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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!

Well, we got a Marvin Gerard, mention, can a “Jellybean,” sighting be far off? After starting off season six, with a wildly careening two-part premiere, the veteran NBC series “The Blacklist,” served up a far more palatable episode this week, entitled “The Pharmacist (124).” After seemingly throwing away five years of continuity in the two-part outing, Jon Bokenkamp and company, started putting things back in their proper places in the universe they’ve created.

However the level of writing’s still not as sharp as in even previous seasons. “The Blacklist,” once had the ability to take the viewer down what seemed like a familiar path, only for the viewer to realize that circumstances were not what they appeared to be. Without that ability to surprise, the show’s more reliant than ever before on the characters and the actors who portray them. Thankfully James Spader, and Harry Lennix, were more than up to the task.

The hour mainly concentrated on two story-arcs, the first concerning the preliminary hearing for Reddington, after getting busted for a concealed weapon, by some seemingly hapless New York City patrolman. The other story-line centered around the latest name provided to the Task-Force, as well as a debate about innovation versus regulation.

THE TRIAL OF RAYMOND REDDINGTON

Our universe would be far better off, if our courts were presided by jurists like Judge Roberta Wilkins. A no-nonsense woman, who never the less has the highest regard for the law, and refuses to bend to political will. The prosecutor Michael Sima, representing the Southern District of New York, was portrayed by veteran character actor Ken Leung. Leung first came to my attention as reoccurring characters, in “LOST,” and “Person Of Interest,” and chances are high that you’ve seen his face many times on the small screen over the last dozen-years.

With the Justice Department, refusing to admit that they’ve entered into an immunity agreement with Red, Raymond approaches the bench and informs the judge himself. When the jurist asks for proof of such an agreement, Reddington calls on Harold Cooper to verify the agreement.

Keen, chastises Cooper, for allowing Reddington to use him, telling her boss that Red counted on Harold’s honesty and decency, despite any consequences Cooper suffers from the Bureau. Harold, then states that the immunity agreement with the government exists, and he’s not going to follow orders for political expediency. He ends the conversation with Keen, saying he’s going to tell the truth.

After refusing Reddington’s request for old friend Marvin Gerard, to represent him at the hearing, Red dismisses his court appointed attorney and decides to represent himself. Leave it to the man we’ve come to know as Raymond Reddington, to disprove Abraham Lincoln’s old bromide “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

Raymond asked just one question of the Task-Force director; would you do it again? After a second to collect his thoughts Cooper stated, that he’d make the same decisions without hesitation. He spoke of the scores of criminals that Reddington helped bring to justice, many that the government and law enforcement officials were unaware of. He told the court of the hundreds, if not thousands of people saved from harm and even death by their actions.

Harold failed to stay true to his last statement to Keen, when Sima asked him if Reddington had committed any crimes since signing his agreement with the Justice Department. With images of Raymond shooting Diane Fowler, and Sutton Ross’ deaths, being flashed across the screen, Cooper tells the prosecutor, none that he’s aware of.

Harold’s decision to perjure himself hearken back to last year’s episode when he refused to accept Donald Ressler’s resignation letter. Each member of the Task-Force made a deal with the devil, and they’ve all committed acts they wouldn’t have considered doing five years earlier. They all decided long-ago that the mission was important enough to blur and sometimes break lines. They will all have to examine their acts eventually, this was not that day.

Sima’s argument to the court was that the United States Government, shouldn’t be involved in immunity deals with criminals like Reddington. Judge Wilkins, tells the prosecutor that she agrees with his opinion, however the United States government’s derived a bounty of information from the arrangement. She echoes Cooper’s statement to Liz, that the government’s obligated to fulfill its obligations, and tells Red that he’s free to leave.

Sima’s legal aide gives the prosecutor one more bite of the apple, as the SDNY will prosecute Reddington for possessing a gun, violating the terms of the agreement. Raymond informs Judge Wilkins that the weapon was discovered during an illegal search and seizure. Wilkins tells both sides they’ll reconvene in two-weeks, and Raymond’s sent to a maximum security facility for that time period.

