“That’s what assholes do, Raylan. They get old and die from bein’ assholes.” -Boyd Crowder.
“Foot Chase” is the weakest Justified episode of the season so far, but if nothing else, it gives us the line above, which when all is said and done could end up being the thesis statement for season four, if not the entire series. When I filled in for Scott on one episode last season, I wrote a little bit about this show as a study of Harlan: a mining town populated by hard folks with grim personal histories. And I said that no matter how much Raylan and his former neighbors try to bury their pasts, it’s hard to do that “in a community founded on digging.” This season’s main plotline has most definitely been about that idea, as Raylan and Boyd are both now investigating the bizarre, long-forgotten incident that helped establish their fathers’ criminal empires. But as I wrote back in my review of episode one of this season, this year also looks to be about Raylan becoming a father, and reckoning with what he inherited from his own dad. We get a good glimpse of that legacy at the start of “Foot Chase” when Raylan growls at Shelby’s deputies for being lazy, and one asks him, “Any particular reason you’re treating us like a couple of bleached assholes?” “Not in particular,” Raylan admits.
“Foot Chase” is all about assholes chasing assholes, as Raylan and Boyd continue separately on the trail of Drew Thompson. At the end of the last episode, Raylan’s path had led him back to Josiah’s house, where he found a severed foot (and the abandoned tracking device that was strapped to that foot). It’s Raylan’s frustration with the local law’s apparent disinterest in the case that prompts our hero to be such a prick to Shelby’s men. But it turns out that Raylan has misread the situation. Sheriff Shelby is highly interested in what happened to Josiah, and he rendezvouses with Raylan at a shack where they find young Roz canoodling with a hulking, reticent Native American named Teddy. Roz boasts that, “Teddy here’s Cherokee… family came here on The Trail Of Tears,” and says that she’s planning to put her new lover’s natural tracking skills to use finding Josiah, whom she saw get abducted by two idiots in a panel van. She adds that the idiots called Josiah “Drew Thompson,” which means that she’s not going to get the chance to find her step-dad before Raylan and Shelby do.
That is, presuming that Raylan will work with Shelby. The sheriff thinks Raylan doesn’t trust him because of his relationship with Boyd—“I think Lynyrd Skynrd’s overrated; I know you’re in Boyd’s pocket,” Raylan corrects—but Shelby persuades the marshal to let him bring Boyd in for questioning, to prove he’s working independently of his former benefactor. Then, when Arlo’s attorney Sonya Gable shows up to spring Boyd, the two lawmen track her back to the lair of Roz’s two idiots, where the ex-cons—one of whom is quite psychotic—are planning to cauterize Josiah’s wound with a blowtorch. There follows some not-bad Justified cops-and-robbers slapstick, as one of the idiots tries to run—“Are you kiddin’ me?” Raylan sighs—and Shelby shoots him. Sonya then says that her client is “the dumb one,” to which Raylan says, “That don’t narrow it down.”
Boyd, meanwhile, is pursuing a path to Drew Thompson that’s not really that different from Sonya’s two idiots. He and Colt have been knocking on the doors of every prominent citizen in the tony Clover Hill neighborhood—prompted by Raylan’s cousin Mary’s mysterious reference to the Drew-chasers looking “on the wrong hill”—and pushing these rich dudes around until they can prove they aren’t Drew. (Boyd justifies the harassment under the theory that nobody gets rich “without ruining some people’s day.”) An anxious Ava though comes up with the better idea of scoring an invite to former sheriff Tillman Napier’s ritzy swingers’ party, where all those Clover Hill people will be gathering, and where Boyd can cut to the chase, as it were.
In the abstract, the plot of “Foot Chase” is just fine. Justified’s two main characters are on a quest, and each of them moves one step closer to their goal: Boyd by getting invited to Napier’s, and Raylan by learning from Josiah that he can get more info about Drew from another former Harlan sheriff, Hunter Mosley. But something feels a little off about this episode. I watched it twice—as I do with every Justified before I write the review—and I liked it even less the second time through, whereas usually I find myself savoring the dialogue and performances when I watch certain scenes again. Part of the problem with “Foot Chase” is that it’s very explanatory: Art explains to Raylan that Sonya’s been stalling Arlo’s release; Roz explains how she saw Josiah get amputated and abducted; and so on. It feels like characters are scrambling to feed each other information mainly so that we’ll know it, in preparation for what’s to come, in this episode and beyond.
