Review: ‘Justified’ – ‘Cash Game’

A review of tonight's “Justified” coming up just as soon as we decide whether we're going to flapjack or short bus the bad guys…

“You see, Raylan, I've learned to think without arguing with myself.” -Boyd

Like the Elmore Leonard stories that inspired the series, “Justified” has a tendency to have very complicated plots, with each season featuring multiple groups of villains pursuing different agendas that frequently intersect and cause headaches for each other and Raylan Givens. The trick is to make the villains entertaining enough that we don't mind doing the mental calculations about who's after what, or waiting through the cryptic early episodes until we find out everyone's angle. When the bad guys are, for instance, Quarles and Limehouse, then it's no big deal trying to untangle that season's Gordian plot; when it's Daryl Crowe, then you start to notice how contorted things are getting.

Last week's season premiere set up the Raylan/Ava/Boyd dynamic that will likely be the show's endgame. There's more of that here, with Ava again unsure which man (if either) she should trust, but a lot of “Cash Game” is devoted to establishing the new faces in Harlan. I couldn't tell you exactly what any of them are up to, but I can that I sure enjoyed watching them maneuver around Raylan and each other.

After getting a brief introduction last week, Garret Dillahunt's Ty Walker is at the center of much of the “Cash Game” action. He's still trying to buy up all the property in Harlan – and getting violent with people who say no – while operating out of a pizza parlor that used to be a bank, along with fellow military contractors Seabass (Scott Grimes, who did great work in the Graham Yost-produced “Band of Brothers”) and the brain-damaged giant Choo Choo (Duke Davis Roberts), and also threatening local realtor Calhoun (Brad Leland from “Friday Night Lights”), who remains the target of the bank robbery Katherine and Wynn sent Boyd on last week. It's a weird tangle, and yet the guest stars involved are all so entertaining, and such natural fits in this environment (how did it take until season 7 to put Buddy Garrity into Harlan?), that I just enjoyed watching them deal with one another, and react to the various schemes run by Raylan, Boyd and Tim. (Tim giving Choo Choo a ride back to his headquarters was an inspired gambit.)

We also get our first look at Sam Elliott as Katherine's old flame Avery Markham – and at Elliott's clean-shaven upper lip as he enjoys some super-mellow pot. It's a different look for Elliott, and not the one you might expect for him on a show like this, but based on their brief conversation, we learn that he was an important business partner of Katherine's late husband, and thus perhaps not a man who could go around with a handlebar on his face. It's a brief scene, but there's such instant chemistry between Elliott and Mary Steenburgen that it made me very eager for more of him, as well as a better sense of where Avery fits in with what all the other crooks are up to at the moment.

What did everybody else think? Have you taken a shine to any of our new villains yet? Any theories on what they want with the pizza bank? And if Ava had a gun to her head right now and had to choose which former lover to side with, do you think it would be Boyd or Raylan?