The recapping bug strikes again! I was going to do the Justified pilot, but my DVDs are currently making the rounds, so instead you get one of my favorite episodes from season two: The Spoil. Off we go!
It’s nighttime in the woods, and the Fabulous Bennett Boys are driving up to a house, so right off the bat you know things are going to be awesome. Probably not for Reggie, the guy who steps out of the house– Dickie and Coover tell him it’s time for a little conversation about selling his land to Ma Bennett rather than Black Pike (an appropriate name for a mining company but also basically handing its detractors at least a clip’s worth of pejorative name puns). Dickie’s holding a duffel bag that’s moving and making muffled noises, which is terrifying but also amazing, because of course Dickie’s holding a bag with some sort of feral animal in it. Before poor Reggie finds out what’s in that bag, though, Boyd Crowder and his Hair step in and chase off the Bennett Boys, who promise they’ll be back in the morning to get Reggie to sign the land over. Boyd recommends Reggie sign the land over to Black Pike in return for protection, otherwise he’ll likely find out what’s in that bag. Sounds kind of like a no-brainer to me, and I think Boyd’s Hair agrees with me.
At some random batting cage, Raylan’s hitting balls instead of people, for a change. Art shows up, as he’s wont to do, because Raylan’s once again not answering his phone. I don’t know how Art hasn’t just shot Raylan already. Just in, like, the leg. He pissily tells Raylan he’s got guard duty the next morning at 8 a.m. for that hot lady from the mining company. She’s running some town hall meeting down in Harlan and Judge Stephen Root has ordered her up some protection because of a possible miner with a grudge and a shotgun. Raylan, who’s got a depleted bottle of Jim Beam keeping him company, of course can’t just say “Sure thing” and shut up, and he gets indignant about the Judge being the target, not the pretty redhead. (This whole time, by the way, the ball-shooter-thing has still been pitching, unnoticed.) The conversation splits in two when the longhaired little punk who runs the batting cage comes up and starts nagging Raylan and Art about not wearing helmets. In between his whining to Art, Raylan casually insinuates he’d be cool with beating the shit out of the kid, who threatens to call the cops. “Kid, we are the cops,” Art sneers. The kid, bless him, doesn’t immediately disappear in a cloud of cartoon dust, but instead says, “Well, you should know how to obey the law, then,” before slouching off. Art orders Raylan to pick up that lady on time before doing the Art version of stomping off in a huff. Raylan takes a big ol’ swig o’ Jim Beam, because his life is shit right now.
He didn’t stop at that swig, apparently, because when he gets home (at 2:49, according to the clock on the nightstand) he’s Super Depressed Drunk. WiNOna’s sleeping like a whorebaby, because she has no concept of the shit Raylan has– and continues to –put himself through for her. He wakes her up by saying “He knows,” in a sad monotone kind of way. WiNOna has no idea what he’s talking about, so Raylan specifies he means Art, who clearly knows about the whole idiotic “Shit, I Stole $100K and Now You Have to Help Me Give it Back, Ex-Husband Whom I Left for a Schlub” thing WiNOna pulled over the last two episodes. WiNOna’s just like, “Oh, well, what’s he going to do? Turn us in?” “I would if I was him,” Raylan answers ungrammatically. (WERE, Raylan. Don’t they teach proper use of the subjunctive in Marshal School?) Further proving just how much she sucks, WiNOna just kind of shrugs and rolls over and once again leaves it all to Raylan to wrestle with. God, I hate WiNOna. (And yes, I will continue to say “WiNOna,” despite it being juvenile and not all that clever, because I literally say, “Ugh, no” every time she comes on screen.)
In the morning, Boyd Crowder and his Hair are driving through the bright SoCal countryside– I mean “foothills of Appalachia,” sorry –when they’re pulled over for a non-existent busted tail light by Doyle’s stooge (Deputy?) Nicky. While Nicky’s stooge busts said tail light, Nicky railroads Boyd and arrests him for noncompliance or whatever. Poor Boyd just cannot catch a break. Though I guess in the grand scheme of things this is a little less horrible than your daddy killing your entire Merry Band of Meth Lab Destroyers.
