Now, there’s the Justified I love. With the unsatisfying saga of Randall and Lindsey behind us, the show gets back to the good stuff — and then some — in “Kin.” Raylan returns to looking for Drew Thompson, only now he’s on a deadline as Arlo is willing to give up all he knows about the drug dealer’s faked death in return for walking. The feds are plenty interested, as Thompson can help them make a case against Theo Tonin (who’s still not seen this week). Raylan would rather see Arlo die in jail, so he pledges to quickly track down Thompson.
Meanwhile, Tonin sends one Nicky Augustine — played by the excellent Mike O’Malley, mercifully freed from Glee — to Kentucky to find Thompson before the marshals do. It looks like the task is going to fall to FBI agent Agent Barkley (Stephen Tobolowski), who we learn is on Tonin’s payroll, though Augustine shoots him in the head and gives the job to Wynn Duffy instead. Duffy, in turn, hires Boyd to track down Thompson, promising him half the heroin trade in Kentucky. However, Duffy then makes a deal with a still-simmering cousin Johnny, giving him the okay to take out Boyd once Thompson is located.
Basically, this is the episode where the writers take all the balls they have in play so far this season and begin joyfully crashing them off one another. And it isn’t long before Raylan and Boyd find themselves locked together in a make-shift prison up in the mountains, at the mercy of a family of hill folk who urban legend says are cannibals. A plan to escape quickly backfires, leading Boyd to hilariously scream out, “I don’t like your plan, Raylan!” while being dragged by his feet to his presumed death. I know it’s wrong to want Raylan and Boyd paired up every episode, but Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins play off each other so well that … well, damn it, I want Raylan and Boyd paired up every episode.
There were other treats to be had this week too: The return of Patton Oswalt as Constable Bob. Gerald McRaney playing Josiah Cairn, a grumpy Harlan old-timer who, it’s revealed, was the one who had those teenagers digging into Arlo’s walls. The bewildered look on Wynn Duffy’s face as he listens to Augustine and Barkley swap inane stories about past shenanigans. (Can Jere Burns ever be praised enough for his work on this show? Answer: No.)
Even the B-story this week, which followed an increasingly unhinged Colton as he tries to track down the missing Ellen May, was top shelf. It also ended with a strong kicker: Sheriff Parlow’s got her, and he’s ready to use her and what she knows to get out from under Boyd’s thumb once and for all. The line to back-stab Boyd is starting to get rather lengthy, and one wonders how — or, gulp, if — he’ll be able to slither his way free.
Complete derail: I’ve now seen both Django Unchained and Lincoln, and while Goggins plays a character right in his wheelhouse in the Tarantino flick, I think he’s used to better effect in Lincoln, where he portrays a cowardly politician being pulled in two different directions by men he’s afraid to say no to. His part’s not large in either, but it’s good to see the guy getting big-screen work in prestige pictures. After his stellar work here and on The Shield, he certainly deserves it.
Okay, sorry. Back on point. By the end of “Kin,” Raylan and Boyd are able to survive the hill folk thanks to Raylan being able to prove that he’s distantly related to them. His roots in Harlan truly do run deep. And we learn that Thompson isn’t holed up deep in the woods, but rather may be hiding somewhere in plain sight, right in Harlan County. Justified has mined gold exploring the shacks and hills of rural Kentucky, from the Bennett clan’s pot farm to Ellstin Limehouse’s Noble’s Holler. But now, with the talk of him rubbing elbows with politicians, it sounds like they’re going to explore a different type of scumbag with Drew Thompson. I expect further surprises in the coming weeks.
A few more thoughts on “Kin” …
— Winona’s back this week, if only briefly. Looks like The Following won’t stop Natalie Zea from recurring. Early in the episode, Raylan meets her for a doctor’s appointment, but of course he has to bolt for work immediately after promising to be there for her and the kid.
— We better get to actually see Bob’s “go bag” put to good use by the end of the season.
— Can Tim and Colton team up and go on an adventure? Would but fun, but it’s more likely Tim will end up killing Colton by the end of the season.
— Line of the night: When Boyd whines about getting sold out by Josiah, Raylan asks him, “Why’s that? You got that honor-amongst-dumbass-thieves thing?”