Justified Recap: The Ballad of Sheriff Shelby


Foot Chase
Season 4 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
JUSTIFIED -- Foot Chase -- Episode 6 (Airs Tuesday, February 12, 10:00 pm e/p) -- Pictured: (L-R) Timothy Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder, Jim Beaver as Shelby Parlow


Foot Chase
Season 4 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating 5 stars
Photo: Prashant Gupta/FX

There was something elemental about this episode, something that worked on a most basic, atomic level, like a high-speed particle collider in narrative-TV form. Last week’s episode set the players in motion — from Josiah and his ankle monitor to Shelby preparing to take down Boyd to Colton and Tim meeting cute — and this week, they all come running at each other at full speed. It was pretty glorious.

So Raylan starts off the episode on the trail of footless Josiah Cairn, who has managed to put quite a lot of distance between himself and that old rocking chair of his for a guy with one bloody stump below his ankle. Between dealing with the dumb-shit local cops in person and Art and his bottomless grab bag of foot puns, Raylan’s having quite the morning. He finally starts looking for Brace-Face, Josiah’s daughter. He finds her boyfriend at the trailer park, and he’s being pissy as hell for reasons Raylan doesn’t have the patience to try and understand. Enter, then, our old pal Shelby, casting weary glances at Raylan’s tough-guy routine and correctly intuiting that the boyfriend making target practice of a crude drawing of a Native American face means they’re looking for this guy named Teddy. So begins an episode-long tentative partnership between Raylan and Shelby that was as unexpected as it was delightful. Raylan has no reason to believe Shelby isn’t every bit in Boyd’s pocket as he was during last season’s election, and Shelby doesn’t really have time for Raylan’s ghost-chasing with regard to Drew Thompson. But Shelby might be the one local official in Harlan with his head on straight, and he manages to win Raylan over with his dedication to the job at hand and his genuine decency. He’s just so goddamn decent! There’s no way he survives this season, right?

Anyway, after finding Roz (a.k.a. Brace-Face) shacked up with Teddy the Cherokee Brick Wall, they get her to tell them about the two guys in a panel van who abducted her daddy and cut his foot off. They were calling him “Drew Thompson,” so now we’re off to the races.

Meanwhile, Boyd is taking quite the active role in trying to find Drew Thompson. Which for now means harassing people he suspects of being Drew in disguise until they can sufficiently prove their identity. This method seems like it would have a rather low probability of success, and that’s before considering the fact that Colton is being a terrible wingman these days, freebasing in bathrooms and steadily melting down about the Ellen May situation. He’s still the only one on Team Crowder who knows she’s not dead — oddly enough, it might bring Ava some relief if she knew; it’ll probably bring a murder charge at some point, but at least she’ll stop seeing that sad little mouse face of hers whenever she closes her eyes. Colton’s investigative method this week appears to be threating random hookers at Ava’s brothel to tell him what they know about Ellen May’s whereabouts. They of course know nothing, and some poor girl named Terri gets a beating for her trouble. Later, Terri tells Johnny that it was one of her johns that beat her up, which is bad news for that guy when Johnny and Colt pay him a visit and Colt beats him nearly to death in order to cover his tracks.

As for Boyd and Ava, Ava spends the episode trying to get her and Boyd invited to ex-sheriff Napier’s swingers party, the better for Boyd to canvass for leads on Drew Thompson. This is mostly a diversion for Ava, but it’s an amusing one, as she uses Arnold — our friendly plushie fetishist who survived a gunshot from Ellen May in the season premiere — to get her an invite. Watching Ava sidle up to Arnold’s wife, implicitly threatening to reveal all of his smutty secrets to her, is as fun a time as there was to be had this week.

Raylan and Shelby’s next move in finding Josiah comes when Shelby takes a bold step across a line in the sand and arrests Boyd. The tension between Boyd and Shelby this week is tight to the point of snapping, their hatred for one another building the more they interact. “Son, you are turning a corner that you won’t be able to walk back around,” Boyd warns. “Well that’s like warning a man that it’s going to rain when he’s already wet,” Shelby returns. Boyd’s usual practiced coolness is just not there for him this week. After being chained to a tree all night and then accused of hacking Josiah’s foot off when everybody knows full well he was CHAINED TO A TREE at the time, he’s pretty well furious at Shelby and Raylan for hauling him in. Josiah may be dead, he says, but not by his hand. “That’s what assholes do,” after all. “They get old and die from being assholes.” Raylan: “But while they’re alive, they got the right to be alive.” Boyd: “Unless somebody says they don’t.” [Stares down Shelby.] Sorry to just quote giant blocks of dialogue, but this scene in particular was screaming for it. Eventually, Boyd’s lawyer shows up and liberates him from the interrogation.