On a similar (fake) road, Carol “Black Pike, Red Hair” Johnson is driving the Town Car of Justice, presumably so Raylan can shoot anyone who tries to…shoot them? Or something. Most likely that’s an excuse for him still being legally too drunk to drive. Raylan looks like he literally has a deathwish, hat pulled down low and eyes trying to crawl back into his head. When Raylan moans for her to turn off the shitty, stomach-churning pop music that’s currently playing, Ms. Johnson expresses her disappointment that the Marshal she requested is not so much “studly” as “hungover.” Carol, Raylan is one of those rare people that can be both. Appreciate. Unfortunately, she briefly turns him into the Exposition Fairy so those of us who didn’t join until after the credits will know why these two are hanging out. Raylan Givens can pull off many, many looks, but Exposition Fairy is not one of them. Thankfully, the transformation is brief, and we get our first example of Hungover!Raylan being Smartass!Raylan, which is the best kind of Raylan: She tackily asks him if he’s willing to die for her, leaving him with no other choice than to respond with, “If I’ve died and gone to heaven, how will I know I’ve saved your life?” Carol informs him heaven will know he’s saved her life (fair point, actually) and answers her ringing phone, prompting an amazing line reading from Timothy Olyphant: “Are you familiar with the hands-free law?” Carol tells him to pipe down and has a conversation that sounds like it’s with someone who got tossed in jail. Raylan asks who they’re going to bail out. Well, Raylan, funny you should ask…
Boyd walks out of jail with his Hair still in high dudgeon and amusedly notes Raylan was there to see him the last time he got out. Raylan assures him he won’t be there the next time and just laughs when Boyd asks what makes Raylan think there will be a next time. Seriously, Boyd, don’t just softball them in like that. Doyle comes out as well and Carol immediately starts hounding him about blah blah suing for harassment, blah. “Oh, there you go, pokin’ the bear, and it’s his fault you get bit,” Raylan mumbles, and when Carol snaps at him to repeat himself he tips his hat up a bit and goes, “‘Scuse me, ma’am?” and I just collapse in laughter, because he’s acting like a kid in middle school and sometimes that’s just funny. Doyle points out Boyd’s some pretty shady company, to which Carol points out Doyle’s own shadiness, and they both try to get Raylan to say something, so he basically tells them to go fuck themselves because they’re all so shitty they deserve each other. And whenever they all inevitably fuck everything up, he promises, he won’t be around to clean up the bodies. Yikes, Raylan. Did someone give you a screener of the latter part of the season?
Doyle bids them adieu and Raylan snits that he’ll be in the car outside so Boyd and Carol can briefly discuss how the Bennetts are going to straight up murder him next time, so he needs to know whether he can count on his employer to back him up, whatever that means. Carol says she’s going to go get his car out of hock, which Boyd should take as a sign of good faith. I dunno if that says “We’ll save you from the bloodthirsty hillbillies,” but okay.
Boyd decides he feels like needling his old mining pal, who’s pouting in the passenger seat of the Town Car of Justice. “That was quite a speech you made back there,” Boyd stage-whispers. “Why thank you, I stayed up all night working on it,” Raylan snarks back. I kind of just want to transcribe this entire scene, because Raylan is just so delightfully irritated and sarcastic that every line reading is absolute gold. But I won’t. So, Boyd is pretty sure Raylan is being so pissy because the two of them are once again on the same side of a fight. Raylan isn’t having any of that nonsense: “The only thing we’re on the same side of is, like, this car,” he says, gesticulating so wildly he almost loses his hat. Boyd pulls his pigtail one more time before leaving, and Raylan settles back into his pout.
The Town Car of Justice pulls up to the Bennett store. Apparently Carol wants to “clear the air” with Mags before the meeting. After making a lame Dad Joke (“Nothin’ clear about the air around coal,” oof), Raylan voices his apprehension concerning this whole thing, because he knows Mags can and will eat Carol alive. Carol either doesn’t believe what Raylan’s implying or thinks she’s Mags’ equal. Either way, it’s your funeral, Red. Mags is in full-on “Regular Woman Who Helps These Poor People Up from the Holler” mode when the two come in. Seriously, she’s blowing her nose and stuffing the Kleenex back into her pocket and shit. Midway through the introductions Dickie and Coover come limping and shuffling in, respectively. Coover, not one for subtlety, basically starts slobbering at the site of Carol, who is clearly creeped out. Dickie just sidles up to Raylan looking mischievous. Raylan counters with his own “Bitch, Please” half-smile, so Dickie picks up a bat and starts…I dunno, fencing with it, or something. He’s just jabbing the air with it while lunging, really.