But even without the people-moving drudgery of “Foot Chase,” the writing and the characterizations aren’t up to the show’s usual standard. Ava’s “out damned spot” fretting about her hand in Ellen May’s fate is a little over the top, and Colt’s on-the-verge-of-being-caught bathroom freebasing is dramatically clichéd. And when Shelby arrests Boyd and the latter says, “Son, you are turnin’ a corner you can’t walk back around” (“Well, that’s like warnin’ a man it’s gonna rain when he’s already wet,” Shelby replies), the confrontation feels perfunctory, given the significance of the moment in the two men’s working relationship. Here’s a prime example of how “Foot Chase” falls flat: Ava gets the Crowders invited to the Napier shindig by showing up at the house of whoremongering “furry” Judge Arnold, and when she and Arnold’s wife bond over their cheerleading days, they recollect their old cheer, “Goooo, Wildcats!”, which is a weirdly generic and non-specific cheer for a show that’s usually so good with lived-in details.
On the other hand, Ava’s high-school reminiscences do lead her to look at a picture of their alma mater’s bear mascot and coyly ask, “That’s not you, is it Arnold?” And Ava’s flustered antics prompts Boyd to calm her down by proposing to her, and showing her the money he’s been socking away for a downpayment on a house, far from Harlan, were in a few generations the Crowder name will be respectable. That’s a sweet moment, and in keeping with this idea of Harlan-dwellers trying to get shut of their pasts. Given all that, next week’s party at Napier’s should be especially good.
And while Colt’s reckless drug bender is fairly predictable, that’s mainly because addicts are fairly predictable, in that they care about their next fix more than whatever crisis is swirling around them. There’s a great scene in “Foot Chase” where Colt is being paged by Johnny about an urgent matter, but Colt won’t leave the bathroom to deal with it until he gets the name of a local heroin supplier from some poor junkie who’s trying to get clean. And there’s an even better scene where Colt and Johnny go after a john named Max whom Audrey’s prostitute Teri claims beat her up. Of course, Max is blameless in the whole affair; it’s Colt who slapped Teri around, as part of his hunt for Ellen May. But what’s a more perfect Justified image than Colt violently punching some asshole for shit he done himself?
- The other big storyline in this episode involves Tim’s recovering Oxy-addict friend Mark, who gets Tim’s help negotiating a peace with a dealer whom Mark owes money. Not much becomes of this story in “Foot Chase,” but it’s clearly going to come up again. It’s primarily interesting here for the amusingly tense scene where the dealer demands his visitors strip—to be certain they aren’t wearing a wire or packing heat—and for the continued implication that Raylan’s sometimes fluid relationship with enforcing the law has become a bad influence on Tim and Rachel.
- But does Art care that much about his many wayward marshals? When he calls Raylan this week for a mutual debriefing, he mainly seems interested in pestering his biggest problem child with foot puns.
- Something to file away for later: Sonya tells her idiots that she has a couple of guys on the way to help with Josiah, and presumably those are the two guys that Raylan and Shelby see drive by when they’re about to bust on in these yahoos’ impromptu podiatry. “Bet if you check the rental agreement, you’ll see a Detroit credit card,” Raylan guesses. So if Raylan’s right, Sonya Gable isn’t just Boyd and Arlo’s attorney, she’s a Tonin associate. Hmmm.
- Do you get what I’m saying about Ava and Arnold’s wife’s cheerleading conversation? Of course, Ava could be lying about having been a cheerleader at the same high school as Arnold’s wife, which would explain why she would be so vague. But Ava’s not the one who remembers the cheer.
- Whatever my disappointment with the dialogue and acting this week, it’s hard not to be charmed by the way Raylan goes from distrusting Shelby to admiring the old coot. And all it took was mention of the sheriff’s days working as a greeter at Mega Shop.
- No obvious new additions to Raylan’s Movie Club this week, though he does make what could be considered an oblique reference to Dances With Wolves when he calls Teddy “Rapes-With-A-Smile” (which might’ve been the funniest line in this whole episode). “I didn’t have no goddamn sex with Teddy,” Roz protests. “Repeatin’ a lie don’t make it true,” Raylan counters.
- Ladies and gentlemen, the poetry of Dale Haywood: “And as I watch her kiss Curt/my heart fills with hurt/my soul fills with sorrow/the size of Kilimanjaro.” (Give Dale a break: He failed third and sixth grade.)
- “You’re a criminal. How you get bloodstains out of upholstery?”