Well, that didn't take long, did it? Shortly after being pushed to the brink last week, Detroit mobster Robert Quarles concocted a pretty nifty plan to smear Raylan all over the wall, and it almost worked. "Watching the Detectives" illustrated how Justified excels at character moves and countermoves by digging a hole so deep for Raylan that he couldn't even throw his hat out of it.
"Watching the Detectives" reminded me a lot of the fantastic Season 2 episode "Save My Love," a cost-cutting bottle episode that took place almost exclusively in the courthouse. That hour was a master class in tension-building, knowing glances, and crafty thinking as Raylan helped Winona out of a bind after she snatched cash from the evidence room. A similar thing happened last night, with Raylan navigating the hallways of the courtroom to save his own hide instead of picking up the pieces of someone who made a stupid decision. But the stakes were much, much higher.
This time Raylan was the focus of not one, but TWO investigations. Quarles doesn't play around, and that was more than evident when he put one in Gary's chest and left him for dead on Winona's doorstep. Considering Gary's history with Raylan's recent squeeze Winona and that little thing of Gary hiring hitpeople to kill Raylan, it was a good move on Quarles' part to shift the balance back to even. And the idea to use the bullet that Raylan dropped on Wynn Duffy as the murder vessel was genius!
Coming from the other direction, the FBI chased Raylan on suspicion of him being a dirty cop, courtesy of Sammy's misinformation to the Feds. And with Raylan's track record of reckless marshaling, his "friendship" with Boyd Crowder, and his knack for pissing off half of the state, it was a pretty thorough frame job by Quarles. I found myself wondering how in the heck Raylan was going to get out of this pickle.
The answer was "with a little help from his friends," as it turned out. You don't mess with the marshals, and you definitely don't poke around their turf. Art and Tim may have their differences with Raylan, but as long as Raylan has that star in his wallet, they're going to be total dicks to anyone—even the FBI—who calls one of their own a dirty murderer. Watching the three of them not back down in the face of barks from the FBI and local law enforcement was damn entertaining, and Raylan couldn't have had two better guys to stand side-by-side with him at high noon. LOVE LOVE Tim to death. Someone get that guy his own show.
I was also happy to see Winona back. I know she's not everyone's favorite character and several of you wish a painful death on her (which could happen, since Natalie Zea has landed a role on a new pilot), but I think she deserved one last shot to win us over. And in putting her ass on the line by grabbing the planted gun and handing it off to Raylan to help him out, I think she did that. I just wonder if her parting words, "This time seriously, don't come find me," were as final as they sounded.
Boyd had his own frame job to deal with, as Quarles and Sheriff Napier looked to take out Boyd's man, Shelby, from the race by attacking the source of his funding: Boyd. A fake car-bombing and one pissed-off sheriff later, Boyd was cuffed and paraded into county jail in front of news cameras as Napier killed two birds with one stone by adding good PR to getting rid of Boyd. But we all know slippery Boyd won't stay in jail for too long. I've got to hand it to Quarles. He's got a lotta guts going after both Raylan and Boyd. Desperate men take desperate measures, and no one is more desperate than Quarles. But desperate men don't always think through their plans ahead of time, and now Quarles has a loose cannon in Tanner that might become a nuisance.
While these pieces of the game board tussled with each other, Limehouse creeped closer and closer to the ruckus with the intention of taking out the depleted winner and having all the turf for himself. And he was being extra sneaky by placing himself in cahoots with both Boyd and Quarles. His time of being an accessory or bystander is coming to a close, and when someone heads up to Nobles Holler, blood will spill.
"Watching the Detectives" put the screws on Raylan in this season of back-and-forth between him and his new enemies. But with each move made, the margin of error decreases and the danger increases. So far, Season 3 has all the thrills of a 12-round heavyweight boxing match and a four-way street fight.
Postcards From Harlan County
– I know the bullet that Raylan threw at Duffy was used against Raylan in framing him for murder, but I hope that doesn't keep Raylan from doing similarly cool shit in the future. Because like that cop said, it was the coolest thing ever. And watching Raylan explain what he did to the cops was hilarious!
– There was some fantastic dialogue in this episode: Duffy's threat to Raylan about painting the walls a different color, a Mythbusters reference, Tim talking about Victoria's Secret models, and great back-and-forth between the marshals and the cops and FBI. This show would even be great to watch with your eyes closed.
– What is Raylan going to do with that gun?
– Quarles, kindly remember the number-one rule of drug dealing: "Don't get high on your own supply!"
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom