Justified has always done a wonderful job of limiting the interactions between its two big dogs, Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder. The lives of the two are constantly intertwined, but the show understands that their relationship is built upon tension and unpredictability. Scenes between Raylan and Boyd are actually few and far between, which adds significance to the scenes where they do come face-to-face. This week’s episode, “Alive Day,” begins with one of the finest scenes Walton Goggins and Timothy Olyphant have ever shot together.
It starts with Boyd coming home late at night and finding Raylan’s car in the driveway. Years of conflict imbue the scene with some serious tension; they’re both long-ago friends and current foes, and share a common love in Ava. It seems they’re always moments from shooting holes in one another, a feeling only accentuated by the fact that Raylan is alone in Boyd’s house with Ava. Raylan is provoking Boyd, but Boyd is giving it right back, rubbing Ava’s leg as if she’s a prize that he’s won, and insinuating that it won’t be the last time that Boyd Crowder beats Raylan Givens.
Scenes like the opening one from this episode are what the show does best. The dialogue is filled with insinuation and evasion; everyone has something to hide, and everyone is trying to get information out of someone else. The big players this season have to constantly be on guard, but also active in their search for relevant information. Here, Raylan wants to find out where Dewey Crowe has been. Boyd says the last time he saw Dewey he was hot under the collar and heading over to the Pizza Portal. It’s a nice story, but Raylan doesn’t necessarily believe it; sure, Markham and his men may have something to do with the disappearance of Dewey, but Boyd might also be getting Raylan to do his dirty work for him.
Thus, the opening scene paves the way for the rest of the episode, which sees Raylan and Tim working to track down and get some dirt on Markham, Walker, and the rest of his crew. That crew is in a mess of its own, working to clean up after Choo-Choo went all Muhammad Ali on Calhoun last week. Getting rid of Calhoun’s body is one thing; tracking down the prostitute who saw Choo-Choo and Seabass in his office is a little more complicated.
Choo-Choo does end up tracking her down, but after she treats him with a level of respect that he’s not used to, he finds himself morally conflicted. He knows that he has to kill her in order to cover up the fact that he killed Calhoun, but he can’t bring himself to do it. He doesn’t panic, but he starts to think of alternatives. Of course, in the minds of Walker and Seabass, there is no alternative. She has to be killed in order for their operation to continue to run smoothly.
NEXT: A modest proposal from Avery Markham[pagebreak]
Speaking of tying up loose ends, Markham is set on getting closer to Katherine Hale, going so far as to propose to her. He leaves a gigantic ring (seriously, look at the size of that thing) on the table for her to find after they’ve had another roll in the hay. Markham obviously cares for Hale, but he also doesn’t trust her (kind of the theme of this season, right?). Those feelings are evident when the two embrace after Hale says she’ll think about the proposal. There’s an intimacy there, but no real trust. As with most of this season of Justified, everyone has at least two or three motives driving their actions, and the consequences of those actions are yet to be seen.
While Marhkam and Hale continue to get closer, so too do Boyd and Zachariah. They may not like each other, but they’re working together, which is something. Zachariah even rescues Boyd when he falls through some boards and gets stuck in the mineshaft. It’s a tense scene, as Zachariah carefully pulls Boyd back from the brink of death and tells him to go to the surface and get some air. For the first time in a while, it seems like the two will be able to coexist and work toward a common goal.
This is Justified though, so everything is not as it seems. Boyd’s new mining buddy, who he’s brought on to work alongside him and Zachariah, discovers that the boards covering the shaft didn’t break because they were old and rotten, but rather they had been cut by hand, rigged to break under just about any weight. Zachariah commends him for his observation before he pushes him down the shaft, a fate that was meant for Boyd. Zachariah’s intentions are perfectly clear now; he wants Boyd dead.
He’s not the only one though. Well, Rachel might not want Boyd dead, but she’s eager to close in on him and finally arrest him on something substantial. When Art comes back to the office for the first time since he was shot, she immediately seeks his advice. You see, she’s worried that Raylan’s too emotionally involved in the case, and that he might be sleeping with Ava again and therefore compromising the entire case. Art has a lot of experience managing Raylan’s shall we say unique way of policing, so she asks him what he would do in the situation. If Raylan has indeed been sleeping with Ava, would he pull him from the case and start over, or roll the dice and hope it works out?
For Art, the answer is obvious. You let Raylan do his thing and hope it doesn’t come back to bite you in the ass. Rachel knows that’s what she has to do, but it’s a tough pill to swallow. She’s always done things by the book, so giving Raylan a long leash is hard for her. But more than anything, she wants to lock Boyd up, so for this case, she has to trust that Raylan knows what he’s doing.
For the most part, Raylan does know what he’s doing. He shakes down the Pizza Portal with Tim after local law enforcement find Calhoun’s body. It’s a power move on Raylan’s part because Markham didn’t know that Calhoun was dead, and that complicates his plans and suggests that his cronies are making a mess, drawing unwanted attention to themselves. While at the Pizza Portal, Raylan and Tim notice that Choo-Choo is nowhere to be found. Assuming it’s only a matter of time before Walker and company go find their dimwitted but loveable comrade, the Marshals keep a tail on the crew.
NEXT: It was only a matter of time…[pagebreak]
Sure enough, Walker and Seabass head out to the woods where Choo-Choo is keeping the prostitute who witnessed them in Calhoun’s office tied up. He wants to talk about alternatives to killing her, but Walker won’t have any of it. Before things get too heated between the two though, Raylan and Tim step in and try to persuade Choo-Choo to come with them, telling him that Walker is there to kill him. This is a tight-knit group though, one ruled by the common bond that is their time shared in the military. Not unlike the coal-mining bond that’s pervasive in Harlan, Markham’s men all believe in the order of the military. They will sacrifice themselves for a bigger cause, which is why Choo-Choo doesn’t surrender. Instead, he shoots his way out.
In the ensuing chaos, everyone escapes, but Choo-Choo’s fate is sealed. Having been shot a few times, he drives away from the scene and pulls his car in front of a moving train. He’s ready for a fitting death, one that ties in with his nickname. The train stops just in time, but that doesn’t matter to Choo-Choo; he’s already dead, another pawn in Markham’s game.
With Choo-Choo and Walker missing, Rachel comes together with Tim and Raylan to go looking for the two. She’s called in reinforcements and sent out pictures of Walker and Choo-Choo to the local law enforcement. She’s eager to get out there and find them, but perhaps more eager to confront Raylan about his relationship with Ava. She approaches him and asks him if Ava’s checked in at all during the day. He tells her about the brief conversation they had, and then asks her if there was something else she wanted to ask. She contemplates briefly, but shakes her head, heeding Art’s advice and putting some trust in Raylan’s methods.
For Ava though, it’s not Raylan she has to worry about anymore. As the episode comes to a close, Boyd, who’s just come back home from the mine, gets a call from Limehouse. Boyd isn’t too thrilled to hear from his old enemy, but Limehouse assures him that this is a courtesy call. He’s not asking for anything; he’s just delivering a message in good faith, hoping that Boyd will see it as a new beginning to their relationship. That’s when he drops the bomb: “Ava tell you anything about what she got up to yesterday?” We don’t need to hear any more than that to know that Ava’s circumstances are about to get a whole lot more dangerous.