Let’s do a little math, Justified-style. Raylan + cowboy hat + Ava + shotgun + Boyd Crowder + preaching … Add all of that up and what do you get? One practically perfect Justified episode.
We begin with Raylan coming home to his new apartment above the bar. Compared to his old apartment this one is… well, it’s bigger and obviously has more than just one room. Otherwise, it’s just another run-down, dingy shithole of an apartment. Raylan is obviously exhausted, having just escaped a day in which many of his past misdeeds came back to haunt him. He opens the paper bag containing the gun Winona found in her house and hides it beneath the radiator cover.
Arriving at work the next morning, he’s called into Art’s office to explain an anonymous tip that came in for him about a missing Lexington street hustler. Raylan explains that the hustler was last seen with Quarles, who has a nasty habit of beating up men in that profession. Art lays down the law and tells Raylan that unless he has something he can prove against Quarles right then, the vendetta against Quarles is over.
In a van parked on a street corner, Delroy has supplied three of his hookers (including Ella Mae) with the coke they’re busy snorting as a way to get them all pumped up for the job he wants them to do, which turns out to be robbing a check cashing business. That will end well, right? Three coked-up hookers with rifles holding up a business known to have large sums of cash on the premises? If you guessed, “No it won’t,” you win. Gunshots ring out and the next thing we see are two of the hookers dragging the wounded and bleeding third girl between them back to the van. During the holdup, one of the customers grabbed for a gun, and in the ensuing melee, Crystal killed one man and shot another before she herself was wounded. Ella Mae and JJ are hysterical and become even more so when Crystal dies. Delroy just manages to quiet them by offering more Oxy. He drives out of town and finds a slurry pond where they can dump Crystal’s body, and after she is disposed off, he shoots JJ. Ella Mae manages to escape through the woods.
Sometime the next day, Raylan is sitting at a bar having a drink or four when Ava walks in, and he’s just tipsy enough to greet her with a nice, wet kiss. Lucky Ava. They discuss the bartender’s age-inappropriate wardrobe before the conversation veers to Raylan warning Ava about Boyd. Yes, Raylan, Ava knows what Boyd really is. Question is, do you know what Ava really is?
Moving on, Ava tells Raylan that Boyd can help him get to Quarles, so our favorite US Marshal takes a little trip to the prison cell Boyd currently calls home. The two of them do what they do so well – Boyd confesses to killing Devil without actually confessing, Raylan sees right through Boyd’s eloquent bullshit – and then Boyd gives Raylan what he wants, which is information on Tanner. Boyd calls up Art and plays a bit of verbal poker by pretending his information on Tanner came from Tom Berger, his state trooper buddy, and when that same state trooper buddy pulls up beside him, makes that lie legitimate by having the trooper tell him what he knows about Tanner.
About this time, Quarles pays a visit to Limehouse, who has called the Detroit man there to discuss the campaign for sheriff. Quarles thinks the election of his bought-and-paid for Sheriff Napier is a done deal, but Limehouse instructs him on the error of his ways before leaving so Quarles can meet the campaign manager he didn’t know he needed.
Ava is getting Johnny’s bar ready for the day’s opening when someone comes banging on the locked door, refusing to leave. When she opens it there stands Ella Mae, bloodstained and panicked.
Having proven to Art that Tanner is a fugitive and thus worthy of pursuit by a US Marshal, Raylan makes his first stop the home of Tanner’s mother. This lady
used to be a Munchkin in Oz is thrilled to see Raylan because her TV is on the fritz and she wants Raylan to fix it. However crazy she might be, though, she’s not interested in Raylan’s, “I want to find Tanner for his own good” line and throws him out of her house.
Back in Noble’s Holler, Quarles is being forced to listen to a detailed description of what it takes to win an election in Harlan County. Quarles isn’t interested in how the election is going to be bought, he just wants it done. Tanner, meanwhile, shows up to deliver a report to Limehouse, sees Quarles and hides behind a big smoker until the coast is clear. While he’s hiding, his mother calls to tell him Raylan was there looking for him. Erroll bears this bad news to Limehouse, who instructs him to go with Tanner to make sure that before Tanner does a bunk, there are no loose ends that can point back to Limehouse and Noble’s Holler.
Sheriff Napier is rehearsing his victory speech when Raylan interrupts him. He introduces the big burly guy standing behind him as an ATF agent who has examined the sheriff’s blown up car and concluded that Tanner helped Boyd Crowder to plant the bomb under it. Since Napier knows that Boyd didn’t have anything to do with the bomb but also knows that he has orders from Quarles to keep Boyd in jail and out of commission, he denies any thought of there being another bomber and swears it’s all on Boyd and declares the case closed. Raylan makes sure Napier knows he’s going to be looking for Tanner before he and the ATF agent leave…..except the ATF agent is really just a truck driver Raylan paid to wear one of his own bullet-proof vests in another one of Raylan’s brilliantly executed schemes.
