motif. While the President battles over to do it and risk lives vs not to and let tyranny prevail, his staff deals with a similar angle. Senior staff being what it is, is naturally concerned with the political fallout of the decision either way. Regardless of what side of the fence you may be on, Aaron Sorkin (as he does often in this series) provides a very simplistically beautiful way to see this issue. Sometimes, you just have to back up and see the whole picture. And sometimes that picture is very simple and lacks complexity.
C.J.: The guy across the street is beating up a pregnant woman. You don’t go over
and try and stop it?
TOBY: Guy across the street is beating up anybody, I like to think I go over and
try to stop it, but we’re not talking about the President going to Asia or the President
going to Rwanda or the President going to Qumar. We’re talking about the President
sending other people’s kids to do that.
C.J.: That’s always what we’re talking about, and in addition to being somebody’s
kids, they’re soldiers and sailors, and if we’re about freedom from tyranny,
then we’re about freedom from tyranny, and if we’re not, we should shut up.
TOBY: On Sunday, he’s taking an oath to ensure domestic tranquility.
C.J.: And to establish justice and promote the general welfare. Stand by while
atrocities are taking place, and you’re an accomplice.
TOBY: I’m not indifferent to that, but knuckleheaded self-destruction is never
going to burn itself out, you really want to send your kids across the street into the fire?
C.J.: Want to? No. Should I? Yes.
TOBY: Why? And don’t give me a lefty answer.
C.J.: A lefty answer is all I’ve got.
TOBY: Why are you sending your kids across the street?
C.J.: ‘Cause those are somebody’s kids, too.
Now while that may be a little lefty heavy, the sentiment remains. The very foundation of Freedom suggests that the pursuit is never over, especially when “Someone is getting beat up”. As a free nation of power and influence, we are inherently compelled to assist when Freedom or the pursuit of Freedom is threatened. An idea that is made clear yet again in the same episode. This time President Bartlet finds a way to promote Will Bailey to Deputy Communications Director and drive home the bigger point at the same time.
BARTLET: Will, I think some of these people don’t know who your dad is. Will’s the youngest son of Tom Bailey, who’s the only guy in the world with a better title than mine. He was Supreme Commander, NATO Allied Forces Europe. We didn’t know we were going
to do this. I would have asked you to invite him.
WILL: Well, you got quite a response from him watching on TV, sir. I think he’s going to reenlist.
BARTLET: Actually, I meant he could be here now when I tell you Toby’s asked me to
commission you as his deputy.
WILL: I’m sorry, sir?
BARTLET: Toby wants to make you deputy.
WILL: Pardon me?
BARTLET: I’m appointing you Deputy Communications Director. It covers a wide range
of areas of policy and execution and counsel to me.
WILL: To you… the President?
BARTLET: [to the gang] That’s what you want to hear from your new Communications–
WILL: I-I accept.
BARTLET: There’s a promise that I ask everyone who works here to make. Never doubt
that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world. You know why?
WILL: It’s the only thing that ever has.
BARTLET: …and affixed with the Seal of the Unites States. And it is done so on this day and in this place. Congratulations.
BARTLET: [holding a piece of paper in his hand] You know, it’s easy to watch the news
and think of Khundunese as either hapless victims or crazed butchers, and it turns
out that’s not true. I got this intelligence summary this afternoon. “Mothers are standing
in front of tanks.” And we’re going to go get their backs. An hour ago, I ordered
Fitzwallace to have UCOMM deploy a brigade of the 82nd Airborne, the 101st Air Assault,
and a Marine Expeditionary Unit to Khundu to stop the violence. The 101st are the Screaming Eagles. The Marines are with the 22nd M.E.U., trained at Camp Lejuene, some of them
very recently. I’m sorry, everyone, but this is a work night.
The final point I’d like to drive home and reinforce with context from the West Wing is the nature of how we view politics in this country. The founding fathers of this country and the framers of the Constitution had a few things at the forefront of the construction of this country’s government. 1) Most decisions structurally were made in a reactionary manner to reject anything adopted from the British model (let that marinate for a moment-might alter the way you see ‘how this country was made) 2) Freedom of its citizen’s will be paramount to almost anything else. 3) The party system wasn’t instituted to divide the country but to allow the electorate the opportunity to be heard, view or debate the minority idea. Yet in 2016 within this American Democracy, we have grown not only divisive but almost angry and combative. The divisions are stark and clear. With the addition of the 24 hour news cycle and social media making the world smaller, we have taken a structure meant to encourage debate and the sharing of ideas and have replaced it with emotion filled, borderline verbally abusive tactics to convey that I am right and you are wrong.
