Justified draws back to its main plotlines this week, reminding us that for everything that happens in Kentucky, there are probably three other things that it's connected to. I don't know about you, dear readers, but I like it when things get complicated.
Dewey Crowe is not having a very good time since getting arrested for his would-be score two weeks ago. He's yanked from his cell and dragged into the infirmary - but he doesn't have tuberculosis. Raylan is there waiting, wanting to know what information he has about the action going on in Harlan, and having a short fuse even by his own standards. Dewey starts spilling, saying that Jimmy Earle Dean (the child molester who attempted to kidnap Loretta McCready in the season premiere) told him that the Bennett clan is up to something and it might be related to Walt McCready, Loretta's father. Unfortunately, Dewey got confused past that point, leaving Raylan with little more than hearsay. I, for one, am amused by the idea of bad guys that Raylan has busted socializing with one another. Maybe they can form a support group and trade anecdotes.
Loretta is minding the Bennett store when Coover walks in looking for Mags. He is not impressed to see her given authority that he never was. She is not intimidated by him in the slightest. I like this girl more every week.
Art gets a courtesy phone call, and informs Raylan that his father has violated his house arrest yet again. They barely start that conversation when Trooper Tom Bergen walks in, wanting to borrow Raylan to help him down in Harlan with the continuing investigation after the bus robbery. Art is not impressed, saying that Raylan has "an epic backlog" of work. Raylan brushes this off and asks Tom if he's heard anything on Walt McCready. Tom says that Walt appears to have cashed his government checks, but his signature is quite obviously forged.
No sooner does that talk start than Art gets another call informing him that Arlo Givens is in the building. Arlo and Aunt Helen are there to give Raylan what's left of the $20,000 he ran off with last season. He's $14,000 short, so Raylan tells him that he can go sit in a cell or talk about what he knows regarding stolen government checks. Arlo doesn't want to be helpful, but Helen drops the name of Bowman Crowder - Boyd's brother and Ava's late husband.
Speaking of Boyd, he's in Ava's living room with the guys from the mine discussing the specifics about their intended robbery of the armored truck that visits the mine. Boyd is not pleased to know that they expect him to kill the lone employee on the premises. Their plotting is interrupted by an apparent phone call from Ava. In reality, Boyd has used his cell phone to call the house phone, so he can listen to what they really want to say.. Standing in the kitchen, faking his way through a chat with his sister-in-law, he overhears that his new "friends" (air quotes necessary) plan on killing him as well. Without batting an eyelash, he returns to the next room and tells the group that they'd better do exactly what he says, when he says it. I sense shenanigans.
While Boyd's doing the dishes, Raylan arrives at the house, causing the miners to take immediate offense at his presence. While they're being snippy with him, Boyd is ruining the batter they need by getting it wet in the sink. Oh, that's very sneaky of you, Mr. Crowder. He walks out to answer Raylan's questions about Bowman, telling him that his brother handed that kind of work off to someone else, and where to find him. The two share an awkward staredown for a moment before parting company.
Boyd tells his team that their battery isn't taking a charge, and tries to suggest they call off the heist. The idiots are undeterred and think stopping at Radio Shack will fix their problems. As they leave, Boyd writes a note to Ava and leaves it on the fridge. They then roll up to the mine some time later. Cue the dramatic music.
Raylan, meanwhile, goes to visit the Jesus freak that Boyd referred him to, asking about the stolen checks. The guy claims that his illegal dealings are in the past, but Raylan says that the guy's signature matches the forged ones on the back of Walt McCready's checks. Confronted with that information, the dude whips out a Taser and uses it on my favorite U.S. Marshal, who can't shoot him so he turns the Taser around and shoves it directly in his man region. Ouch. I don't even have that anatomy and I can't help but cringe. Still, I have to give Raylan points for creativity. That may be the best use of a Taser I've ever seen on television.
Everyone eventually begins to come around from this use of electricity, Raylan armed with the Taser and unafraid to use it again when the Jesus freak threatens him despite being prone and whimpering on the floor, proving that he is, in fact, an utter moron.
Our team of would-be thieves fake an emergency inside the mine to get themselves out of it. Boyd forces them all to hand over their cell phones, using words that they probably can't even spell to explain why they should do so. At the same time, Ava gets home from work and finds his note, which tells her to call a specific number at exactly 6:05 PM and not tell anyone. She is naturally suspicious.
Boyd accompanies his new friends as they hold up Shelby, the guy in charge of the construction office. He's told to put explosives in the brown bag and a load of cash in the green bag. We know by the fact that colors are even mentioned that this will be important later. One of the geniuses has his cell phone ring in the midst of this, and Boyd is not impressed, telling them all to get out of the trailer. Once they're gone, he and Shelby share a look. I'm sure he's pretty freaking surprised right about now.
Raylan pays a visit to Coover, making a point to tell him that he knows they're cashing Walt's checks and to let Walt know that he is looking for him. He may as well just smirk while he's doing it, because we know he's dropping that crucial piece of information - and making sure it's to the one brother who's not so bright - for a reason. He is and always has been a sneaky one, that Marshal Givens. That's part of why I love him.
Boyd takes the batteries from his new buddies and heads down into the mine, as planned. Unfortunately, the goons have brought replacement batteries. They think they're blowing him up when they push the button, but in fact, they're blowing themselves up. Surprise! That's what you get when you're lacking in brain cells to rub together. In the aftermath of the explosion, Boyd executes his now-floundering partners in crime, and gets Shelby to tell the rapidly approaching authorities that he went home earlier because of an emergency. He makes an escape while everything is still smoldering.
Coover and Dickie arrive to see the Jesus freak, but see Raylan sitting across the street watching them. They realize that he knows a lot more about what they're up to than they thought. Fake smiles and pleasantries ensue before they also decide to hightail it.
When Boyd finally gets home, Ava is waiting for him, note in hand and the mother of all unimpressed expressions on her face. Did I mention how much I love Joelle Carter this season? Because I do, because of moments just like this one. She wants one heck of an explanation. He tells her that if she hadn't called, they wouldn't be speaking. She saved his life when she called that cell phone as he'd asked her to.
Raylan meets up with Tom Bergen, who thinks that the whole Taser incident is a crazy story until Raylan confirms that it's not a story. He then appears impressed. They both agree that Walt McCready is dead and that they're worried about Loretta, but that there's not much they can do. When Tom mentions the mine explosion, Raylan asks after Boyd. Tom says that the ATF is looking for him before he departs.
"I don't believe they intended to let me live through the day," Boyd tells Ava. "Part of me just felt like layin' down, letting it happen." He explains how he survived. She asks why he bothered with the crime at all. "It's what I do," he says. "It's who I am. As hard as I've been tryin' to pretend otherwise. Everybody else seems to know that but me." My heart actually breaks for Boyd. Who would've thought? And my feelings for him only grow as we find out that he knew Ava needed money to keep the bank from taking the house, and he's come back with about $20,000 to help her. It takes a real actor to make a villain such a sympathetic character, but in that moment, my heart goes out to Boyd Crowder.
As sirens approach, it's now the time for him to ask her for the same favor: will she help him or will she turn him in? And I'm on the edge of my seat as...
...we cut to Mags and Doyle Bennett rolling up on the rest of their family. Mags is fuming now that she knows about the check theft. Coover tries to blame Raylan, but Mags isn't buying it. In fact, she brings out a hammer and gives him a huge whack in the knee with it, before she breaks one of his hands. This is one of those cringe-inducing moments where you know what's coming and you almost have to look away, but yet you can't.
Meanwhile, Raylan tracks down Loretta. He leaves her a cell phone, telling her that he's started something and she's to call him if she ever needs his help. She's left to think that over, as we're left with a lot on our minds at the end of yet another intriguing episode. There will be no easy answers.
I'm not even sure where to start with this episode. There are so many little moments that I love for so many different reasons, and then there are the major things that have me wanting more. I'm not sure I'm supposed to be laughing at a man being Tased in a delicate area, but I have to admit that I was. It was certainly a surprise and probably funnier than it was supposed to be. Justified is a lot funnier than I think it's ever given credit for. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mags' punishment of Coover was bone-chilling. It's the scariest, most intimidating thing she's done yet, and it actually makes me afraid of what she might do in the future. I'm starting to get to that point where if I ran into Margo Martindale on the street, I'd be afraid. I can separate actress from role, of course, but she is really intimidating.
And then there's Boyd and Ava. I love these two more every week. They have, to me, the most interesting relationship of the second season, given all their baggage together and apart. When the show first put them under one roof, I wasn't sure if that would even work, but it has definitely been ingenious. Joelle Carter has done an excellent job turning Ava from damsel in distress and one-time love interest into a tough, assertive woman who's not going to let anyone else screw up her life any further, and I find myself rooting for her to get out from under the entanglements that everyone else just seems to accept are part of their lives.
As for Boyd, he's ended up right where I expected he would - but it's even more impactful than I thought. I'm glad to see that he didn't actually go through with the heist, but it's clear that he does still have that dark side inside of him, and worse than that, he's apparently resigned himself to it. It's clear that he didn't jump - he was pushed, driven there by everyone else's opinions and unwillingness to believe he could change. It's an unfortunate situation, and though I rooted against him for most of season one, I find myself wishing for so much better for him in season two.
All these characters deserve a lot better than they have (okay, except for the idiot who got himself Tased) and it's impossible not to root both for and sometimes against them depending on the situation. And next week, seeing Winona making another potentially questionable decision? Life is messy, and Justified almost seems to revel in that, which is what makes it great entertainment. Good, bad and ugly, we see the whole picture of so many lives, and how they all end up crashing into one another.
If you missed it earlier today, check out my exclusive feature on the filming of the Justified season finale.