5x07 – Raw Deal
“And here I thought we were all friends.”
One thing I wouldn’t have guessed when we started the season was that well before it ended, we would have two Crowders on the Mexican side of the border. Detroit, and Florida: I figured we had gotten all of our traveling out of the way. I had no idea it would be even briefly relevant that I’ve been reading Charles Bowden book after Charles Bowden book (after Charles Bowden book) for the past month, all about our southern border and our drug trade and our cartels and government. My brain has been doing that thing where it feels like it’s producing electricity from my excitement when these separate Venn diagrams overlap.
And then— not that they’re even completely separate. I was on my second book of Bowden’s before I found out how much Elmore was apparently a fan of his work. That’s why I love to follow all these little rabbit trails of whatever subject grabs my interest. I tell you, everything connects.
And I tell you, “No, no, no!” I was saying almost as loud as Boyd as the Crowes start mowing down Johnny’s men, dropping bodies right and left in the Mexican desert. No bodies drop in Mexico, that was the deal, and Yoon may have been in on this with Boyd against Johnny all along, and Yoon may have gone along with the Crowder drama so far, but every word of warning Yoon and Alberto have given about what will happen if shit starts to go sideways, shit, it looms large in my head against the backdrop of what I’ve been reading. Remember season four, remember when Boyd made his outlaw play on all the rich Clover Hill assholes by signing on the dotted line with Theo Tonin? Ava may have been on board with a Dairy Queen franchise in their name but Theo Tonin had her asking Boyd if they were even going to be alive to see it. What happens, Ava asked, when he runs out of bigger, meaner bullies to back these bullies down? “Jesus, Boyd. Is there anybody bigger than Theo?” “Just God and Uncle Sam,” was Boyd’s answer. Well. The threat of Theo Tonin has all but been neutralized. Raylan’s catching most, if not all, of the lingering heat. Yet here Boyd is, in his grand tradition, making alliances that all but dwarf the deal he made with Tonin and his ongoing deal with the Crowes. Here he is on the turf where Uncle Sam and God, they really do business.
Just in time to start asking, by the way, what in the hell are the Crowes up to themselves? They’re playing some game that Boyd isn’t in on, and Darryl’s all too happy to put on a show for his benefit. Whether this ends up as a mess or a hell of a mess— if you’re taking bets, I know where I place mine.
Raylan: Aren’t you tired of cleaning up Darryl’s messes?
Wendy: Well, we’re family.
Raylan: I’ve been thinking family loyalty probably don’t go so far with you Crowes.
Wendy: That right? That’s why you think I drove all the way up here from Miami? Left my life, go get back my little brother after you snatched him up?
Raylan: You cared so much about Kendal, he’d be back in Miami with you right now.
Wendy: Just like how you’re down in Florida with your little girl right now, you mean?
“Okay, so you’re serious then,” Alison says when Wendy comes after her to make the case Wendy started making last week, that it shouldn’t just be taken for granted that Wendy is the least-screwy Crowe. She may be the brains of the family, such that they are, and she may run all the facts and figures, but Alicia Witt is endearing herself to me more each week with how Wendy is pulling off that impression while also putting all her powers to use in the most screwy way possible. She takes the read she had on Alison last week and turns it into the read she has on Raylan this week, and it may be downright goofy of her to make so bold a play for Raylan, but then, Raylan himself is the master of pulling those kind of goofy bold plays to get you to underestimate him just when underestimating him will do you no good at all.
And it’s something I’m going to miss as much as anything, a year from now. Raylan’s standalone cases. The weeks Raylan is driving around chasing his fugitives, and then driving around with his fugitives in the next seat over. Playing the fool if he needs to, taking his licks as Deputy Dipshit just every now and then if that’s what it takes to get his man. (And am I wrong, or is this the first truly standalone case of the season? Not a standalone episode, not with Boyd in Memphis and Mexico and Ava upstate behind bars, but as a case for Raylan to tackle and wrap up in forty minutes, I think yes, this might be the first this year. Even if there is the one thread that ties it back to Charles Monroe.) But no matter what it takes, there’s something special in how easily, in a matter of just minutes sometimes, the best of these fugitives can strike up a rapport with Raylan, how he can return a certain fondness and respect. However handy he may be with a gun, this is the part of the job where Raylan’s at his best. This is the part where you see firsthand why and how this is the only kind of job Raylan wants to ever do.
Which makes it the part where Art can cut him the deepest, when what he’s best at is something Art can’t even trust him to do. Rachel bosses him and Tim rags on him and even punishment walk-in detail might mean all is right with the world, except for the one huge thing that Raylan has to ask: “How is it Art’s not in here giving me shit on this?” How is it Art’s the one he’s got to give an ultimatum? How is it Art’s the one who’s reached his limit on not just cleaning up Raylan’s mess, but dealing with Raylan at all?
