Justified S03E05: "Thick as Mud"
I'm going to go on record and put myself out on a limb here—a limb that many of you will surely try to snap so that I break my little neck—and say that last night's episode of Justified, "Thick as Mud," was my least favorite of the season so far, even though many of you probably thought it was the best. I think my off-puttedness stems from the fact that it felt like a departure from the series. "Thick as Mud" seemed more like a vignette from Pulp Fiction than an installment of The Continuing Adventures of Raylan and His Hat. However, it was also 44 minutes of total awesomeness because even when Justified has an "off" day, it's on such a roll with its characters, dialogue, and setting, that it barely matters.
Justified has a sense of swagger that embodies its protagonist. It never busts down the door while amped up on testosterone; instead, it pushes the saloon doors open and stands there for a few moments, letting the patrons gawk at its presence before tipping its hat and sauntering in, jacket pulled open just enough to give you a peek of how dangerous it can be. With Dewey Crowe (I <3 Dewey big time) at the helm of "Thick as Mud," the pace and tone of the episode was jarring when compared to Justified's full body of work as a cool customer.
But hoo-boy was it entertaining. Let's recap what the episode was about in one sentence: Dewey Crowe on the run with four hours to get $20,000 in cash so he could get his kidneys removed before a crazed doctor could sell them on the black market. If you didn't see the episode, I don't have to tell you that Dewey didn't exactly handle the situation with suave. But that's not why we love Dewey. He's an idiot. A stupid, ignorant idiot. But he's also a lovable idiot. His adventure led him to knock over an appliance store, a strip club, and the requisite corner store, with Raylan and Erica (and some very funny and sarcastic local law enforcement) steps behind the whole way.
In the end, Raylan convinced a desperate Dewey to drain his lizard to see if he really did lose his kidneys, and when the yellow stuff flowed, the chase was over. Even though Dewey was convinced that the organ-robbing still happened. "You mean I had four kidneys?" Chair. I fell of it.
But just because Dewey still had his "Cadillac of beans" (another falling off the chair moment) it didn't mean Raylan's work was done. Ponytail prison doctor Lance, the would-be kidney-snatcher, was still on the run. Leads took Raylan to the house of Layla, a very cute nurse with a sharp tongue who he'd flirted with back at the hospital, and wouldn't you know it? Her boyfriend was the ponytail prison doc, and the two were involved in all sorts of scams. Lance stuck Raylan with a syringe full of knockout juice, and the new plan was to cut open Raylan and sell his Raylan parts, presumably with a side order of skipping town.
But this is Raylan Givens we're talking about, not some normal organ bag. For all his craftiness, escapes from sticky situations sometime fall in Raylan's lap. And when Layla for some reason shot Lance (maybe she wanted to pin the murder on Lance? That's a crummy way to breakup with a boyfriend, and on Valentine's Day, too!), Lance and the gun he took off Raylan fell right into Raylan's lap. And because Raylan has the strength of 1,000 elephants, the tranquilizer wore off just in time for him to shoot Layla THROUGH the body of Lance. Though I'm not sure I buy that he was able to wake up from being drugged, let alone have the wherewithal and dexterity to shoot Layla through Lance's corpse. Raylan just went from a damn good U.S. Marshal to cartoon superhero, but what else is the show gonna do? Kind of a dud ending to an otherwise fun romp.
Elsewhere, Boyd had some great action while searching for the men who put those "seeds of mutiny" in Devil's brain. After extracting Devil's cell phone from his corpse, Boyd strolled over to a cool bar where Tanner, the man who brought Devil over to Quarles in the opening of last week's episode, was drinking. Boyd's new crazy henchman pulled the plug on the jukebox, a sure sign that trouble was about to go down. A few button presses on Devil's phone to dial up some recent calls, and Tanner's phone blew up. Kicks to Tanner's face ensued. That scene was tense! I loved how silent the bar was, save for the buzzing and ringing of Tanner's cell phone, which was practically a death sentence.
Tanner led Boyd to Quarles, which I believe was the last of the introductions of this season's bad guys to our hero Raylan and antihero Boyd. And it was well worth the wait. Quarles flashed his grin and three-piece suit to Boyd, then asked for a Pappy van Winkle neat (Boyd's dive carries bourbon that goes for about $25 a glass?), but Boyd was unimpressed with his offer of partnering up. These two are going to be in each other's faces all season long.
Finally, Raylan came back home to an empty house, and found a note from Winona. We didn't get to see what it said, but given Raylan's glum reaction, it probably wasn't good. Did she up and leave him? No way. Don't buy it. Did she even write the note? Was it a ransom note? Was it a recipe for Winona's country-fair-winning potato salad? Give us your theories!
"Thick as Mud" was a fun diversion, but it was a bit out of character for Justified. What it reminded me of more than anything is that, while Justified is in a league of its own in creating compelling characters regardless of whether they're minor or major, it's best when the attention is on Raylan or the central bad guys. Or Dickie. Let's give this one a A-minus-minus.
– Kinda sad Ash is dead now. I know he was a lug, but for some reason I liked him. He got one of the episode's best lines, though. Raylan: "What do you know about kidneys?" Ash: "They're the Cadillac of beans."
– Boyd's henchman, the one with the goofy hair who unplugged the jukebox, might be the scariest person on the show right now and he's barely said a word. Does anyone know his name?
– Neal McDonough and Mykelti Williamson are absolutely killing it as Quarles and Limehouse. They're approaching Mags Bennett territory. But they still have a long way to be on the same level as Margo Martindale's brilliant performance.