Tomorrow night's Justified feels like the most awkward family gathering ever. I mean that as high praise.
In last week's episode, we saw a lot of actual and potential developments in relationships, and "Full Commitment" shows us the side effects of all of them. Yes, serious things happen - you can add to the body count this week - but most of what makes this hour work is the awkward, often hilarious interactions as Raylan attempts to get to the bottom of last week's fracas and everyone else gets caught up in the tornado that is Raylan Givens.
There are so many fantastic moments in this episode. There's an overdue confrontation between Gary and Raylan, with Winona caught in the middle. There's Art getting one step closer to having an aneurysm as he deals with everyone else's problems. Ava and Boyd lay out ground rules for their new relationship. The episode also finally brings back the characters of Rachel and Tim; although there's not as much Rachel as I would have liked, there's an awful lot of Tim here, probably just as much as we saw in "The Life Inside." Although Tim is probably wishing he'd have stayed on his vacation. The best parts of the episode come from Raylan making his life difficult, and vice versa.
There are also interactions between characters we wouldn't normally see together, which is always a treat. There are scenes between Boyd and Arlo, Helen and Ava, and Raylan and his former boss, Dan. My personal favorite is a scene which has several of our characters in one room together. It's so normal-looking and yet not that it is classic. It's like a scene out of a sitcom, and it's funnier than most sitcoms. Part of it includes this priceless exchange:
Tim: I feel like I'm in The Big Chill.
Raylan: Except no one's dead.
Rachel: And the music sucks.
That's not to say that the plot doesn't also advance. Raylan wastes no time in trying to find out who's behind last week's shooting, and because he's a smart guy, it doesn't take him that long to connect the dots to Gary. The episode is not a "whodunit." The tension comes from what else Raylan finds out and what he does with that information. In other news, Dickie Bennett continues his plan to take over the world...I mean, Harlan County. He's still got a screw loose, and that gets several people in trouble. The episode certainly has a few things to take note of, though it's not the most plot-heavy episode.
On another show, not cracking down on the plot this late in the season would concern me. But even though we just had "Debts and Accounts" for all our filler needs, what makes me like this episode - and like it much more than that one - is how much character it brings to the table. I just love finding out what makes these people tick. I'm all for sticking them in a room together and seeing what happens. I like what those interactions show us about their points of view. And considering that Justified does deal with the big elephant in the room in the same episode, there's not much to complain about.
Most of all, what I take away from this episode is that I really enjoy spending time with these characters. They feel like friends to me. As with my real family, there's a lot of fun and even a bit of appreciation to be had even from the most awkward of moments. And they always make for a good story.
"Full Commitment" airs tomorrow night at 10 PM ET/PT on FX.