Cable news might be the worst contributor to this notion. Any number of networks claiming to be fair and balanced or always in pursuit of the truth, when in fact, those ideas are conceptually false. Fox News is not fair and balanced as they admittedly support a strict adherence to the Conservative agenda. CNN is not the most trusted name in news either as they can’t be completely trusted if they are slanting left consistently. Ever want to have a great bit of fun during an election? Watch the cable news coverage of that election based on who is losing. Watching those anchors and analysts fidgeting in their chairs as if they are actually watching the end of the world is entertaining no matter who you are. So instead of shaping our news coverage based on a model that would more likely mirror the sense of the founding fathers encouraging debate and the explanation of perspective…our news media takes sides.
Now the influence of news media may not mean a great deal to each individual’s decision. It is fair to assume that most of the electorate can read between the lines. However, the presentation of this ‘sharing of ideas’ (if we can even call it that anymore) has illustrated just how far we’ve fallen. For me it started with the McLaughlin Group back in the 1980s and it continued from there from everything from Meet the Press to Face the Nation to each and every hosted program on cable news. Go watch Anderson Cooper or Bill O’Reilly (no spin zone, that’s funny) without noticing one person disrespectfully talking over the other. From a tv production standpoint, what we see now unconditionally assists more than anything else into this condition we find ourselves in. My beliefs are what’s right in the world while your beliefs (if they differ at all from mine) are stupid and therefore what’s wrong with the world. The day I hear a cable news anchor/host say, “That is a fair point, no allow me to counter.” is the day I will get off this news soapbox.
The 24-hour news cycle, social media, advances in technology and a society that is often fearful that the world is getting progressively worse and worse with each passing year all contribute to an angrier electorate. Now while I’ve heard “worst election ever” each and every election I’ve witnessed since George Herbert Walker Bush, I do believe that this 2016 election is actually the worst. Now, again, I am not referring to the candidates themselves. Granted, I could make that argument as well, but that isn’t the focus of this piece. The shear vitriol that the voters seem to be throwing at each other is the bigger issue. I am a dog person. However, I can absolutely understand and grant the notion that there are people who would prefer to be cat people. Not my choice, but cat people are not lesser people. They are not heathens for preferring cats. They are not sub-human for not wanting to choose dogs over cats. While the analogy is simplistic is it really that unrealistic? Of course not. It only seems ridiculous because of how we approach political conversations amongst ourselves. We have conditioned ourselves somewhere in the last 25-50 years that those that disagree with us are stupid and a detriment to this country as opposed to viewing the conversation as an opportunity to evaluate all perspectives.
The perspective extends further than conversations at the work coffee machine or the danish cart. It is apparent that the voters are not the only ones taking an adversarial view. The very leaders we elect also subscribe to this idea of Party over Country. At every step we should be asking “is this best for the country” and the sad thing is that question is never asked in all honesty. The question generally comes down to “is this best for the party”? The two-party system has become a contact sport. Democrat vs Republican and there needs to be one clear winner and one clear loser. Thus, is our problem.
I will give one very hot bed example. Apologies in advance, this is not the political portion of this piece either just a random issue that is very divisive and should identify the point. The slight alteration to the second amendment to hopefully decrease the number of mass shootings and violent crimes or refusing to even talk about the second amendment because no one wants to make any sort of legislative compromise even if it means saving American lives. Now I’m not saying that gun control will eliminate violent crimes. I am also not saying that to fix the problem we must remove 100% of guns. However, the bigger point to be made is that even an issue such as gun control that has very clearly drawn lines of support vs opposition should still create some level of compromising discussion. However, I dare you to bring that up in a public forum and count the seconds that pass before people resort to name calling and profanity.
