This post contains spoilers through the March 6 episode of Justified.
One of the things I like about Justified that makes it somewhat different from a show like Sons of Anarchy is that it acknowledges how hard a good crime is to set up, pull off, and get away clean from. The trap that’s been sprung for Raylan tonight is a sophisticated one, and there’s no question he’s blindsided, failing to see some possible implications and events as early as one might wish he could. But it’s still one that he can pick apart even as it’s closing on him.
Still, as traps go, it’s a decent one. Whether Quarles knew that Gary had a hit out on Raylan and Winona, it was a decent move to pick a victim who could be easily linked to Raylan. There might have been better ways to do it — kill Boyd in a way that makes it look like a fight (which would strengthen the idea that Raylan was on Boyd’s payroll), or kill Winona and make it look like Raylan got jealous or angry at his abandonment. But the hit on Gary is clean, and relatively easy, and besides, they had to use that bullet that Raylan threw at Wynn somehow.
Justified’s always done a nice job of balancing between the competing ideas that Raylan’s a badass and Raylan’s badassery creates a lot of problems for him, and the bullet is a perfect example. “Deputy, that just might be the coolest thing I ever laid ears on,” Garritty gushes. Dempsey’s a bit more skeptical, wanting to know “Did you come up with that on your own?” Raylan’s a hep cat when he explains that he “Heard it on the Johnny Carson show once.” But no matter the coolness of the act itself, Raylan’s temper has handed his enemies a literal and figurative weapon against him. Raylan may be able to see Duffy’s weakness before he does, but when Duffy declares that “Between you and me, Raylan Given is a very angry man,” he’s seeing Raylan more clearly than he sees himself — and he knows how to use Raylan’s anger against him. Raylan’s colleagues, who are willing to play at a cooler temperature — when told not to play stupid, one replies “I’m not playing. I’m an idiot. Ask anybody.” — may be awful stressed a la Art, but they escape with considerably less trouble.
Sammy sees the same short fuse in Quarles, it seems. Quarles may hate Sammy as the son by blood who held onto the place that Quarles believes he should have had, but at least this time around, the goofy runt is proving his mettle. It’s only by the skin of his teeth that Quarles gets out of that house before Dempsey discovers the room he tortured a prostitute in (Duffy hasn’t had time to redecorate), and once he does, it appears Detroit’s had enough. Sammy tells Quarles he’s cut loose, and when Quarles pulls a gun on him, Sammy coolly talks him down. And then, on the way out the door, tells Quarles of his unique little gun, “That’s awesome. It ever jam on you?” Whether it does or it doesn’t, Quarles ends up popping pills and shotgunning sermons instead of pulling the trigger. Awesome, it seems, can be overrated.