Boyd’s lawyer, Sonya, is rather busy this week. Not only is she stonewalling Arlo’s plea deal — to Raylan’s puzzlement — but she’s also the point person for the two dunderfucks who have kidnapped Josiah Cairn. There’s not much point in describing these two guys; one’s a psychopath who clips his toenails without regard for anyone else, and the other’s more of a jittery idiot. Psycho decides that they need to stop Josiah’s stump from bleeding out, and his preferred method is to cauterize it with a blowtorch. Nobody else thinks this is a good idea, but he’s the one with the blowtorch, and if you’ve ever hung out in a small group, you know that the guy with the blowtorch generally calls the shots. Interestingly, Sonya not only seems to be working for Boyd in tracking down possible Drew Thompsons (it was Arlo who claimed Josiah was the real DT), she’s also in the pocket of the Tonins, as evidenced by the car full of Detroit muscle that Raylan and Shelby see when they roll up on the warehouse. Because, yes, Raylan and Shelby come to the rescue of poor Josiah just as his stump is being torched. Jittery Idiot makes a very slow run for it; Raylan is a bit too casual in his pursuit of him, nearly catching a fireball to the face from Psycho before Shelby shoots him.

So is Josiah really Drew Thompson? Nah. Raylan doesn’t figure Arlo would give up the real DT without an actual plea deal signed and delivered. So why did Josiah try to have Raylan killed by those hill people? To get him out of the way so he could find Drew himself. This is getting to be a pattern. He tells Raylan his plan was to use a former Harlan lawman to help him. “He’s in jail for trying to have you killed.” He’s talking about ex-sheriff Hunter, a deep cut from season two. ALL of Harlan County is coming out of the woodwork to find Drew Thompson.

Harlan County Register Society Page Update
Poor Ava is going through it lately, from Ellen May guilt to general unease at where things with Boyd are headed. Boyd responds to this by taking her out to the top of a hill looking out over scenic rural Kentucky, then handing her that box full of cash he’s been stashing away. Boyd Crowder AND a box full of hundos? That Ava is a lucky woman. Of course, under the money is a ring, and Boyd officially promises to make an honest woman of her, with a house and kids and all the domestic hoo-ha you’d expect. I don’t know about you guys, but I hope these two make it down the aisle. What a wedding that’d be.

Harlan County Alternative Weekly Social Page Update
Second only to Boyd and Ava in terms of shipper interest this week are Tim and Colton, whose introduction last week is reinforced by a chance encounter at the VA this week. Colt’s looking for a heroin dealer — and sticking guns in the crotches of dudes at the urinal to get the information he needs — while Tim is meeting an ex-junkie friend who needs some backup as he goes to pay his old drug debts. The Unspooling of Colton Rhodes has been my least favorite of this season’s plot strands, serving as an excuse for a lot of grisly violence without much upside. But if there’s going somewhere with this Tim story line, if it pulls Tim into the Harlan side of the show for real, I’ll be interested.

Harlan County Alternative Weekly Personals Update
After toying with Arnold about the plushie thing — “no reason to let them bear claws come out” — Ava expresses her concerns that she and Boyd might not be welcome at Napier’s place. Arnold thinks the swingers will like them just fine: “Women will probably like [Boyd]. Guys will be giving their left nuts to be with [Ava].” Oh, be fair, Arnold. Boyd and Ava will be a big hit with any and all genders and persuasions.

Harlan County Historical Society Update
Raylan scores the biggest laugh of the week, if not the most culturally sensitive one, when he refers to Roz’s behemoth of a boyfriend as “Rapes With a Smile.” For her part, Roz thinks Teddy’s innate Cherokee tracking powers will help to find her missing dad. Teddy’s ancestors did walk the Trail of Tears, after all.

My Opinionation of the Week
Yes, that was Blossom’s older brother from Blossom as the drug dealer that Tim and his buddy Mark go see. What this guy lacks in convincing Kentucky accents, he makes up for in arbitrary house rules. Specifically that anybody who wants to do business with him must strip entirely. Hey, rules are rules, Tim. Rules are rules. Tragically, the transaction goes pear-shaped before Tim is made to comply. Maybe next time.

Raylan Givens iPod Update
Shelby understands why Raylan might think he’s in Boyd Crowder’s pocket at first. Raylan: “I think Lynryd Skynyrd is overrated; I KNOW you’re in Boyd’s pocket.” Well. Looks like SOMEBODY’s not getting serenaded with “Freebird” in the event of an untimely demise.

Respectful Professional Alliance of the Week
Everything that happened between Raylan and Shelby was gold this week, from their swapping stories about their worst jobs pre-law-enforcement to Shelby telling Raylan about the last time before tonight that he shot a guy. If there’s a more endearing personal detail about Shelby than the fact that he was en route to propose to his girlfriend at the Dairy Queen, we haven’t heard it. Still, he’s not keen on sharing everything with Raylan yet, keeping the whereabouts of Ellen May close to his chest. It’s a nice reminder that Raylan’s reputation isn’t exactly sterling either, but I have to think he’ll bring Raylan in at some point.

Justified Recap: The Ballad of Sheriff Shelby