But first, the episode opens in serious Southern gothic territory, more Harry Crews than Elmore Leonard.
Boyd is visiting the Last Chance Holiness tent where he encounters Preacher Billy’s sister Cassie coming out of his room. “So that’s your brother’s room huh? The one you were sneaking out of in the dead of the night? You were just tucking in your brother, him and all his sssserpents?” Her answer is “I sing hymns over him until his brain is quiet enough to let him rest.” It’s unclear whether or not Boyd is implying that there’s an incestuous relationship between the two, or maybe he just doesn’t actually believe they are brother and sister?
He offers her a payoff, 30 pieces of metaphorical silver to get out of town. But the two… can’t come to terms, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Back to Raylan’s home over the bar where he’s sleeping with a gun now that he’s met bartender Lindsey’s husband, Randall, the fighter. “Ex-husband,” she clarifies, and explains their Bonnie and Clyde long cons, along with her subsequent “reform.”And just like that, they pick up where they left off. (Oh Raylan. Believe people when they tell you who they are!)
Boyd reconvenes with Ron Eldard’s Rhodes, suggesting “the carrot didn’t work…means it’s time for the stick.” They progress to Preacher Billy’s tent. But they are intercepted by a new kind of booby trap: Sssssssnakes. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Feast of Snakes, Samuel L. Jackson-level snakes. Junior bartender (following Rhodes’s example, we’ve also refused to learn his name til we know if he’s sticking around… Skippy?) takes the brunt of the damage. They haul him back to Boyd’s bar, severed snake head still clamped to his face.
Raylan goes in search of the possibly ex husband, Randall and finds him at the gym spraying a mystery aerosol down his pants (is it curative? refreshing? deodorizing?) The two compare their respective sojourns in Florida, and Raylan tells him he’d best head back there as his parole terms dictate. In turn, Randall threatens him with putting a limp in his Gary Cooper walk. A showdown is anticipated.
Back at the office, Art is dressing down Deputy Rachel for putting herself in a dangerous situation, though her protest that “Wyatt Earp” over here does it all the time falls on deaf ears.
At last: the Drew Thompson file is back on the table, and we return to the Central Mystery of the season. Art hands Raylan the ‘widow’s’ file. Raylan and Tim are dispatched to Masterson Station to “un-break” the news of her husband’s non-demise. Here’s a new wrinkle. At the time of his death, Drew was wanted in a sealed federal witness warrant. “What’d he witness?” “I don’t know. That’s what sealed means.” Now the marshal stiffy is back.
Cousin Johnny has paid Duffy a visit. We know Johnny is a rat. He tried to sell out Boyd to Limehouse last season. We know Boyd wanted to partner up with Duffy in last week’s episode, and was turned down flat. We suspected Cousin Johnny would become expendable when Ron Eldard joined the series this year to become Boyd’s new henchman. Johnny offers to “serve Boyd up…what if I were to help you kill him?”
Over on Boyd’s pool table, Skippy is given a belt to bite down on while the fangs are extracted. But say… why hasn’t he died?
And then Raylan and Tim are at the front door of Drew’s “widow,” Eve, the psychic. She asks what they know about psychometry, and Raylan describes a scene from The Dead Zone where Christopher Walken shakes Martin Sheen’s hand and sees him start WWIII. “Skeptic,” she labels him. As they ask about her first husband, “Drew’s dead,” she insists. They explain he did not die on that Corbin pavement, and there are bad guys looking for him that might come for her. She tests out her telepathic crafts on Raylan by asking him about his trip to the gym later to check up on Randall. (Hey, how’d she do that?)
No time for that though: a mystery man in a suit approaches the front yard. She’s dispatched to the half bath for her own safety while the two investigate. “Don’t shoot him unless it seems appropriate,” Raylan tells Tim. He offers FBI credentials. While they’re busy verifying that his badge didn’t come out of a cereal box, the grieving widow escapes out the bathroom window — only to be immediately apprehended by a greasy-haired thug heretofore unheard from.
Back at the office, Art is none too pleased with their performance. “Way to go, assholes,” is how he puts it, but he sticks with them against the outsider when the FBI agent, Barnes, joins them at the conference table to gloat, “we’ll take it from here.”
Once alone in the elevator, the G-man promptly calls the greasy-haired thug. Cahoots. The next scene is a surprisingly spacious but dingy hotel room where the thug roughs up the widow in the hopes of discovering Drew’s whereabouts. “Don’t worry about how long you’re gonna live,” he reassures her. “Worry about how slow you’re gonna die.”
Raylan arrives at the gym to see if Randall has gotten out of Dodge as directed, in time to discover his romantic rival has packed up his locker and left. He’s optimistic, but a little perplexed that he would’ve given up without a struggle. Outside, he re-encounters the FBI agent. “Barnes?” Small world. He knows that can’t be a coincidence. Only Tim and the psychic knew his destination. (Eve has had the presence of mind to tell the thug that Drew’s location is a spot where she knows Raylan will be.) The situation quickly deteriorates, and it’s another Mexican standoff for Raylan, but this one’s in slow motion, and the agent doesn’t want to kill Raylan, but he doesn’t want to go to prison either, where the population isn’t kind to ex-lawmen. Raylan “wins” the standoff and Barnes gives up Eve’s location.
The lawmen burst in just in time to save the day, and Art helpfully explains it all. The thug works for Theo Tonin (Adam Arkin, a De-troit mobster from last season). If she cooperates, she gets U.S. marshal protection. If she doesn’t, they wish her luck. She comes clean. One night after watching Johnny Carson, she finds Drew in the yard burning family photos. He tells her at some point in the next few days, someone will arrive to tell her he’s dead. And for all intents and purposes, he will be. Art thinks a wife would’ve been more inquisitive, but she says Drew insisted her ignorance would keep her safe. “Bullshit,” is Art’s assessment. If a guy fakes his own death and abandons his life, a wife would know more about it. Well. Maybe a little, she admits. “Drew saw Theo Tonin murder a government informant.”
Back at the church of the Last Chance, Preacher Billy is explaining to the
audience congregation why they take up serpents (protection and faith and all). And then Boyd turns up, with a present. “It ain’t money. It’s knowledge,” in the form of a gen-u-ine rattler plucked that day from the banks of the Cumberland River. This is no stunt rattler, milked of its venom for holy sideshow. Boyd challenges him, on behalf of the flock, to take up this serpent. Slowly, it dawns on Billy. His sister has been the mastermind all along. She’s been draining the poison pre-performance. Still, Billy is a man of faith, as it turns out. As this dawns on Boyd, he explains that he has stood in the same place (Season 1), “Don’t do it, son,” he says. “You ain’t got nothing to be ashamed of.” But Billy is guilty of the same sin Boyd was: hubris.
Raylan heads home to the bar and encounters Rachel, where they mercifully agree not to discuss her personal life. Say, why isn’t Lindsey slinging the bourbon? He and Rachel head upstairs to discover his room ransacked. (Man, she better not have messed with his framed Tombstone poster.) Only his undies are left in his undie drawer, where he imprudently stashed his moonlighting cash. (Well, some men have an Achilles Heel… Raylan’s is farther north.)
Now, was anybody else sick of those m*thrf*ckin snakes? Enough. Three episodes in, and Boyd and Raylan haven’t encountered each other once. Let’s hope this doesn’t drag out the way it took Rick and the Governor half a season for their two worlds to finally collide on Walking Dead.