This week’s Justified, “Where’s Waldo?” boils down to two scenes: each among the best in the whole run of the series, and each revealing much about the two main characters of the show, and where they live.
The scene likely to get the most attention is the one between Boyd Crowder and the new preacher in town, Billy St. Cyr. Last week, the retired evangelist Boyd was tossing around literary quotes of an existentialist nature, and this week, his better half Ava seems equally un-spiritual when Ella Mae comes back from Billy’s Last Chance Holiness Church quoting “Palms. Number 62.” Ava puts Ella Mae’s salvation in more practical terms—“I saved your soul, remember?”—and tells Ella Mae that murderous whores don’t get to go to heaven, no matter what Billy or his roaming choir of tract-waving youngsters have to say about it. (And by the way, how funny is it when hymn-singing children walk into Ava’s cathouse, scaring the customers away?) At this point, it’s uncertain whether Reverend Billy—or, more importantly, his shrewd sister Cassie (played by Lindsay Pulsipher)—has nefarious intent in Harlan. When Sheriff Parlow tells Boyd that the St. Cyrs have a history of moving quickly in and out of small towns, the sheriff sees this as garden-variety missionary work, but Boyd assumes they must be grifters, because damn, that’d sure be how Boyd’d play it.
So we get our amazing Boyd/Billy stand-off, in which one of the best character actors in America gets to go “full Goggins” on Joe Mazzello. Billy does a lot of talking about bringing sinners into the fold, but Boyd turns that around on the preacher, accusing him of being arrogant by passing judgment on the Crowder lifestyle, and then quoting what The Gospel Of John says about false prophets— “Test the spirits!”—while telling the assembled congregation that Last Chance Holiness just wants their money. So Billy—smiling all the while—declares that no one in Harlan has to pay a penny to him any more. Like I said, I don’t know whether Billy’s crooked, or whether Cassie is, or whether they’re in lockstep. But I do know that Billy is a charismatic fellow—note how Ella Mae absolutely has to see him when her faith gets tested—and so is Boyd. All of which means that this contest of wills isn’t over by a longshot.
While immortal souls are up for grabs in Harlan, Raylan Givens finds himself on the more mundane mission of roping in shitkicker lawbreakers. For those of you who missed Chief Art last week—not to mention the much-put-upon Marshal Tim—we get plenty of their brand of eloquently deadpan workplace comedy this week, beginning when Art entertains a job-grubbing visitor with a quick run-down of his personnel, including the “probably PTSD” Tim, the volatile, newly divorced Marshal Rachel, and of course, the loose cannon Raylan, whose father just killed a man in prison. (Art doesn’t relish giving that particular news to Raylan, but says, “The key to it is to talk about it like you’re talking about the weather.”) Then Raylan introduces Art to the Panamanian diplomatic bag that was nestled in Arlo’s wall until recently—“On a scale from one to a shitload, how much do you need to tell me right now?” Art sighs—and soon Art, Tim and Raylan are off to visit the home of Waldo Truth and his outlaw offspring Judd and Milo.
There’s been a lot of talk among TV critics since Justified returned about the show having more of a facility with lightness than other violent cable dramas, which means that an episode of Justified can be a pleasure to watch even when the characters are just sitting around shooting the shit. (Our own Todd VanDerWerff made that point in his Grantland review, as did Matt Zoller Seitz for Vulture.)That’s obvious in the two leisurely jawboning scenes between our three Marshals, in which they talk about the mystery bag (which is giving Art “a little bit of a marshal stiffy”), and about the best barbecue in Versailles, Kentucky (which Art insists they eat before they arrive at the Truth compound, since Raylan’s bound to shoot somebody there and queer lunch), and about how lately Raylan’s been “keepin’ addict hours” as work (because, Tim muses, he might be moonlighting as an exotic dancer).
But all of this is just overture for the epic scene at the Truths, which is like a beautifully crafted, hilarious one-act play, with instantly indelible characters, great dialogue, and multiple reversals. The Truths are terrific: gun-toting, anti-“guvmint” nogoodniks who accuse the marshals of being “perverts” and of trying to take away their “draw.” (These would be the kind of folks who would hold up signs at a town hall meeting saying “Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare.”) Plus, they’re absolutely fearless: One of them holds a gun on Art and starts counting down from 10 (“stealing your bit,” Tim cracks), and later smokes pot openly, saying he’s “got the glaucoma real bad” before he passes the joint off to his sister (or wife? or sister-wife?); and later, the youngest, pre-teen Truth pulls his own pistol, which he’s packing because the family “agreed it was time” he had a gun.
