The Blacklist (S05E22) “Sutton Ross”

After a full year, The Blacklist Season 5 finale, “Sutton Ross”, gave us the long-awaited truth behind that duffel bag of bones. The same bones that our dear, departed Mr. Kaplan dug up in the Season 4 finale came full circle to close out Season 5. In one of the best episodes this season, the race to the duffel bag between Reddington and Liz came to its conclusion. If you haven’t seen the finale, then here is the warning – there are spoilers ahead!

The episode got off to a rocking good start. The music was perfection as our Blacklister, Sutton Ross (Julian Sands), strode into Veritable Robotics posing as the FBI. Within a few minutes his team took boxes of files and arrested the CFO of the company. A perfect robbery, except for one tiny detail. They left the premises without the CFO or boxes of files. That was just a distraction. What where they after?

At the Post Office, Liz meets with Cooper, feeling a little ashamed that she’s not at the hospital with Aram and Samar. Aram is doing fine though, keeping the nurses on their toes with medical information he’s picked up online. Liz, determined to go after the duffel bag and retrieve it before Reddington, doesn’t waver. Cooper understands.

In the war room, Liz fills in the team on the robbery at Veritable Robotics carried out by Sutton Ross. He steals technology for companies that don’t want to spend the time developing it. Years ago, the Navy knew Ross was working for China, so the Navy made sure he stole plans for a plane that couldn’t fly. So when it crashed, China blamed Ross then turned him over to the feds, who issued an arrest warrant. Ross disappeared, though, thanks to Ian Garvey protecting him. Even dead, Garvey is still influencing events.

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Ressler and Liz head to Veritable Robotics, and there they discover that three hard drives missing, taken during the ‘robbery’. Each held classified information on ‘The Rafferty Project’ that was being worked on by employee Ravi Desai (Rock Kohli).  Mr Desai is on vacation with his kids, and unaware his research has fallen into the wrong hands. Back at the Post Office, Ressler and Liz are on the phone with Aram, who is a fan of Ravi Desai. Aram discovers that the Rafferty Project is an exoskeleton. A manned robot designed to help people go into hazardous areas. Sutton Ross can sell it for a fortune on the open market, but he needs Desai to make it work. The task force need to find Desai before Ross does. But being the mega fan who follows Desai on Instagram and Twitter, Aram knows Desai is at a movie with his kids.

Meanwhile, Reddington has also been busy tracking down Sutton Ross. He’s taking a different path to the task force though and visits the man’s tailor. After meeting with the actor, writer and director, John Waters in a lovely cameo scene, Red fan boys a little, then gets what he came for; the address of where the tailor sends Sutton Ross’s invoices. After a quick visit to Ross’s accountant, Red finds out where Ross is. And it is where Liz and Ressler now are, at the movie theater where Ravi Desai is watching the matinee with his children. Ross beats them to it though and takes off with Desai and his family. Liz arrests one of  Ross’s men, then takes off in the SUV -without Ressler. Reddington arrives, shoots a couple more of Ross’s men, then takes off after Liz. The chase is on.

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In one of many fast paced scenes throughout this episode, Ross is threatening Desai to get the intel he needs, while followed by Liz and Reddington. Liz is so done with Red and the chase to the duffel bag. She swears she’ll arrest him if he interferes in her pursuit of Ross. And it’s all going swimmingly – until she crashes into a dumpster. She should have let Ressler drive, right? And here Red does what he does best. He cares for Liz. He opts to lose Ross to make sure Liz is okay. But even dazed, Liz is still angry with Red, trying to read him his rights. Having determined she’s not hurt, Red then steals Ross’s man, then handcuffs Liz to her steering wheel. At this point it was so hard not to be on Team Red as much as I want Liz to find out his secret.

As Ressler cleans up the scene at the theater, they find a burner phone belonging to one of Ross’s dead mean. It has information on where a meeting is to take place that afternoon, but the task force decide they’ll pose as the Serbian buyers that Ross is meeting. Reddington has also found out the same intel via Brimley interrogating Ross’s man who Reddington took from Liz’s car. And once again, the task force and Red descend on the same place in pursuit of Sutton Ross. As Red looks on, he realizes he’s too late as the Serbian buyer is Ressler, taking possession of the hard drives. Once Desai and his children are safe, the FBI swoop in and arrest Sutton Ross. Red misses him by minutes.

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Back at the Post Office, Liz and Ressler are interviewing Ross, when he asks for 5 minutes alone with Liz. No cameras. No recording. A reluctant Ressler agrees and exits the room after shutting off the video feed. Meanwhile, Red is giving an ultimatum to Cooper. If they don’t release Ross and allow Red to take the duffel bag, he will end the deal he has with the FBI. Cooper isn’t backing down on it.

Down in the interrogation room, Ressler watches through the window as Ross upends the table, blocks their view of the room, and smashes the door handle. No one can get in the room. When they do break in, the room is empty, and the ceiling vent is askew. Ross has taken Liz right under their noses. As they watch on the video feeds of a rear corridor, Ross threatens Liz’s life if he doesn’t get the door access code. Cooper refuses. Red is sure he’s bluffing, as is Liz. But Aram breaks and gives the code. Ross makes his escape from the Post Office with Liz.

