I had guessed it right when the camera lingered on Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) reading John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men in the previous episode that the book would make a reappearance. As “Help Wanted” began, I was puzzled for a moment though. . . was Longmire leading a book club consisting of a motley crew in the sheriff’s office? It certainly seemed like that when he asked the group what they thought of the novel, the ending in particular. Turns out they are interviewees to fill the late Branch Connolly’s position, and Longmire was feeling them out, so to speak. The Ferg (Adam Bartley) quietly asks Vic (Katee Sackhoff) who she thinks will get the job. Still smarting from the interim deputy being let go, she snarks, “He’ll hire someone who doesn’t threaten him.”
In the middle of the interview, two robberies happen back-to-back in Absaroka County. The first is at Greg Collette’s (Brendan Fehr) house (from Season 2's “Carcasses”), where an intruder has stolen his wife Brandi’s engagement ring. Longmire finds out that Brandi, a former soldier with PTSD, killed herself. The second robbery is at a pharmaceutical distributor, where a security guard named Lee McKinnon (John Bobek) describes the thieves as a professional-looking outfit that he’d engaged in a brief gun battle.
The guard, still grimacing in pain, has the best line in the episode, telling Longmire who’s eyeing the boxes stacked of meds, “If you see any painkillers, you can grab me some.” Longmire asks if he’d stitched the wound himself and the guard says no, one of the intruders had done it. Peculiar, for sure. In a later scene on the shooting range with the job candidates, I had to chuckle when Longmire tells them he hopes they never have to use their weapon on the job. I’m thinking, are you kidding, shooting's like an everyday event for this ‘quiet’ little town!
Longmire and The Ferg sense a connection between the two cases, and will use several of the job candidates to come up with some scenarios. Vic informs Longmire that the stolen boxes contained Zoloft, Children’s Advil, and pseudoephedrine—used by meth cooks. Attention turns to two young drug dealers who are on probation, as the M.O. is all too familiar from Season 2’s episode “The Party’s Over.” When Vic finds a loaded gun in their house, Longmire says he’ll call the probation officer if he doesn't believe the answers they give him. They cough up some sparse info, including how much the drugs would sell for on the street, but shrug off being involved, claiming that’s redneck territory.
Longmire goes to the local VA hospital to question a psychiatrist, Dr. Donna Sue Monahan (Ally Walker), who’d refused to give Brandi Collette drugs without a proper diagnosis. The doctor fumes over not having enough resources or medicine to treat her patients. She accidentally knocks over some packs of Zoloft that look like they could be pilfered from the distributor. Now that would make sense: a Robin Hood stealing drugs who stops to patch up a wounded guard.
Later, Vic is nursing a beer at the Red Pony on her downtime. She hesitates before calling Deputy Eamonn O’Neill (Josh Cooke), only to have a woman answer his cell number. She can’t seem to win for losing when it comes to men. “Don’t do it, Moretti,” I said to the screen as she walked over to the resident loser and rebuffed job candidate, Travis Murphy (Derek Phillips), with an extra beer in hand. In an amusing moment with Longmire, when he asks her to give an opinion about the potential recruits, she declines, saying, “I haven’t been the best judge of character lately.”
Like the other standalone mysteries in this season, there were a number of suspects—love the way this show tosses out red herrings as carefreely as Johnny sows apple seeds—and though I guessed a piece of the ending, it didn’t detract from a first-rate adventure written by Tony Tost. But elevating this one above the first four, exceptional episodes of the season were the dual endings that packed an emotional high. First, when one of the thieves has a gun trained on the back of Longmire who's on his knees, we are offered the sheriff’s moving evaluation of what George killing Lennie in Of Mice and Men means to him personally—once again, writing, acting, and direction came together here in a big way. Then, we move on to the story’s coda, as Longmire finally selects a candidate, Zachary (Barry Sloane) that, contrary to what Vic said, appears to be someone who will challenge Longmire on multiple levels.
Top-notch is an overstated review cliché, but that’s exactly what “Help Wanted” is. . . tops. One of the best in the show's four season history.
Read all of Edward A. Grainger's posts for Criminal Element.