Justified S05E13: “Restitution”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “not getting between family.”

Now that the curtains gave gone up on this fifth season of Justified, we can just dispense with the euphemisms and speak the truth, right?  You know it; I know it: season five will not go down as the strongest in the show’s cannon, and the finale–despite its promise–did little to, well, uh…justify some of the bumpier plot machinations.  Look, I still enjoyed the show and eagerly look forward to what the next and final string of episodes will bring, but it’s clear from the resolution of this year’s story, Graham Yost and company want it over with as much as we do.

Because season five was really little more than a set-up?  Really?  While I Iook forward to seeing how things will play out next year, I take issue when an entire season’s purpose ultimately reduces to filler of no real consequence.  We watched thirteen stepping-stones that carried us to the end game; sure, they were mostly fun and of a great quality, but it’s as if Justified forgot this season should also stand on its own.  Because I’m not sure that happened this year.

But before we get to the real purpose of this inconsistent season, we did receive quite a bit of closure on the majority of the season’s narratives.  Darryl Crowe is dead** but not before Wendy catches him on tape confessing to Art’s shooting!  Kendall and Wendy–ever the dysfunctional mother-son team–retreat to the warmer climes of Florida once charges against the youngest Crowe are dropped!  Art makes a (seemingly) full recovery!  Rachel’s promotion to Interim Chief a few weeks ago now wins the title of Most Useless Plot Development because it didn’t change one iota of her criminally-underdeveloped character!  Ava gets the prison release she needs, and viewers everywhere shrug with apathy!

**Dammit!  Note to self: do not schedule family vacations anywhere within one hundred miles of Harlan County first of all because duh it’s the armpit of the universe.  But also tons of Crowes died!  Dilly!  Danny!  Darryl!  An unfortunate turn of events for the alliterative trio.

We knew that we would get to watch Boyd outsmart Mr. Yoon’s goons (#HilariousBandName), and boy did we ever!  I mean, yeah, Alberto executed Jimmy, which seemed to steam Boyd’s beans, but our favorite thesaurus-loving hoodlum channeled that anger into a veritable “gotcha” moment.  First, though, he tried to convince Alberto’s henchmen to defect against their boss and go party in Vegas Crowder-style.  They were all like, “Yup.  Bring on the $5 all you can eat lobster.”  Psych!  They totally tricked Boyd into thinking they would sell out Alberto but were totes joshing all along.  Haha!  Classic cartel/frat boy behavior!  Those guys!

Alberto then dons his professor’s tweed jacket, grabs his murderizing kit, and thoughtfully gives Boyd a very detailed lecture on the fine art of animal skinning.  Now, I don’t want to read too much into things, but I think Alberto might have been intimating that he would do the same to Boyd?  I’m telling you, Alberto has this skin fetish weirdness that also–hear me out–leads me to believe he might not be the congenial cartel hit man he seems to be.  Dude’s an enigma wrapped in a mystery is my point.  Layers.

Fortunately, Boyd does not receive the business end of Alberto’s human skin peeler because his phone rings just in time. Somebody call Professor Belding because homeboy is saved by the bell, er…vibrating cell phone.  Really, filleting Boyd was just a benefit, the cherry on top.  Alberto’s real business is with Darryl Crowe for his tomfoolery in the Mexican desert.  Turns out he agrees to meet at Ava’s country house, so Boyd and his three disturbingly violent captors head out.  Except it’s not Darryl Crowe who pulls up; it’s Rachel and Tim,*** who expertly kill Alberto and one of his goons before Boyd kills the other.  Well played Boyd!  And so very thoughtful of you to keep Darryl out of it so that Raylan has enough time to clear Kendall’s name.  What a prince!

***Kudos to these two for giving Ava’s house a much-needed upgrade vis a vis riddling its facade with bullet holes and shattering its crappy windows.  Girl, you ever heard of curb appeal?  I know you’ve been languishing in prison, but that ain’t no excuse for letting your family home go to pot.  Send those marshals a gourmet cheese basket for jumpstarting the demolition process.  Get it together, girl!

Speaking of Raylan, I’m glad Wendy could salvage his plan to ensure Kendall’s release because waxing poetic on the nostalgic memories of one’s first animal murder was not cutting it.  Man, this guy is going to come up with just the BEST bedtime stories for his daughter. (That is, if he ever gets his responsibility-dodging keister down to Florida!)  In the end, Wendy–spying through the mirror during this unsuccessful interview–realizes Kendall is innocent, gets Darryl to confess on tape to shooting Art, then shoots the self-appointed Crowe patriarch in the neck!  But even better, Raylan watches him squirm and slowly die, basically blowing raspberries at him and saying “Nanny, nanny poo poo” as Darryl slips into the cold embrace of sweet oblivion. (#GivensJustice)

With the Crowe kerfuffle wrapped up, Art rejoining the land of the conscious, and a transfer to Florida in the works, it seems like Raylan finally runs out of excuses.  Time to man up and be a papa!  He even Skypes with Winona, who basically devolves into a hysterical mess at the thought of a nap.  But wait!  Rachel and Vasquez ask Raylan to stay on a little longer to help them with their real target, the man at the epicenter of most of the cases that have crossed Raylan’s desk over the years: Boyd Crowder.  Oh snap!  Looks like pesky distractions such as being an emotional support to the frazzled mother of your child as well as an actual present father will have to wait!  Justice calls!  Excellent set-up, and a great plot for the final season.  But also: any excuse, ain’t that right, Raylan?

Then Ava gets released from prison when witnesses start recanting their testimonies.  Um, sure.  Given how sloppily handled this strand of the narrative has been, I briefly considered the possibility of Justified just flipping us off and caving to some deus ex machina.  But then it hit me because duh: she’s working with the Marshal’s office.  And of course she is.  She even meets Raylan in the middle of Sketchy Meetings Bridge!  Ava’s a turncoat!  (#BringingItBack)  Looks like what Boyd perceived as a heartwarming homecoming and possibility of rekindling a broken relationship is actually a duplicitous attempt to provide intel on a pending RICO investigation.  Relationships, am I right?

It might not have been my favorite season of Justified, but I’ve got to admit I’m stoked for next year.  Let’s face it: even a mediocre string of episodes of this show dwarfs the quality of most others on the air; Justified has set the bar very high for itself, and it couldn’t clear it consistently this year.  But that’s okay because the collision of Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder has, of course, resided at the heart of this mostly-excellent series, so bringing that back around as the final narrative makes sense and will provide the perfect closure.  Also it will provide lots of bullet casings and quips because, um, is this Justified or is this Justified?

Until next year, friends!  Yon git outta here now, ya hear?


Harlan Chit-Chat

– Tim [to Darryl]: “While I appreciate your concern, this here, this might as well be a slow night in the champagne room for how comfortably erect I’m gonna be watching your bitch ass squirm about.”

– Alberto: “Wyn Duffy told me he executed you.”

Boyd: “Well, maybe I took a page from the Book of Mark and have risen.”

– Raylan [seeing Wendy holding a gun to Darryl’s genitals]: “Uh, what did I miss?”

– Raylan [to a dying Darryl]: “Didn’t I tell you you’d wish I’d kill you?  Well, don’t you?”

– Raylan: “And you want me to help you?”

Rachel: “Before you go, yeah.”

Raylan: “Why didn’t you just say so?”

You Can’t Go Home Again: Catching Up with Justified Part II, S05E10 through S05E12

…a series of episodes reminding us all the importance of “sitting high in the fabled catbird seat.”

Do you mind if I cut right to the quick?  Look, Justified is one of TV’s best shows (which is why, of the several dozen I watch on a weekly basis, I opted to cover it), but I think we can all agree that this season hasn’t been as tightly plotted as its earlier installments might have suggested.  A great deal transpired in the back third here, but not all of it is working.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tackle this recap in a slightly different way than normal.  Would that be okay with you?  That’s a rhetorical question btw bc I’m totally going to do it anyway.  Let’s wade through the four characters central to the ongoing narratives in this string of episodes: Raylan, Boyd, Darryl Crowe, and (ugh) Ava.

Well, what’re we waiting for?  Those cigarette packs aren’t going to explode themselves!  Right, Mr. Picker?


Raylan, or “Sad Mr. Angry Pants”

Man, this show loves putting US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens through the proverbial ringer, doesn’t it?  And I’m not just talking about the downright cruel nicknames the flotsam and jetsam of Harlan County have been doling out behind his back: Officer Buzzkill, Pastor Raylan, and Mr. Insensitivity.  Ouch, you guys!  (#Sticks&Stones)

Seriously, though, where to begin?  Let’s start with the obvious: Allison broke up with Raylan at the end of last week’s episode, and the breakup stuck.  *Sad trombone noise* And even though she has taken herself out of Raylan’s orbit, she finds herself still very much caught within the gravitational field of Planet Crowe.  I mean, Kendall’s dropping by her house like it ain’t no thang, spouting off romanticized nonsense about running away together.  Um, gross?