Carol and Mags’ conversation goes about as well as Raylan foresaw, which is to say Carol gets her ass stomped when she tries to “get on the same page” with Mags. Look, Carol: Don’t be this season’s Ava. Listen to the Stud Marshal. Raylan and the slightly shellshocked Carol turn to leave, but Coover just has to stick his giant ass all up in Raylan’s grill. Of course, Raylan cannot abide this, and Dickie does his best to egg Coover on, so within seconds Raylan’s taken his badge off and Coover has hilariously made the same gesture with the large lollipop he’s been holding. Since Coover has about half a foot and at least 50 pounds on Raylan, I’m thinking this is actually going to go worse than the last time an Olyphant character took off his Sheriff’s badge before a fight.
I’m right, of course. Coover tosses Raylan all over the shop, and though Raylan does get the upper hand for all of a second, the sudden appearance of Loretta a few feet away unmans him, and Coover sits on his chest and starts pummeling him. At this point Raylan’s given in, and Mags thinks he’s had enough, so she tells Coover to quit. He doesn’t, so she starts barking at him like you would a wayward dog, and when that doesn’t work, she literally picks up a shovel and starts hitting her giant of a son with it until he finally stops. The Bennett pack leaves, with Loretta looking pretty disturbed by the whole tableau. Wait until next episode, ‘Retta.
Later that evening, an impressively bruised Raylan comes to the hotel to escort Ms. Johnson to her meetin’. She answers the door in a silk robe, prompting a halfhearted quip about not wearing that to the meeting. Getting the shit kicked out of you while you’re hungover would dull anyone’s wits, I guess. She makes him come in and attempts to turn him into the Exposition Fairy again by asking why Coover beat him bloody, but since it’s actually a natural topic of conversation that ugliness is largely avoided. So, the whole Givens-Bennett thing started back in Prohibition, when a Bennett got nabbed for running moonshine and blamed a Givens, retaliating with a bullet to the chest. But for Raylan, it started in high school at a baseball game, when Dickie was pitching to him (stop it, slashfic-ers) and… Raylan loses his trail of thought for a moment when Carol comes back into the room with her robe wide open, hot lacy black underthings no one actually wears on full display. So, subtlety isn’t really Carol’s thing either. Maybe she and Coover are perfect for each other.
Raylan manages to compose himself and continues: Dickie put a pitch into his head and, in the ensuing melee, tried to smash Raylan’s face in with his cleats. Even back then Raylan was a badass, though– he got hold of his bat and bashed in Dickie’s left knee so bad his leg bent sideways. Uh, I’m going to need a moment to deal with the phantom pain here, because holy shit, can you imagine? I’m not saying it wasn’t justified (yes, I went there), but all the same… Ouch.
Rachel calls (remember Rachel? I barely do, and don’t really mind, honestly) and informs Raylan there’s probably a shooter headed to that meeting tonight, so he recommends to Carol that she cancel the meeting. She can’t, though– it’ll make her look weak. I actually have to agree with her here. Raylan gets petulant again and gives a delightful wince when Carol plops his hat on his head and tells him to do just do his damn job and protect her.
Boyd, meanwhile, is at the Givens abode, and for some reason it’s broad daylight even though I’m pretty sure it was legitimately nighttime during that last scene. Come on, Show– you’re better than that Gossip Girl time-bending shit. Arlo is giving his most heartfelt condolences to Boyd about Bo getting sniped by Miami gun thugs, and the two are so far under the spell of not speaking ill of the dead that Awesome Aunt Helen has to break in and complain she’s getting a cavity with all this treacle flying around. Boyd gets down to business and soldiers on with making his offer for the land on which Helen’s old house sits even when Mr. and Mrs. Givens start giving him shit for working for a mining company. They refuse, of course. Before he leaves, though, Boyd mentions that not only is Raylan in town, but that he’s thinking about leaving Kentucky. That’s some serious extrapolation from “I won’t be here to clean up the bodies,” Boyd. Helen looks legitimately taken aback that Raylan’s in town and hasn’t come to see her yet. Mischief managed, Boyd exits stage left.
