Justified Recap: Thinning the Herd

JUSTIFIED: Episode 4: The Devil You Know (Airs February 7, 10:00 pm e/p). Pictured L-R: Mykelti Williamson, Erica Tazel and Timothy Olyphant.
Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX

This is not a complaint about season three (not nearly enough scenes with Winona dealing with real estate, but whatevs) — but I wonder if we’re getting enough Raylan in this first third of the season. Last week, I was struck by the great scramble at the top of the Harlan criminal food chain, and this week’s episode deals with a consolidation of that power. But it doesn’t involve Raylan a whole hell of a lot, at least not beyond the semi-perfunctory role of the guy who steps in to wrap everything up. I have every confidence that Graham Yost has this situation well in hand, but it’s tough not to wonder if, with his relationship with Ava a distant memory, his Aunt Helen now dead (R.I.P. you hardy bitch, you), his relationship with his father damaged beyond Raylan’s interest in salvaging it, and even his rivalry with Boyd having settled into a low-stakes cat-and-mouse game, Raylan doesn’t have as much personal stake in setting Harlan straight.

We see an attempt to personalize Raylan’s work this week, with the story about how Raylan’s mother once fled Arlo and sought refuge in Noble’s Holler — Limehouse’s territory. The tale of how a young Limehouse beat Arlo down when he went to retrieve his wife does a lot to make me like Limehouse, but I’m not sure it quite does the job of giving Raylan a personal stake in the man’s criminal enterprises.

Again, these are not necessarily complaints (yet). It was pretty great watching Raylan go from bemused to exasperated as he followed Dickie’s trail after his prison break. The realization that he was going to have to save this weasel’s life was pretty amusing. Dickie and Dewey’s escape, under the malevolent wing of Ash Murphy and his prison-doctor accomplice, is a nasty bit of business all around. Poor Dewey gets stuck with a syringe, zipped up into a body bag, hauled from van to safe house to van again, and when the whole operation ends up going pear-shaped, we leave the episode with the unsettling impression that he’s about to be organ-harvested.

Dickie, meanwhile, at least has a trump card to play. Ash needs him to get the Mags money from Limehouse, which Dickie attempts to arrange. Only problem is, Raylan and Rachel have gotten out ahead of him and have essentially barricaded Noble’s Holler, so no kind of drug money is getting in or out. Meanwhile, Raylan manages to track Dickie down to the safe house just as Ash is returning with a bucket of chicken. What follows is some classic Raylan badassery, as he anticipates Ash drawing his gun, runs him over with his car twice, and then taunts him about the very real possibility he’ll die of his injuries until Ash gives him the info about Dickie’s money grab.

Somehow Ash has three more acolytes every time one gets taken out, so a father-son team of nasties take Dickie to the Bennett general store (which has gone neglected and graffitied since Mags’s death). The lingering bad feelings about Bennetts and Black Pike are evident in the way these two treat Dickie. Fat Doofus and Daddy make Dickie open a cooler that supposedly holds the money, and there’s a tense and humorous standoff during which we’re supposed to be wondering whether there’s a gun or a booby trap in the cooler, but when it comes to it, it’s Limehouse and Associate who fire in from the outside and save Dickie’s bacon. Unfortunately for Dickie, Mags’s money has decreased to a puny $46,000 (from the $3million Dickie thought he was getting). Dickie, being the weirdly prideful and foolish creature he is, refuses the money (though he takes a shotgun) and wants Limehouse to take it back and make it grow before he takes it. Limehouse will honor his contract with Mags, but he can’t help but be annoyed by her little runt of a son.

Elsewhere, Devil is being courted to switch sides by Neal McDonough, who is apparently in the talent-scouting phase of his master plan. He’s pretty smart, as he plays on Devil’s racism (Boyd’s working with Limehouse!) and sexism (Ava cracked him with a frying pan!) to get him to flip on Boyd, whom we know Devil thinks is a wayward loose cannon. If nothing else, Neal seems to be a dedicated fan of this show called Justified.

Once he agrees to flop to Team Detroit, Devil, true to his name, sets himself atop Johnny’s shoulder and makes a pitch for them both turning on Boyd. He does his best Neal impersonation, reminding Johnny of how Boyd was responsible for his shooting and all. I can’t imagine anyone watching this thought for a second that Johnny was really going to flip on his own blood in order to follow Devil — DEVIL — into a pact with some cobalt-eyed Northerner. But poor Devil thought he had this one in the bag, setting up a prospective ambush with Boyd that inevitably turns when Johnny turns his gun on Devil and Boyd, without hesitation but with a real sense of regret, shoots Devil square in the chest. I think one of the reasons Boyd is such a compelling character is that he can sell these moments — these “It pains me to murder you this way” scenes — and seem simultaneously sincere and completely crazed. We’re weeding out the pawns on this Harlan chess board. Hopefully the number of bad guys is now small enough that Raylan can fit comfortably in the picture.

Loretta McCready Update: With Mags’s money up for grabs, Raylan pays Loretta a visit, and what follows is the greatest battle of wills between a grown man and a junior high school student ever. You have to admit, she probably keeps those kids in her foster family well in line. I wouldn’t cross her.

B-Team Update: Tim tags out this week as it’s Rachel’s turn to play Raylan’s backup, and she makes the most of it. From her eye-rolling at being Raylan’s “ambassador from African America” with Limehouse to her Sorkin-style recitation of résumé, to her weathering Limehouse hitting on her with professional aplomb. The true highlight, though, is her poker-faced willingness to dig through a truck full of pig shit in order to prevent a truck full of drug money from leaving Noble’s Holler.

Justified Recap: Thinning the Herd