It’s Old Home Week on Justified, as characters from the past come back to set a spell: everyone from Constable Bob to FBI Agent Jeremy Barkley. Yet the most significant returner may be Winona Hawkins, the mother of Raylan’s unborn child, who arrives early in “Kin,” in a scene that—on the surface at least—has little to do with what’s otherwise a tightly constructed story. Ah, but under the surface, there’s rather a lot going on in the scene between Raylan and Winona.
To start with, the entire scene is a classic example of Raylan Givens: Self-Absorbed Asshole. Raylan complains that Winona is fifteen minutes late to her prenatal check-up, though he himself hadn’t shown up at all to the previous two appointments. He hands her a coffee—while noting that it’s probably cold, as another none-too-subtle dig at Winona’s tardiness—but apparently doesn’t know that pregnant ladies are meant to drink decaf. And then, to top it all off, he reveals that he missed Winona’s text about the appointment being moved, which means he actually arrived half an hour late based when he thought the appointment was. (Oh, and he doesn’t stay for the checkup. Work calls.) The key line of the scene comes after Raylan tells Winona that he’s been put in charge of a major case that could make his career and change his fortunes. While feeling his baby kick, Raylan leans into Winona’s belly and tells the fetus to “lose the tail, come out, and read about your Daddy in the paper.” This is Raylan’s idea of a happy family: a child who’s proud of his pop, even if the kid only sees his father’s picture, and hardly ever gets to plant a wet smooch on papa’s scratchy cheek.
The flexibility of family ties is a major element of “Kin.” Raylan ultimately skips out on a chance to see the latest ultrasound of his child because he gets some news about his own father, who’s about to be released from prison if he can hand over Drew Thompson to the FBI (who then will use Drew to get to Theo Tonin). Our old U.S. Attorney friend David Vasquez is helping to broker the the deal, which is being overseen by Agent Barkley. Raylan though demands time to find Thompson himself, so that he can make sure that Arlo rots. Vasquez grants him 24 hours, because this is a loose-cannon cop show, and loose-cannon cops always get 24 hours from their superiors to get a job done.
There’s a couple of shocking twists, though. Here’s one: Barkley, it turns out, isn’t all that loyal to his FBI family. He’s been in the pocket of the Tonin family this whole time, thanks in part to his old childhood friend and Tonin soldier, Nick Augustine (played by Mike O’Malley). Barkley and Augustine have a sit-down with Wynn Duffy, to get Wynn to use his Harlan connections to find Drew Thompson. (It turns out Drew stole $2 million dollars worth of cocaine from Theo Tonin, and then shot Theo in the eye. Augustine says that losing the money hurt his boss’s standing in the criminal community, but what hurt worse was getting shot in the eye!) Barkley tries to shut Wynn out of the conversation, telling Augustine that he can handle the Drew Thompson extraction on his own, for a quarter-million dollars. But it has to be an execution, not a handover, because it’s difficult to get a man out of FBI custody once he’s taken in. (“It’s not like I can be checking him him out like a book, at the library.”) And here comes the second shocking twist: Augustine shoots his childhood buddy right in the melon. Splat. And ice-cool Wynn Duffy barely flinches, either at the shot, or at Augustine’s immediate request for help securing Thompson. “Not a problem,” Wynn says. (Wynn, I have to say, is getting more awesome by the episode this season.)
As for Constable Bob, he comes back into the picture when he apprehends brace-faced wire-thief Roz for Raylan—which wasn’t hard for him to do since she’s got a wounded foot. (“Lucky you stabbed her last time,” Raylan quips. “Thinking ahead.”) Roz finally admits that she went looking for Arlo’s bag back in this season’s first episode under the orders of her stepfather Josiah Cairn (played by Gerald McRaney), a legendary Harlan troublemaker who pretends not to know who Raylan is, before some well-applied pressure gets Josiah to confess that Drew Thompson has been hiding out in the Harlan hills for decades. And so it’s up the mountain with Raylan, even though Constable Bob warns Raylan that those hillbillies are cannibals. (“At least take my go-bag,” he urges.)
Out of all the reunions and returns this week, the one that Justified fans have most been anticipating comes when Raylan arrives at the hilltop—“alone and with peaceful intent”—and gets thrown into a shack with Boyd Crowder, whom Wynn Duffy has employed to find Drew. I confess that I initially assumed that Boyd was in cahoots with the hill-folk, perhaps because I heard the name of the leader of the clan up there as Boyd’s new right-hand-man, “Colt.” But his name is actually Cope (played by Tom Proctor). This Cope has been in touch with Josiah—“We ain’t the darkest Africa. We got a phone.”—and one who’s more than ready to drop both Boyd and Raylan down an abandoned mineshaft.
The reason I singled out the Raylan/Winona scene up top is that it sets up the theme of family that runs throughout this episode, and establishes Raylan’s tenuous connection with the very idea of family. Raylan’s big plan when he heads up the hill is to use an old photo of his mother and her cousin Mary to prove that he’s kin to these people, and thus to argue that they should help him out—y’know, like family does. But when Cope starts grilling him about old family legends, Raylan has to admit that he hasn’t bothered to keep in touch over the years; if anything, he’s tried his entire life to forget where he’s from. And Boyd’s no better. He tries to bluff that he knows the folks and the stories that Raylan doesn’t, but Boyd’s caught in the lie when he presumes that the name of a mineshaft is the name of a kid he played pee-wee football with.
