Justified: When a Plan Doesn't Come Together

Justified S03E12: "Coalition"

If it wasn't the best episode of the season, last night's installment of Justified was damn close. "Coalition," the penultimate episode of the series' hot-and-cold third season, was the most artful way of encapsulating what it's been trying to do all season long: throw all these colorful Harlan characters into a box, shake the whole thing up, and get out the popcorn.

Every weasel in the county converged on a common prize: Mags' missing fortune ($3.2 million!). Some (Limehouse) knew where it was, everyone else didn't, and elaborate schemes were set up, creating the most complicated and dangerous game of hide-and-seek ever. But these hillbillies are smarter than your average yokel, so nothing was as simple as it seemed and a huge chunk of the episode was watching all these parties try and stay one step ahead of each other as the dash for the cash escalated from power walk to Olympic sprint.

It's pretty pointless to recap the stages of the hunt, as the bulk of it was misdirection and misinformation, action and reaction, and cause and effect. The joy from the plot came from watching it unfold as those that were perceived to be in last place jumped into first place and vice versa several times over hte course of the episode. It was like a game of hillbilly Mario Kart with inside tips playing the role of banana peels and broken alliances as good as a flying turtle shell.

In the end, the money was with Loretta all along at the behest of Mags who wanted to set her up for life. While I have problems with Limehouse agreeing not to take 3.2 million from a little girl (he's a philanthropist now?), at least the cash ended up in the right place. In case you're wondering, Justified creator Graham Yost said that is the end of the money storyline and it won't factor into next week's finale.

But just because the money is out of the picture, it doesn't mean these men have stopped wanting to strangle each other. Boyd, Quarles, Wynn, and Limehouse still have no interest in giving up their share of the Harlan drug pie. Wynn planned on blowing up Quarles, Quarles planned on taking out Boyd for Limehouse, Boyd planned on taking out Quarles, and the cops planned on cuffing anyone. But when Quarles arrived at Boyd's and the guns were almost drawn, Wynn triggered the bomb just a tad too early (or too late), and the one who was left with a bullet in him was Officer Tom, Raylan's friend.

The interesting part of this scene is we never actually saw Quarles take the shot on Tom. Tom had him squared up in his sights, and Quarles' sleeve gun was already out. I don't see how Quarles could have shot him despite what Johnny told the authorities. I'm going with the third gunman theory here, and would not be surprised if the smoking gun was in Arlo's hand. Arlo's been having senior moments all over the place, and he might be after the prize that is Quarles' live body. Quarles is worth 200 large alive to Sammy Tonin, and Arlo, who scenes before pulled a gun on Ava, knows this. If Justified has taught me anything, it's that it helps to come up with hare-brained theories when accurately predicting where this is going to go.

But if there is a problem with "Coalition," it's that the set up for the finale seems like we're back to square one. The search for the money didn't end up being the big story for the season as we thought it had been set up to be over the last few episodes. And that's been the weakness of this season. Instead of having one prime focus, Season 3 has mostly been about Quarles coming into Harlan and messing things up for everyone else in smaller doses. These other diversions–Mags' money, the sheriff's race, the oxy drug trade, the set-up on Raylan–have been just that, diversions. We've been pulled in so many directions that we've never had time to concentrate on a greater story. All these characters we’ve met and these small stories told have been fantastic, but at some point piling on more does the overall story more harm than good. We have tons of gravy, but not enough mashed potatoes! When you look at Season 3 from afar, it doesn't pack the same punch that the much more focused Season 2 did.


Postcards from Harlan County

– That scene in the trailer with Quarles in a kimono handing Oxy freebase hits through a shotgun to the whores should go down as one of the five best scenes in Justified history. I don't know if you've ever seen the film Narc, but there was some similar drug administering via shotgun going on in that, except with less successful results.

– So much great dialogue in this episode, probably the best of the season. Napier: "You get a chance to put some bullets in that toe-headed son of a bitch, it sure would be nice if he knew one of them came from me." Whore #1: "The movie with the old people where they go to outer space?" Jimmy the henchman: "We got paying customers inside waiting on mouths to get in there and blow them!" Limehouse: "That's funny how that money brings together all them wayward personalities." Loretta: "Marshal, do I strike you in any way as a Van Halen fan?" And my favorite, Quarles: "Who's next on the shotgun train?"

