This is one of the best episodes yet and it’s also an episode where Ava seems to be coming into her own. She manages to help her man, Boyd, while flirting with her ex, Raylan, fooling Johnny and Delroy, protecting her friends, and expanding her business interests. All at the same time. This is a girl you don’t want to mess with or turn your back on, let me tell you.
We also learn a fair bit of wisdom and lore in this episode. Things that the casual visitor to Harlan County might not pick up on right away. For example, from Elstin Limehouse, fount of knowledge, we learn that in Harlan:
Elections ain’t won without insurance
“I don’t know” is an acceptable answer if I ask you why the sun comes up each day or why God chose to give man dominion over the animals.
But it is not at all acceptable in other contexts.
From Raylan we learn the all-important truths that:
Social awkwardness is often the curse of genius.
And that there’s no better time to cut a deal with a man than when he is standing on a landmine.
Boyd has some more wisdom concerning the electoral process in Harlan:
In Harlan County, elections ain’t over ’til the dead have voted.
It’s all very helpful in continuing the process of filling in the word canvas of the pastel-colored picture of Harlan County and its inhabitants that is taking shape as we amble through each of the episodes of this series. Or something like that.
Anyway, this episode begins with Raylan coming home to his room above the bar and looking for a place to hide the gun that shot Gary, and which Winona delivered to him at some risk in last week’s episode. He finally settles on a spot inside what?–an AC unit?–under the window. Then he collapses on the bed. He seems a bit out of it.
At work Art wants to see him. Art is checking up on him and knows he got an anonymous call that said he should ask Quarles about a guy named Brady Hughes, who is a male hustler that’s gone missing. From what we know about it, it seems like he’s going to stay missing, but Raylan doesn’t know enough to prove anything so Art orders him to back off of Quarles.
Meanwhile, Delroy, our friendly neighborhood psychotic pimp, is coking up a few of his girls in his van and getting them to hold up a check cashing store with shotguns. It all goes fine until one of the girls gets shot in the stomach and they all have to cut and run back to the van. Delroy is not happy as he drives off and when the girl dies, he finds a nice slurry to sink her in and tries to clean up after himself by killing the other girls at the same time. One of the girls, Ellie Mae, who we know from a previous episode, escapes.
Ava comes to see Raylan at the bar where he lives, and is shocked when he welcomes her with a kiss. Raylan explains that he and Winona have split up and the ensuing conversation could serve as a masters thesis in loaded flirtatious banter. Raylan is a little too obvious in wanting to talk Ava into getting away from Boyd, while Ava looks to be mostly interested in getting Raylan to do what she wants. Guess who wins?
So, Raylan goes to see Boyd in the county lock-up and, as is so often the case, their entire conversation is like fine hillbilly moonshine, washing smoothly over the tonsils and intoxicating the brain:
Boyd: The man who did the shooting out at your aunt Helen’s house, man with a limp?
Raylan: You know him?
B: Well I believe he’s Robert Quarles’ point person in Harlan. He tried to turn Devil against me.
R: You gave him the limp?
B: Well I can get territorial.
R: How is Devil? I haven’t seen him.
B: He’s calmed down a good bit since last you saw him.
R: Hm. What’s in this for you?
B: The man you threw out of that trailer happens to be, I believe, the same man who committed the crime for which I find myself currently incarcerated.
R: You’re asking me to go find your get-out-of-jail-free card.
B: Well, think of it this way: you find this guy, you get your man Quarles, and you get to help out an old friend. Now that’s a win-win.
Boyd gives Raylan the name of Tanner Dodd and Raylan makes up a pretty story for Art about how he got the name, then he coordinates with Tom Bergen, who tells him where Tanner’s mom lives.
Meanwhile, back in Noble’s Holler, Quarles has been called to a meeting and he seems plenty grumpy about it. Limehouse tries lighten the mood with a sort of tap dance:
Limehouse: You ever had shoo-fly pie?
Quarles: No, but judging by the name, I’m sure it’s delicious.
L: Mmm, Molasses, butter, brown sugar, mmm…
Q: (mocking) My, that shore am sweet!
L: (dropping the act) Indeed. And like all sweet things, it draws pests.
Q: Hence, “shoo-fly?” Mr. Limehouse, I’m sure you didn’t get me up here to discuss the sociology of baked goods.
Well, that’s for sure. Turns out, Limehouse wants Quarles to hire a crooked campaign manager to rig the election. Quarles believes the election’s in the bag, but Limehouse enlightens him about the necessity of insurance in Harlan elections. Quarles takes the meeting.
Ellie Mae shows up at Boyd’s bar and asks for Ava’s protection. She looks sympathetic.
Raylan is at Tanner’s house trying to get Tanner’s mom to help locate her wayward son, but she’s having none of it. She just wants Raylan to fix the TV.
Quarles is in hell listening to the crooked campaign manager, Harvey, drone on about how to rig the election. He makes the mistake of calling the upcoming debate a “Town hall circle jerk” but Harvey corrects him, “That’s not at the town hall, it’s at the VFW.” Quarles’ eyes glaze over.
