Had there been complaints that the season hadn't been bloody enough? I've been very much enjoying things, but I know that's often a complaint about serial dramas with a violent edge, that the middle of their seasons don't feel action-y enough. Well, if anyone HAD been making that complaint about Justified, this episode is here to scream in their face, all "OKAY?! THIS GOOD ENOUGH?!" The bodies are hitting the floor in rapid succession.
Let's start with Boyd, who finds himself under the thumb of the people who Shelby later refers to as the "Clover Hills swells." Good enough for me. The swells want him to murder Frank Browning for them, as you'll recall, and they're incredibly condescending/threatening to Boyd about it. So Boyd does his Boyd thing and approaches Frank with a chance to best the other guys' offer and partner up. But Frank is an ornery sort, and he forces Boyd to leave at gunpoint. Meanwhile, Wynn Duffy shows up with news that Detroit is very unhappy that he's dicking around rather than finding Drew Thompson for them. Wynn has reason to be concerned, since Theo Tonin has gotten impatient enough that he's ready to scorch the earth and have both Wynn and Boyd taken out. Seems Theo is sending down a man who "has killed more people than malaria." So basically, Boyd now has a ticking clock on him to kill Frank and find Drew. How will he ever reconcile those two tasks?
So, yeah, obviously, Boyd tells Wynn to tell Malaria Man (at least I think the assassin posing as the cop is Malaria Man; I suppose he could just be a Tonin stooge and Malaria Man is still to come) that he's narrowed Drew down to one of two guys. So Malaria Man, dressed up like a cop, tracks down Frank and then later Clover Hill swinger Sam Keener. He kills them both in brutally blunt fashion. Which certainly helps Boyd out. Wynn only finds out later, from Johnny, that neither one of those guys could be Drew Thompson. So (1) he's been fucked by Boyd, (2) Theo is gonna be EVEN MORE PISSED if he finds out, (3) Drew Thompson is still out there, and (4) Wynn informs Johnny that Boyd is as good as dead, and Johnny will be the one who has to find Drew now.
Wynn sics Malaria Man on Boyd, and that's where Raylan comes in — so let's back it up. After Raylan visits Not-Sheriff Hunter in prison and offers him the same deal he offered Arlo, i.e. "Help me find Drew Thompson and I'll hook you up in here." Apparently nobody wants to better their own situation anymore, because Hunter rejects Raylan's deal, too, probably for similar reasons as Arlo: He doesn't want to give Raylan the satisfaction. Later, though, he bribes a guard to drug Arlo and leave him in the prison barbershop (an actual place!), where Hunter plans to kill him. But Arlo's only faking being drug-dead; he turns the tables on Hunter — beats the crap out of him, in fact — until Hunter fights back and, in the scuffle, plunges a pair of scissors into Arlo's chest. Arlo hangs on long enough for Raylan to visit him on his deathbed. He asks one more time who Drew Thompson is, but Arlo only whispers, "Kiss my ass!" and those are the last words Raylan hears from his father. Later, he gets the word that Arlo is dead.
In the meantime, Raylan has Eve, Drew Thompson's un-widowed widow, looking through DMV photos, picking out the people who look like they could be Drew plus 30 years. Turns out, tracking down those guys leads Raylan to cross with Shelby, who is at the scene of the Keenan murder, and by this point, I could be Drew Thompson for all I know about what's going on. Somebody throw a dead body at me so I can stop puzzling about it. So Raylan goes to pay Boyd and Ava a visit, and he shows up just as Malaria Man is showing up, having been sent by Wynn to kill Boyd. You guys? This scene is my favorite on this show since the Bennetts were around. It seems like Raylan catches on that Malaria Man isn't a real deputy simply by the fact that he's acting like an asshole to a federal marshal, not to mention that he was just with Shelby and Shelby didn't mention sending anyone to see Boyd. At the same time, he keeps getting distracted by things like Ava's engagement ring. I admit, I still get a charge whenever Raylan and Ava are in the same room, so this was great stuff. Boyd tells Raylan that, despite any unpleasantness, he's still on the guest list for the wedding. This could probably go on forever, but Malaria Man is being a really aggressive dick, and he and Raylan suddenly draw on each other and start shooting away. By some miracle, neither Raylan, Ava, or Boyd is hit. Malaria Man sure was, though.
