If you read my advance review, you'll know I really, really liked tonight's episode of Justified. And even though it's been a few weeks and I've seen it a few times more? I still really, really like this episode.
It starts with the unsavory characters. Dickie and Coover Bennett are out disposing of Walt McCready's corpse, being that their mother poisoned him last week, and bickering as siblings do. Meanwhile, Boyd Crowder comes out of the depths of a mine to find Raylan waiting for him. He reminds Raylan that he characterized him as liking "to get money and blow shit up." Raylan brushes that off and offers to buy him a drink. We all know that they both have ulterior motives for this little get-together, and they quickly cut to the chase. "Life don't hand out too many seconds chances, Boyd," Raylan warns him, trying to get Boyd to avoid Gio and the Miami cartel, ignoring Boyd's protestations that he's gone straight. "The more you say it, the less I believe it."
Thankfully, a phone call from Art interrupts this tetchy little chat. It's not good news, though. Raylan is dispatched to his family home, where he finds a camper on the front lawn. Apparently, his father has violated the range of his mandated tracking device by being in said camper after Aunt Helen booted him from the house following a domestic dispute. What happens next could be on a Kentucky episode of Cops. While Arlo and Helen bicker, Raylan confronts Arlo about the missing money that he was given to turn over to Bo Crowder. Neither argument goes anywhere, and Raylan's not sure who to be more irritated with. "You kicked the man out of the house?" he says to Helen, incredulously. "He's under house arrest." She ignores him and warns him to leaves Mags Bennett alone, a sentiment that Arlo seconds. We know that Arlo is not the brightest crayon in the box, so if he's not wanting to touch the subject, it can't be good. Raylan is left to stand there as Arlo and Helen start bickering all over again, Arlo telling Helen that he hopes she gets cancer and her retorting that she's already had it. The Givens clan is certainly putting the "fun" in dysfunctional.
Speaking of Mags, she's looking out for the now-orphaned Loretta McCready, asking her what she recalls about her abduction in the previous episode and telling her that Walt has been sent away for a few weeks to take care of some business. We know this isn't the case, but Loretta buys the lie hook, line and sinker while Mags says she's looking forward to their time together.
The following morning, Raylan wakes up to find Winona inspecting the contents of his closet. She is not impressed, but it's clear that she woke up on the wrong side of the bed, as she begins to needle him entirely unprovoked about where his life is headed. In retaliation, he brings up Gary, and she calls him an asshole. The conversation that follows is supposed to be romantic, I suppose, but when she leads with how she sometimes looks at him and never wants to see him again, I don't care what she says afterward, the buzz has already been killed. This scene is necessary, however, because the following one sees them taking the office elevator together and being greeted upon arrival by none other than Gary. Winona and Raylan very quickly try to pretend nothing is happening, while Gary suggests to Raylan that they get a drink on account of their both being dumped by the same woman. There's hilariously awkward awesomeness here, and it more than makes up for my lack of enthusiasm for the scene before it. At least Justified remembers that Winona is married, even if she's separated.
Art assigns Raylan and Tim to handle a prisoner transport; it seems mundane, but it's not, because said prisoner is named Jamie and she is quite pregnant. Two guys and a pregnant woman is likewise an uncomfortable arrangement. When she asks Tim if he plans on asking how she became that way, Jacob Pitts delivers the best line of the episode, perfectly straight-faced and deadpan: "I do remember that and what untreated venereal disease looks like."
They arrive at the infirmary and everything seems to be going swimmingly, except for that Raylan notices a suspicious guy who's in the waiting room without his significant other. Suspicious Guy immediately strikes up a conversation with him, which only makes him stick out more. You can tell that Raylan is figuring him out just by the way he shifts his jaw. It's not long before Suspicious Guy and an armed friend of his are bearing down on Raylan, Tim and the poor receptionist in order to rescue their pregnant friend. "I'm sure my baby shouldn't have to ride my rap," she says as they force Tim to handcuff himself to Raylan. If you're an Elmore Leonard fan like me, you probably just remembered that the second Raylan Givens novel is entitled Riding The Rap.
Once the two have managed to free themselves, they're back at the Marshals Office dissecting the situation and, thanks to a fingerprint lifted off the handcuffs, identifying the Suspicious Guy as a character named Jess Timmons. Raylan and Tim seem to be getting along, and Raylan admits to Art that they were played.
Jamie and Jess are holed up with another guy talking about what will happen to her child after she gives birth. She slips into the bathroom, takes one look at her pregnant belly, and starts to reconsider.
Raylan and Tim bring in Jamie's husband, A.J. Logan, who didn't even have any idea she was pregnant. Surprise! So who's the father? Our Marshals have a quick team huddle, and the idea is floated that it could have been a guard, who hired Jess Timmons to recover his child. They decide to make a list of all the guards and see if any of the names match between the women's prison and the one Timmons was most recently visiting.
It's soon time for Jamie to deliver the baby, but she's flighty and this time when she goes to the bathroom, she doesn't come back. Instead, she elects to make a run for it out the bathroom window, but due to her being thirty-seven weeks pregnant, she doesn't get very far at all. Jess is cranky and orders his buddy to get the baby out of her without proper medication.
