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The body on Somerton Beach - a body found in 1948 with a mysterious scrap of paper sewn into a secret pocket.
Most murders aren’t that difficult to solve. The husband did it. The wife did it. The boyfriend did it, or the ex-boyfriend did. The crimes fit a pattern, the motives are generally clear.
Of course, there are always a handful of cases that don’t fit the template, where the killer is a stranger or the reason for the killing is bizarre. It’s fair to say, however, that nowadays the authorities usually have something to go on. Thanks in part to advances such as DNA technology, the police are seldom baffled anymore.
They certainly were baffled, though, in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, in December 1948. And the only thing that seems to have changed since then is that a story that began simply—with the discovery of a body on the beach on the first day of that southern summer—has bec0me ever more mysterious. In fact, this case (which remains, theoretically at least, an active investigation) is so opaque that we still do not know the victim’s identity, have no real idea what killed him, and cannot even be certain whether his death was murder or suicide.
What we can say is that the clues in the Somerton Beach mystery (or the enigma of the “Unknown Man,” as it is known Down Under) add up to one of the world’s most perplexing cold cases. It may be the most mysterious of them all.
Let’s start by sketching out the little that is known for certain. At 7 o’clock on the warm evening of Tuesday, November 30, 1948, jeweler John Bain Lyons and his wife went for a stroll on Somerton Beach, a seaside resort a few miles south of Adelaide. As they walked toward Glenelg, they noticed a smartly dressed man lying on the sand, his head propped against a sea wall. He was lolling about 20 yards from them, legs outstretched, feet crossed. As the couple watched, the man extended his right arm upward, then let it fall back to the ground. Lyons thought he might be making a drunken attempt to smoke a cigarette.
Half an hour later, another couple noticed the same man lying in the same position. Looking on him from above, the woman could see that he was immaculately dressed in a suit, with smart new shoes polished to a mirror shine—odd clothing for the beach. He was motionless, his left arm splayed out on the sand. The couple decided that he was simply asleep, his face surrounded by mosquitoes. “He must be dead to the world not to notice them,” the boyfriend joked.
It was not until next morning that it became obvious that the man was not so much dead to the world as actually dead. John Lyons returned from a morning swim to find some people clustered at the seawall where he had seen his “drunk” the previous evening. Walking over, he saw a figure slumped in much the same position, head resting on the seawall, feet crossed. Now, though, the body was cold. There were no marks of any sort of violence. A half-smoked cigarette was lying on the man’s collar, as though it had fallen from his mouth.
The body reached the Royal Adelaide Hospital three hours later. There Dr. John Barkley Bennett put the time of death at no earlier than 2 a.m., noted the likely cause of death as heart failure, and added that he suspected poisoning. The contents of the man’s pockets were spread out on a table: tickets from Adelaide to the beach, a pack of chewing gum, some matches, two combs and a pack of Army Club cigarettes containing seven cigarettes of another, more expensive brand called Kensitas. There was no wallet and no cash, and no ID. None of the man’s clothes bore any name tags—indeed, in all but one case the maker’s label had been carefully snipped away. One trouser pocket had been neatly repaired with an unusual variety of orange thread.
By the time a full autopsy was carried out a day later, the police had already exhausted their best leads as to the dead man’s identity, and the results of the postmortem did little to enlighten them. It revealed that the corpse’s pupils were “smaller” than normal and “unusual,” that a dribble of spittle had run down the side of the man’s mouth as he lay, and that “he was probably unable to swallow it.” His spleen, meanwhile, “was strikingly large and firm, about three times normal size,” and the liver was distended with congested blood.
In the man’s stomach, pathologist John Dwyer found the remains of his last meal—a pasty—and a further quantity of blood. That too suggested poisoning, though there was nothing to show that the poison had been in the food. Now the dead man’s peculiar behavior on the beach—slumping in a suit, raising and dropping his right arm—seemed less like drunkenness than it did a lethal dose of something taking slow effect. But repeated tests on both blood and organs by an expert chemist failed to reveal the faintest trace of a poison. “I was astounded that he found nothing,” Dwyer admitted at the inquest. In fact, no cause of death was found.
The body displayed other peculiarities. The dead man’s calf muscles were high and very well developed; although in his late 40s, he had the legs of an athlete. His toes, meanwhile, were oddly wedge-shaped. One expert who gave evidence at the inquest noted:
I have not seen the tendency of calf muscle so pronounced as in this case…. His feet were rather striking, suggesting—this is my own assumption—that he had been in the habit of wearing high-heeled and pointed shoes.
Perhaps, another expert witness hazarded, the dead man had been a ballet dancer?
The mystery gets stranger after the jump.
All this left the Adelaide coroner, Thomas Cleland, with a real puzzle on his hands. The only practical solution, he was informed by an eminent professor, Sir Cedric Stanton Hicks, was that a very rare poison had been used—one that “decomposed very early after death,” leaving no trace. The only poisons capable of this were so dangerous and deadly that Hicks would not say their names aloud in open court. Instead, he passed Cleland a scrap of paper on which he had written the names of two possible candidates: digitalis and strophanthin. Hicks suspected the latter. Strophanthin is a rare glycoside derived from the seeds of some African plants. Historically, it was used by a little-known Somali tribe to poison arrows.
More baffled than ever now, the police continued their investigation. A full set of fingerprints was taken and circulated throughout Australia—and then throughout the English-speaking world. No one could identify them. People from all over Adelaide were escorted to the mortuary in the hope they could give the corpse a name. Some thought they knew the man from photos published in the newspapers, others were the distraught relatives of missing persons. Not one recognized the body.
