Episode Title: "Cottonmouth"
Writer: Taylor Elmore
Director: Michael Watkins
Previously on "Justified":
In the aftermath of Bo Crowder’s death, U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) grew more suspicious that Mags Bennett (Margo Martindale) and her sons, Dickie (Jeremy Davies), Doyle (Joseph Lyle Taylor) and Coover Bennett (Brad William Henke) were making moves to fill the void in Harlan’s criminal underworld. He was also unaware that Mags and Dickie had killed Walt McCready because he alerted the U.S. Marshals to the man who tried to abduct his daughter, Loretta (Kaitlyn Dever). But Mags took Loretta into her home and told the young girl that she had sent her father away on business.
Meanwhile, Raylan’s former rival Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) had trouble staying out of trouble, especially when Kyle (Michael Mosley) and some of his other co-workers at the mine promised him a way to steal the payroll cash and look like a hero at the same time.
Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) manages to get Raylan to visit him in prison and offers him information in exchange for his release. He tells Raylan that Doyle is a crooked cop and that the Bennett family is planning something big, but Raylan replies that he should tell him something that he doesn’t know. At Mags’ store, Coover is stunned to find Loretta running the shop while Mags is out on an errand. And Coover acts weirdly childish and petulant towards her. At the U.S. Marshal’s office, Tom Bergen (Peter Murnik) alerts Raylan that someone is forging Walt McCready’s name on checks.
Shortly thereafter, Raylan’s father Arlo (Raymond J. Barry) shows up at the office and gives Raylan $6,000 out of the $20,000 that he stole. But Raylan is unmoved and has his dad locked up. At Ava’s (Joelle Carter) house, Boyd listens to Kyle’s plan and he is upset that it calls for him to kill someone. He fakes a call from Ava, using his cell phone as a bug and learns that Kyle and his men intend to kill him either way. When Raylan shows up, Boyd doesn’t ask him for help, but he does send him to Winston Baines, who is the best check forger in Harlan.
After Raylan leaves, Boyd writes a note for Ava and leaves with his would be partners. Raylan catches up to Baines, but the older man actually tasers Raylan to avoid talking. In a scuffle, Raylan tries to shoot Baines before tasering him in the nuts. But Baines refuses to implicate himself or the Bennetts. At the mine, Kyle fakes a respiratory attack, allowing Boyd and the others to escort him from the mine. At home, Ava finds Boyd’s note telling her to call a number at exactly 6:05PM. Back at the mine, Kyle leads a raid of Shelby’s (Jim Beaver) office and they begin stealing a pile of cash.
Ava calls Kyle’s cell, which allows Boyd to accuse him of endangering their lives around active explosives. He confiscates their phones and switches their bag for his bag with the explosives. He also takes their detonator’s battery as he leads Shelby into the mine. At Coover’s home, Raylan arrives and casually tells him that he’s on to their check cashing scheme. Back at the mine, Kyle attempts to double cross Boyd and kill him in the mine. But the bomb is in his bag, blowing up the truck and killing himself and most of his men in the process.
Afterwards, Boyd kills the one survivor of the blast and takes the money, with Shelby’s gratitude for sparing his life. Dickie and Coover creep over to Bergen’s place, only to find Raylan watching them, thus confirming their involvement with the check cashing scheme. Later, Boyd arrives at Ava’s home and penitently explains what happened earlier in the day and what she did for him. When she asks why he went along with the robbery plan in the first place, he admits that it’s his nature… which he can’t deny any longer. He gives her the payroll money to help save her house from foreclosure just as the cops pull up. He asks her to vouch for his story, but we don’t see if she does.
Raylan confers with Bergen and both men believe that Walt McCready is dead, which may mean Loretta could be next. At Coover’s place, Mags and Doyle angrily arrive and berate Coover and Dickie for leaving a paper trail back to them. Doyle holds Coover down while Mags destroys his hand with a hammer. The sobbing manchild then weeps and begs for forgiveness. Elsewhere, Raylan finds Loretta dealing weed to some local kids, but he ignores that and gives her a cell phone to call him directly in any emergency. The camera lingers on her for a long time as she ponders what she’s been offered.
Walton Goggins finally got a showcase episode this season and it’s easily the best one so far. Goggins basically made his name on FX as Shane on "The Shield," who was also a fascinating character. But Boyd Crowder tops him in complexity. In just a few episodes this year, we’ve seen Boyd struggle to achieve some measure of redemption in his attempt to create a new life for himself. However, no one believes that he’s changed and it all piles up on to him. It’s not that Boyd doesn’t want to be a better man. He goes out of his way to not kill Shelby and even the way he switched the bomb on Kyle would only have killed him if he betrayed Boyd.
Boyd’s use of his cellphone to bug the meeting was a great moment that showed him to be the smartest guy in a room full of people plotting his death. Boyd seems to do a tremendous job of letting people believe that he’s not that sharp when the inverse is actually true. Watching Boyd turn a potentially fatal situation around on his would be killers was a thing of beauty. And this episode demonstrated that Boyd could have carried the entire episode without Raylan making an appearance at all.
I’m also really enjoying the slow burn between Ava and Boyd. It’s pretty clear that he loves her and she’s starting to come around towards him. When she got his note, she suspected that it was for something nefarious. But she followed his instructions anyway. If she was going to hang him out to dry, that would have been the perfect opportunity to do so. Just the fact that she went through with the call shows us that she cares for him.
Raylan’s subplot didn’t give him a whole lot to do other than his memorable fight with Baines. It was unusual to see someone actually take Raylan by surprise, as he was in that fight. And the taser to the nuts may be the funniest moment of the season. It’s kind of inherently hilarious in spite of itself. I don’t doubt that Raylan’s life was on the line in that fight. But if you can’t laugh at that then you’re dead inside.
The Bennett family is also proving themselves to be extremely compelling. Mags’ only scene in the episode was unexpectedly gripping as she crippled her son’s hand as punishment for his continued defiance. And the scene broadly hinted that she crippled Dickie years earlier as a form of punishment. Think about that for a second. If she’s brutal enough to treat her sons like that and murder Loretta’s father, then what’s she going to do to Raylan, Boyd and the people they care about when their paths inevitably cross hers? This is a truly dangerous woman and she’s fast becoming one of the best villains on TV.
It’s good to see Loretta is still around in the background of the series. Kaitlyn Dever gave an amazing performance in the season premiere, but she hasn’t had another opportunity to really show off what she can do. However, Loretta’s last scene with Raylan featured some great facial expressions by Dever. We can almost see the wheels turning in her head as she starts to figure out how much danger she’s in. And of course, at some point she will call Raylan for help. It’s inevitable now.
The question is: will she ultimately side with him or the Bennetts?
I can’t wait to find out.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.