I stand with Art. In this time of lack, when heroes are so scarce, it behooves us, as a nation, to take a moment to acknowledge the awesomeness of this man named Drew. (Last name: Thompson. Middle name: Goddamn.)
This week’s Justified episode is all about taking that moment, to reflect on where we are right now, and who got us there. “Get Drew” is a strangely muted episode, especially given that it’s the rare Justified in which nearly all of the major characters are in Harlan at the same time, playing out a fraught game of cat-and-mouse. Undoubtedly, there will be more than a little violence before this season wraps up, three weeks from now. But for this week, credited writers Dave Andron and VJ Boyd and director Billy Gierhart delivered something more like Justified: The Play, shifting focus around a small stage for a series of lengthy dialogues and monologues, allowing each set of actors to have a moment or two in the spotlight.
The function of all this stock-taking is twofold. The main function is to push the season towards its climax, via a few fateful choices and surprise twists. The secondary function—just as vital, really—is to continue defining these various sons of Harlan, marking the paths they’ve either resigned themselves to or have purposefully deviated from. Some of these folks are outlaws. Some are assholes. But the man formerly known as Sheriff Shelby Parlow—an outsider, it should be noted—is an entirely different breed of badass. This gentle man has done astonishing, awesome things, mostly while trying to lead a righteous, retiring life. He’s a reluctant legend.
The heart of “Get Drew” is its handful of poignant scenes between Drew Thompson (a drug dealer turned lawman) and Ellen May (a born-again prostitute trying to reform). Early in the episode, Drew’s offering Ellen May a variation on the same deal that the Crowders gave her, handing her some money and telling her to get on a bus and “ride until you reach a coast.” She’s understandably uncertain about all this, and so is he, to the extent that when Drew spots a stray dog on the way out of town, he heaves a sigh and turns back to retrieve Ellen May. (For those keeping score at home, this is Fateful Choice No. 1, and one that won’t work out so well for either Drew or Ellen May.)
The two fugitives then share poignant dreams of an oceanfront village in Mexico, where they plan to lead out the rest of their lives peacefully, with Ellen May’s biggest concern being whether she’ll ever learn enough Spanish to understand the sermons at whatever kind of church they have down there. Nonetheless, Ellen May says she “ain’t never felt so free.” That’s what makes it all the sadder when Drew realizes that Raylan is camped out at the Harlan airport, and that there’ll be no flying off to Mexico in their future. Instead, Ellen May suggests they take refuge with Ellstin Limehouse (that’d be Fateful Choice No. 2), never expecting that Limehouse, an outlaw to the bone, will take advantage of this situation to both Drew and Ellen May’s detriment. Making matters worse, at the end of the episode, when Drew is in the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service—through a chain of events I’ll get to in a moment—he pleads with Raylan to rescue Ellen May from Limehouse, and Raylan scoffs, “Yeah we’ll get right on that.”
I have to say, the reappearance of Limehouse in “Get Drew” is perfectly timed. Justified fans have been wondering all season what he might be up to, building the character up to almost mythical status, and in just a few scenes here, he both lives up to his reputation and reveals that he’s no one to admire. Limehouse gets one of this episode’s big, spellbinding monologues, telling Boyd about a dream he had about flying a jumbo jet containing everyone in Noble’s Holler. It’s his way of saying that he’s a man with responsibilities, and those responsibilities require far more capital than he was left with at the end of season three. That’s why he rejects Drew’s offer of $15,000 to take care of Ellen May, and instead just seizes both of them. And it’s why he asks the Crowders to come up with $150,000 each for Ellen May and Drew, then changes the deal and makes Boyd choose which of the two he’d rather buy, for 300K.
One of the key lines in “Get Drew” comes from Limehouse, who greets Drew as an enemy, unaware that the former Sheriff Shelby has been exposed. (Limehouse, who otherwise knows everything, does already have the scoop that Shelby is Drew.) Limehouse growls at Drew, “You think that little ol’ star on your chest and that gun in your holster allows you to say whatever the hell you want up in my Holler.” He says this in response to Drew’s sarcastic comment that Limehouse is just “a banker who cuts meat.” How the people of Harlan think of themselves—and how others think of them—has been a big deal this season in particular. Is Limehouse just a guy trying to get by, or is he a villain? What about Drew? On which side does he fall?
The vagaries of all this are clearly getting to be too much for Raylan. At the start of “Get Drew,” Boyd inadvertently follows up on Hunter’s assessment of Raylan from recent episodes, saying that Raylan should’ve followed his daddy into a life of crime, because, “You’d still be able to shoot people and be an asshole, your two favorite activities.” It’s no wonder then that when Raylan finds out the manager of the local airport hadn’t bothered to let him know Drew had a plane parked there, he snaps, “You know he’s a drug-smuggling murderer, right?” Raylan’s had it with all these bad guys being treated like good guys.