By January 11, the South Australia police had investigated and dismissed pretty much every lead they had. The investigation was now widened in an attempt to locate any abandoned personal possessions, perhaps left luggage, that might suggest that the dead man had come from out of state. This meant checking every hotel, dry cleaner, lost property office and railway station for miles around. But it did produce results. On the 12th, detectives sent to the main railway station in Adelaide were shown a brown suitcase that had been deposited in the cloakroom there on November 30.
The suitcase left by the dead man at Adelaide Station – with some of its perplexing contents
The staff could remember nothing about the owner, and the case’s contents were not much more revealing. The case did contain a reel of orange thread identical to that used to repair the dead man’s trousers, but painstaking care had been applied to remove practically every trace of the owner’s identity. The case bore no stickers or markings, and a label had been torn off from one side. The tags were missing from all but three items of the clothing inside; these bore the name “Kean” or “T. Keane,” but it proved impossible to trace anyone of that name, and the police concluded–an Adelaide newspaper reported–that someone “had purposely left them on, knowing that the dead man’s name was not ‘Kean’ or ‘Keane.’ ”
The remainder of the contents were equally inscrutable. There was a stencil kit of the sort “used by the Third Officer on merchant ships responsible for the stenciling of cargo”; a table knife with the haft cut down; and a coat stitched using a feather stitch unknown in Australia. A tailor identified the stitchwork as American in origin, suggesting that the coat, and perhaps its wearer, had traveled during the war years. But searches of shipping and immigration records from across the country again produced no likely leads.
The police had brought in another expert, John Cleland, emeritus professor of pathology at the University of Adelaide, to re-examine the corpse and the dead man’s possessions. In April, four months after the discovery of the body, Cleland’s search produced a final piece of evidence—one that would prove to be the most baffling of all. Cleland discovered a small pocket sewn into the waistband of the dead man’s trousers. Previous examiners had missed it, and several accounts of the case have referred to it as a “secret pocket,” but it seems to have been intended to hold a fob watch. Inside, tightly rolled, was a minute scrap of paper, which, opened up, proved to contain two words, typeset in an elaborate printed script. The phrase read “Tamám Shud.”
The scrap of paper discovered in a concealed pocket in the dead man's trousers. 'Tamám shud' is a Persian phrase; it means 'It is ended.' The words had been torn from a rare New Zealand edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
Frank Kennedy, the police reporter for the Adelaide Advertiser, recognized the words as Persian, and telephoned the police to suggest they obtain a copy of a book of poetry—the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. This work, written in the twelfth century, had become popular in Australia during the war years in a much-loved translation by Edward FitzGerald. It existed in numerous editions, but the usual intricate police enquiries to libraries, publishers and bookshops failed to find one that matched the fancy type. At least it was possible, however, to say that the words “Tamám shud” (or “Taman shud,” as several newspapers misprinted it—a mistake perpetuated ever since) did come from Khayyam’s romantic reflections on life and mortality. They were, in fact, the last words in most English translations— not surprisingly, because the phrase means “It is ended.”
Taken at face value, this new clue suggested that the death might be a case of suicide; in fact, the South Australia police never did turn their “missing person” enquiries into a full-blown murder investigation. But the discovery took them no closer to identifying the dead man, and in the meantime his body had begun to decompose. Arrangements were made for a burial, but—conscious that they were disposing of one of the few pieces of evidence they had—the police first had the corpse embalmed, and a cast taken of the head and upper torso. After that, the body was buried, sealed under concrete in a plot of dry ground specifically chosen in case it became necessary to exhume it. As late as 1978, flowers would be found at odd intervals on the grave, but no one could ascertain who had left them there, or why.
The dead man's copy of the Rubaiyat, from a contemporary press photo. No other copy of the book matching this one has ever been located.
In July, fully eight months after the investigation had begun, the search for the right Rubaiyat produced results. On the 23rd, a Glenelg man walked into the Detective Office in Adelaide with a copy of the book and a strange story. Early the previous December, just after the discovery of the unknown body, he had gone for a drive with his brother-in-law in a car he kept parked a few hundred yards from Somerton Beach. The brother-in-law had found a copy of the Rubaiyat lying on the floor by the rear seats. Each man had silently assumed it belonged to the other, and the book had sat in the glove compartment ever since. Alerted by a newspaper article about the search, the two men had gone back to take a closer look. They found that part of the final page had been torn out, together with Khayyam’s final words. They went to the police.
Detective Sergeant Lionel Leane took a close look at the book. Almost at once he found a telephone number penciled on the rear cover; using a magnifying glass, he dimly made out the faint impression of some other letters, written in capitals underneath. Here, at last, was a solid clue to go on.
The phone number was unlisted, but it proved to belong to a young nurse who lived near Somerton Beach. Like the two Glenelg men, she has never been publicly identified—the South Australia police of 1949 were disappointingly willing to protect witnesses embarrassed to be linked to the case—and she is now known only by her nickname, Jestyn. Reluctantly, it seemed (perhaps because she was living with the man who would become her husband), the nurse admitted that she had indeed presented a copy of the Rubaiyat to a man she had known during the war. She gave the detectives his name: Alfred Boxall.
At last the police felt confident that they had solved the mystery. Boxall, surely, was the Unknown Man. Within days they traced his home to Maroubra, New South Wales.
The problem was that Boxall turned out to be still alive, and he still had the copy of the Rubaiyat Jestyn had given him. It bore the nurse’s inscription, but was completely intact. The scrap of paper hidden in the dead man’s pocket must have come from somewhere else.