Our Marshals visit the one of the prison guards, Glen Cosgrove (that's The Unusuals' Kai Lennox), at his home. His wife walks into their conversation and refuses to leave, so she has to hear the whole sordid story about how her husband impregnated a prisoner and is going to have her killed. Cosgrove denies the whole thing until Tim reveals they have records of the phone calls between him and Jess Timmons, and helpfully points out that if he goes down for contract murder, it's a death sentence. Cosgrove's shocked wife yells at him to help the Marshals find Jamie, and that's how he ends up in the back of the car with Raylan telling him to "shut the hell up or Tim's going to hit you in the face." We know that's not an empty threat, either.
Yet will they get there before Jess gets the baby out of Jamie? Probably, if he keeps running his mouth while his buddy continues to think this is a Bad Idea. The two of them get into a fistfight, which gives Jamie time to get off the makeshift operating table and try to make another break for it. As Raylan and Tim roll up on the house where she's being held, they hear Jess putting a few rounds into his former friend. And Raylan was trying so hard not to have to draw his weapon...
He and Tim storm into the house to find Jess has Jamie at gunpoint behind the table. He's threatening to shoot the unborn child. Raylan is unruffled, telling him that if there's a perfect shot where his brainstem meets his spine, he won't be shooting anyone. If you were expecting Raylan to pull the trigger, you may have forgotten that Tim Gutterson is a sniper. Tim nails that shot perfectly and saves the day for all involved.
Boyd arrives home at the end of a long day, home being Ava's house, where he's taken up residence. He looks a lot worse for wear, and she hands him everything he needs to clean himself up. She warns him, however, that it's not to happen again. They're not going to be friends, but there's a surprising tenderness to the brief moment.
Raylan is doing more paperwork (the second week in a row!) when the spurned Mrs. Cosgrove turns up, saying that she can't have kids and wanting to know what's going to happen to Jamie's baby. She's hoping that they can adopt it. Raylan offers to look into the situation for her. Aw, how sweet. But things go sour when he gets home, only to be met on his front porch by Gary, who is a lot less jovial than he was previously. "I'm gonna get her back," he insists. "She left you for me once, Raylan." He has a point.
Winona asks Raylan who he was talking to; I'm surprised that if she could hear talking, she didn't recognize her husband's voice. He starts talking about kids, obviously inspired by what he's seen on the job, and she eventually gets him to give up some particulars of his day. Caught out, he figures that he may as well come completely clean, and says that he was talking to Gary. That's where we leave them, just before a conversation that ought to be very interesting.
I love this episode on so many levels. Once again, Raylan has to deal with multiple problems at the same time - not just his work, but his really, truly screwed up relationships with his father and his ex-wife. Many shows want to have multiple storylines like that (how many brilliant professionals with failed personal lives do we see) but rare is the series that can make all of them work, apart and together. Justified pulls all of them off, each thread birthing plenty of story possibilities and memorable moments.
On the work front, I have to echo a sentiment I voiced last week, just with a different character. It's great to see the character of Tim Gutterson get more screen time, and damned if Jacob Pitts doesn't run with it. I love Tim, he of the expert trigger finger and the voice that never wavers even if he's talking about the building being on fire. Nothing bothers him, and he doesn't take Raylan's attitude the way many of the other characters do. Tim and Raylan have a friendly antagonism going on at moments, and I love watching it unfold; they bicker, they disagree, and that makes them an effective and entertaining team. That's why I love the conclusion of this episode: not only does the supporting character get to be the hero in this case, but unlike every other show on television, Tim doesn't wait for the bad guy to finish his manifesto before he puts him down. It drives me up the wall how good guys stand around while the bad guys talk, and I love that somebody finally just finishes the situation.
The Raylan-Arlo relationship, which was one of the key cogs of season one, continues to be entertaining as all get out. I've seen a lot of Cops episodes in my time, and the scene which unfolds at the Givens house could easily have been on that show. Timothy Olyphant's facial expressions of bewilderment and annoyance at everyone involved are beyond classic; as great a dramatic actor as he is, he has a real gift for comedy that shines in moments like these. I was laughing so hard during this scene that it hurt, and even though I knew it was coming this time, that didn't make it any less funny here. It's clear that Arlo is going to be a thorn in Raylan's side for a long time, and I love it. (After all, Raymond J. Barry knows what he's doing: before he was Raylan's father, he was Lilly Rush's estranged dad on Cold Case.)
I've already expressed my feelings toward the Raylan-Winona subplot, but I'm at least glad that this episode handles it in a realistic way. I can name quite a few shows that had married women in such plots, whose husbands were only mentioned when it was convenient or when it helped to create drama. I might not be a huge fan of Gary, but he's still a major part of Winona's life and has to be dealt with. I'm glad that he's not being ignored or pushed aside in favor of Raylan, and I'm likewise glad that he's trying to fight for his marriage. So many other times, he'd just be quickly steamrolled over so that the hero of the show can get the girl, but that's not realistic. That's not life. Justified is showing us the real effects of this relationship, including all the bad ones, and I respect that realism so much.
More interesting than that, though, is the bond developing between Ava and Boyd. They're pretty much all that each other has now, so it'll be interesting to see how Ava balances her knowledge of Boyd's misdeeds with the fact that he's family and he obviously needs her help. Hopefully, they can be good for each other; they both could use to stay out of trouble.
We're two episodes in, and so far, season two of Justified is aiming to top season one. I may have seen this episode a few times before, but that's because this show can be watched again and again without dulling its impact. It truly is, in every aspect, the best series on television - and one of the best you'll ever see.
For more Justified, check out the show category at my blog, DigitalAirwaves.net.