It had to happen sometime. Technology had to arrive in Harlan County and bring a new kind of crime to the area. "Raw Deal" followed what happened when cyber crime met an old Kentucky lawman, and because Justified is more concerned with cheese grits than it is with megabits, the man with the cool Stetson beat the geek with the glasses. And rather easily, when you think about it.
Justified's trek across unfamiliar cyber-turf was indicative of the way that "Raw Deal" felt slightly out of place in the show's universe. Not only did Raylan track down a hacker and his computerbox magic, but Boyd flew off to Mexico and Ava chewed up more screen time in jail, wherever that is, isolated from everyone else in Justified's rich tapestry of hillbillies and Marshals. Now, the series has built up some frequent flyer miles over the course of its run by jaunting off to Miami and Detroit, but "Raw Deal" felt further away from the Harlan epicenter than most other episodes. Personally, I like it when Justified sticks to the 40831 zip code and maintains its insulated feel. The show's small-town charm and crimes are some of its biggest strengths. And while I'm on board with Harlan being a black hole that sucks in criminal elements and lures strangers to town, I'm less a fan of the bad boys of Harlan supernova-ing, expanding outward, and being the strangers themselves. But, five seasons in, I understand the writers' urge to travel, especially if they're trying not to repeat themselves.
However, "Raw Deal" should probably be remembered more for its place in Season 5's overarching storylines than for its standalone yarn, and the episode contained a doozy of a development for Boyd. The eloquent Southern gentleman took his business down to Meh-hee-co to get that $25,000 worth of heroin he felt he was his, but ended up in a bidding war over the H with his cousin Johnny, who was bankrolled to the teeth after bleeding Hot Rod's bank account to zeroes. And since money talks and bullshit is bullshit, Mexican cartel reps Yoon and Ruiz went straight to the highest bidder and, while they were at it, sold the rights to Boyd's life to Johnny. But as is often the case on Justified, clandestine dealings were afoot, and out of the back of a moving truck sprung Boyd's cavalry, which included recently acquired foot soldiers Darryl and Danny Crowe.
I got a little confused as to who was working for who, but Danny and Darryl gave each other a nod and started blasting dudes who I think were working with Johnny, much to Boyd's dismay. And with the heroin deal busted, Boyd put a long-overdue bullet in Johnny's body—so I assume Boyd will have to answer to the Mexican cartel with regard to why the high bidder is now dead. Or will the problem be that American men were killed in Mexico (were they in Mexico?), something the cartel explicitly said would hurt their feelings? Either way, Boyd had better learn some big, apologetic words in Spanish, because he's screwed. And knowing what we know from "Kill the Messenger" about how the cartel deals with people who wrong them, Boyd might want to take a dip in a cold pool.
Ava's storyline didn't get much better for me this week. Last week, I talked about how distant it felt relative to everything else that's going on, and how adding a whole new stock of characters to a setting (a maximum security woman's prison) that won't soon be visited by any Justified regulars is a bit risky at this juncture. As I see it, that's still the case. This week, Ava swapped protection for helping Penny's preacher friend smuggle in drugs. But I'm surprised that Ava made the decision she did—putting the drugs she was supposed to smuggle into the bag of the plumber who brought them in so he would get busted—so hastily, in order to avoid the in-cahoots prison guard's payment of shower sex. Yes, she was in a crummy situation, but maybe it would've been a better idea to leave with the drugs and then try to think of another plan? Instead, she blew up the master scheme, and now preacher lady has her by the lady balls. Ava said she could get more heroin, and Penny said she had a plan to smuggle it in. But what about the circle of guards and prison servicemen who aided the plot in the first place? They didn't rat anyone else out? They're not going to be looking for revenge? Maybe that happens next week, maybe it's ignored. But Ava's real problem is going to be getting heroin from Boyd, seeing as how he's stuck in Mexico with a handful of dead bodies.
And finally, back to Raylan's standalone story. There's nothing wrong with adding a little new-age crime for Raylan to handle, but the way things went down with so little effort from Raylan, even I could have handled this case—and I have four left feet, I'm all thumbs, and I couldn't hit the side of a barn if I drove through it. After cleaning out an online backgammon website, TC the 1337 hacker was on the lam and hiding behind seven proxies by rerouting phone calls. Tim's FBI computer guy Chris did most of the legwork to send Raylan from point to point, and when Raylan thought he was making a bust but ended up in the hotel room of TC's former partner Candace and the man who was holding her hostage, Candace gave up TC's whereabouts (not his Azeroth whereabouts, his real whereabouts) because TC had made fun of her n00b coding skillz. That put Raylan in TC's grandmother's basement, where TC was MMORPGing (kind of a too-easy gag for a show as smart as Justified). Honestly, Raylan did very little except flame TC on a blog post. Ha, Raylan writing blog posts. What has this world come to?
There's a bit of fluff going on in this middle section of Season 5. Boyd's in Mexico, Ava's in jail, Raylan and Darryl are barely enemies. And for all the traveling north and south of the border that Justified has done, we haven't really gone that far yet. The acting, dialogue, and short stories are all still great, but there's not much of a nucleus, there's not much of a sense of what the season is really about. After a strong start to the season, Justified seems a little distracted now.
– Is online backgammon gambling a real thing?
– Who is this Uncle Jack fella that Kendal called? All I can think of is Uncle Jack from Breaking Bad, who could EASILY be related to the Crowes and would make for an amazing crossover.
– Justified is really into the surprising, close-range head shots these days, isn't it? Poor Larry just wanted his backgammon money.
– One bit of news that will affect the Crowes: Raylan telling Wendy that Darryl killed Dilly. That's going to raise some shiz.
– For a second there, I thought Justified actually misspelled "Marshal" on the website.
Larry Salmaron: "Ever heard of Falafel?"
Raylan: "Never cared much for it. Always found it like a cut-rate hush puppy."
Raylan: "Pretty sure if we took the site we'd spell our name right."
Tim: "TJ. TC. ACDC. Whatever."
Boyd: "Ah look at you. Even vultures can fly south for the winter."
Boyd: "I understand your Mexican cartel have a reputation, but let me tell you something, so do the rednecks in Kentucky."
Raylan: "Guy threw his leg out the window, jumped out and then slid down a flag pole, and then gave me the bird. Cmon, I love this guy, let me catch him."
Raylan: "I don't know what that is, but I'm guessing it means you weren't getting laid much."
What'd you think of "Raw Deal"?
AIRED ON 4/8/2014
Season 5 : Episode 13