Justified Patton Oswalt

When it’s finally revealed that the current identity of missing fugitive Drew Thompson is indeed Sheriff Shelby Parlow, the information is doled out fairly matter-of-factly, right before a commercial break about three-quarters of the way through the hour. It’s not presented as some massive reveal, leading me to believe that showrunner Graham Yost and his team of writers wanted us to put the pieces together and solve the mystery ourselves, as most of us had done at some point over the course of the last few episodes. Divulging that Jim Beaver’s Shelby is Drew was merely a confirmation, as well as a springboard to propel the show into its final hours of the season.

Like many of the episodes this year, “The Hatchet Tour” was split into a Raylan story and a Boyd story. The Raylan half, with Givens picking up Arlo’s killer, Hunter Mosley, to transfer him to a higher-security prison, was easily the stronger of the two. Art is furious that his most troublesome marshal was allowed to abscond with his daddy’s killer, but Raylan has his reasons. He wants to know who hired Mosley to kill Arlo. And, hey, if Hunter takes a few punches for ending the pathetic existence of Raylan’s old man, so be it. Their first stop is Wynn Duffy’s motor home. Raylan figures if the Dixie Mafia ordered the hit on Arlo, he’ll suss it out by bringing Wynn and Mosley together. (And as much fun as it is putting Boyd and Wynn in a room together, it’s even more entertaining doing it with Raylan and Wynn. This instance was no exception. We find out Wynn owned a Yorkie when he was a kid.)

When that gets him nowhere, Raylan decides Drew himself must have ordered the hit, which means Mosley knows who Drew is. He’s not squealing though, so Raylan drags him, as well as a tagging-along Shelby, up to a country home where Raylan’s biggest suspects, those two Clover Hill fat cats, are hiding out. Turns out they’re not Thompson either, but Raylan’s able to piece together the puzzle thanks to the inadvertent help of Constable Bob, who’s also on the scene. He comes to the realization too late, however. Raylan had Shelby wait in the car with Mosley, and by the time he’s figured out that Shelby is Drew, the sheriff has thanked Mosley for keeping his secret and vacated the premises.

The whole thing is handled neatly and efficiently with Raylan moving from one lead to the next until he eventually stumbles upon the truth. And the plotting is interspersed with some great character work, like Raylan learning from Shelby that an old family story about Arlo beating up a neighbor over a dog was less about Arlo being his usual asshole self and more about him standing up to protect the integrity of Raylan’s mother. Few as though they may be, there are parts of Arlo that Raylan doesn’t mind carrying with him, which likely softens Mosley’s jabs at the end that it’s Arlo who has made Raylan who he is.

Boyd’s half of the episode is messier because it blends a bunch of disparate plots, some of which haven’t properly gelled into anything all that interesting this year. Preacher Billy’s sister Cassie returns this week — don’t beat yourself up if you forgot about her; I pretty much did — and she inadvertently breaks the news to Boyd and Ava that Ellen May is still alive. They don’t believe her at first, but Cousin Johnny eventually spills the truth, which leaves Boyd steaming at Colt and Johnny. Colt heads to the church to try to beat Ellen May’s whereabouts out of Cassie, which is pretty much his modus operandi by now — find a girl who might know where Ellen May is and rough her up. But he’s stopped by Tim, who suspects Colt murdered his VA buddy and has been tailing him. Basically, all the non-Drew Thompson storylines were thrown in a blender this week, and this is what came out. It’s fine, although the best Boyd stuff comes during a quick little scene where he and Ava look at a house they may want to buy and Ava realizes her mother used to clean it when Ava was a kid. The fact that the real-estate agent keeps not-too-subtly insinuating that they couldn’t possibly afford the place and that maybe they should consider a lower-class neighborhood carries on the recent theme of Boyd’s insistence on bringing respectability to the Crowder name.

One good thing: By the end of “The Hatchet Tour” Boyd strongly suspects that Parlow has Ellen May, but when he shows up at Shelby’s house it’s filled with U.S. Marshals. (“Drew Goddamn Thompson,” he says to Raylan, with a look of dawning awareness made eminently entertaining by Walt Goggins.) So now all storylines have fully converged. Shelby is Thompson, and everyone really needs to find him. And fast.

A few more thoughts on “The Hatchet Tour” …

– We finally get see see Bob yank out his “go bag” this episode, and the results did not disappoint, as Patton Oswalt wildly sprays a house with an assault rifle.

– Is it just me or does anyone else get a James Gandolfini vibe from Ron Eldard as Colt? Something about his burliness and the way he carries himself in the part is very Tony Soprano-esque.

– There were some weird staging hiccups with the episode. The bit where Raylan pulled a suicide-minded Mosley out of the way of an oncoming semi was sloppy. You can likely just chalk that up to working on a TV budget. Worse was seeing Bob and the Clover Hill fat cats draw guns just a few feet from each other, but when the show cuts back to them a moment later, they’re many yards apart with Bob firing on them from behind his car. I guess things calmed down, Bob started to leave and then the situation turned ugly again, but the editing of that scene was very awkward.

– Tim on Colt: “When I take him down his eyes will be clear.” If I could bet my house on Tim killing Colt by the end of the season, I would.

– I said last week that I was starting to worry about Boyd, but now I’m wondering if Ava’s the one we should be concerned about. The show reminded us again tonight that she’s the one Ellen May has dirt on. A busted Ava sure would deflate Boyd’s plans for domesticated married bliss.

– Line of the night: Pulling up to Wynn Duffy’s motor home, Mosley nervously says, “Whoa, what the hell is this?” Raylan’s great reply: “Oh this? This is where I start to find out what’s what.” He was right.

Follow Bob on Twitter: @robertbtaylor