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'Justified' - 'Long in the Tooth' Recap

by Danny Gallagher, posted Apr 7th 2010 4:50AM
Timothy Olyphant on 'Justified'
(S01E04) "I knew that deep down, I was capable of this. I yank a guy's teeth out and now I kill a guy. You gotta get away from me." - Roland to Mindy


The real challenge for 'Justified' is finding new ways for Raylan Givens to blow people away. Of course he's going to do it in just about every episode. He's a borderline renegade U.S. Marshal with an eagle shooting eye and a distemper for disrespect. He's a colonial cowboy with a beat-up heart. He's Dick Cheney on Zoloft.

The trick, however, is changing the game just a little bit each time so the surprise doesn't wear away over time. This week's episode not only found a new way for Raylan to put a bullet in another smart-ass criminal's torso, but the ride getting there was just as fun.

Raylan has been tasked with tracking down another old case, this time a former mob accountant who fled, even though he was promised protection in exchange for testimony against his former employer. Roland, played by Alan Ruck, seems like a typical squirrely nerd who takes care of poor people's teeth for homemade tamales, but he's also got a mean streak in him as evidenced by that awesome, visceral scene where he pulls out a yuppie patient's teeth who refuses to pay him for his work. The scene felt pretty gut-wrenching, except for maybe someone who runs an HMO.

Ruck knows how to play that guy in his sleep. I'm sure he gets this a lot, and I know I'm not the only person who thought this, but I just imagined the grown-up Cameron from 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' wielding that tooth yanker as his angst-ridden Excalibur, extracting (no pun intended) his revenge on the evils of the world. Ruck made this week's episode really fun to watch.

It also set up an interesting scenario for Raylan, having to race to save "Rollie" before the mob puts a bullet in him as he and his girlfriend try to get across the border. Of course, Raylan is doing so "under" Rachel who seems to have a beef with Raylan for reasons not known until now. Their scenes together, while short, did a nice job of helping us get to know a character a little better who has almost been a virtual stranger, even though we're four episodes into the season.

In fact, there were a lot of little things that really made the show fun. The humor came in small doses but it worked, like when one of the mob flunkies asked if the boss mentioned him on the phone and when the girlfriend got the "Missouri Squirts" right as she and Rollie are trying to outrun the cops. The dialogue was quirky without being too stereotypical for the character. The twists helped the episode break from predictability in fresh and interesting ways.

Even the drama worked on a level that I didn't think was coming, like when Rollie kills the "coyote" as they try and sneak across the border, and he suffers a moral breakdown about himself and the person he has become. He brought such passion and depth to his character, particularly in his reaction to that moment, that he turned out to be the real hero of the episode, not an easy order up against the likes of Raylan Givens. It made his dramatic ending (both chronologically and physically) all the more powerful, as he sacrifices himself to save Rayland and his girlfriend.

It's rare to see a show mix serious, silly and sad moments so well in a single episode, especially when it only has to be one of those three.

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bruce

He's shot at least one person in each episode. He shot two people in the first episode. He shot two people in last night's episode (though it's not clear whether or not they both died). I think he shot two people in episode two also, but I could be wrong, and I think he only shot one person in episode three. So he's averaging shooting a little under 2 people per episode. Episode two occurred only a day or so after the pilot, so while we only see one episode per week we have no reason to think that an actual week passes in "TV time" between each episode... quite the contrary we know it doesn't. Like I said based on the four episodes thus far, it seems they have taken place over approximately a two week period (just guestimating on that).

I agree he always shoots with intent to kill, but that doesn't mean he actually does kill everyone he shoots. Whether they live or die is beside the point. Most law enforcement officers don't shoot as many people in their entire careers as Raylan has shot over the course of a two-week period only four episodes into this series. A series that's based on him being transferred out of Miami due to him having SHOT someone.

If Raylan were a real life law enforcement officer, he'd be fired and likely facing a grand jury indictment. Yes, in the TV show we the audience get to see what happened via being a fly on the fourth wall and we know that his shootings were in self-defense. In real life, there is no audience. So you tell me, if a cop went on a two-week, 7 person shooting spree, claiming each time it was "justified" (with no witnesses to back him up), what would you do? Are you one of those right-wing nutjobs who believes all cops all the time, or would you immediately suspend Raylan and get him off the streets?

It would be analogous to real life if Raylan's "justified" shootings were not seen by the audience (though they are the most entertaining part of the show, I give you that). It's kinda like how people have no problem watching Jack Bauer torture the terrorist when we the audence saw the terrorist set off the bomb with a big smile on his face. When we the audience know exactly what happened beyond any doubt, with absolute infallible certainty, we don't worry about due process, fair trials, sufficient evidence, procedural niceties and other such things that always matter in real life where NOBODY can ever know exactly what happened with such absolute certainty. Think about it - it's interesting how television and movies thwart our perception of necessary burdens of proof. What if we only had Raylan's word that his near-daily shootings were "justified"?

April 08 2010 at 12:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bruce

I said shoot, not kill.

April 07 2010 at 11:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bruce's comment
ashe

when u said shooting, then i dont recall him ever drawing his gun and firing without intent to kill besides that old buddy of his. otherwise i dont remember him shooting at anyone else that didnt die, because i take it when he draws his gun its with an intent to kill.

