[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Justified: City Primeval” Episode 5, “You Good?”]
Heading into “City Primeval’s” second half, two Episode 5 conversations —neither, ostensibly, about the case at hand —provide a little something extra to chew on. The first savory chat takes place as Sweety (Vondie Curtis Hall) and Clement (Boyd Holbrook) wait for Bulldozer Burt’s (David Cross) lawncare workers to punch out for the day, so they can blackmail their first mark from the late Judge Guy’s little black book. As they sit idle, without music blasting (for once), Sweety remembers a time many years ago when he was roused from a sound slumber for the right reasons. His friend wanted him to come jam with Miles Davis! Sweety hustled over and did just that, slapping da bass until 6 a.m. “No chit chat, mother fucker just played,” Sweety says about Miles. But the jazz legend did share a few choice words with the future bartender. Right as he was leaving the studio, Miles Davis walked by Sweety, looked him square in the face, and said, “You got big ears.”
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When hearing such a story, some friends may laugh. They may think the excitement around meeting Miles Davis is undercut beautifully by a rather rude remark directed at their buddy’s physical appearance. But not Clement. The jittery carjacker hangs on Sweety’s every word, and at the end, expresses only admiration. “Wow,” Clement says. “He said that to you? That’s good shit.” Now, these two blue collar criminals don’t exactly get along. Clement’s been holding one over on Sweety for years, basically forcing his so-called friend into doing whatever the Oklahoma Wildman wants, and Sweety is well-aware of the trouble tied to his unwanted partner. But these guys love music. They live for it. Both men know what it means to be seen by Miles Davis, even if it’s just for your big ears.
After a beat, Clement asks a simple question — “What made you think of that?” — to which Sweety merely looks back at him, considers it for a second, and shrugs. In that moment, I’m not sure Sweety knows what conjured his Miles Davis story, but it’s easy enough to guess. For one, Sweety knows his time has passed. If he was going to be a “monster bass player” playing with MoTown greats (like he once was), he’d be doing it, instead of sitting in a car with Clement waiting to grift some cash from a trashy construction head. Right now, his mind is filled with worry: He’s got to find the money to fix up his bar, he’s “under water” on his mortgage, and he needs to keep a close eye on Clement, who could cross him at any second (like he does later in the episode). He can’t dream anymore, so he might as well remember —and staring at that expensive house with its manicured greenery must make it difficult not to think back to a time when life was still open-ended.
Clement, of course, wouldn’t understand such thoughts. He still thinks the next score will make him a king, which is why he’s so frustrated by Sweety accepting a mere $10,000 from Bulldozer Burt. Clement has big dreams —asking Sandy (Adelaide Clemens) about his singing voice says so much about how he sees himself — and as delusional as they may be, at least he knows he’ll need plenty of money to pay for them. Sweety isn’t dreaming anymore. He just wants enough to clear his debts, ease his anxieties, and get this psychopath out of his life for good.
Such divergent goals will likely doom Sweety and Clement’s aspiring partnership (just as it did six years ago, when the latter’s greed got him busted). But let’s talk about that bust, shall we? Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) sure wants to, since he keeps hitting walls in his own attempt to lasso the Wildman. So he goes to the one guy who’s done it before: Raymond Cruz (Paul Calderon), the retired Detroit police officer who brought Clement in the first (and possibly last) time. To end Episode 5, the two lawmen meet at a bar, Ray sipping on club soda, Raylan something stronger, for our second flavorful conversation.
The retiree tells the Marshall that when it comes to Clement, it’s all in the case file. There’s not much to talk about beyond that. But Raylan still has questions. “I want to know what’s missing,” he says. “Why I think I can’t trust anybody, why it’s all a shit sandwich.” “Look at you,” Ray replies. “Still giving a fuck.” I’m not sure we needed the line where Ray tells Raylan “you remind me of me” — their nearly identical names should convey as much — but the story Ray then shares may give Raylan another reason to stay up at night.
Ray recalls an old case he was working as well as his prime suspect. “Freddie was for real,” Ray says. “A stone cold killer.” But they couldn’t catch him — not in a way that would stick. So one night, Freddie shows up at Ray’s house. He says he just wants to talk. The two foes would share a drink together and soon realize just how silly their whole cat-and-mouse game had become. But when Ray spots Freddie reaching behind the bar, the cop doesn’t hesitate. He draws. He fires. He kills Freddie, and despite Raylan’s initial insistence that it was justified — Freddie was going for a gun, or at least he sure looked like he was going for a gun — Ray shuts it down. All Freddie was reaching for was a bottle opener. But all that matters to Ray is that Freddie’s dead.
“I cleaned my fingernails with the bottle opener, and that was that,” Ray says. “And I sleep just like a baby.”
So here we are, yet again. Raylan keeps looking for the secret, the unseen variable, the key to putting away uncatchable criminals like Clement. But sometimes there is no key. Just a churchkey — an excuse good enough to justify putting the bad guy down, because the truly justifiable options aren’t working. Is that the choice Raylan will face with Clement? If he wants to close this case and sleep at night, will he have to work outside the law? And even if he can allow himself to do that, wouldn’t doing so just give him a brand new reason to remain restless?
If he wants to have any kind of future, Raylan better make damn sure he doesn’t end up regretting the past. Some conversations you can only resolve with yourself.
“Justified: City Primeval” releases new episodes Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX. They are available the next day on Hulu.
- “That said, how was it for you?”
“It was about what I expected.”
You know Raylan and Carolyn are a good fit because they’re both excellent flirts.
- Jamal (Amin Joseph) may be out of Carolyn’s life for good, but if so, I’m going to miss his sense of humor. “Don’t let the house fool you,” he tells Raylan outside his ex-wife’s place. “This neighborhood, it can be hazardous to your caucasity.” And what about his little comment at the dinner date he busts up? “You know the best Chinese restaurants in Detroit are actually in Canada.” What a weird line! Toss in how he refers to his mistress as “a little flapjack,” and Jamal proves his worth — not to Carolyn, of course, but to “City Primeval.”
- Not sure I like Carolyn’s strategy of telling Sweety’s boyfriend to take the murder weapon and hide it elsewhere. I get that she’s trying to protect her favorite bartender, but so long as he’s working with Clement, Sweeety needs to be able to first protect himself.
- I enjoyed this week’s episode, but there wasn’t nearly enough Sandy. Let that star shine.