Tanner gets a call from his mom about Raylan stopping by. He makes plans to go on vacation. Errol (not Harold), Limehouse’s right hand man who he assigned to watch Tanner, reports Tanner’s plans to Limehouse, who wants Errol to make sure there are no loose ends before Tanner leaves.
Raylan shows up at Sheriff Napier’s office as the good sheriff is combing his moustache and rehearsing for the debate, or circle jerk, later that evening. Raylan has a guy in tow who he introduces as Special Agent Masters, an explosives expert from ATF. He says they are concerned that the bombing of Napier’s car fits a pattern and that Boyd may not have acted alone. The sheriff wants to argue that point but Raylan says they already tested his car. Napier doesn’t like that.
Napier: On whose authority?
Raylan: The president, congress, the United States of America. Anyway, sure enough, the rigging device is a match with Tanner’s M.O.
Napier: We’re pretty confident Boyd Crowder acted alone.
Raylan: Agent Masters is one of the best.
Napier: That why he doesn’t talk, doesn’t smile, just stands in my doorway like a big, hot, steaming pile of shit?
Raylan: Social awkwardness is often the curse of genius.
He gets Napier suitably freaked out about the possibility that Raylan may find Tanner, so that Napier’s next call is to set a meeting with Tanner that Tanner won’t be walking away from. Raylan follows Napier to the meeting spot.
Ava is helping Ellie Mae get cleaned up and hide out from Delroy when Johnny comes into the bar. He objects to the idea of helping the girl because Delroy pays protection money to the Crowders. He is adamant that Ava turn Ellie Mae over, so Ava calls up Delroy and offers to give him Ellie Mae if he comes up with $2000.
Errol and Tanner are going to see the guy who made the bomb, an old dude named Lemuel. Tanner thinks it’s so they can get back the money that Tanner paid for the bomb, but Errol is just tying up loose ends. They tell him they want the money and Lemuel takes them into the shop and tells Tanner to get the money down from the top of a cabinet. Tanner steps on a stool and triggers a land mine that arms itseld under his feet.
Now the three of them are standing in the same room with an armed landmine. It’s not an easy situation, but it seems like all of them can get out alive if they work together on the problem, but of course that’s not what they do. Lemuel tells them he will disarm the bomb if they put down their guns. Tanner starts to do that, but Errol shoots Lemuel instead. Tanner is pissed off, and offers to shoot Errol if he tries to leave, but Errol proposes that he take the money to Tanner’s mom, while Tanner calls the police to help get the bomb defused. Tanner decides that’s the best deal he’s going to get, so he gives up the money and Errol takes off.
Tom calls Raylan and tells him they are at Lemuel’s trying to help Tanner defuse the landmine. Raylan tells Napier, who is preparing a shovel and a rope, that Tanner’s not coming to the meeting.
Ava puts on a good act for Delroy and makes it appear she is turning over Ellie Mae, but then shoots Delroy with a shotgun instead. We’re going to miss him.
Raylan gets to Lemuel’s to try to talk to Tanner, who is still in the same predicament, only worse, because now he’s tired. Raylan is persistent in trying to get him to talk:
Tanner: Are you trying to cut a deal with me while I’m standing on a landmine???
Raylan: What better time?
While the (real this time) bomb expert tries to defuse the bomb, Tanner accidently drops his gun and the bomb starts to hum. The bomb expert pulls everyone back and the whole place blows up. Raylan’s mad because he never got any info from Tanner.
At the sheriff candidates’ debate, Napier is having it all his way until Boyd shows up: just a concerned citizen with a sensible question. in asking his question, Boyd goes into a soliloquy that would make any politician proud and most hillbillies weep. When the “debate” is over, the Crowders celebrate with their man Shelby at the bar, but Ava wants a private word with Boyd. She tells him about Ellie Mae and Delroy, and that she’s got the whole thing all cleaned up and the body disposed of and everything. Boyd is impressed with Ava’s initiative, but concerned about the business issues. Ava has answers for that, and Boyd backs her up:
You know baby if that’s the decision you felt you had to make, well then I respect it.
Memorize those words, men, they may come in very handy some day.
But Ava’s not done. Now she wants to take over Delroy’s hillbilly hookers. I don’t know Boyd’s thoughts on women working outside the home, but he has to admire a woman who goes after the job she wants.
Errol drops off the money with Tanner’s mom. Raylan’s there, and goes to pay Limehouse a visit. Limehouse must be losing his touch because Raylan’s not buying his act either:
Raylan: Elstin, do you think for a minute you can cut out that country bumpkin bar-b-que king bullshit?
Limehouse: You’d rather talk pigshit?
Raylan: Close: Robert Quarles.
Limehouse denies knowing Quarles, and when Raylan confronts him with Errol’s payment, Limehouse describes beating up Raylan’s dad, while Raylan watched as a boy. When that doesn’t work, Limehouse offers to talk about Raylan’s mom, and things go downhill quickly. Limehouse isn’t giving an inch on Quarles. The battle lines are drawn. The episode ends with both of them repeating the same ominous line: “So be it.”