Justified Recap: Hill People Blues

Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX
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Editor’s Rating

Was the four-episode wait to get Raylan and Boyd into the same story line worth it? Not just same story line, of course, but the same ramshackle shed awaiting Hill People justice. Their time away from each other seemed to give that moment a real significant air, one that suffused a great episode all around. I love that a show like Justified can be at the top of its game while delivering nothing more than a story line bridge of an episode, taking us to the next level of the Drew Thompson story line, transitioning Ellen May's disappearance into the next threat to Boyd Crowder, and, as always, putting Wynn Duffy in a position where both Boyd and Raylan are going to be coming after him soon. That guy is a glutton for punishment.

That the Dixie Mafia would end up involved in the Drew Thompson hunt isn't a big surprise. Everybody else is. Two familiar faces from law enforcement show up in Lexington this week as the Thompson case is transferred from the FBI (under the eye of our old pal Stephen Tobolowsky) to the Marshals Service. Tobolowsky's none too happy about it, and Art and Raylan can't suppress their glee at getting one over on the guy who tried to railroad Raylan last year. Meanwhile, federal prosecutor Vasquez is on the case, and he's offering a plea deal to Arlo in exchange for whatever information he has on Thompson. Thompson is how they get Theo Tonin, after all, and landing a big fish like that is more than worth letting Arlo go. Raylan's not too happy about that, of course, and he wants 24 hours to find Thompson and thus make Arlo's deal unnecessary. And so we have an episode.

So how does Boyd end up in the mix? Turns out, Tobolowsky is dirty as hell. We see a meeting between him, Wynn Duffy, and a Tonin family stooge named Nick Augustine (played by reformed Yes, Dear Mike O'Malley). Apparently Tobolowsky and Augustine go way back, to the old neighborhood, and Tobolowsky's been looking out for him from behind the curtain of law enforcement for years. He assures Nick that he'll take care of Drew Thompson; the plan is to "justifiably" kill him upon capture. But Theo Tonin wants him alive, Nick says. Which is where Duffy comes in, as Wynn volunteers the services of the Crowders to round up and deliver Mr. Thompson. This being more precisely what Tonin wants, plus Tobolowsky's rather outrageous demand of $250,000 to carry out his plan, really makes Duffy's offer a no-brainer. The fact that Nick heard that the FBI doesn't even have the case anymore — thus making Tobolowsky's $250,000 request a rather blatant shakedown — is what earns Tobolowsky a bullet through the skull from his childhood friend. The Tonins don't play around. Gotcha.

So Boyd and Raylan are already on a collision course. Kudos to the show for still managing to keep us from getting too far ahead of the story, though. With the help of good ol' Constable Bob, Raylan tracks down that brace-faced girl who stole the bag out of Arlo's house with her boyfriend. (You'll be happy to know that her ordeal in the season premiere — shot in the foot by Bob and all — hasn't lessened her propensity to offer blow jobs in order to get out of trouble.) Brace-Face says she was put up to the job by her father, Josiah Cairn. Every once in a while, a name will be said, and Raylan will repeat it gravely, and we'll understand that we're about to meet another notorious figure of the Harlan County underworld. Josiah is played by Gerald McRainey, who brings the Deadwood count in this episode almost to its saturation point. When Raylan finds him, he's on house arrest, just an old man on his rocking chair. Raylan knows better, but he presses his advantage by handcuffing Josiah to his car door and driving down the holler, Josiah struggling to keep up. Finally, Josiah gives up Thompson's location: He's with the Hill People. Yes, Kenneth Parcell, the Hill People. They're real, and they're cooking rabbits as we speak.

That the Hill People tip ends up being a trap should not surprise Raylan as much as it does, but considering how hell-bent he is on keeping Arlo from getting that pardon, you can see how he might not have thought about it much. Still, he's pretty quickly rounded up and thrown into a shed, to await Hill Justice, I suppose. Inside, he finds the only other person following the same trail to Drew Thompson: Boyd. Looks like Josiah wanted them both out of the way. (Boyd is hurt, frankly. No honor among thieves, etc.) Inside, Raylan brings up the fact that Arlo went to jail for Boyd, and now here Boyd is, trying to find Drew Thompson and thus get Arlo's deal revoked. Hell of a way to repay the man. It's remarkable how much that one act of misplaced fatherly instinct still bothers Raylan.