Everyone’s at the church for the meeting, including my favorite Statie, Tom Bergen, who’s giving directions to other officers and generally being cool and ridiculously tall. Seriously, the guy practically towers over Raylan, who at 6′ isn’t exactly a midget. He comes up to Raylan and wonders what the hell happened to his face, and Raylan just can’t muster the energy to explain the whole thing, so Our Hero just sighs and asks how things are looking. Statie Tom says they’re fine, though checking for guns at the door in Harlan is the very definition of an exercise in futility.
Boyd’s giving Carol the gist of his meeting with the Givenses and once again starts teasing Raylan, this time about that rather attractively bruised face. Raylan retaliates by telling Boyd to step in front of any guns pulled when Boyd asks what he can do to help.
Everyone settles in, and we’re very aware of the attendance of the entire Bennett faction, with Doyle in uniform and everything. Carol starts off in a pretty dramatic way, throwing coal dust into the air and talking about how awesome coal is, especially the coal that comes from right here in Harlan county. (COAL.) The audience is easily swayed by this chicanery. She tells them they need the jobs Black Pike will bring if the Good People of Harlan sell their land to the company and let Black Pike blow the top off their mountain. And then she drags Raylan into her act, saying he used to be a miner and made a damn good living. Raylan is unable to keep his coal miner-loving mouth shut and points out that, though the base pay is similar to the Marshals Service, Marshals get paid the entire year and get things like vacation and raises. He doesn’t get fired if he takes a sick day because of a hangover– “Or ’cause you got your ass beat!” Coover charmingly chimes in from the audience, with an excellent “OHHH!” assist from Dickie. Carol looks displeased with this reasonable counter-argument, but the crowd just eats it up.
Luckily for her, Boyd steps in to present the other side of this surprisingly complex issue. (Well, surprising to an overprivileged kid like me.) Yes! It’s the Return of Preacher Boyd! He preaches about how hey, Black Pike gave someone with his background a chance, and they’ll bring prosperity back to Harlan. TESTIFY, Boyd’s Hair shouts. (Incidentally, the way Walton Goggins says “muh BACK-ground” never fails to crack me up; it’s like he’s doing the phonological equivalent of walking on eggshells.) Momentum swung back her way, Carol takes the ball and runs in the “God wants us to mine this earth!” direction. This ploy, of course, is gangbusters.
Oh, but now it’s Mags’ turn. And even though the real Emmy performance comes at the end of the next episode, this scene is what got the Emmy voters’ attention, I’m sure, because Margo Martindale just crushes this speech. Starting with a slow clap and then slowly building volume until her voice is practically booming, she weaves together the themes of homeland and culture and community, all the while using sweet innocent Loretta as a prop. She tells the room she’s willing to buy out all the landowners there to keep Black Pike away from their mountain and invites everyone over to her place the next day for “a big ol’ whoop-dee-do! Whoop-dee-do!”, doing hillbilly jazz hands. The kicker, of course, is when she turns to Carol and, voice dripping with condescension and molasses-soaked menace, says she hopes Ms. Johnson comes as well, to see what it is they’re fighting for down here. And right there, Carol knows she’s lost. But as Mags retakes her seat, there’s a sound like several gunshots, and everyone rushes around and out in a panic.
Turns out it was just a firecracker. Raylan shows it to Carol as they sit in the front row of the church and mimics her “crush the coal dust and then throw it in the air” schtick from earlier while noting the “shooting” came at a pretty opportune time for her. Carol objects to this insinuation and tells Raylan to feel her chest– her heart’s still pounding! “You’ve had enough fun for today,” is his diplomatic rejection.
Boyd steps into a darkened Chez Ava, only to be immediately set upon by the Brothers Bennett. At least, I think it’s Boyd– the Hair is clearly using a stunt double for this. Coover wales on Boyd for a bit, yelling about how stupid he is for opening his yap at the meeting, and then Dickie gingerly brings that squirming, chittering duffel bag over and starts unzipping it. We hear something that looks and sounds an awful lot like a real gunshot, and, yep, Deus Ex Ava! She threatens to shoot the Brothers if they don’t get outta her house now gaddamnit, and when she hears the cries of the critter in the bag she only hesitates for a couple confused seconds before blasting the shit out of it with her shotgun.