We have become angry and party-centric. The two-party system wasn’t created to inspire adversaries. It was created to appropriate all perspectives into the dialogue. Yet, the government and the people who vote them in all seem to be on the same page. It’s almost brand loyalty at this point. If party A is not the winner, then they must be the loser. That’s where the concept needs to change. We all, from voters to The President need to all get on board with the idea that we collectively should be making decisions that benefit all and not just those that belong to one party over the other. The West Wing has been a beacon for what we should strive for, not what we currently are. And yes, I know, some of what is seen in this series is unrealistic and ideological. However, a great deal of it is not that far-fetched and should be the inspiration for what we hope to be.
Both sides should see ways to identify with the other. We should be able to shed the party-centric mentality and give credit where credit is due. Not everything needs to be an opportunity to advance one party past the other. Never should ‘beating the other side’ be a motivating factor, but it often is. We should in every way, every conversation be trying to advance the country not the party. Anything less than that is irresponsible.
AINSLEY: Well, it President Bartlet, I’m on the government payroll. And I believe that politics should stop at the water’s edge. To be honest with you, I think it should stop well before that but it turns out there’s no Santa Claus and Elvis isn’t cutting records anymore. See, I don’t think you think the treaty’s bad, I don’t think you think it’s good, I think you want to beat the White House.
AINSLEY: You’re a schmuck, Peter. Today, tomorrow, next year, next term, these guys’ll have the treaty ratified and they’ll do it without the reservations he just offered to discuss
Every now and then, there is a moment where the above is not the sentiment shared. Go to any travesty, any devastation that befalls this country because it befalls all of it equally. 9/11, mass shootings (at least before they became so frequent that we are almost desensitized to it), or any natural disaster. Americans come together. Without hesitation or qualification. Why does it take tragedy to bring out the inner American in most Americans? Well, the artistry in some of what Sorkin creates is Art imitating Life almost literally. We won’t even mention how the young, engaging minority democrat wins in a Presidential election over the old white republican Congressional stalwart and go straight to a story line commonly referred to “The 25th”.
In “the 25th” we discover the President’s youngest daughter has been kidnapped. The President is so beside himself over the issue at hand that he acknowledges that he is unable to preside over the country objectively. He does what he must and invokes the 25th Amendment turning over the office of the President to the next person in the line of succession. In this case, that would involve turning over his office to the highest ranking official on the other team. Yet, Sorkin again finds another way to articulate the approach we should have and not the current approach we cling to.
The West Wing on its own, in a vacuum is the greatest achievement in television history. Beyond that simple idea it continues to breed more than that. New information presents itself with each viewing. It may have you question your convictions or maybe it will solidify them. It is more than a show. I could go on and on about the genius of Aaron Sorkin, but that’s not what this is about. Ask me later, I have no hesitation in discussing the West Wing on any level relating it to any topic, but for another time I guess. Beyond the obvious form of entertainment which it swings for the fences at every turn, it is the ideology of what we as Americans engaged in the political process should constantly strive for. Even the show is not perfect. It is not a documentary about political utopia. But it does consistently show how people of differing perspectives can come together for the greater good. Or put in other words, “The West Wing can serve as an oasis from our own political madness” or at least the current level of political madness of the 2016 Presidential Election seems to be.
Why did Raymond “Red” Reddington elude authorities all over the planet until he struck a deal with the FBI last year and why’s he remained one step ahead of all his adversaries on both sides of the law for so many years? Reddington’s intelligence’s a major factor, the man’s virtually a walking Wikipedia of knowledge, but there are plenty of really smart bad guys who get caught. The gift that Raymond possesses, that sets him apart and above all who challenge him, is his ability to take emotion out of the equation, it unnerves his opponents when Reddington starts spinning one of his tales to a man who’ll probably die within minutes.
That wasn’t the case when we first encountered the former government operative who shed his skin and turned into a master criminal in the second episode of the second season of the NBC series “The Blacklist.” His emotions frayed due to his adversary Berlin holding his former wife prisoner, Red’s lashing out and not finding out anything by his actions. However, we jump ahead. Let’s get back to the beginning of the episode.
We find ourselves in Warsaw, Poland, witnessing the robbery of a branch of the Monarch Douglas Bank. A group of men enter the bank in haz-mat suits and carrying automatic weapons. They scream to all the occupants to get down on the ground, then one of the crew gets on a laptop and apparently disabled all the electricity in the facility. One shouts to the others they have six minutes and the crew swarm through the facility emptying safety deposit boxes and most likely cash. As time gets close, the same man tells the others it’s time to go and they escape the bank undetected.