Cousin Mary eventually intervenes and saves the lives of these straying sons of Appalachia—less because she’s impressed by Raylan’s claim of kinship than because she’s still pissed at Drew Thompson for snubbing her at a bluegrass festival 10 years ago, where Drew was hobnobbing with politicians. (Note that detail; I have a feeling it’ll be relevant in the weeks to come.) If anything, Mary’s just as pissed at the Givens and Crowder clans for conspiring to hide Drew and distribute his cocaine. “That’s why we’re so proud of them,” Raylan cracks.
One of the things I liked best about “Kin” is that it continues the season’s consideration of southern pride and unbreakable bonds—both of which are readily abandoned when circumstances allow. (Think of the Truth family, staunchly against the guv’mint except when it comes to their “draw.”) Raylan and Boyd are happy to exploit their family connections when it suits them, and happy to ally with each other in a pinch, though when Raylan handcuffs Boyd to a tree, the latter admits, “I’ve come to a conclusion: I don’t like you.” Boyd, meanwhile, has no idea that Colt is lying to him about having killed Ellen May, or that his puppet sheriff is hiding Ellen May as part of a plan to take Boyd down, or that his cousin Johnny is in cahoots with Wynn Duffy on a plan to kill Boyd. It’s like what Boyd says to Wynn when the two men sit down at the bargaining table, with Boyd’s pistol within his reach: “We are not trustworthy men.” (Or it’s like how Raylan describes Boyd’s business: “That honor-among-dumbass-thieves thing.”)
Wynn and Boyd eventually make a deal that will grant Boyd a cut of half of the heroin business in the entire state of Kentucky if he can deliver Drew Thompson—a deal that makes Johnny nervous, as he wonders what these two men are talking about without him. Meanwhile, Colt comes up with semi-convincing lies when Boyd grills him about Ellen May’s murder. (He says her last words were, “I’m cold.”) Colt may be newer to this game than Johnny, but both men know how dangerous Boyd can be. In fact, Colt’s getting savvy about a lot of things. When he has a chat with Tim about serving in Afghanistan, Colt notes that Harlan’s not so different. “Bunch of clans, led by men with beards, shooting at each other.”
The question is: How do you get away from these prideful old hicks who complain that “kids today have no values” and then send their stepdaughters out to sell copper wire to pay for their own braces? Raylan’s succeeded by becoming such a maverick that he really has no “people” any more—even with a child of his own on the way. But for someone like Josiah Cairn, tethered to his land by tradition and by court order? The only way to dislodge someone like that is to hack his goddamn foot off.
- This week in Raylan Givens’ Netflix recommendations: the ’80s western Silverado. (“I don’t want to kill you and you don’t want to be dead,” he quotes.)
- Boyd’s movie recommendations however are a little less obscure. “I’d whistle the theme song to Deliverance if I thought you had a better sense of humor,” Boyd says to Raylan when he learns that his old frenemy has “hills in [his] blood.” (Then, when Raylan handcuffs Boyd to a tree, he smirks, “This is funny.”)
- Some outstanding Tim/Raylan banter this week, as they discuss Tim’s preference for books about “a native American princess who controls invisible forest animals.” “Ain’t you too old for those?” Raylan asks. “I dunno,” Tim shrugs. “I was probably too young to be blowing the head off of Taliban.”
- In the hierarchy of badasses who could save the day for Raylan, Tim places the 101st Airborne over the Army Rangers, and Art above all.
- Sometimes you notice a character actor for the first time and then you can’t stop noticing him. I’d seen Christopher Douglas Reed in Sons Of Anarchy, but hadn’t given him a second thought until he showed up on an excellent Enlightened two weeks ago. And now here he is on Justified, playing the brain-damaged Daniel, who’s asked to “hum your tune” once the real violence starts. (Note to lawmen: Do not steal Daniel’s gun. It’s got no firing pin.)
- Speaking of Sons Of Anarchy, has anyone ever seen Ethan Zobelle and Theo Tonin in the same place at the same time? Hmmmm.
- Arlo’s attorney Ms. Gable (played by Romy Rosemont) was paid by Boyd to cut a deal for Arlo, and now is being paid by Boyd to shut that deal down. I’m sure any Fringe fans who watch Justified are hoping that Ms. Gable gets called before Judge Reardon before this season is done, yes?
- Roz offered to give Constable Bob a blowjob, presumably in exchange for him releasing her. When she tells Raylan that she just had her braces tightened and that her mouth hurts, Raylan reassures her that “neither one of us gonna ask you to use it much.”
- Nice little throwaway Justified moment: Before Augustine arrives, one of his goons asks Wynn if he has any cats. (“Do you see any cats?”)
- I also want to single out the opening sequence between Colt and the gas station attendant, which fits well into the grand tradition of tense Justified standoffs played at a low key. Until Colt lies that he’s only looking to check the station’s security cameras because he’s trying to corral an AWOL soldier, both men are quietly threatening each other and reaching for their guns. It’s a nice overture to an episode in which many, many characters will be checking to see that they have a weapon at the ready, just in case.
- You got a saw? You’re gonna need a saw.