It might have helped if the South Australia police had felt able to question Jestyn closely, but it is clear that they did not. The gentle probing that the nurse received did yield some intriguing bits of information; interviewed again, she recalled that some time the previous year—she could not be certain of the date—she had come home to be told by neighbors than an unknown man had called and asked for her. And, confronted with the cast of the dead man’s face, Jestyn seemed “completely taken aback, to the point of giving the appearance she was about to faint,” Leane said. She seemed to recognize the man, yet firmly denied that he was anyone she knew.
The code revealed by examination of the dead man's Rubaiyat under ultraviolet light. It has yet to be cracked.
That left the faint impression Sergeant Leane had noticed in the Glenelg Rubaiyat. Examined under ultraviolet light, five lines of jumbled letters could be seen, the second of which had been crossed out. The first three were separated from the last two by a pair of straight lines with an ‘x’ written over them. It seemed that they were some sort of code.
Breaking a code from only a small fragment of text is exceedingly difficult, but the police did their best. They sent the message to Naval Intelligence, home to the finest cipher experts in Australia, and allowed the message to be published in the press. This produced a frenzy of amateur codebreaking, almost all of it worthless, and a message from the Navy concluding that the code appeared unbreakable:
From the manner in which the lines have been represented as being set out in the original, it is evident that the end of each line indicates a break in sense.
There is an insufficient number of letters for definite conclusions to be based on analysis, but the indications together with the acceptance of the above breaks in sense indicate, in so far as can be seen, that the letters do not constitute any kind of simple cipher or code.
The frequency of the occurrence of letters, whilst inconclusive, corresponds more favourably with the table of frequencies of initial letters of words in English than with any other table; accordingly a reasonable explanation would be that the lines are the initial letters of words of a verse of poetry or such like.
And there, to all intents and purposes, the mystery rested. The Australian police never cracked the code or identified the unknown man. Jestyn died a few years ago without revealing why she had seemed likely to faint when confronted with a likeness of the dead man’s face. And when the South Australia coroner published the final results of his investigation in 1958, his report concluded with the admission:
I am unable to say who the deceased was… I am unable to say how he died or what was the cause of death.
In recent years, though, the Tamám Shud case has begun to attract new attention. Amateur sleuths have probed at the loose ends left by the police, solving one or two minor mysteries but often creating new ones in their stead. And two especially persistent investigators—retired Australian policeman Gerry Feltus, author of the only book yet published on the case, and Professor Derek Abbott of the University of Adelaide—have made particularly useful progress. Both freely admit they have not solved mystery—but let’s close by looking briefly at the remaining puzzles and leading theories.
First, the man’s identity remains unknown. It is generally presumed that he was known to Jestyn, and may well have been the man who called at her apartment, but even if he was not, the nurse’s shocked response when confronted with the body cast was telling. Might the solution be found in her activities during World War II? Was she in the habit of presenting men friends with copies of the Rubaiyat, and, if so, might the dead man have been a former boyfriend, or more, whom she did not wish to confess to knowing? Abbott’s researches certainly suggest as much, for he has traced Jestyn’s identity and discovered that she had a son. Minute analysis of the surviving photos of the Unknown Man and Jestyn’s child reveals intriguing similarities. Might the dead man have been the father of the son? If so, could he have killed himself when told he could not see them?
Those who argue against this theory point to the cause of the man’s death. How credible is it, they say, that someone would commit suicide by dosing himself with a poison of real rarity? Digitalis, and even strophanthin, can be had from pharmacies, but never off the shelf—both poisons are muscle relaxants used to treat heart disease. The apparently exotic nature of the death suggests, to these theorists, that the Unknown Man was possibly a spy. Alfred Boxall had worked in intelligence during the war, and the Unknown Man died, after all, at the onset of the Cold War, and at a time when the British rocket testing facility at Woomera, a few hundred miles from Adelaide, was one of the most secret bases in the world. It has even been suggested that poison was administered to him via his tobacco. Might this explain the mystery of why his Army Club pack contained seven Kensitas cigarettes?
Far-fetched as this seems, there are two more genuinely odd things about the mystery of Tamám Shud that point away from anything so mundane as suicide.
The first is the apparent impossibility of locating an exact duplicate of the Rubaiyat handed in to the police in July 1949. Exhaustive enquiries by Gerry Feltus at last tracked down a near-identical version, with the same cover, published by a New Zealand bookstore chain named Whitcombe & Tombs. But it was published in a squarer format.
Add to that one of Derek Abbott’s leads, and the puzzle gets yet more peculiar. Abbott has discovered that at least one other man died in Australia after the war with a copy of Khayyam’s poems close by him. This man’s name was George Marshall, he was a Jewish immigrant from Singapore, and his copy of the Rubaiyat was published in London by Methuen— a seventh edition.
So far, so not especially peculiar. But inquiries to the publisher, and to libraries around the world, suggest that there were never more than five editions of Methuen’s Rubaiyat—which means that Marshall’s seventh edition was as nonexistent as the Unknown Man’s Whitcombe & Tombs appears to be. Might the books not have been books at all, but disguised spy gear of some sort—say one-time code pads?
Which brings us to the final mystery. Going through the police file on the case, Gerry Feltus stumbled across a neglected piece of evidence: a statement, given in 1959, by a man who had been on Somerton Beach. There, on the evening that the Unknown Man expired, and walking toward the spot where his body was found, the witness (a police report stated) “saw a man carrying another on his shoulder, near the water’s edge. He could not describe the man.”
At the time, this did not seem that mysterious; the witness assumed he’d seen somebody carrying a drunken friend. Looked at in the cold light of day, though, it raises questions. After all, none of the people who saw a man lying on the seafront earlier had noticed his face. Might he not have been the Unknown Man at all? Might the body found next morning have been the one seen on the stranger’s shoulder? And, if so, might this conceivably suggest this really was a case involving spies—and murder?
