Justified isn’t exactly known for its nonviolent conflict resolution. So calling an episode of this show “When the Guns Come Out” is kind of like naming an episode of Friday Night Lights “When We Improbably Win a Football Game at the Last Second.”
There was plenty of gunplay (though, not enough Gunplay) in this sixth episode. And, per usual, Raylan lived through all of it, only to have Winona to shoot him through the heart.
The episode starts out with Raylan tracking down his most beloved fugitive, Winona, who left him a note and booked it from their empty house, baby in belly. Raylan is pulled off her trail by a double murder. An Oxy-slinging quack and a female patient of his have been killed. Duty calls.
The deeper Raylan gets into the heart of the country, the more personal it gets. Turns out this Oxy clinic was in Raylan's late Aunt Helen's old house. An increasingly senile Arlo is of little help, so Raylan and Boyd (and Ava) use one another to get what they want; Raylan finds the only witness to the shooting and Boyd finds out who is muscling in on his painkiller empire.
This suits Quarles fine. When he's not torturing McMansion owners or demanding top-shelf bourbon in the middle of the day, our Motor City Maniac is pitting various factions of Harlan's crime-and-punishment sector against one another. Despite Wynn Duffy's slightly spaced-out protests, Quarles is convinced that Raylan and Boyd are somehow united in their efforts.
The thing is, even though Raylan isn't on the take, Quarles has a point. Raylan has had plenty of opportunities to bury Boyd, both figuratively and literally, and he's chosen not to do so. Maybe it's because of an affection for Ava, or a flickering feeling of familial loyalty (even if every one of his interactions with Arlo nearly ends in patricide), but Raylan and Boyd are bound together. They use and manipulate one another, but when the chips are down, they pretty much have each other's backs. The simple fact that Quarles picks up on this reality suggests he's one of the sharper customers to ever hit Kentucky's underworld.
While Quarles, Boyd, and Raylan are gearing up for a game of Axis and Allies, Ellstin Limehouse just wants to make spice rub in the rural Switzerland that is Noble's Holler. In yet another pig-side soliloquy, Limehouse explains to an insubordinate, freelancing underling that the play for their clique is no play at all. But there's a war going on outside no man is safe from. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when.
- This was a table-setter. And to be honest, this season might have had one too many of them already. We're about halfway through the campaign, we know the players, and their motivations and intentions are becoming increasingly apparent. Let's stop taking pictures on the stairs and go to prom and dance already.
- If that seems harsh, it's because this episode, unlike most from this season, lacked a contained storyline. Yes, the whole prostitute/"Big Pimpin'" Ethan From Lost (he even says "I got no patience and I hate waiting" at one point) (Justified referencing Jay-Z songs makes my head explode) plot gave the episode structure. But more than anything, "When the Guns Come Out" was about positioning Raylan, Quarles, Boyd, and Limehouse with and against one another.
- To some extent, I saw Winona's (second) leaving of Raylan as a sort of table-setting as well. I am on record as being Team Raynona (pass the Oxy), and I thought it would be compelling to see how Raylan negotiated his impending fatherhood with his penchant for shooting people through the bodies of other people. (RIP, Layla.) Raylan and Winona's breakup, which takes place at the end of the episode, was as civil as their recent relationship had seemed sunny. "We'll love the baby and we'll figure it out," is not the kind of invective and heartbreak that country songs are written about.
- Just a hunch (and I haven't read Raylan, the new Elmore Leonard novel from which some of this season borrows plot points), but I wonder whether Raylan is about to, for lack of a better term, go buck wild. The last 12 episodes or so of this show have put this character on a hell of a roller coaster; he's lost his mother figure, reunited with his ex-wife, found out he was going to become a father, lost his ex-wife, and discovered that his father probably has dementia of some sort. With all this turmoil and testing of his character, we might get some real Old Testament Raylan Givens God of Vengeance on our hands soon.
- Two things, real quick: Limehouse needs to find another setting for his speechifying. Enough with the charcuterie. Also? Wasn't Winona wearing the same outfit when she greeted Raylan at the door in the middle of the night, offering a beer and understanding? Did she not pack a University of Kentucky hoodie or something? Come on, what would Ashley Judd say!?
MVP: Raylan. Easy. Because he delivers maybe my favorite threat/monologue/verbal beatdown in this entire television series (see the bottom of the recap). Though shout-out to Gutterson for that one snarky line. ("I don’t mind asking the FBI for favors on your behalf, but I’m not going to read the thing, too.") Missed you, dude.
Hat Content: Low. You know it's getting real when Raylan is storming around Harlan rocking the Canadian tuxedo, with no hat.
Raylan's Love-Interest Threat Level: Out of the picture? So is Winona moving on to have her baby and live with her delightful sister? Does this free Raylan up to join eHarmony and find someone who loves him just for him?
State of Boyd Crowder's Soul: Scurred! Quarles definitely has Boyd feeling a little shook. Without Devil, Boyd is a little short-handed. "I don't want to jump to any conclusions until we're certain," he says at one point, faced with the likelihood that Quarles is moving in on his turf.
F-Yeah, Ava Crowder: "It's nice to see you, too." Cue head-cock. Is it just me or was there a flicker of that old magic between Raylan and Ava?
Villain of the Week: Tanner. He seems like a particularly special brand of dirt bag.
Best Line (Possibly Ever): "You want to run your hillbilly heroin fiefdom up here, that’s between you and the great state of Kentucky. I got no interest in shitkicker-on-shitkicker crime. But you will not drag me into this. The next time you set up an operation in this county or any other it better not have my god damn family name on the deed or so help me God, I will lose this star and the dance we do subsequent to that will not end with you finding Jesus in a hospital bed." — DROP THE MIC, RAYLAN. YOU WON.