In Slate’s Justified TV Club, Rachael Larimore will IM each week with a different fan of the FX drama set in Harlan County, Ky. This week she chats about “Decoy” with Joe Reid, who writes about Justified for Vulture.
Rachael Larimore: Joe, you’ve been writing about Justified all season for Vulture. In tonight’s episode, the marshals had to get Shelby/Drew Thompson safely to Lexington before Boyd could lead Theo Tonin’s men to him first. A lot of stuff went down—and they even threw a few surprises our way (As when Nick Augustine exposed Johnny’s betrayal)— but no one important died, yet. What were your overall reactions to the episode? What did you think?
Joe Reid: Well, I’m kind of glad that nobody died. Justified had that body-count explosion around midseason, but ever since I have really been enjoying watching the players circle around one another and work each other out without necessarily needing to resort to permanent solutions. This episode had several real high points, but watching Boyd and Raylan figure each other out simply because they know the ways in which the other one thinks was incredibly satisfying. However, I object to the statement that “no one important died” when we lost my beloved Yolo. Gone too soon, handsome prince of pain!
Larimore: Yolo! What a hilariously and appropriately annoying name. Like so many one-episode wonders on Justified, he will be missed. I want to talk more about him later. But first I wanted to focus on all the great odd-couple interactions in this episode. Raylan and Boyd, for sure. But also Colt and Tim, Raylan and Shelby/Drew, and even Ava and Nick Augustine (though that was really more of an odd couple menage a trois with Johnny). I was a little surprised at the end of the last episode that Tim didn’t happen upon Colt when he chased after him, but the writers were saving it all for tonight’s roadside sniper showdown. Did you love their phone conversation as much as I did? And were you surprised that Colt took out Tonin’s sniper at the end?
Reid: I won’t pretend that I have been a huge fan of Colt this season. He’s been incredibly inconsistent and frustrating to watch. Which I guess is by design, since he’s every bit as erratic as a drug addict who got kicked out of the service for violent behavior would be. But I’ve thought that too often he’s been an overly convenient plot-mover. (He’s probably my one major point of dissatisfaction with this season. But maybe I’m just not a Ron Eldard fan?) That said, I’ve been glad to have Colt around if only because of how he’s brought Tim ever deeper into storylines. Tim is a gem of a character and has managed to make it to Season 4 without giving away too many of his tricks. That phone conversation was thrilling, as was watching Tim orchestrate the marshals’ escape from that sniper trap. Lighting the Moltov cocktail with sparks from the jumper cables? Then tossing the bottle to Art? Such great fun. As for Colt taking out poor Mort? That’s kind of just Colt Being Colt. I’ve stopped trying to understand it.
Larimore: I think Colt’s inconsistency has been a huge bug for fans and critics alike this season. I think the writers hit their stride with Colt when he finally crossed paths with Tim. And since then I’ve been more impressed by him. And I’m all for more screen time for Tim. The way Tim proved to Art (once and for all?) that he’s not incapacitated by his PTSD was nice. As for Colt taking out Mort, I suspect that is going to have ramifications for Boyd. Do you have any thoughts about what happens now? I’m on the record as saying I can’t imagine that they would kill Boyd, but it was some heavy foreshadowing when he kissed Ava and said “At least I know I’m not going to die today.”
Reid: I would be very surprised if they killed Boyd, but I guess that would probably be the No. 1 reason to kill Boyd, then, wouldn’t it? For the last two seasons, we’ve seen the show introduce two major villains—Mags and then Quarles—who you knew would most likely bite it at the end of the season. This season hasn’t followed that same formula, to the show’s benefit. Preacher Billy got taken out early (though I do expect Cassie to show up in the next few episodes, perhaps wielding Ellen May as a weapon). I can’t see the deaths of Nicky Augustine or even dear, sweet Shelby as being the kind of blow-off that’s ended the last few seasons. If the show wants another big-ticket death to close the season, I guess Boyd would be it. I just don’t think the show needs to go there. I think the final two episodes, besides that aforementioned Cassie prediction, may well see Raylan and Boyd reluctantly joining forces yet again in order to keep Detroit out of Harlan. I also think, whether Shelby lives or dies, we’re in for some moment of catharsis between him and Raylan. They’ve done quite the good job in playing Shelby as a kind of shadow of Arlo in his and Raylan’s interactions these last couple episodes.
Larimore: At the risk of embarrassing myself greatly with a totally crazy prediction … I wonder if maybe it was a little too convenient that Boyd predicted exactly what moves Raylan would make, making me wonder if in the time that transpired between the end of the last episode and the start of this one, that somehow Boyd and Raylan joined forces to deal with the Detroit mob. I realize there are a million holes in that theory, but it would be fun (it would also explain Colt taking out Mort). But I’m glad you mentioned Shelby and Raylan. Raylan is normally pretty genial with the scum with whom he must contend. He was downright friendly with Hunter Moseley, a man who tried—let’s not forget—to have him killed. But he was very curt with Shelby/Drew. It has to be more than nerves and exhaustion. I think he’s struggling with the fact that Shelby—completely unlike Arlo —really does seem to have tried to become a decent person. I don’t think Raylan accepts that people can change.
Reid: I think that scene where Raylan almost literally drew a line on the floor separating Shelby (the criminal) from him, Rachel, and Bob (the law) was quite telling. I’m not sure if he can’t accept that anyone can change, but he sure learned the hard way that Arlo never could.
Larimore: That was not Raylan’s most subtle moment. In fact, this was not an episode for subtle. But it was finally an episode where Constable Bob had a chance to shine. I was a little disappointed with some of Bob’s scenes this year—that gun fight was a little overwrought. But when it came down to it, Bob served Raylan well, took out Yolo, and even concocted the plan to get Shelby/Drew out of town ahead of Picker and Boyd (where do Tonin’s men get their names?). I would not have predicted that the first time I saw the Gremlin pull up.
Reid: Yeah, Bob’s been a bit of a cartoon. I’m glad that he stepped up in a way that made sense. He was never going to be the Raylan-style hero, but he kind of Samwise’d his way into heroism through courage (taking that beating!) and smarts. I also wonder if the “Drewbacca” and “Yoda” references were a nod to Patton Oswalt’s unofficial role as Nerd Culture Ambassador.
Larimore: Poor Yolo didn’t stand a chance against nerd culture. Assuming that Shelby/Drew makes it to Lexington OK, we have two more episodes left with plenty of time—and maybe some characters—to kill. I suspect you might be right that Raylan and Boyd will somehow team up to take on the Detroit mob, but there is also the little matter of Johnny’s betrayal. (And his completely unsurprising love for Ava. He’s a Crowder man, after all.) I have to say I don’t see a future role for him in Crowder Enterprises Inc. Do you have thoughts on what will go down there
Reid: Gosh, Johnny’s such a sad thing, isn’t he? Almost two seasons fomenting rebellion against Boyd and all he has to show for it is Nicky Augustine blowing his spot because he’s bored and a quiet little “I love you to Ava.” I don’t NOT like Johnny, but if he bites it in the finale, I think I’d be OK with that. Here’s what’s my more pressing concern: Ava. Will Ava be OK? Will she keep tossing brandy in a-holes’ faces as a means of defense, or will she go darker? Ever since the end of last season, Ava’s soul has been in jeopardy, and we’ve seen her make more than a few decisions that have sent her down the dark path. Arranging to have Ellen May killed first on that list. I have a feeling Ava is going to have one more moment of truth before the season is out, and I think more than one life may end up in her hands. Personally, I just want her to be happy. Now that Justified has dangled in front of me the possibility of Boyd and Ava, happily married and running a few Dairy Queen franchises around Harlan, it’s all I want.
Larimore: I like drink-tossing Ava waaaaay better than I like gotta-kill-Ellen-May Ava. I’m a sucker for romance, but I do spend more time than I should worrying about whether Boyd and Ava’s grandkids will be able to enjoy the trappings of a House That Peanut Buster Parfaits Built (and Boyd, gotta love him, is still looking for ways to recoup the venture capital that he lost to Limehouse). I’m right there with you on concern for Ava. It would be a bad move, for the reasons you describe and more, to kill Boyd. But Ava is less comfortable with the dark stuff, and she’s less cool-headed. Which could mean trouble for her.