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?

BLACKLIST MEMBER OF THE WEEK

We’re introduced to bio-hackers Spalding Stark, and his rather creepy partner Dr. Ethan Webb, in the cold open, as they perform clinical trials on a group of severely physically disabled people. The patients suffer from Motor Cortex Degenerative Disease, a condition that leads to the victims becoming prisoners in their own bodies. Stark’s work’s unsanctioned and highly illegal, however he offers his patients a chance to actually live again, instead of just slowly and painfully dying.

Spalding explains to his patients that the procedure’s so risky, that the patients will have to inject themselves with the serum, and asks them to do so simultaneously. Seconds later we hear giggling from one of the elderly women, and we see the faces of the other patients filled with joy, as they realize they now control their bodies again. The victory’s short-lived however, as one by one the victims lapse into seizures and then flat-line. Stark, and Webb, abandon the facility leaving the victims behind.


Raymond sees a news story on the TV that his guards are watching, after the bodies are discovered. He informs Lizzie that he knows the man responsible for the deaths. Red explains to Lizzie that Stark approached him about bankrolling one of his projects a while back, and Reddington felt confident enough in the scientist to provide him the funds. Hearing the reports have caused Reddington to doubt his initial instincts.

Spalding Stark’s looked upon as a sort of demi-god by the techno-geek community, so of course Aram’s well aware of him. He even watched a live stream of Stark injecting himself with malaria, and then coaxing a a malaria infected mosquito to bite him as well. His theory was that the two strains of malaria would cancel each other out. The theory didn’t hold up and Stark’s entire left side of his body and face are now paralyzed.

Ressler, and Samar Navabi, head to the warehouse the bodies were discovered in. They speak to the owner of the building Warren Kirby, who tells them he rented the facility to a third party, and he discovered the bodies when he came to check up on the occupants, then called 911.

He’s been unable to get in touch with his client since. Investigators don’t have much to go on, however they recover one of the high-tech injector guns that dispensed the drugs to the victims. Navabi, and Mojtabai, head to question some of Aram’s friends, while Ressler heads to Crown Life Pharmaceuticals, to try to get a handle on what they’re dealing with.

Ressler talks with one of Crown Life’s executives, and the man boats that his company’s far ahead of the curve dealing with MCDD. He tells Donald that while a cure for the condition’s yet to be discovered, Crown Life’s made tremendous advances in drugs that should help to control the symptoms of the disease.

This viewer’s antennae were raised when Donald asked the executive about Spalding Stark, and then without hesitation said he’d never heard of him. It didn’t seem logical that a man so renowned by the tech counter-culture, would escape his notice. Especially as the conversation progressed, and he expressed such disdain for the bio-hacker community.

Samar then met some friends of Aram’s who likely won’t be getting wedding invitations. The man who greets them at the door has a micro-processor embedded in his forehead, and on the back of each hand. He explains to Navabi that they turn on the lights and his computer. We then pass by three other young bio-hackers working on projects. One of them’s attempting to rewrite his DNA to give him more athleticism. The other two are playing with a CRISPR, the instrument a Chinese doctor allegedly used to create designer DNA.

We then watch as the Crown Life executive and the bio-hacker completely refute each other’s points, as they engage in their own conversations. The executive states that these outliers prey on the desperate who have run out of options and hope. He says that they operate without any regulations, and that he’s terrified of them. The bio-hacker tells Aram, and Samar, that they represent the future of science and the reason Big-Pharma’s afraid of them, is because they’ll soon become obsolete. The bio-hacker scoffs at the concerns over regulation and asks what about innovation?

Aram’s friend’s been able to identify the high-tech injector, found at the scene. When he pulls the URL up for the website, Navabi gasps. The man in the forefront of the website’s image, holding the injector’s Warren Kirby.

