Justified Episode 4.11: “Decoy”

Drew / Shelby

Last night, “Justified” served up several classic Western tropes in a clever, modernized disguise and made a strong case for being the best-written show currently airing on TV. “Decoy” worked both as a suspenseful heist/caper story and as a character-driven episode that deepened the relationships between Raylan and Boyd, Colton and Tim, and the late Arlo and Shelby/Drew. We also learned that people underestimate Constable Bob at their peril and that Art is the most awesome Marshal who ever drew breath.

We open with Nicky Augustine’s helicopter hovering overhead, and my question about why Art didn’t call for a chopper of his own is answered—Lexington Air Ops is sending a helicopter to pick up the Marshals and Drew. It’s unclear, though, whether it will arrive before the Detroit baddies do.

Speaking of baddies, Wynn Duffy’s abrupt departure has left Boyd holding the empty Panamian diplomatic bag, as it were, for the failure to deliver Drew to Nicky Augustine. Nicky remarks on Boyd’s above-average dentistry before Nicky’s henchman Yolo punches Boyd till one of Boyd’s perfect teeth falls out. Nicky indulges in an elaborate metaphor involving the sacrifice of Isaac; the gist of it is that Theo Tonin is God and he wants Drew, and Boyd needs to deliver him.

Boyd explains that the key to finding Drew Thompson is Raylan Givens, and that he, Boyd, is key to finding Raylan Givens.

Boyd and Nicky Augustine

At the Givens house in Harlan, the Marshals guard Drew. Art gets a phone call saying that it will be 45 minutes before the helicopter arrives for Drew; Raylan knows they can’t wait that long because the Detroit mobsters will surely come after them.

Boyd guesses that there’s only one way out of Harlan, a particular pass where the mobsters can hit the Marshals’ convoy and get Drew. Boyd says they only need one man and a shooter, so Colt and Mort go to head off the Marshals at the pass. (That wa a lot of fun to type, by the way!)

The convoy of Marshals shows up exactly where Boyd predicted. Tim notices three abandoned cars on the side of the road and stops the convoy, telling Art that that they may be IEDs or he may be having a PTSD episode. “You get those often?” Art asks him. “Only when I’m handling firearms in public.” I love Marshal Tim.

The convoy was actually a decoy, because Raylan, Drew and Rachel are still waiting at the Givens house. Raylan is told that the helicopter just took off from Lexington, while Drew says he wants to take a shower so he’ll look good when he dies. After Rachel and Raylan tell Drew that he won’t die today, Drew reminisces over the first time he met Arlo in Saigon during the Vietnam War when Arlo was reading a Zane Grey Western in front of a whorehouse trying to find the name of the guy who slipped him LSD.

Unfortunately, Drew’s reminiscences are cut short by another phone call from Art saying that it’s time for Plan B to get Drew out of Harlan.

Tim’s instincts were superb because Colt and Mort and a sniper rifle are waiting in the woods near the convoy. Tim phones Colt and they have the most brilliant phone conversation about a book Tim is supposedly writing about a military convoy worrying about an ambush. I wish I could reproduce the conversation in its entirety, but I can only say that the highlight of the whole thing was Colt wanting a young Gerard Depardieu to play him in the movie. After he hangs up, Colt tells Mort that he should start shooting but avoid the drivers and the tires of the car so that the Marshals will move.

Tim forestalls Colt by “circling the wagons.” Colt gets on the phone to Boyd, saying that this convoy is a decoy and Drew hasn’t left Harlan.

BoydNicky Augustine presses Boyd for a solution, especially after he learns that the police helicopter left Lexington ten minutes earlier. Nicky orders Yolo to go to the Givens house, even though Boyd insists that Raylan won’t be there any more.