Now’s when we get our first glimpse of Reddington and he’s without his usual charm and good humor as “The Cleaner,” (Think of Harvey Keitel’s character the Wolf in “Pulp Fiction“) the oddly named Mr. Kaplan, (odd because Mr. Kaplan’s a woman whose first name’s Kate and played by Susan Blommaert) shows up to clean up the mess from Raymond’s latest temper-tantrum. She tells him that since his wife got kidnapped he’s been going in directions she’s uncomfortable with and he snaps at her telling her to just do her job.
As Mr. Kaplan goes about erasing evidence of the three men Red just killed, he receives a call telling him about the bank robbery in Poland. The news seems to put things in perspective for him and he apologizes to Mr. Kaplan, telling her that he’s pretty far out on a limb right now. Reddington calls his liaison with the FBI, Agent Liz Keen and tells her about the robbery and says they’ve got to meet and discuss the ramifications of the event.
When Reddington sits down with Keen, he explains that Monarch Douglas Bank’s headquartered in New York, which puts them under FBI jurisdiction. He tells Liz that the branch that got robbed is the biggest laundering center on the planet, that underworld kings, dictators and powerful people all over the world use the facility. He also says that the bank will attempt minimizing the event, she asks Reddington how much is the bank reporting being stolen and Red replies nothing. When she asks him how much he believe they lost in the robbery he responds everything.
Task Force Director Harold Cooper, limping but back in command orders Keen and agent Donald Ressler to Warsaw to investigate the robbery. When they arrive they meet an FBI agent stationed in Warsaw, whose been on the scene since the robbery got reported, they also meet a man named Strickland, the Vice President of the bank who flew out from New York, after receiving the news on the robbery. He apologizes for the original report from branch management that nothing got stolen, he says the bank got hit hard by the crew that pulled the job. He walks away with the bank manager and they speak in Polish; Strickland berates him for issuing the report that nothing got stolen. The manager says the only thing their customers only concern is “The Formula.” The executive agrees but tells him “The Formula’s” gone.
Although the crew disabled the banks video cameras Liz and Don discover there are city cameras on the corner directly in front of the bank and they get Amar to send them the video feed. The odd thing they notice, is while five crew members enter the bank, six exit and when they’re able to zoom the camera in on the added member, they realize it’s a woman who appears scared.
Reddington’s heading to Warsaw with Dembe, however before checking out he receives another present from Berlin, this time one of his former wife’s teeth. On the plane he checks in with Keen and Ressler and they tell him their latest discovery, Red replies that he’ll be there in three hours and for the two agents to keep digging.
They realize the woman who joined the crew on the way out’s a bank employee named Padra, as she’s the only one who punched in for work but neglected to punch out. The bank manager quickly says she had left the bank earlier as she got sick, but the local FBI agent shows his disdain with what the manager says. Ressler and Keen investigate the apartment building where Padra lived and spoke to the building manager, he told them she seemed nice but was always accompanied by guards. Donald’s phone rings and he’s informed authorities found the getaway van.
Through one of Raymond’s connections in Warsaw, they’re able to track down the apartment where Padra’s at and bust down the door with a SWAT Team, while she asks the agents why they are there? They tell her they came to rescues her, but she explains that’s what the crew did, they rescued her from being the bank’s prisoner. Padra’s “The Formula.”
Liz and Donald transfer Padra to a safe-house and tell Cooper that the FBI agent stationed in Poland’s going to meet them there. Padra tells the agents that if the police know where she’s hiding, Strickland will as well. The Vice President’s in New York while she’s being shuttled, as he’s meeting with Berlin, whose afraid he’s not going to access his funds for a pending deal. Strickland assures Berlin nothing will interrupt the transaction and the one-armed man responds, that if anything goes awry, he’ll peel Strickland like a grape.
Padra possess a gift, a truly photographic memory, she demonstrates it to the agents by having them pick a random date and she tells them what happened to her and what events took place in the world on the day. The bank uses her brain instead of having a paper or digital trail, she’s able to memorize every transaction and account number for the bank. The only place the information’s stored is in her brain, there’s no backup, so eventually she went from being an employee to a prisoner of the corporation.