Kirby’s brought to the Post Office for questioning, and not only admits to knowing Stark, he says Stark cured him of MCDD. He tells the agents that he’s got all the information readily available from his own trials, and that he met Stark, when the scientist worked as a clerk at his local pharmacy. He says Stark realized the extent to which Kirby was suffering and offered him an option.

Aram checks out all the documentation and says it’s legit, and that Stark used the drugs on himself as well, as he was suffering from the disease. Kirby compares his own blood panels to those of the deceased, and discovers one significant difference. The deceased all had traces of Cylovex, a nerve agent in their systems. The agents do a background check on Mr. Creepy, Ethan Webb, and discover he used to work for Crown Life Pharmaceuticals. They assume Webb’s attempting to discredit Stark, so he can sell their cure to Big Pharma.

While hiding from the authorities, Stark’s gathered a new group of MCDD sufferers, and he believes he’s convinced Webb to assist him in the new trial session. Stark’s new group of patients are just about to self-inject, when the agents burst into the room. Unfortunately they arrived too late for one of the patients, who injected himself with the tainted formula.

Webb admits to Ressler, that he was never really Stark’s partner. He’d in fact been a plant by Crown Life Pharmaceuticals, whom intended to bury the cure, so that they could keep enriching their coffers with formulas that would only treat the symptoms.

Navabi, informs Stark, that Webb had always been out to keep him from succeeding, and that Webb was the one responsible for the victim’s deaths. She tells the bio-hacker any punishment he receives will likely be lenient, as he’ll only be charged with abandoning the original victims. Ressler heads back to Crown Life Pharmaceuticals, and tells the executive he’s under arrest.

However Stark soon learns he’s not quite off the hook, as Dembe arrives to talk to him. Zuma tells the bio-hacker that Reddington’s getting impatient waiting for Stark to finish the project he paid him for. The bio-hacker assures Dembe that completing the project’s his highest priority.

ODDS AND ENDS

One thing we didn’t discuss in our previous column, was the condition of Navabi, who got cleared to return to active duty in the premiere episode. Although the doctor eagerly signed off on allowing Navabi to return to active duty, it was quite apparent that she wasn’t being truthful with the physician, about lingering effects from her being in a coma. That point was reinforced when Dembe congratulated Samar on her engagement to Aram, and at first she had no idea what he was congratulating her for.

We saw further evidence in this episode, when Navabi couldn’t remember the word sabotage. Although people search for the proper words constantly, the episode clearly bothered her, and looks like it will become an issue she has to deal with in the next few weeks.

Yes, I read the interview with Jon Bokenkamp, in which he stated that Lizzie’s the one who turned Raymond in. I still stand by my initial impression, that the woman claiming to be Jennifer Reddington, actually informed the police behind Keen’s back. If Elizabeth had actually been the person who turned in Reddington, I don’t think she’d have had the nerve to go visit him in his cell. In this viewer’s opinion, Lizzie found out the truth when she returned to her apartment.

Yes, in case you didn’t catch on last week, I’m labeling the character portrayed by Fiona Dourif, as the woman claiming to be Jennifer Reddington. I’ve had my doubts since the character was introduced, and they’ve only increased over time. I also have had doubts that Naomi’s really dead, and I think the two subjects are intertwined.

The Story Continues on Friday Night, at 10:00 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 Virginia Sherwood/NBC

WARNING SPOILER ALERT:

“Look what they done to my song ma
Look what they done to my song
Well it’s the only thing
That I could do half right
And it’s turning out all wrong ma
Look what they done to my song

Look what they done to my song ma
Look what they done to my song ma
Well they tied it up in a plastic bag
And turned it upside down ma
Look what they done to my song” 

Melanie Safka

With one episode remaining in season five, and the show’s fate still unknown, social media’s been abuzz with chatter about the NBC series “The Blacklist,” after the season’s penultimate episode aired. Although to a person the show’s fans want to see their longtime favorite renewed, the grumbling among the fan-base’s has increased in volume. There are even those who have dared to pose the question, that’s known to make show-runner’s blood run cold, and remove any remnants of a tan. “Has The Blacklist Jumped The Shark?”

