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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Justified: “This Bird Has Flown”

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Over the past two weeks, we’ve learned a lot more about Lindsey Salazar, but not enough to know whether she’d be more inclined to shoot her ex-husband Randall or her now-ex-boyfriend Raylan. It’s true that in “This Bird Has Flown,” Lindsey calls Raylan as soon as she’s at liberty to do so, indicating that she’s not entirely on-board with Randall’s plan to steal Raylan’s money and invest it all in gamecocks. On the other hand, she also exploits Randall’s jealous rage to get herself in the position where she can make that call, and then exploits Raylan’s white-hat habits to get him to come confront the big lunkhead. Is she planning to extricate herself from Randall, or is she laying an ambush for the marshal? It’s an open question, right up to the moment that Lindsey pulls the trigger.

Even though this episode is sadly devoid of Art and Tim—and thus, all but unrelated to the Waldo Truth/Drew Thompson storyline—it’s another very good Justified episode, with real moment-to-moment tension, driven by the ambiguity over what these characters will choose. “This Bird Has Flown” sports more thematic unity than the average Justified, in that it’s all about those fateful choices: the ones the characters make unwittingly and the ones being made on their behalf. There’s even a little about the choices people make consciously, though mostly on a smaller scale, as in an early scene where Randall is offered a glass of thousand-dollar tequila and instead asks for a Mountain Dew. (And by the way, there ain’t no Mountain Dew. So it goes with Randall.)

Last week, some of you in the comments suggested that when Boyd offered Billy St. Cyr a poisonous rattler to handle that it was in part a test of Boyd’s own lapsed faith—that part of Boyd was hoping that Billy would remain unscathed, protected by his Lord. That’s an interesting reading, and one that I confess hadn’t occurred to me. But even if that’s so, it doesn’t take long for Boyd to absolve himself of any major blame for Billy’s death. When Ellen May returns to Audrey’s, looking to get rehired, Boyd teases her for so quickly turning her back on her newfound Christianity—“You look oddly out of place in a house of iniquity!”—and suggests that she was a fool to believe the St. Cyrs. Boyd allows that he’s partly at fault for Billy’s death, given that he served as “the tempter,” but he ultimately puts the onus on the dead evangelist, using a phrase that quickly becomes this episode’s major refrain: “It was a choice he made.”

The Harlan half of “This Bird Has Flown” is almost exclusively about Ellen May, and whether the Crowders should welcome her back into the fold. On the one hand, Ellen May’s something of a flake; on the other hand, she knows a lot about the Crowder family business, and may have spilled more than she should’ve to Cassie St. Cyr. So Ava distills the dilemma: “Either I gotta worry about this thing, or I gotta do the other thing.” Boyd though suggests another option: They could send Ellen May to work for Boyd’s cousin, a good Christian man who runs a sleazy motel. Ava tries to couch this transfer in positive terms for Ellen May, making it seem like something the skittish prostitute is choosing to do. (“Next time you give a blowjob it’ll be because you want to. If you want to.”) But Ellen May feels like she’s being kicked out of her home, so she makes Ava a promise that she won’t ever talk about killin’ and such. And she makes that promise publicly. Poor Ellen May.

The Raylan/Randall/Lindsey storyline develops a nice intensity throughout the episode, culminating in the standoff I described in that first paragraph; but it’s nothing like the scene at the end of “This Bird Has Flown” when Colt drives Ellen to her new gig. It’s sickeningly obvious early on that Ellen May’s not going to make it to the “no-tell motel” (“the kind that has HBO and no ice”), especially once Colt gets a call and tells Ellen May that he’s been asked to drive her back to Audrey’s . “Bet it’s ‘cause of what I told her!” Ellen May says gleefully—which is more true than she knows. But then Colt makes his own choice: He pauses for an extra moment in a gas station restaurant to take a bump of white powder. And when he comes out, Ellen May is gone. Tune in next week to see whether she wised up and fled, or whether she was taken by somebody else—Cassie perhaps.

If my calculations are correct, Billy St. Cyr took his deadly snakebite right around the time that Raylan and his cohorts were rescuing Eve Munro from Mason Goins, which would mean that “The Bird Has Flown” covers the roughly 24-36 hours following the events of “Truth And Consequences.” It actually begins right where the previous episode ends, with Raylan and Rachel in Raylan’s ransacked apartment, trying to figure out exactly what happened. That tight timeframe adds urgency to this episode. Right at the start, when Lindsey and Randall toss backyard-boxing promoter Joe Hoppus an envelope full of Raylan’s money—“a goodly sum,” as Raylan puts it to Rachel—the couple makes it plain that they want Joe to move fast. (“Why don’t we assume somethin’ like ‘first thing?’” an annoyed Hoppus says when the lovebirds ask him at what time in the morning he can get them hooked up with a cockfighter.) And given that Raylan is once again handling personal business when he’s supposed to be at the office, he knows he needs to wrap it up quick, or at least let Rachel hustle back to appease Art.


As it turns out, it’s actually not that difficult for Raylan to track down Randall and Lindsey, in part because the latter is dropping clues for him, and in part because Joe Hoppus is such a pushover. (All Raylan has to do is tug on this douche’s hair to get a “simple ‘they went thataway.’”) But what the Raylan half of “This Bird Has Flown” lacks in master-sleuthery, it makes up in examination of Raylan’s character. Hoppus says of Lindsey, “Anyone who didn’t see her coming deserves what he gets,” implying that Raylan knew what he was getting into, like Billy St. Cyr and the serpent. And when Randall gripes to Lindsey that Raylan found the two of them awfully quick, she shrugs, “He’s a marshal; that’s what they do,” implying that Raylan is predictable. But then after Lindsey leaves, leaving behind the chickens that Randall bought with Raylan’s money—and after incapacitating both men—Raylan turns philosophical, telling Rachel that none of these failures really have anything to do with him, but rather “the universe” choosing that he be broke and loveless.

That’s why the funniest two scenes in “This Bird Has Flown” are also the most pertinent. In the first, Rachel clubs a gamecock-broker when he puts a blade near her face after she warned him not to; and later, Raylan shoots Randall in the belly after Randall talks about his chickens one time more than he was supposed to. In both cases, it’s hard to feel too bad for the victims of these marshals’ wrath. After all, they knew the consequences when they made their choice.


Stray observations:

  • I wasn’t the least bit surprised that Sheriff Parlow was letting Boyd listen in on his conversation with Cassie St. Cyr, but that didn’t make it any less cold-blooded to hear Shelby describe his old buddy and political benefactor as “unfettered by conscience.”
  • I continue to be amused at how Raylan has to explain his job to people every time he shows up a nogoodnik’s doorstep. No one ever quite knows what a U.S. Marshal is.
  • Small details matter: Remember back in the season premiere when Lindsey was brushing her teeth in Raylan’s room? This week, the absence of that toothbrush tells a story.
  • Joe Hoppus hired a hippie woman—“the kind you want to shave down and domesticate”—to feng shui up his crib. Then Joe lets his partying pals trash it. That ‘s all you need to know about Joe Hoppus.
  • Justified doesn’t do a lot of fancy camera moves generally, which makes the little push-in-and-swoop-around when Randall threatens Joe all the more effective. The same is true later in the episode when Raylan raises his beanbag gun and the camera switches to handheld.
  • A female boxer named Gina at Joe’s house asks whether Raylan is Rachel’s boyfriend or partner. “Neither one, as such,” she says. But they’re certainly more partner-y this week than they’ve ever been.
  • Speaking of Gina, did you catch the quick insert shot of her excited face when Raylan’s strong-arming Joe? The lady craves action. I suspect she and Joe both might appear again; the writers certainly spent some time making those characters indelible.
  • It’s too bad that the cockfighting subplot ended so soon (presuming that it is done with, which I imagine it would have to be). One of my favorite ‘70s movies is Cockfighter, and it would’ve been fun to see Raylan explore that world.
  • Couldn’t help but feel bad for the shutterbug convenience store clerk, even though he rather creepily insinuated that he’d like to take some “tasteful boudoir shots and such” of Lindsay. He just sounded so pathetic telling Raylan, “I don’t meet many people with a common interest. I just thought… I don’t know….” That’s probably because his bruised ego resembles Raylan’s, Lindsey-wise.
  • Lindsey quotes the Spice Girls: “Look for the rainbow in every storm.” (“I’ll have to download that,” Raylan growls, unconvincingly.)
  • This week, Raylan’s Netflix pick is Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, which apparently taught him how to use the word “pixelated.”
  • Last week I compared Raylan Givens to “other TV antiheroes,” which left the impression that I consider Raylan to be an antihero. I do not. Apologies if that was unclear. As I said back in my review of this season’s first episode, Raylan is an asshole, but I don’t think he’s sliding to the dark side or anything. Here’s the difference between Raylan and the people he pursues: That videogame-playing slacker at Joe’s house describes the game on the big-screen TV, saying, “There ain’t any score; you just, like, run around and kill each other.” Raylan would not see the point of that. He may lack self-awareness, but he always knows the score.