“Why you don’t know us is a question you’re welcome to ponder.” -Ellstin Limehouse
There are two primary constants in this season of Justified. One, as the stakes heighten and the plot thickens, every character must draw some lines in the sand, both for themselves and for the friends and foes around them. Two, those same characters then start blurring those lines as rapidly as humanly possible.
This weeks begins with an attack on Boyd’s new pill farm/trailer clinic by Quarles’ underling, Tanner, who operates Quarles’ competing trailer clinic across town (or across the holler). Interestingly, Limehouse’s mole, the prostitute Trixie, is there with her friend Ella May when the killing starts. Ella May survives; Trixie does not. This raises two questions: One, was Trixie’s presence a coincidence or were she and Ella May there as decoys to occupy the guards? Two, between Raylan and Winona’s difficulties in finding a new house and the apparent existence of any number of backwoods spots to set up a pill trailer, what exactly is the real estate situation in Harlan County? We’ve already had multiple characters have problems with real estate deals falling through (like Winona’s ex-husband Gary), so the show certainly seems to be saying something about the poor state of the local economy. This won’t be the last time it comes up in this episode.
The attack acts as a catalyst that sets multiple things in motion. Everyone, including the various groups of criminals, goes into investigation mode. Raylan gets put on the case because the trailer in question happened to be parked on part of his late Aunt’s land. The obvious assumption is that Tanner acted on orders from Quarles, but nobody seems to believe that it is that simple.
Boyd and Ava seek out Limehouse for information, and this leads to a dazzling scene that not only progresses the plot, but more importantly it deepens our understanding of the race relationships in Harlan. Sitting in Limehouse’s barbecue joint, Boyd wants to know how it is that Limehouse seems to know so much about not only him, but seemingly everything criminal that happens in Harlan County. Limehouse responds by pointing out people in the restaurant and asking what Boyd knows about them. Not a thing. When the question is reversed, the man at the counter knows not only Boyd’s name, but his complete family history. This proves two things. One, even Boyd can be naïve. Two, the one thing that levels a playing field is knowledge.
In this case, it is Ava’s knowledge that comes in handy. Hearing about Trixie, she instantly suggests talking to Ella May. She also wryly suggests that Ella May may be more comfortable talking to another woman (that’s two scenes in a row that Boyd seemed a little naïve). For someone that works at a hair salon, Ava certainly is resourceful. Ava’s scene at the brothel where she meets Delroy the pimp (guest star William Mapother) is an excellent example. Once again, Joelle Carter makes the most of her screen time. Raylan and the marshals could take a note on interrogation skills. In her conversation with Delroy, she is friendly but coy and always has a believable lie ready to explain her interest. She draws him out slowly, letting his interest in her as a potential employee do the work. Even her casual notice of the cuts on his knuckles seems unforced and even a little caring while still implying that she’s completely aware of exactly how he got them.
In order to get to Ella May, Boyd once again convinces Raylan to do his dirty work. That Raylan recognizes it and calls him out on it (knowing full well that he has to oblige) is yet another great moment in the evolution of their relationship.
The conversation between Raylan, Ava and Ella May is my favorite scene of the night. Raylan and Ava clearly aren’t quite sure how to act around each other just yet, and the scene plays off that discomfort with the highlight being the look Raylan and Ava share when both are trying to figure out which of them has to tell Ella May that they’re there because of the crime she witnessed and not because of the beating that Delroy gave her. All of their shared history and fleeting familiarity comes across in that split second.
Defusing violence with humor is a staple of the show, and there’s no better example than the beating Raylan gives Delroy. Once again, Raylan is forced to ignore the law in favor of justice as he leaves Ella May in Delroy’s protection. Raylan’s weary acceptance in these situations is almost always punctuated with a punchline, and this is no exception. Olyphant’s ability to pull off these moments is uncanny and is a big part of why he’s so invaluable as Raylan.
Increasingly invaluable is Joelle Carter. Once the situation is in hand and she has the information she was after, Ava simply walks away, saying only “Thanks for coming by, Raylan”. In one line, we see exactly what role Raylan fills in her life now. Much as she was with Delroy earlier, Ava shows only what she needs to show to get what she wants. I took two things from this. One, the nostalgic teenager side of her has been put away and now it’s all business. Two, I would not want to play poker with Ava Crowder.
Three events remain to wrap the episode up. First, Raylan visits Quarles’ clinic which provides the obligatory action sequence. Tanner and Raylan fight while another underling attempts to drive the trailer away. A gun goes off in the struggle which kills the driver. I mention this only because once again Raylan is able to kill someone while avoiding any kind of blame or hearing that would grind the plot to a halt since technically the gun was in both his and Tanner’s hands when it went off. This isn’t a problem for me, I’m just enjoying the plot gymnastics required that allow Raylan to keep his job and stay armed every week.
Second, Quarles and Duffy discuss the day’s violence and we find out two important facts. One, Quarles did not order the hit on Boyd’s clinic. Two, Quarles is now aware of not only Boyd and Raylan’s relationship, but also that Arlo is part of Boyd’s crew. That can’t be good for anyone.
Three, Limehouse finds out that his second in command set up the hit on Boyd’s trailer in order to start a drug war. Initially angry, Limehouse decides that though it wasn’t the way he wanted things to go, perhaps it’s time to play the cards he has been dealt. That really can’t be good for anyone.
Some closing thoughts:
-Trixie was also the name of a prominent prostitute on Olyphant’s “other” show, Deadwood.
-There was a very interesting scene with Arlo tonight. He appeared to be talking to Raylan’s dead aunt, Helen. Through the rest of the scene he continued to appear a little confused and ‘off’. You can never tell with Arlo, he may just be setting Raylan up for something. Then again, he may have dementia which, given the major role he’s set to play in the coming events, could have some serious implications.
-William Mapother becomes, by my count, the fourth Lost alum to guest on Justified, joining M.C. Gainey (Bo Crowder), Jeremy Davies (Dickie Bennett) and Brad William Henke (Coover Bennett).
-The writers had a little fun this week with the whole ‘finding-ways-to-let-Raylan-off-the-hook-for-killing-people’ thing. The scene where Raylan asks Art for time off is a gem not only because Nick Searcy is hysterical, but also because it plays as the writers speaking directly to the audience as Art lays out all the ways that the shooting was Justified and how it wasn’t Raylan’s fault, etc. Clever, funny stuff.
-I didn’t want to close without mentioning Ava and Raylan’s reunion at episode’s end. It still isn’t completely clear whether they’re truly done, but it seems so. The most telling moment for me, however, was that apparently getting to Winona is on the list of reasons Raylan would come inside someone’s home uninvited.