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.

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Justified 4.10: Get Drew

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.


“Get Drew” is one of those episodes with a very literal title. When it begins, the word is out on Drew Thompson’s identity, and everyone’s scrambling to find him. It ends with Drew in the Marshals’ custody. Generally, that’d put an end to the chase. Generally putting the cuffs on the bad guy means the game is over, the Marshals won. But not this time, not with Drew Thompson. That’s why when the Marshals start to celebrate, Raylan remarks that, “we’re standing in a field, we haven’t done shit.” Next week’s episode will likely be very similar to this one, only now the criminal element will be scrambling to “get Drew” via the Marshals, who will be doing their damndest to “get out of Harlan alive.” Art’s speech on how “awesome” Drew is reinforces why his being in the law’s custody isn’t near enough to make Theo Tonin give up the chase:

First thing we’re gonna do is acknowledge that this guy is awesome. I mean he shoots Theo Tonin, fakes his own death in a spectacular fashion, pushes a guy out of an airplane while he’s flying it, parachutes into Harlan County with enough coke and cash to jumpstart the economy of a small country, and then he has the balls to get a job in law enforcement not once but two times, he spends a couple days riding around with you while you’re looking for him, and now he’s run off with a hooker that’s half his age. That’s some badass shit.

The thing is, the Marshals may not be the only ones trying to get to safety. When Wynn Duffy hears that the Marshals have Drew, he immediately prepares to run to Canada, which his extraordinarily uninformed henchman calls, “running like a little bitch.” The Crowders have been placed in a similar position. Theo may see them as having failed him and want them taken out both as a consolation prize and a small distraction until he can get to Drew. The Crowders and the Marshals now have a common enemy scarier than both of them put together. I foresee a temporary alliance so they can all escape with their lives. But that’s next week.

The major focal point of last week’s episode, “The Hatchet Tour,” as well as my discussion of it was the way Harlan’s past influences its present. We can see the way each and every Harlanite allows their fate to be determined by the actions of their parents and grandparents. That theme continued in “Get Drew.”

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Justified 4.09: The Hatchet Tour

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.


The season’s big mystery has officially been solved. The answer to the question of Drew Thompson’s identity has been answered: It’s Sheriff Shelby Parlow, hiding in plain sight this whole time. At first I was a little disappointed in this discovery. In part because I hoped all those hints last week were red herrings. It seemed silly to devote one episode to the audience figuring things out and another to having the characters do it. I felt like the writers were just serving up more delays to stretch out a storyline that really isn’t big enough to command a whole season, because it’s the best they could come up with. We know who Thompson is, all that’s left is to cuff him, and they’re going to drag out that out for four more episodes? I felt cheated.

Then, something occurred to me which put it all in perspective. This season wasn’t actually about figuring out who Drew Thompson was. Not really. As I’ve mentioned, one of the big themes has been Raylan’s preparing for fatherhood and Arlo’s influence on just what kind of Dad he’ll be. What I didn’t put together until this week, however, was how that was actually a smaller part of another, greater theme, perhaps the season’s most significant. And that’s how the history of Harlan, its people and their ancestors, impacts its future. The Arlo/Raylan/fatherhood idea is just a smaller piece of that greater puzzle.

The biggest sign pointing us in the direction of this idea was Raylan’s recollection of an old feud between the Givens and another Harlan clan. The way Raylan remembers it, Arlo got pinched for assault after he beat the crap out of a man named Johnson McClaren because his dog was shitting on their lawn. The thing escalated, the Givens are gearing up to go after the McClarens and calling on their allies, the Crowders, to go after the Sorensens, who were kin to the McClarens. That is, until Raylan’s mother Frances called a meeting for all the clans to get together and hash it out. Frances, who Raylan says had some French blood in her, once told her son that the term “hash it out” comes from the french word “hatchet,” like an axe, to “cut through the bullshit.”

