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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.

*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.”


TV Diary | Justified – “The Man Behind The Curtain”

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TV Diary | Justified – Episode 3.07 – “The Man Behind The Curtain” – Original Airdate: 2/28/12

Episode Grade: A

To my eyes, “The Man Behind The Curtain” was Justified’s best episode of this third season by a wide margin. That it was the first to feature Neal McDonough’s Robert Quarles in extensive fashion is no coincidence. If you’ve been reading my entries on Justified this season, you know by know that I was on board with the casting of McDonough from the jump. I’ve long been a fan of his and if anyone was up to the unenviable task of following Margo Martindale’s legendary performance as Mags Bennett in season two, McDonough was that man. However, whether it was due to the fact that Justified has taken on a sprawling tone this year that necessitated the service of multiple characters simultaneously or just that perhaps McDonough had availability issues with another job he’d booked [1], it seemed that Quarles was only around for a scene or two per episode so while McDonough took the material he was given and knocked it out of the park when he had the opportunity, we never really got to see a deep look into what makes Robert Quarles tick until “The Man Behind The Curtain.” And, while Quarles had been a terrifying dude before this episode, he’s even more scary now that we know his backstory. We now know – not that it’s terribly surprising – that his move to Kentucky wasn’t by choice as he’d hinted in his first appearance in the season opening “The Gunfighter.” We now know that he was being groomed to take over the Detroit operation before his fondness for torturing male hustlers [2] was exposed, leading to his boss passing Quarles over in favor of his own dim-witted son (played here by Homicide: Life On The Street’s Max Perlich), Sammy Tonin. And, more than anything else, we now know that Quarles is an increasingly desperate man whose war with Raylan is escalating at a rapid pace. After first striking out while trying to prove true his theory about Raylan being dirty [3], Quarles moves on to buying off the Harlan sheriff and the first edict of his newly-struck deal with the crooked lawman is for the sheriff to target and take out Boyd’s operation and, thus, eliminate Quarles’ main competition in Harlan. Meanwhile, Sammy Tonin turns up in Kentucky to check in on Quarles and it’s clear that the two men really have no use for each other [4] yet they maintain a business relationship until Raylan intercedes. Once Sammy and Raylan realize that they share a contempt for Quarles, Sammy cancels a wire transfer that Quarles was counting on as an influx of needed cash while Raylan seizes Quarles’ headquarters by stretching the bounds of the law [5]. The tightly wound Quarles gets the last shot, however, as he and Duffy track down the previously forgotten Gary – who’s now running real estate scam symposiums – in Tulsa. Ultimately, this development does nothing to change my thinking that the Quarles/Raylan battle is going to end with Winona serving as collateral damage but after weeks of Justified not necessarily spinning its wheels but not necessarily moving forward either, ”The Man Behind The Curtain” pushed the gas pedal to the floor in grand fashion. And, frankly? It’s about time.

[1] Just speculating here.
[2] Meaning that we also have a better idea of what he is/was doing with the homeowner he kept bound in that back bedroom of the house he was using as his Harlan headquarters. What’s still unclear is whether Quarles just gets off on beating these guys or if he’s maybe a self-loathing closeted man who works through his psychological issues through extremely violent ways.
[3] Which, frankly, lead to one helluva great scene between McDonough and Tim Olyphant.
[4] Sammy lords his authority over Quarles while Quarles derides Sammy to Wyn Duffy as “a waste of sperm.”
[5] The fact that Quarles was running a prescription drug ring out of a residential home that was close to a neighbor who held piano lessons in his own home allows Raylan to classify Quarles’ headquarters as a drug operation located too close to a school. Obviously, this development doesn’t thrill Quarles. That Raylan also has knowledge of the hustler fetish gives him the (temporary) upper hand in the war.

