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. For Episode 8, “Outlaw,” in lieu of arguing about the show with her husband, Jim, like she usually does, she’s IM’ing with him instead.
Rachael Larimore: Jim, you're the Elmore Leonard fan in our house, and you got me hooked on the show. Since you're out of town this week and we can’t watch together, I have a million questions for you about this intense episode. First, I lost track: Which is the higher number, the body count or the hints that Sheriff Shelby Parlow is Drew Thompson?
Jim Larimore: Probably the body count. I think we're getting to Shelby through process of elimination, though there have been some clues.
Rachael: The first "hint" goes back to when Shelby had Cassie in his office, and he got an alert on his computer about Thompson’s newly undead status. But in this episode: He has that quote about pretending to be someone else for a long time, talking to Ellen May; he looks vaguely enough like Frank Browning that you could maybe mistake them for each other after 30 years, and at the end he tries to send the marshals after more of the Clover Hill Swingers Society. But it's almost too obvious. And it's hard to believe that Hunter is so afraid of Sheriff Shelby that he would stab Arlo and earn himself a trip to a Supermax rather than take a deal. (Maybe he’s afraid of Theo Tonin, but if Tonin has the power to threaten these guys in prison, you think he’d have the power to find Drew Thompson.) Do you think they'll surprise us with someone else?
Jim: I don't know, I would have just thought somebody would recognize Shelby if he was Drew Thompson. This was the biggest case in its time, you think somebody would have known him and would recognize him.
I noticed Browning talking about Shelby as if he were the one controlling the people in Harlan, he mentioned his name to the “button man” from Detroit. But Shelby just doesn't seem that cutthroat to me, that is also why I have trouble with him being Drew Thompson. Speaking of Browning, I like how, out of nowhere, there is this secret society in Harlan. A Dixieland version of Eyes Wide Shut, minus the masks, of course. Were they only created to move the story along? A way to get Boyd closer to Tonin? They were never believable to me. How much power could they have? They couldn't have very much money, and they clearly had no muscle. After the way they talked to Boyd, you knew he was going to take them out and he did so rather quickly.
Rachael: Good question. The Legion of Doom, as the “TV Club” christened them last week, made a reference to how they controlled Boyd's dad. Which gives them a back story but might not make them any less a convenient plot device.
Jim: That’s a weak back story. Boyd's dad was brutal, it’s not believable that he'd take orders from these clowns: a "furry" judge, a guy who looks like a your creepy high school janitor and some other suit. But I guess if it moves the story along.
Rachael: I was worried about all the forces conspiring against Boyd, but he was pretty badass this week in using Theo Tonin’s “button man” not only to take out Frank Browning but also put the Legion of Doom on notice by taking out Keener. And in the process, he effectively neutered Wynn Duffy. “Why would you want to back a man who got took when you could back the man who took him?” he asks Nick Augustine. What did you think of how that went down? And really, a Dairy Queen?
Jim: I liked it. And Whatever Browning was paying Deke, he got ripped off. It was pretty smooth the way Boyd used the hitman to take care of Browning though I’m not sure why he chose to kill Keener out of the Clover Hill group. But it was a nice way to cozy up to Detroit.
That being said, I still don't see Boyd and Ava living happily ever after. Something tells me this new relationship with Tonin will eventually turn south. And I feel like Duffy, while once a major player, is now only being kept around until they can find a good time to kill him.
Rachael: Also, Duffy provides comic relief. Gotta love those eyebrows. Does he Botox?
Jim: Duffy does have a constant look of surprise on his face but he has been a great character, despite the unfortunate cosmetic surgery. On another topic, why is Shelby helping Ellen May? Is he trying to be a real police officer? He did say “I think if you pretend to be something for long enough it’s not just pretending.” But is motivation to help her or just to get rid of Boyd?
Rachael: Funny, I took that to be a sign that he’s Drew Thompson. But maybe instead it means that he really is tired of being Boyd’s stooge and wants to be a legitimate sheriff. Or maybe both! I suspect we'll find out. As for other folks with unclear motivations, how do you think Johnny will respond to the shift in power between Boyd and Wynn Duffy? You've been suspicious all along that Johnny really wanted to kill Boyd, right?
Jim: I think Johnny will be backing Boyd again really soon if he hasn't been all along.
Rachael: I had taken Johnny at his word, that he wanted Boyd dead. But if so, the way he’s handling Colt is odd. If he wants to take down Boyd, why not just let Colt keep floundering and let the whole story come out, about Ava and Delroy? The way he's acted toward Colt makes me feel like he's protecting Boyd and Ava's interests.
Jim: I think you're right. Johnny says he wants to get rid of Boyd but he doesn't always seem to act that way.
Rachael: Now, we haven’t talked much about Raylan and Arlo. Raylan wasn’t kidding in the last episode when he told Arlo that he would die in prison, and soon. Though even Raylan couldn’t have predicted this.
Jim: I’m still not clear on Arlo’s motivation for killing the guy in prison in the first episode. Obviously, he was trying to protect someone, but who, exactly?
Rachael: The way he killed that prison "trustie,” that was the first of what insane lengths people will go to to keep Drew Thompson's identity a secret. And it came full circle when Hunter stabbed Arlo. Even on his deathbed, whether it was out of spite for Raylan or not, he still wouldn't give up Drew Thompson. He is one crazy stubborn bastard. I don't know if we'll learn more of Arlo's role in the Drew Thompson story after we learn who Thompson is or not. You have a theory, though, don’t you?
Jim: Yes, I'm starting to think that Drew Thompson might be Keyser Soze. Seriously, though, the fact that Arlo wouldn't talk made me think he was protecting someone and even though he seems like he hates Raylan, he is the only one he would ever have to protect. Raylan seems to want something from Arlo, something he can tell Arlo's grandkids someday. Maybe we'll find out that keeping this secret was it.
Rachael: So, that would mean that Arlo thinks giving up Drew Thompson would somehow endanger Raylan, and that being an asshole up to the end was one final act of ... love is a strange word to use with Arlo, but it would fit if true. Now that would be a surprise.