While the task force are busy trying to find the vehicle Ross escaped in, Red gets a call. It’s Ross, wanting Red’s life for Liz’s. Red agrees without a second to think about it. Cooper has just berated Red for being the constant reason Liz is in danger, yet Red never hesitates to be right there to rescue and help Liz. They set up a meeting at a payphone. Reddington insists on going alone, but Cooper isn’t letting him out of their sight. Things don’t go to plan at the payphone when Red walks into a nearby business. In minutes, three vans drive out, each holding a hooded prisoner. Which one is Red? As the FBI track the three vans, Dembe is walking to where he last saw Red. Then realizes Red wasn’t in any of the decoy vans, but a different one that almost ran him over.

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At the location, Reddington is zip tied to a chair. After removing the hood over his head, he opens his eyes to see a bloodied and beaten Liz sitting before him. You can almost see Red’s heart melt. Liz breaks down, apologizing to Red for not leaving the bag alone. This is all her fault. Red assures her she has nothing to apologize for as Ross appears. And guess what he’s holding. The infamous duffel bag, in the flesh, so to speak.

As his men drag Liz into the back room, Ross sits down with Red. He’s face to face with the man he believes sold him a dud when dealing with the Chinese years ago. Ross pulls the DNA report out of the bag of bones, demanding to know what it means. If Red doesn’t talk, Liz will die. Red hears her screams from the back room. Ross wants the truth. And Red opens his mouth… “The truth is that I am not-“

But we never get to hear what Red is not, as Ressler, Dembe and the Feds breech in a volley of gunfire, taking down some of Ross’s men. Red rushes to the back room, intent only on finding Liz. She’s bloody and handcuffed and he comforts her. Cooper orders Red to get out of there as SWAT is on the way. I always love it when the task force close ranks around Red, protecting his identity and making sure he gets away when other law enforcement is coming.

In the other room, Ressler is arresting Ross, when Red walks past, grabs his precious duffel bag and then shoots Sutton Ross dead. Ressler and Cooper let Red go. He is still their confidential informant and they can’t do anything to him for shooting Ross. Red walks away with the duffel bag, his mission almost accomplished. He has one last stop to make.

Aram realizes he’s missed 6 calls from the hospital during the mayhem. As he runs in, Samar’s room is full of doctors and medical staff. He fears the worst, but Samar is awake, and tells him “yes,” again. She will marry him. So Aram got his happy ending.

Liz also has another place she needs to be, and visits Tom’s grave. And here, she tells Tom’s ‘ghost’ just what she did. Red thinks his secret is safe. It’s not. Liz worked with Sutton Ross and together they escaped the Post Office. Once safe, Ross showed Liz the bones and the DNA report. And who should bring the bag of bones to Liz, but Jennifer. She was working with Ross after Garvey handed him the bones in Costa Rica.  Liz now knows Red’s secret. And she discovered it while fooling him, by letting Red do the one thing he always does – try to save Liz. So many people died knowing Red’s truth. Diane Fowler, Sam Milhoan, Naomi Hyland (Carla Reddington), Mr Kaplan, Nik Korpal, and Tom. And now Liz knows the truth.

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Meanwhile, Red has reached his destination. He’s at Dom’s house, who lets him in without a word. With the duffel bag, they sit out the back and feed the bones into a hot fire burning in a drum. Dom assures Red that Liz may not know his secret, but she knows he has one and she’ll never let it go.

Liz is still telling all to Tom’s grave. She now knows whose bones are in the duffel bag. Raymond Reddington’s. The real Raymond Reddington’s bones.  Liz’s father. This man she’s known for five years is an impostor. Why did he pretend to be Reddington? Why did he come into her life? She will find out, and then she will destroy him. And she’ll have help. As she leave’s Tom’s grave, Liz meets Jennifer, and together the two sisters walk away.

Wow, where to begin on this episode?! First, I’ll say I wasn’t surprised by the bones being Reddington. This arc has gone on for a year. A YEAR! Far too long, and half the Blacklist fandom had long since figured out it had to be Reddington’s bones in the duffel bag. The imposter theory has been around for months, and all variations of it had merit. So while some viewers were shocked and didn’t see it coming, myself and others I interact with in the fandom had seen it a mile off.

And the clues were all there. Red’s first day with Liz, he told her that everything about him was a lie. Over the years, so many inconsistencies regarding Red have come out. Dembe and others close to him have begged Red to tell Liz the truth for years. Red hasn’t, for whatever reason. The clues have been there all along, if you took note while watching. But with this reveal we now know for certain that our Red is not the real Red, but a fake Red. Faux Red. Fred. Does this make him a monster? No, I don’t believe so. No matter what his name is, we know him as Raymond Reddington. This is who he is. That hasn’t changed.

The Blacklist was renewed for Season 6, so all of Liz’s questions will rise to the fore come January 2019. The question is no longer ‘is he Liz’s father?’ since we now know the bones belonged to Liz’s real father – the real Raymond Reddington. So the question now becomes, why did this man take on the persona of Raymond Reddington? What drove him to it?

I don’t believe it was to become a criminal, but to protect people he loves. People he still loves and cares for. This fake Red has saved Liz’s life, saved Ressler’s life, helped Liz, helped Ressler, Cooper, Aram, Samar and everyone on the task force many times. He’s a criminal, yes. But he’s also a good man with strong principals. There is no way Dembe and Dom would have stood by him if he weren’t.

And unraveling the answers to these questions is where the new journey takes us, and I can’t wait to see it all revealed in Season 6.

The Blacklist is now on hiatus until January, 2019 where it will return on its new night of Friday at 9/8c on NBC.
Images courtesy of NBC.