As always, Boyd knows the way Raylan thinks. He’s moved Rachel and Drew to his now-abandoned high school. Drew remarks that he went straight from high school to Vietnam, and talks about his days as a pilot. Raylan is fed up with Drew at this point, saying that he’s led a fascinating life and “it’s a wonder you keep straight what’s real and what’s horseshit.” Drew needles Raylan about having been under his nose as Shelby all this time, and although I think it’s partly that Raylan’s frustrated at not having realized the obvious earlier, I also think Raylan is coming to terms with the impact Drew’s cocaine had on Harlan and on the Givens house specifically.

Rachel is also not having any of Drew’s folksy charm, reminding him that he murdered Waldo. She refuses to buy into Drew’s justification that he took no pleasure in Waldo’s death.

Raylan gets a phone call from Constable Bob, who’s at the Givens house because his motion detectors have gone off, a wonderful callback to the beginning of this season when Bob discovered the would-be theft of the bag with Waldo Truth’s license. Raylan tells Bob to hide, but it’s too late because Yolo has arrived.

Yolo calls Nicky Augustine saying that a guy “calling himself a constable” is solo at the Givens house; the constable’s phone shows that he just made a call to Raylan. Nicky tells him to find out where the police helicopter is going to land.

Boyd points out that there are a thousand places in Harlan County where a helicopter could land. Then he uses his high grades in Raylanology, remembering that when Raylan and Boyd were in high school an astronaut landed in a helicopter on the roof of the school. Boyd tells Nicky that he’ll bring back Drew Thompson if Nicky will loan him Picker, another of his mobster friends.

Meanwhile, Tim, in his guise as a sniper, fires at the gas tank of one of the cars by the roadside, releasing a small stream of gasoline.

Constable Bob is being horribly beaten by Yolo, whose name means “you only live once.” Just for that, I’d like his one life to end soon. Constable Bob is hilariously and surprisingly tough, even with horrible streams of blood coming out of his nose. He answers Yolo’s questions with puns like “Drewmomma” and “Drewbacca” and finally “Drewsitania.” (I question the last one myself!) Yolo gets a little too close to our punning friend, and Bob pulls the knife he had in his belt slashes Yolo’s femoral artery. (Raylan’s going to have to clean the place up before he sells it!) Yolo and Bob wrestle and a shot is fired just as Raylan pulls up.

Art calls Raylan to warn him that other Detroit baddies are headed towards the Givens place, so Raylan and Bob hurry back to the school, where Rachel is checking her watch. Drew tells her she doesn’t need a watch to tell time in Harlan, because the whistle of the coal train happens at the same time every day. Raylan and Bob come in and Drew asks what happened to Bob, Raylan says “what happened is Bob’s a tough son of a bitch.” Stay frosty, Bob!

With only three officers of the law and an unknown number of baddies en route, Raylan realizes that they have to retreat somewhere. Drew suggests that Raylan arm him too; Raylan refuses, reminding Drew that he’s one of the criminals.

Art tells Tim that they need to move so they can back up Raylan. Tim responds by making a Molotov cocktail. (Did I mention I love Marshal Tim?) Art remarks that “I haven’t seen one of those since that Guns N’ Roses concert in 1989,” cementing my belief that Art has the best lines on this or any other show ever. 

At the high school, Boyd and Picker come cautiously up the stairs. Raylan and Boyd reminisce, trying to recollect the name of the astronaut who visited their school. Boyd tells Raylan to save everyone a lot of trouble by just handing Drew Thompson over to “these … I won’t say nice … but people.” Ha!

Raylan says that “I ain’t handing over anyone or generally speaking doing anything either of you say.” If Picker and Boyd come any further up the stairs, they’re going to have a bad afternoon. Raylan says they should come back with a few more guys; he’ll wait for them upstairs.

“As long as you’re inviting people, make it a party,” Boyd tells Picker. Oh dear! Raylan tells Bob that he’s bought them about five minutes. They really need Tim, Art and the other Marshals and cops to get there soon!

