On this week’s episode of Justified, “Guy Walks Into a Bar,” we learn that elections in Harlan County aren’t decided until the nepotism claims are settled. We also learn that Raylan and Robert Quarles have a lot in common. They’re both smart, angry, violent men, and both of them were the victims of terrible fathers, although the late Papa Quarles was an even lower level of pondscum than wife-beating alcoholic Arlo Givens.
The episode opens with another salvo in the dirty-tricks campaign for Harlan County Sheriff as Team Napier tries to frame Shelby for drug possession. Thanks to how awesome Shelby is, the situation is defused without bloodshed. I can’t decide if Shelby was lying to the crooked deputies about having liver cancer or if he was lying to Boyd about not having liver cancer. I guess we’ll find out next season.
Boyd, of course, can’t let this go without hitting back. He uses Limehouse to track down Napier’s sister, Hanna. Like Ms. Napier, I assumed the worst, some sort of terrifying Boyd-orchestrated revenge against this poor woman, but instead Boyd offers her a job.
Alas, despite Boyd’s brilliant speech last week and the promise of free blowjobs by Ava’s girls to all Shelby voters (a tactic that Shelby appeared to find somewhat discomfiting), Napier wins the election outright.
Meanwhile, Raylan is scrambling to keep Dickie Bennett in jail. In fact, Dickie is threatening to sue the Kentucky prison system. Because Jed, the eyewitness to his shooting of Raylan’s Aunt Helen, recanted his testimony under pressure from his grandmother last season, they can’t keep Dickie locked up without new evidence of his crimes.
Raylan tries to get Jed to tell the truth, but apparently the debt his family owes the Bennetts has survived Mags’s demise; Jed tells Raylan that if his granny approves, he’ll tell the truth about Dickie.
Unfortunately, Jed’s granny has had a stroke, so she can no longer speak. But she’s no slouch at communicating with her eyes and an alphabet board. She tricks Raylan into bringing her two milkshakes but she has no intention of reneging on her debt to Mags; she just wants a milkshake (and an extra one to dump in Raylan’s lap). First Mama Dodd, now Jed’s granny—Raylan’s considerable charms seem entirely wasted on the over-50 females of Harlan County.
My sarcastic Latino boyfriend, AUSA Vasquez, tells Raylan that the only way to keep Dickie in jail in the absence of new evidence (such as Jed’s testimony) is for Raylan to stand up and tell the judge about how Dickie got the drop on him and tried to kill him. Apparently, Raylan hates to testify. He also probably hates to mention who it was exactly who rescued him from Dickie Bennett.
And speaking of Boyd Crowder, he proves, yet again, how bright he is. Napier and Quarles are in the Sheriff’s office, celebrating Napier’s victory. By celebrating, I mean that Quarles is plotting to literally shove Napier aside (he tells Napier to move his things to a closet down the hall because Quarles will be installed in the Sheriff’s own office.) This plan strikes me as weirdly brazen even for Quarles, who is no shy violet. Even if it’s clear that the elections are rigged, will the people of Harlan really accept that the puppetmaster is taking center stage away from his puppet?
Quarles is studying his maps of Harlan County, trying to figure out the best places for his oxy empire, when the county clerk arrives to pull the carpet out from under the carpetbagger’s feet. It turns out that the job Boyd offered Napier’s sister Hanna was in the county clerk’s office, meaning that, thanks to Kentucky’s nepotism laws, Napier can’t hold elected office. So Shelby is now sheriff, at least until they can hold another election, which won’t be for a few months.
I spent the entire scene holding my breath, wondering who Quarles would shoot, but in a truly herculean display of self-control, all he does is crumple the map in his hand. As he walks out of the sheriff’s office, Boyd taunts him, telling him to pack his bags and go back home.
Quarles returns to the only home he has left: Wynn Duffy’s trailer. (Just typing that sentence makes me a little sad, actually!) He’s crunching Oxy tablets, to Wynn’s dismay. (Apparently Wynn and I have watched “Scarface”, because we know that when the drug bosses start partaking of their own product, things end badly for them.)
A young man with a gun interrupts this tête-à-tête. Donovan has come to avenge the disappearance (and presumably death) of his friend, Brady Hughes, the poor unfortunate whose final moments were painted over by Wynn Duffy. Quarles talks himself and Duffy out of this situation, sharing the horrific tale of how Robert Quarles came to be who he is today. It seems Quarles’s father was an addict who pimped his own son out for drug money until Theo Tonin intervened and made Quarles kill his father. It’s clear that for Quarles, Theo Tonin was his real father, which makes him doubly an orphan now, since the Tonins have cut him off.
Although I’m not terribly fond of the trope that malevolence such as Quarles displays must always have a childhood psychological trauma behind it, Neal McDonough was riveting in this scene. Like Wynn Duffy, I was fascinated, repulsed and even moved by Quarles in this scene (at least until he started talking about how he set Brady Hughes “free” and I remembered he’d kept him handcuffed to his bed). Donovan buys this tale, and he and Quarles, both sobbing, hug it out. Wynn Duffy looks on, having decisively ceded the crown of Psychopathic Villain-in-Chief of Lexington to Quarles.
Raylan is hanging out in the bar below his apartment, working on his testimony against Dickie Bennett. The bartender, Lindsay, banters with Raylan and offers to help him with his testimony. Their promising flirtation is interrupted by the arrival of Quarles and Duffy, who keeps trying to distance himself from the Quarles brand of crazy.
Quarles makes a very derivative threat about how someday, when Raylan least expects it, he’ll put a bullet in the back of Raylan’s head. Raylan, who’s probably heard this sort of thing a million times before, is unimpressed and challenges Quarles to a drawdown right then and there. The macho posturing is interrupted by Lindsay and her shotgun, and my estimation of her goes way, way up. Maybe that was the problem with Winona; unlike Aunt Helen, Ava or Lindsay, she never got to wield a shotgun.
Raylan and Lindsay have an adrenalin-fueled night of passion (interrupted by Lindsay’s finding a copy of the sonogram picture of Raylan’s upcoming offspring) and Raylan looks a bit worse for wear as he arrives to give his testimony against Dickie.
According to Art, all Raylan has to do is speak in English, and Vasquez and the judge will make sure Dickie stays in his orange jumpsuit for the foreseeable future. It’s a simple proposal but of course, Raylan goes seriously off-script. (Before I talk about that though, I simply must mention Dickie’s hair, which gave a stunning performance of its own while Dickie pleaded his case. It’s a sort of mohawk/mullet combination with the consistency of horsehair and it’s amazing.)
Raylan tells the judge to let Dickie go because sooner rather than later Dickie (and his glorious hair!) will commit some other crime that leads to his arrest. Meanwhile, what Raylan doesn’t mention to the judge is that Dickie might lead the marshals to Mags’s money.
Or, in another win-win situation, Dickie might get killed by either Boyd or Ava for shooting Ava, or by Limehouse because he doesn’t want Dickie to know he stole Mags’s money. Why does Dickie want to leave the safety of prison?
Speaking of Limehouse, there he is, bestriding the hog pen like a Colossus, all the while speaking in metaphors about butchering things and ordering Errol to bring Dickie to him as soon as he turns up in Noble’s Holler. I still think Limehouse is playing a long game, but we need to see him do something scary pretty soon, because the Limehouse of lye baths is starting to fade from my memory.
There is no doubt in my mind that Quarles is scary, though. The episode closes with a Quarles monologue before he strips down and walks into his bathroom, where a terrified Donovan is bound and gagged, waiting to be “set free” just like his friend.
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.
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