A review of tonight's "Justified" coming up just as soon as I raccoon you...
"None among us are without sin." -Preacher Billy
As is usually the case at this early stage of a "Justified" season, we're getting standalone stories that are slowly setting the stage for the more arc-y second half of the year. In this case, that means getting Art and Tim roped into the mystery of the bag in the wall, but in a way where get a done-in-one excursion to meet the delightful family(*) of the late Waldo Truth that only fills in one small piece of the puzzle. It was a blast to visit this clan of unapologetic crooks and scammers, whether one of the kids was doing a countdown to shooting at the Marshals (Tim to Raylan: "He's stealing your bit!") or another was flipping Raylan a double bird.
(*) Led by the great Beth Grant, who I imagine could have offered an equally memorable (if slightly different) take on Mags Bennett than the one Margo Martindale provided in season 2.
We know now that the case ties back to Art's past just as much as it does to Arlo's, and that should make things more interesting going forward. Though we find out in this episode that Art's preparing for retirement — and wouldn't you, if you had to supervise Raylan Givens? — Nick Searcy's too good for the show to put out to pasture just yet.
And I liked how "Where's Waldo?" kept tying scene to scene, and story to story, in a more overt way than "Justified" often does. So we open with three straight scenes involving booze being delivered (Raylan accepting a shipment for Lindsey, Ava handling the same at Johnny's bar, and then Art's would-be successor bringing him some Pappy Van Winkle as a bribe to help get the plum job. And later we cut from the hillbilly MMA fighter (who turns out to be Lindsey's husband, because all of Raylan's love interests must have trouble-making spouses) throwing a punch at an opponent to Colton Rhodes doing the same to one of Boyd's irritants. Nothing too fancy, but enough to remind us that this is all part of a bigger story, even as things are moving along separately for the time being.
And Boyd's rivalry with Preacher Billy was a nice way to tie this current conflict to Boyd's shape-shifting journey of the past three seasons. We've seen Boyd both play at being a high-stepping holy man himself, and we've also seen him take the gig very, very seriously late in season 1, until his daddy disabused him of his faith by slaughtering his flock. So for Boyd, the arrival of a preacher trying to reform the junkies and whores and crooks who make his criminal empire possible isn't just an inconvenience, but a stinging reminder of the one time in his life when he wasn't acting out of self-interest(**) and was shown how painful that could be. The scripture-off between Boyd and Billy was excellent, and the notion that Billy's sister is the real brains behind the operation while her brother acts as the frontman raises intriguing possibilities going forward.
(**) Though with Boyd, it's always hard to tell exactly how much of any identity should be taken completely seriously.
So a lot of fun stuff this week, and I haven't even mentioned the triumphant return of Wynn Duffy! Much as I enjoyed seeing Jere Burns play a Wynn living in fear of both Raylan(***) and Quarles last season, it's nice to see him go back to the unflappable shark he was in earlier seasons. Boyd thinks he's negotiating from a position of power, but Wynn would rather shoot Danny in the head than have to cut a deal with the hillbilly gangster in front of him.
(***) FX does a very thorough job of keeping all unauthorized clips off of YouTube, which means I am unable to link to footage of Burns' amazing reaction to Raylan forcing Wynn to play Russian Roulette.
A snappy, entertaining hour, and we're only getting warmed up on the season.
Some other thoughts:
* At press tour, Graham Yost cited this episode as an example of how they're making more of an effort to use Tim and Rachel this season. In the original draft, it was just Art accompanying Raylan to see Waldo's family, but Timothy Olyphant suggested it might be fun to have Tim come along, too. (Of course, that Olyphant had to be the one to suggest it means the writers still aren't instinctively thinking to include the other two.)
* Jere Burns and Jim Beaver return in the same episode? What great bounty is this? Poor Shelby thought he was free and clear of Boyd after the election, but we all know that's not gonna happen — and not just because we need to get some concentrated Shelby/Raylan time sooner or later.
* Lindsey's husband is played by Robert Baker, who did a stint as one of the doomed Mercy West doctors on "Grey's Anatomy" a few years back.
* Art's would-be successor is named Patrick Massett, which is a nod to the TV writer (most recently on "Last Resort," and a longtime "Friday Night Lights" contributor) who happened to be on staff with this episode's writer, Dave Andron, at NBC's short-lived "Knight Rider" remake.
What did everybody else think?