Liz monitoring the conversation in a separate room gets joined by the FBI agent stationed in Warsaw and he tells her he’s turning Padra over to the local police. Keen starts arguing with him and the other agent slugs her in the jaw, the two pummel each other, then the other agent pulls out his weapon. Liz bites his hand holding the pistol and he accidentally shoots out the one way mirror between the two rooms, finally alerting Ressler. They stop the agent, who says they don’t understand this involves national security. Mossad agent Samar Navabi (Mozhan Marnò) who we met in last week’s episode suddenly shows up, tells the agents they’re outgunned but she’ll hold off the attackers while Liz, Donald and Padra flee the house and jump into a taxi, however Padra gets hit with shrapnel in the abdomen and starts bleeding heavily.
They soon realize the cab’s stuck in traffic and will not help them escape. They run out of the cab and Red and Dembe meet them, take Padra with them to get medical assistance on his private jet and tells the agents they have first-class seats back to the States with the airlines. When the agents return to Washington and meet with Cooper, they realize Red engineered everything to get his former wife back from Berlin. At that exact moment, Red calls Berlin from his plane and tells him it’s time they meet.
When Red met the man claiming that he was Berlin in last season’s finale, he told the man although he prides himself on his memory for faces, he couldn’t place the man. He doesn’t make the same statement to the real Berlin, instead he asks him if all the killing and bloodshed was worth it and his adversary responds, yes as it fueled his passion, revenge. Raymond told him that revenge was a disease not a passion, that eventually it would kill him. Berlin then glares at Red and tells him his wife’s coming apart, very well.
We can see Red just about to start to lose it and give into his temper, but he masters the moment, allowing just his lips to move slightly, before telling Berlin they’ve got a common enemy, the person who told Berlin that Reddington killed his daughter. He then tells Berlin that he’s going to give Red back his wife and Berlin starts to smile and asks why he believes that. Raymond informs Berlin that he’s got “The Formula,” and right now Red’s controlling all of Berlin’s assets in an account where he can never access them. So Berlin can release Red’s former wife and the two can keep fighting each other, or Berlin can kill the former Mrs. Reddington and wind up dead broke. Berlin agrees to make the deal.
Red finally contacts Lizzie and she tells she knows his plans, they’re with Padra right now and they’ll freeze all of Berlin’s assets rather than allow him to get them back. She tells him that his former wife’s life’s not worth all the people that will get killed by Berlin’s actions. Red says he’s still going to the meeting, but Keen yells that Berlin’s going to kill him when the money’s not there, however Raymond already hung up.
Red and Dembe meet Berlin and his men, they release Red’s former wife and Dembe gives them the laptop with all the routing information and the transaction completes. Red’s former wife’s blindfolded, so she doesn’t see him, he just stares at her for a few seconds then gives her to Dembe to return her to her husband. Berlin blows Reddington a kiss and gets in his vehicle and off they go.
Liz and Raymond meet in the final scene and he thanks her for transferring the funds. She responds, he’s a Federal asset and her job’s to protect him, but anyone killed by Berlin’s actions will be on Red’s head.
The Story Continues Next Monday Night at 9:00pm on NBC.
Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader) started the second season of the NBC series “The Blacklist,” in Cameroon, lying down in the back of a jeep as two vehicles filled with teenage soldiers (one with him in it) engaged in a firefight down a jungle road. Thankfully for red the youngsters in his vehicle blew up their rivals with a rocket launcher, taking him to the camp of a warlord with whom he shared a “bumpy past,” which we realize when he tells Red that he told him the next time he’d see him he’d kill him.
Reddington, ever the charmer told his host that he had actually found him, because he had a business proposition for him. He told his old mate that an operative known as Berlin’s doing his best to kill him. Berlin had one bounty hunter working for him in Tom Keen and Reddington knew there were more. He showed his host the box he brought with him contained three million dollars, the warlord had 30 seconds to accept the money to reveal the name of others working for Berlin. The man laughed and asked what would happen if he didn’t accept the offer in time and Red replied he’d make it rain fire around them. Once again the man started to laugh, but it got caught in his throat when an area about 500 yards away exploded. Raymond told his host he possessed three Hellfire missiles and unless the warlord gave him his phone they would come closer and closer. Seconds later the second missile hit and the man said the person went by a Royal title, such as Prince or Duke. Red realized that the person that Berlin sent after him was Lord Baltimore, whose talent’s finding people on the internet that don’t want their location discovered.
