The key line in “Good Intentions” comes from Boyd, who’s taunting a captured drug distributor, Cyrus, who he thinks tipped off the guys who stole his drug shipment. He wants to know whom Cyrus squealed to. Specifically, he wants to know which woman Cyrus squealed to. How does he know it was a woman? “Come on now, son,” Boyd says. “Pussy is a powerful thang.”
Expect that last sentence to get sampled and sampled and sampled and sampled by pop musicians over the next few years. The sentiment is most of film noir and probably half of all crime fiction summed up in five words. Boyd may be crude, but he’s not wrong. Boyd proves he’s not wrong later in the episode, when he momentarily forgets his oft-professed love for his dear, incarcerated Ava and takes off his shirt so that Lee Paxton’s wife Mara can inspect his tattoos — not just visually, either — and then guide Boyd’s hand toward the first word in the sentence Boyd hissed at Cyrus. This might be the sexiest scene in Justified’s five seasons to date, an absolute scorcher; the way it goes to the edge of innuendo and then pitches itself over reminds me of how movies used to do “sexy” in the fifties and early sixties, when there was no Hays code but it was still impossible to release sexually frank films to mainstream theaters. There’s talk of cold hands and blood flowing to other parts and in former Soviet Union, infidelity commits you; okay, I made that last part up, but my point is, Boyd’s onto something.
If Raylan Givens, who’s staying in the federally confiscated home of the rich, racist money launderer Monroe, could have heard Boyd say that line, he’d have admitted its truth as well. Why else would Raylan be messing around with Allison, the social services worker who might have been the inside woman for an attempted robbery of Monroe’s gold, and planted evidence that took away the son of a man who would subsequently come to Monroe’s house with a baseball bat, but who might have just been using that man (named Henry) as a distraction to open up the house for whoever was going to steal gold from the safe in Monroe’s house, and who maybe falsely led Raylan to think that Wynn Duffy, who installed Monroe’s safe, was the mastermind behind the whole thing.
Is Allison bad news, or does she only seem like bad news? I don’t know yet, but the fact that she’d light a pre-coital joint in Raylan’s presence suggests she’s confident either way.
“You must know I’m a United States marshal,” Raylan says.
“Maybe I have a prescription,” Allison says.
“Do they give those in this state?”
“No,” she says, not even bothering to keep a straight face.
But it doesn’t matter. Raylan’s not gonna kick her out of bed for sparking up. “Any suggestions on where I might start?” he asks he later, after she implies that there’s more than one treasure in Monroe’s house. “One or two,” she replies, perched at convenient height on Monroe’s desk. It’s a powerful thang.
It’s a powerful thing for Cyrus, too, though admittedly the conduit for that purloined information, the prostitute Candy, has relocated her power source northward. Oscar Wilde wrote, “Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.” Damn skippy. And in the macho asshole-dominated world of crime fiction, sex is often the greatest power that certain female characters have. You can call that merely sexist, as long as you call the totality of blues music, all of Hitchcock and much of Shakespeare as merely sexist, too.
And while you’re doing that, you can appreciate just how well-written every female character on Justified is, even poor Candy, who’s delivered to Boyd’s doorstep in a cooler as if to acknowledge that as far as the drug dealing pimp gangster Boyd is concerned, she’s a piece of meat. As I’ve written elsewhere, the makers of Justified — including episode writer Benjamin Cavell and director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) — are taking their tonal cues from Elmore Leonard as well as their characters and situations, and Leonard did not write uninteresting women. Like his men, they were invariably eccentric and forceful in their way, whether they were sharp as an ax-blade or dull as a brush; they had a life force, and when you watch Allison and Mara scheme in this episode — and Ava berate Boyd for failing to bribe the judge in her case and then nearly killing Lee Paxton, who could’ve freed her by recanting his testimony — you sense their life force, too.
And if you’re not happy with the notion of vajajay voodoo as persuasive tool, there’s always Erica Tazel’s Deputy U.S. Marshal Rachel Brooks, who matches Raylan’s iceberg cool and even has her own version of his faintly raised eyebrow. (Interesting that while Art chastises Raylan for putting himself in that position with Allison, it’s Rachel who really gets through to him. And I should probably take this parenthetical opportunity to say that as much as I kind of dig the idea of Raylan and Rachel hooking up while they’re stuck in this asset forfeiture Two’s Company situation, I really hope it doesn’t happen, because I like the idea of Rachel as a rare Justified woman — character, period — who keeps her urges in check and doesn’t get embroiled in mammalian tomfoolery.)