You likely weren’t born when the ABC series “Happy Days,” first broadcast the episode in 1977, that thrust the phrase into the American lexicon. In the show’s fifth-season opener, the gang from Milwaukee found themselves in Hollywood. In Fonzie’s quest to become the next James Dean/Elvis Presley of the silver screen, he put on water-skis, and literally pulled a stunt Evil Knievel, might have thought twice about.

The phrase eventually took on the connotation, signifying that a television series had peaked and was on the downward trend. Some series recover from that perception, another ABC series “Lost,” hit a rough patch until the show-runners and the network agreed on how long the series would run. There’s no definitive time period that a series exists after receiving that diagnosis. Some shows wither and die quickly, while others hang on for years, they are those series you stumble across while channel surfing, and you think, “is that still on?”

Let me state upfront that I’m not in the Jumped The Shark category, (a phrase from here on out that will be referred to as “JTS.”) However, I’ve got problems with the shows last two episodes in particular, and of season five in general. In season’s passed, we’ve experienced excitement and anticipation as each season’s finale approached. This year’s conversation’s morphed into, they better give me a reason to come back!

Season number five has progressed in fits and starts, beginning with a greatly needed light tone after all the loss in the previous campaign. However even in the season premiere, moments after watching Raymond dancing with Lizzie, we witnessed what we’d come to find was a flash-forward to the fall season finale. A scene that showed us a bloody and beaten Tom Keen, lying on the floor as Reddington and Dembe, burst through a door brandishing pistols.

The perceived reboot didn’t last for long. Reddington’s fortunes turned around quickly, ditching hand-me-downs and the Terra Vista Motor Lodge, and back to a manner he had grown far more accustomed to, Soon he lived in a luxurious suite complete with private elevator, and a personal chef named Paris. The episodes took on a darker tone, as Tom and Nik Korpal undertook a mission that would ultimately cost them. trying to identify the bones in the suitcase Kate dug up from Tansi Farms. The tone of the show would be altered irrevocably, to the cheers of some and the tears of others.

We’ll have time during the Summer to debate whether killing off Ryan Eggold’s character turned out to be a good move for the series. (I recently read Jon Bokenkamp, respond to a question if Tom would return, saying that the show’s had other character’s seemingly return from the dead. Any move like that would destroy the series’ credibility, no matter how popularly it could be received. You made your move Jon, now you live with the ramifications of that decision.)

File this if you like under pet peeves, but the series took a ten month jump in time when Elizabeth emerged from her coma. Given the extent of her injuries, it’s likely it took her at least eighteen months, for her to get into the shape she was in when she journeyed to Alaska. Agnes was a baby in a high-chair, unable to talk when Tom confessed to her about his role in identifying the bones. However she appeared to be about four, or five, when Keen left her with Scottie Hargrave. How could the date of the paper reporting Maybelle being found have been May, 2018? The Blacklist Universe should be somewhere in the midst of the year 2020, not in-sync with our reality. Continuity’s vital to maintaining a story, something the writer’s seem to have forgotten.

Since the show returned to the airwaves in January, we’ve watched a young woman who felt such remorse over the harbor-master’s death, that she sold her condo and anonymously gave the money to his widow and daughter, turn into a heartless killer. While Elizabeth Keen was hardly a babe in the woods when we met her, she’s evolved into “DIRTY LIZZIE,” a cross between Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish,” character.

We could understand her going all vigilante, and taking out all four of the hitmen that she encountered in Alaska, and she accidentally killed Bobby Navarro, in self-defense. However she went way over the top when she utilized the “Stew-Maker’s” methods, to dispose of Navarro’s corpse. We’ve watched Donald and Harold wrestle with their dark-sides, Ressler even employing Henry Prescott, but when push came to shove, they reverted back to form. Keen can never come back from that decision.

