In the universe of Justified, everyone bleeds eventually. This is one of those installments.
Since he’s had such great luck with prison conversations (see last week’s episode), Raylan decides to pay a visit to former Sheriff Hunter (Brent Sexton, Life) to see what he knows about the mysterious Drew Thompson. Hunter is more amused than interested, and wants to know why Raylan cares. He doesn’t get a straight answer.
Later on, Arlo is being hauled in for an unscheduled shave, appearing pretty much comatose. Hunter appears out of nowhere and knocks the barber unconscious, but before he can do whatever he’s plotting to, Arlo jumps out of the chair and strikes first. The end result is a bloody brawl that leaves the elder Givens with a pair of scissors sticking out of his chest. And…roll opening credits.
Back at the Marshals Office, Drew Thompson’s widow is going through mug shots for Raylan, who can’t believe she doesn’t know what her husband looks like. “Your bullshit makes me think you’re holding something back,” he says, but doesn’t press too much further because Art summons him, while Tim sits at his desk looking like “Not this again.” Art tells Raylan about the attack on his father, and while our hero says he’s okay, the sad piano informs us that it’s unlikely his father will be around much longer. As has been previously established, Raylan does not really mind.
Boyd meets with the man that he’s been sent to kill, and point-blank tells him that he’s been told to bump him off. Frank Browning is surprised by this advance warning. “You want me to pay you not to kill me?” he asks, laughing, and kicks Boyd out of his house. This sends Boyd right back to the bar, where he tells Colt (guest star Ron Eldard) the involuntary assignment is now more than a one-man job.
Their impromptu planning is interrupted by the arrival of Wynn Duffy (guest star Jere Burns), referencing Josiah Cairns. “His situation has further alarmed our friend in Detroit,” he says. “Theo wants Drew found, now.” And to that end, he’s sending reinforcements down – a guy who’s “killed more people than malaria,” according to Duffy. Boyd suggests that he has two names and the hitman could just kill both of them. You know, to play it safe.
But the new company is already in town. A fake sheriff beats everyone to the punch by showing up at Frank’s house, and although he’s “not the correct target,” kills him and his associate anyway.
The real law enforcement, Shelby (guest star Jim Beaver), arrives home and chats with Ellen May about how his ex-wife left him and her mother abandoned her. Before he can press her about why she wants to get right with God, his phone rings. Cut to Colt visiting the not-so-friendly neighborhood drug dealer for a loan. This quickly disintegrates into Colt stealing the other man’s gun and shooting him dead with it before taking all his money. Yet before Colt can make a clean getaway, he finds somebody in the kitchen: Tim Gutterson’s unfortunate friend Mark. “It’s gonna be like I was never here, right? Like this never happened,” Colt tells him, and then shoots him anyway.
Raylan visits his father in the prison infirmary, where Arlo is “circling the drain.” Raylan wants his father to tell him something, anything that he can use, but Arlo’s only response is to tell his son to “Kiss my ass.” With that, Raylan gives Dad a cold look and leaves him to his fate.
Elsewhere, the hitman pays another visit to another random guy, and shoots him too. There are more dead bodies in this episode than some other shows have in entire seasons. Shelby gets the call and in turn, phones Raylan, pretty sure this is not a coincidence. And Johnny Crowder (guest star David Meunier) meets with Duffy, thinking all the dead people are Boyd’s fault, but finding out quickly that they’re not. He explains to Duffy that none of the folks he’s just had killed could be Drew Thompson; Boyd just gave him a list of convenient targets and got Duffy’s people to do his dirty work. An enraged Duffy says that it now falls to Johnny to bring him Drew.
Ava and Boyd are not surprised to see Raylan turn up at the bar, but Raylan is not enthused to see the hitman, posing as a sheriff and in the middle of bringing Boyd…somewhere. Alarm bells immediately go off in our hero’s head since he just saw Shelby, and the sheriff didn’t say anything about having Boyd brought in. When the other man pushes the issue, Raylan’s response is to shoot the ever-living daylights out of the faux lawman (even though he’s still holding on to a startled Boyd) and casually remark, “I hope I got that right.” Ladies and gentlemen, the expert line delivery of Timothy Olyphant.
The next day, Colt follows instructions to drop off a package inside the groundskeeper’s shed at a local field, thinking it might be Ellen May trying to play him, but we see Johnny keeping an eye on him. Boyd gets a call from Nick Augustine (that’s Mike O’Malley – yes, the same guy who once hosted Nickelodeon’s GUTS and spent several seasons as a sitcom dad on Yes, Dear), who works for Theo Tonin and wants some answers about him giving Wynn Duffy the wrong names. And Raylan is told by Art that he’s in the clear on his latest shooting.
So who the heck is Drew Thompson already? Raylan, Art and Shelby have a team huddle, discussing if Drew’s widow gave them accurate information in the first place, and talking about some of the guys who Boyd’s been keeping close to lately. Shelby agrees to keep eyes on the latter group for the Marshals. When he leaves, Raylan tells Art that he still doesn’t completely trust Shelby, and that Arlo died an hour earlier. Art orders him to take a week off, which causes Raylan to explode, because Raylan’s off time is still probably spent cleaning his gun. He bargains Art down to “the day after tomorrow,” and departs the Marshals Office fighting a headache.
Boyd meets with his new business associates at the bar and tells them that Frank was killed by someone else, which does not make them happy but he doesn’t really care. He’s turned the tables. “Turns out fear is a powerful motivator, even more powerful than greed,” he says, as Johnny pulls a gun on the assemblage. Then there’s a bunch of talk about a Dairy Queen franchise. Only an Elmore Leonard show could slide that in without too much laughter. Boyd thinks he can handle everything, but Ava isn’t so sure.
“Outlaw” is that episode we all knew was coming, which seems to happen at least once every Justified season. A few chapters are spent building up tension, and then bodies start falling, usually in rapid succession. The amount of people who die on this show ought to make Harlan County, Kentucky one of the murder hot spots of the United States. Yet that’s also where the show has a certain amount of appeal – because the bodies don’t drop just for the sake of causing us to stare. It’s frankly surprising that Arlo Givens lasted this long (but don’t worry, Raymond J. Barry will likely turn up someplace else playing someone else’s father). There are a number of supporting characters who could easily follow suit, too. When they’re involved in the kinds of things that they are, people die. It would be a cop-out if they didn’t.
So what happens next? Well, that’s the question. With this episode, Justified brought a few things it’d been teasing all season to a head, and so the series now has to move on to other things. The central question of “Who is Drew Thompson?” still exists, of course, and will likely persist until the end of the season. But another thing this episode proves is that question is not the end-all of season four. It exists to help frame other stories like the conflicts between Raylan and Boyd (old, but always good), Boyd and Johnny (with David Meunier better now than ever before), and Colt and…well, everyone. If the show could find a way to mix in more Rachel and Tim, it would be just about perfect. Justified has proven that for every major plot twist there is always a fallout, and we’re likely to see that in spades next week. Hold on to your Stetsons.