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Justified “Cottonmouth” 

Photo Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Well, the slow pace of the Bennett ramp-up jumped into hyperdrive with this week’s outing, as Raylan heads home to investigate why, how, and by whom Loretta’s daddy’s government checks are being cashed. We begin with Dewey Crowe being dragged out of his cell under the guise of a quarantine to chat with a bemused Raylan, who he’s summoned with the promise of new intel. He tells Raylan that Doyle is dirty, which he knew, and that he’s befriended Dean, the pedophile from the premiere, inside the prison. Dean has been chatty about Loretta’s daddy and the Bennetts and says the Bennetts are working up to something much larger than the weed trade. Raylan takes all that under advisement but tells Dewey it’s not enough to get him released.

Back at work, Art’s telling Raylan his daddy’s slipped his tether again just as Trooper Tom Bergen from the local Harlan PD (who we met in the “The Moonshine War”) comes asking for Raylan’s help on the task force project because the dust up from the oxy bust hasn’t settled, and somebody’s been cashing Walt McCready’s checks but nobody’s actually seen him. Art’s not amused, but he concedes that for better or worse, Raylan’s the “hillbilly whisperer.” Arlo then conveniently saunters into the office looking to make a deal and gets locked up for the effort (he’s $14K short on his debt and unwilling to barter useful information) but Helen tips Raylan that Boyd’s brother, Bowman, was the Harlan resource for “drawing” on government checks, so he begins a proper investigation.

This puts Raylan on Ava’s lawn just as Boyd and the miner boys are setting their robbery plan in motion. Boyd gives Raylan the name of the man who did the drawing work for Bowman and then resumes his plan, instead of asking Raylan for help. This is important later. Raylan’s next stop is an ATV-renting hilltop preacher, and the old boy has some spit in him, tasering Raylan when he doesn’t like his questions. Raylan fires off a misguided shot and turns the taser back on the preacher’s privates before they both go down. The preacher stays mum on who he cashed the checks for, so Raylan plays a hunch and visits Coover, which brings him and Dickie back to the preacher’s barn later on while Raylan watches and waits for them to step in it. Mama Bennett gets word of their shenanigans and turns up with Doyle at their shack to break Coover’s hand with a hammer while Dickie flails and screams and Mags berates him that she’s hurting Coover because he’s “already a cripple.”

Raylan heads to see Loretta, who’s now actively dealing weed. He scares the sh-t out of her when he calmly gives her a cell phone and tells her he’s kicked a hornet’s nest and things may start to change for her, but if she needs him, just call and he’ll drop whatever he’s doing and immediately come for her. The scene was exquisitely played by Timothy Olyphant and young Kaitlyn Dever. He’s pained by what he knows and can’t tell her, and she’s stricken by the realization that she is in danger.

On the Boyd front, he’s savvy enough to eavesdrop on the boys via a well-placed cell phone to find out that the robbery plan has a component in which they pin the whole shebang on him and leave him behind inside the blown out mine. He leaves a note for Ava to call a cell phone number, and that sets in motion a double-cross where Boyd saves the life of the foreman, Shelby (Jim Beaver!) and the robber trio blow themselves up when they try to kill Boyd. The third guy doesn’t die in the explosion but Boyd puts two bullets in him. Shelby is grateful and agrees to keep Boyd out of his recap.

Boyd goes home to make amends with Ava and lays it all out that he went along with the robbery because that’s just what he does, despite all attempts to do and be better. He also tells Ava that he knows the bank is threatening to take the house, and he skimmed $15K and change for her to keep the bank happy. In another really rich scene, he quietly tells her all this across the kitchen table while they both nurse tumblers of Wild Turkey (the day’s events have trumped the “no liquor in the house” policy) as a handful of ATF, police, and whatnot come barreling in, sirens blazing. Finally, Boyd says he needs to asks a favor of Ava, and he needs her answer right now, but we don’t get to hear what he asks and what she responds. Really lovely work from Walton Goggins and Joelle Carter as Boyd and Ava have a geniune moment that’s all about the immediate present but is also layered with history about how his family shaped him, and her, that she could even ask the question about whether he’d kept any of the money.

So, a lot of progress on the Holler happenings and we’re only five episodes into the season. It’s interesting that this season we’re getting clearly delineated episodes—a brief skirting of the Harlan issues to keep them in mind, while primarily focusing on an active case, or foregoing a formal case to focus on the arc. We don’t have anything with Winona or Gary or Tim or Rachel this week. I thought about that later after last week’s episode—we didn’t get a clear statement of who’s raising her nephew—I’m guessing her mom, but there’s more there that I hope is revisited.

I liked that Art is still trying to manage Raylan’s time for the Marshall’s service, as is his job, vs. just accepting that he’s bankrolling a one-man Federal presence in Harlan. I think Jim Beaver is back in another episode, so I hope we get him onscreen with Timothy Olyphant (his Deadwood costar, for those folks who don’t know).

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