The show writer’s seem to have lost the consistency which among other qualities, made this series’ beloved by its fans, especially during the first three seasons. Season four’s scorched earth battle between Mr. Kaplan and Reddington, didn’t sit well with many fans, and this season’s sometimes glacial pace has turned many longtime viewers off. After revealing Ian Garvey’s a dirty cop in February, what have we learned other than Garvey’s declaration to Jennifer Reddington, that she spent a lifetime hiding for no reason?

We head into the fifth season finale, essentially trying to fit a ten-pound sausage into a five-pound casing. Suddenly after months of stagnation Season Five Episode 22, has become “Cliff-Hanger Central.” Who is Sutton Ross, and what’s his connection to Garvey and Reddington? Will Samar Navabi emerge from her coma and get her “Happily Ever After,” with Aram? Will Aram face charges in the death of Nicholas T. Moore, or will Harold look the other way? Is Naomi Hyland actually dead, and if so why didn’t Reddington know about it? Is Lillian Roth, indeed Jennifer Reddington, and if not, what was her connection to Garvey?

Why’s Keen whose only objective was to avenge Tom’s death by killing Garvey, now interested in the contents of the duffel bag? Will Raleigh Sinclair and Anthony Pagliaro serve time for the death of Zarak Mosadek?  Will we encounter Dominic Wilkinson in the episode, and will he reveal to Keen he’s her grandfather? We haven’t even mentioned the identity of the bones that Ross now apparently has.

Has this confluence of events, been Jon Bokenkamp’s master plan all along? Has the basis of this series always come down to what’s going on between Lizzie and Raymond? Will The Blacklist members turn out to be as anti-climactic, as the numbers on “Lost“?  Was the concept of this series always just about whom Raymond Reddington actually is, and the role he’s played throughout Keen’s life? Jon’s often times mentioned his BIBLE, the framework a show-runner puts together, before they begin writing an initial script. I often wonder just how much he’s adhering to it?

It’s likely foolish to expect all the questions I posed here, in one episode. However at the very least, fans deserve to know Raymond’s secret before the series, goes on Summer hiatus. I’ve anticipated that they’d hold off revealing that the Real Reddington’s bones are in the duffel bag, and that we’ll finally find out “OUR RAYMOND’S,” real identity, as Etta James would say “AT LAST.

Season Five Concludes Wednesday May 16, at 8:00pm on NBC.

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.

Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Sherwood/NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

White supremacists, child brides, a BOLO Alert, Aram and Samar taking a new step in their relationship, and the return of Teddy Brimley. All this and more greeted viewers as the NBC series “The Blacklist,” returned to the airwaves, as another March Madness, goes into the history books.  The series that specializes in bait and switch, contained plenty of surprises that kept fans alert and aware. Combine the aforementioned with “TEAM-RED,” working together on a coordinated effort, made for this viewer’s most satisfying episode since Tom Keen’s execution, last November.

Our evening kicked off as we watch a car drive through a toney neighborhood, and pulls into the driveway of a home that’s likely worth seven figures. As we listen to Janis Ian singing “At Seventeen,” we see the driver’s a man in his forties and calls out as he enters the doorway for Reva, whose sitting at a table wearing headphones and working on her studies from high school. The man removes one of the buds from the girl’s ear and asks her how she can concentrate with the music blasting? The young woman asks the man if he’s ready for dinner, and he tells her he’s heading to his study to take a business call.

The man sits down at his desk, opens up his safe and removes a black ledger. He then grabs his cellphone, and places a call to Raymond Reddington. He tells Reddington that he’s got what Red needs, and says that he hope Ian Garvey doesn’t get wind of what he’s doing. Reddington assures him that the Federal Marshall will never know of their meeting and tells the man that if he leaves immediately they can be face to face in 30-minutes. Suddenly the man realizes he’s not alone in his study, and screams wait and no, before an assailant pumps a bullet into his chest. Reddington screams out the man’s name and then hangs up the phone.

