Warning: Spoiler Alert
Any program with a rich character tapestry like Justified is pretty much obligated to bring back some old favorites one more time during the last season. We checked off the Dickie and Loretta boxes last week – and we may well be likely to see Loretta again since she stands in the way of Avery’s land grab – and the coming attractions for Episode 6.5, Sounding, promised the return of Constable Bob and Limehouse. The trick, as always, is to weave the old favorites back into the show in an organic manner, so that the viewer isn’t taken out of the story by a naked appeal to nostalgia that seems unconnected to the action. Last week took care of business in classic Justified style and this increasingly strong final act continued to pick up steam with Ava’s decision to run, heavily foreshadowed at the end of Episode 6.4, the role played by Bob in helping Raylan to find her and Limehouse’s half-hearted commitment to shield her.
Ava’s a country-girl with a good amount of street smarts, but she’d be the first to tell you that “book learnin’” wasn’t her strongest suit. As such, she was probably playing hooky the day that her high school teacher instructed about the nature of the “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Katherine’s psychological warfare has had the effect of amplifying her feelings of extreme fear about being caught and punished as a snitch – and perhaps some underlying guilt about selling out Boyd and his associates just to save her cute blonde tail. Ava is feeling the terror from multiple angles, as the visit from Avery and Ty had the unsettling effect that they intended and this is causing her to confirm her status as Katherine planned. For as much as the Raylan-Boyd Final Battle that Avery has inserted himself into as a warring third party has been discussed in this corner, it’s worth emphasizing again that Boyd has no idea that Raylan’s preparing to throw the kitchen sink at him – and Avery has no idea that law enforcement is gearing up to take down his new enemy. Only the Marshalls and Ava have a grasp of the entire landscape and given Raylan’s perennial tendency to downplay the danger involved to anyone working as an informant, Ava has just cause to be dubious that the white knights will be ready when needed.
And also, as Katherine’s mind games have demonstrated, the entirety of the chessboard can be deciphered by those not as close to Ava as her own on-again, off-again fiancée (and they are on-again after Boyd proposes and slips the ring back onto her finger as she passively conveys what he takes as acceptance). Wynn and Katherine are far too jaded to believe a happy-endings story for Boyd and Ava and the convenient circumstances of her release from the slammer were bound to raise some alarms somewhere. But then again, in their palpable hunger for the big bust of Harlan’s most recent kingpin, maybe Rachel and Raylan were too close to the situation to discern that Boyd’s allies might be savvier about her situation than The Man Who Buttons His Shirts To The Top.
That was the perspective heading into 6.5, but in a sign of just how much this case means to all involved, the Marshalls have now demonstrated that they are leaving nothing to chance. As Ava and Boyd begin their trek back to Harlan after their adventures in Lexington in the previous episode, they encounter a traffic roadblock that it turns out exists for the sole purpose of allowing an officer to determine Ava’s apparent state of mind – which is shaky at best. As such, Raylan realizes that, at the very least, Katherine’s hint to Ava allows them the opportunity to get to Albert first – but Katherine has deployed Wynn and Mike to try to catch them in the act! A feeling of real menace hangs in the air as Raylan and Company appear set to confirm the suspicions of Katherine and Wynn and, consequently, paint a target on Ava’s head.
But it’s Rachel and Tim who are in fact one step ahead of Wynn and his half-bright muscle, videotaping their encounter with the crooked prison guard from a nearby room in the same motel. Surprisingly, Albert withstands some torture from a cattle prod and refuses to admit that he was rewarded for recanting his assault testimony against Ava so that she would have the cover to be released as an informant. Afterward, in pain, Albert confronts them about not busting in and coming to his rescue, but Rachel and Tim are unapologetic. The cover story needed to be maintained and now, presumably, there is more evidence available to them for the RICO case against Boyd and all of his associates.