– Who else froze up when Dickie stepped foot in Boyd's bar? And how about that scene with the plastic bag? Great choice there.

– I was pretty taken aback when Arlo, in the heat of the moment, called Boyd "Raylan" and didn't even correct himself. That's when I knew he was off his rocker. However, do we really need another show playing the imaginary character card?

– Where did Boyd end up in that final scene? He was knocked out by the blast (or by running headfirst into a pole as a result of the blast to be exact) but we didn't see him when the cops showed up to the scene. Could Quarles have taken him?


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (29)
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Any one else think it was pretty much heart-breaking the way Raylan said "Tom?" when he found his dead body? Voice cracked ever so slightly... Tim is an amazing actor.
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I'm embarrassed I ever criticized this show (specifically the second episode) because I would have canceled it if I were an executive. It's a truly awesome show.
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The main storyline for season 3 is: Quarrels. Raylan is a US marshal who hunts down wanted criminals. Quarrels wasn't a "wanted man" by the authorities, at least not until the last minute of this episode. Now it's Raylan's job to hunt down Quarrels and bring him to justice....for not only killing a cop, but a friend of his...so it's personal, not to mention that Quarrels already said he was gonna kill Raylan. So while the 3rd season may be a little slower than season 2, it's still spectacular.
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Hot and Cold third season?

I am going to have to disagree here. This season may not have been as well thought out as season 2, but it was most definitely not Hot and Cold. Maybe Hot and sometimes Luke warm. Being Human this season was Hot and Cold. Anyways, while I LOVED season 2, this season we were blessed with amazing dialogue, entertaining villains, and barely any Winona. It could be just me, but I am glad she has been M.I.A. this season. I find her character annoying and stuck-up, and I hated almost all of the decisions she made in season 2.

And this season should be labeled 'HOT' just for Dickie's hair alone.
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For a second there, before Raylan looks around wondering which way Quarles may have gone, you can see Boyd still lying on the ground unconscious.



I don't think Arlo had any part of the final scene and do believe it went down the way it was portrayed -- Quarles was a quicker shot than my favorite non-Marshal cop, Tom.



This was another great episode and I'm actually happy with the direction they went. Instead of leaving EVERYTHING to the final episode, they did a lot in the second-to-last, and with the final one, it'll seemingly be essentially Raylan hunting down Quarles (and Wynn?), with Arlo somehow interfering. I had my complaints about having too many stories and characters early on in the season, and so I compliment them for being able to draw them all down in the final two episodes, rather than just the finale.
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What I found most difficult to believe is that Boyd would leave Quarles not just alive (OK more cash that way) but to be guarded by three morons



The theory that Arlo shot Tim is interesting though disturbing as that would pit him even more against Raylan...



I wonder whether Arlo has taken Quarles and also where was Ava all this time?
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I agree with you that my biggest nitpick of this episode is that Boyd left Quarles guarded by two whores and one lazy gunner. They portray Boyd as really smart and careful, so that just seemed a bit too reckless for him, for me.
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If you have several kids, you shouldn't make one your favorite. The same with seasons 2 and 3 of this fantastic show. They are different and I'm happy about it - both deserve our undivided love. Season 1 is the bastard son who likes to kill cats for fun.

I totally agree on multiple comments pointing out Limehouse : I really root for him and can't see him anymore as a villain. He has something money can't buy - not even 3.2 million bucks ... awesome.
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Boyd was on the ground unconsious that whole last scene
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Limehouse has been set up as the trustworthy banker for the criminals. It was said that he had a debt to Mags and that taking care of the money was his way of paying her back.



Frankly, I was disappointed when it seemed like Limehouse had simply stolen the money. It made him just like everyone else. Now it seems like he didn't. For the first episode in the season (not only for the money twist, but for him planning to screw everyone else), I'm rooting for Limehouse.



I hope he and Wynn don't get killed. Quarles has a couple of bullets with his name on, of course, and Boyd is untouchable. As for Arlo... we might just end up seeing Raylan shooting his father.



I have to disagree on this season being inferior to the last. I am loving it.
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Forgot to add "...we might just end up seeing Raylan shooting his father." Again!



Although I was thinking a bit more on the deadly side this time.



