Justified 4.11: Decoy

SPOILER WARNING: This post will appear following a new episode of Justified. It is intended to be read after seeing the show’s latest installment as a source of recap and analysis. As such, all aspects of the series up to and including the episode discussed are fair game. jst_411_Decoy_0173_595_slogo

Last week, I predicted the Crowders and the Marshals would forge a temporary alliance to fight, or rather survive, the onslaught of their common foe: the Tonin crime family, as personified by Nick Augustine (Mike O’Malley). The logic was simple: Despite having Drew Thompon in custody, the Marshals’ game was far from over. As Raylan put it, “We’re standing in a field, we haven’t done shit.” They needed to find a way to get both themselves and their prize catch out of Harlan alive. That left Boyd and company in a similar position. The Crowders had two options: “We make a case to Theo, or we run.”

As I watched the opening scene of “Decoy” for the first time, the apparent inaccuracy of my prediction had me disappointed. Although he remained plenty bold in sticking to his demand for $500,000, it appeared Boyd was simply going to aid the Tonins in finding Drew, and as a matter of course, Raylan. I can’t say for certain, because the writers took great care in ensuring the details behind the Crowders doublecrossing the Tonins were not made explicit (yet). But folks, I’m almost positive my original prognosis was correct.

Looking back, Boyd’s inclusion of Raylan as one his plan’s necessary casualties should’ve been my first hint. But hindsight is 20/20, or so they say. Boyd will never kill Raylan, directly or otherwise, nor will Raylan kill him. And that’s not just because the writers would be nowhere without their two main characters. These are men who have known each other for a long time, and they play by different rules than most archenemies. They’re Harlan County’s version of Batman and the Joker. Their’s is the game that never ends. No matter who or what enters the fold, be it northern carpetbaggers or Black Pike Coal. Deep down inside, being a “robber” would be a lot less fun for Boyd if Raylan wasn’t the “cop” (and, once again, vice-versa).

We’ve talked a lot this season about the ways Harlan seeps into its residents’ very souls. Last week, Boyd spoke at length about why Raylan should have become a criminal along with he and Arlo. Because to Boyd, being from Harlan and being an outlaw are one and the same. One of the major elements of Raylan’s character, however, has been trying to escape Harlan, both geographically and emotionally (I’m referring specifically to the little Arlo in the demon costume that’s always sitting on his shoulder). But the roots are so deep they always tear him back. Still, the desire to get away is what makes him scoff at Boyd’s comment, as well as get a little sheepish when he had to explain that he knew about some roads that weren’t on the map. In terms of action and plot events, the secret alliance came about because both sides needed to overcome a foe greater than themselves. But the real reason the Marshals, or Raylan rather, would make a deal with Boyd Crowder is because they are both Harlan County, Kentucky to the motherfucking bone. We see it as Boyd leads Tonin’s men into Raylan’s trap (the eponymous decoy, or one of many, at least). In what has become the classic Raylan move, he lets them walk so he can (legally) shoot them some other day, Boyd included. As Boyd walks away, Raylan reminds him of promise he’d just made, that they’ll “do this again sometime.” Boyd’s response? “You can count on it, Raylan.” The game goes on.

Now back to the rest of the betrayals, the episode was chock full of ’em. It starts with Colt. Ever since he shot Tim’s army buddy after robbing their dealer, we’ve awaited a standoff between the two. It seemed imminent in “The Hatchet Tour” until Tim decided to let Colt walk—not because all was forgiven, but so he could shoot Colt after he’d sobered up, so things would be “fair.” Much like Raylan and Boyd, Tim let Colt walk so they could fight another day. Once again, it seemed that day was today during their beautifully written back-and-fourth as Tim sat in the motorcade (yet another decoy) while Colt and a Tonin sniper watched him from afar. My favorite part of the exchange was when Colt noted in faux dismay that the cars had “circled the wagons” to protect against his threats of explosives. The line was great because he wasn’t using the common modern idiom, but the original, literal meaning: the custom of bringing wagons into a circle upon attack. The move appears to foil Colt and the sniper’s plan, until he thinks for a moment that he did in fact see Drew Thompson in one of the cars. He asks for the gun to look and promptly turns it on the Tonin man, the first in your face sign of Boyd’s plan to dupe the boys from Detroit.

With all this deception, you’d almost feel bad for Nick Augustine and company if not for the fact that they work for the “God” of murder and drug-running. That is, until we cut back to Audrey’s, only to discover they’d been planning to cross Boyd as well. Last week, we ostensibly saw Wynn Duffy flee Augustine’s wrath once he learned Thompson had been captured by the law. Duffy’s run for his life is backed up during the aforementioned opening scene, in which Augustine questions why Boyd didn’t do the same. But later, Augustine begins to goad Ava into a fight (verbal or physical, it makes no matter). He goes through all the usual lines: She’s a gold-digging whore, she’d be nothing if not for Boyd, she had no other skills so she “sucked hillbilly dick” until she found the “right” hillbilly. Johnny tells Augustine to shut his mouth, but Nicky laughs and keeps right on going. Then Johnny speaks up again, and Augustine realizes he wasn’t just playing along in the scheme. After that, well, just about every cat Johnny’s got comes out of the bag. Augustine spills the beans about Johnny’s plans with Duffy (which seems to imply Duffy’s not actually gone and the Tonins knew about he and Johnny’s plot all along, that or Duffy is actually gone and they’re just good enough to know). Then Ava points a gun at Augustine, so Johnny points a gun at Ava. Augustine directs Johnny to shoot the woman with a gun to his head and Ava yells the same to prove his treachery. Johnny can’t do it, though. And why? Because he loves Ava. First Bowman, then Boyd, and now Johnny. You can almost hear the playground chants: All the Crowders love A-va! All the Crowders love A-va!

After all these plots and betrayals and professions of love, it’s almost hard to remember the character/plot device driving them all: Drew Thompson. As Constable Bob tells us at the end of the episode, air and road aren’t the only ways out of Harlan, as we see Drew and Rachel on freight train. There are two episodes of Justified left this season, and the question remains: what the hell is going to happen? There can be no doubt that the Tonins will continue the hunt, and some time is sure to be spent revealing the causes of all those doublecrossings. So the Marshals continue their work protecting Drew and Boyd… Ay, there’s the rub. If he and the Marshals are in it together against Detroit, I suppose he and Ava are in as much danger as Raylan and Thompson. Wouldn’t it be great to see Boyd and Raylan on the same side of a gunfight? Regardless, it’s not hard to predict these last two episodes will be captivating as hell.