If there's one drawback to this episode, it's that there isn't much suspense once the Hill People show up to take care of Raylan and Boyd. We know full well that neither Raylan nor Boyd is going to meet his end mid-season at the hands of these rando villains. Of course Raylan is going to get the jump on them. Of course, despite the fact that the gun Raylan grabs has no firing pin, there is an intervention on his behalf. I am interested in the grab bag of notorious relatives and family friends Raylan can reach back into. Looks like Mom had a cousin Mary who was a Hill Person, which makes Raylan "kin" to the folks holding guns on him. Boyd isn't, despite his trying to front otherwise (I particularly enjoyed him pretending to have played pee-wee football with "Sanderson B," despite Sanderson B turning out to be a mine shaft), but Raylan secures his release too. With the help of cousin Mary, of course, who seems to hold a good bit of Hill People authority. She has some information about Drew Thompson for Raylan, telling him he was once there, but he's been gone for years. "You're on the wrong hill," she tells him. Before he can get to the right hill, however, he's got to take care of Boyd (handcuffs him to a tree after a fake handshake — classic Raylan) and then pay yet another visit to Josiah Cairn. But when he gets there, he finds Josiah's rocking chair empty, his ankle monitor on the ground ... and his severed foot not too far from that.

Meanwhile, Tim and Colton hang back by the cars, waiting for their respective compadres to return. They're both ex-Army, and while you might expect them to clash, they actually get along fairly well. Tim even makes overtures to recruit Colton, but Colton's got too much other stuff on his mind to consider it. For one thing, Raylan tells him to pick up a saw and go retrieve his boss in the woods. For another, this Ellen May situation has really gone pear-shaped.

For someone who debuted as such a kill-happy hothead, Colton is so skittish when it comes to Ellen May slipping through his fingers. He's frankly petrified of Boyd finding out he screwed up. After a surprisingly nonviolent play to get a look at the gas station surveillance tape, Colton spots police lights on a car in the corner of the frame, so it's off to see Shelby. Shelby doesn't have any idea, but remember what a good and unexpected lawyer he was with Cassie last week. Turns out, Shelby did snatch up Ellen May, after putting two and two together that last week's shakedown of Cassie indicated that there WAS a smoking gun to be found at Camp Crowder. First of all, great police work, Shelby! Maybe Harlan elected the right man after all. Second of all, it looks like Shelby was quite serious about severing ties with Boyd, huh? I mean, sure, there's a fatherly instinct aspect to protect Ellen May, but if anything, she seems like ammunition that he's planning to use to take Boyd Crowder down and bring him to justice. That's a big bite Shelby's taking. Hope he knows what he's doing.

As for those Crowders, Boyd comes to Wynn Duffy with new terms for their deal: He'll hand over Drew Thompson in exchange for half the heroin business in Kentucky. Wynn: "You are tenacious. I hate that in a person." Of course, steep price or no, it's easy for Wynn to agree to it when he's got that side deal with Johnny to eliminate Boyd once Thompson is brought back.

Harlan County Improv Theater Update
Colton lies to Boyd when asked whether Ellen May is dead, but after a day's worth of no communication, Boyd wants to ask some follow-ups. Like what were Ellen May's last words? "I'm cold," Colton says. Good stuff, Colt. Simple. Specific. YES, I accept your premise, AND I will continue it ...

Guilty Conscience Alert
It cuts both ways during Johnny and Ava's conversation in Ellen May's trailer. Ava, knowing she sent Ellen May to her death, cleans out the trailer and tries not to think about it too much. Meanwhile, Johnny frets to her about Boyd working with Wynn Duffy. He doesn't want Wynn to turn the Crowders against one another, see.

Baby Bump Alert
Winona comes back this week, albeit for one scene. It's kind of the same story with her and Raylan. She's excited to see him. She allows herself to get her hopes up when he appears to be an attentive and enthusiastic father ... And then her hopes are dashed when she realizes he's not early for the appointment but late for the old appointment time AND THEN takes a work call and has to leave. One more reminder that it these two, while very much in love, should probably not be together.