But just because Raylan isn’t doing the horizontal mambo with Allison any more doesn’t mean he has stopped caring about her.  In fact, he thinks the Crowes are going to go after her because they’re, ya know, nuts and stuff, so he brings it to Art’s attention.  Mr. Mullen, if you recall, cannot move past his not-so-dormant rage toward Raylan for his involvement with Nicky Augustine’s murder, and so he dismissively agrees to take care of it himself…

…and ends up getting shot in the stomach several times in an effort to protect Allison.

If there’s one thing you should know, it’s that Raylan doesn’t deal with his emotions very well.  At his own admission, Art’s one of the people in the world he cares about, so homeboy wants to go all clandestine ninja warrior and start cracking heads.  Hm.  I must have missed that step of the grieving process.

Art–comatose but not dead–is the father Arlo never could be; Raylan would never admit that aloud, but now faced with his surrogate father’s possible mortality, it seems as clear to us as it is to him.  That clarity comes into even crisper focus during Raylan’s car ride to the hospital with Art’s wife, wherein she condemns him for his absence.  He should have been there.  Where was he? she demands.  It’s a great, deeply metaphorical conversation.  As Raylan realizes the life of his father-figure remains in dire jeopardy, Mrs. Mullen’s words illuminate a second evident truth: his palpable absence from the life of his daughter in Florida could also yield catastrophic results.  Ouch.

To compound Raylan’s grief, it seems as if Darryl sets up Kendall (the one Crowe for whom Raylan seemed to take a bit of a shine to in earlier episodes) to take the fall for Art’s shooting.  Smelling a steaming poo pie, our favorite US Deputy Marshall tries to force Darryl into a confession; with the help of Vasquez, the Marshall’s office opts to try Kendall as an adult.  Wendy, crushed, later admits to Raylan in heart-breaking fashion that she failed Kendall as a mother.  We can see this, too, hits close to home for Raylan, failing spectacularly as a parent in his own right.

Talk about an express train to Bummersville!  And what’s worse, his journey to track down Dewey Crowe lands him face-to-face with the rascaliest of rascals: Dickie Bennett.  Yes, the same Dickie Bennett who strung up Raylan and treated him like a human piñata back in season two.  It’s hard out there for a US Marshall.  Still, what an amazing scene, particularly Bennett’s hilarious monologue, which I’ve painstakingly recreated below.  You’re totes welcome, obvi.

All things told, I’m loving the Raylan angle to all of this, exposing his insecurities about familial responsibility and well-guarded vulnerability when it comes to those he cares bout.  I’m looking forward to watching Raylan Givens handle all this come the finale!


Boyd, or “The Human Exploder”

Fun fact: drug cartels aren’t the biggest fans of partners who misplace massive drug shipments!  (#TheMoreYouKnow)  But, ever the most articulate of human cockroaches, Boyd’s not going to let a little international business feud keep him down.  No way, Jose!  Plus, he’s evidently been taking night classes at the Walter White Academy because kablooie, am I right?

Mr. Picker and Mr. Duffy, whose lives are also on the line, are none too pleased with Boyd’s case of the whoopsie-daisies.  At their first of two sit-downs, Mr. Picker has a rather, shall we say, aggressive solution to their problem: decapitate Boyd and send his noggin first class express mail to the exotic climes of Meh-he-co.  Well, gosh darn it, that course of action doesn’t sit well with Mr. Crowder or Mr. Picker, whose soft spot for Boyd is well documented.

We’ve been down this road before, but it was a hoot watching Boyd weasel his way out of this jam.  In one of Justified‘s most gruesome deaths, Mr. Picker literally explodes when Boyd tosses him a rigged cigarette packet.  Owie.  Talk about a messy clean up!  Poor Mikey.  Dude’s picking up pieces of the late Mr. Picker well into the wee hours of the morn.

Boyd then decides to assist the Marshall’s office in the takedown of Darryl Crowe as a means of evading Mr. Yoon’s goons (#HilariousBandName), who continue to close in with each passing hour.  Also, they want to go all Buffalo Bill and use his skin as a coat or something, so yeah.  Things are tense right now.**  So tense, in fact, that he even agrees to wear a wire in an attempt to record Darryl confessing to Art’s attempted murder!  Aww!  Isn’t that sweet of him?

**Poor Jimmy.  Looks like his last phone call on earth will be to Boyd Crowder.  Scintillating conversationalist though Boyd is, I can understand Jimmy’s disappointment: being a Crowder underling must just suck big time.

I’m looking forward to Boyd out-stmarting Mr. Yoon’s goons in the finale, but I do admit we need to have Boyd do more than that.  He’s a richly complex character, and I’d like to see the other facets of his personality developed in next year’s final season, particularly now that he ostensibly no longer has Ava to ground him.


The Crowe Clan, or “Bad Luck and No Brains”

The Crowes are dropping like flies these days, aren’t they?  Kendall’s in juvie on an attempted murder charge he likely did not commit; Dewie’s*** in jail after admitting on tape (thanks Boyd!) that he not only wants heroin to sell for a profit but also that he plugged Wade Messer full of holes.  I sincerely hope someone on the inside can give him a crash course in rudimentary linguistics and explain the difference between “anus” and “onus.”  That had me hysterical.  But back to misfortune!  Danny Crowe fell on his own knife and stabbed himself in the throat!  Classic Danny!  Hell, even Chelsea the pooch kicked it.  Someone send the surviving Crowes a bountiful cheese and wine basket because families, am I right?

***The finish line for Dewey Crowe seems a far cry from where he started out the season: claiming a settlement, buying pool, and generally living it up.  His destination seemed inevitable though, what with his mush for brains. My two favorite Dewey moments were when he let his car full of heroin coast down a hill, and the old lady interrupting him siphoning her gas.  Apparently, she has a different understanding of what comprises a warm meal: shotgun shells!  Watching her chase him off his property and cursing at him had to be a highlight for us because it felt like the lowest of lows for Mr. Crowe.

And then there were two: Wendy and Darryl.

Homegirl seems like a shell of her former self now that Kendall’s seemingly taken the fall for Darryl.  Those damn Seminole Indian blood oaths really put the youngest Crowe into a bit of a pickle, wouldn’t you say?  I almost don’t want Danny to get his comeuppance yet so we can have a little bit more of him next year.  Michael Rappaport has been crushing it as Darryl this year.

Wendy finds herself in a pit of despair, having been knocked around literally by Darryl and metaphorically by her realization that she is #WorldsWorstMom.  Pop that on a coffee mug!  Alicia Witt is a fine performer, but I’m not sure the show has done enough to make me care about her plight here because Wendy is sort of the worst?  However, her last minute act of defiance–refusing to do Darryl’s dirty work of obtaining Boyd’s hidden heroin–portends possible involvement next week in bringing her brother down.  I wouldn’t mind that one little bit!

Just don’t kill off Darryl!  That’s all I ask.  He’s too amazing.


Ava, or “Queen Sh*t of ***k Mountain”

For me, the amount of time we’re spending on Ava’s plot line is really a problem for Justified.  Not only is it so obviously disconnected from the rest of the serialized narrative, but it also happens to be a real yawner.

Ava kills Judith.  Ava pulls a Lady MacBeth and scrubs out the blood.  Ava fills the power vacuum.  Some female inmates give her the gift of ice cream as thanks because limited resources.  Ava electioneers in the prison yard for the role of  Judith’s replacement.  Some non-ice-cream-donating prisoners dislike Ava’s style of governance and plot to take her down.  Penny gets stabbed (aw, poor Penny).  Ava wants out of prison but missed her chance to help Raylan find Danny because prison has hardened her.

Just kill her off already, please.

This show’s main asset has been its almost unparalleled ability to weave a complex, intertwined narrative with efficiency and ruthless narrative momentum.  In my estimation, Ava’s plot single-handedly undermines this strength.  I haven’t cared all season, and the longer this goes on, the less I care.  Her ascent to the apex of the prison drug trade?  Shrug.  And how cliche can we get in allowing her stint in the big house to strip away Ava’s old self?

Ugh.  Justified can do so much better than this.  I’m not angry, just disappointed.


I’m looking forward to the season finale, and I am enjoying it overall, but can’t we all agree that this season hasn’t been quite up to the standards of two, three, or four?  I’m sorry, but someone’s got to tell the cold, harsh truth.  But don’t worry: I still love you, Justified.

