Justified was off this week due to the Winter Olympics. This is unacceptable for numerous reasons, none of which are worth getting into, but all of which are very valid. If there is a silver lining at play here, though, and it is a thin one, it’s that it gives us all a chance to step back and take a gander at where we are in the Justified universe. And if we’re going to do that, I think it might be nice to run back through all the stuff that’s going on with Art and Raylan right now as a result of last season’s tarmac shootout. I’ve seen a few people express confusion about it all in the comments of the discussion posts recently, and so, I figured a quick refresher would be helpful. I live to serve. And post GIFs of people getting violently murdered. I live for two things.
Basically, it all started with Drew Thompson and his airplane full of cocaine. Back when everyone from Harlan to Detroit was trying to deduce the identity and location of the mysterious vanishing smuggler, a series of events took place that resulted in Raylan tipping off the Tonin family that one of their high-ranking associates in the Detroit mob, Nicky Augustine, was about to come after them, which itself resulted in Nicky getting filled with bullets on the tarmac. You may remember Mr. Augustine from being Mike O’Malley from GUTS and from splattering Stephen Tobolowsky’s head all over Wynn Duffy and his precious RV.
Nicky Augustine was hunting Drew Thompson on behalf of the Detroit mob’s top banana, Theo Tonin, because Drew was the only witness to a murder Theo committed years ago, and Theo wanted him out of the picture. Nicky’s methods were … let’s say, not very subtle. In addition to murdering people in recreational vehicles, he also held Boyd hostage to try to get information out of him, made untoward passes at Ava, and sent a bunch of goons to Winona’s house — while she was pregnant with Raylan’s baby — in a last-ditch effort to try to get Raylan to give up Drew.
For all of these reasons, but mostly for that last thing, Raylan chose to confront Nicky on a tarmac in Kentucky before the latter flew back to Detroit. Raylan did the thing Raylan does where he’s all “Stay out of Kentucky and/or away from my family or I’m going to kill you,” and Nicky responded poorly, calling the threat BS and saying that he was, in fact, coming back to kill Raylan and his whole family right after he got back from killing Theo Tonin’s doofy son Sammy. You may remember Sammy Tonin from when double-crossing Detroit mob associate Picker splattered his brains all over Wynn and Boyd in a grungy mannequin-filled high-rise earlier this season. (It just dawned on me now how much of this sub-plot involves Wynn Duffy’s face covered with someone else’s brain.)
Anyway, it turned out Raylan was one or more steps ahead of Nicky. Rather than gunning Nicky down inside the limousine himself, he instead placed a call to Sammy, with whom who he had become familiar back in Season 3 during the whole fiasco with Quarles (“Fiasco” = A psychotic pill-popping sexual deviant in the Tonin’s family employ came completely unglued while trying to establish a new pipeline for Canadian narcotics in the American South), when he showed up unannounced at Sammy’s stables and Sammy almost pissed himself.
Point being: Thanks to Raylan’s tip, Sammy and his associates made a surprise appearance on the tarmac and handled Nicky’s transgressions in-house. Or “in-limo,” as it were. And when Sammy asked Raylan if he had to intervene because he was a member of law enforcement, Raylan replied “I’m suspended” and walked away like a boss while the night lit up with gunshots behind him.
All of which brings us to Raylan and Art.
See, the reason Raylan was suspended at the time of Nicky Augustine’s murder was because, even though he got to the bottom of the Drew Thompson case and earned plenty of accolades, he did it all Raylan-y and Art was forced to reign him in. And around the same time, Art also specifically told Raylan not to go after Nicky, saying if he did, he might as well not come back. This is why Art was a little suspicious at the beginning of the season, and why he was willing to hop a plane to Detroit on a whim to question a Canadian criminal who was singing about the Detroit mob having a crooked Kentucky lawman in their pocket. Nicky’s death at the hands of his associates seemed a little convenient.
And all of that brings us to the present. Specifically, the events that took place after Art and Raylan nabbed Theo Tonin thanks to a tip from Picker, who Art had hauled in after that standoff at the diner. Picker was the only person left from the tarmac shootout who could put Raylan at the scene (he was the one who checked Raylan for a wire outside the limo), what with Sammy and Nicky both very dead, so when he told the Assistant U.S. Attorney that the inside man Art heard about from the Canadian was actually Agent Barkley (the guy Nicky killed in the Wynnebago), it appeared Raylan was in the clear. (That also explains why Picker originally tried to blackmail Raylan in the interrogation. Even if Picker couldn’t prove Raylan made the call to set Nicky up, he could at least put him at the scene when the murder when down. That is a bit of a law enforcement no-no.)
BUT, instead of shutting up and making things easy for himself, Raylan chose to not shut up and make things hard for himself — kind of his thing, in general — by semi-confessing to Art. This means the following things:
- Art now knows Raylan lied to him and disobeyed a direct order to stay away from Nicky Augustine.
- Raylan tied the office Art runs to massive corruption that included, but was not limited to, helping to organize intra-mob hits to settle personal vendettas.
- Raylan put Art in a position where he either has to (a) have one of his marshals investigated and risk having years worth of cases overturned and/or opened up to intense scrutiny, or (b) keep quiet and cover it all up, putting himself at great personal risk.
- Raylan, like, let Art down, as part of the Disappointed Dad/Rebellious Teenager thing they have going on.
There you go. Now you’re caught up.