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TV Diary | Justified – “Watching The Detectives”

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TV Diary | Justified – Episode 3.08 – “Watching The Detectives” – Original Airdate: 3/6/12

Episode Grade: A-

We’re in the homestretch now, people. When I saw in the credits that series creator Graham Yost had written this week’s episode, “Watching The Detectives,” I knew that we were in for a good hour of television and Yost did not disappoint in crafting one of the best episodes of Justified’s third season. “Watching The Detectives” escalated the Raylan/Quarles war to new heights via Quarles’ message to Raylan – a dead Gary laying on his doorstep. Poor, dumb, misguided Gary. Can’t really say the guy will be missed but this is what I expect to be merely the first salvo in Quarles’ willingness to strike at Raylan via personal means [1] but Quarles wasn’t content to just kill Gary. Nope… he’s a better villain than that. In some incredible attention to detail, Quarles set Raylan up to take the fall for the murder by using the bullet that Raylan chucked at Wyn Duffy back in “Harlan Roulette” [2] in the murder as a way to implicate Raylan. Concurrent to Quarles’ frame job, Sammy Tonin – knowingly under FBI surveillance – conveniently made mention (during a telephone conversation with an associate) of his belief that Raylan is on Boyd’s payroll, sending FBI goon Barkley into action to try to nail Raylan [3] on corruption charges. Most of the hour was spent watching the various strings that Quarles was pulling while simultaneously wondering how Raylan was going to squirm his way out of two separate yet equally difficult situations [4]. There was so much goodness in “Watching The Detectives” that I hardly know where to begin. It was another Quarles-heavy episode, which is a great thing in my book. You can tell by now that I’m in the tank for Neal McDonough and seeing him get as much screen time as he has these past two episodes is to see a guy who is so incredibly in tune with his character that it’s a thrill to watch. I mentioned back in my review of “The Man Behind The Curtain” that Quarles’ desperation was increasingly coming to the surface and that continued full throttle here. By “Watching The Detectives’” end, Quarles was a man without a country after being informed by Sammy that the heat he’s bringing to the Detroit organization has become untenable after the failure of his play against Raylan proved indicative of a growing obsession with the Marshal. After being exiled by Detroit for essentially a second time, Quarles response is to join forces with Limehouse [5], who had approached him earlier with information on Boyd’s plan to install his own puppet sheriff in telling him, “I likes to back the winnin’ side.” Limehouse trying to play all sides against the other so that he can ultimately come out on top seems to ring true to the pragmatist that Mykelti Williamson has played him as and seeing Williamson join forces with his former Boomtown castmate is a partnership that I’m looking forward to watching. Any reservations I had about how this third season was playing out during its first half have long since vanished as it’s becoming the sprawling crime epic that it seemed to promise that it would. Just five episodes left, people. Time to buckle in.

[1] Watch your back, Winona. I still think this is happening.
[2] Surely you haven’t forgotten the incredible, “The next one’s coming faster,” scene?
[3] And the Marshals’ office at large.
[4] There was no doubt that he was going to exonerate himself, either. He is Raylan Givens after all. With Winona’s help, he clears himself from suspicion in Gary’s murder while Barkley’s reluctance to give up the fact that they have eyes on Sammy scotches the FBI’s investigation into Raylan.
[5] Though I’ll admit that the scene with Quarles driving out to nowhere while popping the top of a bottle of prescription meds had me worried that we were going to lose him there for a second. I have no illusions that he’s a goner by the end of the season (especially in light of this news) but I’m not ready for the show to be done with him quite yet. Not that that surprises you.

Miscellany:
*Uh… that final scene between Raylan and Duffy. HOLY. SHIT. I have crazy love for Mags Bennett and Robert Quarles, but Wyn Duffy may just be the best foil as a villain – Boyd doesn’t count – that Raylan has come up against during Justified’s run. A commenter over on The AV Club speculated that Duffy should take Quarles out himself and then take over as season four’s main villain. I’ll co-sign that.
*Beyond his attempted frame-up of Raylan, Quarles did manage to put together another one that did actually stick: Setting Boyd up to take the fall for the attempted car-bombing of Sheriff Napier. It certainly looks like we’re going to have a WWE-style dream tag team of Raylan and Boyd taking on Quarles and Limehouse by or during episode thirteen, doesn’t it?
*What exactly is Quarles setting up by bringing Dodd back into the fold and giving him one last chance by asking him to walk into a crowded place and shoot someone in the face? Color me intrigued.
*Though Natalie Zea hasn’t been given a ton to do this season (or ever, for that matter) she played the hell out of the scene where Raylan informs her of Gary’s death. She did an exceptional job of conveying the conflicting emotions that Winona was feeling in that moment. Not to mention that her assistance in clearing Raylan by finding the murder weapon lead to the following classic exchange:
Raylan: “Did you touch it?”
Winona: “What am I? An asshole?”
*On the subject of neglected characters: MORETIMPLEASETHANKYOU. It’s clear that Yost himself enjoys writing for Jacob Pitts’ character because Tim was in full snarky display in “Watching The Detectives” and the attention given to him was one of the highlights of a strong episode. In many ways, Tim seems positioned as a younger version of Art and it’s a fascinating contrast to see young and old versions of the same character have almost no use for Raylan. Tim is a weapon in your arsenal, Justified. Use him. Please.
*Nice observation by The AV Club’s Scott Tobias – this may be almost apropos of nothing, but Barkley is almost like a casual viewer who drops in on Justified to make wrong-headed pronouncements. It could almost be Yost’s meta way at looking at criticism of the show. Maybe that wasn’t the intent, but it’s interesting to look at the character through that prism.
*More strong attention to detail: Quarles immediately freaking out upon receiving word that a detective was sniffing around his old headquarters because Duffy hadn’t yet repainted that back bedroom. Also, Barkley throwing Art’s threatening manner towards the WITSEC mobster from “Cut Ties” back at him during Barkley’s investigation of Raylan. This is where all of the track that the earlier part of the season laid down is beginning to pay off.
*So… the two brief little appearances by Stephen Root this season as Judge Reardon that seem designed to remind us that he’s still around have to be leading to something bigger with him down the road, no?
*Full confession: I couldn’t remember the name of Rick Gomez’s ADA character who we last saw in season one so I referred to him in my notes as ADA Morgan’s Brother due to his familial relation with Chuck’s Josh Gomez.
*Who in the actual fuck was the musical act that Raylan was watching at the bar? It’s was almost Lynchian in its Blue Velvet-y weirdness.
*”Actually, I already knew you didn’t kill Gary… that night. He’s been livin’ in Tulsa for months under an assumed name.” “How did you know that?” “I’m good at my job.”
*”If you already knew that, why have you been messing with me?” “‘Cause it was fun.”
*”No, shitstain, it’s not good because he saw you which is why you chose this public place to meet so I don’t chop your balls off right now.”
*”Wait… why did you throw a bullet at him?” “I was trying to make a point.” “Which was?” “Get the hell out of Kentucky and don’t come back.”
*”Deputy, that might be the coolest thing I’ve ever laid ears on.”
*”I looked at him straight in the eye that day and he knew I was gonna be dead later. And I had no idea. What’s that say about me?”
*”Raylan may be a lot of things, but I’ve never gotten a whiff of dirty.” “Well… maybe that says something about you, Chief.” “Did you honestly just say that?”
*”Is that a real question?” “It had a question mark.”
*”I mean… she’s older for a Victoria’s Secret girl but that’s how you know she knows what she’s doing.”
*”Don’t play dumb with me, Deputy.” “I’m not playing. I’m an idiot. You can ask anybody.”
*”This time, seriously, don’t come find me.”
*”Hey, Raylan… remember that time I told you I didn’t think you were gonna make it to retirement? I think it’s gonna be me. For God’s sakes… having you in this office is gonna give me a stroke.”
*”Deputy, didn’t your mother teach you to knock?” “Oh, yeah, she did. She also taught me to shoot. Then my Uncle Sam, he gave me this <flashes badge> and THIS is my knock.”
*”He’s got the ice cold, remorseless, bottle blonde, shitbag killer doing scutwork.” “Deputy, are you accusing me of being a fake blonde? Because if you need me to prove it to you, I might be inclined to break you over that stepladder, ride you down like a teaser pony, and paint this room an entirely different color.” “Now *that* is the Wyn Duffy I remember.”

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