Chit Chat Around Harlan

– Raylan: “That’s a lot of confidence for a man who wears shorts with combat boots.”

– Art: “If I were to admit hitting [Raylan], could you call it child abuse and take custody of him for me?”

Allison: “I like you.”

– Duffy: “Alberto was it?  Alberto, I’m not one to niggle over management styles, but let’s say you would let me know you were coming, I could have preserved some proof for you.  A head, say.  Or a set of teeth.”

– Raylan: “I’d quit speaking in the third person.”

Dewey: “Third person?  Who?  Him?  What’re you talking about, Raylan?”

– Dickie Bennett: “Go to a Gas N Gulp or whatever and get yourself a map of Kentucky.  Follow Route 9 southbound all the way down with your finger; follow it way, way down until you’re pointing right at your asshole.  Then what you’re gonna do is take your hand and just go ahead and cram it right up inside.  You gotta make sure, Raylan, that you do it in a way so that the rest of you just keeps on following your hand right up your ass, right up inside all that shit that you’re so full of, Raylan.  And then what you’re gonna do is *whistling noise* just wink out of existence forever.”

All Roads Lead to Mexico: Catching up with Justified S05E07 through S05E09

a series of episodes reminding us all the importance of “being a caller number seven.”

Look, I love my DVR and all, but sometimes the dude’s a real pain in the keister, if you’ll forgive my language.  Talk about pressure!  Originally, the idea to combine several episodes of Justified into one supersized recap spawned from my realization that I’d fallen quite behind on it.  Three episodes behind, in fact.  Because writing for this blog isn’t my full time job, I couldn’t dedicate the time to watching and covering each installment individually, so I thought, “What the hey-ho?” and devoured all three in one sitting.  Consider me tickled pink when I found that if ever a string of episodes warranted a one fell swoop approach (#BillyShakespeare), then these three hours certainly fit the bill.  Win-win!

I mean, we learned a ton during the middle chunk of the season, didn’t we?  For instance, Tim openly admitted–in PUBLIC–that he prefers cribbage to backgammon!  Controversy warning!  But wait, the truth bombs did not stop exploding there.  Kendall also has an interest in bartending!  Not to mention the fact that Dewey Crowe smells like the back end of a summer hog!  And Roscoe, the taciturn former henchman of Dunham, can form Shakespeare quotes into an apt analogy for whatever situation he’s in**!

**Raylan’s reaction to him spouting off about King Lear had me in stitches: “I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I am interested.”  Quick thought: can Raylan play an undercover English professor in an upcoming episode?  Please?

I mean, right?  It was three hours of nonstop discovery is my point.

If you’ll allow me a brief moment of seriousness, then let me confess that–although I love Justified with every fiber of my being–I didn’t love taking Boyd out of Harlan.  One episode I can see, and it worked well enough, with Boyd traveling to Mexico to meet Mr. Yoon (the surly Asian member of the Mexican cartel because sure) alongside his merry band of Crowes and hellbent on putting an end to Johnny.  Even though it was inevitable, I got a kick out of watching Boyd turn the tables on Johnny out in the desert, particularly in that it came after their heart-to-heart about their childhood connection.  Though, come to think of it, that devolved rather quickly, ending with Johnny promising to wait a few weeks after Boyd dies to bed Ava. #OhNoHeDidnt Granted, Boyd did get the last laugh on that front in the form of a bullet to his cousin’s chest.  RIP Johnny.  Your frequent backstabbing proved a narrative delight.  Ye shall be missed, sweet prince.

Fine, I’ll be the bad guy on this, but someone’s got to take a stand, and I guess it’ll be me.  Look, Danny Crowe’s human dog barking I could chalk up to garden variety quirkiness.  I’m even willing to forgive his penchant for pants-less dog training.  I mean, we all have our hobbies.  But remember when he killed a bunch of dudes even after Mr. Yoon politely requested him not to do that on Mexican soil?  Danny totally panicked and mowed them down but good.  Danny Crowe: big on murder, not on pants.  Get a grip, sir.

I’m not sure we needed an entire second episode devoted to Boyd disentangling himself out of such a seeming impossible quagmire, but the way he outsmarted the corrupt Mexican cops who pulled them over en route to Texas felt like vintage Boyd Crowder foresight.  Loved it, but–at the same time–this is just another instance of Boyd flexing his grey matter better than those around him.  We get it.  He’s a smart cookie.  But focusing an entire episode on it seemed  unnecessary.

Yet, in many ways, I’m digging what’s come out of the whole Mexican adventure, particularly the not-a-morsel-of-trust-amongst-them alliance of Boyd, Darryl, and Wyn Duffy.  The power vacuum left in the wake of Hot Rod Dunham’s death needs filling, and it’s clear that neither Jay nor Roscoe (most of all Roscoe, what with the bullet he took and all) are up to the task.  Moving forward, I’m really excited about what this partnership means for Boyd in particular.***

***Aside from, of course, some undoubtedly scintillating conversation punctuated by the occasional reference to the 60s motown scene if Darryl Crowe Jr has a thing or two to say about a thing or two. #ExcellentTasteinMusic

Meanwhile, I can’t seem to force myself to care an iota about The Continuing Deevolution of Ava Crowder.  She’s spearheading a drug operation with Boyd’s help? Sending her husband on errands to kill old men in nursing homes? Going toe-to-toe with the Mother Superior of the female criminal element?  I mean, I get it, Ava’s in a bit of a briny pickle right now, but sorry I don’t care?  While I have absolutely no doubt that Justified will manage to weave this plot more cohesively into the season’s overall vision, this remains the one plot arc that I would not miss for a moment if Graham Yost chose to jettison it right now.  Sorry, but you know I’m right.

Raylan, Raylan, Raylan.  The man just cannot help himself from doing everything he can to avoid his personal responsibilities, can he?  I find it fascinating that Raylan seems far more invested in repairing his relationship with Art, who remains a bit prickly about his involvement in the Nicky Augustine murder, rather than that of estranged daughter. The scene in which Raylan all but begs for forgiveness from his boss worked beautifully to convey Art’s attitude toward Raylan: resigned to the US Deputy Marshall’s uncanny ability evade consequences.  Is it just me, or might that refer not just to the professional sphere?  (#DoubleMeaning)

Of the plots Raylan found himself embroiled in over the span of these three episodes, tangling with Monroe’s money trail (via online backgammon because yes) and tracking down Jay and Roscoe on their quest to fill the power vacuum left in the wake of Dunham’s murder (beard death is the cruelest death but even more so when it belongs to a trusty informant) both had a more direct impact on the seasonlong narrative and introduced an amazing new character in DEA Agent Alex Miller, but I preferred the tale of him helping Wendy track down Kendall after having been kidnapped his Uncle Jack/dad.****

****Not as creepy as it sounds. Turns out Wendy is Kendall’s mother and Jack his deadbeat dad.  But you know what is creepy? Jack rolling up and using some charming child molester humor to get his son’s attention. Um, what?

This plot caught my attention because, like the season’s earlier episode with Loretta, it found Raylan playing father to another wayward youth that was not his flesh-and-blood.  He and Kendall totes bonded about having straight up the worst dads, which is always a great topic of conversation especially at dinner parties, and then gave him the money he rightfully scammed off a radio station sweepstakes.  Awww!  Raylan, my heart is not your personal fiddle, so stop a-pluckin’ its strings!

It also seems fitting that Raylan’s plans to visit his daughter in Florida found themselves derailed now that he’s begun to formulate an impression of the Crowder-Duffy-Crowe Tower of Power (patent pending).  With his personal life in shambles in Kentucky (Allison broke up with him) and so unknown in Florida, it makes sense that he would choose to dwell in the domain of his life with which he has the most confidence.  Makes sense, yes, but it’s also infuriating and incredibly compelling.  I can’t imagine another actor being able to capture Raylan’s frustrating pathos as well as Timothy Olyphant.

Also, Dewey Crowe’s malfunctioning GPS (not a euphemism) delayed his return trip from Mexico and put him on a literal collision course with Agent Miller.  And by literal I mean he legit ran over both Miller and Danny with a tow truck. And now he’s driving around Kentucky with a vehicle full of heroin!  I can totally relate to this because once I forgot to pay for a cantaloupe from ShopRite and drove around town for hours wondering how I would apologize to the manager.  I get what he’s going through is my point.

In the end, although I wasn’t overly enthused with Justified‘s foray into National Lampoon’s Mexican Vacation territory and am still underwhelmed by Ava’s plot, I am eager for what’s next because the characters are in such interesting places both personally and professionally.  As we near the final stretch, the chess board is set; some pawns have been eliminated, and I cannot wait to see what the next move is.


