Justified "Outlaw" Review: Personal Loss, Blood Loss

By Tim Surette

Feb 27, 2013

Justified S04E08: "Outlaw"

Goodness gracious, people of Harlan County. It seems like the more you try to fix problems, the more those problems try to fix you. And in a lot of those cases, fixing problems means shooting someone or something, so some of those problems decide to shoot back. It all becomes a big mess and before you know it, bodies are dropping like fly balls in a Little League outfield. In tonight's episode of Justified, the equal parts violent and emotional "Outlaw," it was problem after problem and you know what? Solving one just created a whole new batch.

We'll start with Raylan, as we always should. But Raylan's story starts with his daddy Arlo, who didn't even make it to the opening credits before he got the worst haircut of his life. The younger Givens did what he promised and had a lovely Justifiedian chat with former sheriff/current prisoner Hunter about giving Arlo a nicer place to live out his imprisoned days in exchange for giving up the whereabouts and whoabouts of Drew Thompson, and in doing so Raylan may have inadvertently put his daddy in a box. I'm assuming Hunter stabbed Arlo in the heart area with a pair of barber scissors to guarantee his chance at the deal as well as settle an old score, but Arlo's death hangs around Raylan's neck like a bolo necktie.

We've always been led to believe that Raylan doesn't give a squat about his daddy and for the most part not only is that true, but the feeling is mutual. Example: While Arlo lay on his deathbed, Raylan continued to badger him about Drew instead of "Sorry you're dyin'" and Arlo's last words to Raylan were "Kiss my ass." Not exactly the heartfelt father-son moment you'd expect when the younger generation suddenly becomes the oldest generation. But even though the two have repeatedly wished a quick, painful death on each other over the last few seasons, a father-son bond is something so strong that you just know Arlo's relatively sudden ticket-punching to the Afterlife had to be putting cracks in the foundation of even the proudest man.

And when we saw Raylan approach the elevator after Art demanded that he take two days off (bargained down from a week by Raylan) to grieve the death of his father, we finally saw some weakness. Well, weakness Raylan-style. Brief. Alone. Created by anger. Where no one could see. It was a blink of a moment, but it was also the most vulnerable and raw we've seen Raylan since his aunt/stepmother Helen died, and it was a showcase for Timothy Olyphant's Emmy reel. Yet it wasn't a moment that asked for sorrow from the audience; it came off as more of a shocking revelation. It was like seeing Superman cower from Kryptonite or witnessing your father cry for the first time—powerful enough to knock the wind out of you, and all the more devastating knowing how hard Raylan has fought to keep Arlo out of his life. Justified obviously gets praise for its volleys of crackling dialogue, but it can also absolutely kill it on an emotional level when it needs to. But what was so beautiful about the whole thing was that Justified got Raylan's reaction so spot on.

But as sharp as that scene was, it wasn't even my favorite part of "Outlaw." I might be alone in saying this, but that honor belongs to the incredible minutes spent with Shelby (Jim Beaver) and Ellen May in Shelby's office as the two connected through past loss (Ellen May's mother who walked out on her; Shelby's wife Abby who left him 25 years ago) and moving on. It was a quiet scene, but the connection between the two characters went beyond the screen. Ellen May wore Abby's clothes, and Shelby, recognizing the physical similarity between Ellen May and Abby, looked as though he'd just seen the ghost of his wife. For a moment, she had never left and he was 25 years in the past. Ellen May wondered if she'd ever be the type of woman who "belonged" (a heartbreaking use of the word) in clothes like Abby's instead of the whore rags she's used to, and while Shelby stared at her as though she was the daughter he never had, the past she's been trying so hard to escape disappeared. It's even more emotional once you consider that Jim Beaver's wife passed away in real life and he wrote a book as an ode to her, and that the actress who plays Ellen May is actually named Abby (Miller). This was a scene where two actors were doing a lot more than just getting paid to pretend.

"Outlaw" wasn't all sniffling and heart-wringing, though. Those Kleenex-heavy moments were countered by what Justified does best, which is test your ability to keep your underwear clean through tension and violence. Of course Boyd was at the center, and the way he played the jerky rich folks like a tamborine was awesome. Boyd was caught between the rock of Wynn Duffy (by way of Theo Tonin) wanting him to deliver Drew Thompson and the hard place of Lee Paxton and Gerald Johns ordering him to kill Frank. But Boyd saw an opportunity when Theo sent down a robotic assassin to speed up the Drew Thompson-finding, and cleverly gave Theo's hitman the names of Frank and one of Lee and Gerald's cohorts. After two grisly execution-style murders, Lee and Gerald thought Boyd had killed them both, increasing Boyd's legend and threat level. Then Boyd leveraged his new deal with Theo to weaken Lee and Gerald's power by threatening the judges and other powerful men they work with. At least, I think that's how it went. I suppose Boyd could have had the hitman kill everyone, but then Boyd wouldn't be able to look the men he just fucked over in the eyes (and extort them for a hundred large each and use their power to get himself a Dairy Queen franchise), and that's how Boyd gets his kicks.

