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.”

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