Harlan Chit Chat

– Tim: “Wait a minute.  How many legs did this guy have again?”

Raylan: “Just the one. Plus the prosthetic he took with.”

Tim: “When he jumped out the window, thus escaping the scene of a murder.”

Raylan: “He was surprisingly fleet.”

– Miller: “You’re on vacation, huh? And you thought you’d come down to Memphis and kick the hornet’s nest?”

Raylan: “That and have some ribs.”

Miller: “And have some ribs.”

– Raylan: “Miller, would you call this a herd, a flock, or a gaggle of assholes?”

Miller: “I’d call this the United Nations of assholes.”

Justified S05E06: “Kill the Messenger”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “Greek New Years and Chinese Easter.”

Over the years, Justified has cultivated a singular strength that sets it apart from the majority of television’s dramatic series: finding ways to dovetail seemingly disparate plots and disconnected characters that hew to the show’s carefully constructed internal logic while simultaneously surprising its audience.  While I wouldn’t go so far as to put this episode up there with the best of its installments, this strength played out excellently this time around and allowed me to forgive the notable lack of Raylan as Justified scrambles to recover from some unexpected behind-the-scenes casting shakeups.

For starters, how about that stunning, dialogue-free cold open?  Art, after having ostensibly conversed with Raylan about his involvement with the whole Nicky Augustine murder, sits at a bar. (We never get to see that conversation, though from the way the scene plays out, I don’t think Art took it well?)  It’s raining outside both to reinforce Art’s foul mood (#Symbolism) and to provide an excellent opportunity for the camera to frame US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens’s silhouette against the torrential downpour because we never tire of watching him be an effortless bad ass.  Seriously, the man can wear a hat.  Anyhow, Raylan walks in and, before he can ask for a plate of pork sliders from the barkeep, Art gives him a complementary knuckle sandwich.  Now, I’m no psychologist, but I don’t think these two are seeing eye-to-eye right now.  Thoughts?

Here I go again poking the hornet’s nest of controversy.  But, you guys, can I be honest with you?  I’m not entirely sure, but maybe the Crowe family is dysfunctional?  Hear me out!  I mean, sure, Danny’s got the whole pants-less dog training thing down pat and is the very epitome of class, but Allison the social worker might be onto something when she claims Kendall growing up in the House that Human Dog Barking Built might not be great, strictly from moral and hygiene perspectives.  I mean, yeah, Wendy lied to Allison when she promised to take Kendall to Miami because of an excellent real estate opportunity–and by opportunity I mean the Crowes straight up manipulated the Christian charity of a delightful entrepreneur named Mike, running his store and living in his house while Mike sits in the basement fiddling with his wood (not a euphemism). But that’s not even the worst.

After concluding an illuminating Social Services Visit on Kendall’s behalf, Allison leaves the house after declining Wendy’s hors d’ouevres** and brushing off Danny’s human dog barking.  Seriously, wtf Danny Crowe?  You’re a weirdo.  Get a job.  But then, just as Allison is rolling a doob to decompress, some van runs her off the road!  At first, I figured it might be a very passionate anti-decriminalization activist, but no, the human dog barking told me the culprit: Danny Crowe.  Classic Danny!  Anywho, this might surprise you, but this did not tickle Raylan pink.

**Um, quick question for Wendy: her hors d’ouevres seemed to consist of celery and potato chips.  What is this, a discarded Top Chef challenge?  OMG, is Wendy a closet molecular gastronomist? #Spinoff

Rather than confront his simmering issues with Art, Raylan and Rachel begin their anti-Crowe crusade through Harlan. As Allison put it, Raylan’s heroism stands as one of his more admirable qualities, but he uses it to avoid his own issues.  He’s likely to start a fire just to run in and save the people inside.  Woo!  Girl’s got Raylan’s number but remains really deficient as far as pre- and post-coital convos go.  Seriously, it’s all “he was tied to the radiator” this and “you hide behind your heroism” that.  #MoodKiller  Cutting a swath through hillbilly backcountry, our dynamic duo almost bond during a car ride Hart-Cohle style, but ultimately Raylan rebuffs Rachel’s offer of #Besties.  Sigh.  Don’t give up on him, Rach!

But this very Crowe-centric hour did not just limit itself to human dog barking and Social Services evasion.  Oh no!  For one, Dewey Crowe sells his bullet-riddled pool for a cool $20.  Man’s a gifted salesman when it comes to strung out tweakers (why that dude wants Dewey’s deflated pool is anyone’s guess and frankly disturbs me just to think about), but not so much with other criminal riffraff.  Take his encounter with Boyd’s henchmen Carl, a follow-up to a previous tete-a-tete over the issue of recompense for Audrey’s, that devolves into some sloppy fisticuffs.  The long and the short of it? Carl gets Crowe-napped, and Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber plan to use him as ransom.

Unfortunately, this never comes to pass.  After Dewey answers a phone call from one of Boyd’s lackeys looking for Carl and dropping various other calls due to poor service (damn AT&T), Rachel and Raylan bust in to find Carl tied to a chair and Danny eager to inflict pain.  But faster than you can say “conceptual*** love-making,” Carl spins a yarn of illicit and clandestine sex acts to disperse the law.

***Danny Crowe, you veritable wordsmith/unapologetic dumb ass.  Don’t ever change!

As it turns out, Boyd had problems than the Crowes to contend with. Concerned over Ava’s recent relocation to the State Penn****, he seeks the assistance of Gunnar Smith, a hulking aristocrat from Boyd’s white supremacist days.  Gunnar’s sister Gretchen is also serving time there and, with a little moola to grease the wheels, Boyd buys his betrothed protection.  Except no.  Gretchen shows her alarmingly inadequate beautician skills when she gives Ava a sudden and–dare I say?–tad aggressive hair cut in the prison yard.  I have to admit, this completely changed my perspective of prison life.  My visions of competitive tetherball tournaments just went right out the window and shattered my sense of reality.  Thanks, Justified!

****I can totally understand Boyd’s concern.  I mean, Orange is the New Black this show isn’t.  Those mean inmates kept flipping Ava’s hair.  We’re talking aggressively sexual hair flipping.  Patrice, one of the ringleaders, has a bit of a filthy mind, just between the two of us, because I think she had…designs…on Ava and might have even wanted to play together in her sandbox?

Gunnar, apparently, didn’t care for Boyd’s spotty attendance as far as recent hate rallies and he even called Boyd a race traitor.  You take it back, Boyd proclaimed!  Never, Gunnar retorted.  And then, just when we thought a Crowe-Crowder showdown would take place and Carl would stop blowing air-kisses at Danny Crowe (please, never again, it made me feel icky), Boyd hires the Crowes to beat the stuffing out of Gunnar and even get a refund for their efforts!  Ain’t capitalism grand?  Boyd found himself so pleased with the Crowe’s exceptional service that, after filling out a glowing customer comment card, he even hired them to kill cousin Johnny!  #AwkwardFamilyReunion

Elsewhere, Dunham’s disloyal henchmen seem intent on foiling his heroin importation deal with Boyd, Wendy wants the Crowes to leave Kentucky, and Ava’s charming bunk buddy with a healthy sense of boundaries (no used Maxi Pads or drugs lying around thank you very much) gives her the tools to even out her haircut.

While the noticeable lack of Raylan disturbed me to my core, I enjoyed how Allison fit into the larger puzzle here, as well as the unexpected (but, I suppose, inevitable) Crowe-Crowder powerhouse.  The roiling animosity between Art and Raylan promises to erupt soon enough, and I eagerly await the fallout.

Harlan Chit-Chat

– Tim: “Are we seriously not going to talk about it?”

Rachel: “About what?  Your Bin Laden joke?  Not your best.”

Tim: “About Raylan’s eye.  What’d you slip in Art’s shower?  That’s how Art hurt his hand.”

– Boyd: “I’ve read a lot of books about slavery.”

Wyn Duffy: “He’s a history buff.”

– Wendy: “So why would Danny bark?”

Raylan: “Well, your brother’s a world-class dumb ass, no offense, so I hesitate trying to analyze what goes on in his head.  But if I had to guess, I’d say it was his way of trying to call me out.”

Justified S05E05: “Shot All to Hell”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “loving the smell of your own farts.”

You know how some episode titles are intentionally vague or obtusely metaphorical, leaving us to scratch our heads over possible meanings?  Well, that’s certainly not the case for Justified‘s fifth episode, which delivered exactly what it promised.  So many people died in this episode!  And I don’t mean peacefully in their sleep!  (I definitely mean they subsisted on a steady diet of lead for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.)