Meanwhile back in the states Liz Keen’s living life on the run, moving from hotel to motel, all under aliases trying to keep Berlin from tracking her whereabouts, as well as her former husband Tom, whom she may or may not have killed in a struggle in the first season finale. She meets Red in a park and he tells her that Lord Baltimore’s in town and after him. However when Liz discusses the case with her colleagues, their tech guy Aram Mojtabai, (Amir Arison) knows of Lord Baltimore as his feats of tracking people are legendary in tech circles, but he tracks people by their digital footprint, something Reddington’s made sure he’s never acquired. So Aram suspects that Lord Baltimore’s looking for somebody close to Red, such as any member of their task-force. Agent Meera Malik got killed by Berlin’s people last year and Task Force director Harold Cooper’s (Harry Lennix) still recovering from the attack on him.
Aram checks local data security companies in the area and finds an analyst for one of the firms had her account and her computer attacked on two separate occasions. Keen and Agent Don Kessler, (Diego Klattenhoff) go interview the analyst a young woman named Rowan Mills. Rowan and her company verify that she hadn’t hacked her account on either occasion, they in fact have proof the hack came from an outside computer. She tells the agents she has no idea why she’s being targeted. Kessler and Keen believe her and start exploring other possibilities.
Once again Aram gets closer to whom Lord Baltimore’s tracking, he tells Liz that it’s a woman with very specific traits including subscribing to the Wall Street Journal and Cat Fancy Magazine. Keen contacts Red and seconds later he tells Liz that the woman they’re looking for is Naomi Highland, when Keen asks how Reddington can know it’s her, he tells Liz that’s his former wife.
Keen and Kessler find that Rowan’s got a second apartment she’s been hiding from them, but the analyst says she’s never been to the apartment before. When they ask how could there be photographs of her on the walls, she informs them of her twin sister Nora, who supposedly got killed seven years earlier. With all these strange occurrences she questions whether Nora really died.
Nora got molested by their male cousin from about ages seven through twelve but although she confided in Rowan, her sister thought she was making it up. After a while she told her entire family but nobody believed her. The sisters had a falling out and Nora took a job out of the country and was reportedly killed, but her body was never recovered.
In a home in the suburbs three middle-aged couples are enjoying their evening together when one of the wives, Naomi Highland (Mary Louise Parker) realizes something’s terribly wrong as there are federal agents outside her house flashing their badges. She opens her door and the first words out of her mouth are “Is He Back?”
Liz interviews her and she’s indeed Raymond’s ex-wife whom he left when he left working for the Government and became an operative for hire. She tells Lizzie that the agencies thought she was lying about her lack of knowledge concerning her former husband for the longest time. When she finally convinced them she was innocent they moved her and their daughter into relocation with new identities. Her current husband has no idea about her former life.
Rowan’s at home when a vaguely familiar looking young man comes into her home and tells her he’s not there to hurt her, he just wants her to listen to something. He puts an LP on her stereo and an old song starts playing, at first Rowan’s confused and disoriented by the music, then suddenly turns into another person, her sister Nora. Nora never died, in fact she came back and killed Rowan and tried to take her places as the good and happy sister, however the trauma of killing her twin was too much for her mind to accept. So she had compartmentalized Nora and Rowan, with Nora being awaked by that song.
Nora’s an expert marksman and setup across the street from the Highland’s house she’s able to stun all the occupants with Tasers. Liz pulls the spikes out of her arm in time to capture Nora and her handler, but Berlin’s people kidnap Naomi. While incarcerated Liz connects with Nora after playing the song, but by the time they find the last location she knew Naomi was the trail got cold.
Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) and Red are staying at a new hotel when Dembe answers the door and there’s a package for Raymond. He opens it and out drops a cellphone, he hits redial and he’s connected with Berlin (Peter Stormare.) His nemesis tells Reddington he’s going to send his wife to him just like Raymond sent Berlin’s daughter to him, one piece at a time. Red opens a box and the top third of Naomi’s index finger’s inside a box.