Oh, Justified, how much do I love you? So much that even when I spend most of an episode thinking, “Huh?” I usually end up staring at the TV in shock and awe. Well played, sirs. Well played.
“Cut Ties,” the second episode of Season 3, begins with Raylan being woken by a realtor showing Winona’s house (IMO, no one since Marlon Brando has made a white sleeveless t-shirt look as good as Timothy Olyphant does). He and Winona are sleeping in her house because of her “delicate condition” and his flophouse of a rented room. Unlike me, the writers seem to still like Winona and give them a bit of witty dialogue poking fun at the fact that she cheated on Raylan with a realtor (!!) when they were married but she swears she’ll never again cheat with someone of that profession because “a person spends enough time lying for a living, it gets to the point the only thing he doesn’t mean is what he’s actually saying.” Click! goes the light bulb as Raylan realizes that Boyd Crowder has played him like a fiddle.
Not to say I-told-you-so, but I totally told you that Boyd planned that fight with Raylan to get himself put in jail with Dickie Bennett and, lo and behold, here’s Boyd palming a shiv (shank? my prison lingo is a little rusty) [Shiv. “Shank” is a verb, “shiv” is a noun. You’re welcome. Never ask me why I know that. ~PoM] as he heads toward Dickie, only to be interrupted by a guard calling his name. Boyd has a visitor. Who is this visitor whose appearance is so fortuitously timed? It can only be Raylan and the conversation which follows, boys and girls, is why I love Raylan and Boyd so fucking much:
RAYLAN: What do you make of a man who divorces a woman, then gets her pregnant, then wonders if maybe they should move in together?
BOYD: Well, now, Raylan, you’re talking to a man who’s sleeping with his dead brother’s widow and murderess, so if you’re looking for someone to cast stones at you on this matter, I think you picked the wrong sinner.
Raylan has managed to arrange for Boyd’s release the next morning and has Dickie thrown into solitary confinement in the meantime (ostensibly as punishment for possessing contraband but in reality for his own protection). Boyd, however, really (really! really!) wants to get his hands on Dickie, so much so that, with the aid of a helpfully corrupt guard, he interrupts a group of African-American prisoners lifting weights in the exercise yard and deliberately strips down to show off his skinhead-themed tattoos. Predictably, the next time we see Boyd he’s had the shit beaten out of him and is getting himself tossed into solitary confinement – and right into the cell next to Dickie. When Boyd Crowder commits himself to a line of pursuit, people, he commits himself.
As it turns out, Boyd doesn’t want to kill Dickie – he’s after the money mommy Mags stashed away. With the point of something sharp and silvery digging into his jugular, Dickie confesses that Mags did leave a cache behind and that it’s held by someone named Ellstin Limehouse. Ellstin Limehouse. You’ll want to remember that name.
Back at the offices of the U.S. Marshals in Lexington, we’re introduced to Bill Nichols, another marshal who (we find out later) is in charge of all of the witnesses in federal protection in Kentucky. He and Art are waxing nostalgic about their early days with the U.S. Marshals and their favorite men-with-stars (including Bass Reeves, whom I had to Google. You should, too. His story is worth it.). With a casual comparison of himself with Raylan, Art lets us know he wasn’t always a desk jockey, that he has a rough-n-tumble past at least as colorful as Raylan’s. Okay, Art”¦ you have my attention.
The plot involving Nichols and his stable of hidden witnesses was a bit hard to follow as the pieces were laid out. He first visits a young mother named Mary Archer, who is in hiding before she testifies on some guy with a druglord-ish sounding name and upon leaving her is followed by a slimy piece of work named Terry Poe. When Nichols catches Poe in the act of spying on him, Poe brings him down by shooting him twice in the legs. The marshal’s day just got a lot worse.
The next day, Nichols’ body is found in a pasture at a horse farm (there are a few of those around Lexington) and given the sensitivity of the cases his witnesses were involved in, a new Assistant Director is assigned. Enter Karen Sisco – except that this is FX, not ABC, so she’s not Karen Sisco, she’s Karen Goodall – except that *winkwinknudgenudge* she is Karen Sisco, right down to the wicked way she has with the baton she carries around and her history in Miami. It’s immediately obvious she and Raylan have “a history” and the chemistry between Carla Gugino and Timothy Olyphant is even more obvious – in one episode, Karen Goodall is more interesting than Winona is after two seasons.
She and Raylan head off to interview a Boston crime lord named Little Joe (definitely NOT Michael Landon), whose father was sent to prison as a result of testimony from the same slimy guy (Poe) we most recently saw shooting Bill Nichols. Little Joe is in Lexington because Poe wants to make amends and come back into the Little Joe Family Fold, which he plans on funding by selling information on the other witnesses being protected by Bill Nichols and turning that money over to Little Joe.
Not knowing that Poe is the reason Bill Nichols is dead, Art is with the slimeball in case he needs protection but has his suspicions aroused by Poe’s behavior and confirmed by a phone call from Raylan after Little Joe fills him and Karen in on Poe’s plot. The long and winding road from Nichols to Poe to Little Joe back to Poe was a bit confusing to follow but absolutely worth it once we got it all figured out because it also led us to the moment which will hereafter be referred to as Art Goes Old Testament. Remember when Art oh-so-casually compared himself with Raylan? Well, this is why. After telling Poe, “You have the right to remain silent”¦ as long as you can stand the pain,” he practices a little police brutality on Poe. He gets the information he needs from Poe and he doesn’t feel bad about it – much. There’s a wealth of meaning in a little scene near the end of the episode where Raylan asks Art if he’s okay – the prodigal child offering support to the father pushed beyond his usual boundaries.
Poe gives up the information that he traded the whereabouts of Mary Archer and her children for the cash intended to buy his way back into Little Joe’s good graces. Rachel has been guarding Archer y la familia, hiding them in the pull-down attic when the two thuggish henchmen show up to kill them. Art, Raylan and Karen arrive in time to take out one of the hired killers but it is Rachel herself who, when the other guy’s head pops up from the attic ladder, gets off one clean shot to his head. Dearest Rachel, I ain’t gonna lie – you scare the hell out of me. You are one calm, cold killer – all in the name of justice, of course.
Witnesses protected and bad guys dead, all that remains is paperwork to be filled out when they all get back to headquarters. While that is being done Winona appears, fraught with worry over Raylan. They share a PDA moment (deliberately orchestrated by Raylan, I’m sure) witnessed by Karen Sis”¦Goodall (the reason for said deliberation by Raylan). Again, I’m not a fan of Winona. Again, the chemistry between Karen and Raylan was off the charts immediately. Again, I hope we see a lot more of Carla Gugino (and less of Winona). *fingers crossed*
But protected witnesses, dead bad guys and finished paperwork aside, we are not done with this week’s episode. Oh, no. We have one more little gift of a scene to open.
Ellstin Limehouse is a butcher. We know that because he’s surrounded by gutted hogs hanging from hooks in his smokehouse and he ties on one of those shiny rubber aprons when he slings a carcass down on a work table before taking his knife to it. While he’s cutting into the meat, he delivers one of the most chilling warnings I’ve heard since Chalky White talked about his daddy building bookcases. This scene is all the more powerful since it’s delivered by Mykelti Williamson in simple, plain words made terrifying by their very casualness. If I were the young man who had the misfortune to fall asleep on guard duty, I’m not sure I’d be able to sleep again – ever. Lest we forget, this is the man holding on to the money Boyd Crowder wants to get his hands on. Shit just got real, folks.
Did you see this episode? What was your reaction? What did you think of the addition of Karen Goodall? Ellstin Limehouse? Do you have a favorite scene?