A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as I officially requisition this chicken...

"The point of this exercise is everybody lives." -Raylan
"Oh, you think you can pull that off?" -Cal Wallace
"They pay me to try." -Raylan

Since it seems like most of my "Justified" reviews so far this season have been about the show's balance of serialized versus standalone storytelling, I suppose I should begin discussion of "Blowback" by noting that the episode pretty much nailed the balance. Most of the hour was taken up with a done-in-one plot about Raylan playing impromptu hostage negotiator with hardened con Cal Wallace(*), but that story always played out in the shadow of the David Vasquez inquiry, with Vasquez himself in the room to watch.

(*) Played by our latest "Deadwood" alum, W. Earl Brown. At this rate, I'm going to want to see Ian McShane as the big bad of season two - and, in case you missed it, FX renewed the show yesterday.

And because of that earlier scene where Art spelled out for Raylan what's been obvious to most of us for weeks - that Raylan has a way of maneuvering people into situations where he knows he'll be able to kill them in a justified manner - it was interesting from a character standpoint to see Raylan place in a scenario where Cal's death was not only expected by others, but desired, and for him to work so hard to prevent that. Was he doing that just to prove Vasquez wrong about him? To protect Art's reputation? Or have the events since his return to Kentucky forced Raylan to re-examine his behavior and his famous code? What if he's learning to modulate his need for killin' just as the Crowders are preparing to do something I'm assuming is plenty bad?

The role reversal for our man with the hat, and the guest work by Brown, elevated what's a pretty stock plot on most cop dramas, as did the small grace notes like Tim commandeering the chicken and the Lexington PD SWAT leader turning out not to be a trigger-happy boob, as those characters are often portrayed in these kinds of episodes.

And the hostage plot was neatly bookended by a pair of scenes with the Crowders, first with Bo putting a scare into Ava at the diner (with MC Gainey being uber-creepy as he offered to lick her pie plate), then with Boyd once again wrapping up his every word and deed in a born-again cloak. Raylan is directly responsible for both men being out of jail (though the chain of events with the Harlan sheriff is more complicated than the affair with Ava coming back to bite him), and I can't wait to see what either one has planned. I will say, as I suggested last week, that I'm almost hoping Boyd isn't full of it with the God stuff, as him doing it as a long con seems the more predictable path. Be kind of interesting to see Boyd placed in a position where his newfound relationship with the Lord takes precedence over his criminal relationship with his old man, wouldn't it?

Some other thoughts:

  • Jere Burns follows up a terrific guest turn in the "Breaking Bad" season premiere as Jesse's drug counselor with an effectively disturbing appearance here as "security expert" Wynn Duffy, who knew the exact right words to say to scare Winona while covering himself legally. After these two recent guest spots, I kind of really want someone at FX or HBO or AMC to cast Burns in a supporting role on a new drama.
  • Winona's husband Gary, meanwhile, is quickly turning out to be one of the more unlikable-by-design characters on any show I follow. Winona went for a man the exact opposite of Raylan, and there's good and bad that comes with that recipe.
  • As mentioned previously, Rick Gomez, who plays David Vasquez, is brothers with Josh Gomez from "Chuck," and there was a brief moment in the episode where my attention was diverted away from the screen, Vasquez was talking, and I swear I wondered if I had somehow switched on last night's "Chuck" without touching the remotes. The brothers don't usually sound that much alike, but for a moment, they did.

What did everybody else think?