Justified: season three, episode seven

Quarles (Neal McDonough), Gary (William Ragsdale) and Duffy (Jere Burns) meet in Tulsa. © FX photos by Prashant Gupta.

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not watched the Feb. 28, 2012 episode of Justified, but intend to, do not read further.

The mid-season installment of Justified significantly humanizes our carpetbagger villain, Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough).

Before our weekly playing of Gangstagrass’ On the Run, the angel of light shows up at Raylan’s (Timothy Olyphant) new digs over a bar with presumptions that he is in Boyd Crowder’s back pocket. Quarles seems to believe everyone is as crooked as he is. Anyway, in rebuffing Quarles’ offer, Raylan hints that something went wrong in Detroit and that’s why Quarles is in Kentucky, giving Raylan and Quarles something in common, except Raylan doesn’t have a male hustler chained up in his bedroom because of his trouble.

Quarles makes the sheriff of Harlan an offer he can't refuse.

And things are not going great for Quarles as “The Boss” in Detroit is worried about his operation and sends his sniveling son Sammy (Max Perlich) down to check things out, and buy some horses at tracks that are altogether unfamiliar to people who reside here in Central Kentucky.

This is a rare (particularly for this season) zero bodycount episode of Justified, with the chess game completely trumping any gunplay. Quarles goes down to Harlan to buy off Sheriff Tillman Napier (David Andrews) who goes and shuts down Boyd’s bar at Quarles’ request. Raylan shuts down Quarles home base with a court order and his financing with the boss, putting Quarles on a solid track to go after Raylan. In our final scene, Quarles and Duffy (Jere Burns) have gone down to Tulsa to check in with Gary (William Ragsdale), Winona’s ex who put out a hit on Raylan last season.

But what could be the most significant developments take place in Kentucky, between the Kentuckians.

When Raylan confronts Boyd (Walton Goggins) about why Quarles believes they are in business together, Boyd has another profound statement.

“This is our home, Raylan,” Boyd says. “I start to turn on my own people, no matter how contentious at times our relationship may be, that’s a world that becomes so muddy even I can’t fathom it.”

The us vs. them boundaries are being drawn, as Boyd also makes an overture to Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson), who informs Boyd that he is far out-financed and outgunned by Quarles, or so it seems. Like we said, our visiting bad guy became more human, but also more unpredictable and desperate this week.

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