*”The Man Behind The Curtain” also gave us an opportunity to see how Raylan is faring post-Winona and it’s not pretty. He’s now living in an apartment above a bar and is serving as a bouncer in his free time in exchange for reduced rent. He’s willfully and blatantly abusing Tim with little regard to how the favors he asks of Tim affect him or, in this case, Tim’s friend at the FBI. As a result, both Tim and Art look like they’re barely tolerating him at this point. He shows up at Boyd’s bar, punches Boyd in the gut, cracks Johnny with a baseball bat before dumping him out of his wheelchair into a hallway, and has little regard for Arlo’s rapidly deteriorating condition when pressed by Boyd. He also brazenly locks horns with Quarles in such a way that the blowback on him is going to be harsh. We’re watching Raylan slowly come unwound and it should prove interesting to see just how much further he spirals before the season is out.
*This episode also went a long way towards soothing any concerns I’d had about how this third season is playing out. This really is starting to coalesce into an epic crime story quite nicely.
*It was a little move but Quarles working hard to keep the details of his past in the past with regard to Duffy was a nice touch.
*Justified has always cast its supporting and guest roles wisely and that continues here as Stephen Tobolowsky shows up as an FBI muckety-muck who threatens suspension for Tim’s friend after finding out that Raylan has been messing with Sammy Tonin, who’s under FBI surveillance. A return appearance by Tobolowsky would be very welcome.
*Yes! Go Blue! Quarles is a Michigan Man. Wait…
*Speaking of Arlo, his health continues to head down the drain, here showing up in Noble’s Holler and demanding to see Limehouse because he’s disoriented and thinks that his late wife/Raylan’s mother is hiding via the story that Raylan laid out back in “The Devil You Know.” He ends up with a crack upside the head from one of Limehouse’s men and it’s becoming ever clearer that this is a situation that Raylan’s going to have to deal with before too long, whether he likes it or not.
*Beyond dealing with Arlo’s delusional rantings, Limehouse begins the process of ingratiating himself into Quarles’ business by enlisting Dodd – the thug who tried to bring Devil into Quarles’ camp and who Raylan dealt with in severe fashion in “When The Guns Come Out” – as a spy while serving as a patsy for Limehouse’s own man’s involvement in the clinic hit in the same episode. He’s also officially hired by Boyd who tells him in no uncertain terms that he expects to know everything that Limehouse knows about Quarles as soon as Limehouse does. Ellstin Limehouse is a man who has his fingers in a lot of pies and I’d be very surprised at this point if he’s not a character who isn’t utilized in future seasons of Justified. He seems to be much more of a wild card than straight villain, like Quarles.
*I mentioned in a previous bullet point about smart casting and that’s also evident via the re-appearance of Deadwood/Supernatural vet Jim Beaver as Shelby, last seen at the coal mine that Boyd blew up in season two. After Quarles buys off the current sheriff as a means of hitting Boyd, Boyd tries to enlist Shelby to run against the sheriff in the next election so that he has his own puppet lawman, proving once again that Boyd Crowder is one of television’s most intelligent criminals.
*The scenes with Raylan approaching Sammy Tonin covertly at a race track made me wonder if Justified had become Luck all of a sudden.
*”Love your new digs.” “Thanks. Tried a few nights at the Hilton but it didn’t work out with my per diem.”
*”You could have gone to Wall Street and done some real damage.” “I prefer working with reputable folk.”
*”I’m sure we’ll be running into each other again real soon. I know where you live now.”
*”I live and breathe to do your bidding.”
*”No, I don’t want to go after him. I want to bury the big-toothed albino son of a bitch.”
*”I think he hoped I’d be a brother to that little waste of sperm but it didn’t turn out.”
*”I’m just going to put a smile on my face and eat a nice plate of steaming shit. Unsalted.”
*”Last I checked, you were a marshal too. I gotta do everything?”
*”If you find him and go all Raylan on him…” “I don’t even know what that means.”
*”I got mad ninja skills, buddy.”
*”You know karate?” “And two other Japanese words.”
*”There must be some sort of dick test that all these FBI guys have to pass.”
*”So from now on when you know something, I know something or else I’m gonna close my account and you gonna have to deal with a very, very disgruntled customer.”
*”Sammy… it’s dress the part, be the part. It isn’t dress the part, hide behind your daddy.”
*”Wouldn’t a banjo teacher be a little more appropriate?”
*”Can’t paint over blood stains.”

TV Diary | Justified – “When The Guns Come Out”

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TV Diary | Justified – Episode 3.06 – “When The Guns Come Out” – Original Airdate: 2/21/12