Turns out the man named Jerry Jawal, was about to deliver the ledger to Raymond, and the book contained information on the supplier that provides heroin that the Nash syndicate sells on the streets. Reddington’s plan was to use the information to put the syndicates drug-trafficking operation out of commission. He believes that Garvey or one of his soldiers killed Jawal, while Elizabeth Keen informs him that the Bureau suspects a white supremacist named Coogan Hudnut took the man out. Jawal had become port manager of the dock that the syndicate uses to bring the narcotics into the country, and had replaced the previous crew with friends from India. The Bureau believes he killed a stevedore on the dock, and that Jawal’s murder was also racially motivated.

Dembe and Reddington drive over to a bar called the Last Chance Saloon, a watering hole that specializes in racist clientele. A bouncer comes to the door, and tells Raymond that he may enter but that “IT,” must remain outside, referring to Dembe. Red becomes indignant, but Zuma calms him down and says he’ll stay outside. When Reddington enters the bar, he offers the first man that gives him the location of Hudnut ten grand in cash. One of the men jumps at the offer, causing one of his associates to pull out his pistol. Raymond immediately responds, taking out all of the men in the room except for the squealer and the bartender. He’s quickly informed that the man he’s looking for is barricaded in his office at the back of the building.

Raymond shoots the remaining bodyguard, then steps out-of-the-way of a shotgun blast that emanates from the other side of the door. Reddington tells Hudnut that he’s got questions about the racist’s murder of Jawal, but he denies committing the crime. He then attempts to flee from the building, but of course Dembe stops him before he can run.

We move to the Post-Office, where Aram’s beating himself up over losing witness Tony Mejia, during an ambush. However his mood lightens when he shows Donald Ressler an amethyst ring that he got for Samar. Ressler thinks it’s an engagement ring, causing Mojtabai, to question whether he really should give Navabi the gift. Donald believes that Navabi will jump to the conclusion that Aram’s asking her to marry him. He tries to ask Lizzie her opinion, but he quickly changes the subject when Samar enters the room.

Jawal’s family hold a wake for him, suddenly Reva gets a text telling her to go outside. She meets another girl about her age, and Reva says she can’t believe they did it. The other young woman says that Jerry was a terrible man and deserved to die. We then realize that neither Garvey or Hudnut murdered Jawal, the other young woman was his assailant.

The scene shifts to a high school gymnasium, where we encounter a pensive girl waiting to meet someone. A short time later, the girl who killed Jerry Jawal arrives and she says that if the girl wants her help, once the plan’s in motion there’s no going back. She sees her potential client’s still has qualms about going through with their plan, so she gives the girl a burner phone, and tells her if she decides she wants to utilize her services to call her.

Raymond’s standing in a hallway, when he’s approached by a familiar face, Teddy Brimley, the geriatric master of torture. He tells Reddington that Hudnut killed the stevedore, but he didn’t kill Jawal. Teddy then says he needs pastrami, and Red can’t understand what kind of torture Brimley would inflict with the deli meat. Teddy quickly explains to Raymond that the pastrami’s for Brimley’s lunch. Raymond asks if Dembe and he can join him for the meal, and Teddy says he’ll give Dembe the address. Reddington tells the elderly man that he’s happy Brimley’s back in the fold.

Navabi and Ressler head to Jawal’s home and Reva answers the door. They tell her they’d like to ask a few questions about her father’s murder, but Reva explains to the agents that Jerry was her husband, not her father. Her parents arranged the marriage with Jawal in Maryland, and granted their consent for their daughter to marry the much older man. Caught off guard and totally flustered, it’s apparent that she’s hiding something from the agents. However the conversation concludes, when Reva faints and collapses on the floor.

