For the second straight episode, Raylan Givens goes about his deputy marshal business in Justified, but as crime-of-the-week episodes go, I found “Fixer” to be slightly stronger than the last one, because it said something about Raylan, even if it didn’t move his story too far forward. “Fixer” primarily concerns the weird bond between two fish-out-of-water types: Raylan, the walking anachronism, and bookie Arnold Pinter (David Eigenberg, best known as Cynthia Nixon’s on-again/off-again boyfriend on Sex And The City), a Brooklyn transplant who’s set up shop in Kentucky, but needs a steady infusion of chocolate egg creams to keep him sane. For various reasons, both men want to get out of town as soon as they can manage, but they don’t really have any place left to settle. They can never go home again, as the saying goes.
One of the consistent pleasures of Justified so far is the steady influx of Elmore Leonard-like criminal types—in short, quirky yet purposeful—played by some very good one-and-done character actors. Eigenberg’s Arnold Pinter, with his profane, mile-a-minute speech patterns and defiant New Yawk attitude, stands in sharp relief to the relaxed drawl of the natives. He obviously rubs them the wrong way, given his brash pronouncements about having to live among the “toothless, banjo-strumming redneck pricks” in his midst. Yet Raylan has an odd appreciation for his candor; Arnold makes no excuses for being a flim-flam artist, and Raylan seems comfortable knowing he comes about his criminality honesty. If there’s an angle, Arnold will exploit it; that’s his job.
Setting up shop in the back of a local restaurant, where he crunches the numbers and dispatches legbreakers to extract payments from deadbeat clients, Arnold is a snitch that nobody at the marshal’s office wants to work with. Naturally, that duty is passed along to Raylan, who gets the drop on a fugitive with the ironic name “Tiny,” who’s been working as muscle for Arnold’s operation. Finding “Tiny” turns out to be easier than it sounds, but the case draws Raylan into a larger plot: One of Arnold’s indebted clients, a “scumbag playboy” who goes by the hilarious name Travis Travers, ropes Arnold’s newest legbreaker into a scheme to kidnap his boss and shake him down for cash.
The plot resolves itself with a couple of nice little twists, but as usual, it’s the scribbling between the lines that’s most resonant. We’ve seen Raylan get himself into Old West showdowns before, but his breakdown of the mechanics of the draw (getting the gun out of the holster quickly, without releasing the magazine, for example), made it perfectly obvious that he would have the upper hand. It also sets up an ironic scene later on when his opponent, the legbreaker, draws first on Travis, but gets gunned down by his partner mid-celebration. I also loved Arnold’s attitude about the waitress being in on the abduction plot. He’s not stung at all about her betrayal. In fact, he appreciates her spotting an angle and following through on it. Because that’s what criminals do.
“Fixer” ends with Raylan finally yielding completely to Ava, which is of course trouble on multiple fronts. But who can blame him? Joelle Carter is absurdly sexy in the role, and Ava is so aggressive that even an Eliot Ness type would be hard-pressed to resist. And Raylan, hard as might try to walk the line, is no Eliot Ness.
• Raylan’s father will finally make an appearance soon, but for now, still more suggestion about who he is, including criminal stints as a legbreaker and a grifter, but with a tendency to lose his temper that his son has inherited. Art: “Just out of curiosity, is he a knucklehead, your daddy, or is a real bad guy?” Guess we’ll find that out soon.
• Nice turn by Greg Cromer as the unfortunately named Travis Travers, particularly in his first scene, where he smugly shakes off the threat of getting “pruned” for not settling his debts. His vanity license plate (TNT 6969) pretty much says it all.