What happens when Raylan Givens goes on vacation? A lot more than ever would happen on any of our vacations. But that's to be expected, because nobody wants to watch an hour of Justified that involves Raylan taking his daughter to Disney World or looking for a parking space at the mall.
But before we get to that, we're still dealing with the misfit brigade, who've at least managed to find their way into the United States, so they've accomplished something since we saw them last. They're still trying to move product back into the country, while Boyd and Daryl are drinking in the back office at the bar. Boyd calls Daryl's escape plan from the last episode "awfully convenient," and Daryl doesn't deny it. Their relationship is clearly still testy, especially with Daryl implying that his brother might "accidentally" make a wrong turn before the heroin gets to Kentucky. Yeah, pushing Boyd Crowder is a bad idea, dude. Just like your wardrobe.
Back to Raylan, who's getting hit on by a random chick at a bar. Seriously, he really needs to stop hanging out in bars; nothing and no one good ever happens to him in a bar. (Remember Lindsey?) When he finally gets out of there, our hero reveals that he still can't quite leave work at the office, because he's booking an outbound flight, and winds up at a DEA office in Memphis. Here he's introduced to Agent Alex Miller (Eric Roberts, looking much better after his stint in Celebrity Rehab). It says something about Miller that we meet him while he's on the gun range.
Anyway, Raylan wants Miller's help investigating a few henchmen deaths in Mexico...you know, like in a massive shootout a few episodes ago. And thus, a new partnership is born, plus the one other dude who just knows this is a bad idea.
Everyone else is in various stages of awkwardness. Boyd visits Ava in prison, and continues to insist that he's securing "our future" and that he'll liberate her. She then asks him for a favor, to "take care of" a woman who'll find him, in keeping with the deal she made with the prison nurse last week.
And Wendy (Alicia Witt) is still patching things up with her son Kendal, telling him that her brothers are "working on something" and she plans to get him out of Kentucky as soon as the money comes through. Their conversation is interrupted by Daryl, who reassures his sister everything is fine. That's usually sign number one that things will not be fine.
Team Raylan comes upon the Harris Brothers, who have previous knowledge of Agent Miller. The brothers tell Miller and Raylan that they haven't seen Hot Rod Dunham in awhile (since, you know, that time they pointed guns at him). Miller leaves the Other Dude to sit with the brothers while he and Raylan continue their search for the lost member of ZZ Top.
What follows is an unintentionally hilarious scene between two thugs and a DEA agent who's supremely unprepared. Be honest, you didn't expect this guy to last more than five minutes, did you? He's quickly knocked out, and we've got more bad guys on the loose.
Back at the bar, Boyd finds out what his mysterious mission is: to get revenge on the guy who murdered the prison nurse's previous partner in drug trafficking.
And speaking of killing people, Hot Rod Dunham stabs a dude with a pencil and frees himself from captivity, only to be bleeding to death a couple of feet away from a gunshot wound he suffered in the struggle. Raylan and Miller arrive just in time to find out what little he knows about Boyd, the Crowes, and the drugs. We're perhaps supposed to see a parallel forming between Raylan and Miller, and their shared tendency to color outside the lines, but it's not quite there yet.
Where's the dude that Boyd is supposed to kill? Dying slowly in a nursing home, and still bitter about how the drugs smuggled into the prison claimed the life of his girlfriend, who was behind bars doing time for check fraud. Boyd suggests that rather than killing him, he can spirit him off to someplace else.
Boyd has no idea that the Harris Brothers would like a word with him, and have turned up at the bar to get it. It ruins every episode of The Practice to see Steve Harris shove a gun into a guy's mouth. A guy that Raylan and Miller find tied up behind the bar sometime later. Miller is unconcerned, helping himself to the bottle of Maker's Mark left on the bar, while Raylan actually tries to do something useful.
Wynn Duffy has a business meeting with Boyd, the Crowes, and Picker, with Duffy sitting there looking as if he can't believe he's being subjected to this. He points out that the heroin hasn't even actually arrived yet, and doesn't want to make any deals until the product is present, because he's not stupid. Outside, the Harris brothers are announcing themselves, leading to way too many people in one room at the same time. Especially when Raylan and Miller show up.
After we learn that Raylan doesn't know a damn thing about the works of William Shakespeare, Miller declares his intent to arrest both the Harris Brothers. When Steve doesn't like that idea, Miller shoots him instead. Wood, on the other hand, wisely surrenders. Raylan decides he's had enough of Miller, and leaves him outside Audrey's, heading back to Lexington.
Things wrap up as Boyd has Jimmy strangle the dude he was supposed to kill after all, while Daryl discovers the money that Raylan left Kendal with and confronts Wendy about her loyalties. She announces her intention to leave, which is kind of like painting a target on your own back. And in prison, Ava finds out she's not getting out from under the prison nurse's thumb that easily, as now she's being asked to commit a murder of her own.
Then there's Raylan, whose not-vacation ends with him walking into the office and being snarked at by Art, who still doesn't like him very much. "You do whatever the hell you want, somehow it all works out, and I'm the dumbass losing sleep over it," Art rants, ignoring Raylan's plea to resolve their difficulties. Oh, snap.
And Miller crosses Danny and Dewey Crowe, leading to Dewey running over both his brother and the DEA agent, having lost what was left of his marbles.
Like the actions of the characters within the episode, "Wrong Roads" is hit and miss. It's clear enough that the script wants us to see similarities between Raylan and Miller - perhaps like a 'ghost of Raylan's future' type thing - but the concept never really clicks, because our hero isn't really impacted by what Miller is doing. In defense of the episode, this concept usually doesn't work most of the time (see: Burn Notice), so it's not a huge loss. But if that's supposed to be the thematic crux of the episode, it's definitely not here.
What's left, then, is the ongoing saga of drug trafficking and the half-dozen different parties that are involved in it. It's wise that the show starts eliminating some of those people, just for ease of storytelling at this point. But the tension between Boyd and the Crowes, and the Crowes and the Crowes, is entertaining enough to keep the hour moving forward. We never expected any of these characters to work together harmoniously, and the discord seems to be reaching a fever pitch. Although, since we know that the Crowes are our flavors of the season and Boyd is one of Justified's linchpins, it would seem a safe bet to put your money on Team Crowder.
As we approach the end of the season, this is one of those episodes that doesn't necessarily stand on its own, but moves pieces into place for later use. For example, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Ava's deal with the prison nurse is going to get worse, but we're more interested in if she's going to go through with it. Related to that, you could've guessed that Boyd wasn't really going to show any mercy, but that doesn't detract from actually seeing the murder go down.
We'd guess that the conflict between Art and Raylan is going to come to a head with a lot more than a punch, most likely, just not right now. And there's a certain amount of glee in watching Dewey finally snap, because even though he's technically a bad guy, we've been seeing the dude put upon by everybody since he started on this show, so you can't help but be glad he found his spine. These moments will all add up to something later...the question is, what?
Justified continues next Tuesday at 10 PM ET/PT on FX.