Justified: “Watching the Detectives” in the Frame

Raylan learns of Gary’s death
Gary’s dead and Raylan’s in trouble. As usual.
I’ve been watching Justified set its chess pieces on the board for most of season 3; finally, in this week’s episode, we got to see the brilliant middle game that’s playing out between Robert Quarles, Boyd Crowder, Ellstin Limehouse and Raylan Givens. In fact, “Watching the Detectives” was so good that I had to exercise enormous restraint not to fast forward to the end just to reassure myself that things turned out (relatively) OK for Raylan.

“Watching the Detectives” was a tale of two frame-ups, both orchestrated by Quarles against his enemies. In the first, Quarles murdered Winona’s ex-husband, Gary Hawkins and used Raylan’s extravagant (and silly) gesture of dropping a bullet on Wynn Duffy earlier in the season to frame him for the crime. (Although I did love that the younger Lexington detective turned out to be a Raylan fanboy – and I also loved that Raylan admitted he’d gotten the entire idea from Johnny Carson.)

Robert Quarles
He of the creepy smile, Robert Quarles.
As the olive in the frame-up martini, Quarles also got Sammy Tonin to convince the FBI that Raylan was a dirty cop, working for Boyd Crowder, in a move that ultimately backfired. First of all, although Art and Tim might believe that Raylan would kill Gary in a fit of anger because Gary put out a hit on Winona, they know him well enough to know he’d never be in Boyd Crowder’s pocket. I suspect that that extra bit of “evidence” (not to mention the nerdy aggressiveness of FBI agent Barkley, which immediately put up both Art and Tim’s hackles) is part of what predisposed them to believe Raylan didn’t kill Gary. Secondly, there is someone dirty on the FBI force who’s in the pocket of Quarles’s Detroit boss; the entire failed operation against Raylan led this FBI mole to suggest that the Tonins know that it would be wisest to sever contact with Quarles, depriving him of the Tonins’ money and connections.

Moreover, the FBI story reintroduced us to AUSA Vazquez from season 1 (and his muttered imprecations about the Speedo-wearing freak of a judge.) One of my favorite aspects of “Justified” is the way that minor characters from the past pop up from time to time; of course it makes sense that we’d still see the same AUSA and federal judges, and they provide nice little callbacks to long-time fans of the show. I always got the impression that Vazquez is really good at his job, and sometimes his job involves being a hard-ass with Raylan, but it’s never personal, the way it seems to be with Agent Barkley.

The second frame-up orchestrated by Quarles was a lot more successful; Boyd Crowder is in jail, accused of dynamiting the car of Harlan County’s corrupt sheriff, although it was actually the sheriff who paid Quarles’s deputy Tanner (now in the doghouse for the oxy clinic debacle) to do the dynamiting. For some reason, I got it into my head that Tanner had been sent to Harlan to kill Boyd’s candidate for sheriff and I was preemptively upset at the demise of the awesome Ellsworth from “Deadwood” so it was a relief to learn that Quarles only intended to frame Boyd instead.

This episode also sounded the death-knell of Winona and Raylan’s relationship, as Winona learned that Raylan kept the knowledge of Gary’s murderous duplicity from her and was furious at him for hiding the truth. (At the least, if Raylan had told her that she had been independently targeted for assassination by her then-husband, she wouldn’t be able to blame all the life-threatening moments she’s experienced solely on Raylan’s job.) But alas, I must confess that I’ve done a 180 on Winona lately. It’s not that I think she doesn’t deserve Raylan (or that Raylan doesn’t deserve her), it’s that I can see that they’re just fundamentally incompatible personalities, no matter how much love and sexual attraction they have for each other.

At least she came through for Raylan (and provided us with some great dialogue):

Winona: “I found the gun.”
Raylan: “You touch it?”
Winona: “What am I, an asshole?”

Tim Gutterson
OK, Raylan’s a jerk, but he’s *our* jerk!
“Watching the Detectives” was also the tale of two angry men—Quarles and Raylan—which revealed some fundamental differences between them. Art’s belief in Raylan’s essential honesty, Tim’s willingness to help Raylan once Raylan stopped treating him like an errand boy and more like an equal, and Winona’s knowledge—circumstantial evidence to the contrary—that Raylan didn’t have it in him to cold-bloodedly murder Gary and leave him on her front-lawn were all critical to Raylan’s escaping the trap Quarles laid for him. The relationships Raylan built with others were what saved him.

In contrast, by the end of the episode, Quarles had burned all his old bridges—the Tonins are done with him (the more so because he threatened Sammy Tonin with a gun) so he can no longer rely on the money and muscle from Detroit.

Quarles’s local network in Kentucky is also fraying: Wynn Duffy, after having to clean up the bloodstained mess in Quarles’s house and after a marvelous and hilarious conversation with Raylan, is experiencing some serious doubts about whether to remain aboard the S.S. Quarles. Duffy is not a nice guy, but he seems still to have some connection with rationality, which Quarles, who’s driving around popping pills and listening to apocalyptic ravings on the radio, has largely severed. (Tellingly, he doesn’t take a call from home, whereas earlier, when he was in control of the situation in Kentucky, he regularly spoke to his son.) Lower down on the food-chain, Tanner isn’t particularly bright and now, unbeknownst to Quarles, has his own private arrangement with Limehouse. And speaking of Limehouse, Quarles’s newest ally has already shown that his number priority is Ellstin Limehouse, having already betrayed Dickie Bennett and Boyd Crowder. If Robert Quarles weren’t such a terrifying psycho, I’d almost feel sorry for the “big-toothed, albino-looking sonofab***ch.”

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.


  1. Carmen Pinzon

    The thought of this episode caused me some anxiety. I finally caught up with it yesterday and really enjoyed it, though I’m still confused as as to where it’s all heading. I do miss Boyd and Ava. Not enough of them this season for my taste.

  2. Regina Thorne

    It was such a great episode, wasn’t it? I really think it was the best of the season, although all the things that happened in earlier episodes were necessary to set up the events of this episode. I usually DVR the episodes but let the commercials play because I take notes for the recaps during the commercials but this episode was much to intense for me to do that.

    I think Boyd’s a character who needs to be used sparingly, though I suspect that, as the previous two seasons have ended with Boyd saving Raylan’s life, perhaps this one will end with Raylan saving Boyd?

  3. Financetoknow

    with the story told from the point of view of literature’s most notorious

  4. Tech lavish

    The latest episode of Justified opens with Limehouse

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