Oh, what a vicious web the spiders that are the creators of Justified are weaving for us this season. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen next, you’re wrong, and what actually does happen is even better.
Episode 3, “Harlan Roulette,” opens with our favorite butcher, Ellstin Limehouse, cooking up a little barbecued pork while Ava pops in for a visit. We learn from their conversation that Ava sometimes escaped her abusive husband, Bowman, by hiding out in Noble’s Holler and that Limehouse is aware she shot and killed said husband – and her only regret is that he bled all over the baked ham she’d cooked for dinner. Ava’s not there to swap recipes, though. She’s the go-between to introduce Limehouse to Boyd Crowder.
The dialogue on Justified is (IMO) the best on TV right now and the meeting between Boyd and Limehouse is one example. They park at opposite ends of the only bridge into Noble’s Holler, a bridge we’ve already seen plenty of people die on, and meet in the middle, watched over by men with guns and trigger-happy fingers just waiting for someone to twitch the wrong way. For now, lucky for us, no one twitches. (Yet.) Boyd lets it be known that he’s aware Limehouse is holding money that belonged to Mags Bennett; without admitting anything, Limehouse basically asks how that is any business of Boyd’s. Boyd’s response is that since Mags is dead, the money belongs to Limehouse to do with as he chooses. But Limehouse is an honorable villain in his way and according to him, “Some agreements transcend the grave.” Boyd casually mentions that if Dickie Bennett were dead (and intimates he’d be the one to have that done), he and Limehouse would be free to split the money.
Tsk tsk tsk, Boyd. Limehouse is disappointed. He thought Boyd might need some help with his weed problem – the weed Boyd had ordered destroyed after it was left to rot and mold in the plastic trash bags in which it had been stored wet. The weed Boyd doesn’t know they still have. Devil may have taken a cast iron skillet to the head from Ava after arguing with her about Boyd’s jailhouse order, but now he takes a hard right hook from Boyd himself. I’m thinking the next time Boyd gives an order, Devil should just say, “Yes, sir.”
Raylan, meanwhile, is having a discussion with Winona about bathrooms with double sinks and separate commode areas (because it sounds better than calling it “the crapper”) when his phone rings – Wade Messer has been sighted and a roadblock is being set up to capture him.
At the roadblock, a state trooper tells Raylan that Messer is suspected of being part of a gang of armed robbers responsible for at least 12 thefts. Raylan doesn’t think that sounds like Messer, even though the last time we saw him, he was tying Raylan to a tree so Dickie could get in a little batting practice. Trapped in the traffic jam caused by the roadblock, Messer spots Raylan’s cowboy hat and suggests to JT, the driver, that now might be a good time to get out of there. JT promptly runs the truck off the road, and it lands on its side in a ravine. Messer escapes, but JT’s day just took a turn for the worse.
With that threat hanging in the air, the next shot puts us in a pawn shop where we see the owner, Glen Fogle, haggling with a customer who wants to sell a 12-piece wrench set – Pawn Stars, this isn’t. When Messer slinks in, we know Fogle is one of the bad guys.
Back at the roadblock, Raylan and a local State Trooper, Tom Bergen, discuss the unsuccessful search for Messer. The truck, it turns out, has license plates that have been captured repeatedly on toll booth cameras from Harlan to Frankfurt, Kentucky (which is an interesting trick since there are no toll roads between Harlan and Frankfurt. But we’ll just let that go… ) and the police have uncovered a plan that gives addicts lists of items to steal which they can then sell to the pawn shop in return for money or pills.
“These boots aren’t made for running.”
“And yet chasing fugitives is a marshall’s primary function.”
“It’s ironic, isn’t it?”
In the meantime, JT has been bailed out of jail by Wally, another henchmen of Fogle, and suddenly, Justified morphs into The Deer Hunter. Hopefully, even those of you who are too young to have seen this movie when it hit theaters in 1978 have found an occasion to see it since then. There is something viscerally terrifying about watching someone being forced to play Russian Roulette and this scene is no different. Fogle’s version, which he calls Harlan Roulette, is even more twisted. Angry at JT’s arrest, he hands the addict a pistol and tells him to pull the trigger. If he survives, Fogle will give him a tablet of Oxy. If he doesn’t survive, Fogle will toss a pill into his casket. When JT pulls the trigger on an empty chamber, Fogle tells him to do it again. Fogle’s twisted joke is that the gun is actually empty – until, in front of JT, Messer, and Wally, Fogle loads the weapon with one bullet and fires it at JT. When nothing happens, Fogle laughs and says it must be JT’s lucky day and then he fires again and again until the gun reaches the loaded chamber and JT ends up on the floor in a pool of own blood.
