The latest episode of Justified, “Brother’s Keeper,” develops slowly, with the big “whoop-ti-doo” party at the Bennetts serving as a prelude to the action rather than the climax. The party itself is built around small revelations, Mags’ continuing infatuation with her young ward Loretta (her ward only because Mags killed her father), as revealed through a gift of a hair pin to top off Loretta’s outfit for the party; Raylan’s admitting that he “never was much for clogging” (okay, maybe that’s not much of a revelation); Raylan’s inability to reach Winona by phone (and how is that bit of information going to pay off in the future?); Boyd Crowder’s switching sides from the mining company to looking after his own interests (as revealed by his surprising presence at the meeting between Mags and Carol Johnson); the revelation that Mags has something up her sleeve in her negotiations with the mining company; and the most important revelation of all: Loretta’s discovery of Coover wearing her father’s watch. That final discovery kicks the episode’s plot into full gear. In some ways, the build-up to the party in the previous episode, the conflict between Carol and Mags, all was a kind of misdirection.
Boyd has figured out that Mags isn’t in the least bit interested in coal or coal rights, and we already know that her real interest is self-interest more than saving the community from the evil coal company. What Mags has realized is that the issue is roads, and that there is no way the mining company, even after “blowing the top of the mountain” can get the coal out on existing roads, and the only way to build adequate roads is to go through Bennett land. Mags negotiates a lucrative deal with the mining company, and by the 30 minute mark of the episode, we see Mags sitting on her front porch singing “High on the Mountain,” and, indeed, the Bennetts seem to be riding high at the moment.
The doubling of Raylan and Boyd throughout the earlier episodes also seems to come to an end here, as their stories diverge sharply as Boyd throws in with the Bennetts in his deal-making. And to further show the divergence of the characters, Boyd shows that, unlike Raylan, not only is he up for some clogging, but he’s also pretty good at it. Everybody’s dancing for joy. What could possibly go wrong?
The real powder keg in the episode is not the conflict between the mining company and the community but the dysfunction in the Bennett clan. Coover has been demonstrating increasing jealousy at Mags’ attentions to Loretta, and one suspects that, consciously or unconsciously, his wearing of her father’s watch is an action that came from that jealousy. He doesn’t like Loretta and gets back at her by revealing that her father is dead and indicating as well that he played a role in that death.
After Coover chokes his brother Dickie nearly to death, he takes Loretta out to the abandoned mine shaft where her father’s body has been dumped. Loretta at least gets a call out to Raylan, who rushes to her aid. Dickie, nearly killed by Coover, shouts at Raylan, “Don’t you hurt my brother, Raylan!” It’s a complicated relationship these brothers have.
His face still healing from his last fight with Coover, Raylan goes after him again at the mine shaft, and ultimately shoots him, and the last we see of Coover is his body plunging into the darkness of the shaft. The shooting is “justified,” as Raylan was defending both himself and Loretta from the murderously angry Coover, and a kind of justice as well—as Coover joins McCready, a man he helped kill, at the bottom of the shaft.
Loretta, at least, is rescued, and taken away by child services. I guess we’ll see as the rest of the season plays out what the killing of Coover does to the decades’s old Givens/Bennett feud.