Coover’s reaction is immediate: “NOOOOOO. YOU KILLED CHARLIE.” I swear, his brain stopped developing after age 10, because his rage at Charlie’s death is comically childish. (Word of God says Charlie’s supposed to have been a badger, but due to the limited supply of badgers in Kentucky and the way the thing sounded, I’m inclined to imagine he was a large, angry possum. Those things are absolutely terrifying– we had one in our backyard that was a total nightmare. My dad kept chasing it off and it would promptly return the next night, hissing and baring its nasty not-so-little teeth. Yrch. Either that or a weasel.) He bawls threats at her while taking the bag with whatever remains of Charlie out the door. His pathetic, ragged “Charliiiiieee” kind of gets me, though. Poor Charlie.
There is some seriously dim lighting going on in Carol’s hotel room. She’s once again in that robe (mostly closed, though), and she and Raylan are sitting in those horribly uncomfortable chairs that no one really uses anyway. Oh, and they’re drinking. A lot. Come on, Raylan. Keep it in your pants this one time. Though lord knows I’d like more for him to keep it in his pants whenever WiNOna’s around.
Raylan explains that he’s divorced– not because he left her, not because he cheated on her, but because he moved to Miami and she started fucking the real-ih-tor. Can we stop that? There is no vowel in between the L and the T, y’all. Don’t go putting vowels where they don’t belong. That only results in chaos. CHAOS, I tell you.
Anyway. Carol expresses her sympathy and pointedly asks Raylan if he’s going to sleep in that shitty chair. Well, now that I see the chair is his only other option: Do her, Raylan. That bed looks comfortable. He does that shy grin and “Thanks but no thanks” thing; Carol assumes it’s because he might get in trouble with the Marshals Service. “I believe I’m already in trouble with the Marshals Service,” he confesses. Yes. So you might as well just go the whole hog, cowboy. No? Carol tries to sweeten the pot by explaining she’s never been married and doubts she ever will be, blah blah married to career, blah blah future cat lady. No, really. She has a cat she calls “Cat.” And now she’s stretching her hand out to Raylan’s leg. Oh. “I pet him, but he never purrs,” she, er…purrs. Raylan still resists, but she takes it in stride and is like, “Cool, well, we gotta get up early so I can try and swindle your mining-company-hating Aunt and Dad out of their land before we go to a party thrown by our bitter enemy, so, sweet dreams.”
Ava is ministering to her man, who apologizes for bringing the same old blood-feud bullshit back into her house. She’s cool with it, but warns him about continuing in this fashion for much longer. Boyd says he’s just in it until he finds out why Mags and Black Pike are both hellbent on buying land that has no coal value. Then he can play everybody and get them some cash. Which, Ava points out, is usually everyone’s motivating factor– especially big bad companies and matriarchs of Kentucky crime families.
Morning has arrived, and with it comes Raylan and Ms. Johnson walking up the path to Raylan’s childhood home. You know. The one with the headstones for Arlo, mother Frances, and Raylan all conveniently sitting in the front yard. Helen and Arlo come out to meet them. Arlo is his usual charming self, by which I mean he snits and spits (not literally, he’s not Dickie, for heaven’s sake) at Carol about not giving her a goddamn thing. Raylan is his usual disgusted self at Arlo’s hypocrisy (“That’s it– preach ethics while shackled to a government-issued ankle tether”), which doesn’t help matters. Helen manages to rein Arlo in and, after seeing him and Carol playing civil, if not exactly “nice,” goes to talk to her beloved nephew in the garden.
She chides him for not coming by and brings up Boyd’s “Yeah, he’s leaving Kentucky” line. Raylan once again looks and sounds like a schoolboy when he says, “Oh, well if Boyd said, then it must be true.” Helen admits that as much as she loves him, she was kind of relieved when she heard that, because wherever there’s a Raylan, there’s a body count, and there’s nowhere that’s more true than Harlan. So she offers him a deal: He leaves Harlan and never comes back, and she’ll give him the rest of that $20K the Marshals gave Arlo last season when they were trying to nail Papa Crowder. So they’ve just had all that money…lying around? Really? Maybe I’ve been watching too much Breaking Bad lately, but you gotta launder that shit, woman. Don’t just stick it behind a wall or bury it in a suitcase. This is pretty much a dream come true for Raylan– Helen gives him a sack of money and he never has to see this shithole town again? Awesome. We as an audience know better, of course– Raylan’ll never be able to really leave Harlan, and not just because the show would be way less amazing if he did. The connection he has with that place won’t ever be broken.
