Justified Recap: Axes of Evil

Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX
Episode Title

I know I did my share of nitpicking about the direction of the Quarles character last week, and while I still don't think we can entirely buy that someone this flaky and unstable could have established such a fearsome reputation in the Detroit mob scene, "Measures" at least takes the Quarles we know to his logical conclusion: hunted by both Detroit and Boyd Crowder, in a race to see who can take him out first.

Heading up the delegation from Detroit is character actor extraordinaire Michael Ironside. His character might have a name, but it can’t be as cool as Ironside, so that's what I'm using. Ironside and Associate descend upon Raylan's bar, the last known whereabouts of Quarles, and as often happens with Raylan and some bad guys, there's a tussle. In the episode's biggest stretch of credibility, it takes Raylan (and eventually Art, once the two team up to bring Quarles in) a loooooong time to realize that these Detroit hoods are not in Kentucky to help Quarles but to take him out, at the request of Theo Tonin.

The heretofore unseen Tonin is played by Adam Arkin, who seems a bit too young to be father to Max Perlich and father figure to Neal McDonough, but it's good casting otherwise. After giving Quarles as much leeway as he could, Tonin can't justify keeping this loose cannon around anymore. Initially, this means treating the Harlan operation as a total loss (an understandable decision, as Quarles hadn't even set up the elaborate oxy distribution operation he planned to, busy as he was meddling in local puissant elections). But a fortuitous phone conversation with Wynn Duffy could change all that, as Wynn shows his true opportunistic colors once again and offers to take Quarles out himself, in exchange for a piece of whatever business Detroit still might want to do in Harlan. Plus a handsome financial bonus: $100,000 for Quarles dead, $200,000 if Sammy Tonin gets to have a "talk" with Quarles before he's offed.

Taking out Quarles is its own challenge. After the debacle with the sheriff's election, Quarles is looking to get Boyd's attention, which he does by murdering one of Boyd's street-level dealers, despite the fact that said dealer was armed with a samurai sword. Meanwhile, after the confrontation in the bar, Raylan would really like to send Quarles to prison for something, but Art's all "blah, blah, blah, evidence, jurisdiction" about it, so the two of them go on the equivalent of a bar crawl around Kentucky looking for something to haul him in for. At the same time, Ironside and Associate have commandeered Wynn Duffy to help them find Quarles as well. Both groups end up converging in the motel room where Quarles is keeping poor Donovan the Sex Slave bound and gagged in the bathroom. Raylan and Art show up before Donovan's attempt to run for it gets him killed, but in the standoff, Raylan shoots one of the Detroit goons moments before he realizes that they're not really here to help Quarles. As Art so elegantly puts it, "We just shot the guy that's tryin' to kill the guy that you're just dyin' to see dead."

While all this is going on, Dickie Bennett is out of jail and making an immediate play for his money, which is hidden somewhere up in Noble's Holler. He rounds up some of the usual miscreants for a raid, but first Dickie needs to find out where the cash is. A dalliance with Ellen May leads him to believe that the money is hidden beneath the floorboards in a church in Noble's, though everybody else brushes that off as an old wives’ tale. Score one for Lexington, though, because Tim and Rachel totally get the jump on Dickie's hired goons and get them to keep an open cell-phone line so Tim and Rachel can listen in when Dickie returns with instructions. 

Much as Tim and Rachel try, however, they can't prevent Dickie getting an unexpected assist from Errol. Turns out, Errol feels that Limehouse is too entrenched in the old ways of doing things. Aligning with Dickie, getting Dickie his millions, and leading a palace coup against the hog butcher would put him at the top of the heap. I'm not sure I can comprehend the perspective of anybody who would willingly cast his lot with Dickie Bennett over Ellstin Limehouse, but it's certainly an intriguing turn of events. (However, I'm also not ruling out that Errol is running a long con on Dickie in order to give Limehouse the best opportunity to squash his enemies.) Of course, Errol can't use a crew from Noble's Holler to carry out the coup, as he correctly theorizes they won't get behind him (much less Dickie) until Limehouse is gone. They need someone with "particular skills," Errol says. To Dickie's great chagrin, his initials are Boyd Crowder.

Up until now, Boyd has intended to let Dickie lead him to that sweet Bennett cash. But first, Boyd has to deal with Quarles, whose dead drug dealer message gets heard loud and clear. Quarles goes to Limehouse for protection, but Limehouse won't accept the drugs as payment — Quarles will have to sell them first. This plays nicely into Boyd's hands, since Boyd gets Napier to set up a drug buy, at which point Boyd and a couple of Ava's whores get the jump on the blue-eyed bastard at last. With Quarles out of commission, Boyd picks up his phone and intercepts a call from Wynn Duffy. Wynn and Boyd make a deal to split the Tonin money by teaming up to kill Quarles, though Wynn wisely advises Boyd to kill Quarles while he has the chance. Boyd decides to risk it. Also, seriously, how many permutations of alliances between criminals are we going to get this season? Quarles and Arlo? Limehouse and Ellen May? Dickie and Tonin? There are still two more episodes, guys!

Metaphors of Harlan: Quarles is described by an eyewitness to the drug-dealer murder as being a "husky-looking fellow" — not fat, but like the dog, in possession of the bluest eyes she's ever seen.

Metaphors of Noble's Holler: Quarles is making a habit of calling out Limehouse on his tics. This week, he points out that constantly having meetings whilst butchering hogs makes for easy intimidation. Can't slip anything past this guy!

Film Society of Greater Harlan County Report: The two whores evaluate an unconscious Quarles: "Don't you think he looks like that guy? From the butterfly movie?" "The one about time travel?" "No, the one about that prison island."

Anton Chekhov Update: So it seems Theo Tonin carries an ear around in his pocket, as an intimidation tactic. That pretty much HAS to come into play before the season's over, right?