Back at Johnny’s bar, Johnny himself is not happy when Ava tells him about Ella Mae showing up there on the run from Delroy. In between not-so-subtly hitting on Ava (is he nuts? Boyd will kick his balls into his throat!), he explains that since Delroy pays protection money to Boyd, they are going to have to give the hooker back to him and if Delroy ends up killing her, well that’s just how it goes. Ava calls Delroy and tells him that she has Ella Mae and if he wants her back, he has to pay Ava’s “finder’s fee” of $2,000.
Tanner and Erroll pay a visit to the man who sold Tanner the bomb he used under Napier’s car. On cue, Napier himself phones Tanner and offers to pay him the money he earned for setting the bomb, money Napier had heretofore refused to pay. He suggests meeting on some dirt road somewhere and when Napier gets in his car to drive there, Raylan is waiting and follows him.
Tanner is clueless about Napier’s plans to get rid of him and is busy demanding the bomb-maker give him a refund. When you make bombs for a living, you don’t get to be old by being stupid and the old man looks unsurprised at Tanner switching sides. He takes both of them inside his garage and points Tanner toward a small bag on top of a cabinet. When Tanner steps on a footstool so he can reach the bag, he arms the Bouncing Betty booby trap the old man had set up for just such an occasion. The old man tells Tanner that he will disarm the bomb if both Tanner and Erroll give him their weapons. Otherwise, Tanner is a dead man because with any movement, the bomb will go off. Erroll’s response is to kill the old man, leaving Tanner stranded on the bomb. He takes the bag of cash and promises Tanner that Limehouse will make sure his mother is taken care of for the rest of her life.
Unaware that Raylan is following him and that Tanner is standing on a landmine, Sheriff Napier drives to the secluded spot where he’d set up their meeting. From the shovel he pulls out of his trunk, it’s obvious how Napier expects his meeting with Tanner to end. Raylan’s phone rings while he’s watching Napier; it’s State Trooper Tom telling him that Tanner called the police himself, hoping to be rescued. Raylan heads off to the bomb maker’s garage…after making sure Napier realizes he’s been figured out.
Ava wakes up Ella Mae, gives her a shot of whiskey and ties her wrists together before leading the terrified girl out to face Delroy. Confident now that Ava isn’t trying to pull one over on him, Delroy lowers his own gun, passes over the bag with the $2,000 in it and reaches for Ella Mae. Instead, he’s met with a blast from Ava’s shotgun and falls to the floor, dead. (When Johnny was ordering her to return Ella Mae to Delroy regardless of what the pimp would do to her, he might should have remembered that Ava was an abused wife and that when she finally had enough of being Bowman’s punching bag, she shot him while he was eating supper. Expecting Ava to just hand over Ella Mae wasn’t very smart of him.)
The bomb squad is already at the old bomb maker’s house when Raylan gets there. While the bomb tech has a closer look at the explosive, Raylan tries to question Tanner about Quarles and his organization and about the murder of Gary Hawkins. Before Tanner can tell him anything useful, he drops the gun he’s holding which causes a weight change which causes the bomb to arm itself. The bomb tech forces Raylan away from the house and behind a row of police vehicles and within a few seconds, the bomb explodes. Bye, Tanner. Unfortunately, he never answered any of Raylan’s questions.
At the VFW, Sheriff Napier and Shelby are having their public debate before the election for sheriff. Quarles’ campaign manager is running the show and everything is moving in Napier’s favor until Boyd Crowder shows up with something to say. Let me tell you, my friends, when Boyd Crowder has something to say, it’s a thing of beauty. With the cadence of the pulpit in his words, he turns the debate on its head and the audience against Napier in about two minutes.
Boyd isn’t given much time to celebrate his mastery of public debate before Ava pulls him into a back room at the bar and tells him that she killed Delroy, cleaned up the mess it made in the bar (including 10-year old stains) and dumped his body down a mine shaft. Boyd tries to explain that Delroy was under their protection but Ava cuts him off. Being under their protection, she states, doesn’t mean he can bring his trouble to their front door. She also admits she did it for Ella Mae, and plays on Boyd’s sympathy by pointing out how terrified the prostitute had been. Boyd takes in what she’s told him and what she’s done and tells her that if she felt she needed to take those actions then he respects her for it. Ava, however, has one more bomb to drop: with Delroy out of the picture, she wants to take over running the whores.
In the dark of night, Erroll goes to visit Tanner’s mother. As he had promised Tanner, he passes her the bag of cash he’d taken from the bomb maker’s garage and tells her that if she ever needs anything to just give him a call. What Erroll doesn’t know is that Raylan has paid a call on Mrs. Dodd, too, and at that moment he’s sitting on her couch having just hooked up her new TV. With Erroll’s visit, Raylan now knows there’s a connection between Quarles and Limehouse.
The only thing left for Raylan to do is go see Limehouse, which he does. Limehouse denies knowledge of Quarles and rebuffs Raylan’s suggestion that the BBQ man stand on Raylan’s side because he’s going to either put Quarles in prison or in the ground. Raylan tells Limehouse that Noble’s Holler will become a battleground but Limehouse shrugs off the threat. For someone that wants to back the winning side, it sure feels like Limehouse just picked the wrong team.