The only problem with Boyd's plan is that it might involve telling his new fiancée Ava a few stretched truths and it doesn't take into account the two snakes in the grass—Johnny and Colton—that are crawling around his lawn. Following Boyd's chicanery, Wynn promised Johnny that Boyd was now a goner and sent the hitman after him; only a chance visit from Raylan saved Boyd's ass. What's Theo going to do when he finds out that Boyd had his prize hitman killed? Or is Boyd reasoning that he should be Theo's man instead of Wynn because Wynn got himself played? And when will Boyd find out that Ellen May is very much alive and telling Shelby all of Ava's dirty secrets? Ava and Boyd think they've picked a winner who will keep their grandkids rich and fat, but it's so obviously about to come back down on them. What, did you think they'd just get married and live happily ever after?

We're no longer skipping around from point to point finding the next person to tell us they think they know who Drew Thompson is, and the show is better for it. Instead, the approach to keeping the case interesting involves raising the stakes for finding Drew and adding more interested parties to the hunt. We're teetering on all the action and motivations and almost tipping over into overly complex, but things are currently balanced just so, and damn entertaining. Justified is in a groove right now as it heads towards the Season 4 finale.


– It may have been hard to keep track of all the people who died in this episode, but don't forget that Colton killed Mark, Tim's friend. And a shell casing conveniently landed on the table. That will somehow lead Tim to Colton, and then we got ourselves a Tim-Colton showdown!

– Boyd: "I know people like you are used to taking from people like me, but there comes a point when people like me can't take no more taking. Now all the things you've done, the way you've built your fortunes, it might make you criminals, but it don't make you outlaws. I am the outlaw." YEAH BOYD!

– Only Raylan can get away with insulting Drew Thompson's widow by making fun of her psychic powers and then melting her panties a second later by confirming that she still looks like Ava Gardner.

– I love how in the middle of Boyd being hauled off by the fake deputy hitman, Raylan interrupted him to talk about Ava's engagement ring and Boyd told Raylan he was still on the wedding guest list.

– Holy crap, Johnny Crowder is the fastest texter EVER! Either that or Colton's phone is haunted.
  • Comments (44)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • sboodt Mar 06, 2013

    Good call on the Tim-Colton showdown but I think its going to be from the cigarette but and not from the shell casing, considering the gun was from the drug dealer.

  • valtyn Mar 01, 2013

    I think the conversation between Ellen May and Shelby made it obvious that he was Drew Thompson. That bummed me out. Now, everything else in this weeks episode was the best. I think my favorite part was Jonny saying "You gentlemen like ice cream?" after Boyd had his way with them. Priceless!!

  • chrelle66 Feb 28, 2013

    "only a chance visit from Raylan saved Boyd's ass"
    That's all that scene gets?
    "Ok, maybe I'm crazy. Uh, I'm just having a hell of a day. Did you just give me an order!?"
    "Jeez, I hope I got that right."
    Awesome. Best shoot out I've seen in a long time.
    35:23 - 35:48

  • borgsblueyes Feb 28, 2013

    Dear all other shows,

    this is how it is done.

    Yours sincerely,


  • klotensen Feb 28, 2013

    Justified is just the best.
    When I watched this episode I wanted to weave myself in a cocoon of Justified

  • tryptz Feb 28, 2013

    Powerful episode I think Boyd's comeuppance speech with those white collar jerks was almost on par with his conquistadores speech from last season. Boyd sure got more lives than a cat!
    I must admit to some shock at the death of Arlo ,Beautifully written and acted. it was the last thing I expected. Arlo couldnt have wished for a better exit than his kiss my ass death door speech.
    It was a thrilling episode and one am sure I'll be rewatching it so many times cause am sure this was a pivotal episode and the writers are trying to overwhelm us much with emotions while hiding so much in plain sight that will be important this season. yeah am that paranoid.
    This gets a resounding 10\10 from me.

  • dref22 Feb 27, 2013

    D'awww Raylan killed TeddyBear616 ...

  • Vicky8675309 Feb 27, 2013

    I'm surprised the review didn't mention how show suggests Bobby, I mean Shelby, is Drew. Most of the commenters noticed it (see comments below) and when I was watching the show, my suspicion about Shelby being Drew kept growing. It may be a red herring but I was hoping the review would touch on the episode leading us viewers to conclude that Shelby is probably Drew.

    Boyd and Raylan killed it this episode--excellent acting.

    "...Justified got Raylan's reaction so spot on. " I'd say "Olyphant got Raylan's reaction so spot on". Sure the show justified said (script), stand by the elevator and subtly look sad but it was the actor who knocked it out of the park. Regardless, Olyphant, Groggins, and the show Justified are all awesome!!

  • Vicky8675309 Feb 27, 2013

    AWESOME episode!

    are these questions rhetorical? "What's Theo going to do when he finds out that Boyd had his prize hitman killed? Or is Boyd reasoning that he should be Theo's man instead of Wynn because Wynn got himself played?"

    Maybe I missed something but I thought Boyd told or implied that the "button man" was dead (so Theo knows) and Boyd blatantly stated that he played Duffy and hence Theo should back him (Boyd) over Duffy. Theo agreed to do so if Boyd delivered Drew to him. Boyd then went into "debt" by having his sponsor (theo) pull some strings to make the threat of judges, etc go away...

    I did enjoy the review on this fabulous episode of one of tv's best shows~ Justified. Best episode of the season imo.

  • Tjsmooth0 Feb 27, 2013

    I still think Drew is Sam Anderson/Bernard/Holland Manners/Lee Paxton

  • See More Comments (18)