In absence of his old lady, Raylan Givens has thrown himself into his work. This would be a good time to duck and cover, Kentucky; I don’t think single life is agreeing with him.
“The Man Behind the Curtain” was basically a character convention — with the floor packed with arrivals of faces both familiar and new. Like most episodes this season, it didn’t feel like a ton happened: Guys drove around, threatened one another, broached the idea of collaborating, and threatened each other some more when that didn’t work out.
This was a rather dizzying episode, so rather than take it scene by scene, let’s take it character by character:
Raylan: When we last saw the marshal, he was at his ex-wife’s house discussing their future. (They don’t have one.) Whatever happened between the end of the last episode and the beginning of this one, well, I’ll not have whatever he’s having. Raylan is living above a bar, making Tim Gutterson do all his work for him, impeding an FBI investigation, punching Boyd in the nuts, and getting all irate at the idea that he could be on the take. He hardly has a moment to spare for his father, who is now wandering Harlan searching for his dead wife. At least Raylan’s got the NFL Sunday Ticket. Always look on the bright side.
Boyd: He’s short on capital and crew, but Boyd has one thing you can’t put a price on: a cause. He wants to keep Harlan for Harlanites — Harlanians? Asking which one seems like a one-way ticket to getting punched in the face in Kentucky — and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way. He’s feeling the heat from Quarles and from his lifelong fremesis with a tin star. For the second straight episode, Raylan strips the paint off Boyd’s walls, figuratively speaking. It gets so he doesn’t know who to turn to, so Boyd tries to see if money will buy him some hot gossip (courtesy of Limehouse) and a sheriff (in the form of Shelby, the security guard from Season 2, played by Deadwood’s Jim Beaver).
Quarles: By far the most interesting character of the episode. If there’s a “man behind the curtain” who gets revealed this week it’s this sadistic, “big-toothed, albino-looking son of a bitch.” At first we didn’t know his name, then we didn’t know what his deal was. Now we know both. Robert Quarles is the forgotten, quasi-adopted son of Theo Tonin, a Detroit mob boss. Cast aside in favor of the bald, bumbling, but still legit heir to Theo’s throne, Sammy, Quarles has been exiled out of The D. Oh, his habit of “tooling up rent boys” probably has something to do with it. (That also explains who those poor guys tied up in the McMansion’s bedroom were all this time.)
This was the first episode in which Quarles seemed out of control. He’s always been a bit of a psycho, but having everything slip out of his grasp doesn’t become him. This banker-turned-gangster was educated at University of Michigan — though I doubt Ann Arbor will turn to his “U of M! Go Blue!” cheerleading for their alumni materials — and raised in the ways of the gun in Motown. But now he’s fighting a multi-front war; against Raylan, Boyd, and, to some extent, his own employers.
Limehouse: Last week we got a feel for the historical and social reasons behind Limehouse’s isolationist philosophy. For the Noble’s Holler pit master and hand incinerator, it’s all about self-preservation. But the rest of the world is creeping up on Limehouse’s doorstep, in the form of a heartbroken (and just plain broken) Arlo Givens, a wheeling, dealing, kind-of-ornery Boyd Crowder, and the freelance Oxy dealer/hit man Tanner. Limehouse may want to keep his eye on his own, as Errol, his lieutenant, seems to have an eye on the king’s
crown meat cleaver.
- If you made a Tumblr called Ellstin Limehouse Having Conversations in His Slaughterhouse (dot Tumblr dot com) … well, that would be a long-ass Tumblr.
- Seriously. How much Pappy Van Goddamn Winkle is down there? Can you just cop that stuff at the corner store? Not only do they have it at Johnny Crowder’s place, but they carry it at Raylan’s new spot.
- This episode was a feast of great American character actors: Max Perlich as Sammy Tonin, Beaver as Shelby the possible sheriff-to-be, Stephen Tobolowsky as hard-ass FBI agent. All we were missing were J.K. Simmons and Richard Jenkins to make it a party.
- Last week, I sort of complained that not enough happened, that the episode was basically a table-setter. Not a ton more went down in “The Man Behind …” And I could care less. This episode felt like a live wire snapping back and forth. Everyone was pissed, hurt, wary, fired up, fed up, and desperately looking for alliances and assistance from the most unlikely of partners. One theme that has been hammered home — made all the more interesting in light of the events of last season — is the need for Harlan to protect their own. After the whole Black Pike mining ordeal, you get the feeling that blood is thicker than water and regional familiarity is thicker than blood.
- I feel like Raylan and Arlo have one more round to go. It seems as if the elder Givens is being set up for a rather tragic and steep fall from his less-than-graceful position as Crowder mascot/bag man. And Raylan could not give less of a shit.
MVP: Tim Gutterson. Okay, cards on the table. You know how they give the Doak Walker Award to the best college running back? I think we’re gonna just call the MVP of any given Justified episode the winner of the Tim Gutterson award. Tim is essentially Raylan’s minion, but you’d never know it from the biting one-liners he delivers and shade he throws. Too bad he hasn’t spent that much time in the field with Raylan. That’s my only complaint.
Villain of the Week: Quarles. Oh, he’s got daddy issues? You don’t say! Welcome to Harlan, man. Take a number.
Raylan’s Love Interest Threat Level: Percolating. Winona is with her sister, our lady of the flowing nightgowns, somewhere in the suburbs. But with Quarles and Wynn tracking down her ex, Gary — ironically deriding losers while delivering a crackpot real estate sermon in a Quality Inn conference room — there seems to be a pretty good chance that Winona will be back, and she’ll be in danger.
Best Line: This bit between Raylan and Tim was pretty great:
Tim: Shit blows up, that’s my friend’s ass.
Raylan: Shit’s not gonna blow up.
Tim: And according to my friend, the surveillance team knows you’re looking for him.
Raylan: How do they know that?
Tim: So I tell you where Sammy is, and you go all “Raylan” on him and drag him out of some restaurant by his nutsack.
Raylan: I’m not gonna grab his nutsack or any other part of him. I just want a word.