Eventually, tempers cool, and the marshals are able to talk calmly with the matriarch of the Truth clan, who is just about to explain to them “the secret to raisin’ kids” when “Waldo” walks in. Only it’s not the real Waldo. The real Waldo disappeared decades ago, and this guy has been posing as Waldo ever since so that the Truths can get his benefits—his “draw.” (The way his “wife” freezes up when she kisses him is the first tip-off that something’s not right.) Raylan’s ready to haul the whole family in, but Art lets them off the hook once he realizes that the real Waldo Truth was involved in one of the damnedest cases of his early career, when an man dropped from the sky into a suburban cul-de-sac.
So the trip to the Truths advances the master-plot. But even if it hadn’t, it would’ve been a treat just to watch the marshals push against these stubborn folks who are comfortable with their contradictions. Like the Boyd/Billy head-butting, the Truths-vs.-Consequences scene is all about Kentucky pride at its most self-defeating: using force to counter force, and faith against faith.
These two big scenes—along with their attendant build-up and aftermath—eat up the majority of “Where’s Waldo?,” which like last week’s season premiere is taking its time in establishing both the big mystery of season four and how it affects all of Justified’s main characters. But some connective tissue emerges toward the end of the episode. Wynn Duffy arrives in Harlan, where Boyd has tied up a Dixie Mafia heroin dealer who strayed into the wrong territory; and when Boyd offers to partner up with Wynn, the ice-cold Mr. Duffy declines, shooting the dealer in the head and admitting to Boyd, “I don’t even trust the way you just now said I could trust you.” Then Wynn asks what Boyd knows about Arlo’s assassination of a Dixie Mafia soldier in prison. Boyd doesn’t know a thing—not yet. But now he’s involved.
Meanwhile, a new character shows up this week: Randall Kusik (played by Robert Baker), the husband of Raylan’s bar-running girlfriend Lindsey Salazar (Jenn Lyon). We don’t find out that he’s her husband until the last scene, and as of yet he has no connection to the main plot, aside from providing another potential distraction to Raylan. But Randall does get one good scene with Raylan at the start of the episode, in which he grabs a beer from behind the bar and all but begs Raylan to stop him. (Raylan just raises an annoyed eyebrow: “Really?”) And Randall also makes an appearance at a backyard brawl, where he surprises the assembled gamblers by winning his fight, and then surprises a couple of them again when they try to ambush him afterward and take his winnings. Randall “raccoons” one of them, blackening both eyes. (While Randall’s beating the shit out of him, the kid tries “tapping out,” as though he were still in the ring. Randall just laughs. As did I.)
But what most impressed me about the scenes with Randall The Amateur Fighter are where they take place: in a nice neighborhood, with swimming pools and big new houses. Justified loves its shacks and small towns. But this lush suburbia is also Kentucky.
- In the further adventures of Raylan Givens: Lovably Self-Satisfied Asshole, our hero responds to his girlfriend’s “we’re getting good at that” sex-compliment with an affronted “getting?” and then offers to take over her bar delivery, shrugging, “How hard could it be?”
- Also, when Art asks where Raylan was the day before, our hero cockily, lazily replies, “Why? Did something happen?”
- Art says that his wife wants him to buy an RV for their retirement years: “Lots of time together in a close space; that’ll be good for the marriage.”
- No Constable Bob this week, but Boyd’s friend Colt is still around, and still muscling around the threats to Boyd’s criminal enterprise. He’s the one who susses out the Dixie Mafia heroin dealer that Wynn later dispatches; Colt knew the guy was in the smack business because of his own experiences in the poppy fields of Afghanistan (which, by the way, are “much prettier” than he’d expected).
- Another marvel from that amazing Truth family scene: Waldo’s wife recounts the romantic tale of the real Waldo wooing her by slipping into her car at a drive-in while her then-husband was at concession stand. She warned him, “This snatch is off-limits.” He answered, “I got a goldfish.” When she was confused by why he brought that up, he explained, “I thought we were talkin’ ‘bout shit that don’t matter.”