Justified, Season 4
It's Bob's world. We're just living in it.
Photo by Prashant Gupta/FX
It’s not easy to steal an entire episode of Justified from Raylan and Boyd. One or the other, maybe, but not both. Especially a late-season episode devoted to pitting Raylan directly against Boyd with lives at stake.
But Patton Oswalt’s Constable Bob proved worthy of the challenge in “Decoy.” And his moment of badassness served as a good reminder to fans. There is so much that Justified does so well that it’s amusing, even a source of pride, to find something to complain about. But while you’re complaining, you should probably recognize you’re just being impatient. Justified’s writers have a reason for everything. Also, they’re smarter than you.
Confession: I was a little disappointed with the way that Constable Bob had been treated this season. Ever since he pulled up to Arlo’s in the season premiere driving a Gremlin topped with too-large lights and sirens, Bob had seemingly offered little more than comic relief. His successes were accidental: In the opener, he saved Raylan from a scrape he’d gotten into, but only by stabbing a teenage girl in the foot (he’d been aiming for someone else). A few weeks ago, he helped Raylan figure out that Shelby Parlow was Drew Thompson, but only in the course of telling a rambling story about Hunter and Shelby from eons ago (and only after getting into a silly gunfight with two guys whom Raylan wanted to interview).
All of which was on the minds of viewers Tuesday night when “Yolo,” one of Nicky Augustine’s men, showed up at Arlo’s looking for a helicopter but finding Bob instead. Yolo, who’d already relieved Boyd of a few teeth, strapped Bob into a chair and started bullying him for information about Drew's whereabouts. Rather than giving up Raylan and Drew, Bob asks Yolo if he means Nancy Drew, Dr. Drew, “Drew-bacca” or even “Drew Sitania” (cousin of Lou Sitania, apparently). The interrogation turns into a scuffle, and a bloodied and battered Bob stabbed Yolo in the femoral artery—using what looked like the same knife he wielded against teenage Roz—and then apparently shot him.
And Bob wasn’t done. Raylan took Bob to the high school where he and Rachel were guarding Shelby/Drew, and Bob’s battered face told the Detroit mobsters all they needed to know about whether they’d be able to glean Drew’s whereabouts from Bob or Raylan. To cap it off, we learn at the end that it was his idea to get Drew out of town ahead of Tonin’s men by putting him on a coal train.
Twitter rejoiced: Constable Bob finally had his long-deserved moment. And he made the most of it. In the hands of less-deft writers, the transformation could have been clumsy. How did a schlubby, eager-to-please constable go from bumbling to taking-down-the-mob tough? We’d been given just enough hints of Bob’s potential this season—and ample evidence that he admires and is loyal to Raylan—to make it utterly believable. And the fact we had to wait for it? Just made it sweeter.
Rachael Larimore is Slate's managing editor.