Still, if Arlo takes Dickie with him, I'm good. I like both Dickie and Arlo, but Dickie has run his course, unless they plan on getting him a major character arc like they did with Boyd (and frankly, like Raylan said, Dickie is too stupid for that) and the things with Arlo seem to be heading towards a messy ending.



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HMMmm1 I thought I saw Raylan kill Dickie for good. Though, at first when Raylan caught Dickie at Loretta's house and they were arguing, Raylan put his gun back in his holster and Dickie still had his gun in his hand. Then I knew that Raylan was setting Dickie up to get shot as soon as Dickie tried to point his gun at Raylan. Sure enough, that happened and Raylan shot him. With all that $3.2M now in Loretta's hands, Limehouse is back to being a "good"? guy, and raylan is OK with where the money is.
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Tim, I don't know if you just didn't know how it's spelled or what, but Napier called Quarles "towheaded", as in: a head of hair resembling tow especially in being flaxen or tousled. It's an old fancy word for blonde. But like I said before, Neal must have a great sense of humor, to let the writers think up of the worst insults for the other characters to call him. My personal favorite was "big baby head". And I don't care who has to be bribed or taken out, Walton deserves at least an Emmy nomination. The change in expression on his face when Dickie walked into the bar and when Arlo called him Raylan... I'd say Goggins is up there with Jensen Ackles, in terms of conveying emotion and internal thought processes through facial expressions. As someone else stated, Limehouse and the people of Noble's Holler are known for protecting women, so I can see why he'd protect Loretta and wanting everyone who was after it gone, but the hand he played seemed convoluted, to the point where some episodes, he seemed like an unnecessary character. An interesting, dangerous character. But poor Dickie... That man was just born under a bad sign. Still, I'm dying to know how the season will close up, and even with the ups and downs, season three has been a damn good joyride.
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I agree fully about Goggins. And, yes, I feel so sorry for Dickie at times...
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I think Limehouse agreed to leave the money with the girl (thus respecting Mags decision) after his discussion with Raylan about getting people "to leave us the hell alone." And I also believe that the money story was there to keep a line of continuity with the previous season and to "cement" the other plot-lines of this season together since there was many intertwine trails.



To me, it was a great season.



Now, I've read somewhere that Olyphan made a "3 seasons only" deal with the Network. Is this confirmed? Is this the last season? Too bad if it is.
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do not fret - i believe a 4th season's been announced already http://www.seat42f.com/fx-renews-justified-for-a-fourth-season.html
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Great!

Thanks.

One of the Best show on TV... !!!

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Definitely - Raylan is the only character on TV that wears a hat without looking like a fool. Even smarty pants Neal Caffrey looks a bit silly with his
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That's possible but I think the money was always with Loretta.
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Season 2 was so damn good that this season was always going to struggle to raise the bar higher. Its still awesome though. When Raylan turned up and found his buddy shot I genuinely had to hold my breath. Great stuff.



The writers must have a nightmare quandary; they have to kill off some characters to keep the shows integrity but all of the characters are so good how do you pick one??
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Erm....Nobels Holler is known for protecting women of all ages and races from evil men. So with that in mind why is it not plausible for limehouse to keep his word? Just because he seems to be a criminal which is basically a facade to protect his people does not mean he will not protect a little girl.
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I'm glad to see you and I are in agreement, as I also felt Limehouse's motivation throughout this season regarding the money made no sense whatsoever. Are we really to believe that he's been protecting Loretta this whole time? He's threating and inciting murder and acting like a thief so a little girl can have a boatload of cash? Not buying it, not even a little bit. Surely a guy like him could have seen the folly in not at least holding back half a million for Dickie, that little scuz would have been happy as a pig in slop with that kind of cash. Instead we got the ridiculous "$37k in a cooler" garbage and the generosity of spirit which came from an organized criminal mastermind / henchmen mutilator.



And Raylan chasing the money was lazy, it was merely writers getting the main character involved in the hunt, but they gave him a dogged attachment to it which came from the ether.



I was impressed that the writers were so willing to make Boyd a nigh-complete idiot and failure throughout the episode at least, they had been putting him up on a pedastal for far too long throughout the entire series, and now he's just digging himself deeper and deeper into failures.



Quarles turned a corner in this episode back towards being something really badass, but he's also showing himself to be a small-timer by hitting the pipe and running around like a Loony Tunes character. Tom catching that bullet seemed a tad hard to believe, and Tom not wearing a vest seemed even more difficult to swallow, but the rest of Quarles' run-around was impressive to watch. The only thing better would be to show him concerning himself with his family, which they've entirely dropped as of late.



