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Justified Recap: Ava Adore

JUSTIFIED: Episode 9: Loose Ends (Airs March 13, 10:00 pm e/p). Pictured center: Joelle Carter. CR: Prashant Gupta / FX

As the title of the episode suggests, the characters around Harlan are looking to tie up loose ends. Which is awfully convenient since, preparing to enter the stretch run of season three, Justified needed to begin tying up loose ends of its own, disposing of some bodies, and beginning the nasty process of settling accounts.

For his part, Raylan is looking to nail Quarles to the wall in a "this time it's personal"–style payback for the whole thing where Quarles tried to frame him for Gary's murder. Art puts the kibosh on this mission, at least through official channels, as they don't have anything in the way of evidence with which to pursue it.

Fortunately for Raylan, an angel descends upon him while he's getting boozy at the bar in the form of Miss Ava Crowder. And Raylan greets her like you should greet any angel, and that's with a (scorching hot) kiss on the lips. These two? Still got it! But Ava's not interested in any of that, and when it comes down to it, I don't think Raylan is either. He's still wallowing over Winona (and kind of fronting that he had more to do with their recent breakup than he actually did). Ava's there for what we all suspect she's there for: to deliver a message from Boyd. After a lecture from Raylan about the true nature of Boyd Crowder (and a none-too-subtle indication that he doesn't intend to let her off easy when it comes to taking Boyd out), Ava says Boyd can help Raylan nail Quarles, which is pretty much exactly what Raylan wanted to hear.

So Raylan visits Boyd in jail, whereupon Boyd promptly fingers Tanner for the Sheriff Napier car-bombing. It's some classic Boyd Crowder tit-for-tat, as Tanner brings a whole lot of incriminating shit to Quarles's doorstep, while also exonerating Boyd and getting him out of jail. This kind of quid pro quo has been bothering Raylan all season, but his zeal to get to Quarles makes this an easy call.

Speaking of Quarles, he heads to Noble's Holler to visit his new partner Limehouse. They're not exactly linked arm-in-arm, though. Quarles's patience is short, and he's got no time for Limehouse's folksiness (which, to be fair, is pretty disingenuous). He even turns down the shoo-fly pie! Limehouse cuts to the chase: If Quarles wants to keep Sheriff Napier in power in Harlan, he's going to have to rig the election, which is a job for Harvey the Election-Rigger. And if you thought Quarles was impatient with Limehouse drawling out the ingredients for shoo-fly pie, you really needed to see him putting up with Harvey's electoral strategy.

Back on Tanner's trail, Raylan visits Tanner's dotty, soap-loving, rabbit-ear-foiling mother, who's got her wits about her enough to tell this "no-dick lawman" to take a hike. She then tips off Tanner, who wants to run. But Limehouse gets wind of this and tells his man Errol to tie up any of Tanner's loose ends (i.e. the Napier car-bombing) or risk bringing the whole house of cards down. All these plot strands are really starting to knot up, and I like it. After dressing up some barfly as an ATF agent in order to spook Napier, Raylan manages to play each man's paranoia against the other. Tanner and Errol seek out a "refund" from Briggs, the guy who built the car bomb, and since Briggs is no dummy, he asks Tanner to grab something off a high shelf, leading Tanner to mount a step-stool rigged with a land mine. Harlan is the BEST, you guys. So there's a standoff, during which Errol figures he might just bounce. He shoots the bomb-maker first, so they can grab his money, but the ensuing standoff between Errol and Tanner goes from pulp to pathos pretty quickly. It becomes less about Tanner surviving — he's one muscle twitch away from oblivion, so it's not like he's got much leverage — and more about Errol promising he'll take that sack of money and get it to Tanner's mama if he lets Errol get away. Honor among thieves is sometimes a distinguishing characteristic among Harlan's underclass, and it turns out these two have a smidgen of it. After Errol flees, Raylan shows up with a bomb expert, who is maybe not the very best at his job, since all he manages to do is accidentally arm the bomb. He and Raylan get clear, but that's cold comfort to the pieces of Tanner that just got vaporized.

