Considering all the things Justified has seen Raylan do since the onset of the series, it's a wonder that his association with undesirables like Arlo Givens (Raymond J. Barry) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) hasn't caused more friction for the lawman.
So one has to hand it to the slick, Detroit gangster Robert Quarles (Neal McDonough), when he utilizes, to near perfection, Raylan's past misdeeds and local connections in an attempt to discredit and destroy the one man standing in his way of criminal dominance in Harlan.
Quarles' plan begins with the murder of Gary Hawkins (William Ragsdale), who had the misfortune of running into Quarles and his associate Wynn Duffy (Jere Burns) at the end of 'The Man Behind the Curtain.' Of course Quarles knows that, in this case, the police will look to the disgruntled ex (Raylan), and given his penchant for violence, come to the easy conclusion that this was a crime of passion. To grease the wheels a bit, Quarles manages to plant the murder weapon in Winona's house, and use the bullet Raylan threw at Duffy back in 'Harlan Roulette' to kill Gary and provide tangible evidence of Raylan's involvement.
The reference to the bullet is a nice throwback to one of the coolest moments earlier in the season, which writer Graham Yost acknowledges by having the Lexington detective say as much when questioning Raylan about Gary's murder, but it also proves that too much badass behavior can put Raylan under some pretty intense scrutiny.
Things quickly go from bad to worse as agent Jeremy Barkley (Stephen Tobolowsky), operating from a tip he got off of the surveillance of Sammy Tonin (Max Perlich), shows up once more to ask Assistant U.S. Attorney David Vasquez (Rick Gomez) if he can peruse the extensive file Vasquez has on Raylan. Considering Raylan's history of insolence with both men, you can guess how quickly they both jump at the chance to tighten the proverbial rope around Raylan's neck.
Caught between the Lexington P.D. and the FBI, Raylan's chance for survival hinges on him recovering the weapon used to kill Gary before the police can. Although it seemed like all the favors he could possibly request had been used up, Art Mullen (Nick Searcy) and Tim Gutterson (Jacob Pitts) still have Raylan's back – playing dumb long enough to allow their fellow marshal some much-needed breathing room to reclaim the gun from an emotionally drained Winona (Natalie Zea).
Although she claims to be gone for good this time, something about Quarles' plan seems to suggest we may very well be seeing Winona once more before the season is out.
Without the gun, and due to agent Barkely's reluctance to reveal the source of his information that Raylan is in Boyd's pocket, both cases remain open, but unable to move forward with an indictment on Givens.
As for Quarles: even though his plan to bury Raylan fails and ultimately leaves him in the wind with the Detroit mob, it seems he's made a new friend in Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson), who stopped by at the beginning of the episode to dish about Boyd's intent to unseat Sheriff Napier (David Andrews) with his own candidate.
Boyd's only appearance in the episode sees him arrested by Napier and accused of bombing the sheriff's car, which we later learn was orchestrated by Napier and Tanner (Brendan McCarthy), at the request of Quarles.
In the end we learn that Wynn Duffy watches Mythbusters, Barkley is likely corrupt and that Quarles has not only Boyd's tactical prowess, but also Raylan's steely resolve and propensity for gunplay – proving him every bit the frightening villain the series intends him to be (although we are again nudged toward the inevitability that the weapon Quarles keeps literally up his sleeve may come up short when he needs it the most).
Like Raylan recently learned: sometimes being too badass can come back to haunt you.
Justified returns next Tuesday with 'Loose Ends' @10pm on FX.