Episode Grade: B+

“When The Guns Come Out” was a continuation of a season of Justified that, on a technical level, has been a rousing success yet is one that I’ve had trouble fully connecting with on an emotional level. “When The Guns Come Out” moved the season’s storylines forward in fine fashion, introduced some more conflict into the Raylan/Winona relationship, and delivered a fairly satisfying self-contained storyline. So why is it that I’m having trouble embracing this third season? I completely expect the show to right itself by the time we get to episode thirteen but for now there’s something – that I’m not entirely able to put my finger on – that’s keeping it from taking the final step towards greatness like season two did. Perhaps I’m impatient or maybe I’m expecting too much because season three has its fingers in a lot of pies, something that was evident from the way that “When The Guns Come Out” played things out. It continued to comingle the various principals of this third season as Limehouse’s number two went into business for himself by ordering the ransacking of Boyd’s oxy clinic, an act that Boyd ultimately attributed to Quarles. That the clinic was being run out of Helen’s house [1] eventually brought Raylan into the mix and ended up allowing the story to coalesce quite nicely. The episode gave us a further look into Limehouse, particularly the scene where he’s paid a visit by Boyd and displays his thorough knowledge of the white community of Harlan whereas Boyd has little to no insight into Noble’s Holler. He later brings up a fascinating – yet completely logical – fear after his second-in-command confesses to being behind the raid on Boyd’s oxy clinic, pointing to the fact that race relations between their community and Harlan at large are tenuous at best and that striking at Boyd in such a selfish way could end in deadly repercussions for Limehouse and the African-American community in Noble’s Holler. Limehouse deals with the situation very pragmatically [2] and introducing the powder keg that is racial politics in a place like Kentucky is, outside of some passing instances with a minor character like Rachel, a subject that Justified has shied away from in the past but a show as intelligent as this can do a whole lot with it and it’s a topic that I’d be anxious to see more of. Limehouse also seems like the type of character who could easily become a part of the world of this show in future seasons [3] as a wild-card for Justified‘s writers to use for either side of a conflict when necessary. As for Mykelti Williamson’s former Boomtown castmate, Neal McDonough continues to turn in a terrifyingly great performance as the sadistic Quarles. While some have criticized McDonough for portraying Quarles as a modern-day moustache-twirling villain, I see him as someone who’s so casual and nonchalant in his menace that he makes a sociopath like Wyn Duffy not only look tame in comparison but makes Duffy himself tremble in fear as he does in “When The Guns Come Out” after Duffy walks back into Quarles’ headquarters to hear him torturing the homeowner that he’s keeping tied to a bed in the home’s back bedroom. Later, his request to Duffy for more information on Raylan included the ominous line, “If the marshal keeps coming back and it becomes necessary to apply pressure, I want to know exactly where to squeeze.” And I have the sinking feeling that spot to squeeze? Winona. Can’t be a coincidence that in the same episode where Quarles issued this threat, Raylan was preoccupied with Winona’s exit and the seeming end to their relationship. “When The Guns Come Out” established that she’s his blind spot and I fully expect Quarles to exploit that blind spot by season’s end. If Raylan and Winona are no longer a couple, you have to wonder where, exactly, she fits in the universe of the show if not as the means for Quarles to strike at Raylan. I mentioned last week that my heart was pounding at the end of “Thick As Mud” thinking that Raylan was going to come home to find that Quarles had struck at him through Winona. I’m starting to realize that perhaps Justified was merely testing the waters for that move to be made later in the year. I’m still not sure if Justified is capable of making such a move but one thing is certain – if Justified goes down this road, it’ll damn sure evoke that emotional response that’s been lacking for much of this season thus far.

[1] That Arlo really is a special kind of asshole, though there could be another explanation for his involvement. More on that later.
[2] And this is another thread from the previous episode that’s expanded upon here.
[3] Assuming he survives this one, of course.

*We learned that this isn’t the first time that Winona has run out on Raylan after Art confirms to Raylan that he put out a BOLO alert on Winona at the end of season two after Raylan’s shooting in the Bennett showdown. Much as I love Natalie Zea, it’s apparent that the show’s use for the Winona character has waned considerably. I do like how this action showed, regardless of how frustrated Art can get with Raylan, that he still continues to have his back.
*It also looks like Justified is setting up Arlo to be going through some sort of Alzheimer’s/dementia-like condition after he allows Boyd to use Helen’s house as an oxy clinic and then later has a very disoriented conversation with Raylan where he speaks like Helen is still alive and Boyd is just “a boy.” As Hitfix’s Alan Sepinwall notes, Raylan being stuck with taking care of the senile father that he’s always despised could be a fruitful road for the show to explore in the future.
*Even as I like how “When The Guns Come Out” continued this season’s theme of introducing a thread in one episode and then expanding on it greatly as the next episode’s standalone story, revisiting the stolen evidence money (that Raylan initially pins on Winona) via Charlie the evidence clerk’s theft isn’t one that I’m particularly looking forward to in the next episode, assuming that’s where things are headed.
*That Quarles initially thinks that Raylan’s dirty and is working with Boyd is a nice illustration of the fact that he immediately looks for the worst in people. Pure villainy right there.
*Lost’s William Mapother, perhaps best known as Tom Cruise’s cousin, shows up for the first time as Delroy, a pimp/oxy freak who mentions to one of his… um… charges that he was raised in a commune of sorts. Dharma Initiative, anyone?
*Liked seeing Ava continue to take on an active role in Boyd’s criminal enterprise while simultaneously playing off of her season one past with Raylan when it became convenient for she and Boyd to use Raylan for their own purposes. Unlike Winona, Justified has found a clear and successful use for the Ava character.
*Anytime Stephen Root decides that he wants to return as Judge Mike Reardon – even if it’s only for a quick scene like in “When The Guns Come Out,” I’m all for it.
*Raylan popping Delroy twice in the face was a pure Dewey punishment.
*”I don’t mind asking the FBI for favors on your behalf but I’m not gonna read the thing for you, too.” Tim after getting Raylan a file and reminding us that he does, in fact, still exist. And that he still has no use for Raylan.
*This might be my favorite quote of the season thus far: “The next time you set up any operation in this county or anywhere else it better not have my goddamn family name on the deed or so help me God I’ll lose this star and the dance we do subsequent to that will not end will not end with you finding Jesus in a hospital bed.”
*”Oh, shit… did she at least leave you a note?”
*”But why you don’t know us is a question you are welcome to ponder.”
*”The people who bank with me are the ones who have access to the things I know.”
*”Sneak up on a man like that it’s a good way to get yourself shot.” “By you in your boxer shorts there? I think I got the drop on you this time, Arlo.”
*”You know the position you’re putting me in here?” “Missionary.”
*”Please tell me you’re here for a job because I forgot to play the lottery this week and you, right here, are the winning ticket.”
*”Everybody, the next round is on me.” “You gonna pay for that with the money you made selling oxy at my aunt’s house?”
*”Taliban got you down?”
*”Shit. I didn’t bring a knife.”
*”Hold up… are you a bearded lady?”
*”I saw that Kenny Chesney on your computer, I thought you were capable of anything.”

TV Diary | Justified – “Thick As Mud”

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TV Diary | Justified – Episode 3.05 – “Thick As Mud” – Original Airdate: 2/14/12

Episode Grade: B

I had kind of a weird reaction to Justified’s fifth episode of this third season, “Thick As Mud.” Immediately after watching it – as I often do – I checked out the reaction online from some of my favorite critical sites and, to my surprise, they absolutely loved it. Many seemed to hail it as an all-time classic while surely viewing it as the best episode of this third season. This shocked me. While I enjoyed the majority of “Thick As Mud,” I didn’t really care for how it messed with my perceptions. Normally I’m all for that kind of thing but here… I don’t know. Something didn’t ring as true as I’d hoped. And that got me to thinking… am I being too hard on this season in general? While I currently have it as probably the second-best thing that’s aired this year [1] I can’t help but compare it to the show’s second season which, to this point, I think was far better. But is that fair to the third season, which is no slouch in its own right? I don’t know. However, that’s more of a macro issue so let’s get back to the micro one – an appraisal of “Thick As Mud.” There was definitely good and bad here, almost in equal measure. What I liked – that the episode was focused mostly on Dewey Crowe. Damon Herriman has been an integral portion of the ancillary cast since Justified’s pilot so it was nice to see him get a showcase here. Yes, Dewey is a racist asshole but over two-plus seasons he’s become OUR racist asshole so an episode where he got as much screen time as anyone else was welcomed. However, that it came as a part of a ridiculous storyline where the prison nurse accomplice of the now-demised Ash, Lance (Clayne Crawford), duped Dewey into thinking that he’d removed Dewey’s kidneys and then forced him to try to buy them back from him before his body started failing seemed a little too over-the-top in its cartoonish villainy even as it felt almost like a smaller-scale version of Crank to some degree, as pointed out by The AV Club’s Scott Tobias. Sure, in the end we learned that Lance had put one over on Dewey and HADN’T actually taken his kidneys out, but the episode never really made that clear [2] to the story’s detriment. Had the show allowed the audience to be in on the joke from the start, maybe it would have been easier to enjoy the story but I can’t help but feeling like I was taken out of the moment and this would qualify as one of those “messing with the perceptions” moments of the episode. To be fair, the plot did provide for some great, great Dewey/Raylan interaction [3] and I like the developing trend of tying the self-contained storylines together from episode to episode as the thrust of this episode was introduced in “The Devil You Know,” and how can you not like Raylan shooting someone THROUGH ANOTHER PERSON’S BODY FOR CHRIST’S SAKE [4], but the execution frankly hurt this storyline more than a little. Unfortunately, the missteps didn’t end there because there was a pretty big development in the Raylan/Winona/baby storyline and, while I had a problem with this angle as well, part of that is probably due to my own expectations. In “Thick As Mud’s” teaser, we see Raylan and Winona reminiscing about the first time that Winona saw Raylan after his return to Kentucky in the show’s pilot and Winona says she realizes that she’s never going to be able to change him and that she’s never going to love anyone like she loves him. Of course, TV 101 tells you that anytime someone seems content with their station they likely have one foot in the grave and I’d already mused on the fact that a strong dramatic choice in the growing war between Raylan and Detroit [5] would be for Detroit to strike at Raylan via Winona. With that in mind, I was fully expecting Winona’s demise by the end of “Thick As Mud.” Not that I’m a completely cold-hearted bastard but having Winona simply just walk out on Raylan via a Dear John note was significantly less dramatic, particularly when watching the entire penultimate scene with Raylan and Art driving back to Raylan’s place and then Raylan entering the house in the dark had my heart pounding until his discovery of the note drastically lessened the tension. These two things unfortunately affected my enjoyment of “Thick As Mud” and are making me re-evaluate whether I need to adjust my expectations in order to enjoy this season of Justified more.