Only, that old story didn’t really go down the way Raylan thinks it did, as Shelby points out. In truth, “the dog was incidental,” and Johnson McClaren had “verbally assaulted” his mother, making “implications around town as to her proclivities,” and pushed it too far. That’s when Arlo “saw fit to shove a pound of dog shit down his mouth.” But Frances “took the high road, called a truce, although she had every right to be affronted. Your daddy was protecting her honor.” Raylan looks at Shelby with a look of disbelief, saying “Arlo did that?” It goes against everything he believes his father to have been.

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Justified 4.08: Outlaw

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.


I criticized last week’s episode of Justified because it didn’t seem to bring us much closer to solving the season’s big mystery. It gave Raylan an unrelated one (alright, two) off storyline while Boyd inched towards finding Drew Thompson. Well, “Outlaw,” appears to be the writers’ forcing a collective foot in my mouth. It all but came out and said that the hard-working and dedicated Sheriff of Harlan County, Shelby Parlow, is in fact the man we’ve been looking for all along. And there he was, right under our noses.

For those that didn’t catch the hints, they came mostly during Shelby’s conversation with Ellen May about reinventing one’s self, starting over. He came home to find her digging through his ex-wife’s things, namely a necklace depicting St. Christopher, “patron saint of travelers, sailors, pilots, and bachelors.” Pilots, folks. Ellen May also happened to be wearing that ex-wife’s clothes, and remarked that they made her feel like a different person while also reminding her who she truly is. Shelby’s response? “Must’ve been a year after I first joined the sheriff’s department that I could put on my uniform without feeling like I was wearing a costume.” Now who would feel more like a fraud in a police uniform than an ex-criminal? He also says that “if you pretend to be something long enough, it’s not pretending.” In other words, at this point, he really is Shelby Parlow.

Only there’s a reason they did all that without coming out and saying it. And maybe that’s because the writers just want us to think that Shelby is Drew, just so they can pull the rug out from under us later on. Nobody greeted Shelby by saying “Hello, Drew.” I’m sure there will be a scene like that next week, whether or not it’ll be Shelby standing there when the camera flips around and fades to black remains to be seen. A couple things are holding me back from being positive Shelby’s our man. First of all, his would-be ex-wife, Eve Munro, tells Raylan she hasn’t seen Drew in 30 years, while Shelby tells Ellen May his wife left him 25 years ago. Secondly, look at all these people working so hard to protect Drew from being found out: They’re giving up deals to be moved to cushy prisons, not to mention risking (and often losing) their lives. At this point, if Shelby is Drew, what kind of power does he hold that people are willing to do so much for him? It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s the last remaining piece of the puzzle.

Yet despite what I said last week about the downsides of the show dragging its feet with the main storyline, with all the other stuff that happened this week, the theoretical revelation of Drew Thompson’s identity almost seems like a sidenote. Because “Outlaw” gave us some great stuff.First of all, someone died. Not just some meaningless character who arrived on screen just in time to leave it, which is the style of most of the deaths in Justified. No, this was a real, major character: Arlo Givens. One of this season’s big themes has been Raylan’s preparations for fatherhood. Of course, Raylan’s relationship with his own father plays a large part in what he believes it means to be a father. If nothing else, Raylan’s got one play in his book: do the opposite of what Arlo did. But in spite of what a mean son-of-a-bitch Arlo was, fathers and sons are fathers and sons, so our badass marshal actually shed a tear! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Justified 4.07: Money Trap

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.


During the first scene of “Money Trap,” Art tells Raylan he doesn’t have high hopes about the Marshals finding Drew Thompson. What he may as well have said was that he doesn’t have high hopes they’ll find him for another another five or six episodes. When a show builds a season around a mystery, the audience knows damn well it won’t be solved until the end of the season. What separates good shows that follow this formula from bad ones is whether the audience remains entertained by the characters’ various adventures as they inch closer to their final goal as well as intrigued by each ensuing thickening of the overarching plot. As I discussed last week, Justified’s rich dialogue and colorful characters generally ensure the former is taken care of. But I have to admit the idea that saying they’re “inching” towards solving the mystery is a bit of an overstatement. “Money Trap” didn’t seem to bring us much closer to finding Drew Thompson, and the longer it takes the less inclined I am to give a damn.

Neither Boyd nor Raylan made much headway in the hunt for Drew Thompson this week. In the aforementioned opening scene, Art tells Raylan that their only leads are Arlo and former Harlan County Sheriff Hunter Moseley, both of whom happen to reside in a local penitentiary. Isn’t that convenient? Raylan is none too eager to visit his father, so when a local cop informs him his old pal Jody Adair (Chris Chalk) is on the loose, he’s happy to take a turn down distraction avenue. Raylan even admits it, saying some people “do as much as they can to avoid [their fathers].” He’s never met the woman he says it to (Adair’s ex-wife’s house sitter), yet even she immediately understands the implication, replying, “you just showed your cards.”

You’ll recall the fugitive Jody Adair as the subject of the season premiere’s crime-of-the-week plotline. This week we found out he murdered bail-bondsman Sharon Edmunds and her associate after a filmmaker friend named Kenneth (Michael Gladis) helped him escape their custody. Things happen as they often do in Justified: Raylan saves girl from criminal, criminal escapes by jumping out a window, Raylan finds criminal, Raylan shoots criminal, Raylan gets laid. It’s entertaining, but in the end that’s really all that can be said in its defense. It has exactly zero relation to the Drew Thompson mystery. Still, if you’re going to have a major character’s subplot amount to nothing but distraction, it might as well be an entertaining distraction.

It’s only at the very end of the episode, after the criminals are dead and the sex has been had, that Raylan finally gets around to visiting Arlo. He does exactly what Art suggested to him, stuffing a file to make it look like the Marshals have a lot more evidence on Drew than they do. But Arlo tells Raylan to shove it, even after finding out the “son he never had,” Boyd, has been employed by Theo Tonin to search for Drew. The last thing Raylan wants to do is delay Arlo’s execution, which is only days away, but he’s forced to play the only card he’s got: offering his daddy a deal. The Marshals know Drew’s alive and that he’s in Harlan, so they’re willing to commute Arlo’s sentence to life imprisonment and move him to a “country club jail” if he’ll just point them in the right direction. Arlo’s got no interest in that either, so Raylan leaves. But not before saying he’s “gonna be glad when [he] hears the news” that Arlo’s been executed. Even still Arlo appears unconcerned. The episode ends with him walking down the prison halls with a look on his face that could be construed as a smile. Men like Arlo are never happy to die, so he’s sure to have another trick up his sleeve.

Meanwhile, Boyd and Ava attended a swingers party at the home of another former sheriff of Harlan County, Tillman Napier. While the undertaking was ostensibly related to the main plot—they were going to “pull them old horndogs off their women, find their history in Harlan, and see which one of them could be Drew,” as Ava put it—in truth, they took distraction avenue the whole way to the swanky neighborhood of Clover Hill.

Boyd doesn’t get any closer to finding Drew this week than Raylan. He thinks there’s a chance that two or three of the rich folk at Napier’s party might be Thompson. But in the end all he’s really left with is a few more trails to sniff. The more important development of the night is Boyd finding out he’s not as high on the criminal foodchain as he likes to think. A few of the other men at the party “ask” him to kill a man named Frank Browning, and react with near disbelief when Boyd inquires as to what he’d get in return. “I think you’re missing the point,” one man responds, “your daddy got the point. Crowders do what we say.” Another interjects, “Let me be crystal clear: Kill Frank Browning or we’ll destroy you.” Men like Boyd and Arlo don’t take kindly to threats. The fact is Boyd would likely have killed the man with a smile on his face, for the right price, but being told to do one thing might just make him inclined to do another. The problem is Boyd’s got a whole lot of enemies right now, some that he isn’t even aware of yet, it might not be in his best interest to make any new ones, especially among such powerful men.

One last thing: the jig is up for Colton. Johnny finds out from Teri that Colton’s been “tweaking” and it was him who put the beating on her, not to mention that he never killed Ellen May. Teri doesn’t need to say much before Johnny’s able to put things together. Perhaps he’s smarter than we give him credit for, and much more of a danger to Boyd than we think.

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