Last week’s episode of Justified ended on a very quiet note – Raylan finding a note from Winona, presumably saying she was leaving him. This week, Raylan is left to deal with the emotional fall out from that turn of events as well as all the other happenings in Harlan County. Needless to say, he is having a bad day.

I have been loving this season and I think it comes down to two specific reasons. The first: When Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) gets annoyed and starts to free fall, it is just amazing to watch. The second: This series acknowledges past seasons in a way that shows they have respect for the viewer and understand the consistency needed for a show that takes place in such a small town. Both of those things were highlighted this week.

After Winona (Natalie Zea) left Raylan, the guy just kinda wanted a break. He asked Art (Nick Searcy) for some time off – Art thought it was because Raylan shot Layla, but Raylan was cool with that since she had it coming. While Art sympathized with his personal problems, Raylan was still sent off to deal with a killing at an Oxy Clinic that morning. Why? Because it happened at his Aunt Helen’s house. And when Trooper Tom asked Arlo about it his answer was, “Ask Raylan.” Raylan is less than thrilled.

At the same time Boyd is trying to figure out who killed his doc and shot up his clinic. The two prime suspects: Quarles (obviously) and Limehouse (not as obvious, but he is a big bad, sooo…). He and Ava head to Limehouse who tells him that one of the people killed was a girl named Trixie. Ava remembers that Trixie is one of the girls that ‘works’ in the trailers behind that dive bar and that she was always with another girl – Ellen Mae.

And that is where my second love of this season comes in. We are only 6 episodes in to season 3 and already we’ve had connections to past seasons in ways that don’t seem forced. Ellen Mae and Trixie have both propositioned Raylan in previous season. They didn’t get new hookers for this episode, but stayed consistent to the past stories. Plus, showrunner Graham Yost has managed to get all sorts of great actors to come back and reprise their parts for just 3 minutes scenes. We saw Kaitlyn Dever back as Loretta. And in this episode Stephen Root reappeared for a couple minutes as Judge Reardon – Winona’s boss. I love the respect for the story and the audience. We aren’t dumb, we are paying attention and we get rewarded for it.

But I digress…  Ellen Mae was sent by her pimp, Delroy (William Mapother), to the new Oxy clinic where she saw Tanner, who killed Trixie and everyone else at Aunt Helen’s, and she freaked and left without the drugs she was supposed to get. He was not too nice about it (aka he beat the crap out of her). And when Ava went to go talk to her, he wouldn’t let her see Ellen Mae. So Boyd called his BFF Raylan to come help out. Raylan is not happy that Boyd is using the law to do his work, but that doesn’t stop him from beating up Delroy and making sure he knows to keep Ellen Mae safe. He had basically had it up to here with the nonsense by that point, so he wasn’t even going to try to be nice about it. I think Ava was more than a little turned on.

While we were led to believe that Tanner, Quarles’s guy, was working for Quarles when he shot up the Oxy clinic, in order to make room for his own Oxy clinic, it turns out it wasn’t Quarles, but one of Limehouse’s men. (Boyd is SO SMART) He was hoping to start a war between Boyd and Quarles that would eventually take them both out so Limehouse could rule the area. Limehouse wasn’t impressed because he knows the white man doesn’t want him to rule, and he has more power hidden in the Holler. But you know who was impressed – Quarles. Raylan has become a thorn in his side by having the Feds look into him, and this series of events led Quarles to find weaknesses of Raylan’s – such as the fact that Raylan’s dad is part of Boyd’s crew. Uh oh.

Speaking of Quarles – what is with the dude he has locked up in the house? He seems to be using him as a human stress ball to take out his aggressions when he gets angry. It’s creepy. And fascinating. I must know more.

And back to Raylan – he’s been dealing with all of this craziness, but all he’s wanted to do is find Winona and bring her back home. Especially because when he went to her work he found she had quit and was apparently looking up trips to Costa Rica. And when he went to the evidence room that money she had stolen last season was gone again. But he found her – and not on a plane to Costa Rica, but just chilling at her sister’s house in Louisville. Winona knows that the job will always, always, come before her and she loves him but can’t deal. And she is a little annoyed he thought she stole the money. His response is possibly my favorite line of the series:

“I saw that much Kenny Chesney on your computer and I thought you were capable of anything.”

HA! Love it. Now about that money… who has it? Turns out Charlie, the guy who was in charge of the evidence room stole it, quit, and has now run off to Mexico. WHAT??! It was possibly the most insane and out of left field ending ever on the series. Is there more Charlie, or are we just letting him drive off into the Mexican sunset in his pretty Camaro? Weird.

The series has been a slow burn of trying to figure out what Quarles is going to do, how Boyd and/or Raylan will stop him, and Raylan’s descent into madness. I honestly don’t know where it is going to go. But the more frustrated Raylan gets, the happier I am to watch the show. Somewhat ironically because really all I want his for him to be happy. With me. (Did I just type that? Oh well.)

Written by Melissa Miller. Find her on twitter @serrae

FX Network, Sony Pictures Television

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