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.
Well folks, I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong. And boy was I wrong about the Crowder/Givens Alliance I thought was hinted at in “Get Drew” before getting into motion in “Decoy.” We bloggers aren’t always perfect, if you can believe it. As it turned out, Boyd and Augustine’s mutual doublecrossing was a lot simpler than all that. Each side planned to work with the other for as long as they had something to gain from it and not a moment longer. Because there was no way of knowing when that moment would come, they each had contingency plans in place. Plans that moved forward even while the partnership was still (ostensibly) in place, including Colt shooting Mort, the aptly named Tonin sniper. But as we saw this week, inter-gang alliances can reassemble just as easily as they fall apart. Because in the crime business it’s less about what you’ve done for me lately than what you can do for me now.
With Drew Thompson in custody, the game should be over, but he refuses to cooperate with the investigation of the Tonins until he knows Ellen May is safe, a fact that’s relayed to the Tonins via a mole in the Marshals’ office (or perhaps the U.S. Attorney’s). So begins another game of hide and seek, only the tables have turned: this time, it’s the bad guys who have the inside scoop and the Marshals who have to do the seeking. Suddenly, Nick Augustine needs the Crowders again, so he goes to see cousin Johnny. It makes sense, Johnny is easily the most vulnerable of the bunch. Both Boyd and the Tonins have put a target on his back, the former due to his now public betrayal and the latter because betrayal or not, his last name’s still Crowder. So a new alliance is forged when Johnny calls Limehouse on Augustine’s behalf, and ends the moment he fails to broker an agreement. But Augustine doesn’t have time to waste, so he immediately calls Boyd and offers him the deal of the century: the money to get Ellen May and his cousin Johnny. He does all this with Johnny standing right in front of him, using the man’s own cell phone. As Omar Little would say, “It’s all in the game though, right?”
So Ava heads to Noble’s Holler to buy back Ellen May. She and Limehouse have one of those conversations that’s meant to get right to the heart of a person, to show who they really are. In so many words, Limehouse asks her if buying back Ellen May will really give her that eponymous peace of mind she’s been seeking all season. He tells her he’s “been wonderin’ lately what it is makes us forget who we are,” referring to the fact that he’s been forced to sell off parts of the Holler his clan has owned since Emancipation. But he’s also talking about Ava, and how he doesn’t even know who she is anymore. “I can’t do this,” he says, “and you shouldn’t either.” It’s no coincidence it’s the proposed buying and selling of a human that gets him thinking about all this.
There’s just one issue though, and it’s that Limehouse has already get Ellen May go. He’d already pondered the last question he asked Ava, “All these things you’ve done, with no mind to the consequences to other people, are you gonna have peace of mind when this is all over?” And his answer was no. Limehouse offered Ava the opportunity the make the same decision, to strive to be a better person, but she never even considered it. None of that matters though, Ellen May is gone, so the choice was purely hypothetical. Maybe part of the reason Limehouse let her go was out of fear that he’d have a harder time sticking to his convictions with the temptation of $300,000 cash being stuck in his face. But the more important factor was the similarly themed conversation he’d had with Ellen May earlier, one of those “hatchet conversations” that “cuts through the bullshit.”
Justified has milked a lot of humor—and sadness—out of Ellen May being, well, not the brightest bulb in the bunch. But as with Ava as well as Constable Bob’s torture scene last week, being forced into a corner you can’t escape, at least not independently, offers a chance to show your true colors, or perhaps it forces them out of you. Ellen May is at her most intelligent (by far) during her conversation with Limehouse because she’s convinced she’s going to die, sooner rather than later. “I don’t got no choice in the matter anyways,” she says, “you take their money and you let them kill me or you take their money and you let me go, either way I think I’ll probably wind up dead.” We get the answer to the earlier question about peace of mind from Boyd, when he quotes Emerson in saying, “Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” Through Limehouse’s conversations with Ava and Ellen May, he unknowingly proves Boyd, or Emerson anyway, correct.
So Ellen May is set free, and goes first to Nicky Kush, her former boyfriend/pimp/father figure and paranoid radical, before seeking out Cassie St. Cyr at the Last Chance Holiness Church (there’s another apt name). Ellen May, as we all know, is deeply religious, and there’s nowhere better for her own principles to triumph. When Ava finds her, she is predictably unable to pull the trigger. That all leads to the long-awaited final showdown between Tim and Colt. Tim asks if Colt killed his oxy-addicted friend, Mark. Colt calls him “collateral damage,” along with claiming “most of him died somewhere in Kandahar.” The statement makes sense, addicts don’t wake up one day and become addicts, they don’t spend their childhoods daydreaming about oxycontin. But even if Colt is right about Mark, he’s talking every bit as much about himself. He may even be including Tim as well, who we’ve been told is likely an alcoholic and suffering from PTSD. So Colt enjoys his last cigarette, and revises an earlier statement by saying, “I guess I’ll quit today,” before raising his gun arm ever so slightly. I don’t believe Colt had any intention of killing Tim, this was a simple case of “suicide by cop.”
All this and I’ve barely said a word about Raylan Givens. Well, he was as Raylan as ever, finding the clues, rescuing the girl and solving the case all in the nick of time. Which all leads to one of the most unsettling endings to an episode of Justified or any other show for that matter. Augustine’s right hand man, Picker, is seen building a chair for Winona, who told Raylan earlier in the episode that she’d be having a girl and that it was really important he sign those papers in case something happened to either one of them. Raylan, of course, hasn’t signed the papers yet. What’s more, whatever’s going down was set in motion by his excessively Raylan-ey desire to delay his suspension and finish what he started. If he’d stayed in Lexington and taken a few days off, Augustine might never have casually asked Boyd the name of the Marshal in the hat. Raylan indirectly caused whatever’s going to happen to Winona and his unborn daughter next week. The Drew Thompson thrill ride is over, and the season finale is set to bring us a classic television plotline: Don’t you dare hurt my family! What makes it less cliche is that it goes against everything Raylan is and has been, prior to becoming an almost-father. He’s the detached, sarcastic Marshal in the cowboy hat who wakes up every morning “thinking that today was another opportunity to mess up some bad guy’s day.” In the eerily-titled finale, “Ghosts,” we’re finally going to see the real Raylan Givens, not the hat and the quips, but what it’s like when he’s the one with real skin in the game.
Check out the preview for next week’s episode below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.
Tags: Arlo Givens, Art Mullen, Ava Crowder, Boyd Crowder, Brent Sexton, Colton Rose, Ellen May, Elmore Leonard, Erica Tazel, Hunter Mosley, Jere Burns, Joelle Carter, Johnny Crowder, Justified, Justified Blog, Limehouse, Nate Kreichman, Rachel Brooks, Raylan Givens, Raymond J. Barry, Ron Eldard, Sheriff Shelby, Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins