Justified 4.03: Truth and Consequences

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.

“Truth and Consequences” has a more literal title than most episodes of Justified (sure, they packed in a pun, but that’s almost cheating when the character central to the season’s big mystery has a name like “Waldo Truth”). It begins with Boyd paying a visit to the Last Chance Holiness Church, still struggling to figure out what game the preacher and his sister are playing. He’s sure there’s a game, though, there has to be. Boyd would never go to all the trouble the St. Cyrs have if he wasn’t getting something out of it, so he can’t believe anyone else would either. So what’s the truth he’s not seeing?

Half-jokingly, Boyd questions Cassie’s claims that she was merely “putting her brother to sleep,” implying the two are sexually involved and that the sibling act is merely part of their scheme (either that or it’s incest, after all, it’s Kentucky). But that isn’t it, and to his surprise, it isn’t that Cassie uses her brother’s faith and charisma to extort local criminals, either. Cassie turns down Boyd’s “donation,” insisting that what he’s smelling isn’t a con but the fact that “unlike the rest of these sorry souls, we’re not afraid of you.” Boyd quips back, “In that case, ma’am, I think we’ve misjudged each other,” words that turn out prophetic.

Having tried the carrot, Boyd decides to try the stick—sending his henchmen in to intimidate the St. Cyrs—which results in the one who isn’t Colton (apparently his name is Jimmy) being bitten to death by snakes, or so it seems. Given the severity of his injuries, Jimmy should’ve died hours before he got medical help. And just like that, a lightbulb goes off in Boyd’s head. So he heads back to the Last Chance Holiness with another gift, only this time, “it’s not to the church, it’s to the congregation. And it ain’t money, it’s knowledge.”

The main characters aren’t the only ones dealing with truths and consequences this week. Billy St. Cyr’s faith (and hubris) is cemented by the fact that he and his followers continue to survive snakebites without medical assistance. Seeing it as proof of divine intervention, he fearlessly handles snakes as a testament to his omnipotent and benevolent God. As it turns out, however, Boyd was right. There was a scheme afoot, and Cassie had the wool pulled over the eyes of her brother and his congregation both. She’d been “milking” the snakes of their venom to ensure their bites wouldn’t be fatal.

Ever the true believer, Billy insists on handling Boyd’s “gift” nonetheless, though his sister begs him not to. Having gotten what he came for, Boyd too tries to talk him out of it, saying, “You know what, son? I once stood where you’re standing now, mistaking my own hubris for God’s touch. That ain’t religion, son, that’s self-glorification. Best you leave this thing alone.” After that, things go about as you’d expect. Billy is bitten and, given his conviction, I’m willing to bet he’ll die as a result. The preacher was presented with the truth, refused to recognize it, and now he’ll face the consequences. For now, it seems the St. Cyrs weren’t out to get the Crowders. They were nothing but true believers in a place with no room for such. Boyd did what he did not because they were affecting his business interests, but to come to terms with the man he was, the man he saw reflected in Billy St. Cyr’s face.

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Justified 4.02: Where’s Waldo

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 show up to and including the episode discussed are fair game.

The second episode of Justified’s fourth season didn’t offer much in the way of action. You probably could’ve watched it with a blindfold on and not missed out on much. That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining, however. In fact, quite the opposite. There’s little on television more entertaining than a trademark Boyd Crowder speech, and his verbal battle with preacher Billy will likely be remembered as one of the best scenes in the series’ history. It was also a reminder that Walton Goggins is one of the past decade’s best character actors. While he’s finally getting rewarded with roles in big-time movies like Lincoln and Django Unchained, between Shane Vendrell and Boyd Crowder, how he hasn’t won a single Best Supporting Actor Emmy (and has only one nomination) remains a mystery to me.

Leading up to that confrontation, Billy and the Crowders poke and prod at each other from afar, mostly using Ellen May as a conduit. It starts when the easily convinced hooker shows up to tell Ava about her conversion, quoting “Palms number 62.” Ava is quick to ensure the fear of Crowder outweighs the fear of God by reminding Ellen Mae that she was the one who “saved her soul.” So Ellen Mae mopes back to the Last Chance Holiness, only to be converted yet again.

Up to that point, Boyd remained casually detached from the situation. He’s got more pressing concerns, namely finding someone to blame for the decline of his oxy sales. Cousin Johnny, determined to ensure that someone not be him, is quick to point the finger at Billy and his church. Boyd meets the idea with skepticism, however, noting that people in Harlan County “party Friday and Saturday and get saved on Sunday.” He doesn’t think one more church is going to change that, and declines Ava’s suggestion that they go see what all the hubbub’s about, stating that he “doesn’t like churches” (no doubt because of the way his own stint as an evangelist ended). But Billy gets Boyd’s attention by sending a group of hymn-singing children into his whorehouse, scaring away customers.

Though Sheriff Shelby insists Billy’s history of moving from one destitute small town to the next suggests he’s nothing more than your run-of-the-mill pulpiteer, Boyd reads a different story between the lines: The St. Cyrs (Billy and his sister, Cassie) keep their tent tied down just as long as it takes to bring enough addicts, whores, drunks, gamblers and other characters of ill repute into the fold. When the leaders of the local criminal element notice their revenue streams drying up, Billy and Cassie make a simple proposition: Pay up and we’ll be on our way. It remains to be seen what the St. Cyrs’ motivations really are. It seems more likely that a drop-off in oxy sales could have more to do with Dixie Mafia heroin dealers “accidentally” moving into Crowder turf, and that Boyd’s giving the St. Cyrs all that credit because that’s the way he would run that hustle. It’s just too early to tell, the possibilities are endless.

Anyway, all this leads to that ultimate showdown of the orators. The preacher vs. the ex-preacher, the sinner vs. the saint. The two trade bible verses, and Billy talks a lot about helping the wicked to see the light. Boyd turns that around though, pointing out the hubris inherent in the preacher’s willingness to pass judgment on those he does not know. Then he goes on the offensive, calling Billy a “false prophet” and begging the congregation to “test the spirits!” He says Billy goes from town to town, taking people’s hard-earned money and giving them nothing but empty promises in return. Billy’s counter is a surprising one, he says the church will no longer pass out collection plates, a smile never leaving his face. The same cannot be said for Cassie.

At first glance it appears Boyd has to chalk up a rare tally in the loss column. But, when Colton says, “that didn’t go so well,” Boyd responds, “Actually, Colton, I think we got exactly what we came here for.” See, Boyd’s always playing the game on a few different levels, using his bravado to mask his cunning. Boyd wasn’t in that tent on a search and destroy mission, but to gather intelligence. And not just about Billy, but the full extent of the problem, the individual members of the congregation, and everything he can exploit or use to his advantage. Most importantly, he learned that while Billy’s the one behind the pulpit, the charismatic face of Last Chance Holiness, Cassie’s running the show from behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, Raylan and company take the first steps towards unraveling the season’s big mystery, going in search of Waldo Truth, the name on the driver’s license found in the Panamanian diplomatic bag in Arlo’s wall. That included another fantastic scene in which Raylan, Tim, and Art get into a standoff with the Truths, an entire family of Dickie Bennetts. The Truths, of course, fail to see the irony in their gun-toting, “go ahead and shoot,” intensely anti-”gov’ment” attitude, all in an effort to protect the “draw” delivered to them from said “gov’ment.”

In contrast to the hotheaded younger Truths, however, is their matriarch, who calmly invites the Marshals in to sort things out. Eventually, “Waldo” returns home, but not really, as we soon discover. The man is an impostor, posing as Waldo Truth so that the family could continue to receive his benefit check. While Raylan’s ready to haul in every last one of them, Art decides to let them go once the information they offer helps him connect a few dots between their current predicament and an intriguing case from his early days as a Marshal. It’s now certain the man who fell out of the sky with all that cocaine was the real Waldo Truth, who disappeared with a pilot named Drew Thompson decades ago.

The episode brought some connection between the previously disparate Boyd and Raylan/Waldo Truth storylines with the return of Jere Burns as Wynn Duffy, who arrives in Harlan to deal with the dealer who wandered into Boyd’s turf. Duffy, who’s apparently been made a little colder by the time he spent with Robert Quarles, promptly shoots the dealer in the head. Boyd attempts to seize an opportunity by offering to partner up with Duffy in bringing heroin to Harlan County. Duffy turns him down saying, “I don’t even trust the way you just now said I could trust you.” But, before he leaving, he asks Boyd what he knows about Arlo offing a Dixie Mafia soldier, which, at the moment, is nothing. Boyd’s now a dog with a scent, he’d probably want to know what Arlo’s deal is just to know, but now he’s got the added incentive of proving he’d make a good partner to Duffy. Now we’ll get to watch as both Boyd and Raylan uncover the clues of the big mystery separately and on opposite sides of the law. That’s good news for us viewers, because we’ll get to see it all.

Check out the preview for next week’s episode below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

  

Justified 4.01: Hole in the Wall

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 show up to and including the episode discussed are fair game.

It’s that time of year, Justified is back. And now with 100% more Patton Oswalt! But we’ll get to that potentially controversial decision in a moment. Let’s start with the man himself, Raylan Givens.

