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Tuesday, 2 of March of 2021

Justified – “Where’s Waldo?”

“I thought we were a circle.”

Justified TitlecardThis week on the Justified roundtable, it’s more on the bag in the wall as season-long mystery and a case-of-the-week instigator, whether or not Raylan could cut it as a exotic dancer, and how much we all love Art. Seriously. Art’s the best.

LES: Well, it’s the second week of Justified, and what a week it’s been. Raylan, Arlo and Tim went on the trail of the Waldo Truth ID and crossed paths with a true white trash family, in a move that led to Raylan having to disarm a 13-year-old boy. Raylan learned that his bartending friend-with-benefits Lindsey not only has an ex-husband, but one who’s a bare-knuckle fighter capable of taking down two men without breaking a sweat. Ellen May fled the confines of Audrey’s for the Last Chance Salvation church, leading to a fantastic preach-off between Boyd and Billy. And we saw the return of some wonderfully familiar Justified faces, as Sheriff Shelby tried to draw the boundaries of his relationship with Boyd and Wynn Duffy showed up in Harlan, no longer overshadowed by Quarles and able to give free reign to his own sadistic impulses. (The latter gave us the episode’s best line: “But I don’t even trust the way you just now said I could trust you.”)

LES (cont): So much good stuff to talk about in this episode, but let’s start with the main storyline, the search for the identity of Waldo Truth. I talked last week about how I was unsure how an overarching mystery was going to work in the Justified structure, but I thought “Where’s Waldo” did a terrific job of taking the mystery and turning it into a case-of-the-week, as the marshals discovered that there’s an outstanding warrant on Waldo (one which gave Art a “marshal stiffy”) and went to go serve it. This gave us a great conversation with the three male marshals killing time during the stakeout (evidently Raylan’s “addict hours” have led to speculation amongst a portion of the office that he’s an exotic dancer), and then a tense face-off that eventually led to the marshals being led inside for a family chat. The decision to tie the bag to one of Art’s cold cases gives it a necessary sense of context, as even though Waldo’s identity is now known there’s still another man out there who may have a fair share of drug money a lot of people in Raylan’s orbit would kill to possess. And the episode also pulled a nice kinetic motion trick by having the man Arlo shived for seeing the bag being a foot soldier for the Dixie Mafia, a move that brings Wynn – and by extension Boyd – into the central plot.

So gentlemen, what’d you think of the episode?

NOEL: I think we can all agree that Raylan as an exotic dancer would be the bee’s knees, and that he’d likely make more money doing that than he is catching bail jumpers or being a bouncer at Lindsay’s bar.

I’m not exactly sure why you thought the mystery wouldn’t break down well as a case-of-the-week plot. Investigations are done in stages, and it’s not too difficult to build a mystery that needs to be worked through in that fashion. You just need to know exactly how you’re going to get there so you know how to pace everything properly. It’s why something like this bag in the wall is, in my opinion, a tougher story to break than an on-going serialized plot. You may know the end goal for the big serialized plot, but a procedural plot, spread across episodes, doesn’t leave much room for improvisation, and should still deliver on some sort of episodic catharsis as well.

And “Where’s Waldo?” delivers on that. The stop in the Truths’ house was the sort of amusing bit of Kentucky color that the show has always excelled at (“‘I have a goldfish.'”), even if it did veer a little into stereotype land a smidgen. And I did enjoy Boyd’s showdown with Billy and his knowing glances at Billy’s sister. A bit of me had forgotten about Boyd’s Church of Oxy in Season 1, so the reminder of Boyd’s past here, and it coming back to haunt him in a bizarre way, gives the plot a wonderful little symmetry

But it was the small things I enjoyed. Art’s rundown of the broken people in his charge was good not only for expo-speak for new viewers but a handy reminder of just how much work Art has to do to keep his people on the straight and narrow, and how much he realizes it, too. Any scene with Ava is now an instant favorite of mine, and her discussion with Ellen May about salvation and shotguns again turned my blood cold. There’s such an intense power dynamic between those two that I just can’t get over it. Wynn’s arrival onto the scene was equally delightful for me though. I can’t recall how much interaction there had been with Boyd and Wynn, but as soon as Boyd threatened to kill Wynn’s wayward dealer, I knew Boyd’s cause was lost. It’s easy to forget how much of a psychopath Wynn is due to Quarles last season, and that scene went a long way to re-establishing Wynn’s bona fides.

CORY: This episode handled a lot of plot-related busy work without veering too much into plodding exposition. Noel, you make a great point about Art’s first scene of the season. It was unbelievably exposition-laden, to a hilarious degree. The rest of the episode avoided that for the most part by putting characters in tight spaces and just letting them talk and talk. The conversation in the car during the stakeout between Raylan, Art and Tim was the highlight of the episode for me. The Raylan-Art relationship is one of, if not the, strongest the relationship the show has, but it’s compelling to watch Tim get injected into it, even when he doesn’t want any part of it.

We talked about this last week–and will probably keep talking about it–but Justified‘s deep roster of characters and ability to ingrate new ones into the pre-existing world is unparalleled at this point. The Truth family fit right in, but so did Lindsey’s husband (did we actually hear a reference to them being exes before? I might be forgetting something). While Boyd’s interaction with Billy and the church didn’t do a whole lot for me, the episode fairly seamlessly brought Wynn back into that part of the story, something I also found to be very impressive

Weirdly, I also really, really enjoyed that opening scene with Raylan and Lindsey’s former flame. The show has done such great work deconstructing the cowboy or outlaw archetype with Raylan that now, in circumstances like that one, he doesn’t even consider (or at least we don’t see it) pulling a weapon or resorting to violence in any way. Instead, all he can muster is an annoyed shrug and eye-roll. It’s interesting to me how Raylan is sort of over being a bad-ass and over being the superhero Marshal. I’m interested to see how that mindset carries on throughout this season when he’s going to be forced to face more personal and familial demons.