Limehouse sends some of his boys with a big truck and a slim packet containing $5,000 for the marijuana he’s taking off of Boyd’s hands. Devil is still not a happy man at having to sell the moldy herb for less than top dollar. He’s also not happy with Boyd in general. There’s a bit of a power struggle happening here; Boyd recognizes it and lets Devil and Arlo in on his plans to become the Crime Boss of Harlan County, from the inside out. No more acting as the middle man between the Dixie Mafia in Frankfurt and the pill mills in Miami. Boyd has big dreams, to control every illegal activity that goes on: “…protection, pills, robbing and gambling.“ That’s what passes for a business plan in Harlan County, y’all.
Finally, we get another taste of Quarles, who is explaining to Win Duffy how the medical clinic pills-for-cash scam is going to work in Harlan. Fly-by-night clinics will be set up in rental properties. Addicts will see doctors at the clinics, get their prescriptions for the illegal medications filled at the same clinics, but will only receive half of the prescription. The other half will be funneled back to Detroit to be resold at a higher markup to the users there. If there’s any hassle or trouble from local police, the clinic can be shut down and reopened elsewhere.
Quarles is a psychopath and Neal McDonough captures perfectly his sinister ability to chat with his son about a little league hockey game one moment and in the next, close the door behind him to a room where a man lies stretched out on a bed gagged, his feet and hands bound tightly. I don’t know what Quarles did to that poor guy once the door was closed, but I’m guessing it wasn’t pleasant.
While Quarles is explaining how false clinics work, Duffy gets a call from Fogle. Raylan has popped in, asking for Messer, and his suspicions about Fogle’s criminal activities are roused by the pawn shop owner’s attitude toward Raylan and his questions. He leaves, but not without a not-so-veiled promise to come back after he’s had a deeper look into the pawn shop’s supply chain. Quarles instructs Duffy to have Fogle kill Raylan, figuring that either (i) Fogle will succeed, thus taking out Raylan, or (ii) Raylan will kill Fogle, which will get rid of a weak link in their own chain.
Boyd, Devil and Arlo take the first steps into reclaiming what belongs to the Crowder family by taking back a bar previously owned by Boyd’s cousin Johnny, who sold it for nothing when he was in the hospital recovering from the shot that paralyzed him. Boyd wants that bar back. Boyd takes that bar back. The power struggle mentioned earlier is obvious here in a conversation between Devil and Boyd. Devil wants to know that Boyd is all in, as it were, that he’s not going to find Jesus and go straight again.
I just want to know which Boyd Crowder I’m being asked to follow?
Well, what if I told you I was the man who recruited you in that church? But then I also told you I was the man who got shot…who found God… who betrayed his father. That I was the man who killed men, had gotten a whole bunch of men killed. See, Devil, I can’t discard my past anymore than I can these tattoos.
That is Boyd Crowder. He’s ‘all of the above’ and a great foil for Raylan, especially given their similar upbringing.
Fogle gives the task of killing Raylan to Messer and you just know immediately that’s not happening. Messer finds Raylan waiting for him at his house; unbeknownst to Messer, Raylan has already been inside and found the gun that Messer intended to kill him with. He arrests Messer and has him phone Fogle and lie about being shot so that Fogle will pick him up and take him to the hospital. Fogle doesn’t quite buy the story but heads out with Wally, both of them armed, to pick him up.
And of course, when Fogle arrives, Raylan is waiting for him. Once he knows his only chance to survive is to share everything he knows, Fogle offers to give up the goods on Win Duffy. Raylan is willing to hear what Fogle has to say about Duffy, but Wally isn’t so happy to hear Fogle working a deal and comes out of hiding to tell Raylan about the men Fogle has had killed. The two men, Wally and Fogle, threaten each other with Raylan trying to get them both to throw down their weapons, but instead, the two crooks have their own version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral and both end up dead.
Raylan, though, is pissed off and a pissed-off Raylan is a thing of beauty. He hunts down Win Duffy in the motor home that Duffy uses as an office. Quarles happens to be with Duffy at that moment, armed as usual with the sliding gun hidden beneath his sleeve but when Raylan busts in, he pretends to be unarmed and lets Raylan get a few good licks in on Duffy. This is the first time Quarles and Raylan have met and it’s obvious our favorite US Marshall doesn’t know exactly who this slick guy in the slick suit actually is. He tosses a bullet down on Duffy, telling him “The next one’s coming faster,“ (which was just an awesome line). When Quarles asks him, “How fast you think those bullets will be when they’re headed back at you?” Raylan responds by pointing his phone at Quarles and taking a photo – which Quarles poses for with a broad creepy smile.
I’m just guessing, but I’d say there’s a bowl of shit about to hit the Harlan County fan any minute now.