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TV Diary | Justified – “Guy Walks Into A Bar”

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TV Diary | Justified – Episode 3.10 – “Guy Walks Into A Bar” – Original Airdate: 3/20/12

Episode Grade: A

Wow. HOLYSHITWOW. It’s pretty clear by now that I’m completely in the tank for Neal McDonough. As I’ve mentioned before, I was thrilled when he was cast as season three’s main antagonist but even in my fandom I wondered if he’d be up to the task of following Mags Bennett, a character who had become instantly iconic. “Guy Walks Into A Bar” not only completely allayed those fears but it went a step further – Robert Quarles is now a better character than Mags Bennett. And I don’t say that lightly. As I posted on my Facebook after watching the episode, if McDonough doesn’t win an Emmy for his performance this season then they should just dissolve that awards show altogether because they will have failed miserably. He’s that mind-blowingly good this season. After scaling back on Quarles in its last installment, “Loose Ends,” Justified went all in on him in “Guy Walks Into A Bar” and, as The AV Club’s Scott Tobias pointed out, this episode both humanized Quarles more while simultaneously making him even more of a monster than we’d previously seen. There were three dynamite scenes – all involving Quarles – in “Guy Walks Into A Bar” that really (finally?) gave the audience a sense of who this Detroit carpetbagger [1] really is. Indulge me by allowing me to discuss them one-by-one. The first occurs post-election after Sheriff Napier has emerged victorious and Quarles attempts to foist himself into the Harlan sheriff’s office [2] only to have the county clerk that he’d bought and paid for via Limehouse inform he and Napier that, due to the fact that Napier’s sister was on his payroll [3] and Kentucky’s stringent anti-nepotism laws, Napier has been disqualified from the election and Shelby (as the runner-up) is to be installed as sheriff in his place thus rendering all of Quarles’ plans to control Harlan’s drug trade through its law enforcement office worthless. As he exits the building, defeated [4], Boyd and Johnny are waiting outside to turn the knife even further. Quarles’ response is to silently give Boyd a sinister smile and leave. To see this is to witness a man about to crack completely before our eyes. After being pulled even tighter thanks to the failure of his election plans, Quarles retreats to the, as Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall has dubbed it, “The Wynn-ebago” to chomp down on even more oxy and lick his wounds. While doing so and listening to Duffy advise him that perhaps it’s time for him to pull up stakes and exit Kentucky, Quarles receives a visit from Donovan (a friend of the hustler that Quarles allegedly killed back in Detroit) who’s seeking revenge for his murdered friend. In an absolutely killer monologue, Quarles reveals that his heroin-addict father pimped him out at the age of fifteen to score more drugs/money for drugs and it was only when Theo Tonin (head of the Detroit mob and Sammy’s father) took him in and eventually gave him the opportunity to KILL HIS OWN FATHER that he found purpose. Of course, there’s still that nasty habit of working out his own baggage through torturing and killing other young male hustlers to deal with, something that Donovan experiences first-hand in the episode’s chilling conclusion. As many have said this past week, if FX can get McDonough an Emmy nomination, without question this is his submission episode and this particular scene is what they should place the focus upon. Again, Quarles is at a breaking point – that much is crystal clear. Last but not least… the scene that gives this episode its title. I repeat – HOLYSHITWOW. Quarles and Duffy find their way into Raylan’s bar [5] where Quarles begins by chiding Raylan about his side job – “Oh, that’s right. He’s the bouncer now.” – and ends by balls out, 100% threatening Raylan’s life in full view of both Duffy and the bartender [6]. Raylan’s response? To clear the bar via gunshot into the air and challenge Quarles right then and there, since it’s already well established that Raylan wants Quarles just as dead as Quarles wants him in the ground. However, we still have three episodes to go so Quarles and Duffy eventually retreat but both men’s cards are on the table now and it’s not gonna end until one of them is dead or wishing they were [7]. The tension was so damn thick and to say that this may have been one of my favorite scenes in Justified’s three seasons thus far is no overstatement. It’s a damned shame that the season’s certainly going to end with Quarles departing [8], but in the meantime, Neal McDonough is making the most of his opportunity to establish himself as one of television’s best actors. And goddamn if it isn’t a blast to watch.

