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Justified Recap: Pawn Shop Empire

JUSTIFED: Episode 3: HARLAN ROULETTE: (Airs Jan. 31, 10:00PM e/p). Pictured L-R: Joelle Carter and Mykelti Williamson. CR: Prashant Gupta / FX JUSTIFED: Episode 3: HARLAN ROULETTE: (Airs Jan. 31, 10:00PM e/p). Pictured L-R: Joelle Carter and Mykelti Williamson. CR: Prashant Gupta / FX

I should put it out on front street that I am not now nor have I ever been a drug dealer, gun runner, Dixie Mafioso, nor a criminal of any kind, really. Maybe Vulture should have hired a writer with more firsthand experience, I don't know. But I do know television, and my years of watching it have taught me that the most dangerous time for both criminals and law enforcement is when there's a power vacuum at the top of the criminal food chain.

And that's clearly where we're at this week on Justified. We're only on episode three and we've already been introduced to, what, five would-be kingpins? Boyd and Dickie and Neal McDonough's as-yet-unnamed Detroit mobster, and Limehouse, and now this week we got Glenn Fogle, Pruit Taylor Vince, who is small-time but no less vicious. Through Boyd's various criminal enterprises, we've already seen how good criminal underlings are hard to find, and Fogle's pawn-shop empire might be the most inept collection yet, led by a returning Wade Messer, played once again with sliiiiightly too much comedic buffoonery by James Legros. Still, Fogle's domineering contempt for his oxy-addicted underlings makes him a particularly menacing bad guy. When he forces poor, simple JT to play Russian roulette in order to atone for getting picked up by the authorities, that's one thing. When he goads JT into turning the gun on him — pulling the trigger six times with no shots fired; possibly a test of loyalty? — then loads the gun, THEN fires a shot through JT's chest, that's some next-level shit.

Ultimately, Fogle is a one-episode kind of villain. A "monster-of-the-week" to occupy Raylan's time while the other pieces on the Harlan-Lexington chess board get put into place. There's a personal stake in it for Raylan, as he's looking to bring Wade to justice for stringing him up and handing him over to Dickie last season. But that fight is unfair to the point of being uninteresting — though it WAS pretty funny watching Raylan's parade of bemused expressions as Wade tried to apologize for past transgressions (while at the same time bumbling around his house looking for a gun to shoot Raylan with).

Pulling the strings behind Fogle and Wade's attempted assassination of Raylan is Neal McDonough, who is looking to build something of an oxy stronghold in Harlan. He explains his plan to Wynn, which involves setting up a faux medical business where addicts can fill their prescriptions at half-capacity while the other half gets shipped back to be sold. Of course, don't get too impressed by the sleek sheen of Neal's criminal practices. As Wynn discovers, he's still got a man — the owner of the house he's planning on gutting for their business — tied up to a bed and gagged, awaiting God knows what fate. For Neal, both Raylan and Fogle are headaches down the road that he doesn't need, so he figures if he sends Fogle to kill Raylan, one of 'em dies and he's better off. Fogle ends up sending Wade; Wade is, as ever, comedically inept at the task, drawing Fogle to the scene; Fogle ends up in a Mexican standoff with Raylan AND one of his onw oxy fiends, who is unsettled at the speed with which Fogle rolls over on Wynn Duffy in exchange for a deal from Raylan. Fogle and the oxy fiend end up shooting each other, while Raylan can only shake his head at them in disgust.

Fogle's loose lips do lead Raylan back to Wynn, however, and Raylan is more than happy to pop him in the mouth, putting paid to the "not a conversation" he promised him way back. But this is also Raylan's first encounter with Neal, who has taken to arming himself with a spring-loaded pistol hidden up his forearm. That gun doesn't get fired this week — Raylan merely pulls out his phone to snap a pic of this new player on the scene. But the fearless, aggressive smile Neal flashes for Raylan's camera is an unsettling omen for the fearless, aggressive manner in which the Detroit mob means to assert themselves in the Harlan drug trade.

Elsewhere in the Harlan power void, Ava brokers a meeting between Boyd and Limehouse, which ends up being a tense standoff on a bridge. Because remember how Boyd is an unrepentant racist? Who kicked off the series by firebombing a black church? I guess it counts as progress that Boyd is now willing to do business with Limehouse? He wants to take Dickie out of the equation so they can both split Mags's money. Limehouse has his reservations — he's got past beef with Arlo, for one — but he ends up offering to help Boyd with his weed problem. Which is a problem Boyd has only because Arlo and Devil failed to dispose of their moldy stash when Ava told them to. This earns Devil a crack in the face from Boyd, who tells Arlo the only reason he's not getting one too is because he's an old man. Aw, come on, Boyd!

The next day, when Limehouse's men come by to pick up the weed, Boyd's instinct is to turn down Limehouse's money. Though he finally does accept. After dressing down dumb Devil for giving him shit for taking the money, Boyd explains his position to his cronies. He's not interested in being a middleman. Wants to be THE mob in Harlan. To this end, he employs his cousin Johnny and his cronys to help him take over a bar as his new headquarters. They forcibly evict the bar's current owner, though to be fair, that bar owner WAS hanging Christmas lights around the bar, year-round. Later, Boyd has a heart-to-heart with Devil about the good days of race wars and moral certitudes. Before Raylan shot him and he went religious and crazy. So which man is Devil supposed to be following — the Nazi he remembers or the Bible-thumper he more recently remembers? Boyd's response is, essentially, "I contain multitudes." He sure does.

And THEN we have Dickie, who is still in prison and gets approached by Boyd's corrupt guard from last week (played by Todd Stashwick from the late, semi-lamented The Riches). The guard overheard Boyd and Dickie's confrontation in solitary and guess what? He wants in on Mags's money too. So this could be Dickie's ticket to an early release and getting back into the Harlan game as well. That dance card is getting FULL.

Raylan Givens Cowboy Hat Update: Neal McDonough is only vaguely familiar with the name Raylan Givens, until he reminds himself: "Oh, the Hat."

Raylan Givens Old-Fashioned Masculinity Update: Winona gets a kick out of the fact that, during their house-hunting conversation, Raylan uses the word commode.

Boyd Crowder Feminism Update: Boyd won't be running whores under his proposed criminal empire. And not just because of Ava's objections, either!

Harlan Komedy Korner Update: Some very funny dialogue this week, from Fogle's various exchanges with oxy addicts ("Kiss your mama with that mouth?" "I sure do. ... If she were still alive.") to Raylan's extreme annoyance during the standoff ("Did you tell him to step on every twig and branch he passed?").

Harlan Teachable Moment Update: When one of the local authorities started joshing Raylan about how "one of a Marshal's primary functions is to track down fugitives," I realized that I somehow didn't know what the functions of the U.S. Marshal Service were. So thank God Wikipedia is back, and now I know that Raylan's jurisdiction is limited to fugitives from justice, protection of witnesses, and other such court-assisting processes. It also says it's illegal to stick squirrels down your pants for the purposes of gambling. So.

Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX