After last week’s exploration of the disaster that is Raylan’s love-life, this week’s episode of Justified focused on the strongest aspects of the show: the specificity of the setting (Harlan County and its unique customs are as important to Justified as Baltimore was to The Wire); the parade of marvelous secondary characters (many of whom I recognized from Deadwood); and best of all, Raylan and Boyd Crowder’s undeniable onscreen chemistry as friends, enemies and occasionally uneasy allies.
“Kin” opens immediately in the aftermath of Ellen May’s disappearance from Colton’s Murder Wagon. Colton questions the gas station clerk, asking if he can watch their videotapes. The clerk, who is a lot braver than I’d be, reaches for the gun he keeps hidden under the counter. Instead of a shootout, though, Colton, who has a functioning brain under all that hair, pulls out his old Military Police ID and tells the clerk that Ellen May is a deserter that he’s taking back to Fort Knox. As Colton rewinds the gas station video, I take a moment to chuckle at the thought of Ellen May being in the military in any capacity. The videotapes reveal that Ellen May’s disappearance coincided with the arrival of a sheriff’s car at the gas station. Hmmmm! Can you say “state’s witness?” Because I think Colton can!
Raylan waits for Winona at the doctor’s office. She’s quite pregnant, and tells Raylan that she feels great. Raylan evidently knows nothing at all about the stages of fetal development and hasn’t been to any of Winona’s other appointments. Raylan sweetly and misguidedly attempts to impress Winona with his qualifications for fatherhood: he tells her about the money he’s earned on the side for the baby (which, of course, is now invested in chickens) and about how he’s involved in the biggest case in his career. Neither of those things is probably as important to Winona as having someone with her to look at the ultrasounds at her OB/GYN.
Sure enough, Raylan gets a call from Rachel at the office telling him to get in as soon as he can. We cut to Arlo, shuffling into the conference room in chains. He’s followed by boxes and boxes of files, and the very unhappy FBI agent Barkley, the very same man who investigated Raylan for corruption last year. He’s not happy about having the Drew Thompson case taken away from the FBI, but ASA Vazquez (whom I love!) reminds Barkley that the corrupt FBI agent’s suicide a couple of episodes ago taints the FBI’s involvement with the case. As Liz Lemon would say, suck it, Agent Barkley!
During this confrontation, Arlo, who seems completely lucid, chows down while his lawyer keeps asking him for “the name” (presumably Drew Thompson’s alias).
Raylan walks into the entire mess to hear that it’s getting messier. ASA Vazquez is planning to make a deal with Arlo: if Arlo gives up Drew Thompson (whose testimony will bring down Theo Tonin), he will walk out of prison a free man, despite the fact that he killed a cop last season. Raylan is deeply unhappy because he hates Arlo and because Arlo will get off scot-free for murdering Trooper Tom, who was as close as Raylan gets to a friend these days. Raylan asks how long it will take to finalize the deal with Arlo; when Vazquez tells him that it will be at least 24 hours before the details are ironed out, Raylan decides to go to Harlan County and find Drew Thompson before Arlo can shimmy out of his orange jumpsuit and chains.
At Wynn Duffy’s trailer, Wynn is being frisked in advance of the arrival of someone who’s allergic to cats. With him is Agent Barkley! I knew it!! I knew he was a crook. OK, I didn’t know this at all or even guess but I love that his constant accusations of Raylan being a bent cop were just to cover up the fact that Barkley is as bent as a jammed staple himself.
Wynn’s visitor turns out to be Nick Augustine, one of Theo Tonin’s henchmen, who apparently grew up with Agent Barkley. They reminisce as Wynn looks on, bored. Finally, Nick gets down to business, telling Barkley and Wynn that Theo Tonin wants Drew Thompson very, very badly. It seems Drew shot Theo in the eye back in Panama and then stole $2 million worth of cocaine from him. But “what really hurts is that he shot him in the eye.”
Wynn Duffy volunteers to broker some kind of agreement with the Crowders and Arlo Givens, and Barkley, reluctant to give up his cash cow, says that, for $250K, he will find and kill Thompson. However, it turns out that Theo wants Thompson alive (presumably for some nasty eye-shooting payback). Barkley says that’s impossible; once Thompson is in custody, he can’t check him out “like a library book.” Heh! Nick, who’s seemed quite charming until this point, tells Barkley that he’s well aware the FBI is off the case, and that Tonin has other FBI agents on his payroll. (Really? I know there are rogue FBI agents like the guys who covered for Whitey Bulger, but it seems a bit much for so many of them to be on the take!) Then he shoots Barkley through the forehead, splattering Wynn with blood and other stuff. Hilariously (in a totally macabre way), Wynn has absolutely no reaction to the murder of the guy. Nick asks for Wynn’s help in finding Drew Thompson and Wynn replies “no problem.”
Meanwhile, Colton pays a visit to Sheriff Shelby, insisting that one of the sheriff’s deputies picked up Ellen May, but there’s no record of her presence at the sheriff’s department. Hmmmm! There is definitely more to Shelby than meets the eye!
At the Crowder bar/criminal lair, Boyd walks in just ahead of Wynn Duffy. Johnny immediately starts acting squirrelly, clearly worried that Boyd will learn about his treachery. A knock at the door turns out to be Colton, who faces a barrage of questions about Ellen May’s final moments, including her purported last words. As we learned earlier in this episode, Colton is quite an accomplished liar, though Boyd is a lot smarter than the gas station clerk, and I’m not entirely sure he believes Colton. Still, he has other, bigger, Wynn-Duffy-shaped things to worry about at the moment and settles for telling Colton “next time I reach out to you, I don’t care if it’s a smiley face, you text me back.” (I love the idea of Colt and Boyd texting each other with emoticons!) Then Boyd orders Colton to stand by the bar and look mean in preparation for Wynn’s arrival.
Boyd and Wynn retire to Boyd’s office, leaving Johnny to stew in the cold sweat of fear that Wynn will betray Johnny’s betrayal to Boyd. Boyd reminds Wynn that last time they met, Wynn didn’t believe Boyd was trustworthy, which leads to a discussion of glasnost and perestroika. (Next week, we find out that Wynn Duffy was a secret Soviet mole… No, sorry, that’s a different FX show, isn’t it?)
In Harlan County, Raylan pulls up behind Constable Bob’s car. Constable Bob has the thieving teenaged girl from the first episode of the season in his car. Although she’s still defiant, she finally admits that her stepfather, Josiah Cairn, was guy who sent her and her boyfriend to make a giant hole in the wall of Arlo’s house.
Josiah is an old acquaintance of Raylan’s and he’s wearing an ankle bracelet because of his past as a con artist. When Raylan asks about Drew Thompson, Josiah feigns ignorance until Raylan handcuffs him to his car and makes Josiah run alongside. Finally, exhausted by running while handcuffed and bent over, Josiah spills the beans: when Drew jumped from his plane, he broke both legs, and had to make a deal with Bo Crowder and Arlo Givens. In exchange for the $2 million of cocaine he stole from Theo Tonin, Drew was given asylum with the hill people, whom I’m anticipating will resemble the mountain clans on Game of Thrones.
Raylan drives up to rendezvous with people who have a reputation for cannibalism, but he’s not entirely cavalier with his safety. Tim meets him about halfway up the mountain; in case of Raylan’s failure to return, Raylan asks Tim to wait until nightfall to call Art, the cavalry, the Rangers and/or the 101st Airborne. Tim wishes he’d brought his book with him. (I sympathize! There is nothing worse than an hours-long wait without a book.) Raylan asks whether Tim isn’t a little old to be reading about a Native American princess who controls invisible forest animals, and Tim says he was a little young to be shooting at the Taliban, so it all evens out. I’m honestly in awe of how the writers of this show managed to invest such a brief exchange with such poignant character development for a secondary character. (Also, I love Tim.)
At “Audrey’s” brothel, Lady Ava MacBoyd packs up Ellen May’s things so the other girls continue to believe their former colleague is in Alabama and not at the bottom of a slurry pit. Johnny’s girl announces Johnny’s arrival, and then Johnny unsubtly pumps Ava for information about Wynn Duffy’s plans for Boyd. Granted, Ava is preoccupied at the moment, but really, Johnny couldn’t be more obviously shifty if he tried.
Raylan has found Shagga, son of Dolf, and the rest of the Hill People. Or rather, they have found him. Despite his protestations that he comes in peace, the Hill People seem determined to make him leave in pieces, putting a sack over Raylan’s head and shoving him into a bunker, where Boyd has preceded him.
Scenes with Boyd and Raylan are always among the highlights of the show and this one doesn’t disappoint. They discuss “honor amongst dumbass thieves” (consensus: there is none) and then Raylan asks: “Arlo takes the fall for you, and this is how you repay him?” To this, Boyd expounds his existential philosophy, telling Raylan that the “whole world’s a tree. I’m just a squirrel trying to get a nut.” Boyd, squirrels are just rats with furry tails!
Down the mountain, as Tim waits for Raylan, Colton drives up, probably somewhat to Tim’s relief since he doesn’t have to be alone with his thoughts anymore.
