Episode Title: "Cut Ties"
Writer: Benjamin Cavell
Director: Michael Watkins
Previously on "Justified":
U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) awakens in the house owned by his former rival, Gary Hawkins and he accidentally startles the Realtor and her potential buyers when they spot him in his boxers and a T-shirt. They quickly move to another room before Winona (Natalie Zea) apologizes to Raylan for the confusion. Wiona mentions something to Raylan that causes him to reflect on his fight with Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). In prison, Boyd is in the mess hall with the other inmates as he seemingly prepares to shank an unsuspecting Dickie Bennett (Jeremy Davies). But Boyd is foiled when he is told that he has a visitor.
Boyd is surprised that his visitor is Raylan, and even more surprised when Raylan says that he is amending his statement about their fight at the U.S. Marshal's office to get Boyd released as soon as the next day. But rather than being pleased, Boyd is visibly alarmed, as he realizes that Raylan knows that he wanted to be locked up with Dickie. And to buy himself some extra time, Dickie has gotten himself thrown into solitary. Unamused, Boyd strong-arms Dewey Crowe (Damon Herriman) into telling him which guards can be bribed.
Elsewhere, U.S. Deputy Marshal Bill Nichols (Michael Harding) drops by to see Raylan's boss, Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) before leaving to check up on Mary Archer (Bonnie Root), a young mother in the witness protection program. Nichols is unaware that he is being tailed by Terry Powe (Frank John Hughes), another one of his hidden witnesses. When Nichols spots the tail and confronts Terry, he is shot and later killed. The next morning, the U.S. Marshals scramble to learn if Nichols was murdered over his witnesses and Rachel Brooks (Erica Tazel) is assigned to look after Mary and her children.
Back at the office, Raylan runs into Assistant Director Karen Goodall (Carla Gugino), an old colleague of his from Miami who may also have been his former lover. Karen tells Raylan that she is there to investigate Nichols' death and rumors that linked it to known mobster, Little Joe (Lenny Citrano). With Raylan's help, she learns that Little Joe is connected, but not directly. Meanwhile, Art personally goes to move Terry to another location. But he becomes suspicious of Terry's behavior and he soon finds evidence that Terry was responsible for Nichols' murder.
Art returns Terry to his home and beats him until he confesses to selling out Mary's location for enough money to buy his way back into Little Joe's criminal organization. But the news comes too late for backup to arrive at Mary's home, leaving Rachael alone to face the armed killers. Rachel manages to hide the family long enough to kill the first man who stumbles upon them. Her fellow Marshals arrive soon after and subdue the other assassin. In prison, Boyd picks a fight and he lands in solitary as well, where a corrupt guard gives him access to Dickie in his cell. With his life in Boyd's hands, Dickie reveals that the hidden Bennett fortune is protected by Ellstin Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson); and that the money can only be claimed if Dickie is still alive.
At the Marshal's office, Rachel insists that she isn't bothered by the shooting as Raylan tries to get her through it. Winona comes by as well to see Raylan and Karen is noticeably disappointed to see that Raylan is currently seeing someone else before they part ways. Before Raylan leaves, Art mentions that Emmett and his secretary Yvette (Jennifer Birmingham) disappeared, which seems to worry Raylan. At prison, Boyd is finally released as Ava (Joelle Carter) comes to pick him up. Boyd relays that Dickie told him what he wanted to know, but that it won't be easy getting the money from Limehouse.
And finally, we meet Limehouse himself as he berates his young henchman, Bernard, (Cleavon McClendon) for falling asleep on guard duty. He offers two choices to Bernard: allow Limehouse to hold his hand in lye and boiling hot water to settle their score or promise never to fail again on the understanding that failure means death. Bernard quickly takes the second option before being led away by another henchman (Demetrius Grosse); whose right hand is scarred in the manner described by Limehouse.
I sometimes wonder if the writers behind "Justified" are even capable of making a bad episode. Because even when an episode isn't quite as fantastic as last week's season premiere, it's still pretty damn good.
Of the regular characters, this episode belonged to Nick Searcy's Art Mullen more than anyone else. In "Cut Ties," we learned that Art really isn't all that different from Raylan. With his friend dead and witnesses in danger, Art didn't even hesitate to begin beating a confession out of Terry. And Art handled the much younger man with such ease that it's easy to picture the younger Art as a prototype for Raylan himself. I don't think that Art was necessarily proud of what he had to do, but he didn't back down from doing it or express any remorse.
"Cut Ties" also offered Erica Tazel the rare chance to do anything as Rachel Brooks. For whatever reason, Rachel and Jacob Pitts' Tim Gutterson are the least served characters on "Justified." In the few times that Rachel and Tim have held the spotlight, they've proven that they can be just as compelling as Raylan when given the opportunity. And it was refreshing that Rachel got to take out at least one of the assassins by herself in a way that wasn't completely ludicrous.
Although Raylan was largely sidelined from the main storyline, the heart of this show still revolves around his complex relationship with Boyd. I still believe that deep down, Boyd and Raylan do like each other while still holding a fair amount of mutual hatred as well. The unspoken conflict came through loud and clear as Raylan arranged for Boyd's release even though he knew that Boyd was probably only there to target Dickie. In fact, I'd argue that Boyd was probably more pissed about that interference than he was about the fight that landed him in jail.
Boyd's attempts to stay in jail long enough to get to Dickie were also funny and well in line with "Justified's" strange sense of humor. How many times will you see the reveal of a swastika tattoo elicit laughter? Boyd has come so far as a character that I had actually forgotten that he had that mark on his arm.
This episode also brought in two new characters for this season, including Mykelti Williamson's Limehouse. It was a very interesting dramatic choice to introduce Limehouse at the end of the episode in a scene completely removed from the rest of the events of the story. It also very effectively set up the idea of how dangerous Limehouse can be, even to his own men. And that shot of the scarred hand was just a brilliant way to illustrate that Limehouse doesn't make idle threats.
The other introduction of note was Carla Gugino as Karen Goodall. I've been a fan of Gugino's work since her starring turn as Karen Sisco, another Elmore Leonard creation that came to TV… and it was even set in Miami just like Raylan's backstory! I don't know why the producers of "Justified" kept the first name Karen if they aren't going to call her Karen Sisco or acknowledge that she could be the same character. An official crossover between the late "Karen Sisco" and "Justified" feels like it would have worked out perfectly.
Judging from her initial appearance on this show, it looks like Gugino is well suited for this series as well. Karen's brief team up with Raylan while getting to Little Joe was very entertaining and she is clearly still attracted to her no-longer-single colleague. And that should make for some interesting drama ahead.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.