[1] Or, as Tobias pointed out in his review, “conquistador.” Boyd calls Quarles this at one point (following one of the scenes I’m about to discuss) and Tobias notes that the use of “conquistador” shows that Boyd no longer thinks that Quarles is merely in Kentucky to profit off of the locals – he’s now willfully destroying everything in his path as well. And something tells me he isn’t quite done yet.
[2] “Tillman, it’s going to start to get a little… crowded in here. For the both of us, I mean. And I’ve noticed that you have an empty office down the hall that you’re using for storage? You think you could have your shit moved into there by the end of the week?”
[3] In an incredibly deft play by Boyd earlier in the episode, he visits Napier’s sister under seemingly sinister means only to ultimately offer her a job with the clerk for this express purpose. Boyd = smart criminal.
[4] And after calmly and frighteningly folding up information and documents from Napier’s desk and excusing himself from the office. This man’s gonna snap something huge. And right quick.
[5] First time we’ve mentioned the good Marshal this week. That tells you something.
[6] Who herself is loaded for bear with a shotgun. Apparently almost getting killed/almost killing someone is an aphrodisiac because she and Raylan jump into bed immediately after Quarles and Duffy make their exit.
[7] Need I remind you of my Winona theory again? No? Good.
[8] Not only has Justified already established that its big bads (Bo Crowder, Mags Bennett) only last until the season finale, but this news (as pumped as I am about it in general) does not bode well for Mr. Quarles being the first villain to break this pattern.

Miscellany
*Some really quick bullet points to get to because, without question, the main thrust of the episode was on Robert Quarles but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t anything else to talk about.
*But one last Quarles note first: The moment where he gestures by making a mouth with his thumb and clenched fist as he’s exiting the bar and says, “Night, night,” to Raylan and the bartender is the exact moment when he passed Mags. And it may be my single favorite moment of the series so far. For reals. I have non-sexual love for this man and I’m not afraid to admit it.
*As a huge fan of Jim Beaver’s work (the guy’s been on Deadwood, Breaking Bad, and had a pivotal role on genre favorite Supernatural), I like seeing how strongly Justified is weaving him into this year’s tapestry. After Napier’s goons try (and fail) to set Shelby up as an oxy dealer by planting the illicit drug in his truck, Shelby shows up on his front lawn shotgun in tow and spins a lie about having nothing to lose thanks to a cancer diagnosis. The crooked deputies flee and Shelby later reveals to Boy that he was full of shit the entire time. Keep this man around, please.
*Any time Stephen Root is on my TV as Judge Reardon, it’s a good episode. Here he presides over Dickie Bennett’s parole hearing where Raylan is able to convince Reardon and DA Vasquez to let him testify as a means of keeping Dickie incarcerated but, in the end, Raylan merely gets up and tells the court that Dickie’s gonna screw up sooner or later on the outside so they might as well just release him and let him get to it. Not really the strongest of storylines but the Quarles stuff was just so incredible that I don’t care.
*It’s worth noting that Raylan increasingly looks like shit. Between Winona leaving, his living above a college bar, and his obsession with getting Quarles, Marshal Givens is looking a little worse for wear.
*Ava’s contribution to Shelby’s campaign is to have her girls doling out handjobs in exchange for votes for Shelby. As Boyd notes, “Yes we can.”
*So… Dickie Bennett’s buddy/fall guy Jed’s grandmother’s totally Tio Salamanca, right? Right.
*If McDonough wins the regular Emmy, Jere Burns wins the Emmy for Best Reactions. My God… the man’s a walking clinic this season.
*”It wasn’t two months ago my doctor told me I got cancer in my liver. Two years to live IF I’m lucky. So, if this the way the good Lord wants it to end, I consider myself prepared. How about you?”
*”Naw… I believe I’m gonna take care of this one myself.”
*”I admit my deposits have been lower than I expected.” “That’s one way to put it. Another way is you ain’t gave me shit.”
*”Sometimes you can flush all you want but it’s that one floater that just won’t go down.”
*”Maybe we could ask the crooked guards and nurses. No, wait… we can’t. You killed them.”
*”Hello, Hannah. Well, I’ve just been sittin’ here admiring your tablescapes.”
*”No, he’s not Derek Jeter-black. He’s Wesley Snipes-black. He’s a black man.”
*”What exactly is the origin of that word? ‘Hollers?’”
*”You’re a lucky man, Mr. Quarles. You come all the way down here… a place you got no right being. You get to eat our food. You get to drink our whiskey. You get to look at our women as you try to take it all for yourself. But do you know what you are? You are a conquistador. Only we are not your savages. And now you get to leave with your life. Well, I’m hard-pressed to remember the last outsider in your line of work that could say that. Now, I hope that you’ve enjoyed your stay and you never forget who packed your bags.”
*”The one looks like an albino deer.”
*”I’m just gonna file that under ‘Who gives a shit?'”
*”I’m gonna kill you, Raylan. Maybe not tonight, maybe not tomorrow, but someday you’ll be walking down the street and I’m gonna put a bullet right in the back of your skull and you’re gonna drop.”
*”Why wait?”
*”She just sassed you, son.”
*”Night, night.”

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