The Blacklist's Greatest Charade: Why we still don't have the truth of the bones' identity
The season five finale was a turning point in the show, one that's ramifications are still being felt for our characters even years later. The episode was the culmination of the bones arc and revealed the identity of the skeleton in the suitcase. Or so we were led to believe.
One important tool the writers use is to tell the story through one character's limited perspective. It's a way they get the audience to narrow their focus and look at events only through that character's eyes
In 5.22, we saw what happened through Liz's point of view. We saw her track down Ross and get locked in the room with him. We watched her get kidnapped and beat up. Then at the end of the episode, we saw Liz walk the audience through the events of what happened as she explains it to her hallucination of Tom. Flashbacks of previous characters talked about knowing the truth as Liz says those bones belonged to her father.
In that episode, and in the identification of the bones, the audience became Liz. We saw the situation through her limited point of view. Liz was shown a DNA report that told her that her father was dead, that the bones in the bag belonged to Raymond Reddington. That's what we as the audience believed along with her.
Moving forward after the season five finale, interview after interview came out with the show runners clarifying what the reveal meant, making sure the audience understood it. Seems pretty clear, doesn't it? Liz got a DNA report showing her the bones were identified as RR, her father. Red isn't Reddington, but an imposter.
But...when we look back at many of the scenes and lines that those show runners have written themselves, or had a hand in writing, there's a lot that contradicts the season five reveal. When we look at the points of view of some of the other characters who were directly involved in the bones arc, a lot of their words and actions don't seem consistent with the idea that Raymond Reddington is dead in the suitcase. There seem to be some large holes in logic when we look at this in more detail.
u/TessaBissolli and I have both written many posts in the past talking about the identification of the bones. This is a collaborative effort to consolidate all of those contradictions and points of view into one master post. Beware that this is very long. I've broken it up into more manageable sections, but this will not be a quick read.
Before we go into what the characters have to say about the bones, I wanted to examine why so many of us refuse to accept that the bones were positively and directly identified as RR. This ends up being a point of contention that many would like to forget and sweep under the rug as bad writing. But I believe ignoring all of these clues is a mistake.
This isn't about one line that was written wrong or something the writers forgot about as they finished the bones arc. There is a clear path of clues through the series that show there was no way to make a direct ID of the bones to Raymond Reddington
WHAT EVIDENCE SHOWS THE BONES CANNOT HAVE BEEN DIRECTLY IDENTIFIED AS LIZ'S FATHER, RAYMOND REDDINGTON?
We know from the pilot that Red surrendered to the FBI and was identified by fingerprints and tattoos. There was no identification of him with DNA, or any mention of it, though at the time we had no idea why.
We know Red pulled off the charade with Gregory Devry in 3.11, using an old friend and grifter. His intent was to try and make his enemies believe Devry was a Raymond Reddington imposter to restore his reputation as a criminal. We were also told there was no way to confirm Devry's identity as Reddington with DNA:
Liz: "I came as soon as I got the call. Who is this guy? He claims he's Reddington?"
Samar: "Yes, and we can't disprove it with DNA because there's nothing on file from 1990 when Reddington disappeared."
So Red knew there was no way to directly confirm or deny the identity of RR with DNA. That's why the charade worked. It's at this point in season three that we finally understand why Red was only identified by fingerprints and tattoos when he surrendered. Because when Reddington was declared missing in late 1990, his DNA hadn't been collected, and wasn't in the CODIS database.
For those who believe Red is an imposter of RR, it's also why Red was able to surrender to the FBI without being found out. If there had been a DNA profile of RR in the system before his disappearance, we wouldn't have all these uncertainties about his identity. It's only because there was NO profile in CODIS to match Red to, that the mystery is still unsolved.
The only official sample of Reddington's DNA was sitting in a sealed box in the evidence vault as we saw in 4.22. There was no other DNA collected from RR before he disappeared in 1990. Not only was there no federal CODIS database until years later (1994 in the real world), there was no reason to enter his DNA. He wasn't a convicted criminal, but a respected Naval Officer.
It's also illogical that Cooper would have put that DNA from the evidence vault into CODIS after 4.22, as I've heard many argue. For one thing, it was illegally obtained. Cooper tampered with evidence to get the sample. Even if we wanted to say Cooper is a moron who would put his confidential informant's DNA in the system illegally, and Reddington's DNA was in CODIS after 4.22, that would have posed new problems. First, if there had been been a match to RR from a sample Cooper put into the system, Cooper and the FBI would have been alerted. That didn't happen.
There would have also been a big problem when Red went to prison. We know Red's DNA would have been put in CODIS after his conviction in season 6, under the identity of Raymond Reddington. We're told in 6.13 that people convicted of crimes have their genetic profiles put into the system:
"His name was Anderson Mount. Run-of-the-mill goon...Did enough damage to get into CODIS. And when we put the DNA from the body into the system, we got a match."
So as we can see, if there was already another DNA profile from RR in the system before that time, it would have been noticed and raised a red flag.
Another clue comes in 7.04 when we were shown how Daniel Hutton was identified. We have another Naval Officer who went missing the year before Reddington, and was also ID with fingerprints, because there was no DNA taken that long ago.
If we take all of these factors into account, we know the DNA of Raymond Reddington was not in CODIS before season 6. Which means the bones could not have been directly identified as RR.
What about the points of view of those characters who saw the DNA report leading up to Liz telling the audience what it said? Pete and Nik would have seen the results, but both died before saying anything. Garvey, Tom and Sutton Ross all saw the ID of the bones, so we can look at what their words tell us.
Then we have those who didn't see the DNA report, but are deeply involved in the events of the past. Kate believed she knew who was buried in the suitcase at Tansi Farms. Red and Dembe both know the truth of the bones.