Raylan tries to talk up his kinship with the Hill People, by showing them a photo of his mother with her cousin Mary. The Hill People are not impressed, shooting through the door and then dragging Boyd out by the leg. Boyd gets beaten up but manages to overpower his assailant, as Raylan gets the better of the other guard, Daniel. To no avail, because the remainder of the Hill People come in and inform Raylan that Daniel, who fell on his head when he was little, isn’t allowed to carry a gun that actually works. I’m glad someone is worried about gun safety around here! Daniel picks up the photo of Raylan’s mother and her cousin.
Raylan keeps trying to bring up his kinship with the Hill People, who have a complicated oral exam that they administer to outsiders before they kill them. Raylan and Boyd both fail the exam, and it looks like both of them are about to die, though they do get a nature hike before their executions. As they walk through quite a lovely landscape, Raylan threatens the Hill People with his Marshal friends, and Boyd offers them money, but neither fear nor greed sways the Hill People from their murderous intent.
The future looks bleak for our two frenemies, until Daniel arrives with Raylan’s kin, Mary, who studies the photograph and notices that Raylan has the look of his mother, Frances. She must have been quite a beauty because Raylan luckily doesn’t resemble Arlo at all! Mary doesn’t want her kin, Raylan, killed, but has no qualms about the imminent demise of Boyd. Reluctantly, Raylan steps up in turn to say that he can’t turn a blind eye to the Hill People killing Boyd, so Mary finally concedes that “the most expedient path is to let them both go.”
She also provides Raylan with information about Drew Thompson’s current whereabouts. It seems that he’s now hiding in plain sight, and even in a position of some importance. Could Sheriff Shelby be Drew Thompson? That would be both interesting and a way to have him stay alive. (Maybe?)
Raylan knowing that Boyd is his rival in the race to find Drew Thompson, tricks Boyd into a handshake and handcuffs him to a tree. Ha! Although Raylan didn’t find Boyd’s references to Deliverance funny, he is quite amused by the sight of Boyd attached to a tree. “I’ve come to a conclusion,” Boyd says. “I don’t like you, Raylan.” Oh Boyd, you’re not fooling me! You know Raylan is your BFF!
Meanwhile, Tim and Colton continue their impromptu American Legion meeting. Colton says that Kentucky is a lot like Afghanistan, “bunch of clans led by guys with beards running around shooting at each other all the time.” Heh! Tim tries to recruit Colton to the Marshals’ Service, which has a fast-track for veterans. Colton starts laughing, because his resume includes murder for hire.
At this point, Raylan returns, telling Colton that Boyd is up the trail a mile or so, but that Colton is going to need a saw. I’m not as smart as Raylan because I only just realized that not only was it personally satisfying for Raylan to wipe the smirk off Boyd’s face, he’s also managed to handicap Boyd’s pursuit of Drew Thompson for the time it takes to saw off Boyd’s handcuffs.
Or maybe not, because the next scene is Boyd telling Wynn that he’ll have Drew within a week. Unlike Agent Bradley, apparently Boyd only wanted $20,000 to find Drew, although now he ups the ante, saying that he now wants half the heroin business in the state of Kentucky. “We have a deal,” Wynn tells Boyd, much to the chagrin of Johnny Crowder, who has overheard this conversation. “I thought we had a deal,” Johnny says. Wynn tells him that once Boyd finds Drew, Johnny is free to kill Boyd. Somehow, I don’t think this is going to go well for Johnny.
At Shelby’s house, Colton is back asking about Ellen May. Shelby makes up a perfectly convincing story about how his deputy saw Ellen May climb into an 18-wheeler with Tennessee plates, and Colton reminds Shelby not to bother Boyd with anything about Ellen May. Well, well—it looks like both of Boyd’s main deputies are thoroughly unreliable! Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, Boyd.
Ellen May is, of course, hiding out in Shelby’s house. Shelby tells her that no one is going to hurt her, and asks for help in bringing down Boyd Crowder.
Meanwhile, Boyd has a consultation with Arlo’s lawyer, whom he pays. She points out that she can’t break the confidentiality of her conversations with Arlo, because she fears being caught. Boyd hands her a stack of cash to shut down the Feds’ deal with Arlo. I love that Boyd and Raylan are unwittingly working toward the same goal of life imprisonment for Arlo Givens.
Raylan returns to Josiah’s house to have words with the guy who sent him into a trap. He notices Josiah’s ankle bracelet winking on the ground and then follows a trail of blood to an amputated foot. “Well, my goodness!” Raylan says, a display of savoir faire second only to Wynn Duffy’s priceless expression as Barkley was killed and with that, we fade out to the credits.
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current TV shows, and a hopeless romantic.