We move to the home that the other prospective client Tara Rayburn, arrives home late from school. She’s also married to man more than twice her age, who owns a local car dealership. Dale joins her in their bed, and Tara starts tearing up as her husband starts to initiate sex with her. The next morning she’s running late for school, but Dale insists he cooks him breakfast before she heads to class. She then pulls out the burner phone, and tells the girl on the other end that she’s hit her limit. The other young woman tells her to stick to her usual routine, and that she’ll take out her husband.

Reva’s taken to the hospital, and the physicians inform her that she’s pregnant. Her father says that the FBI agents thought they were hiding something from them, and he feels that way as well. He demands that his daughter tells him the truth, when Raymond walks into the hospital room and says he’d be interested in hearing the explanation himself. Reva’s dad asks Reddington who he is, and he replies that he’s a friend, or possibly a foe. He then introduces himself as Raymond and says he’s an interested party.

He tells Reva that he knows she arranged Jerry’s murder, and that her husband was a drug dealer. He says that her actions have jeopardized her life and the lives of her parents, then asks Reva the name of the girl who carried out the hit. She says she never got her name, she’s known as the “GUARDIAN ANGEL,” and all she requested from Reva, was the name of another girl who was forced into an arranged marriage.

Navabi heads to Tara’s high school, while Ressler goes to Dale’s car dealership. Samar tells Tara that if the assassination of her husband takes place, she’ll likely spend the rest of her days in prison. Tara starts crying ands says she’s not sure that she can prevent the assassin from going through with the plan.

Ressler informs Dale that Tara’s put out a contract on his life, but he doesn’t believe the agent, saying that he and his wife are deeply in love. Suddenly we see the “GUARDIAN ANGEL,” lurking around the lot, and she puts a backpack in a car parked outside Rayburn’s office. Dale notices the vehicle and calls one of his staff and asks why it hasn’t been moved to one of the work bays? The employee responds that it got moved a while before, and Ressler realizes that there’s a bomb in the vehicle, and tells Dale to hit the floor. Seconds later the bomb explodes, and Ressler leaves the office running through flames to apprehend the perpetrator. The “GUARDIAN ANGEL,” tells two men in the parking lot that Ressler’s trying to kill her, and they stop him from chasing her as she gets on public transit. He then tells one of the men that he’s taking his jacket as the girl’s fingerprints are on it.

Aram receives a message that Bureau agents have discovered the device that caused the vehicle to grind to a halt, when Mejia got abducted. He also finds video footage of the man with “David Bowie Eyes“. Lizzie immediately recognizes the man as one of Reddington’s employees, then heads to Raymond’s to confront him.

Keen allows her emotions to get the best of her and get physical with Red, slamming him up against a wall of shelving covered in books. Raymond admits to her that he abducted Mejia, because if Garvey’s busted before Reddington recovers the duffel bag, his secret will be revealed. He also informs her that Mejia’s safe and hidden away. Keen issues a “BOLO Alert,” in the hopes that law enforcement can find him. What she doesn’t realize is Garvey receives the alert, and he uses it to set Keen up.

The Task-Force, gets a match on the fingerprints and identifies the perpetrator as Anna Gracia Duerte. After obtaining her address, Navabi and Ressler head to her apartment. When they get there they realize that Anna had just escaped, Ressler looks for here on the street, while Samar searches the roof.  Duerte makes it to the edge of the roof, when Navabi encounters her and threatens to jump. She then tearfully recounts her story to the agent.

Anna’s originally from Brazil and became friendly with an older man who invited her to see his home. However he had other intentions in mind and forced himself on her. Duerte reported the rape, but her parents took the rapist’s side instead of their daughters. They arranged for Anna to marry the man, 30-years her senior, and the couple emigrated to the States when she was 13.

