Rachael Larimore: Jay, welcome back to the TV Club! As Raylan says, let’s cut right through the B.S. Shelby Parlow is Drew Thompson? Are you kidding me? The writers dropped so many hints to that effect in the previous episode that I was sure it was a feint. What did you think?
Jay Busbee: I think I’ve got a whole garage full of “We Are All Drew Thompson” T-shirts that are going to go unsold. Yes, it was well-telegraphed, but it’s where Ebert’s Law of Economy of Characters comes in: There were only so many people it could be without bringing in someone new from offstage. Before we get to the meat of this episode, let me just say that the next time I buy a house, I’ll be employing Ava’s line: “Thank you for your time, but we don’t need your shit.” Heck, I might start using that in everyday conversation. What was your favorite line of the episode?
Larimore: Oh, goodness, favorite line? That’s like asking me my favorite flavor of Dairy Queen Blizzard. Let me think. … Ooh, I’ve got one.
Busbee: Fire away. No, wait. That’s not a phrase I should use in connection with Justified.
Larimore: Boyd telling Ava “Maybe real estate agents are like new houses; you shouldn’t fall in love with the first one,” was nice. But I think my favorite quote came when Hunter apologized for killing Arlo and Raylan said, “Don’t be. We had a nice visit before he passed. … Told me that he loved me and that he thought I was a good boy. Said he was sorry for all the times he was a dick and was going to miss seeing me grow up.” Which, conveniently, brings me back to Shelby/Drew.
Busbee: Nicely done.
Larimore: It’s clear that Shelby would have had to go into hiding and assume a very low-key lifestyle to stay away from Theo Tonin, after shooting him in the eye and stealing $2 million. But how is it that the seemingly mild-mannered (by Harlan standards) Shelby Parlow inspires such fear that Arlo both killed for him and died for him, and Hunter did nearly the same thing? After last week, I asked how the writers would fill up the last four episodes. I think they are going to need all of that to make us understand Shelby/Drew’s back story.
Busbee: We had the scene last episode where Shelby and Ellen May were talking, and Shelby said, “I think if you pretend to be something long enough, it’s not pretending.” But to go from awe-inspiring stone killer to reticent, humble public servant—remember how uncertain he was about Boyd back in Season 3 when he was getting backed for this job—you’re right, that’s a big loop to close.
Larimore: That quote was the giant flashing neon sign that Shelby was Drew. Funny thing is, Justified has never been big on redemption. Arlo’s last words on-screen were “Kiss. My. Ass.” Mags Bennett just killed herself when the authorities were closing in. And Raylan himself has never been big on self-reflection. Not that he needs to be redeemed, entirely, but he’s not perfect and he seems quite comfortable anyhow. Could it be that Arlo was too far past saving, but Shelby’s transformation is supposed to help Raylan grow?
Jay: Perhaps not directly. Perhaps at an angle, by the line that Hunter offered about which of his parents Raylan ought to emulate. But again, we’ll need to see more of Shelby’s backstory before we can draw that line. Both Arlo and Shelby were given second chances at life: Only one of them took it.
Larimore: It’s interesting that, sure, Arlo died last week, but he was very present in this episode. When Raylan had Hunter in the Wynn-ebago, he told a story about Arlo starting a Hatfield-and-McCoys- style feud over the neighbor dog crapping in his yard. But later, Hunter corrected Raylan and explained that Arlo was defending Francis’ honor. I liked that, for once, Raylan didn’t have a snarky comeback. And then there was that scene at the end. Hunter is finally getting transported to Leoville, but he has some parting advice for Raylan, that if he takes after his mother he’ll be fine but “I think we both know whose voice it is, makes you do what you do.” I think Raylan needs to figure out that being on the right side of the law makes him different from his father only superficially.
Jay: If anything, his badge lets him feel … wait for it … JUSTIFIED in what he does. The dog-crap story was great, not because of the dog crap, but the way it shifted perceptions of Arlo. The entire interrelationship between the Harlan families is so ridiculously, perfectly overcomplicated that this was a handy shorthand for showing that even the most irredeemable of the bunch had his admirable moments.
Larimore: It was a great example of how the writers convey a ton of information. Another instance of this, in this episode, was when Constable Bob inadvertently, while nervously rambling, helped Raylan figure out that Shelby was Drew. (Constable Bob only ever seems to save the day inadvertently.) I admit to not loving this as much. I like Patton Oswalt, but I think I had higher hopes for how Constable Bob would be treated. It’s almost like he’s there just to be made fun of, like the surviving members of the Legion of Doom did so successfully, setting off a really stupid gunfight.
Busbee: I can’t be in any way objective about Patton, because he and I were friends in college (/namedrop) and so I’m always kicked out of the story when I see him in anything dramatic. That said, Bob did deserve to be more than the cheap comic relief/plot driver. Bob needs to be more than a punch line, because he’s one of the few people in Harlan who’s achieved his dream, little and nearly impotent though it may be.
Larimore: Before we linger too long—like that gunfight—let’s talk about Boyd. It’s interesting to me that he is now working for Theo Tonin, and it turns out that he’s had Theo’s most wanted—Drew—essentially working for HIM for a while now. I realize this is a crazy-only-in-TV-land coincidence. But I’m wondering what this will mean for Boyd.
Busbee: Opportunity. With Boyd, it’s always opportunity, one that he can control. It’s like the scene with Colt—Boyd might allow someone to point a gun at him, but he’ll do his best to make sure he’s in control the whole time. Boyd’s greatest advantage is that people underestimate him. What will be fascinating is that Shelby/Drew knows Boyd’s tricks and has been watching him effectively from undercover for most of Boyd’s adult life. Theo might think Boyd’s an ambitious but limited redneck; Shelby won’t ever make that mistake.
Larimore: I’m wondering, though, if Shelby—assuming he’s caught—will try to get himself a deal by spilling what he knows about Boyd. We’ve seen a lot of “honor among thieves” this season, but will Shelby prove to be as honorable? As much as I was dismayed that Shelby was Drew (just because I thought it might be someone more exciting), it does seem like there are endless possibilities from here on out.
Busbee: You think Shelby might have gone soft in his years of working on the side of the law? I wonder how much stomach he would have for Boyd’s way of doing business these days. I’m hoping the writers use the rather obvious revelation as a way to delve into, as we discussed earlier, whether it’s possible to redeem oneself, or if one’s true nature always works its way to the surface.
Larimore: His concern for Ellen May seemed sincere—both outright worry for her, and his apparent realization that Boyd goes too far. But it’s worth pointing out that he grew this backbone rather suddenly, right about the time he realized that the feds realized that Drew Thompson wasn’t dead. (Do you remember when Cassie was in office and there was an internal flash memo or something about Drew Thompson on his computer? Never ignore the little things!) So maybe, like Boyd, he’s all about opportunity. So I think the writers could still go either way. Now, we’ve barely talked about Tim and Colt, but we can’t leave them standing in that church staring at each other. Fans have been clamoring for more Tim and Rachel, and it looks like Tim at least has got himself a decent story line. He’s entangled in the web that is Harlan County, and, boy-oh-boy, if he isn’t acting a little Raylanish.
Busbee: Tim is just the best. If there isn’t a Tim Gutterson one-liner Tumblr out there—and there doesn’t appear to be—somebody get on that, pronto. He’s so low-key he makes Raylan look like an overcaffeinated Texas cheerleader. So I’m really, really hoping this new storyline doesn’t go getting him killed. After last week’s bodies-everywhere episode, you were thinking he was in real trouble there in the preacher’s tent, weren’t you?
Larimore: I would not have been surprised if Tim had gone full Raylan and shot Colt. Colt did have his gun out. The scenes with Tim and Colt are infrequent but great. How obnoxious was it when Colt fake-coughed on his way out? Raylan TOTALLY would have shot Colt then. I have long suspected that Colt will not last the season. Boyd has bigger problems on his hand at the moment, but I don’t think Colt is in the clear.
Busbee: Colt’s made some powerful enemies very quickly. You’re not going to last long in Harlan if you’ve got both sides of the fence gunning for you. Shame, because I like the guy, but unless he can figure a way to square with Boyd (taking out Shelby?) and pinning Mark’s death on someone else, his days are numbered … and the numbers ain’t large.
Larimore: It’s not impossible, but I think it would take a complicated maneuver like Boyd managing to give both Shelby/Drew and Theo Tonin to the feds while evading any responsibility for his many crimes—which would give Boyd the freedom to go legit and split peanut-buster parfaits with Ava at their Dairy Queen—to spare Colt at this point. And even then Boyd might just decide Colt’s more trouble than he’s worth.
Busbee: I just fear for the first teenager who thinks dipping into the till at Boyd and Ava’s DQ is a good idea.