Justified cools off with an episode that moves in circles [Recap: season 5, episode 6]


Ava’s storyline as been the weakest because it hasn’t really started, I’m pretty sure this episode signals the beginning though. I’m not sure how you take that scene as an innocent cutting of the hair, is that not one of the most over-used tropes for a female character in a storyline who’s about to get some serious agency? Chopping off your own hair with a pair of shears or razor or not-for-hair scissors is like the cinematic shortcut metaphor of the Rocky training montage. Last week’s shanking setup plot twist to get her into this position was pretty weak, but it almost feels as though Ava is the only character who will end the season with her life better off. She seems like the only character poised to take control of her life, to see clearly. Everyone else’s is spiraling out of control (except maybe Tim and Rachel, but they don’t get much of a shot to even show their lives, which I agree is a shame.)

That’s probably my one complaint of the season so far, that everyone is on this dark, out of control ride down the hubris chute. There’s not enough Wynn Duffy, there’s not enough quick-witted positive Boyd, smart-ass Tim, cocky Raylan, or exchanges like the Carl duck-taped to the chair to buoy the grim-seriousness of everything else that’s going on in everyone’s lives.

Actually the storyline that seemed underserved in the episode is Amy Smart’s, but I think that’s just because I really don’t trust her character for some unknown reason and I’m just looking for that moment where we find there’s something more going on that her just being the boring female Raylan screws and has to rescue this season.


Ava is chopping off her hair because it was maimed by the white supremacist, neo-nazi biotches. Far from being an overused trope, it was actually quite poignant.

I was thinking that Ava would shave her blonde head to crew cut or bald to cease being a attractive target in prison, like Britney Spears did when she flipped out. See “The 25th Hour.”

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That’s the surface reason for the hair chopping, there has to be some impetus for her to stop waiting around like a damsel for Boyd to rescue her and get back to the bad ass that shot her abusive husband at the table. Plus even the forced hair cutting is its own trope. Doesn’t mean it’s bad or not moving, just is symbolic of a change and I think it was unfair to write it off as just an innocent haircut not-going-anywhere kind of scene.

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Here’s the problem I have with the “Ava in prison” storyline…why is she there? To my knowledge, she has yet to have been convicted of a crime. The allegation that she stabbed a county jailer is serious, but she would simply be moved into solitary at the jail to await trial, not transferred to the state prison. And where is the investigation of her alleged crime? The lawyer stated that the guard had left town which would not be encouraged if an investigation was ongoing. The entire plotline seems contrived and, even worse, cringeworthy rather than entertaining…

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It’s fairly standard procedure to move a prisoner out of a county lockup after a guard is assaulted. Ostensibly this is to protect the prisoner from guard retaliation while charges are being determined, and to deny the rest of the population a “hero” figure who could serve to incite more violence against the guards. (Cynics would say the transfers exist as sleight of hand – while the bright lights are focused on the investigation at the jail, the prison guards can begin payback-in-absentia for their local comrades.)

(The accosted guard’s immediate disappearance feels like a clue that he didn’t frame Ava on his own hook…that type of petty dictator would have reveled at being the centerpiece in the investigation. I think that guard was bought/persuaded/intimidated by someone offstage – Johnny, Duffy, a still-breathing Paxton or Sheriff, maybe even the “you’ve got such pretty hair” inmate from prior episode – and that he’ll turn up disgraced, or dead. Twofer-Tuesday bonus points if the hand behind the setup makes Boyd appear to be the agent of that guard’s death.)

Seems to me that Kevin missed the import of Ava’s hair-raising hair-razoring scene. It starts with good old drama during her request for the razor (OMG, has Ava really been broken so badly by the incidents culminating in the yard attack that she’s going to suicide?). And then a brief respite (Oh, she’s just cutting her hair). But as she continues to hack away, there’s a realization that she has been broken…or at least suffered a few cracks. She is signalling to the Aryans that she’s willing to go along in order to get along; she’s legitimizing their power over her, and perhaps backsliding to her years of accepting abuse. So far this year she’s been occupied in chivvying Boyd and the clown lawyer to speed up her release, moving emotionally from frustration to depression, working hard to keep her sense of self-empowerment in a situation where she has little control. Now she understands – in her bones – just how little power she currently has over her life. Survival mode in a predator is one thing…as prey it’s something else entirely.

I love the contrast between Ava’s situation and the scene with Raylan and Rachel driving back from the near-disasterous visit to the Crowe’s (to me, this ep’s finest dialog). Rachel offers Raylan this season’s cleanest, most-direct chance to unburden himself – to acknowledge that his self-empowerment has limits – and he fails completely (even to the point of his gaslighting-lite retort that Rachel is a kiss-ass). This week, everyone from Ava to Boyd to Darryl(!) found the will to make accommodation…except Raylan.


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