Despising her husband and revolted by his touch, the young girl reached her limit and stabbed her husband to death. Once she recovered from the shock, she decided to dedicate her life to ending the nightmare for other girls in her situation. She took the lives of nine men, freeing their child-brides from their Hellish existence.

Samar puts her pistol back in her holster and tells Duerte that her parents were killed when she was just nine. Traumatized and unable to make sense of the tragedy, her 15-year-old cousin took her under her wing, and restored Navabi’s faith in the world. However that world came crashing around her, when her uncle announced that he’d arranged a marriage for his daughter and she would go to live with her new husband the next day. Samar begs Anna to try to let her help her, and says this shouldn’t be the end of her story.

Mojtabai finally gets some alone time with Keen, and asks her if Samar will construe the ring as him asking her to marry him. She replies that if Samar wants to marry him, she’ll assume it’s an engagement ring, but if she doesn’t want to commit, she’ll perceive things differently. Suddenly Aram’s afraid of Navabi rejecting him. making him even more fearful to give her the gift.

The U.S. Attorney arrives at the Post-Office, and Samar pleads with him to show her leniency. She says that Duerte could use an insanity defense, but the lawyer says that might get her cleared of killing her husband, but the other acts were clearly premeditated. Navabi responds that these child-brides aren’t isolated incidents, that many states don’t even have a minimum age for a girl to get married. She says that Anna’s going to be perceived as a champion for these girls, and the U.S. Attorney will be thought of as the bad guy that’s trying to put her in prison for life.

Keen gets a call from an officer in Boston, saying that he saw Mejia transported at a private airfield nearby. Aram and Liz meet with the officer, who says he saw Mejia with a man wearing a long coat and sporting a fedora. He says they took a private plane out of the country, but when he brings the pair inside the hangar Keen realizes that Garvey’s set them up. She starts to put up a fight though heavily outnumbered, but she and Mojtabai get rescued by Lizzie’s pair of “Guardian Angels,” Raymond and Dembe.

When they return to Reddington’s, Raymond apologizes to Keen. She believes he’s apologizing for cooperating with Garvey, but he explains that his apology’s for endangering her life, by telling Garvey how important she was to him. She smiles and says that the only reason she’s still alive, is due to the fact that Raymond and Dembe rescued her and Aram. He then tells Liz that he needs her to ask Duerte an extremely important question that will help them both out.

Samar reveals some incredibly good news to Anna. The U.S. Attorney has decided to charge her as a juvenile offender. Duerte has to plead guilty to all the murders, and agree to undergo rehabilitation and counseling. However if she successfully completes the program without incident, she’ll become a free woman when she turns 21. Anna’s eyes fill with tears of joy, and asks how that’s possible, Navabi responds that for the first time in years, Duerte will be treated as a child. Anna informs Liz where they can find the dumpster she threw Jawal’s ledger in. She then joins Dembe and Reddington in a delightful exercise, picking through the garbage.

Aram and Samar get back to their apartment, and Navabi pulls out some takeout trays from a Thai restaurant. Mojtabai asks what’s the occasion, and Navabi says she needed a pick-me-up, after a very tough day. Aram then starts stammering and stuttering, and pulls out the ring from his pocket, saying his grandmother’s getting rid of a lot of her possessions. She’s delighted with the ring and thanks him, he says that the present’s mostly from his grandmother. She tells him that she knows it was really his idea, then asks him if Aram would like her to order different food for him? He smiles and says everything he wants is right there.

Raymond phones Garvey and tells the Marshall that he tried and failed. Garvey responds with the old bromide, that if first you don’t succeed. He then reminds Reddington, that he’s holding onto something very important to him. Red responds that he’s now in possession of something that Garvey considers quite valuable, then says he’ll be in touch and hangs up.

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

Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Sherwood/NBC

WARNING SPOILER ALERT:

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

Pete Seeger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy Of Will Hart/NBC

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT

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

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

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

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

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

The Blacklist Member Of The Week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Counseling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring Me The Head Of Ian Garvey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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