It all begins with Lee Paxton receiving a rather unpleasant phone call in the middle of the night: those bodies Carl showed Boyd last week suddenly appeared in one of Paxton’s many funeral homes.  An anonymous tip pointed the coppers to Paxton’s business, and lo and behold, the corpses show evidence of foul play.  Now, I’m no crime scene investigator (I leave that, like so many things in my life, to Ted Danson), but maybe the innumerable bullet holes were that evidence?  Anyhow, Paxton puts the pieces together, hangs up angrily, snaps on his bedroom light, and sitting there is Boyd Crowder, having enacted the most silent home invasion in history.  To be honest, I found that quite polite of Boyd.  Guy’s a real class-act all around.  I mean, he even provides Paxton a step-by-step tutorial on the best method for self-inflicting a gunshot wound, though Paxton didn’t seem terribly interested in the particulars.  Boyd just goes that extra mile is my point, giving his illicit activities something of a human touch.  Oh, RIP Lee Paxton.  You were the worst.

Although the episode opens with such startling bloodshed, it would not end there.  Oh no, ladies and gentlemen; Justified‘s swath of carnage would continue unabated.  In an effort to tie up all Paxton-related loose ends, Boyd sets his sights on Sheriff Mooney.  Ever the silver-tongued devil, Boyd convinces a dying coal miner named Hayes Workman to walk into a diner and shoot the Sheriff (though, of course, not the deputy because duh).  And Hayes totally does after Boyd skedaddles.  Classic Boyd!  If he’s not ducking out on a check, he’s totally ordering hits on public figures in rinky-dink diners.**

**How awesome was it to watch the diner clear out, Boyd emerge, and take a seat across from Mora at the table.  Trembling as blood drips from her face, she can only watch in abject horror as he calmly instructs her to leave town without claiming the recompense previously promised her.  Only thing that could have made this scene better?  Had Boyd, with approaching police sirens wailing in the background, concluded his threat by biting into a toasted English muffin after tipping a glass of orange juice in her direction.  Tropicana advertisers, take note.

Boyd and Ava get their hopes up, as Paxton’s “suicide” (tee hee bc it totally wasn’t) destroys the DA’s case and forces the office to rescind all charges.  However, I don’t think Boyd and Ava have ever seen an episode of Justified because, if they had, they would know never to get their hopes up.  Ava finds herself scheduled for release the following morning, and Boyd positively titters with excitement.  One small problem.  Remember that rapey prison guard from earlier?  Turns out he plotted with Ava’s roommate to plant a shank under her mattress. But the psychological torture doesn’t end there.  He then stabs himself with the shank in front of her as the roomie calls for help.  Um, creepy prison guard?  Sir?  I’m worried about you, like for real.  This is not the behavior of a healthy-minded person, and I think you might need a dollop of counseling.  Sorry to offend, but it’s true.  Unfortunately, the prison system does not get hot under the collar when an inmate shanks a guard, so Ava gets transferred to the State Penitentiary and beyond Boyd’s realm of influence.  #ModernRomance

Meanwhile, US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens has a veritable bee in his bonnet over Darryl Crowe.  He’s strutting around, demanding a reinstatement of his parole, but Raylan’s diverted attention allows an unforeseen storm of poo to land on his doorstep in the form of Wyn Duffy’s good friend Picker.

Remember Art traveling up to Detroit in the previous episode, where he interrogated Al, the delightful Canadian thug played by the also-delightful Will Sasso?  Well, a true-blue rascal by the name of Elias Marcos (Alan Tudyk, having a blast and continuing the incredible streak of guest actors dropping in and out) finds out about Al’s chat with the federales, and he totally shoots him several times in the chest after learning he gave up Picker’s name!  Shoots him until he dies, I mean.  Jeez, Justified.  Are we working through some anger issues?  BECAUSE I’M LOVING IT!***

***Hands down, my favorite sequence of the episode has to be Art confronting Marcos in the parking lot outside of the (different) diner Picker sits in, as the two discuss the pros and cons of the Hilton versus Hyatt  as far as brunch buffets go.  And then Marcos showing up inside the diner anyway and threatening Picker in Spanish?  Great stuff, though, given the rest of the episode as context, I felt pretty certain it would turn into the diner from L.A. Confidential, but alas no blood is shed.  Let’s just say it: Art is a national treasure.  You know it, I know it, Art knows it.  Keep on keeping on, Art.

After finding himself dragged into the Marshall’s office, Picker makes a deal with the DA to turn over Marcos and–in turn–the elusive Theo Tonin, for whom Marcos works.  Nothing if not a team player, Picker provides Raylan and Art with a begrudging tip on where to locate the crazed hit man: a warehouse filled with shipping containers.  At first, it seems like a Picker has lied, but then Marcos bursts out of nowhere firing  what I imagine is a gun but looks more like an automatic anti-aircraft turret.  Holy God!  The preponderance of bullets expended throughout the episode served as little more than a prelude to the shoot out that followed.  However, Marcos doesn’t realize that Raylan’s trigger finger feels a tad itchy because he hasn’t personally shot anyone to death in a while.  But then he totally shoot Marcos through the chest.  Oh, Raylan!  Your insatiable bloodlust certainly points to deep-seated emotional issues, but just don’t ever change, okay?

At first, Art feels bummed because Marcos served as the only link to Theo Tonin, but then a rather observant officer finds blood pooling around a shipping container riddled with bullets.  At first, they all look confused because no one ever thought inanimate shipping containers could bleed, but life is a mystery, so who knows?  Upon opening the container door, who is inside in the fetal position clutching a gunshot wound?  Theo Tonin, of course, gift-wrapped just in time for Art’s impending retirement!****

****I really wish Rip Taylor had also popped out in an explosion of confetti and a braying of New Years party favors just to sell the crap out of that moment.  But I guess he was busy somewhere else?  Well, forget you Rip Taylor.

You know what time it is?  It’s #CroweTime!  First off, poor Dewey.  He plays Santa Clause to some hookers, pawning off a turtle dog figurine (wtf that is) and his patented necklace.  I’m afraid poor, sweet, dumb Dewey might take a plunge down the rabbit hole; if his philosophical meanderings on regret and the possibility of change serve as proof, that tumble seems likely to occur sooner rather than later.  Wendy arrives in Harlan on Kendall’s behalf, injecting some much needed estrogen into the family dynamic.  Homegirl is fierce!  She doesn’t let nobody trifle with her nohow, least of all Darryl.  Speaking of Darryl, he and the Haitian have a conversation with Boyd about getting what’s owed them as far as Audrey’s goes, though of course neither of those two chuckleheads realize that they are in the presence of and insulting Boyd in his own bar.  As mentioned above, Boyd had a pretty busy few days and did not feel like dealing with their nonsense for like even a second.  Finally, Danny Crowe shoots the Haitian in the face with a shotgun after getting into a heated discussion about grocery shopping because it seemed a shame to leave the body count at a number divisible by two.

Elsewhere, Boyd backchannels Dunham and convinces him to turn over Johnny but not before leaving behind the marijuana business and joining him in a friendly game of Mexican Black Tar Heroin Smuggling (coming soon from Parker Brothers), Johnny turns the table on Dunham, and Picker tells the DA that FBI Agent Barclay was the fed involved in Nicky Augustine’s murder, prompting Raylan to (it seems) tell the truth to Art.  Ruh-roh!

What a great episode.  Trimming the fat–not that this show ever had any to begin with–of many secondary characters allowed the already complex and tight narrative to tighten even further, promising more outlandishly violent and fiendishly entertaining episodes to follow.  Bring ’em on!


Harlan Chit-Chat

– Boyd [to Paxton]: “Death will not be the end of your suffering.  For generations, your children and your children’s children will have a mark against their name.  And that will be your legacy.” [Pulls trigger]

– Wendy Crowe: “Does your campaign of harassment against our family know no limits?”

Raylan: “I gave the boy ten cents.”

– Art: “I thought I was being rather genial.  I could be a lot less so, but just between us chickens, I’m not here on official business.”

– Boyd: “I’ve been accused of a lot of things.  Being inarticulate ain’t one of them.”

– Raylan: “It wasn’t Barclay, and I can tell you that for a fact.”


Justified S05E04: “Over the Mountain”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “a Webelos shovel.”

I know we’re only four episodes deep, but I’m going to go out on a limb and declare this the most tightly-plotted season of Justified yet.  Characters we might have presumed as one-off creations have reemerged to add more color to this beautiful Harlan tapestry, complicating the interwoven plot strands we’re seeing balanced on a weekly basis.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m more in love with Justified now than ever.  I’m pretty much ready to give it a key to my place, or at least ask it to keep a toothbrush here.