Coincidentally or not, the episode also featured another interrogation storyline, this one involving a man suspected of feeding information to Boyd. The shady realtor employed by Ty as a front man, Calhoun, finds himself in the crosshairs once Avery’s land grab starts to dry up in the face of Boyd’s threats not to sell – which are microtargeted to Avery’s most desired parcels of property. Avery’s demand to Ty for immediate results lands Calhoun a visit that goes awry when Choo-Choo short-circuits Seabass’s plan for enhanced interrogation with a bunch to the head that leaves Calhoun dead before he hits the floor. Oops! Have fun explaining that one to Ty, much less Avery! #RIPChooChoo
While the search for answers on various fronts is taking place, the search for a more tangible object, Ava, is underway once she blows off a planned meeting with Raylan – having decided to hit the road after feeling that she has been left with no good options. Remembering that, traditionally, Harlan damsels in distress seek protection in Noble’s Holler, Raylan dispatches good old Constable Bob to catch her coming out of there after her predictable meeting with Limehouse. However, Ava’s stack’o’cash ain’t nearly fat enough to impress TV’s most menacing butcher, so a compromise plan is necessitated. Limehouse’s chief sidekick Errol – apparently reinstated after his heroics in helping to take down Quarels in the Season 3 finale – accompanies Ava into a hardware store in town, where the plan is to obtain a shovel to dig up money that Boyd hid so that she can give it to Limehouse in exchange for an untraceable vehicle. This of course begs the question of how Ava could have sold Errol on the necessity of this step given that a live-off-the-land community like Noble’s Holler must surely be brimming with shovels, but apparently we’re either not meant to think this deeply or Errol is supposed to be a bigger dummy than previously indicated. Having caught up to them, on Raylan’s instructions, Bob walks into the store trying to separate the two so that Raylan can take Ava back home. In a true “Bob being Bob” moment, he tries to intimidate Errol with a bogus legal claim and, when Errol resists, zaps him with his taser. A nonplussed Raylan, used to Bob’s antics by now, simply leads Ava away. Their ongoing argument about the demands placed on Ava by the Marshalls takes an interesting turn when she reaches for the best tool in her toolbox, her sexuality. Raylan does not appear to be too tempted when she kisses him, but he doesn’t exactly throw a rugby stiff-arm either. We clearly haven’t seen the last of this particular angle.
In the meantime, another interesting relative of Ava has joined the show’s landscape: her uncle, Zachariah Randolph (Zach Randolph???). He’s got a longstanding beef against the Crowder family due to Ava’s deceased husband Bowman beating her like a rug back in the day, so when Boyd comes hat-in-hand to him looking for help, he needs a big payoff to even get the old guy to put down his shotgun. But once Zachariah has joined Team Boyd, it’s clear to see what Boyd had in mind: with the Wizard having blown himself to bits last week in the final available chance to hit the Pizza Portal vault frontally, Plan B will involve going in a back door that hasn’t even been carved out yet! In short, a network of abandoned mine shafts, thick with hazardous gases, will be charted by Zach the expert so that the vault can be entered from underneath. If the real-life game of Dig Dug goes according to plan, conceivably Avery’s money could be stolen well before he is aware – assuming that the vault is just being guarded from the outside and Ty’s goons aren’t bothering to go in that often since there’s not thought to be another way in.
As the culminating campaign of Justified continues to gather steam towards the finish, Episode 6.5 saw the pursuit of intel at a premium: Katherine and Wynn trying to validate their suspicions about Ava, Tigerhawk Security trying to confirm the leak in their operation that is enabling Boyd to halt the pace of Avery’s land buys and Boyd’s attempt to map a maze under the Pizza Portal. The continuing quest for information among all parties involved in this multi-faceted game looks to progress for another few episodes – before the epic final detonation that we all know is coming.
As is now the custom with the Justified reviews here at NJATVS, here’s an extended version of commentary for this episode between Jason Jones and myself: an immediate post-show breakdown of the episode recorded in real time. Past webcasts for Season 6 can be found when searching the Justified category on this site. Additionally, here’s our Season 6 preview and our 10-hour Season 5 “box set” containing a season preview, review and analysis of every episode.