Justified: ‘Hatchet Tour’ Gets Everything Right with a Twist

By  · Published on March 6th, 2013

So on the latest Justified, “The Hatchet Tour,” we finally discovered the true identity of the infamous fugitive Drew Thompson. Did we really care who Drew Thompson really was? Not really. Though, my goodness, his true identity truly was a surprise. And the episode as a whole – written by Taylor Elmore and Leonard Chang, and directed by TV great Leslie Linka Glatter) – really, really delivered. It was well-paced, packed with important happenings, snappy dialogue… and was Justified doin’ Justified right.

I’ll get to Drew Thompson later… but if any of you read my Justified feature on a weekly basis, you probably know that I love Marshal Tim Gutterson (always played with cutie pie wise-ass perfection by Jacob Pitts). So to start an episode with him? Thank you – finally! At long last, Tim seems to have a real subplot all his own as he is called upon in the wake of the murder of his druggie war buddy, Mark. Tim , like Raylan, is no dope and instantly figures the murderer is Colton, since he looked so drugged out when the three crossed paths at the veterans support group a few weeks ago. Tim follows Colton around and is therefore able to intervene in the nick of time as Colton is about to strangle Preacher Cassie (Lindsay “Werepanther” Pulsipher). As Boyd enters, Tim backs off – he will get him later when he is more clear-headed.

The entire Tim/Colton face-off is such a great subplot that has been threaded through most of this season so far. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to show the different effects that war can have on a man. In Tim’s case, sure, he has PTSD issues hidden somewhere, but he is the sharpest shooter in Lexington and remained an empathetic man despite seeing such carnage. Colton, on the other hand, was left broken by the war, laboring around like a wounded bear, his senses numbed by heroin. And yet, still, there is that powerful common ground between them that perhaps stops Tim from killing Colton on sight. He has the respect for Colton to wait until he is more equal of an adversary. I really hope Tim gets Colton before Boyd does… even though Ron Eldard really has been serving up a tremendous performance as Colton this season. And was there a spark between Tim and Cassie in the car? Boyfriend should probably get some at some point in the show. Raylan is definitely a better catch, though Tim is certainly nothing to sneeze at…

Anyway, the reason why Colton was after Cassie is because she came asking for Ellen May at the bar… because she heard from Ellen May two days prior. Now Ava and Boyd both know Ellen May is still alive… and Johnny confirms this, since his ho gave him the dirt on Colton asking about her. In an amazing scene, Boyd entraps Colton into confessing that he didn’t murder Ellen May as he asks Colton to reenact how he shot her in the head. In a chillingly menacing move, Boyd holds the gun to Colton’s forehead and tells get him to spill the beans. Though, like Tim, Boyd doesn’t kill him. Boyd likely wants to use Colton as a tool to find Ellen May… though I would like to think that Boyd has some loyalty to his old war buddy. Boyd’s not a bad person – he too is conflicted, since he knows what Colton has gone through. Walton Goggins, again, acts the hell out of this scene, for he effortlessly switches between cold and emotional in a heartbeat.

Anyway, back to Raylan and the whole Drew Thompson thing… Raylan pulls one over on a newer Marshal and really pisses off Art when he drives Hunter to the maximum security prison in the wake of Arlo’s murder (again, RIP!). Raylan wants to use Hunter as a tool to sniff out Drew Thompson’s real identity with the Dixie Mafia. And I guess it kinda works… but Raylan realizes just a few minutes too late…

First stop? Wynn Duffy’s motor home! Though Wynn is no help, besides the fact that Raylan realizes he has no idea who Drew Thompson is. The episode title references Raylan’s tale to Wynn about how his mama Frances called a meeting of all the Harlan crime families so they could hash out all their issues – she apparently had French blood in her and said that “hash” comes from “hatchet,” meaning to cut out all the bullshit. So the purpose of the Hunter excursion certainly is an attempt at a “Hatchet Tour.” Raylan and Hunter are then joined by Sheriff Shelby (aka DREW THOMPSON – more on that later), who tells Raylan that Frances called the meeting in reference to a feud Arlo fueled by defending her honor.

In another subtly emotional Timothy Olyphant performance, Raylan is moved that Arlo had such tenderness for his mother, who he held in such high regard. Raylan’s relationship with his parents is brought back at the end of the episode, when Hunter says that Raylan will turn out alright if he listens to what his mama taught him… but is really Arlo’s son, like I kept going on about last week. He says to Raylan, “I think we both know whose voice it is that makes you do what you do.” While disgusted by his father’s prediction for low-level crime, Raylan is a lot like him. It’s understood that his mother lead him on the right moral path, but his violent actions are powered by his Arlo-like deep-seeded rage, and also his Arlo-like will to survive. Much like Tim/Colton juxtaposition, Raylan could have turned out just like Arlo if he didn’t chose the law. Or perhaps just like Boyd…

…who in another obvious scene of foreboding happiness with Ava, is looking to become a homeowner of a classy joint, which Ava’s mother used to clean when she was a little girl. When the real estate agent starts looking down on them, Boyd flashes her a briefcase filled with cash money – in your face, judgy lady! So, Ava’s definitely going to die by the end of the season, right? This episode was pretty much the nail in her coffin. They are just so happy and so in love… that her immanent end is just such a no-brainer. And it should have been a shock – like Arlo’s! It’s looking like she might fall victim to something involving the Ellen May-at-large situation, as with Ellen May alive, she is therefore implicated in a murder. Or perhaps she will be collateral in an anti-Boyd attack. Honestly, if Ava does indeed die at season’s end, it will be a shame. Joelle Carter is the only consistent strong female presence on the show, and her character is interesting to watch. Rachel is never on the show, and does anyone even care? And Winona… eh. But Ava can wield a rifle, run her whores like no other, and serves as a great right-hand to Boyd. She’s the show’s only female hope.

So… Shelby is Drew Thompson. WHAT?!?! Really didn’t see that one coming. Though surprises are always good… and it’s very positive that the search for Drew Thompson’s identity wasn’t continuously dragged out for even more episodes. If I am to find a quibble in this pretty damn great episode, it’s that the “reveal” was a little bit hokey, with Hunter saying “Hello, Drew!” to Shelby in the backseat of Raylan’s car. It’s also a bit too convenient that the useless (but well-meaning!) Constable Bob (Patton Oswalt) only reveals to Raylan the Shelby/Hunter connection as Shelby is heard escaping. Being a Harlan Country resident, wouldn’t Raylan know how how closely the two were intertwined? And of course Raylan doesn’t catch him in time. But Shelby really pulled a fast one. On everybody. It will be interesting to hear how he pulled off the identity switch, since it does seem a bit too far-fetched. It seems that pretty much everyone but Hunter believed his identity as kindly old Shelby. Though a meatier role for the great Jim Beaver? I’ll take it.

Thankfully, Hunter stays in the car, resigned to his fate in jail. So both Raylan’s and Art’s jobs are safe – we can all breath a collective sigh of relief. Marshalin’ stiffies will have to stay strong if we’re gonna find ol’ Drew/Shelby in the next few weeks.

The Upside: The overall quick pace and satisfying trajectory of the episode, the fact that the Drew Thompson mystery isn’t being dragged out, Tim vs. Colton, Boyd vs. Colton, Givens family backstory, the intensity with which Constable Bob is an idiot… ah, so much.

The Downside: The Shelby-is-Thompson reveal might have been a little hokey. And the happy promise of Boyd and Ava playing domestic is a really obvious harbinger of death.

On the Side: Ron Eldard used to look like this:

Top Moments of Badassery: Raylan leaning back on his car waiting for Hunter, Tim sasses back Art, “I’m gonna write that down and paraphrase,” Tim interrupts Colt strangling Cassie, and Boyd getting Colton to confess not killing Ellen May.