“Hole in the Wall” eased us back into the saddle with a “crime of the week” scenario. Raylan gets a call from a Nashville bail-bonds(wo)man, Sharon Edmunds, who he “had a drink” with at a law enforcement convention a while back. Sharon offers him three grand to haul in a bail-jumping murderer, Jody Adair (played by Chris Chalk, who you may recognize as Tom Walker from Homeland and Gary Cooper in The Newsroom).

Perhaps the most interesting part of the Adair plot was the ways in which the character mirrored Raylan. Both men do as they please with little thought of the consequences, rationalizing their actions with claims that their motivations are pure and that they’re essentially good people at heart. The only difference is which side of the law they’re on. Adair killed two heroin dealers in a robbery gone awry, but says they deserved it and that the world is well rid of them. Plus, he only did the job because he needed money to see his kids. Now think about why Raylan sneaks away to catch Adair while on Uncle Sam’s clock: he wants to begin squirreling away money for his kid. Sound familiar? Not to mention, you know, the show’s basic premise: that Raylan is a lawman who plays by his own rules but is “justified” in doing so.

The irony reaches its peak when Raylan chastises Adair for refusing to take responsibility for his actions. “You run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. You run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.” Once again, sound familiar? It seems we’ve never heard a character on Justified own up to what they’ve done or who they are. It’s always someone else’s fault. But Raylan lacks self-awareness to such a degree that he can tell Adair “you got no self-awareness” with a straight face.

Meanwhile, the seeds of a serial storyline were planted beginning with a flashback to 1983, when a parachutist fell out of the sky in front of the Givens house, a few bricks of cocaine in tow. Couple that with the episode’s ending: Arlo killing a man who overheard he and Raylan speak about the remnants of the incident, a driver’s license and bag stashed inside a wall, and it’s not difficult to tell what the season’s big mystery will be.

The beginnings of that mystery were expertly woven into the episode’s A-story through the recurring theme of fatherhood. Adair and Raylan, two men engaging in varying levels of wrong in order to do right by their kids, served as a contrast to Raylan’s own father, who’s put his own needs in front of his son’s for as long as we’ve known him. The question raised by that contrast, then, is whether there was ever a time when Arlo put his child (or his wives) first, before he was the selfish criminal we see today. It’s a question that will be answered as the truth about Waldo Truth, the man who fell to Earth (the parachutist, not Bowie), is uncovered. Was that flashback the moment Arlo Givens “broke bad?”

Now onto the man who will always keep me coming back to drink at the Justified well: Boyd Crowder. Soon after his appearance he laments to Ava that “no one ever said running a criminal enterprise would be this hard.” She responds that “they left that part out on career day.” The chemistry between Boyd and Ava continues to be tremendous thanks to both the phenomenal work of Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter and the writers who put all that sharp dialogue in their mouths.

Boyd’s issue in the premiere is a drop off in his oxy sales. One of his former pushers, Hiram, has seen the light at the “Last Chance Holiness Church” by the snake-handling Pentecostal preacher Bill St. Cyr. Hiram claims people aren’t getting high anymore because they’re finding Jesus in a tent in the woods, and tells Boyd that he has neither the shipment of oxy or the money from selling it. Hiram says he flushed that “poison” down the toilet. Boyd is unmoved by the conversion, and insists that Hiram has one night to get him his money.

All this allows for the introduction of the newest player for Boyd’s team, Colton Rose, an old Gulf War buddy. Boyd brings Colton along to Hiram’s as a tryout for Team Crowder. It turns out Hiram did have the money from the oxy sales, but lied to Boyd so that he could donate it to preacher Billy and the church. Once they’ve got the cash, Boyd tells Colton to “take care” of Hiram, which his friend takes to mean putting a bullet in his skull. Boyd claims he simply wanted Colton to untie the man, but I think Harlan’s criminal mastermind was intentionally ambiguous in using the phrase “take care.” He wanted to see what his old friend would do, and got exactly the result he wanted. For the moment, the Boyd vs. preacher Billy plot seems disparate from the main Raylan plot, but I’m sure everything will come together as the season wears on. Even if it doesn’t, Boyd’s doings are sure to entertain. He’s one of the most captivating characters on television today.

As for that other major introduction, Patton Oswalt as Constable Bob, so far, I’m a fan. Sure, he’s over the top, but so is the show’s source material (the crime fiction of Elmore Leonard). Justified has always managed to blend in humor without straying too far from its roots, and I trust that the writers will use Oswalt as more than just comic relief and ultimately better the show. I mean, come on, don’t try and tell me “Hole in the Wall” didn’t benefit from the inclusion of Constable Bob’s “go bag” and his “when this shit goes Road Warrior, I’m ready” line.

Check out the preview for next week’s episode below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

  

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