With the reveal that Liz sees a DNA report telling her Raymond Reddington is dead and it's his bones in that bag, it's easy to go back and fit the dialogue into that conclusion. But...what do these characters actually say about the bones and DNA results?
Tom was the first of our characters who we watched read the report containing the ID of the bones. We know whatever he saw on the report, he seemed shocked and needed to tell Liz. When he calls her, this is all he says:
"Do not tell anyone that we spoke or that you even know I'm okay. I need to see you alone, all right? Have Rosa take Agnes, go to the house, and make sure that nobody follows you. I figured it out, the whole thing. Why Nik was killed, all of it."
These are Tom's last words to Liz before the fateful scene that would lead to his death. Tom tells Liz that he needs to see her alone because he's figured it out, all of it. That's all he really says to her about the situation. At that time, Liz had no idea what he was talking about, or that there were bones in a suitcase, or why they were attacked.
We also have Red and Tom's conversation during that last phone call at the bus station.
"This is a horrible mistake. Whatever you're doing, whatever it is you think you're going to tell Elizabeth, this is a mistake. Walk away from this, Tom."
"You know I can't do that."
"And why is that?"
"Because I know the truth. I know everything. And now Liz is gonna know, too."
So what did the report say and why did Tom believe he had figured it all out? How did he know everything? Unless all the writers and executive producers are complete bumbling idiots who can't keep simple clues straight, that DNA report cannot have shown a direct ID of Reddington. For all the reasons I went into at the beginning, it's simply not possible.
The report could have shown a paternal familial match to the father of Jennifer Reddington. That seems to be the best guess of many people here. Tom sees that Jennifer's father is dead in a bag and he extrapolates that to mean RR was her father, so he's dead. Therefore, Red must be a fake and that's what Tom plans to tell Liz. But...
In what normal circumstances does Tom look at a report saying that Jennifer's father is dead and make the jump in logic that his father in law must have killed the real Reddington and had plastic surgery to become a perfect replica of him? Now Tom thinks this guy that he's come to know over the years, who hired him to watch over Liz, must be an imposter?
Really? Wouldn't any normal person think that Reddington was not the father of Jennifer, but instead he married Carla when she was already pregnant? Or Jennifer's mother was an unhappy housewife who fooled around like Reddington had with his Russian mistress. Maybe Red found out and the guy who was Jennifer's biological father became a pile of bones.
If the ID of those bones only showed that the father of Jennifer Reddington was dead, who would care? All Red has to do is say he was never her biological father to begin with. Why would anyone except Jennifer and maybe Garvey even care about that? Remember that there's no DNA of RR in CODIS to even check. Tom's reaction to the bones and Red's desperation to keep them away from Liz has to be more than some familial match to Jennifer's father.
Tom would have already known that Liz was born and lived as Masha Rostova until she was four; the daughter of Constantin and Katarina. Tom found a DNA report in Rostov's FSB file showing he was the biological father of Masha, which was later proved false. Like we heard Red tell Liz, "Just because he was your mother's husband doesn't make him your father." So Tom already went through this situation when it was proven that Constantin Rostov was the legal father of Masha, but not the biological one. And it's not like Jennifer having a biological father of someone other than Reddington would be some groundbreaking revelation that people are killing to obtain.
So how exactly did Tom know this whole truth or figure it all out?
Ian Garvey had an interesting point of view as the US Marshal who was in charge of protecting Carla and Jennifer in WITSEC. Garvey believed that he had been protecting them all those years because Reddington was a threat to his own family. When he got an alert to a match in CODIS, he killed a whole bunch of people trying to get to Reddington to find out some truth.
We heard Garvey tell Tom:
"I have the suitcase. And because I have the suitcase, I need to speak with Raymond Reddington"
"When you consider all the people on the planet who would be interested in the contents of that case and you multiply that number by an even greater number of unspeakable things those people would do to get it, how the hell could it end up in the hands of a little pissant like you?"
Garvey says he can control Reddington's power with the knowledge of what's inside the suitcase. But once Tom is killed and Liz is in a coma, Garvey has the bones over a year and does nothing. Says nothing to anyone.
We don't hear very much from Garvey to Jennifer about Reddington. Before the final scene in the bar, he told her:
"You don't need to be protected from him anymore. Not after tomorrow."
What u/fran_oliveira pointed out was very perceptive, that the word "anymore" implied that Garvey believed Red was the same man he had always been protecting her from. Not a fake Reddington, but the man Garvey always thought was a danger to Jennifer. Her father.
Regarding the bones and who they were to Jennifer, Garvey doesn't say much more. All he tells her is that
"Everything you believed for the last 30 years has been a lie. You've spent a lifetime hiding for no reason."
If Garvey believed those bones somehow belonged to Reddington because he sees a report that Jennifer's father was dead, that would be a giant leap just like Tom would have needed to make. Almost everyone's reaction to seeing bones identified as Jennifer's father would assume Red was a step father to her, not an imposter who stole her father's identity.
But let's say that Garvey jumped to the conclusion that Red was an imposter who stole RR'S identity for some crazy reason. Wouldn't Jennifer be in even more danger from Red? Wouldn't she be living proof that could destroy his entire charade? Red's reputation in the criminal world was of a ruthless killer. From Garvey's POV, he would certainly have no problem killing an innocent person who threatened his way of life (Like Detective Singleton or the witness to his murder). So he would assume Red was the same way and would have killed Jennifer if he found her.
If Garvey knew Red wasn't RR, but the man who stole his identity, he wouldn't tell Jennifer she had been hiding for no reason. He would have hidden her even further. While Red as her father could still be a danger for her, an imposter of her father would be even more so.
