Justified Foot Chase

After last week’s world-class episode of Justified, it was probably fair to expect a return to the mean this week, and that’s indeed what we got — an average enough episode stuffed with plot and moving pieces but not much in the way of Justified charm. Oh, there were a few flourishes, like Boyd stumbling across the bad poetry of a rich Clover Hill banker who he thought could be the illusive Drew Thompson. (He wasn’t.) And Raylan and Shelby teaming up showed how easy it is take any two characters and find interesting ways for them to interact when you have a show as well written and cast as Justified is. But more so than most episodes, “Foot Chase” sidestepped the Elmore Leonard flair in order to devote most of its running time to the season’s big narrative and getting everybody one step closer toward finding Thompson.

Raylan goes about it by tracking down a now-down-to-one-foot Josiah Cairn, the old coot played by Gerald McRaney who was introduced last week. The trail leads him in a sort of slapdash, not-entirely-connected way to Roz and then Boyd and then Boyd’s shady lawyer and then to two lowlifes who are trying to cauterize new Cairn’s stump with a blowtorch. Boyd, meanwhile, is looking for Thompson by randomly targeting Clover Hill residents who fit the profile, but, with that not getting him anywhere, Ava proposes that they try a different tactic. She uses an old high-school acquaintance to get them invited to a fancy swingers’ party that will feature all of Clover Hill’s fat cats. Neither Raylan’s nor Boyd’s path to Thompson takes any sort of big next step in this episode. Nor do either of them hit a brick wall. It’s more that the episode just ends, and we can assume that the chase will pick back up next week right where it left off. It’s not a terrible way for Justified to spend one of its 13 hours this year; it’s just not a particularly lively one either.

There were a few other things going on this week. Fueled by the fact that Ellen May is still in the wind, Colton starts going heavy on the drug use, freebasing heroin in the bathroom at Crowder HQ. (And I’m calling shenanigans on the fact that Boyd seems completely oblivious to this fact.) He smacks around one of Ava’s hookers hoping she knows where Ellen May’s hiding out and then threatens to kill her if she squeals on him. Later on, when Johnny presses her on why she’s busted up, she blames one of her johns, who Colton eventually beats the living shit out of.

Tim also got a weird side story in this episode where he accompanies an old war buddy who needs to settle a debt with a drug dealer. A little scene at the beginning was devoted to it, but I had forgotten all about it by the time they came back to it at the end of the episode. It wasn’t terribly eventful or interesting, and while I appreciate the writers looking for things for Tim to do, I’m not sure giving him his own adventure completely separate from everything else happening on the show is the best idea. We’ll see where they go with it

And then, at the end, the big proposal. Ava is feeling some serious guilt over Ellen May, who she still assumes is dead, and when she presses Boyd on their future, he drives her out to some scenic overlook and gives her the box stuffed with cash that he was hiding way back in the season premiere. Under the cash is an engagement ring, and Boyd lays out their future together — a nice big house anywhere Ava wants to live and generations of kids and grand kids who someday won’t bear the current-day burden of the Crowder name. It’s an effective and emotional scene, well-acted by both Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter. Although it is fun to remember that way back when Justified first started, Ava was busy murdering her then husband — Boyd’s goddamn brother.

A few more thoughts on “Foot Chase” …

— I’m not a fan of Boyd and Arlo’s lawyer who was introduced, shown to be crooked and now apparently apprehended in the middle of a heinous crime all in a span of — what? — two episodes?! That’s not a character arc; that’s a writer’s crutch in human form being used to quickly advance the story.

— We better get to watch Boyd and Ava at the swingers’ party next week. That ought to be a sight.

— Line of the night goes to Raylan: “No, I’m sure you and ‘Rapes with a Smile’ here were just talking.” Boyd takes runner-up with: “That’s what assholes do, Raylan. They get old and die from being assholes.”

Follow Bob on Twitter: @robertbtaylor