April 07 2010 at 11:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bruce

Ashe: as far as the US Marshals know, the first shooting in miami was just as much self-defense as all the others since then. In every one, the bad guy had a gun, Raylan was in imminent danger of getting shot, so he shot them first, or as he says so confidantly, "I was justified." Even the first shooting in Miami was self-defense, despite the fact that Raylen provoked the guy who tried to shoot him (had he lived, he would certainly say that HE tried to shoot Raylan in self-defense).

Regardless, when a law enforcement officer shoots 7 or 8 people in a few weeks (based on the show probably two weeks' or so time has passed since the show started through the last episode and Raylan has shot about 2 people per episode), internal affairs/inspector generals get involved and the officer is put on leave. Justified or not, Raylan is a walking lawsuit at this point, only 4 episodes into the series, and there are at least 8 more episodes which I take it to mean at least 8 more people get shot by Raylan.

I realize that it's also a fictional TV series, but imagine if Mary or Marshall shot and killed someone in each episode of In Plain Sight. Sure they've shot a bad guy here and there, but not 1 or 2 per episode. In the real world, when a law enforcement officer shoots someone, there is always an investigation and they're always put on leave pending the outcome. Any law enforcement officer who shot an average of 0.5 persons a day (7 or so people over the course of a two week period) would be let go or given a desk job. Simple as that. Even if every shooting was caught on camera and unquestionably "justified" (and none of Raylan's shootings have been caught on camera so it's his word alone that they were "justified"... we the audience don't count as witnesses).

I love watching Timothy Olyphant shoot people. He's great at it, and this role was made for him. But I simply can't ignore the fundamental flaw in the show's premise.

April 07 2010 at 11:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to bruce's comment
ashe

whats with the high body count? I remember in pilot he killed the guy in miami, thats 1 dead, he shot the old buddy, but he didnt die, so at the end of the pilot episode, only 1 dead bad guy. 2nd episode he didnt kill anyone, his partner the sniper killed the guy in the house holding those couple as hostages. the 3rd episode Raylan shot thru the door to kill the bad guy in the house while being shot at by the informant and his girlfriend, and they were their to witness the justified shooting, I havent watched the 4 episode yet, but so far he only killed 2 bad guys? am i wrong?

April 07 2010 at 11:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ashe

Also, since before the pilot episode, was it mention in any episode if he was a loose cannon, was he killing people before the guy in miami before they sent him to kentucky? because i remember he was working for the marshalls at least a decade or more, so up till that point in miami, was that this first kill?

April 07 2010 at 11:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bruce

Ok I like this show but I just don't get it. Raylan shoots someone on duty in Miami and is immediately sent to the ED kentucky as punishment of sorts. Meanwhile since he's been on the job in Kentucky he has shot at least one person each week (it doesn't matter if the shootings were "justified"). Like he'd still be on duty working as a us marshal at this point. He's already a walking lawsuit only four episodes in to the series. Is he really gonna shoot at least one bad guy per episode? Really?? Sure it's entertaining as hell and it's the perfect role for Olyphant. But I just can't get past the general premise.

April 07 2010 at 10:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to bruce's comment
ashe

the first kill in miami was borderline murder/justified killing. but the rest are self defense, in line of duty shootings with other people around to corrobrate his justified shootings.

April 07 2010 at 11:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ashe

I really dont mind the killings, I remember watching Walker, Texas Ranger, and sure, chuck norris mostly disarmed his oppenents with martial arts, but occasionally do did see him pull out his gun and kill some people. I wouldn't mind seeing Raylan getting in more phyiscal fights, but i think the show is meant for a gunslinger's mentallatly, and i really love the quick draw.

April 07 2010 at 11:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ryan

I will say the show is walking a fine line with Raylan shooting people. In most other shows this wouldn't be an issue as they set up that it's ok for the characters and universe to kill a bunch of people.

But Raylan got reprimanded after the first body. And now he has shot as many people as he's had episodes. It seems to be the one thing fighting against the rules of it's own universe. If his body count keeps up he'll be fired by the end of the season.

April 07 2010 at 12:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ryan's comment
Chris

But all of his shootings were "Justified".

See what I did there?

April 07 2010 at 3:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris

Great episode, what about the goon's discussion about Pulp Fiction? I found that to be hilarious.

April 07 2010 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stuman714 from Indy

This show is such a pleasure to watch, and the writing, directing and acting is high rate. This Adam Arkin-directed ep was right up there with the best of the other's that have been shown so far as well. It had that sense of edginess--sp?--as well as the general spirit of the characters that Elmore Leonard created.
I read a great review of this ep and the show with Elmore Leonard over on TVGuideMagazine.com that set the mood for the lead of Raylan and how Elmore is involved now with the show that really helped put more of the 'big picture' together of where this character has been and where he is going. Great read!
Great ep and show. Go Raylan and Go Elmore Leonard!

April 07 2010 at 9:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Picviewer

I'm actually enjoying this series so far. Started watching with the pilot figuring oh why not to kill some time, but enjoying it on it's own as a filler until Rescue Me starts back up.

April 07 2010 at 5:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Picviewer's comment
evah

I'm hooked on this series.....a lot more wit & levity than "The Shield" ever had.

April 07 2010 at 1:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark

I loved this episode. Right now, I don't think anyone on television is writing better dialogue than what I'm seeing on Justified. The retelling about how Raylan lost Rollie the first time and the later discussion of how Rollie turned to dentistry thanks to a character from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer were two examples of the tremendous originality that Justified is continuing to toss out.

I also like that they seem to understand that the criminal element isn't always the brightest bunch. People on the run do stupid things, and rather than pretend that isn't true, Justified is embracing it.

April 07 2010 at 5:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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