‘Justified’ takes a page from Leonard’s book

A while back I reviewed Elmore Leonard’s latest book, “Raylan,” which featured Leonard’s U.S. marshal character Raylan Givens, played in the FX series “Justified” by Timothy Olyphant.

In “Raylan,” the marshal investigates and runs afoul of a nurse and criminal crew who are stealing kidneys in a manner familiar to students of urban legends: They tranquilize people, deposit them in motel bathtubs and remove their kidneys.

Tonight’s episode of “Justified,” “Thick as Mud,” explores that same story line. In this case, the victim is Dewey, one of Harlan’s least intelligent lowlifes. As the episode opens, Dewey wakes up in a motel bathtub with a couple of incisions and a timeline until his body starts shutting down.

Dewey (Damon Herriman) staggers through much of the episode looking for cash in order to buy back his kidneys. He leaves a trail of knocked-over stores and rifled cash registers. And, of course, Raylan is on the case.

It all comes down to a face-off between Raylan and the kidney thieves.

Also tonight, Raylan’s frenemy, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) finally meets up with Quarles (Neal McDonough), the Detroit mobster who has come to Kentucky with plans to cut himself into the crime business.

Boyd, obviously sensing a threat, tells Quarles he’s not impressed with the smooth criminal’s style, evening going so far as to call him a carpetbagger.

The episode sets the stage for conflicts among Raylan, Boyd and Quarles. Not to mention Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson), who so far this season seems confined to showing up at the end of the episode and dispensing equal parts charm and menace.

I have to say I enjoyed the way “Justified” treated the kidney-snatching plotline more than the way Leonard — who got a story credit for tonight’s episode — handled it in his recent book.

“Justified” continues to be one of the best slice-of-criminal-life dramas on TV. The show, like its characters, make it all look so easy.

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