The first TV show that ever chilled me was, of all things, the sitcom Soap, which aired an episode that ended with a possessed baby sending all the toys in his nursery flying about, while laughing demonically. I saw this when I was 8 years old, and it freaked me the hell out. Now here we are, 35 years later, with another TV episode ending in a nursery, every bit as nerve-jangling.
“Peace Of Mind” is a different kind of episode than last week’s “Decoy,” with fewer first-pumping moments and more soul-searching. But it’s just as good in its way. It’s a similar adventure, with a shift in focus. With Drew Thompson in custody and Raylan being hailed as a hero by his colleagues, the case should be over; except that Drew’s refusing to cooperate in any investigation of Theo Tonin until the marshals return to Harlan to rescue Ellen May. This sets up another daring cross-county game of hide-and-seek, with the marshals doing the seeking this time out. But instead of cunning tactical moves and explosions, the characters mainly get right in each other’s faces with direct challenges to their respective authority. Even the visual style of “Peace Of Mind” diverges from “Decoy.” It’s less action movie and more noir, with conversations shot from odd angles, reflecting how unsettled these characters are, even in their own homes.
Case-in-point: that damned final scene, with Winona settling into a gliding chair that’s been delivered and assembled by Picker, one of Nick Augustine’s goons. Nothing about this last minute feels good. If you’re like me, you were muttering “oh no” to yourself as soon as you realized that the episode was going to end with Winona, who’d only been in one scene prior this week. Something really, really bad is bound to happen. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out what that might be. It’s not going to be an easy wait.
The last minute of “Peace Of Mind” serves as a cruel ellipses at the end of an episode-long conversation. The topic: Who is the author of our fate? That’s a variation on the question that Limehouse proposes to Ava, in one of those rare moments when the characters on Justified are talking fairly straight with each other instead of just trying to be colorful and provocative. When Ava shows up with a suitcase full of Tonin money, looking to buy Ellen May, Limehouse talks about how his choices have led to him selling off parcels of Noble’s Holler that his clan has owned since Emancipation. “I been wonderin’ lately what it is makes us forget who we are,” he says to Ava, as a way of trying to convince her not to stay on the path she’s currently on with Boyd.
But here’s the thing: the choice Limehouse is offering Ava to be a better person is purely hypothetical, since he’s already let Ellen May go, long before Ava arrives. And as it turns out, Ellen May is still unsure that she wants her freedom, what with all the danger that freedom might entail. She’s certain that if she stays with Limehouse, Boyd will come and kill her, and that if she leaves, Boyd (or someone else with deadly intent) will track her down. So when she’s finally on her own, she makes her way to Cassie at the never-more-aptly named Last Chance Holiness Church, and confesses her part in the murder and burial of Delroy, in hopes that she’ll then be washed in His blood. (“In Jesus’ blood I mean, not the man I was party to killin’.”)
Earlier, Limehouse asked Ava how she’d find “peace of mind,” and when Ava walks in on Cassie and Ellen May, gun drawn, Ellen May offers an answer, saying, “There’s peace in repentance.” And maybe Ellen May is right, at least on a personal level. Ultimately, the marshals extract Ellen May from the threat of the Crowders at Last Chance, but when Raylan tells her that Drew’s responsible for saving her life, it almost sounds like he’s suggesting something else. “He’s still lookin’ out for ya,” Raylan says. “Else none of us would be here.” I’m sure that Ellen May hears that “he” another way.
Ava though, like Boyd, doesn’t believe in God. She tells Ellen May that in everything that’s happened to her, “That was people making choices.” And at the end of the episode, after Ellen May is safely with the marshals—in part because Ava couldn’t bring herself to shoot her—Boyd reassures Ava that, “I believe you dictate the river of fate through your own actions.” And that’s important to Boyd, because it means nothing’s decided by happenstance, even when it seems like decisions are being taken out of your hands (like when Limehouse frees Ellen May before Ava can buy her). At the start of “Peace Of Mind,” Boyd is trying to decide whether to go after Limehouse or go after his turncoat cousin Johnny, when he suddenly gets a call from Augustine offering him a chance to kill both birds at once. This opportunity arises in part because Boyd has been shrewd so far. And it’s because of that shrewdness that Boyd always has options—even when the plan to get Ellen Man and Johnny fails.
As to Limehouse’s “peace of mind” question, Boyd answers his old enemy indirectly, earlier in the episode, when he quotes Emerson to Ava, saying, “Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.” As if to demonstrate this, the episode contrasts Boyd’s cool head to several of his associates, such as cousin Johnny. Just a few weeks ago, when he was shifting his alliance from Wynn to Raylan, Johnny as much as admitted that he’d been a follower all his life, letting Boyd set the agenda. And while Johnny grumbles sarcastically to Raylan that he’s been “shittin’ rainbows” since he squealed to the marshals, Augustine shows he has Johnny’s number when, earlier in the episode, he says, “Accept responsibility for your choices.” Boyd’s got a leg up on Johnny there. Boyd’s also on a more even keel than paranoid Nicky Kush, who preps for the arrival of Boyd and Augustine by throwing on body armor and brandishing a machine gun, forgetting that his armor doesn’t extend to his legs or feet. (A lesson from this season of Justified: Even the most formidable foe is vulnerable below the waist.)
Then there’s poor, smacked-out veteran Colton Rose, who’s the one who takes the call from Boyd to kill Ellen May when Ava can’t pull the trigger. When Tim arrives to rescue Ellen May, it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen next. The two of them have a brief conversation about Tim’s buddy Mark, who really “died in Kandahar,” Colt insists—thus extending the theme of people being saved or condemned by the choices they made long ago. Then Colt lights up a cigarette, knowing that it’s the last he’ll ever smoke. “Guess I’ll quit today,” he says, before raising his gun and committing suicide-by-Tim.
So that’s the essence of “Peace Of Mind,” an unusually pensive Justified that’s still funny, and still tense, but is also more open than most Justified episodes about how these characters’ arrogance, ignorance, and/or pure cussedness generates the shit they have to wade through every day. Even the ordinarily far-sighted Limehouse inadvertently subjects Noble’s Holler to state police scrutiny when he calls Rachel “lil’ sista.” (Even though he knows it won’t do any good, Raylan calls for a full search of Noble’s Holler, and tells Tim, “I told the guy I was gonna toss the joint. Can’t be an idle threat or else I’ll look like a pussy. Plus he was rude to Rachel.”)
What does all of this have to do with the last scene? Ah, but that’s the hell of it all. It all comes down to the star of our show, and his own selfish choices.
The main thing to remember about Raylan Givens in “Peace Of Mind” is that he’s not supposed to be in Harlan. He’s supposed to be suspended, for a long list of reasons that Art would be more than happy to provide. But Raylan insists that he needs to finish the job, and be the one to retrieve Ellen May for Drew. (“I set her in front of this asshole and I say, ‘Here, asshole.’”) “Suspend me tomorrow,” Raylan begs of Art, adding that his boss shouldn’t try and prevent him from doing what he’s best at. And what exactly is that? Well, as Raylan explains to Tim and Rachel, “Did you not wake up this morning thinking that today was another opportunity to mess up some bad guy’s day? I did.”
This season began with Raylan saying one of the wisest things that’s ever been said on a television show: “You run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. You run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.” And throughout this season, Raylan has proved himself to be a grade-A asshole. Lovable, don’t get me wrong. Heroic, make no mistake. But an asshole, most definitely. That, he believes, is how he has to be, to do his job. It’s like he says to Boyd’s henchman Jimmy after he messes up Jimmy’s day: “It’d be weird if you liked me.”
But by Raylan being Raylan, he has now set something fateful in motion. If “Charlie Hustle” had just put his feet up and taken a few days off, as Art ordered, then Winona would be sitting in a rocker, not a glider, and whatever terrible thing is about to happen would’ve been prevented. But Raylan had to go to Harlan, and had to make his presence known to Boyd, while Boyd was in the company of the sneakily dangerous Nick Augustine. For all the portentous talk about “fate” and “choices” and “redemption” in “Peace Of Mind,” the most important line in the episode is more casual, spoken by Augustine to Boyd. After the latter hangs up on Raylan, Augustine asks, “Was that the marshal in the hat? What’s his name again?”
And so here we are.
- Adding to the anxiety over this episode’s final scene: Raylan never signed those forms that Winona emailed! Aaaaah! That can’t be good!
- Raylan and Winona are having a girl, by the way. Raylan’s worried, because he doesn’t know anything about girls. “That is so sweet, sayin’ it like I don’t already know,” Winona sighs.
- Art doesn’t care for Julia Roberts. She “looks too much like Eric.”
- We get to spend time in Tim’s Movie Club this week, as he quotes that U.S. marshal classic, The Fugitive: “We are literally searching every outhouse, doghouse, henhouse.” (Raylan waves him off: “Let the staties do it. They live for this shit.”)
- Was Boyd ever really a racist, or was that just a part he played for the sake of his criminal enterprise? He hasn’t shown many racist tendencies over the past couple of seasons—that is until this episode, when he talks about his lackey Jimmy blowing up Limehouse’s, after which, “come Thanksgivin’ he can serve all the dark meat he wants.”
- Win the Super Bowl, go to Disneyland. Get nabbed by the Tonin family, go to Six Flags.
- One sign of how little Augustine respects this intricate cross-family feud he’s stumbled into: He refers to Limehouse as “Lemonhead” (and Limehouse’s home as “The Black Holler”).
- Augustine, after one of Boyd’s more colorfully colloquial sentences: “I’m gonna need Google Translate on my phone if I’m gonna keep talkin’ to you.”
- When Augustine asks Boyd if he should be scared of Nicky Cush, Boyd answers, “Not if you’re secure in your political views.”
- An original Crowder aphorism: “A man who speaks out of both sides of his mouth deserves to have it permanently shut.”
- There are a lot of funny lines in “Peace Of Mind,” but I think the one that made me laugh the loudest was also the simplest: It’s when Jimmy mutters to Raylan that he’s brandishing a weapon at two U.S. marshals because he’s “protectin’ the bar.” (I also liked how when Raylan asked Jimmy for info, Jimmy replied, “Why don’t you kiss my dimpled ass?” and Raylan answered back, “Don’t see how that invitation has anything to do with my request.”)
- Any guess on who in the marshal service is on the Tonin payroll, feeding him info?
- This has been the worst Everybody Wins Day ever at Johnny’s Bar.