This amusing-but-still-kind-of-poignant moment is shattered by– you guessed it! –the crack of a gun. Raylan goes into Stud Marshal Mode, which may actually beat Smartass for Best Kind of Raylan, now that I think about it. He gets everyone inside the house, though not before a bullet finds Arlo’s calf. Arlo
takes it like a champ goes into Whiny Bitch Mode. (Of course.) His son, meanwhile, is trying to figure out where the shooter is, because bullets are coming from, like, everywhere. Attempts to call 911 are fruitless, due to there being no cell reception in this holler. (We also see Raylan has a BlackBerry, and I totally crack up. I’m a sucker for anachronism.) Oh, and Helen and Arlo don’t have a working phone. Which Raylan would know if he ever called, Helen Moms. She’s not necessarily in the wrong here, though who lives for months in a reception-less area without a functional landline?
Ever the inventive one, Raylan improvises by grabbing a knife and moving toward Arlo. I don’t know what exactly Arlo thinks is going to happen here, but he’s yelling his fool head off about how Raylan better stay away from him with that knife. Raylan rolls his eyes and instead cuts Arlo’s ankle tether so the cops will show up in ten minutes or so. He warns everyone to stay low away from the doors and windows while he goes out and finds this really shitty sniper who, with three slow-moving targets (and one fast one) only managed to hit one of them in the leg. Pathetic. He tells a now-armed Arlo to shoot anyone who tries to the front door– Arlo immediately pumps his shotgun in a manner that causes Raylan to add, “Unless it’s me.” The “you dick” is implied.
Raylan busts out of the house as the Worst Sniper in the Entire Known Universe keeps shooting and missing. Helen takes a shotgun and leaves her weaselly husband and the weaselly mining lady to go be a badass. Or do something really dumb. Kind of a crapshoot, right now.
Using his gun-sense, Raylan pinpoints the location of Captain Can’t-Hit-Shit and starts running to the hill he/she’s on. So, okay. The running. Olyphant was a swimmer, apparently, which automatically places him way up there on my list of favorite people, but…. Not so great with the on-land stuff? I’m not sure if it’s because of the boots or tight jeans or what kind of looks like metatarsus varus (pigeon toes), but it’s pretty funny how awkward he is, especially when he’s trying to make his way up the hill.
Apparently if you’re a woman in Kentucky you are physically unable to take Raylan’s advice in intensely dangerous situations, because Helen is right by a window, poking her gun out the window and…trying to get a look at the shooter, I guess? Would she really be able to hit someone from that distance? I vote no. We finally get a look at our sniper, who is thisclose to blowing Helen’s fool head off. Turns out Captain Can’t-Hit-Shit also can’t hear shit, though. Raylan is making a disgusting amount of noise for someone trying to sneak up on a person with a gun, but she– yes, the sniper’s a “she,” and I’m sure there’s a misogyny joke out there, but I don’t feel like making it –somehow doesn’t notice the weak-ankled lawman creepin’ up. Until he tackles her and breaks her arm, that is. He throttles her until she tells him her brother is sitting outside Judge Stephen Root’s house with a gun, and he hauls her down to the cops.
Meanwhile, Boyd has finally figured out what Mags is up to. We have to wait until the next episode to hear what it is, though, because all he tells Ava is to put on a dress, ’cause they’re going to that party. Oh, this’ll go well.
Flush with success, Raylan goes to check on that whiny bitch Arlo, who is, yes, still whining, even though the paramedics say he’ll be fine. Our Hero begs Carol to not make him go into the lions’ den that is the Bennett Compound, but, well, she does have a job to do. Which means he has a job to do. So sack up, Raylan. He sighs and tells her to give him a second so he can go get that $20K. Helen good-humoredly hands over a regular envelope bursting with cash, and he’s like, “Thanks, I’m gonna go over to the Bennetts’ now, PEACE.” This displeases Helen, who yells at his retreating back that they had a deal. “I lied,” he says without turning around. You really do have ice cold water running through those veins, Raylan. You’ll need that next week.