‘Justified’ – ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’: Eviction notice

A review of tonight’s “Justified” coming up just as soon as I swallow a peanut the wrong way…

“Trust me: you don’t want to know the stick.” -Quarles

“The Man Behind the Curtain” was the midpoint of season 3, and as such, it perhaps shouldn’t be surprising that it didn’t bother with any standalone stories. Instead, it moved a lot of chess pieces around the board for the season’s second half. Those are necessary sometimes, particularly with as many villains and storylines we have this season, and it helped that the hour also told us so much about our well-dressed new friend from Detroit.

Whether or not Quarles is the eponymous man behind the curtain (it could just as easily be Sammy’s father, who doesn’t appear here but motivates much of the action), we know a whole lot more now than we did before. We know that, contrary to how he portrayed himself to Wynn and Arnett back in the season premiere, he’s not in Kentucky by choice. We know that he was once the favored surrogate son of the boss of Detroit (or, at least, we know that this is what he’s told himself). And we know that our normally buttoned-down man has a serious problem maintaining his temper around male escorts. (Might this perhaps explain the poor bastard who was tied up in the bedroom of that house? Based on Wynn’s line about how he can’t paint over blood stains, I fear we may have seen the last of that guy.)

And as Quarles is trying various moves involving Sammy, Sheriff Napier, Boyd, Raylan and Gary (who didn’t travel nearly far enough from Lexington when Raylan told him to), we’re also reminded that Raylan has his own problems with self-control. Raylan can be super-cool under most circumstances, but it’s easy to do that when he’s usually in control of most situations as the fastest gun and smartest guy in the room. Take that control away and spring surprises on him – whether it’s Boyd and Arlo setting up an oxy clinic at Aunt Helen’s house or Quarles popping by the dive bar that’s become Raylan’s new home – and he stops thinking clearly. He oversteps his bounds, burns bridges with colleagues(*), overestimates his “mad ninja skills” (though he does better at the track than he did at the restaurant), and I’m still not sure he entirely realizes just what a threat Quarles can be to him.

(*) Though, to be frank, if I was Tim, I’d have stopped doing favors for Raylan a long time ago. Way too one-sided a relationship.

But sometimes your hero has to stumble before he can rise, and things are set up very interestingly for the season’s second half – especially since we see Boyd and Limehouse each carefully plotting their own moves while Raylan and Quarles are struggling to keep their tempers in check.

Some other thoughts:

* An abundance of notable guest stars in this one, starting with the return of friend of the blog Jim Beaver (who contributed all summer on our “Deadwood” season 1 discussion) as Shelby, the security guard from the mine whom Boyd now intends to run for sheriff against Napier. And speaking of which, Napier’s played by David Andrews, another Yost alum (he played Frank Borman in “From the Earth to the Moon” and had a cameo in the “Band of Brothers” finale). As Sammy, we’ve got Max Perlich, still best known to me for his sometimes-successful role on “Homicide” as videographer J.H. Brodie. And finally, we have What’s Alan Watching?-approved podcaster Stephen Tobolowsky as the FBI agent not pleased with Raylan’s intrusion into his business. Tobolowsky, like Beaver, is yet another “Deadwood” alum, as Yost continues his unofficial contest with Kurt Sutter to see who can employ more members of the “Deadwood” cast.

* Okay, at this point there’s no ambiguity about Arlo’s senility – unless he’s playing an incredibly complex long con that seems beyond what we know of his criminal skills – and I’m glad that, thus far, Raylan doesn’t care one whit about that. Arlo’s given him no reason to be concerned for his father’s welfare for more than 40 years, so why should Raylan now?

* Not sure if it was an intentional Pacino homage or not, but I had to chuckle when Limehouse’s voice randomly went up in volume at the end of the sentence about how they have a situation. Given that Mykelti Williamson is laughing in the background of that scene I linked to, I’m guessing it was.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com