Bullet(ville) Points: “Sounding”

Six Rounds on tonight’s Justified.

1.  Constable Bob! Patton Oswalt returns as Raylan’s old high school buddy turned barely-higher-than-amateur lawman, once again used as a hapless pawn even as he thinks he’s running with the big dogs; this time, Raylan uses him to tail Ava after she panics and goes AWOL. As much heart as Oswalt has always brought to the role, there has always been something mean-spirited in the way Raylan, and by extension the show, has treated Bob–and perhaps that’s the problem. Perhaps Oswalt is just too likeable as Bob, and as such, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth when episodes play up his obvious self-delusions and failings as a lawman (and a man, compared to Raylan) for laughs. Here, it hit a little too close to home to watch Raylan effectively bully Bob, a clearly terrified white officer, into a display of excessive force against Errol, a physically imposing but otherwise nonviolent black man. The scene, complete with taser and Raylan’s order that Bob apologize to Errol when he regains consciousness, is played in the show’s usual dark comic vein, but I ended just feeling bad for everyone. And speaking of Errol…

2. Limehouse! Mykelti Williamson keeps the recurring character train a’rolling. Ava’s panicked bolt takes her to Noble’s Holler, the seat of Harlan’s black community, where she pleads for money and a new identity from barbeque godfather Limehouse. Limehouse and the Holler were a crucial bit of world-building in the show’s third season, establishing a black social (and criminal) sphere segregated from the clannish whites we’d seen previously, but united in a distrust of the government and a we-take-care-of-our-own way of handling problems. The expansion of the show’s universe to include non-white communities also helped solidify Justified as a show specifically about white people, not just whites as a cultural default, which is something I’ll be getting further into as the weeks progress.

3. Jeff Fahey! I would have sworn to you that Jeff Fahey was one of this episode’s many returning faces, but it turns out this is his first turn in Elmore Leonard’s Kentucky. Fahey is such a perfect fit that, like Sam Elliot before him, it seems ludicrous that he hasn’t been on the show before now. Fahey treads the boards here as Zachariah Randolph, former miner and Ava’s uncle, whom Boyd bribes with a bottle of whiskey and a $10,000 wire transfer to help reach Avery Markham’s vault via a collapsed mine. The resulting explosion, which sent poor Earl into the creek with some temporary loss of hearing, was certainly not as effective as last week’s Exploding Jake Busey, nor was it meant to be. As with much of this week’s episode, this plotline was mostly concerned with introducing (or reintroducing) a colorful new character and setting up whatever is bound to happen next week. Speaking of colorful characters and laying groundwork…

4. Albert the guard! Here is an actual recurring character, played as always by the short-for-a-stormtrooper actor/writer Danny Strong. Wynn Duffy and his muscle Mikey (who may or may not be a Scrabble cheat) come calling to suss out whether Albert falsely recanted his charges against Ava, thus proving that Ava was released from prison in order to be a confidential informant, thus proving that she should have her brains blown out. If you’ll remember last season, Albert cut himself and claimed that Ava attacked him, because he was obsessed with Ava and wanted to keep her in prison…or something. Honestly, the mechanics of Ava’s incarceration at the end of Season Four and her release as a CI at the end of Season Five never made much sense, and revisiting them now only serves to tighten the screws on Ava and to put Albert on the business end of Wynn Duffy’s cattle prod while Rachel and Tim watch from the bathroom. Wynn doesn’t seem to need much convincing that Albert is telling the truth (that he was obsessed with Ava and so recanted his testimony…which is technically true, but a lie in the context of Ava as a CI and…see what I mean?), while the two marshals ostensibly there to provide his safety seem perfectly willing to let him get tortured for a while. And speaking of government agents being perfectly fine with a certain amount of torture…

5. Calhoun! Poor Calhoun gets his head bashed in by Choo Choo, in another of this season’s deaths that seem more like pranks pulled by a malevolent Leonardian trickster god (see Busey, Exploding Jake). The scene begins like a standard talky-torture scene, as Seabass and Choo Choo sit poor Calhoun down and talk him through the enhanced interrogation techniques they learned while at Gitmo, telling him about the brother of a high-ranking Taliban leader who refused to talk even after a week of applied violence. And then Calhoun offers the meekest of denials, Choo Choo punches him, but the punch and/or subsequent fall from his chair kills him. This could be the kind of Justified death (see Busey, Exploding Jake) that is glossed over and emphasized only for its plot convenience (In this case, Calhoun’s death means that Markham still doesn’t know if his land deals are being flummoxed by The Criminal or The Cowboy.), or it could be the kind of civilian death that causes all parties to circle their wagons. We won’t find out until next week (at the earliest) because, well, this episode kinda ended with a shrug.

6. And then Ava and Raylan kiss.* Tune in next week, I guess!

*When I first wrote that sentence, I wrote it as “Boyd and Raylan kiss.” Now that would be a cliffhanger!

Quote of the Night: Patton Oswalt loves Star Wars, as do we all, no matter what character he plays: “Yeah I got a badge. And I got balls like Death Stars. So let’s do this.”

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