Episode Title: "Guy Walks Into a Bar"
Writer: V. J. Boyd
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Previously on "Justified":
Late at night, Deputy Sheriffs Nick Mooney (William Gregory Lee) and Ethan Bishop (Potsch Boyd) sneak onto the property of Shelby (Jim Beaver) and try to plant some incriminating evidence against him. Except Shelby catches them in the act and he isn't having any of it… and neither is his shotgun. Shelby tells the two men that he is dying of cancer and he has no fear of death, before convincing them to leave with their fake evidence. Shelby later admits to Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) and his cousin, Johnny Crowder (David Meunier) that the cancer story was just a lie to scare off the deputies.
However, Boyd and Johnny are not amused by the unsubtle tactics employed by current Harlan County Sheriff, Tillman Napier (David Andrews). Taking Johnny's suggestion, Boyd begins looking for Napier's sister in the hopes of using her against him. To that end, Boyd visits Ellstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) at Nobles Holler and he seems to win over Limehouse's support and the location of Napier's sister. Limehouse also introduces Boyd to Harvey Jones (Ezra Buzzington), the "campaign manager" whom he previously set up with Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough).
Meanwhile, U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) has his own problems. Namely that Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies) — the man who killed Raylan's aunt Helen — is about to go free. And no amount of cajoling is able sway Judge Mike Reardon (Stephen Root) without any new evidence. At the same time, Boyd finds Napier's sister, Hanna (Bonnie Burroughs). Hanna knows who Boyd is and she assumes he is there to hurt her. Instead, Boyd offers Hanna a job. Back at the Federal building, Raylan tries to get Assistant U.S. Attorney David Vasquez (Rick Gomez) to support his bid to keep Dickie locked up, but his hands are tied.
David suggests making a deal with Wade Messer in return for leniency, but Vasquez points out that without Messer's cooperation than both men will walk free. Word even reaches Boyd that Dickie may soon be loose, but he turns his attention to the Sheriff election that day, as Boyd's girlfriend and newly established Madam, Ava Crowder (Joelle Carter) has Ellen May (Abby Miller) and the other prostitutes giving out sexual favors in return for votes. Shelby seems ill-at-ease with the illegal activity around him. But Boyd assures him that is how things are done in Harlan. And that he can make changes when he is Sheriff.
Back at the Marshal's office, Raylan makes a little more headway with Dickie's ex-partner, Jed Berwind (Richard Speight Jr.). However, Jed will only cooperate if his grandmother (a long-time ally of the Bennetts) gives her approval. But when Raylan visits her in a nursing home, the old woman devises a way to humiliate him and refuse his request at the same time… using two milkshakes. Back at Johnny's bar, Boyd gets the bad news: Napier won the election. At the Sheriff's station, Quarles and Napier celebrate their victory.
But things soon get contentious when Quarles tries to take over Napier's office and shuffle him into another, much smaller office. Then it goes from bad to worse, when Shelby and Harvey show up. Harvey explains that Hanna was on his county payroll, rendering Napier ineligible to be Sheriff under nepotism laws until a new Sheriff's election can be held. In the meantime, the runner up will hold the office and that means that Shelby is the new Sheriff. Quarles leaves in disgust, but he is stopped outside by Boyd and Johnny, as Boyd can't resist gloating about running Quarles out of town.
Despondent, Quarles begins popping Oxy like it is candy, much to the distress of his business associate, Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns). They are soon interrupted by Donovan (Marshall Allman), a male hustler who is looking for his friend, Brady Hughes — whom Quarles brutally tortured and possibly killed earlier in the season. Somehow, Quarles is able to relate his similar tale of woe to Donovan; which includes being forced into prostitution by his father and being offered the chance to kill his deranged dad by the mob boss, Theo Tonin; whom Quarles views as a father-figure.