Tim tries to light the Molotov cocktail, grumbling that no one has a Zippo and everyone uses their car lighters as phone-chargers. “No one smokes?” Art asks disbelievingly. “This is Kentucky, not Sausalito. What’s wrong with you people?” (It’s the lines AND the delivery!) Tim eventually lights the Molotov cocktail by sparking some wires. After a short, but tense, moment of confusion over who will throw it, Art finally flings it at the car whose gas tank Tim shot out earlier. A couple of seconds later, the car explodes.

On the sidelines, Colt watches the burning car, and tells Mort that Drew is right there among the crowd of LEOs. Mort can’t see him, so Colt takes the rifle away and looks through the sight himself. “You’re right,” he tells Mort, before he shoots the guy.

Ava CrowderAt the Crowder bar, Nicky Augustine, Johnny and Ava hang out. The situation is awkward, to say the least, especially after Nicky interrupts Ava’s attempt at small talk over a cigarette and a drink by asking how many dicks she had to suck to reach her position as Queen of Harlan. Then he asks Ava to show him her tits, and Johnny, who’s been visibly uncomfortable the whole time, practically begs Nicky to stop talking.

Instead, Nicky spills the beans on Johnny’s betrayal of Boyd. Ava asks Johnny for a brandy instead of her earlier drink, and walks over to join Nicky at his table. “Guys don’t have to suck dicks to get what they want,” Nicky tells her. “They just need to betray someone.” Ava asks whether Nicky wants a blowjob, and then gets close enough to throw her brandy in his face while flicking the lighter right by his eyes. Ava is awesome! She grabs Nicky’s gun and slowly backs away, while Johnny points his own gun at Ava but doesn’t shoot. Instead, Johnny pleads with her, saying “Ava, I love you!” as the excuse for his betrayal. “That’s sweet,” Ava tells him as she backs out the door.

Johnny CrowderNicky’s remarkably sanguine for a guy who almost had his face burned off. “OK, I see what you like about her,” he tells Johnny.

Boyd and the other Detroit guys arrive at the school, where Raylan’s group waits behind the door of the principal’s office. Picker orders Boyd through the door first, which understandably makes Boyd a little nervous. After some back and forth between Boyd and Raylan, Raylan finally says that Drew isn’t there and invites the Detroit guys to come in and check.

When the mobsters come in, they realize that Raylan was telling the truth; Drew and Rachel are both gone. The sound of sirens interrupts any further cat-and-mouse games, and Raylan warns them that they could kill Raylan and Bob, in which case “everyone loses” or they can be on their way before Raylan’s backup arrives.

The Marshals arrive and Raylan tells them that Bob realized there’s more than two ways to get out of Harlan. We cut away to Rachel and Drew in the cab of the coal train.

Check out our other coverage of Justified on Criminal Element!

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.

Read all posts by Regina Thorne for Criminal Element.


  1. Mary Saputo

    Okay, first of all, THIS is the one I saw last night. Hallelujah that I don’t have to wait until next week to comment. Doesn’t it seem to all of you that Nicky is much better looking with hair? Course, that was when he played a nice guy. Must be written somewhere that if you want to play a bad guy, you need to shave your head. But let’s now talk about the silver tongue of Boyd Crowder. Probably no one else would be able to talk themselves out of such a bad situation except for Boyd. How’d he do that? And as for Ava? She’s all Harlan County woman. As for Johnny, methinks he’s not long for this world, once Boyd finds out what he’s done. Did it also seem to you that Boyd was hesitant on taking out the big buns on Raylan? I think he’d be lost if something happened to Raylan. It’s like he’s the Evil Twin to Raylan’s Good Twin counterpart. I’m not quite sure Raylan would feel the same. To take a page from Regina Thorn’s book – did I mention I love this show?

  2. Bill Shunn

    Remember the Lusitania.

  3. Clare 2e

    Fantastic episode, and also: People underestimate Constable Bob at their peril.

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