'Justified' recap: The Cadillac of beans
“Thick As Mud” is “Justified” at its finest, as it takes one of the show’s many, many tertiary characters and follows him around on the worst day of his life. Now, if you’ve read the recently released Elmore Leonard novel “Raylan,” which the writers of “Justified” stripped for parts when making the second and third seasons of the show, you probably had a pretty good idea where all of this was headed, as it pretty closely tracked the first half of that novel. But where the novel mostly focused on Raylan’s attempts to track down just who might be out there pilfering kidneys, “Thick As Mud” shifted the focus to a desperate, live-wire Dewey Crowe. Where Dewey spends the novel mostly off to the side of the narrative, unable to drive it forward, he’s almost the main character here, and that makes all the difference.
Given a time limit of about four hours -- a completely artificial time limit, as it turns out -- Dewey desperately needs to find $20,000. The problem is that few businesses carry much cash anymore because most people use credit cards. So he picks his way across the Harlan landscape, robbing an appliance store here and a strip club there, never able to get together the cash he needs in the small amount of time he has left. Duped into believing his kidneys have been removed, Dewey turns into the proverbial cornered animal, lashing out at anyone or anything who stands between him and the money that will get his organs reinstalled and back online. Now, of course, it turns out that he was lied to, and his kidneys were there all along. (Just why did the criminal masterminds cut him open and sew him up without taking his kidneys? That doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I suppose I can see the value in taking his money from him and then taking his kidneys, which can only happen with a dumb enough guy -- which certainly describes Dewey.)
What’s fun about this episode is that Damon Herriman’s performance as Dewey has long been a highlight of the show, even as he’s been stuck off on the sidelines of various stories. Given a chance to shine here, he gets to play many different kinds of scenes, from desperate to darkly funny, and his work is always top notch. In particular, I loved the scene at the strip club, where he’s told by a big, beefy bouncer type that the first step to overcoming his drug addiction is admitting he has a problem (right before one of the strippers sees the blood leaking through his shirt), but the scene at the convenience store, where Dewey very nearly actually gets himself killed by a clerk who doesn’t take well to blasphemy was a highlight too. And if nothing else, the episode gives us the line “These are the end times for Dewey Crowe.”
But it also gives us the description of kidneys as “the Cadillac of beans,” from our unscrupulous prison guard, now laid up in a hospital bed thanks to having been run over by Raylan twice. One of the things that makes this episode so fun is that Raylan himself gets in on the action, albeit a few steps behind Dewey. Where he might normally be able to predict exactly what Dewey was going to do in other cases, here, he’s left puzzled as to why Dewey’s abruptly embarked on a crime spree until the stripper makes the remark about how his incisions look like scars from a kidney transplant, and he starts sniffing around the local hospital. That’s where he meets a nurse named Layla, a nurse who turns out to have far more to do with the whole scheme than he initially expects.
That’s also how he winds up in Layla’s bathtub, about to have his kidneys removed, before a fortuitous sequence of events leaves him -- though still groggy -- with the upper hand over Layla, who he shoots through the corpse laying on top of him. It was a nicely gruesome scene, and it was easy to see why Raylan was so shaken up by the whole thing as Art was taking him home. And here’s where the episode dropped its other major revelation: Winona appears to have left Raylan. Now, sure, it could just be that her note said, “I’ve gone out to get some milk,” but it’s rare that a note in an envelope with your name written on it bears good relationship news. (Then again, as we saw when Limehouse admitted he lied to Dickie about how much of the Bennett money was left, I can be pretty bad at predicting these sorts of things.) Especially considering how Raylan and Winona were at their most loving early in the episode, this seems a bit of a shock, and it will be interesting to see what -- if anything -- Winona says was the reason for her leaving, since she seemed to be settling into the notion of Raylan being the man he is finally.
The other major story in the episode dealt with Boyd trying to put the pieces together about who was pulling the strings behind Devil’s attempt to murder him last week. I quite liked the way the episode portrayed Boyd’s legitimate regret that he had had to kill Devil, and the way it admitted that his regret and his self-preservation instincts could exist side by side. (When Arlo says that all of this ruefulness could lead to him delaying his shot the next time he needs to take one, Boyd dismisses that idea. He certainly didn’t delay in shooting Devil.) But the real highlight here was finally getting to see Boyd match off with Quarles, who pops up toward the episode’s end to try to make Boyd a business partner. Yet Boyd’s having none of it. Even if this man could run right through his entire operation and leave it a husk -- as he admits to Ava earlier in the episode -- he’s not going to cheerfully give over what he’s won to a man who will surely make him do all the work while reaping all of the profits. He’s going to make Quarles understand that Harlan is not a place full of dumb hicks that Quarles can simply waltz right into. And the idea of a war between Boyd and Quarles seems like very good TV indeed.
Photo: Dewey Crowe's (Damon Herriman) options seem limited when his kidneys appear to have been stolen.