In Slate’s Justified TV Club, Rachael Larimore will IM each week with a different fan of the FX drama set in Harlan County, Ky. This week, she dicusses "Money Trap" with Yahoo sportswriter and columnist Jay Busbee.
Rachael Larimore: Welcome Jay! I have to ask, do you have a clever vanity plate? If not, what's your dream slogan?
Jay Busbee: Thank you for having me! I do not have a vanity plate, but when I was in high school, I was a huge Hendrix fan. I wanted to get a plate that read PURPLEAA—"purple As, purple haze"—yeah, I was a pun-happy idiot in high school.
Larimore: Pun-happy idiots tend to make good headline writers in our line of work. But it’s more of a liability if your profession involves extralegal activities. Were you as surprised as I was to learn that the entirety of this season—the hunt for Waldo Truth and Drew Thompson, the downfall of Preacher Billy, the “killing” of Ellen May, and the entire Lindsey-Raylan-Randall love triangle—has apparently transpired in about a week? We'll have to stop referring to Harlan County as "sleepy."
Busbee: That was indeed surprising. It brings to mind the old question about superheroes in comic books: If their time is so much more compressed than ours, why don't they just drop dead from exhaustion after fighting battle after battle? And yes, I'm thinking Harlan's tourism board will need to come up with a better slogan than "Visit Harlan: Bourbon, bullets, and snakebites to the face are always a possibility."
Larimore: And they should probably avoid mentioning the missing fugitives. Just when I thought we might be closer to learning the truth about Drew Thompson, Raylan is sidetracked when Jody Adair, the double-homicide suspect that Raylan picked up during the season opener for a bail bondswoman who he'd slept with*, returns. And Justified returned, for at least this week, to a procedural format. I was a little surprised that it took authorities six days to find Sharon Edmunds and her partner. You'd think the disappearance of a homicide suspect and some bail bondsmen would warrant some attention. What did you think of this diversion?
Busbee: It fit neatly into the title of the episode, "Money Trap," but not much else. Jody was such a fascinating character I was sorry to see him exit the stage so quickly. But you're right. Raylan should have gotten that call within hours of Jody not showing up, not days. For that matter, I was sad to see Sharon Edmunds go. She'd figured out Raylan, and she had the perfect balance of starry-eyed infatuation and hard-eyed realism about him.
Larimore: I was also sad about Sharon. It seemed like she had some potential with Raylan—not necessarily or solely as a romantic partner, but to get him entangled in another interesting plot down the road. I wasn't surprised when Raylan went after Jody, after watching the video at Kenny’s: A pretty girl was in danger, and Raylan doesn't like loose ends. But I couldn't decide what was going on in his mind when he shot Jody a couple more times than was probably necessary. Was it one cop avenging another cop's death? Raylan being pissed about having to go see his dad? Or just the culmination of a realllllly long week?
Busbee: That's an excellent point, and it brings up the one concern I have about a series like Justified, so centered on one character's ebbs and flows. There are only so many times you can go to the emotional well before it starts to feel forced or faked. To me, the "truer" emotional reaction was the simple "damn" and the toss of the ice cream cone out the window when he got the news of Sharon's death. I think we've still got a couple seasons left with Raylan, but consider all the trauma he's been through since he returned to Harlan, how much more can this guy be expected to handle before he cracks?
Larimore: That’s a great question. when I heard that the big arc for the season was going to focus on a 30-year-old mystery involving Arlo and dating back to Raylan's childhood—and knowing that Raylan is about to become a father—I thought we might see a story that caused Raylan to reflect on his childhood and Arlo and what it meant to him to be a father himself. But the storyline really hasn't gone in that direction yet. He's still getting into needless scrapes (this whole Jody Adair thing was the result of him taking a side job, after all), having lady trouble, and throwing himself into his work. Raylan is still pretty much just Raylan. On the other hand, we have a minor character like Colt, who’s completely gone to hell in half a season. What is your over-under on how much time Colt has left? He's proving to be a giant liability for Boyd. And Johnny is wise to him.
Busbee: Colt is really the only sour note for me this season. Ron Eldard as an actor is a perfect fit for Justified, but the character has pinwheeled from badass to loose cannon to tenderhearted failed assassin to junkie. Obviously he'll have a major role in Boyd's next phase, but I'm hoping it's through action, not stumbling inaction.
Larimore: Right now it seems like Colt was brought on solely to bungle the dispatching of Ellen May, which is being played to look like it could lead to the downfall of Boyd. Which is kind of disappointing, because the casting seemed promising.
Busbee: While I wait for my invitation to the local rich folks’ sex party ... what did you think of that very last shot of Arlo? Maybe I'm projecting, but that last close-up of him appeared to indicate that this is a man realizing that he's finally pushed his son away, that he'll die alone in prison. Am I giving a shred of humanity to a guy who has none?
Larimore: My first thought was that he was upset about dying in jail, not so much about losing Raylan. But you might be right. Being in jail never seemed to trouble him much, or even slow him down. And that's the kind of thing I was hoping to see more of this season—is there anything there, with Arlo?
Busbee:Arlo is one of those force-of-nature characters who makes you examine who you are ... just imagine him peering at you with those beady, knowing eyes. I'm with you, though; I'd like to see the Arlo/Drew Thompson plotline move convincingly forward. Enough Arlo-Raylan posturing. This is Harlan County, not the Lost Island. Let's have some decisive action on this one!
Larimore: There is definitely some action going on at the rich folks’ sex party that Ava and Boyd attend at the Napiers—what with Raylan dealing with Jody Adair and Arlo being uncooperative, someone has to look for Drew Thompson. But we learn that these shindigs are a lot more about the movers and shakers than the moving and shaking. However much Boyd thought he might be unwelcome at the party, and however mixed the reaction to his presence, the shadier element of Harlan County's wealthy were more than happy to see him. They want him to take out another businessman who's standing in their way, and they aren't going to take no for an answer. It's interesting that you mentioned earlier all the trauma Raylan has gone through and will anything make him crack, because I'm starting to get a little worried about Boyd. He's got a LOT on his plate right now.
Busbee: If every character has a few defining scenes in a series, this was one for Boyd. The moment where the Harlan Legion of Doom (they need a name, don't they?) told him "Crowders do what we say," and realization dawned in his eyes that he'd been a pawn all along ... that was perfect. I don't believe these gentlemen understand quite what they have in Boyd Crowder ... to call back to an earlier plotline, this rattler they're holding may not be as defanged as they think.
Larimore: Legion of Doom! I like it. Boyd might have followed his father into a life of crime, but Boyd is a very different man from his father. It will not serve the wealthy folk of Clover Hill well to treat Boyd as part of the "dung heap" of Harlan. The man can quote Scripture and philosophers, and he has his own sense of right and wrong. It might be different from ours, but he is true to it (I'm reminded here of the arc a few seasons back where that gang wanted to rob the mine payroll and he blew them up instead of Shelby, who was then working security at the mine.)
Busbee: Exactly. You underestimate Boyd at your peril ... and possibly the cost of your life.
Correction, Feb. 20: The article originally referred to Sharon Edmunds as a cop. She was a bail bondswoman. (Return to the corrected sentence.)