[1] Behind another FX series, the ribald and genius Archer.
[2] And perhaps I’m as stupid as Dewey is for thinking that was possible. Don’t answer that.
[3] Herriman and Tim Olyphant have had great chemistry from day one, so anytime Dewey and Raylan’s paths cross it’s pretty much gold.
[4] Lance’s turncoat accomplice Layla (Maggie Lawson, Psych), a pretty attractive nurse who I wouldn’t have minded seeing past this episode.
[5] Whose name was finally stated for the record. More on that later.

*More scenes between Walton Goggins and Neal McDonough as Robert Quarles (Detroit done got a name!) please. Watching these two incredible actors play opposite one another may have been the episode’s overall highlight. Boyd blames Quarles for turning Devil against him and is going to go hard at him, even knowing that he doesn’t match up well from a manpower standpoint. He ultimately turns down Quarles’ attempt to broker an alliance in their face-to-face meeting while calling him a carpetbagger and subtly threatening him to his face. If I had to guess, I’d say we’ve got what’s going to put Boyd and Raylan together by the end of the season, if not sooner.
*Interesting revelation that Limehouse was screwing with Dickie and that there’s more of Mags’ money left than he’s letting on. He also has spies within the white Harlan community as well as evidenced by his conversation with the young blonde girl who was present at Boyd’s little message-sending session at the redneck bar along with being aware of Quarles’ presence in town. Limehouse is quickly turning into one of the better puppetmasters we’ve seen on the show yet.
*I like the continuing portrayal of Boyd as the principled man’s criminal. Exhibit A: His response to Arlo as to why Devil is being buried instead of dumped in a “slurry pond” – as Arlo suggests – is because he was once a friend and is deserving of at least a proper burial. It’s also good to see on a show like this where gunshot is as commonplace as drawing breath that the characters are affected from time to time by their actions. Boyd clearly struggles with his decision to kill Devil while Raylan is given pause after shooting Layla since it’s the first time he’s ever had to shoot a woman.
*I’m not usually a fan of the gimmicky camera around the waist shot that seems to be prevalent in film and television over the past handful of years, but here it captures Dewey’s desperation well as he’s out trying to collect enough money to “buy” his kidneys back.
*Nice little in-joke when Dewey gets pissed after someone thinks he’s a tweaker. I’d have to think that this was a little nod to Herriman’s role as a meth addict on the past season of Breaking Bad.
*”Get it? Lawrence instead of Florence. As in Nightingale.” Rachel’s annoyance after this Raylan line was amusing.
*Is it wrong that Boyd and Ava comparing shooting scars is kinda sexy? It is, right?
*You know that idiom “buzzard’s luck”? I think we might soon be able to replace that with “Dewey Crowe luck.”
*Raylan trying to pantomime a blow job is nothing short of hilarious.
*As is Johnny getting a plug for his bar in on the way out after Boyd delivers a beatdown to Quarles’ man.
*”You want us to use the ram?” “Or <waves keys>.”
*”Looks like we’ll get to use the ram after all.” “You’re just dying to smash something, aren’t you?”
*”Dewey ain’t the ‘get the drop on anyone’ type.”
*”He never was the sharpest apple in the city.”
*”He said things might get weird. I think this qualifies.”
*”I got a room set aside. We can make it a quickie or we can ‘do the other.'”
*”Way I see it, you’re between a rock and a much, much harder rock.”
*”Son, I’ll ask you not to blaspheme in here.”
*”These are the end times for Dewey Crowe.”
*”Have you been pissing?” “He took my kidneys, Raylan! Not my dick!”
*”Holy shit. You mean I have four kidneys?”
*”Honey… I start arresting people for committing adultery I’d never make it home for supper.”
*”Prison doesn’t offer much but it does give a man ample time to read.” “Amongst other things, I’m sure.”