Meantime, with his particular loose end tied off, Napier is off to a midday debate with Shelby, who doesn't seem to be much of a match for Napier, at least rhetorically. Lucky for Shelby, Boyd, fresh out of lockup, strides into the hall and puts on a filibuster to beat the band. He plays the Black Pike card, the "slick haircut" card, the anti-cop card — basically everything to paint Shelby as the common man and Napier as the corporate-backed establishment. Classic politics, in other words, and Boyd proves himself every bit the cult of personality we always knew he was. Cut to a post-debate celebration at Johnny's bar, where Ava gives Boyd an update on her day.

Oh right! Ava's day! So. Remember scumbag Delroy and his strung-out whores, including our pal Ellen May? Well they've gone a bit Manson Family, kicking off the episode with a violent robbery gone awry. One of the women, Crystal, gets shot in the chest, and after Delroy drives them to safety, they dump Crystal's body, Delroy shoots the third girl, and is about to shoot Ellen May and cover all his tracks when Ellen May makes a break for it. She runs all the way to Ava, who of course takes her in. Ava tries to convince Johnny to keep Ellen May around (as ... a wife? World's trashiest arranged marriage!), but Johnny says he's always preferred blondes. Down, Johnny. He reminds Ava that Delroy is the one they're in business with, and Boyd would tell her they have to turn Ellen May over to him. He doesn't think Ava will do it, but she defiantly makes the call to Delroy and even squeaks a $2,000 "finder's fee" out of him.

When Delroy shows up, Ava harshly marches Ellen May out for the hand-off. But OBVIOUSLY that's not what Ava has in mind, and the second Delroy trusts her enough to lower his gun, she fires a shotgun blast through his chest. YEAH SHE DOES. Sorry, everybody, I love Ava so severely. And then she turns to Ellen May and is like, "Help me clean this up." So, in conclusion, yes, I do think Boyd should acquiesce to her request to adopt Delroy's whores as her own. She should basically get whatever she wants now.

Raylan makes two visits at episode's end. One, he returns to Tanner's mother long enough to spy Errol delivering the sack of money as promised. It's pretty sad! Raylan then takes this information to Limehouse, evidence of a Limehouse-Quarles partnership. Limehouse tries to change the subject by describing his decades-old beating of Arlo, in detail, and when that doesn't faze Raylan, he offers to recount his memories of Raylan's mama. Okay, that's a bad idea. Raylan tries one last time to appeal to Limehouse's pragmatic side. Does he really want Noble's Holler to become a battleground? Limehouse remains confident he can keep his stronghold safe. So much of this episode seems to be about Raylan realizing the extent to which complicit criminals are going to have to be taken care of. Neither Limehouse nor Ava nor even Boyd is someone Raylan is actively looking to take down. Certainly not with the zeal and urgency with which Quarles needs to be taken out. But in their refusal to step out of the line of fire, they're making themselves fair game, and I think a lot of this week was Raylan making sure they understood that. "So be it," he tells Limehouse. We'll see who gets caught in the firefight.

Raylan Givens Hat Update: Not so much his hat, but where he hangs it: I should mention that I was wrong about Raylan continuing to stay at his sad little motel room. He's clearly now living in a sad little apartment above the bar where he gets steadily drunker and leers at the bartendress.

Rent Boy Update: Art mentions that Raylan went and looked up one Brady Hughes, a missing gay hustler who was probably that ill-fated soul tied to Quarles's bed. If next week involves Raylan seeking out a series of rent boys in search of incriminating information about Quarles, I would not complain.

The Quotable Harlan: "Do you think for a minute you could cut out that country bumpkin barbecue king bullshit?" Interesting that both Raylan and Quarles have moments where they tell Limehouse to cool it with the folksy crap.

One Last Moment of Ava Crowder: Ava comments on the latest gossip about Raylan: "You shot a woman? What was that like? Different?"

Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX