Justified "Money Trap" Review: Reads and Tells

By Tim Surette

Feb 20, 2013

Justified S04E07: "Money Trap"

Last week, I wrote about the chasing-your-tail nature of serialized mystery television, and its inherent problems, in reference to Raylan's chase for clues in Justified's latest installment of Drew Thompson's Super Bag Mystery Hour. In each escapade, Raylan chases one lead, shakes that lead down, and learns the identity of the new lead he'll shake down the following week. Granted, these shakedowns have been a lot of fun, but you can't help but realize that they're just stops rather than destinations, which leads to questions of their real importance, what they mean in the long run, and other TV-related existential quandaries.

But there's also been another pattern forming, and I don't know if it's an acknowledgement from the writers that the errands required to crack the mystery that's central to Season 4 can feel, I don't know, let's say empty in the best way possible, or if it's just how things worked out, but it's a pattern that's best for everyone. Taking the pattern idea literally, every third episode has given us some sort of breather from the case in the form of a predominantly standalone episode. Justified's Season 4 premiere certainly fit the "singular" bill, introducing us to the case with Raylan chasing down Jody the fugitive as the central focus. Two case-centric episodes followed, and then we were handed "This Bird Has Flown," which wrapped up the Lindsey-Raylan arc tighter than Lindsey used to wrap her legs around Raylan. Then came two more case episodes, which brings us to tonight's "Money Trap," an hour that shared a lot, structure-wise, with the season premiere (and not just because fugitive Jody came back to finish business).

So far, these "breather" episodes are standing out as my favorites of the season, and "Money Trap" might even be the best of the ones we've seen so far (given the outstanding quality of Justified overall, I don't think it's nice to play favorites). It reminded me a lot of "Hole in the Wall," with Raylan mostly occupied with a tricky fugitive while still picking up smaller details about the cold case. And it was that slight taste of a procedural, where something was definitively wrapped up to provide a sense of completion by the end of the episode, that made the hour more satisfying than it would've been if we'd simply gotten the name of the next backwoods hillbilly who may or may not know where Drew is.

Our standalone portion of the program came in the form of Jody, the freshly sprung fugitive from "Hole in the Wall" who just wanted to see his kids. Oh, and steal a bunch of money from his wife. Jody is played by Chris Chalk, who you should recognize as Tom Walker from Homeland, and he's perfect for the role, equally potent as a menacing maniac or a charismatic troublemaker. This guy needs to be on television more often, because he's fantastic. In the thrilling opening scene, we ventured back six days to the unseen end of "Hole in the Wall" when Raylan turned Jody in to a sexy authority in exchange for some cash. But Jody did not go quietly, and things got brutally violent even for a show that cut a man's foot off not too long ago. One strangulation and one bullet-to-the-neck later, and Jody was a free man with a bone to pick.

That real-deal setup set the stage for the episode: There was a dangerous man on the loose looking to make Raylan bleed. Though lots of crooks hate Raylan and his hat, most of them choose to steer clear of his path until his path leads him to them. Not Jody, though. Tonight he stepped in Raylan's path, and it was a welcome change for a show where most of the bad guys wet their pants when Marshal Givens shows up. Raylan's talks with Jackie Nevada about the uneasiness of when to expect Jody only added to the imminent threat of a spontaneous showdown, even if Raylan dispatched of Jody rather easily once Jody came looking for Raylan at his usual haunt. Why people still think they can draw on Raylan makes no sense to me. Even if you aren't aware of his legendary quick hands, my granpappy taught me that if a guy looks good in Stetson, it's probably because he's badass.

But what really made this story work so well was its tone. Jody and his regretful partner Kenneth the Filmmaker were a hoot to follow, and their antics reminded me of another one of Elmore Leonard's adaptations, the excellent George Clooney film Out of Sight. Jody has more than a little of Don Cheadle's Snoop in him, and Kenneth was partly his White Boy Bob. This is when I'd say they'd make a great spin-off, but given how Jody ended up, such a project would have to borrow elements from Weekend at Bernie's.

