The setup at the end of last week’s episode made some big promises, I’d say, with Raylan and the Lexington Gang poised to usher Shelby, a.k.a. Drew Thompson, out of the most dangerous ground in Harlan County. And with Boyd Crowder conscripted by the Tonins to join the fray, expectations were raised even higher. “Decoy” managed to meet those expectations with room to spare.
We’ll start with Raylan, who is being a right dick to Shelby as they try to figure out a way to get him out of the Holler. I know Raylan hasn’t had the same opportunity as the rest of us to fall in love with Shelby, but he’s usually downright folksy with the lion’s share of prisoners he deals with. Not so with the former Drew Thompson. This week makes it pretty explicit that Shelby is a stand-in for Arlo, at least in terms of his interactions with Raylan, who is entertaining no notions that a lifelong criminal could become something else. A better man. “I can be the man I became, not just the man I was,” Shelby says. In response, Raylan draws an imaginary line down the center of the room, separating Shelby, the criminal, from him and Rachel, the law. Arlo let him down too many times on that front. So Raylan gets something of a grim satisfaction when he hears Shelby explain that this whole thing is happening because he trusted Arlo to burn that bag with Waldo Truth’s I.D. in it and instead Arlo walled it up in his house.
So the Marshals need a plan to get Shelby out of town before the Tonins get to them. By the Tonins, in this case, I mean Nicky Augustine, who has bunkered down at Boyd’s car with a few of his guys. After beating on Boyd for a bit for failing to deliver Drew Thompson as promised (Boyd’s precious teeth!), Nicky agrees to trust Boyd and his expertise in the field of Raylan Givens anticipation, so they send out both Colt and Nicky’s guy Mort to head off the convoy at the pass. Indeed, that’s where the convoy is, just not Raylan, Rachel, or Shelby. Instead, we get a corker of a standoff between Colt (with Mort) and Tim (with Art). Tim recognizes abandoned cars by the side of the road as possible IEDs and gives Colt a quick ring on the cell phone (Colt: “Hello, Deputy Dog”). With Colt poised in sharpshooter range to take Tim out should he exit his car, the two have quite the conversation, all full of bluffing and brinksmanship. Finally, Tim does some fancy convoy-maneuvering and created a makeshift fortress by the side of the road to get him out of sniper range. Colt is impressed.
Meantime, Raylan and Rachel move Shelby to the local (abandoned) high school, a move that Boyd ultimately predicts simply by remembering that when he and Raylan were in school, they had a NASA astronaut speak at an assembly, and said astronaut arrived by helicopter on the football field. But before Nicky sends Boyd to said high school, he sends his henchman Yolo to Arlo’s house. (Yes, his name is Yolo. Yes, he’s so named because of the acronym. He’s also WAY too cute to be hired muscle for the Tonins, but that’s neither here nor there.) (Or is it?) So Yolo shows up at Arlo’s, and Raylan and company are already gone, but he does find poor Constable Bob there. Bob has not been my favorite character this season. A bit too cartoony for my tastes. But he sure makes up for it this week, holding up to a hellacious beating from Yolo (all to the tune of “Love Train”) and simply refusing to give away Raylan’s location. Just when it looks like the beating is going to get legitimately life-threatening, Bob makes a move for a knife and slashes at Yolo’s leg. Femoral artery, MF-er! Raylan shows up just in time for a gunshot to ring out from inside the house, and he finds Bob, triumphant for once in his life. R.I.P. Yolo. This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.
Back at the high school, Raylan can sense Boyd coming just as much as Boyd can tell where Raylan’s hiding out. “Just hand Drew Thompson over to these … I won’t say ‘nice’ but people,” Boyd requests, but Raylan says he’s going to have to come back with more firepower than just him and Tonin’s guy Picker. Meanwhile, by that roadside standoff, Tim shoots out a gas tank of one of those abandoned cars, makes himself a Moltov cocktail (Art: “Ain’t seen one of those since Guns N’ Roses in 1989”), lights it with a pair of jumper cables because nobody smokes anymore, and blows up said abandoned car, enough to obstruct Colt and Mort’s line of sight. Also helping Tim out is the fact that Colt is either really unstable or else he and Boyd had a plan or maybe both, because he convinced Mort to hand him the rifle, then turns around and shoots Mort dead.
The week’s most harrowing scene, at least for a dedicated Ava Crowder partisan like me, comes when she and Johnny and Nicky have spent just enough timed holed up in that bar that people start to get ornery. Particularly Nicky, who’s annoyed enough by Ava’s chattering that he gets incredibly aggressive with her. Verbally, but still. He presses her with questions about running the brothel. “How many dicks did you have to suck to get to the top of that food chain?” Just LOTS of dick-sucking talk, really. It’s incredibly ugly, and Ava does her level best to let it roll off. She orders herself a brandy. She keeps it cool when Nicky spits, “Show me your tits.” It’s Johnny who ends up telling him to shut the fuck up, which is when Nicky then vindictively puts HIM on shout for double-dealing with Wynn Duffy. Which is when Ava makes her move. She gets in close to Nicky, then throws the brandy in his face and flicks her lighter. Grabbing Nicky’s gun, she backs away from both men and out of the bar. Johnny tells her he loves her (oh, Johnny), but even that can’t tarnish her badass exodus.
Back at the high school, Nicky’s guys are about to shove Boyd first through the doorway — in other words, into a firing line of U.S. Marshals — but as always, Raylan Givens is here to make sure that Boyd Crowder lives to be a thorn in his side another day. Drew, he tells Picker and company, is not here. It’s just him and Bob. Bob, who had the bright idea that there was one more way to get a man out of Harlan. Not by chopper, not by car, but by the 5:30 coal train, and we cut to Shelby and Rachel riding the rails out of town. Boyd hightails it out of that high school, surely with a Tonin-size reckoning in his future, but that’s for another episode.
Film Society of Greater Harlan County Update
The Wild Bunch makes a lot more sense as a reference point for Raylan (and Art) than something like The Big Lebowski, but the reference to the Battle of Bloody Porch is worth it for the imperceptible eye roll it gets from Rachel.
Glib Memorial of the Week
Poor Yolo couldn’t even find dignity in death. After proving his moniker correct and biting it, Yolo’s memory was further sullied by Raylan’s repeated flubbing of his name. Yoohoo? Yoda? (By the way, between “Yoda” and Bob stonewalling Yolo with Drew Thompson puns like “Drewbacca,” I wonder if Patton Oswalt made his way into the writers’ room at some point.)
Literary Society of Greater Harlan County Update
Shelby tells Raylan that he first met Arlo in front of a whore house in Vietnam, where Arlo was reading a Louis L’Amour book. Sure, Arlo was on LSD at the time, but that’s still the most cultured I’ve ever imagined Arlo being.
Fossil-Fuel Fringe Benefit of the Week
We already know that coal is the backbone of the Harlan economy (well, besides all that Drew Thompson cocaine … and until those Crowder-franchised Dairy Queens start popping up). But who knew coal also had clairvoyant properties? It’s how Boyd explains to Nicky Augustine how he always knows what Raylan’s next move will be: “We dug coal together.” And the neural bridges forged by coal miners never really go away.