“Look here,” says Dale Dickey to Ava, when like Beth Grant before her, Dale Dickey is one of the faces I’ve been waiting to see. “I’m too old to live this life again,” rolling up her sleeves and showing her scars. The ones that should have killed her; the ones that never quite did. All the reasons she says Ava’s not cut out for this life, but Ava only says she’s got a few scars of her own. “Quarter-inch deeper and I’d be dead,” Judith points out, and yeah. If it’s not measured in quarter-inches, it’s measured in less. Ava’s got the scar where Dickie Bennett’s bullet didn’t kill her. Raylan— Art knows it— has got the self-same scar where some of these antics of his earned him a bullet in the side. Boyd? Like any true Crowder, he’s pockmarked with misses that come down to millimeters. And Johnny. The poster boy for it, the poster boy for close but just not close enough yet, right up until that bullet comes due.
You look at it one way, though, and Johnny shouldn’t have survived the fourth season. Hell, Johnny shouldn’t have survived the third— wait, the first. This life they chose, it ends the one way, Boyd tells him. Sitting there reminiscing as fondly as he can with his cousin over all this water under all their burned bridges. Boyd knowing he’s already bought the loyalty of Yoon. Knowing this win for Johnny is all a charade. But what Boyd knows too is, one day he’s gonna be there himself. One of these days— any day, really— it could be him sitting there in Johnny’s place. It won’t make him quit. The way it won’t ever make Raylan want to stop chasing fugitives. If they wanted a different way out, they’d have done something about it long before now. But I think there’s one other thing that Boyd would say Johnny never did understand. All Johnny’s close calls, all they’ve been is a bitter axe for Johnny to grind. All Boyd’s close calls: they’ve been one more fresh shot for him to make count. You’ve got to love what you are, somewhere deep-down enough, to say what Boyd says: if I’ve done what I’ve done and it ends this one way? Well. “I’ve been at peace with that for a very long time.”
In the meantime. It’s not over yet, not for Boyd or Ava or Raylan, in this world of deals that go sideways in an instant, this world of cartels and prisons and gunfights. Last night I started another book of Charles Bowden’s, and just like the others, it happens to be set in much this same world. Here’s what you do in it, he says, here’s what you learn and here’s what you know just by instinct when a bad choice is always one split-second away. You make whatever call you’ve got to make in the moment, but: “The trick is never to hesitate, not for a fraction of a second. Act and let God sort it out.”
One trait of Boyd’s I’ll always defend (er, one more trait of Boyd’s?) is whatever esoteric quote he pulls out of nowhere. Graham says the one this week— Khalil Gibran, Google tells me, the Lebanese poet— is pushing the boundaries of what Boyd would know, and sure, yeah, maybe. But hey, all I’ve got myself is a community college certificate in graphic design and an insatiable appetite for books. Enough years of reading in all directions and without course, and with a head that holds onto to anything once I see it, that’s the kind of stuff that’s in there. It may be without proper context, it may even lack attribution, it certainly lacks any formal study, but it’s in there. Just like now, “What is death but to stand naked in the wind and melt into the sun,” is in there too. I like to defend it in Boyd because that’s one of my favorite traits in Boyd, because it’s so familiar.
As far as last words go, Johnny hasn’t spent his time crafting too many great ones. (“I am buying your life,” he says to Boyd, and as hollow a threat as Boyd knows that is, I’m thinking it still burns a little.) Boyd, on the other hand, of course, has some great ones for him: “You know what you could never understand? Is that some men lead, and some men follow, and when you can’t lead, and you refuse to follow, you die alone in the desert.” Rest in peace, dear Johnny. You did your best.
“Thug life, huh?” says our thug of the week, who just happens to be Gary Basaraba, bringing the count up to something like our umpteenth Boomtown alum to appear. I’d say which other one I’d most want to see, but it’d still be Mykelti, and we know Limehouse is running around alive and well.
The two post-it notes stuck to Raylan’s monitor: Suspected boot legging (sic) for Noble Hollow (sic), and “Suspect. Crowder shooting. Harlan Jail.” for some unfortunate soul named Megan Wandle. The production team stays on task, even in the tiny details.
Falafel, says Larry, our backgammon walk-in, who reads like a poor man’s Gary Hawkins. (Or is that a rich man’s Gary Hawkins?) “Never cared for it,” says Raylan. A man after my own heart: “Always found it kinda like a cut-rate hushpuppy.”
Poetic justice for Deputy Marshal Nelson Dunlop. Raylan gets him busted down to shit duty for the whole Hunter Mosely fiasco last season, and now it’s Nelson who gets to deliver the news to Raylan about walk-ins. Typical Nelson, though. He’s genuinely not interested in rubbing it in. He genuinely tries to talk Raylan into tasty little breakfast sandwiches.
This time, fourth season. Raylan chased down his fugitive Jody Adair with Jackie Nevada riding shotgun. Boyd got his ass just a little bit handed to him when he and Ava tried to mix with the Clover Hill swingers. But the real drama of Money Trap all belonged to the marshals, and with the highest of stakes: Raylan wished Nelson happy birthday. Tim forgot Nelson’s birthday. Art, thank you very much, had already signed Nelson’s card.