We pick up with Dewey Crowe leading Wade Messer into the woods, ostensibly to make good on his promise to kill Messer, who we learned last week’s been skimming money off the top of Dewey’s brothel for Boyd Crowder.  Under the auspices of digging up some buried treasure, Wade brings along a collapsable Webelos shovel to help out (all of the lol at the sight gag of him screwing it together).  But this is Dewey Crowe we’re talking about here, so the “hit” does not go off as planned.  I mean, sure, he plugs Wade in the chest once, but after a skirmish, Wade runs off, and Dewey chases, falling down a mountain himself before wandering around the woods looking for a man he should have killed.  Oh Dewey Crowe, don’t ever change!**

**Later, when Dewey finds a barely-alive Messer, a family of campers intervenes (as he’s about to deliver the death stroke) because they fear he’s been poisoned by sunchoke.  Perfect blend of comedy and suspense.  When Justified can strike that balance as well as it did here, you know you’re in for a treat.  I’m not saying I enjoy laughing when I watch people die on screen, but this show just gets me, you know?

But things are about to get more complicated than a screw-on shovel head.  Turns out Wade’s been an undercover CI for quite some time, plying the DA with information on Boyd Crowder!  Hear that?  It’s the sound of my #MindExplosion.  But, um, I’m also with Raylan on this one: dude’s several M&Ms short of a variety pack intellectually speaking, so this seemed like a bizarre choice of informant.  Our favorite US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens even postulates that maybe, just maybe, Boyd was savvy to this and might have possibly used this to his advantage?  The DA’s all like, “Totes unlikely that your BFF’s that smart.”  Little do they know!

With Raylan on the case (along with Tim as his partner because Tim is the absolute best, and that is not an opinion but a fact), the trail leads him to some deep-cut members of the Crowe family.  These include such colorful members of high society as Kendall Crowe, the middle school aged bartender at Dewey’s brothel, and Danny Crowe, who enjoys a full afternoon of semi-nude dog training when he’s not engaged in philosophical discussions on the role of determinism and the metaphysics of moral responsibility with his roomie Wade.  Just kidding!  I am fairly sure neither of them have advanced degrees, but I hate to be judgmental.  I’m loving the way Raylan just cannot avoid the reaches of family this season, whether it’s his biological family, adopted family, or rival criminal family.

After shaking down Boyd and deciding he’s likely uninvolved, Raylan tracks the GPS coordinates on Wade’s burner phone to a quaint bed and breakfast.  Speaking of eating, a ton of crows were totally pecking out the eyeballs of Wade Messer, who’s dead by the way (man, isn’t everything just coming up Dewey these days?).  Darryl picks up Dewey in his truck (thank God for that Verizon service coming through at last) and straight up learns Dewey but good about his inextricable link to the Crowe’s bidness now.  Is it weird that I sort of feel sorry for Dewey Crowe, career lowlife?  Well, I do, and I’m sorry I’m not sorry!

Raylan, meanwhile, is not really pleased with Darryl sticking his Floridian mug in where it doesn’t belong and goes to Aubrey’s to encourage them to return to Miami.  Unfortunately, Darryl is a real stick in the mud as far as it goes and refuses, so Raylan pulls out a piece of paper and takes Kendall away on behalf of Child Protective Services.***  Awesome!

***Speaking of CPC, it’s possible that Allison doesn’t understand the concept of pillow talk?  Because sharing an anecdote of her rescuing an eight-year-old from being chained to a radiator by an abusive father is not the best way to bask in the afterglow? Just saying.

Boyd, meanwhile, is in the midst of dealing with an awkward family situation of his own, having learned that Cousin Johnny is behind the theft of his product.  After a wonderfully constructive family meeting in jail, the Crowders come to an agreement and put this whole mess behind them, embracing and showering one-another in I-love-yous.  Come to think of it, that definitely did not happen.  Johnny basically told Boyd to bring it, as well as to take his offer of money and crumple it into a wad before cramming deep into the recesses of his tukus.  Families, right?

But this plot line took a great, surprising turn as well.  You see, Boyd had henchman Carl follow Johnny.  I’ll be honest, I doubt Carl can tie his shoes and chew gum at the same time, so color me surprised when he completed his orders successfully.  Turns out Johnny is in cahoots with Hot Rod Dunham, the bearded gentlemen whose affairs Loretta found herself embroiled in earlier in the season.  Another well-timed #MindExplosion!

But Carl was not done being a good lap dog!  He then tells Boyd to cover his eyes and leads him to an abandoned building, where he pulls off a tarp and reveals a litter of new born puppies!  What a pleasant way to end the episode!  Sorry, I’m kidding again!  Carl straight up shows Boyd many, many dead bodies****.  It was an odd choice of gift, but maybe I just don’t know Boyd as well as I thought.

****Remind me never to ask Carl to plan me a surprise birthday party because I would personally not enjoy a pile of corpses.

Elsewhere, Art travels to Detroit and interrogates one of the Canadian thugs (Will Sasso) about Nicky Augustine’s tarmac murder, prompting my third #MindExplosion, Ava has a protector or fifty in jail, and Paxton receives the thoughtful gift of a severed hand.

It seems like Justified cannot be stopped right now, as it continues to add layers and depth to this ever-enriching mosaic that is Harlan County.  When a show is as excellent as this one is right now, the only thing you can do is hold on tight and enjoy the consistently surprising ride.  Yee-haw!


Harlan Chit-Chit

– Raylan: “He’s a drug addict and a Board-certified imbecile.”

Art: “Shouldn’t be too hard to find him then.”

– Raylan [on Danny and Wade as roommates]: “That’s a sitcom I’d pay to see.”

– Boyd: “Your use of past tense gives me some sense of foreboding.”

– Raylan: “Boyd, if we thought you did it, you’d be in a holding cell, and a happier thought I can scarcely conjure.”

– Raylan: “Tell your brother he takes any step further out of my line of sight, it’ll be the last step he ever takes.”


Justified S05E03: “Good Intentions”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “getting involved with women who run afoul of the law.”

It’s been awhile since my last recap of Justified, but hey, it’s not called overstuffeddvr.com just because it sounds fancy.  Quick insight: my DVR is legit overstuffed, so sometimes certain shows that I love take a backseat in the name of more pragmatic management (I’m looking at you, 90-minute episodes of Sherlock).  I know, I know: #TVJunkieProblems.  Well, enough belly-aching!  I’ve been away for far too long and need to dive back into Harlan County feet-first.  Let’s do it!

The first quarter of this outstanding season of Justified could very well be paired with a subtitle: The Distorted Domestication of Raylan Givens.  First, it was about shirking his responsibilities as a father; then it was the inevitability of them finding him; now it’s making sure Raylan can be properly housebroken.  Seriously, our favorite quick-witted US Marshall found himself playing house at the seized mansion of Charles Monroe, the dirty money washer for the local mob Raylan arrested in the previous episode.  He even has a companion: the lovely Allison, Loretta’s social worker.  Those two are playing so much bowling all over Monroe’s house: on the stairs, on tables.  Just bowling, bowling, bowling**.  Add in a few pants-less rump pats, and Raylan is essentially in heaven.

**Is it possible I don’t know what bowling is?

Unfortunately, domestic bliss does not seem likely for Raylan, as a bat-wielding thug with a shamrock tattoo shows up and tries to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with the alarm on one of Monroe’s cars.  Raylan does not like having his special private time interrupted, assumes the dude’s a not-so-subtle message from Monroe, and threatens him but good in typical Raylan fashion.  Ah, but there ’tis a twist!  Maybe the rump-patting, weed-smoking Allison isn’t quite so lovely afterall.  You see, it turns out that goon was really on the hunt for Allison.  After a very aggressive candygram from Raylan and a few gentle proddings with an aluminum bat, he learns that this guy thinks Allison planted meth during one of her visits in order to obtain cause to retrieve his son, Henry Jr, from the house.  Chick is hardcore!  Seriously, I’m worried about Raylan because if I found out someone I loved dabbled in meth-planting, I might question his or her moral code or something?  Then, again, he’s probably just distracted by all those rump pats.

However, the confusion over the identity of the goon does not stop at Raylan.  Turns out Monroe is a bit concerned because he’s keeping a ton of gold inside a secret safe in his house and worries that his lover/maid Gloria wants to steal from him.  In a truly tender sequence, Monroe proceeds to choke her to the brink of death before smothering her nearly to death with a pillow in order to get to the truth.  Ah, the sweet whimsy of #YoungLove!  Who says romance is dead?

In the continuing saga of Boyd Crowder, he’s on the hunt for the moron who ripped him off at the end of last episode.  And what do you know?  First suspect: Cyrus, he of the BB addict skeet shooting***.  Faster than you can say, “That’s not what Pop Rocks are for?” he gives up the identity of Candy, the lady of ill-repute he told about the incoming shipment.