That’s because this Drew Thompson case isn’t a lark to Raylan. Even Art—who plans to suspend Raylan over the whole Hunter fiasco when this little adventure is over—admits that this particular collar, of a man who could bring down the entire Tonin family, could well make a better life for Raylan and his family-to-be. And that matters to Raylan, who still seems a little sheepish when he admits to his co-workers that he knows about roads in Harlan that aren’t on any map or GPS. Raylan’s been trying to shake the dust of Harlan off his boots for years; now he has to dig deep into those roots to get where wants to go. And he won’t celebrate anything until the case is closed. “Get Drew” ends with the Marshals, in fact, getting Drew, but the Tonin enforcer Nick Augustine now knows where Drew is, and likely won’t just be throwing up his hands and allowing Drew to disappear into WitSec. “We’re standin’ in a field,” Raylan grumbles just before the closing credits. “We haven’t done shit. We just gotta figure out how to get out of Harlan alive.”
All of this is a result of Fateful Choice No. 3, which comes from Limehouse’s offer to the Crowders. Will they leave the Holler with Drew (whom Boyd thinks he can hand over to Augustine for $500,000 and a cut of the Kentucky heroin trade, thus getting his investment back and then some), or with Ellen May (whose witnessing of Ava shooting Delroy could sink the Crowders’ dreams of suburbia)? The first time I watched this episode, I thought it was stupid that the two were even debating this; it had to be Drew, or else Boyd wouldn’t get his money back. Plus, after an amazing scene of Ellen May lunging in to hug Ava (and Ava flinching, assuming the worst), I was beginning to believe, like Ava, that Ellen May was no real threat. The second time I watched, I realized that taking Ellen May would’ve been the better choice—and not just because Ellen May freaks out when she finds out she’s stuck with Limehouse. It might’ve cost Boyd some money, but if Limehouse had held onto Drew, then at least the Tonins would’ve been able to get their man, and likely would’ve been grateful (or at least neutral) to Boyd for the information about where to go.
I want to say more about Drew Thompson as The Man Who Made Harlan A Criminal Haven, and how he represents a similar promise of a bright future to both Boyd and Raylan—but I think I’ll save that for some future week. I do however want to note two of this episode’s other big monologues, one of which comes from Drew, who tells his whole origin story to the Crowders after they buy him from Limehouse. While Drew’s reminiscing about how his cash and coke “pulled ’em out of trailers, put ’em into houses,” the camera pulls back, framing Drew against lush Harlan woodlands in a lovely, lyrical moment.
Contrast that to a push-in on Johnny Crowder, feeling the pressure as he calls Wynn Duffy to tell him that Drew’s been identified. In some ways, Johnny is more important in this episode than Drew is. Whether he likes it or not, Johnny is Wynn’s inside man in Harlan. But because Johnny has no personal stake in who gets Drew—he only wants Boyd gone, whatever the method—when it turns out he can’t help Wynn, he gives Raylan the information about Boyd’s handoff of Drew to Nick Augustine, enabling the Marshals to get to Drew before Augustine’s helicopter can. (Call this Fateful Choice No. 4.)
Nobody though is going to tell stories in hushed tones about a weasel like Johnny Crowder, like they will about Drew, and like they will about Boyd. Heck, even Johnny tells stories about his hated cousin, in the other big monologue of this episode, where he tries to earn sympathy from Raylan with his saga of Boyd as the boy who never finished anything he started, which ultimately resulted in Johnny getting shot years later. But Raylan cuts Johnny off, because let’s face it: Johnny’s not awesome enough to listen to for any longer than necessary. Here’s how Raylan assesses Johnny’s fate: “You got shot because that’s the shit that happens when you choose to live a life as a small-time asshole.”
- Interesting score this week, with some unusually sentimental music during the Drew/Ellen May scenes, and then an almost Miami Vice-ish propulsion when Nick Augustine arrives.
- Raylan won’t tell Boyd outright that Arlo is dead; instead he just hints at it. Was he trying to test Boyd to see if he knows anything, or was this just Raylan being Raylan?
- Speaking of Raylan being Raylan: There’s a great little moment when Raylan is talking to Tim and Rachel about where Drew might be, and when he gets an idea he just wanders off without telling them anything, leaving them to shrug and follow. (Later, Rachel explains why she tolerates this kind of behavior: Raylan gets the job done, and he’s “easy on the eyes.”)
- Raylan describes the panties he finds at Drew’s house as “whore’s underwear.” Rachel murmurs that she has a pair just like them.
- A good logistical question from Art to Raylan: “How the hell do you come all the way down here every other damn day?” (Raylan’s answer: He listens to lots of books on tape. But I’m not sure that really answers the question.)
- I have no idea how to spell Nicky Cush’s name, but that’s okay. It ain’t like we’re friends on the Facebook.
- Even though Drew is just trying to goad Colt into shooting him, he’s not wrong when he says that the former MP’s detective skills were a little off when he came looking for Ellen May at Shelby’s a week or so ago. (“I’m pretty sure her goddamn sweater was draped over a chair.”)
- Surprise MVP candidate for this episode: acerbic Audrey’s employee Teri, who’s had it with everyone fussing over Ellen May, when Teri’s the one who “can do shit they ain’t even thought up names for.” Teri dismisses Ellen May as plain and pathetic, saying, “If she had someone she could count on, I guess she wouldn’t be sucking hillbilly dicks for money, would she?” (In the words of Boyd Crowder, there’s no substitute for a winning personality.)
- Ah, who’m I kidding. The MVP of “Get Drew” isn’t Teri, or Ellen May, or Drew. It’s Art. It’s always Art. (“Yeah! Let’s go find the whore.”)