Way to make me eat my words, there, Justified. Just a few days after complaining about a slightly listless episode in which the focus appeared to be entirely on setting up action, things exploded (in some cases literally) in ‘Watching The Detectives.’
Let’s bitch it out…As Tim Surette explains, this episode was reminiscent of the fantastic S2 episode ‘Save My Love’ which revolved around a court house bombing decoy used to lure out a judge into an assassination. While the plot of ‘Watching The Detectives’ bears little resemblance to ‘Save My Love’ , the multiple storylines require viewers to remain active and pay attention to as Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) falls under not one, but two separate police investigations.
It all begins with Quarles’ (Neal McDonough) murder of Gary (William Ragsdale) on the front lawn of Gary’s and Winona’s (Natalie Zea) house. You kinda have to hand it to the carpetbagger, he almost manages to pull off a masterful plan. After Raylan took down his oxy business and evicted him from his house, Quarles clearly needed to retaliate. I can honestly say that I didn’t think it would involve framing Raylan for Gary’s murder using the bullet he threw at Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) back in the third episode of the season, ‘Harlan Roulette’. Top that off with a planted gun in Winona’s house and some pretty damning Lexington PD interviews with Duffy and Quarles and suddenly Raylan is the jealous boyfriend who knocked off his ex’s ex/current husband.
And that’s before the FBI, led by Stephen Tobolowsky’s Agent Barkley, swoop on the basis of tapped phone calls by sad sack Sammi Tonin (Max Perlich) inferring that Raylan is a dirty cop on Boyd Crowder’s (Walton Goggins) payroll. Looks like when Quarles plays hardball, he plays dirty! As one of the TV.com commenters elaborated, it would have been pretty tricky to make most of this stick considering the evidence is coming from criminals. But there is a certain ring to several of these charges, such as when Duffy elaborates in his interview that Raylan has anger issues (we’ve seen those since the pilot). And let’s face it, Raylan likely wouldn’t have killed Gary, but he certainly didn’t like the man, especially after Gary tried to have both Raylan and Winona killed last season in ‘Debts and Accounts.’
Ultimately the reliance on questionable characters as informants is what prompts Barkley to drop his case after Art (Nick Searcy) inquires about what initiated the investigation. It certainly doesn’t clear Raylan, at least not in the way that his timeline from the previous night would preclude him from being a suspect in Gary’s murder, but I’m not certain that was really Quarles’ intention.
See it’s been clearly demonstrated that Quarles is much more intelligent than the majority of the other criminals we’ve seen on the show (I’m looking at you, Dewey Crowe!). That’s why he’s a Big Bad, along with Limehouse, Boyd and last season’s Mags Bennett (oh man, remember when we wondered what the show would do for an encore in the season opener? Foot meet mouth).
I think Quarles was hoping his double whammy would take care of Raylan, and – together with the fake explosion of Sheriff Napier’s car that enabled the arrest of Boyd – he would get rid of two adversaries in a single day or two. Instead the episode ends with Quarles popping an oxy pill, avoiding a call from home (guess he really does have a wife and kid!), and driving to Noble’s Holler to ask Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) to back him as the “winning side.” At this point, I think the owner of that title has yet to be identified, though if I were a gambling man, I don’t think I’d bet on Quarles at this stage.
- There were quite a few expertly done scenes (more on that in a moment), but the big scene for me was when Raylan tells Winona that Gary has been killed. It feels so incredibly genuine that Winona is not only upset, but that she wants clarification about what Gary did. “I want to know what he did to deserve it” is both a testament to the inappropriate comments people make during times of grief, as well as her recognition that Gary wasn’t a good man. And this is before she finds out about that Gary ordered their deaths. The fact that Raylan kept that from her, as well as the gun planted in her house, prompts her to leave after telling Raylan not to come looking for her this time. *Sniff*
- The other big scene is the dramatic confrontation between Raylan and Duffy. A nice comedic moment occurs earlier in the episode when Quarles and Duffy distract one of the KPD officers with a bowl of soup to prevent him from finding the blood covered walls of the hustler torture room. At episode’s end, Raylan finds Duffy painting the room and he and Duffy go at it verbally. Not only does this scene have the best line of the episode (when Duffy asks Raylan if he’s accusing him of being “a fake blonde”), but Duffy really steps up his threat level – a fact that does not escape Raylan’s attention.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll likely say it again in the future, but I love the organic way that characters come in and out of this world. The episode randomly re-introduces David Vasquez (Rick Gomez), the assistant U.S. attorney who investigated Raylan’s shooting of Boyd back in the first season. We also briefly glimpse Stephen Root’s hilariously inappropriate judge Mike Reardon before Vasquez is reintroduced. Here’s hoping both return in the near future as they bring a nice levity to the proceedings.
- ‘Watching The Detectives’ also provides more sly commentary from Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) who seems evenly divided between affection for Raylan’s lazy attitude and frustration that Raylan perceives him as a lap dog whenever he needs help or information. You get the sense that Art puts up with Raylan because he does carry genuine affection for him. With Tim and Rachel (mysteriously absent for multiple episodes now), it’s less clear how much they actually care for the troublemaking Marshal.
- With only four episodes before the finale, Quarles is coming apart at the seams. His oxy use and appearance at Noble’s Holler suggests to me that Limehouse remains the villain to beat: the butcher is completely in control of his faculties and playing both (all?) sides against each other. Don’t forget that Quarles only learns Boyd has a candidate for Sheriff because Limehouse elects to tell him. It’s not entirely clear why he does it, besides fueling the rivalry between Quarles and Boyd, but it does actually force Limehouse to leave his safe haven. And now Quarles is on his doorstep, asking for his support after being cast adrift by Sammi.
- We’ve seen Quarles’ Taxi Driver gun twice now (once in 3×01 and again in 3×03). After pulling it on Sammi, the wimpy boss’ son inquires if it ever jams, which is exactly what Quarles was protecting against in ‘Harlan Roulette’ when we saw him oiling it. Are both these events/comments foreshadowing a pivotal moment when he pulls it on Raylan and it fails him?
So that’s our episode. What did you think, Justifiers? Has Quarles begun an epic spiral? Did Limehouse make a mistake by getting involved? Is Winona gone for good? Will the false car bombing charges stick to Boyd? And where are we headed, besides closer to blood and violence? Finally, is there any chance that Duffy makes it out of this season alive and takes over the Dixie Mafia in Lexington? God, I love that mustached villain!
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on FX. Earlier this week it was announced that FX picked up the show for a 13 episode fourth season.