Boyd then gets a call from Nick Augustine (Mike O'Malley, as you'll recall), who is not so happy about the shenanigans with the false Drew identifications. Boyd does his Boyd thing and attempts to leapfrog Wynn into the Tonins' good graces. "Why would you want to back a man who got took when you could back the man who took him?" The man makes a point. Boyd offers himself to Tonins directly, and Nick's like, "Call me when you have Drew and we'll discuss your future." Boyd does ask for a favor in return, and Nick's like, "There is no 'in return.' Anything we give you is a debt we expect you to repay." Which, fine, but Boyd still gets his favor when we find out that the political support behind the Clover Hills Swells is suddenly gone and they have nothing to threaten Boyd with anymore. So Boyd calls in Gerald and Lee, takes credit for killing their enemy Frank and their friend Sam, and lays down the new world order for them: "I am the outlaw. And this is my world. And my world has a high cost of living." That cost being $100,000 from each of them. Oh, and also? "I want you men to help me get a Dairy Queen franchise." Boyd Crowder, as I live and breathe. Apparently, as we learn from Boyd's subsequent heart-to-heart with Ava, this is kind of his long-term plan to go clean. DAIRY QUEENS! Boyd Crowder is mixing your Blizzard. What a wonderful world that would be. Now Ava loves a good Peanut Buster Parfait (dream girl, seriously), but she gets really nervous at how high up the criminal ladder Boyd is climbing. "What happens when you get trouble from Theo? Who you gonna call to back him down?" There's really nobody bigger than Theo. That'll give you pause.
Supplemental Body Count of the Week
Colton Rhodes is just a mess, you guys. Johnny keeps sending him anonymous texts (on his FLIP PHONE, God bless these backward hill people) about how he knows about Ellen May, and somehow Colt is too drugged-up or dumb to realize that it's obviously Johnny. Instead, he just gets freaky and paranoid. He goes to Blossom's Brother the Drug Dealer and asks for a $20,000 "loan" to get "Ellen May" off his back. Which translates to him shooting BBtDD like eight times and then digging around for money. He's met by an underwear-clad Mark — remember Tim's army buddy who had owed BBtDD money? — and after some commiseration about how they're both "in the shit," Colt kills him too. Which should bring darling Tim into the story sooner rather than later.
Square One of the Week
Looks like Raylan's "X Days Without Having Shot Anyone" sign gets set back to zero this week. Both he and Art are very happy that it turns out he didn't shoot a real cop. On the bright side, the shooting does bring Art and Shelby into the same room, so it was double worth it.
Human Resources Challenge of the Week
Raylan is way too matter-of-fact in telling Art, Tim, and Rachel that Arlo is dead. Art's no dummy, though, and he orders Raylan to take a week off, effectively removing him from the Drew Thompson case. Raylan is super not having that, stressing that he totally doesn't even care about Arlo AT ALL. He and Art barter things down to two days off, and Raylan's not even very happy about that, but when he gets to the elevator, he's manfully fighting off tears, so obviously he needs the time. Which brings us to ...
Emmy Voters Wake-Up Call of the Week
I know Margo Martindale's win a couple years ago is more the exception than the rule, but Timothy Olyphant was EVERYTHING this week. Managing Raylan's non-reaction-reactions to Arlo's fate, at his deathbed, on that elevator, and at episode's end when he visits his dad in the morgue — you get to read everything Raylan's feeling and everything he hates about how he's feeling it.
Harlan County Theater Presents: My Fair Lady
So Shelby is letting Ellen May wear his ex-wife's clothes, huh? And encouraging Ellen May as she talks about changing her life and becoming a proper woman. And while "If you pretend to be something long enough, it's not pretending" is really good advice, I got really uneasy about a prospective romantic angle to their relationship. But it turns out — I think, I hope — that Shelby is just warming Ellen May up to tell him about whatever secret thing she's holding over Boyd and Ava. Smart. Kind of devious, actually, but smart.