I do agree with you that the kooky mess on everybody's plates at the end of this season is more gravy than potatoes, and I'd argue it's lending a soap opera feel to the show, so hopefully they can get something good out of next week's episode. Raylan this week felt like the badass we've been missing for a whole season, it's just that he was barely in the episode until he finally took care of Dickie (and it felt to me like they were going to pull a Boyd and make him survive, which is such a cop-out since Raylan is trained to shoot for center mass which is a kill shot almost every time). Throwing Arlo's mental state into the mix is going to make next week a real juggling contest, and I hope they can get it together. We've got more dropped plotlines and characters than I've ever seen before - Winona and the pregnancy, her ex's murder, Quarles' son, the Florida mob's move on the Oxy business, on and on, so let's at least get this season finale to deliver something final on something.
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I could be wrong, but it looked like that Raylan purposely didn't shoot Dickie to kill. Just like in the first episode, he shot the crazy gunman in the shoulder. I think Raylan thinks of Dickie as more of a nuisance, and would prefer him to be in jail rather than dead.
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The show has shown time and time again, that many of THESE characters value promises-made and favors-owed more than life itself. Seriously, some of the characters have passed up on doing something to help themselves just to satisfy a debt.



It's been said that Limehouse owed Magg's a big debt (not money, but favors) so she called it in. I gotta say, I'm impressed.



The guy's a murdering crime lord, but he has scruples. IE, offering protection to battered women.
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Walton Goggins walking up to Dickie at the start of the episode. Damn that was good. He really deserves an emmy. I liked the episode, I thought it was kind of like a hillbilly version of Ocean's 11 without the clothes and without the big surprise we got the money thing. Although that kind of happened with Lorreta. Who is such a great character I would love her to stick around or have a bigger role in Season 3.



Tom getting shot was a surprise . I don't think we got to see the bullet hole so it will be interesting if Quarles shot him or someone else. He could have conceivably shot him because action is generally faster than reaction. But if it was that there probably would have been two shots and both of them lying on the ground. So your third gunmen theory is valid.



My guess is Boyd took off after Quarles.



Great episode, sad to see Tom get killed. But I imagine Raylan will even that out. Oh and I almost forgot Raylan. How good was his showdown with Dickie?



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Is it ironic that some of the greatest dialogue in TV history is focused around a bunch of red-necks? I don't mean that in any negative way at all -- the show is genius from bottom to top, and one of the most underrated shows that I can think of. I absolutely love it.



It looks like Dickie got shot in the leg... now, I haven't been paying much attention to his gait until now, but I think it was the same leg he already has a limp in. Would be awesome if it were not, and all the more insulting.



As for the Arlo shooting theory, I think you're right -- for we never saw what became of him after he locked up Ava and supposedly took off. I'm just glad this show doesn't give you voice-overs or flash-backs to hit you over the head with the truth, and that it keeps you guessing.
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If the show was focused on one plot everyone would say it is the same as season 2. I love this season, but it feels like Spiderman 3. A lot of villains in an attempt to top the second installment. However, it cannot be denied how entertaining these villains are.
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The words (and image) of "Quarles in a kimono" are shudder inducing. Yuck.



Boyd was knocked out on the ground when Raylan and the police arrived.



Interesting idea about Arlo being the shooter. Hmmm . . .
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It is really disappointing that an episode as good as this could end in such a way to make one realize this season is NOT gonna top season 2. The narrative is too all over the place and there's too many hands in the Harlan County cookie jar for Raylan to have any emotional investment or motive to try to figure out the bigger picture and put a stop to all the big schemes Boyd, Limehouse and Quarles were setting up. The Trooper Tom death felt too contrived as a way of trying to set Raylan off on the path of stopping the bloodshed while maybe causing a little himself. In fact, one of the only ways I see this season standing out to the audience is if your theory about Arlo is right. Raylan would then hunt down his father to stop him from murder, and somehow Quarles would be the slippery little cockroach he is and shoot and kill Arlo - which would make Raylan realize his head was out of the game this whole season and things could've easily been stopped if he'd taken the time to worry about what was going on in the background of these sleepy little hollers
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