LES: It was kind of sad that Art’s exposition scene was the most plot that we’ve been given on either of the supporting marshals in a good long while. Yes, all of these things have been hinted at in prior episodes – Tim being morose at a bar post-shooting, Rachel venting her frustrations about being seen as “black bitch” by various suspects, and the great season two scene where the four marshals were musing about their pasts over bourbon – but that’s all been doled out so sparingly I’m guessing I’m one of the few who still remembers all of it. And I’m almost positive this is the first time we even knew Rachel was divorced, let alone married in the first place. But that’s something I’ve griped about before, and I’ll just hold out hope that this isn’t all the story they get this season.

Cory, I too was impressed with and interested in the way they brought Lindsey’s so-far unnamed husband* into things. Lindsey’s still something of a cipher to me – unlike Ava or Winona, she doesn’t have much in the way of character beyond being fearless enough to pull a shotgun on Quarles and hook up with Raylan immediately after. And her husband is obviously a shady type if that post-fight conversation is any indication, but we don’t know anything about him other than that he’s not intimidated by Raylan and his draft beer of choice is Sierra Nevada. (Which endears him to me as they make a variety of fine beers and are also my brother’s employer.) They’re playing things close to the vest with both her and her husband, which is new territory for one of Raylan’s relationships.

*Does he have a name? If so I missed it. And no indication on whether or not they’re still married. He referred to her as his wife in present tense, but no way Raylan misses a wedding band on a woman’s finger. 

Not too much else to say about the scenes you’ve both praised already – the Truths were a wonderfully colorful family, particularly Mama Truth, and the showdown between Boyd and Billy called up some wonderful memories of just how many incarnations Boyd Crowder’s been through since the series started. (His comment about his shattered faith reminded me of his weary close to a desperate prayer in the season one finale “Or have I just been talkin’ to myself this whole time?”, one of Walton Goggins’ finer moments on the series.) Even if Billy’s on the up and up – he certainly seems genuine enough and I can buy that his sister’s the crooked one – that devotion is sure to lead to some bloodshed.

None of Constable Bob this week, but Colton Rose has secured gainful employment in the Crowder organization, and I enjoyed how his monologue about Afghanistan and spotting junkies shows that this is a very useful person for a fledgling organization to have around – even if he’s still trigger-happy enough to shove a gun into someone’s eye socket for interrupting. (While it was Wynn who killed the poor sap, this makes two dealers dead in as many weeks. Dangerous business, pushing drugs in Harlan County.)

NOEL:The husband’s name is Randall, though I don’t know that they say it in the episode. I’m not exactly all that interested in this complication for Raylan, though it does open up the avenue of him being forced to get his act together and maybe find an apartment (one that doesn’t require a security deposit), get a plant. But in a season that already feels like it has just enough elements in it for its on-going stories, this plot feels like it has the potential to be a dash too much salt.

But, Cory, I sort of love your framing of Raylan as being over being the badass. Then again, he does beat up a kid who pulls a gun on him this week, and he did shoot the steering wheel of a car to activate the airbag last week.

What do you two make about Billy’s sister, Cassie? I wouldn’t put it past the show to make this all an elaborate feint to distract us from Billy’s true menace, but she’s give Boyd the big old stink eye there. Related to that: I continue to love how the show draws in aspects of Kentucky regionalism. Season 2 had mountaintop removal (a big deal in that area of the country), Season 3 had the Noble’s Holler, based on a similar community, and now we have traveling revivalists and snake handlers. While I’ve never been near these aspects of the south myself, I like the unique and nonjudgmental presentation of these elements in the show. It’s a refreshing difference from the urban or suburban settings and concerns of most every other scripted program on TV.

CORY: Well, he still can be a badass, but his reactions to having to do so make it seem like he’s more frustrated with having to do so. He didn’t really want to get physical with that guy last week and didn’t boast about shooting the airbag. Hopefully that makes sense.

Cassie is an interesting presence. The show certainly isn’t shy about putting women into powerful, antagonistic roles so it wouldn’t surprise me to see her take on that mantle at some point. Billy, at least right now, appears to be very sincere, which might actually make him (and his sister) more dangerous than they seem on the surface.

And you’re right about the show’s representation of these “southern”-coded people, locations and circumstances. Even in the scene at the Truth compound, it never felt like the show wanted make a mockery of the family’s circumstances. The characters weren’t deep or complex, but their realities were presented as typical, albeit not admirable.

One final thing: The possibility of Art leaving. Any chance that Raylan ends up in that leadership role, if even briefly? I would love to see him squirm by having to hand out assignments or politic with management more.

LES: How was it that Art put it to the guy showing up with the Pappy Van Winkle? (An excellent vintage by the way.) “Internal Affairs has him on speed-dial”? I can’t imagine that Art’s higher ups would ever willingly let Raylan take the slot. The only way I expect that would happen would be if Art’s injured or killed and he’s the only choice (which I dearly hope doesn’t happen as I love Nick Searcy on this show). I do agree though that it would be pretty terrific to watch Raylan thrown out of his lone wolf comfort zone and have to be in charge of things. Plus, that’s an excuse to bring back Stephen Toblowsky’s FBI agent or Rick Gomez’s U.S attorney as administrative rivals!

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