Sorry to get sidetracked on that powerful thang thing; let’s do the plot rundown and figure out where we are as of the final scene in “Good Intentions,” beyond what’s been listed above.
Boyd’s figured out that the mastermind behind the jacked shipment is none other than his cousin Johnny, who exited season four after a complicated power struggle with Boyd that involved the Detroit mob and the late renegade gangster Nicky Augustine. Apparently Johnny’s not quite the grade-B schemer we thought he was, or maybe he’s learned a bit during his exile. Continuing the sub-theme of cousins jockeying for power within extended families, Darryl Crowe terrorizes the three hundred thousandaire Dewey (who’s actually down to 50 grand after overpaying for Audrey’s), then wins his confidence legitimately by figuring out that he got screwed by Boyd on the real estate deal and that his trusted lieutenant Wayne was skimming the take. (I was surprised by how much sympathy I felt for Wayne, seeing him beaten to hell by Darryl and his bubblegum-chewing enforcer Jean-Baptiste, of the Florida gator-raising Baptistes.) Lee Paxton ordered his cop henchman Mooney to kill Boyd, but the attempt failed when he found himself squaring off against Boyd and Mara, who was looking to pay back his traffic stop abuse of her last week. And Mara’s apparently working out some kind of scheme wherein she can fake Boyd’s death, maybe by inking up body parts taken from various corpses at her husband’s funeral home.
Raylan seems off his game again, missing things he shouldn’t be missing; he seemed awfully thick about Allison, or in powerful thang denial. Will Boyd be able to spring Ava from prison, or will Mara spring him first, and make him forget all about his fiancée? Tune in next week on As the Redneck Badass World Turns.
Odds and Ends
* Wynn Duffy had my favorite line of the night. Henchman, regarding Raylan, who’s outside Wynn’s trailer: “Do you want me to let him in?” Wynn: “No, I want you to get back behind the wheel and see if we can outrun him.”
* Also intriguing: the way interracial sex (or sexual tension) has bubbled to the surface this season. The show seems to be setting up Raylan and Rachel and Monroe and his mistress Gloria (Garbrielle Dennis) as sort of doppelgänger couples, the first a mutually respectful mirror of the second, which is perverse and based on an outmoded racial and class power differential. (After accusing her of masterminding what could have been a burglary at his house, Monroe comes very close to strangling or suffocating Gloria, not once but twice — as if she’s nothing more than a pet to be put down for biting the hand that fed her.) Granted, Raylan and Rachel are platonic, but the couples are connected in that tense moment when Gloria goes to Monroe’s house (allegedly to check on his “goldfish”). She stops just short of working her neck as she fires innuendo at Rachel, and as unpleasant as Gloria’s character is, you can see why she’d get her back up at the sight of a different white dude living in Monroe’s house with a different woman of color.
* Raylan to Henry, the baseball bat-wielding thug who’s pissed at Allison for planting evidence that lost him custody of his son: “Whatever she did, she didn’t do it to you. She thought it was the best way to do her job.” That’s exactly the sort of perverted sympathy for Allison that a rogue cop like Raylan would express. He’s never been big on the rules, and to Justified’s credit, it makes sure there are both short- and long-term consequences when he breaks them.
* I like finding out that Darryl studied business administration, accounting and real estate in prison; it deepens him. I’m still not sold on Michael Rappaport’s performance, though. I’ve loved him in other things, but he’s not menacing enough here, and his accent has yet to convince me either as a regionally correct accent or a generic but entertaining “movie Southern” accent.
* That said, he did a beautiful job with the episode’s most lyrical bit of dialogue: “Hear my daddy tell it, you’d a thought Harlan County was hell on earth. But I woke up here this morning, though, I never saw so much green.” That’s just beautiful — and again, Elmore Leonard-specific. Note how the first sentence does not begin with “to,” and there’s no “and” in front of the “I.” Sometimes the omissions make all the difference.
* “Cousin Dewey, you worryin’ about me like you my bitch,” the domineering Darryl tells his cousin; in this thuggish world, there’s nothing more “powerless” than a woman, unless it’s a woman you care about, in which case you’ll do pretty much anything to hold onto her.