***One of the best scenes of this show ever: Wyn Duffy shooting Cyrus with BBs as Boyd interrogates him.  I could not stop laughing because, hey, karma.  “Ear,” Duffy announces before landing a shot there.  I seriously hope this show can continue to find ways to insert BB guns and/or pellets into the upcoming plot lines because, quite frankly, I’m not ready to part ways with Cyrus.

Fun fact if ever vacationing in Harlan: Ava is apparently a human rolodex of local prostitutes, a skill that admittedly does not help her through many cocktail parties.  I can relate because I can name all six actors who have played James Bond—and in order, too.  Or is it seven actors?  Either way, I end up getting a lot of drinks thrown in my face due to my rolodexing skills, so I feel ya, A-dawg!  Fortunately for Boyd, there’s only one place Ava can be, what with the impending threat of a murder trial, so he moseys on by the big house and asks his bride-to-be if she has any knowledge of specialists who completely misread the instructions on the Pop Rocks package once upon a time.  I’m going to be honest, but Ava comes across as fairly grouchy in this scene.  Maybe she hasn’t been getting eight solid hours of shut eye?  Whatever the reason, she just wants to have a normal conversation with her future husband: for him to ask how she’s doing, for them to discuss Boyd nearly beating Paxton to death in his own living room, those sorts of things.  Communication, folks: it keeps the heart of every relationship beating.****  Still, despite her foul mood, she comes through for Boyd; Carl tracks her down, and it turns out Candy’s working for Cousin Johnny. #AwkwardFamilyReunion

****Worth mentioning: Ava’s lawyer could be the spokesperson for Beats headphones.  They really DO encase you in a sonic wall of music until everything else just fades away!

Given her recalcitrant assistance, I’m not sure how much Ava would appreciate Boyd’s clandestine tattoo-sharing session with the sexy Mara.  Under the auspices of identifying any distinguishing markings on Boyd’s body so they can mark up a corpse to fake his death and keep a very much alive Paxton off their backs, Mara demands Boyd disrobe.  This scene reminds me a great deal of that one from Jaws where they’re all gathered around, drinking and sharing their scars.  Well, it would if Brody were a reformed Nazi.  Or if Brody wanted to do lots of shirtless hugging with Hooper.  But still, very similar all things told.  Controversy warning: these two like each other as more than just friends and likely want to go bowling with each other ALL. NIGHT. LONG.  Mark my words.  Mark it, Dude!

Oh, Dewey Crowe, you magnificent bastard!  Seems like Cousin Darryl marathoned a season’s worth of HGTV on his trip to Kentucky because homeslice is very concerned about the curb appeal of Dewey’s brothel.  I’m no expert, but adding a few azaleas and a tasteful but inexpensive DIY trellis will probably not increase foot traffic.  If you’re serious about this Real Estate Consultant title, you’d best get it together, Darryl.  Still, he really thinks Boyd ripped  Dewey off when he sold him the place and thinks he owes him one…hundred thousand, that is!

Dewey confronts Boyd, who spins him around and tells him to chase Darryl out of town.  Time to step up and be a man, Dewey Crowe!  Ever the apple polisher, Dewey follows instructions, and Darryl finds his fancies very much tickled (not a euphemism) by the display of authority from his typically mild-mannered cousin.  Unfortunately, it seems like Darryl has not done a great deal of laundry in his time because he did a pretty poor job of explaining the drying process to Messer.  Just kidding!  Darryl straight up tortured Messer with a dryer until he confessed to skimming off the top in the name of none other than Boyd Crowder.  Classic Darryl!  Doesn’t look like our favorite Floridian tourist will be leaving Harlan any time soon.

This third episode continues the hot streak that Justified‘s been riding.  The overlapping and interwoven plot lines give the overall narrative a head-spinning complexity, and the dialogue remains as fresh and hilarious as ever.  Surprises keep getting fired at us one after another, and Justified knows that what keeps it in the upper echelon of the medium’s best is that it keeps them coming.


Harlan Chit-Chat

– Raylan: “Now here you are, all dinging and donging but don’t have the sense to ditch.”

– Boyd: “My colleague is apoplectic at the part you played in the loss of our product.  I, on the other hand, understand you must have been an unwitting accomplice because you ain’t stupid enough to think you could rip me off and remain on this side of the god**** planet!”

– Boyd: “Family can be the perfect salve in difficult times.”

– Duffy: “You’re protecting me from a situation you created?”

Raylan: “You could see it that way if you want to dwell on the negatives.”

Justified S05E02: “The Kids Aren’t All Right”

…an episode reminding us all the importance of “riding as high as Dewey Crowe”

If last week’s Justified found Raylan doing all he could to evade the responsibility of fatherhood, Tuesday night’s episode reminded us that it would still very much find him.  Our favorite US Deputy Marshall might not like it, but the truth came out: distancing himself from his biological daughter in Florida did not prevent his (metaphorically) adopted daughter from pulling him back into her orbit.

That’s right, Loretta’s back!

Now, I don’t want to get a reputation for being mean to kids or anything, but Loretta is a real rascal in this episode.  When Raylan finds out that a recent arrest for selling marijuana to a cop’s son has landed Loretta in jail, he takes offense at her bandying about his name as a sure-fire ticket for clemency.  Loretta’s all, “My b, Ray Ray.”  But for some reason, Raylan doesn’t completely believe her, which I honestly found surprising because she reminds me of a younger, female, drug-dealing version of George Washington.

To compound this, Raylan also bumps into Loretta’s boyfriend, a fine, upstanding young man named Derek.  And when I say fine, upstanding young man, I mean the kid’s a real turd sandwich.  Luckily, that smell is not unfamiliar to Raylan, so—ever the protective Papa—he decides to do what any dad would do when his precious baby girl brings home a loser: break them up but good.

Fortunately, it turns out not all is lost because Loretta’s social worker is a pretty thing named Allison (played by Amy Smart).  The two hit it off because that’s what happens when two attractive people meet on the steps outside a police station and share a common interest in a teenage drug dealer.

You see, it turns out Derek and Loretta have become embroiled in a bit of a quagmire with reputed Memphis drug kingpin Hot Rod Dunham.  Along with his most loyal of thugs, Dunham needs to track down a stolen package that Loretta and Derek ripped off and buried in a hole somewhere. 

When Raylan finds Derek, he’s sitting on his couch and getting a real thorough noogie from one of Dunham’s men.  Raylan finds this flummoxing because Derek doesn’t seem the kind of kid to relish the true joy of an honest-to-goodness noogie, so he breaks up the fratboy tomfoolery before encouraging Derek to break up with Loretta.

Not having received that message, Loretta shows up at the office and reports Derek missing.  On behalf of America, Raylan doesn’t really see a problem with this but eventually tracks him down anyway because the man will NOT turn down an opportunity to beat people with shovels and threaten to shoot them many times.  But this whole experience does more than quench Raylan’s insatiable bloodlust; he also learns a valuable lesson about being a dad: let your kids feel like they’re making their own decisions when they’re actually doing exactly what you want.

So Loretta breaks up with Derek and leaves him in an abandoned part of town.  Hope you have your pepper spray handy, Derek!

After negotiating a peace with Dunham, Raylan fulfills his fatherly duties for the night and invites Allison out for some bowling, if you know what I mean.***  Problem is, he can’t stop talking about his “kid.”  It’s Loretta this, Loretta that, Loretta, Loretta, Loretta.  It’s a real mood-killer tbh.

***No, but seriously.  They go bowling.  Raylan’s one smooth cat.

Aww, Raylan.  It seems like this season will keep the plot of his burgeoning fatherhood on the back burner; with several references to Raylan’s own father, I look forward to watching our favorite US Marshall negotiate the terrain of parenthood while also dealing with his own bruised childhood.

Meanwhile, life is not going so well for Boyd Crowder.  Remember when he broke into Lee Paxton’s house and seemed to beat him to death with a gun, then walked right out after threatening his wife and wiping gore off his chin?  Well, I know this will surprise you, but that did not turn out to be the best plan.

For one, Paxton’s still alive.  For another, a really creepy cop has a bit of Boyd stuck in his craw and finds himself hell-bent on bringing him down.  Paxton’s gorgeous foreign wife Mara at first seems to betray her promise to Boyd but, on a visit to the bar for the ostensible purpose of arrest, recants that.  Turns out she wants the money Boyd intended to spend bribing Ava’s judge to get herself back home.***

***Perhaps the most sexually charged blackmail ever committed to film occurred in the hospital stairwell between Boyd and Mara.  Bless my stars, that was steamy!

Now I didn’t want to befriend this cop or anything but then he showed his true colors after pulling Mara over on a backcountry road and yanking her out of her car by the hair.  I don’t want to jump to conclusions or anything, but it seems like this cop might not be the best guy in the world.  Hear me out!  He threatens to pin Paxton’s attack on Mara if she doesn’t re-recant her statement on Boyd.

As if this weren’t enough, Boyd and Winn Duffy hold a meeting of their drug distributors to let them know about the upcoming Canadian delivery.  An insightful young gentleman named Cyrus stands up and initiates his union president campaign by explaining the daily tribulations of a street level dealer.  Boyd breaks it down by creating an analogy between a dried up drug supply and poor cell phone reception, which I found really helpful because I have always wanted to know how a cell phone was like a drug supply.  #THEMOREYOUKNOW

Later, we see Cyrus shooting junkies with pellet guns, and I couldn’t help but wonder about his upbringing.  What happened to you, Cyrus?  I’m worried about you.  Do you want to talk about it?  Cyrus certainly doesn’t do himself any favors after that, letting the arrival of the upcoming Canadian shipment slip to some unfortunate-looking dame who completely misunderstands the true intentions of Pop Rocks.

Perhaps inevitably, Boyd’s shipment gets ambushed, and–this might also surprise you–he is not terribly excited to learn that.  Might as well get your junkie shooting in while you still can, Cyrus! It’s not looking great for you!  Boyd might seem a less traditional daddy than Raylan, but something tells me he won’t take kindly to you messing with his baby!

Elsewhere, Art looks into the deaths of Sammy Tonin and Nicky Augustine, Ava languishes in jail, and Cousin Darryl arrives at Dewey’s place of business.

While I can’t quite place my finger on where this is all headed or how it will inevitably intersect, Justified is in top form right now, moving its myriad chess pieces into position and delighting in watching the players squirm.


Harlan Chit-Chat

– Boyd: “That depends on your definition of friend.  He’s a nice enough fellow, but I wouldn’t ask to borrow his corduroy jacket.”

– Raylan [after drawing his gun]: “Don’t make me do the paperwork.”

– Raylan: “My general rule is: you keep talking, I put you in the trunk.”

– Raylan: “Derek, I got a loaded gun.  Get out of my car.”

– Dewey: “I gotta tell you right now, there’s not a man on earth riding as high as Dewey Crowe!”  (All the LOL at this one.)

Justified S05E01: “A Murder of Crowes”

…an episode reminding us the importance of telling the difference between 300 and 300,000 dollars

I’m just going to come out and say it: Justified is one of the best series on television and certainly the most underrated.  After that terrific premiere, promising an outstanding string of episodes to follow, I’m salivating for what will come next.  And that has a great deal to do with one Harlan family coming to the narrative foreground: the Crowes.

For US Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens (I just love typing that), Dewey Crowe has been that piece of gum stuck to the bottom of his cowboy boot.  No matter how hard he tries, he can never quite scrape it—or him—off, as Dewey’s livelihood is very much a part of the criminal element of Harlan County with which Raylan clashes.  That opening court scene, with Dewey seeking reparations for his years of torment at Givens’s hand, treated long-time fans to the often-hilarious ways Raylan tormented this moron over the years. **

**My personal favorite, and the incident that seems to scar Dewey the most, involves an elaborate ruse that had him convinced Raylan had excised his kidneys and sold them on the black market.  Though as Raylan quips: “I’d like to point out he thought he had four kidneys.”  The show’s trademark rapid-fire dialogue (flying as fast and furious as the bullets) and deadpan humor were spot on here.

Needless to say, Dewey ended up clearing $300,000 in the settlement, quite a considerable mark-up from what he initially thought a $300 one.  This guy!

But it became quite clear early on that Dewey would function as a gateway into the rest of the colorful Crowe clan.  It seems that down in Florida, brothers Dilly, Danny, and Darryl (alliteration at its best) had a sweet thing going with a Cuban national named Machado and a corrupt Coast Guard officer named Simon Lee: the smuggling of illegal, cheap sugar.  Unfortunately, Lee wants out and Dilly (whom Raylan considers the dimmest of the bunch—yikes) can’t stand him mocking his stutter, so he shoots him, forcing Machado to finish the job.

This attracts the attention of the US Marshall’s office.  Raylan’s intimate knowledge of the Crowes makes him a perfect candidate for the job, so Art sends him on his way, pairing him with a traveling companion named Greg Sutter (David Koechner, delivering a great performance and never once saying “Whammy!”).  But before heading to the Sunshine State, Raylan visits Dewey at the local house of ill-repute, interrupting a bizarrely nude game of Marco Polo.  His hope is that Dewey can give him some information, but he refuses, so Raylan’s parting gift is plugging his above-ground pool with two bullets and walking away as it collapses in on itself, spraying jets of water.  Raylan is the COOLEST.

Down South, Dewey’s cousin Darryl (Michael Rapaport) is the self-appointed patriarch of the Crowe dynasty.  Apparently, his dying father’s request was for Darryl to step up and protect his family at all costs, a charge he’s taken to heart.  When Dilly and Machado show up with Lee’s corpse, it forces the eldest Crowe son to take steps in order to live up to his promise to dear old dad.  Through his paralegal sister Wendy (Alicia Witt***), Darryl brokers a deal and offers to pin everything on Machado to avoid bringing heat on the Crowes.

***An amazing roster of guest stars here, as well as Stephen Root, Matt Craven, and Max Perlich reprising their roles.  Speaking of which, Perlich’s sleazy Sammy Tonin had one of the most unceremonious deaths I’ve seen on this show, perfectly befitting such a sniveling character.

Needless to say, amidst double-crosses and fake-outs, Machado catches wind of the plan to turn him in and tries to flee for Cuba.  Raylan puts a few holes in his dinghy before adding a few more to Machado’s chest.  Life lesson: do not mess with Raylan Givens.  He will always win.  Also, Raylan hates inflatables?

Despite this compelling and labyrinthine plot, what really resonated with me in this episode was the way it treated the Crowes as more than just buffoonish criminals, which, of course, they are.  In many ways, this fifth season of Justified already feels reminiscent of the outstanding second season.  And, trust me, I mean that as the highest of compliments. Like the Bennetts, the Crowes are, if nothing else, tight-knit , a distorted vision of familial love gone criminally awry.  But everything Darryl does (including having Danny kill Dilly) is in service of keeping his family together.  Contrasting beautifully with this is Raylan; Winona and his daughter live in West Palm Beach and, as Sutter continues to remind him, they’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away.  Unlike Darryl, Raylan makes up every excuse he can to avoid his family, unable to accept his role as a father (the shrink in me would say it’s likely due to some lingering issues with his own not-so-dearly departed pops, but what do I know?).  There’s got to be a happy medium between devolving into criminal behavior and complete avoidance when it comes to our families and as the episode closes, perhaps Raylan’s found a temporary fix: Skype from the comfort of his office.  It’s a great scene to cap off an episode that is, in many ways, about the responsibilities to and insecurities caused by our families.

Speaking of family responsibility gone terribly wrong, how about Boyd Crowder?  When he’s not tracking down Canadian thugs in Detroit with Wynn Duffy****, he’s on the war-path to clear Ava of a pesky murder charge.  What a great fiancee!

**** The chronicles of these two road-tripping to Detroit is a great idea for a spin-off.  FX take note!

 This might surprise you, but reformed skin head and Harlan County drug kingpin Boyd Crowder does not do a great job controlling his emotions.  After failing to find a way to intimidate Judge Bishop, who’s been placed in charge of Ava’s case, he returns to the homestead of Lee Paxton, the arrogant upper-cruster who belittled Boyd’s “white trash” attempts to better himself earlier in the show’s run.  It turns out that making Boyd beg for assistance and then withdrawing the offer is great for a laugh but an even greater excuse for Boyd to bludgeon Paxton to death in his own living room! Win-win!  There are not enough superlatives in the world to hurl at Walton Goggin’s performance as Boyd.  He deserves all of the Emmys.

Justified’s dark, violent, funny, and biting take on the distortion of American families looks like it’ll be great fodder for this upcoming season.  And with Darryl headed north after catching wind of cousin Dewey’s settlement, the Crowes look to prove what we already know: we’re all stuck with the families we got.


Harlan Chit-Chat

– Raylan [on the Crowes]: “I just figured they’d all be locked up or dead by now.”

– Canadian Thug #1: “If you want, to keep it simple, we can add you and Mr. Eyebrows to the list.”

Boyd: “And I thought all Canadians were supposed to be nice.”

Canadian Thug #2: “Wrong Canadians.”

– Wynn Duffy: “We’re through doing business with you people.  The idea behind organized crime is that it’s supposed to be organized.”