Boyd and Ava's quest for Drew put them on the guest list of Harlan's swankiest sex party, where the rich and elite drank crappy margaritas (the only acceptable fruit in a margarita is lime and this is indisputable) and formed some sort of Harlan Illuminati in between spit-roasting their friends' and neighbors' wives. Even with half the party stripped down to their sexin' clothes, Boyd and Ava got no closer to finding Drew, but Boyd did get a business proposition. See, a few of the sexed-up Kentucy bourgeois had history with Boyd's dad Bo, and in that pecking order, they told Bo to do something and he did it. They—Lee Paxton (played by Lost's Bernard), Gerald Johns, and one more unidentified man—expected the same of Boyd, and they weren't starting with no simple game of fetch. All they're asking is that Boyd kill one of their own, a man by the name of Franklin who's preventing them from exploiting the government's need to protect the environment with cash crops in the form of grants.

It's a defining situation for Boyd, who has no problem dealing with lowlives but who hasn't tangled with men like these. Will Boyd settle into being their little errand boy or will he take them down himself? He certainly can't match them for resources, but I guar-an-tee you Boyd's the smartest man at that table, and that's going to count for a lot when all is said and done.

But Boyd's problems go beyond swinging oldies. Johnny Crowder was sniffing around Colton's Ellen May mess, poking Colton about the magically disappearing whore as soon as he found out that Ellen May was in the wind instead of in the ground. All this time I had figured Colton would get into it with Boyd for losing Ellen May, but now it's looking like Johnny might be able to leverage Colton's situation to his own advantage, since he's trying to oust Boyd and take over the business. It's the perfect situation of who knows what and who's got a motive, with Johnny in a position of power while Colton and Boyd remain oblivious. Now, I'd never take Johnny over Boyd, but one of the thrills of Justified is putting Boyd in no-win situations and marveling at how he's able to make them Boyd-wins situations, so let's give Johnny as much ammo as he can hold before Boyd puts him in his place.

But the episode saved its best scene for last, when Raylan finally took Art's advice and went to see his dad in prison. Those two getting together always makes for uncomfortable yet fantastic television; the stubborn tree and the stubborn apple that fell from it can't stand each other, but here, with Arlo's final days on the line, their talk was downright nasty. The effort Raylan put in to try to work out a deal with his dad and let him die in a nicer joint was pithy at best, and Arlo's mulish attitude toward cooperating with his son in any way was just depressing. It's one of television's most fascinating father-son relationships, and Raylan and Arlo are no closer to reconciling than a Hatfield and a McCoy. At one point, Raylan knew he'd irked Arlo because he didn't get a reaction. And when you realize that Raylan knows his father so well and still wants him to die as soon as possible, you can't help but feel sorry for everyone involved.

We crossed the midway point of Season 4 in "Money Trap," and the second half is off to a great start with the development of new stories and the repositioning of old ones. Boyd's in an interesting space right now, and the Johnny-Colton feud just went from simmering to boiling over.



POSTCARDS FROM HARLAN COUNTY

– To clarify, I don't think the cold case is boring, not at all. I just think it's tough to stretch it out over the course of a season and make it feel as though every step is important. But now that we're in the back half of Season 4 and closer to solving the mystery, every detail about it is going to be more and more substantial. This is when Justified can switch gears and really make the case a top priority.

– Is the snake-handling church done and over already? Is Cassie going to fit into the story in some way? It'd be odd if they were included for just a few episodes and then abandoned.

– I don't know about you, but even though I liked Winona and Raylan together, I'm enjoying watching Raylan be a SINGLE guy who makes bad choices with women. His latest, the grad student from U.K., is definitely some bachelor pickings. Nice work, Raylan. And she's a poker player. Their chat about reading people and picking up on tells even carried over a little bit to Raylan's final scene with his dad.

– Wow did Tim make the best use of his limited screen time or what!? He was on camera for about four seconds and had two of the best lines of the episode: "Go get him, tiger!" and "Jesus Christ, Nelson, sorry I forgot your birthday." Love this guy so much.

– Such a nice touch to have Raylan eating an ice cream cone while driving when he got the news about Sharon Edmunds dying. Fun time is over, throw the ice cream out the window and go fugitive hunting.

– I'm a big fan of Jody jumping out the window and landing on top of Kenneth's car. Nice little action sequence there.

– Big laugh from Ava telling Boyd that HE could be the one giving out all the handjobs at the sex party. The scene is even better when you picture a whole bunch of pantsless dudes with their backs to the camera while Boyd is moving his arm back and forth with a look of disgust on his face.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • marlonjones Apr 02, 2013

    Just marathon'ed Justified til episode 12, starting with this one, and this is the one that
    turned the show back into one of the best shows on tv, ever. Riveting!
    And man, the poker playing student was damn hot!!

  • gtbell Feb 24, 2013

    I'm still holding on to Season 3 in my Apple TV. Now that I know this is Season 4 I'll get busy. Yippee! Lots of good Justified TV ahead.

  • 2muchbadTV Feb 22, 2013

    While I really enjoyed this episode of Justified, this ep had some snafus that Justified usually avoids much better than most other TV shows. The believability just wasn't there this week for me, even though the story and the characters were still great. I'm a fan of action sequences, so long as they're not done strictly for the sake of action sequences. But the scene where Jody jumped out the window and on to the car, and then the car sped away, accelerating and turning sharply......you would fall off the top of that car. You don't just stay planted in place (and with little injury from the fall, no less) like Jody did. It would be hard to stay on if the car accelerated in a straight line that fast, but at the first careen the car made, you'd be off. It's not like action movies make it out to be (I've tried this stuff. Look, we rednecks get bored in south Louisiana, don't judge me. And for the love of God, don't try it) and it's not something I expect from Justified. I also didn't think it was very believable in how Jody escaped in the first place. Prisoners are usually secured in the backs of those vans, so him even getting up to kick the doors on the male trooper didn't ring true to me, and then a handcuffed man overpowering and killing a bigger, unencumbered, TRAINED officer? I don't think so.

    I realize this is nitpicking, but this is the standard that Justified has set. Everything always seems so believable, that when things like that pop up, it really stands out.

  • DavidJackson8 Feb 21, 2013

    I was about to say that I'd like to see more Jackie Nevada and Kenneth Flix, but I realize I say that about EVERY guest star Justified has ever had. The swingers party didn't interest me very much... not sure why. I liked everything else about the episode, though.

  • JT_Kirk Feb 21, 2013

    Pretty sure it's "lowlifes".

    I didn't feel like the characters here really fit Justified that well, they felt more like castoffs from a Quentin Tarantino ripoff - a porn producer who works in Kentucky (ew) carting around the world's angriest and stupidest and least effective criminal. Jody's plan fell apart from the very get-go and yet he couldn't let anything go, he had to keep on trying to fight every battle at once. While he was somewhat interesting in his first go-round, here he just felt like a dumb, one-dimensional character who ended up getting his in the end, after surviving way more than he should have. Why did he think Raylan wouldn't draw on him? Why did he think he'd be better off with murder charges on him? Who cares, is the only answer I got from this script.

    I've also grown tired of the Boyd Crowder show, it's like an infection that takes over more and more of this series and now we have yet another big ridiculous storyline that is just dopy and shallow.

    The end scene worked pretty well though, he read Arlo just right and played him like a fiddle. Other than that scene, I think only Art's and Tim's scenes felt like anything.

  • Marburg66 Feb 21, 2013

    Nice set up between Boyd & the carpetbaggers. I'm super psyched to see how Crowder's gonna alpha dog 'em later. Also, I really liked the Raylan/Jackie Nevada scenes. They need to bring her back every now & then

  • soutarm Feb 21, 2013

    So, was that Kenneth guy Paul from Mad Men? IMDb isn't helping and there's no mention here (great review though, as always!). Also, one of the old guys looked so damn familiar.

    Perhaps the final scene with Boyd finding out he's been permitted to operate his business ventures WAS him giving HJs to the Harlan elite?

  • dagrimmreepa Feb 21, 2013

    I'm really loving this season more than the previous one. I think they made the right choice to make this season smaller and more local than the previous, cos if you think about it, Justified takes place in a small backwater town, so, realistically, how many more out of town bad guys can they bring in to be the main villain before it becomes laughable?

    I think they did the right thing by focusing on what was already established, and giving favorites like Boyd more screen time. Over the years, Justified has built up an awesome world with awesome characters, it's about time they started really exploiting both to our advantage.

  • CarlosR628891 Feb 20, 2013

    Didya notice? The "filmmaker's" plate: KY FLIXXX.

  • CarlosR628891 Feb 20, 2013

    I was really looking forward to more of Raylan and Boyd in the same room...

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