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Justified Recap: Snaked

JUSTIFIED -- Truth and Consequences -- Episode 3 (Airs Tuesday, January 22, 10:00 pm e/p) -- Pictured: (L-R) Timothy Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylen Givens, Erica Tazel as Deputy U.S. Marshal Rachel Brooks

Well! When I mentioned Chekhov's Rattlesnake in the season premiere, I did not think it would be this soon that we'd see someone suffer a serpent attack. And we ended up with two someones! The show also did not waste any time in paying off last week's promised showdown between Boyd Crowder and Cassie, whom he identified as the real power behind Preacher Billy's church. Their pre-credits confrontation was a sizing-up that promises one hell of a battle of wills throughout the season.

But back to that snake attack: Justified is a show that is not afraid to get pulpy, mostly because it's managed to pull those scenes off time and again. I think by the time you've severed a man's arm with a meat cleaver and then had him reach for it, your confidence in going there is probably going to be at a high level. Things get pulpy at a couple of intervals tonight, starting with Colton and Jimmy getting ambushed by rattlers while trying to vandalize the revival tent. (Although, honestly, they knew they were breaking into a snake-handler's church. This outcome was at least a possibility.) By the time the snakes started lunging, I was out of my seat and yelping. Nothing like a snake attack to invite an interactive viewing experience. And that was before Colton brought Jimmy back to Boyd and Ava with the severed snake head STILL CLAMPED DOWN ON JIMMY'S FACE.

A show that can pull off a deadly snake attack is one thing. What I think keeps Justified a cut above enjoyable trash is that the attack — and specifically the fact that Jimmy survives it — gives Boyd some crucial information about his enemies: Cassie's been de-venomizing the snakes to keep her brother out of danger. The next day, when Boyd confronts Billy with a snake he caught in the river and dares him to handle it, Cassie's forced to show her hand to Billy, who had no idea. It's a bit surprising to see the extent of Billy's naïveté present in the family dynamic, and it's thrilling (and almost admirable) when Billy picks up the snake anyway, risking a certainly venomous bite. I expect Billy to survive to see next week, but in the process, he, Cassie, and Boyd have revealed themselves to each other. Cassie's demands to Boyd in the opening scene were simple enough: enough money to build them a proper brick-and-mortar church and they'll leave Harlan in the rearview mirror. Boyd didn't get to his elevated position in Harlan society by writing a lot of checks, though.

Raylan, meanwhile, didn't get to his elevated position as Greater Kentucky Badass and Sex Object by not confronting the felonious exes of his various lady friends. So of course, after getting the lowdown from Lindsey about her past as a con artist's moll, Raylan makes a beeline for Randall. Both characters have a glimmer of self-awareness as they take turns trying to intimidate one another. Once they do arrive at a proper gauntlet-throw — Raylan gives him till 6 p.m. to get his ugly, yella, no-good kiester back to Florida as per the terms of his parole, OR ELSE — Raylan's pals spend the rest of the episode giving him shit for the "meet me at the flagpole" nature of the ultimatum. Even Eve the Spiritualist is like, "Really? At your age?"

About Eve: So Art pulls Eve Munro's name as the erstwhile widow of the ever-elusive skydiving non-casualty Drew Thompson, and he sends Raylan and Tim off to find out whether she's in on the scam or might have any information about the whereabouts of her undead husband. When they get there, Tim informs Raylan that Eve is a psychic — "spiritualist," really — which leads to an amusing through line where she can totally tell that Raylan's bound for a confrontation with a fighter of some sort, over personal matters no less. Tim is as amused as he always is when he finds out something about Raylan that he can make fun of him for later.

But no time for that now, because there's an FBI agent on the property, and Eve escapes, only then she gets abducted by Daniel Romalotti from The Young and the Restless, and she's being menaced in a motel room while wearing a hood over her face like Fargo, and the FBI agent was on Studio 60 for a while, which means that FX is currently employing Harriet Hayes and Luke Scott, while NBC has Matt Albie; Jordan McDeere is part-time on CBS; and Danny Tripp is alone like he should be. You'll forgive the run-on, but this story line did go through about a movie's worth of plot twists and turns in about twenty minutes. I did like the part where Agent Studio 60, who is being coerced into helping the bad guys under threat of harm to his family, gets busted because he followed Raylan to Randall's gym, and makes the incorrect assumption that Raylan was leading him to Drew Thompson. Less fun was the part where Agent Studio 60 shot himself in the head after telling Raylan where Eve was being held.

Raylan and Tim led the cavalry to Eve's rescue, where she admitted that Drew told her ahead of time that he was dropping off the grid. The reason? He was a witness to Theo Tonin murdering a confidential informant. You remember Theo from last season? Adam Arkin's, Detroit mob boss, complicated love-hate-want-to-kill relationship with Quarles? So that's the direction this Drew Thompson story line is going. Looks like we've got a race to find him first.

Bad Example of the Week
Looks like Rachel's acting up in Lexington, getting reprimanded by Art for lone-wolf antics on the job. Art minces no words in blaming Raylan's negative influence for Rachel's newfound rebellious streak. Though her admission to Raylan that she left her husband probably has a little to do with it, too.

Long-Lead Metaphor We Seem to Be Stuck With
Art just cannot talk about the ever-deepening Drew Thompson investigation without referencing his "Marshall Stiffy." He even hounds Raylan into admitting he's got a bit of one, too. I know erections are an important concern to a man Art's age, but let's maybe change the subject.

From the Minutes of the Crowder Family Reunion Planning Committee
We see Johnny take a meeting with Wynn Duffy, wherein Wynn gives him shit for turning on Devil last season when Devil had a perfectly solid plan to take Boyd out of power. Johnny reveals his still-prominent green streak when it comes to Boyd assuming control of the Crowder family birthright (that being drug- and gun-dealing). Wynn and his I'm-not-saying-face-lift-I'm-just-saying are reluctant to believe Johnny this time, but he's insistent: He'll help Wynn kill Boyd.

Raylan Givens Fishing Expedition of the Week
After learning that Randall cleared out of the gym before their scheduled confrontation, Raylan couldn't help but wonder, "Was he scared as he was leaving?" Classic Raylan. Things seem far from settled, however, when Raylan discovers his apartment ransacked and Lindsey gone.

U.S. Marshalls Charity Calendar Mr. January Contender
I tell you what, Tim, with your busting into a motel room at the last minute and ordering the petty thug to freeze where he stands and saving the nice psychic lady from further harm: I'm swooning a bit.

Film Society of Greater Harlan County
Not only does Raylan have a poster of Tombstone in his bedroom (Timothy Olyphant would have been such an improvement on Bill Paxton if that movie had happened about ten years later), but he's also busting out Dead Zone references like it's no big deal. Respect.

Photo: PRASHANT GUPTA/FX