Upon Quarles' insistence that he set Brady free, Donovan lowers his weapon and collapses into Quarles' arms. At the bar below his apartment, Raylan is flirting with the bartender, Lindsey (Jenn Lyon) when Duffy and a visibly drunk and high Quarles sit down. Quarles tries to regain an advantage with Raylan by threatening to kill his father, Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry). And when that doesn't work, Quarles promises to kill Raylan at some point in the future. Incensed, Raylan fires his gun through the ceiling to clear out the bar and offers to settle things now.
The situation is only defused when Lindsey takes out a shotgun of her own, forcing Quarles to withdraw. Afterwards, Raylan and Lindsey consummate their flirtation and she gives him tips on what he should say in court to make sure that Dickie is not released. The next day, Chief Deputy Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) indirectly tells Raylan that the fix is in. All Raylan has to do is give a passable statement and Judge Reardon will keep Dickie in prison. But whether by accident or by design, Raylan flubs the attempt and he invites Reardon to release Dickie so that he can catch him when he screws up again.
Needless to say, Limehouse isn't happy with that turn of events either, if it means that Dickie will keep snooping around for what Limehouse did with the Bennett family fortune. Thus he sends Errol (Demetrius Grosse) to retrieve Dickie when he is released. Meanwhile, Quarles is losing it as he strips and talks to himself in a disturbing manner. And in the bathroom, a chained Donovan has unwittingly taken Brady's place as Quarles' prisoner… and his next victim.
"Guy Walks Into a Bar" presented a chilling portrait of Robert Quarles. And while it might be impossible to sympathize for Quarles, he's at least more understandable now.
"Justified" went for the throat when Quarles confessed to what his father made him do as a young boy. Credit has to go to Neal McDonough, who made that scene work as he verbally painted a hellish vision of Quarles' childhood. And I believe that Quarles was largely telling the truth because it also explains why Quarles was such a wounded animal even before his latest setbacks. We know that Quarles has a child and possibly a wife in another city, but he's also dangerously fixated on male hustlers. And Quarles' latent sexual desires are played out through the brutality that he inflicts upon them.
What happened to Quarles as a child was tragic, but it doesn't get him off the hook for being a monster later in life. Almost the entire third season of "Justified" has been about tearing down Quarles a piece at a time; which he tries to hide with a smile. But Quarles is clearly ready to snap and even Wynn Duffy seems to recognize that he's losing his mind. We all know that Quarles won't kill Raylan. But there are no guarantees that Quarles won't go after Winona just to get revenge on Raylan.
Alternately, Lindsey may have put herself in Quarles' sights as well when she pulled her shotgun on him. If Quarles could make Raylan feel pain about his father's death, then Arlo would have been killed weeks ago. But Raylan only really seems to care about the women in his life and if someone is to die this season, it's likely to be either Lindsey or Winona.
For a fairly tense episode, Raylan was occasionally put in the position of comic relief. The bit with the milkshake in his lap was hysterical, as was Raylan's screw up in court. I'm still not sure if Raylan intentionally flubbed that speech just to get another shot at Dickie for revenge. But Boyd Crowder is right, Dickie Bennett really is stupid enough to return to Harlan. And if Limehouse is worried that Dickie's release will bring him closer to the stolen Bennett inheritance, then it must mean that there's something out there that even Dickie can find.
The scene in the bar at the end helped reestablish Raylan's gunslinger cred and it was a great moment when he responded to Quarles threat with an invitation to settle things then and there. I would have been impressed if Quarles had been dealt with this week, but I expect that storyline to last at least until the season finale. Boyd also got in a few delicious verbal shots at Quarles and Boyd's Conquistador analogy was very apt. I would have given Boyd credit for unseating Napier as Sheriff… until I remembered that it was probably Limehouse's idea. Of course, Boyd's success in this episode could easily haunt him too if Shelby decides to not be his puppet.
It was also good to see that Shelby is developing more of a personality. Jim Beaver's best scene in the series to date came in this episode when he held off the two Deputy Sheriffs alone. If Beaver is sticking around as the new Sheriff, than it could be a lot of fun for future seasons.
As always, "Justified" continues to consistently deliver a solid episode week after week. "Guy Walks Into a Bar" may not have been spectacular, but it was still very entertaining.