Okay, ten episodes into the season, I think it's safe for some real talk: I don't like the direction this Quarles story has taken. He was an interesting character; menacing in a way quite different from the good-old-boy network in Harlan and in possession of a frightening confidence that he could run these backwater hollers his way. Enough of a departure from Mags Bennett to elide comparisons but psychotic enough to present a credible threat to Raylan (not to mention Boyd). But as the weeks have played themselves out, and after the events of "Guy Walks Into a Bar," the balance of his character has tipped toward the more operatic side, and I have to admit, he's lost me.
I also have to admit that the narrative importance being placed on the sheriff's election has felt a bit small potatoes, even if it did gift us with that brilliant bit of Boyd Crowder political rabble-rousing last week. But watching Sheriff Napier's bid for reelection go pear-shaped this week, and having that be the impetus (or at least the final straw) for Quarles to descend into blubbering madness ... how did THIS guy ever think he could hold it together long enough to usurp the drug trade in Harlan if he can't weather one cocked-up local election?
I'm getting ahead of myself. So Election Day looms in Harlan County, and both sides are getting down to old-timey tactics. Napier tries to get his deputies to plant drugs in Shelby's truck, while Team Crowder hands out sexual favors to prospective voters. (Also, Arlo is driving the bus to and from polling places, which gives everybody the correct degree of concern.) Johnny suggests to Boyd that he go after Napier's sister, Hannah, and Boyd does, though not to intimidate her. Hannah and her brother have been estranged for going on fifteen years; he wouldn't even help her with her medical bills. So when Boyd offers her a task to perform for him, it's no great shock that she takes him up on it. And it's a good thing she does, because she ends up being Boyd's trump card when Napier actually does win the vote count. As Quarles and Napier celebrate back at the sheriff's office (an office Quarles plans to commandeer as his own, now that he's King Shit of this particular dirt-heap), Shelby and election-commissioner Harvey show up with some news: seems Hannah has been in the employ of Harvey this whole time, on disability but on the payroll regardless, and Kentucky law states that no blood relative of anyone in the election commission can run for office. Which means Napier's out on a technicality and Shelby wins. America, everybody!
At this news, Quarles throws the world's quietest snit-fit, wordlessly folding up his map of Harlan County and stalking out past Napier, Shelby, and Harvey, and into the night. And again, this one piss-ant election can't possibly bring Quarles's whole house of cards down, can it? If he's this easily rattled, how'd he make his reputation anyway? On his way out the door, Boyd intercepts him to rub some salt in his wounds and let him know just whom he's dealing with. Some classic Boyd Crowder monologue-ing, too, as Boyd mocks Quarles for his carpetbagging ways: "You're a conquistador. Only we are not your savages. And now you get to leave with your life."
Quarles just smiles that psychotic smile at Boyd and stomps back to the trailer. There, he pops some oxy and freaks Wynn ever the further out, until they get a visitor in the form of a street hustler named Donovan. Played by Marshall "Tommy Mickens on True Blood" Allman! Finally playing a rent boy like God and Alan Ball always intended him to! So this kid is a friend of the ill-fated Brady Hughes, a.k.a. Bed Boy. He's got a gun and demands to know where his boyfriend (I think?) is, though he already figured Quarles killed him. Quarles responds to this threat with a crazy-eyed and smack-addled story about his own heroin-addicted father, who pimped young master Quarles out to men to pay for his addiction. Y'all, who let Freud into the Holler? So one day, a mobster named Theo realized what was happening, rounded up Quarles's no-good pop into an abandoned warehouse, and gave the boy the choice between killing his own father or letting the Detroit mobsters kill him instead. He chose to take the kill himself and became the man you see unraveling in front of you today, staring down a gun barrel, melodramatic as fuck. Wynn is the embodiment of WTF as Quarles answers Donovan's question: Did he hurt Brady Hughes? No! He helped him! "Then," he says, "I set him free." Donovan, as the poor damaged boy-hooker, can only cry into Quarles's shoulder. It's all a whole lot of much, or am I crazy? I get that Quarles certainly is. But it's all so easy and external and not of Harlan anyway. "One day, a crazy sex abuse victim set upon this Holler and made crazy faces at people and tried to steal an election and couldn't do it so he cried and killed some boy-hookers and lived in an RV." I get that he's going to end up doing something super bad to Raylan in the next few episodes, but don't think the foundation is solid enough for it to matter as much as anything Mags or Boyd or Dickie has done.
Right, so, Dickie! By some kind of legal ridiculousness, Dickie Bennett is about to be granted a pardon by a hand-tied Judge Stephen Root. This doesn't sit well with Raylan (nor with Boyd, Limehouse, or anyone else who hears about it), and he and Art and state's attorney Vasquez try to figure out a way to keep it from happening. Raylan tracks down an eyewitness who will only roll over on Dickie if Raylan can convince his stroke-ridden grandmother to give up her fealty to the Bennett clan. She ends up pulling some Hector Salamanca business on him, including dumping a milkshake on his lap.
Vargas finally tells Raylan if he really wants Dickie to stay in prison, he should testify himself. After all, it's his Aunt Helen whom Dickie murdered. It's not a bad idea, but Raylan's personality isn't quite suited to the strictures of testifying in court. So he goes to his bar/residence and gets drunk and frets to his favorite bartendress (whose name is Lindsay, we learn), who tries to help him write out a statement. When a high and distraught Quarles stumbles in with Wynn, crying the blues about the election, Raylan gets the most gloriously appropriate "Here we fuckin' go" look on his face.
So it's another Raylan/Quarles barroom face-off, with Quarles attempting to play on Raylan's daddy issues (as we proved last week with Limehouse, that don't work so well), and Raylan leaning on the mysterious case of Brady Hughes. Quarles finally musters up all the melodrama he can and promises to kill Raylan one day soon. Raylan gets fed up with all the grand proclamations, fires his gun up in the air (into ... his apartment, I guess?), and clears the bar for some kind of pistols-at-dawn Old West showdown. This seems ... literal. From behind the bar, Lindsay pulls a shotgun and officially enters her application for the Ava Crowder School of Badass Holler Ladies. Raylan tells Lindsay to back off and generally gets very protective of her, which I'm calling right now as a huge mistake, because Quarles sees it, and you can practically see the gears turning in his head. R.I.P. next week or the week after that, Lindsay. Quarles backs down from the showdown and takes off, leaving Raylan and Lindsay with a whole lot of pent-up energy and nowhere to put it. So they figure out a place to put it. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
The next day, Art has a "good feeling" that if Raylan's statement is merely coherent, Judge Stephen Root will rule in their favor. In court, Dickie, bedraggled as ever, insists he's changed and is ready to be a productive citizen again. When it comes time for Raylan to make his statement, instead of leaning on the perfectly legitimate argument that Dickie, with cold-blooded malice, took the life of a righteously awesome woman who was a mother figure to Raylan for many years, he instead brushes off his own feelings ("All things considered, I'm fine") and essentially dares Judge Stephen Root to let Dickie go. "What the hell?" he says, "Let him out." He promises to haul Dickie's ass back to prison next chance he gets, assuming he's not killed in the process. So with no argument to stand on, the judge has no choice but to let Dickie go free, with Art and Vargas all SMDH in Raylan's direction.
It's not just law enforcement chagrined at Dickie's release. Limehouse is not thrilled either, as he expects Dickie to come after his money. Of course, "not thrilled" doesn't exactly mean "worried," and Limehouse lays down some sweet metaphors to Errol about hog-slaughtering weather as it relates to his business philosophy.
Finally, the cherry on the top of the Qurazy Quarles story, the man gets manic and talks to himself in the bathroom mirror, snorts some oxy, gets good and naked, and then attends to a bound and helpless Donovan in the bathroom. Stupid armed gay street whores are always so easily mesmerized!
This Week's Etymology Lesson: He never did get an answer, but Quarles sure let his carpetbagger priggishness fly free when asking Napier about the origin of "Holler" as a term.
Tricks of the Trade From Ava's Ladies: Try pineapple juice to mitigate the taste of electioneering blow jobs!
Withering Putdown of the Night: If only Dickie were around to hear it, but Raylan summed up his familial situation with the perfect degree of disdain: "There are no more Bennetts. Just Dickie."
Sexy Raylan/Bartendress Banter That Cuts to Raylan's Core of the Week: "Does that happen often? People come into bars looking to kill you?" "One of the hazards of being a Marshal, I guess." "Sure it's not just one of the hazards of being you?"