When Liz burst into the bar to arrest Garvey, that's when Jennifer reveals the truth about Liz's relationship to Reddington:
"She’s acting like a criminal because she is the daughter of one."
It's then that Garvey is able to put some of the missing pieces together:
"Reddington’s her father. Now I get it. Reddington and your husband – how they knew each other. Reddington didn’t know you through him. He knew him through you."
One thing that's first important to note, is that if Garvey never knew Elizabeth Keen was a daughter of Reddington until that moment, that means her name was not listed on the DNA report. Tom and Garvey could have seen a familial match to Jennifer, but that also means Liz was not a genetic match to the bones.
In a recent post, u/TheDonald1 took another look at what Garvey said in that scene when he finally realizes that Reddington is Liz’s father. Garvey makes the connection that Reddington only knew Tom because Tom was married to his daughter. But Garvey is not speaking of some bones in a duffel bag when he's talking about Reddington. He's talking about the relationship between the man who is living, who he is calling Reddington, and the Tom Keen who was married to Liz.
Stop and think about what Garvey is implying here. He is saying that the Reddington who knew Tom Keen is the same Reddington who he is calling Liz's father. If Garvey believed the bones were Raymond Reddington, then he wouldn't be referring to the living Reddington who he believed was working with Tom as Liz's father.
Garvey's words here do not support the idea that he believed the bones were Reddington's. In fact, they contradict that entirely.
DEMBE AND SUTTON ROSS
The finale of 5.22 was a whirlwind of charades and heightened emotions from all of our characters. Fake escapes, fake torture and kidnapping all added a great deal of confusion for everyone.
The point of view of Ross was a difficult one. We know from what the task force found out about Ross that he was a thief that the Navy targeted back in the late 80's in a charade to get him to steal and then sell defective plans for a plane to the Chinese. Garvey was the US Marshal assigned to arrest Ross, but instead helped him fake his death and gave him a new identity.
Sutton Ross always believed Reddington was the guy who screwed him over, even if we know it was a Naval operation. Ross says that Reddington was "the bastard who tricked me into selling the Chinese a dodo bird" He was set up to think he was stealing classified plans and believes RR is the man who fooled him. So Ross has an axe to grind with Reddington and wants revenge against the man who he holds responsible for ruining his life.
In the narrative that Ross must know that the bones were ID as RR, we are supposed to believe that he knows Reddington is dead and wants revenge on the guy posing as him. Except...if Ross knows Red isn't Reddington, then he isn't the man who tricked him into stealing the bogus plans. So why does he want revenge for something he would know Red had nothing do with if the bag of bones identified as Raymond Reddington?
What's been brought up many, many times is not Ross' point of view in the episode, but Dembe's ABOUT Sutton Ross. Dembe is talking about Ross, but this is from the perspective of what Dembe knows to be true.
Before Red and Dembe can find Ross, we have this short conversation:
Dembe: "The truth always comes out."
Red: "It better, or we're not gonna find Sutton Ross."
Dembe: "I'm talking about your truth. It was bound to surface. Ross wants blood. He thinks you ruined his life."
Red: "I didn't give Sutton Ross bogus plans for the Grayscape Seventeen."
Dembe: "But he thinks you did, and because of that, he wants to world to know what's inside the duffel."
Dembe is telling Red that if they can't find Ross in time, the man will expose Red's truth that is inside the duffel bag which we know is about the bones. That's clear. The assumption from many is that Red's truth of the bones must be that he's hiding the fact he's an imposter. What else could all of this be about?
What we know about Dembe is that he is Red's secret keeper and knows exactly who Red is, and knows who's in the duffle bag. Dembe is saying that Red's truth is going to come out because Ross is going to get his revenge on Red.
"Ross wants blood. He thinks you (Red) ruined his life."
Dembe is telling Red and the audience that Ross believes Red is the Raymond Reddington who ruined his life.
Red says he's didn't give him the plans, so that has to mean he's not RR, right? The alternate interpretation of what Red is saying is that Ross stole those plans on his own. Red may have tricked him, but he didn't give them to Ross. The man was caught in a trap of his own making.
Then look at what Dembe says again in response to Red:
"But he thinks you (Red) did, and because of that, he wants to world to know what's inside the duffel."
Dembe is once again saying that Ross believes Red is that Reddington who screwed him over. Ross holds Red personally responsible for what happened to him. They both believe that Ross' revenge on Reddington is to expose the secret that's in the duffle bag.
The men knew back in 2017 that the bones were identified in CODIS. They knew there was a DNA report with the bones as Tom had seen it before he died. They believed Garvey had taken that bag with the bones and DNA report to Costa Rica to give to Ross.
If Dembe knew the real Reddington was dead in that bag, and he knew Ross had a DNA report stating that the bones belonged to Reddington, he wouldn't still believe Ross thought Red was the Reddington who tricked him into stealing the plans.
The episode continues with the audience seeing Ross captured in a charade and the excitement of his escape taking Liz as hostage. He bargains for Red to exchange himself for Liz, and of course he does. Now that Ross had Red sitting in front of him, listen to what he says:
"For 30 years, I've wanted to be in the same room as Raymond Reddington, the bastard who tricked me into selling the Chinese a dodo bird when they were looking for an eagle. And here we are."
But if Ross thinks Red isn't RR like the audience is being led to believe, and RR is dead in the duffle bag, then how does that statement work? In the same scene, soon after Ross supposedly showed Liz proof that Raymond Reddington's bones are in a bag, he's telling Red that he's waited 30 years to be in the same room as Raymond Reddington, the man who tricked him.
I guess we could say Ross just decides he will get his revenge on the guy posing as Reddington, or it's bad writing like people tend to chalk everything up to that doesn't fit.
But...how do you reconcile what Ross says when he has Red tied up in front of him, with what Dembe says to Red?
Dembe also believes that Ross thinks Red is the Raymond Reddington who tricked him. Dembe wouldn't be saying that if he knew the skeleton in the bag was Reddington.
Kate's point of view is important as she was one of Red's closest associates and confidantes for two decades, but also because she was trusted by Katarina as Masha's nanny. Most people are quick to assume that because Kate worked so closely with Katarina and then Red that she must know all their secrets. That includes knowing who was buried in the suitcase at Tansi Farms. Kate tells Red that it was "our secret" so that implies she knows the truth Red is hiding from Liz.
Once we heard Liz reveal the bones were her father's in the season five finale, many people made the assumption that the truth Kate wanted Liz to have was that Red was an imposter of Reddington. That the secret Kate was keeping for Red was that Liz's father was dead in a suitcase. Is that really who Kate believed was in the suitcase? Who did she think Red was then?
When Kate went to meet Red around 1997, she believed he was Raymond Reddington. That's obvious in how she speaks to Sam:
"Raymond Reddington. That man set off a chain reaction that took everything I loved from me. And not just me. He turned his back on his family, his country. And for what? A life of crime? He's a traitor. I have nothing to say to him, and I don't wanna hear anything he has to say to me."
So if Kate hated Reddington for taking away everything she loved, and she knew the bones belonged to RR, then why did she treat them with such love and reverence? Why was that person buried in a suitcase much like the one we see Katarina pack Masha's clothes in and the one in Dom's garage? Why bury them underneath the apple tree that's marked with a "K?" When Kate dug up that suitcase, she apologized to Katarina and lovingly caressed the K on the tree. If those were the bones of a man she despised, she would have had a different attitude towards them.
For all the discussion about Kate knowing that Red must be Katarina because Red put Masha in her arms as a baby girl, what she actually says contradicts that idea. Here's just a few things from Kate:
Kate to Red: "I made a promise to Elizabeth's mother to protect her girl at all costs."
"Her girl," Katarina's, not Red's.
Kate to Liz: "I loved Raymond. And your mother. I loved her, too."
"I loved her too"
Adding in the apology to Katarina as she dug up the bones, and Kate's actions in trying to destroy Red, all of the clues make it clear Kate never believed Red was her beloved Katarina.
Who did Kate think she was working for all this time then? If we look at all Kate's words and actions from the beginning, I think it becomes clear that she didn't believe Red was anyone other than Raymond Reddington.
Our first clue comes early in the series when Kate is called to clean up a scene after Red kills men trying to find Naomi. Kate tells Red that he will find his wife twice in 2.02. While many want to argue that Kate was only keeping to a role that Naomi was Reddington's wife, that falls flat. There were other ways to write those lines, and combined with what Red says about his wife multiple times and his reactions to losing her, every indication is that's who Kate believed Naomi was-Red's wife.
Then in 4.18, Kate is trying desperately to get Liz to separate herself and her daughter from Red. Kate says:
"The reason I'm telling you this now is so that you'll listen to me when I beg you walk away. I gave the authorities enough to put him away forever. But you and your team must disavow any knowledge of the task force."
"What if I was one of Raymond's enemies that would do anything to get at him? Please, do what your mother never had the courage to do until it was too late. Walk away from Raymond."
Kate believed that Katarina couldn't walk away from her affair with Raymond and that is what led to Masha's kidnapping and eventually Katarina's suicide. So Kate is trying to keep Liz from making the same mistake and wants her to walk away from Raymond before it's too late and her life is also destroyed.
Kate makes no distinction between the Raymond that Katarina couldn't walk away from and the Raymond she wants Liz to walk away from. In my opinion, it's clear that she believes Red is Raymond Reddington just like she did when he hired her in 1997. None of what Kate says to Red or Liz leading up to her suicide gives the impression that she ever thought Red was an imposter.
So if Kate thought Red was RR, then what secret did she think she was keeping? What truth did she believe she was giving Liz?
Right before her suicide, Kate meets Liz alone and she tells her:
"Masha, I can show you the truth. If you want to know why he came into your life."
The only two statements we have to look at on why Kate thinks Red came into Liz's life are in Requiem.
First, when Red hires Kate, he tells her:
"After Katarina's sudden departure, I felt a responsibility to watch over the girl from a distance...I've provided for her and Sam financially...God willing, Katarina's daughter will live a private life of quiet courage. But if anyone learns her identity, the only way I can stop the threats from rising is to rise up as a greater threat than all of them. Help me protect the girl we love."
In 1997, Red is telling Kate that because Katarina had to leave Masha with Sam and disappear, he is stepping in to protect Liz from those threats that come from who her mother was. Then in 2013, 16 years later, Red is surrendering to the FBI and tells Kate something very similar:
"As I feared would happen, elements from Katarina's past are circling Elizabeth like a pack of wolves in the night...Indeed, I need to control the danger to Elizabeth. I've built a vast criminal network predicated on that very principal. It's time to live up to my mission statement."
So based on what Red has told her, the why he has become part of Liz's life, is to protect her from her mother's enemies. Those people who are a danger to Masha because they are still hunting for Katarina Rostova. He's built a criminal empire with the sole purpose of rising up as a bigger threat to the enemies of Katarina to protect her daughter.
The last conversation we have between Red and Kate comes right before she jumps to her death, and this goes back to the truth Kate wanted Liz to have.
"You're right. I was so focused on you, I didn't see that getting you away from her is unnecessary. All I have to do is give her the truth."
"I don't know what that means."
"Our secret. At Tansi Farms."
"What have you done?"
"I have it, Raymond. I went there and I dug it up, and I'm gonna give it to her."
Kate told Red at the end that everything she had done to separate Liz from him was pointless. She wants to give Liz the truth. What could that truth possibly be if Kate believed Red was Reddington? Did she think the bones were of some other man she knew was Liz's father, or was this truth about Katarina? One thing that's very clear is that Kate never believed the bones were Reddington's.
The most important point of view comes from Red as he is the man using the Raymond Reddington identity. Red obviously knows who he is and he knows who the bones were. He knows the truth.
As I wrote at length at the beginning of the post, there are clues throughout the series that show there was no way for those bones to have been directly identified in CODIS as Raymond Reddington. It's simply not possible and the writers have made that clear in the way the plot was written and in the dialogue between characters as I've shown.
The basis for the narrative of the show is that Red is an imposter who took the identity of Raymond Reddington after he was shot and killed by Masha. For Red to have plastic surgery to resemble the man, and to surrender to the FBI claiming to be Reddington, he needed to know that he couldn't be exposed as a fake. That's why it was imperative within the story that there was no DNA taken for RR before he disappeared in 1990. The entire narrative can't work if there was DNA in CODIS because Red would have been outed as an imposter on day one. So we know that when the bones triggered a match in season five, it could not have been a direct match to RR.
If the bones couldn't have directly identified as RR, the other option I had discussed was that maybe there was a familial match to the father of Jennifer as some have suggested. But that has many of its own problems as it's pretty unlikely for anyone seeing that on a DNA report to jump to the conclusion that Red is an imposter.
How does Red believe the bones would be identified?
Fairly soon into season five, Red found out that Tom was the one who Kate left the suitcase to. Red confronts Tom after Nik is killed and what he says is revealing:
"You asked Nik to identify the bones, and he was killed for his trouble by someone who knows their identity and, therefore, their value. That killer is likely searching for a way to contact me since, knowing their value, he knows they are most valuable to me."
Red says he knows Nik was killed because someone found out the identity of the skeleton and realized the value of what they had. So we know that somehow the identity of the bones is linked to Raymond Reddington, and the person who has them will know to contact him. This sounds like Red believes there is a name attached to the bones and that identity is valuable as a confirmed death.
We once again hear the same thing when Red finds out who Garvey is and confronts him in 5.16:
"Let's start with the truth."
"You have the bones. You already know the truth."
"A truth. I want the whole truth."
"The whole truth is that we are all clinging to a lovely blue ball floating in a sea of blackness. Everything else, including and most especially, the truth you're looking for, is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
"I could take the bones public."
"You could, but you haven't. And you won't. I'm not sure why. There's something I'm missing. Something holding you back. I won't kill you until I have the bones, and for some inexplicable reason, you won't go public until you know this whole truth."
There are some key things that Red implies here. First, as we can see, he believes the bones can be identified. But not only can they be identified, they give a truth that he doesn't think needs to be explained. And again, he says that whoever these bones belonged to, that identity is not only well known, but worthy of being taken public. What Red doesn't understand is why Garvey hasn't told the world what's in the duffle bag.
While we see from Red's words to Garvey that he knows the bones come with an identity, the full impact of that isn't really felt until the very end of the season.
As soon as Red learns from Smokey that the duffle bag was taken to Costa Rica by Garvey, and there is an underground auction, he immediately assumes the bones are valuable enough to command a high price. When Red and Dembe get to the auction, we see that they both believe those bones could be the big finale.
"The final item won't be revealed until just prior to the start of bidding."
"Maybe that's the duffel?"
"Then there may still be time."
Both Red and Dembe's believe that the identity of the bones is valuable enough to be sold to the highest bidder. This next conversation between Red, Dembe and Smokey is also important:
"We came all this way to find the duffel has been handed from one enemy of mine to another."
"And yet, neither chose to make its contents public."
"If what you're looking for is as valuable as you say, why, why, why, why didn't they put it up for auction?"
"I have no idea."
So what seems clear, is that neither Red nor Dembe understand why Garvey or Ross hadn't taken the identity of the bones public or why they didn't try to sell them at auction. Why is this so important?
Because we saw from what Red said to Garvey, and what was confirmed by Dembe before the auction, they both believed the bones would be directly identified and would come with a name. You can't take a familial match public, or sell what might be the bones of RR at an auction because they matched his legal daughter. No one is paying a lot of money for what could be or might be. They are paying for a name and a confirmed death of someone
If anyone takes the time to study Red's point of view, what becomes apparent is that he knew when he surrendered that he couldn't be identified as Reddington with DNA. If he really is anyone other than the man known to the Navy as RR, his gig would be up right away if there had ever been a genetic sample on file. That point is undeniable.
Red knows who was buried in that suitcase. What we can see through the bones arc, is that he believed that skeleton could be positively identified. That identity will be recognizable, whether to the world at large, or the criminal underworld, or both. And what is also crucial to our understanding of Red's point of view is that he knew criminals would pay high dollar to have those bones. Which means that this confirmed death has great value.
When anyone takes ALL of the clues and points of view into consideration, what is irrefutable is that those bones could not have identified directly as Raymond Reddington. Dialogue from some of the characters like Dembe, Kate and Garvey make that impossible, as does the way the story is being told. The premise of this show was dependant from the very beginning on the fact that Red couldn't be identified with DNA as Reddington or as an imposter. That means the bones couldn't have been identified as Raymond Reddington. It's the show's greatest charade that keeps viewers spinning in circles with no answer.
So if those bones were not ID as Reddington, what did these characters see on the DNA report? What identity was so valuable that people would kill to obtain?