Justified: City Primeval Episode 3 Recap — Smiling Faces Telling Lies


Clement with his back to the camera and his hands against glass as Raylan looks at him from the other side in Justified: City Primeval Episode 3, "Backstabbers"
CR: George Burns, Jr./FX.

The following recap contains spoilers for Justified: City Primeval Episode 3, “Backstabbers” (written by Eisa Davis & Chris Provenzano and directed by Jon Avnet), but not the book by Elmore Leonard.

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Justified: City Primeval Episode 3 opens by returning to a plot point I’m not sure I even mentioned last week. You’ll recall a brief scene between Carolyn (Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) and her ex, Jamal (Amin Joseph) in Episode 1 before the former had a little chat with Sweety (Vondie Curtis-Hall). In that conversation, we learned that Jamal committed some fraud that wrecked his partnership with Carolyn, and while we don’t know all of the details, it’s clear that her position at this point is that it’s his problem and she has no interest in helping him with anything whatsoever.

Whatever the details of past events, I’m confident Carolyn is justified in taking this position with Jamal now, so it’s unfortunate that things are more complicated. She’s suffering from a lien the IRS has placed on her house, which is Jamal’s fault, and we should also note from later in the episode that the situation potentially stands in the way of her ambitions to become a judge. As much as she tells Jamal on his voicemail that it’s his responsibility to fix things, and as much as that is true, the guy seems to be a bit of a deadbeat.

I wonder how and if this small thread of the plot might factor into the story Justified: City Primeval is telling more significantly by the end of the season.

Raylan and Willa sit in a booth at a restaurant
CR: George Burns, Jr./FX.

Equally, “Backstabbers” sees Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) sending Willa (Vivian Olyphant) back to Miami in the wake of the events of Episode 2. We don’t actually see her return to Miami, but she does seem to be getting onto the plane at the end of Episode 3, so I have to wonder if this is the last we’ll see of her. If so, her purpose in the story would seem to boil down to fueling Raylan’s personal rage against Clement (Boyd Holbrook) more than anything else. And that’s fair enough, but insofar as Justified has always involved something about Raylan’s personal life in addition to whatever case he was working, the Willa arc feels a little undercooked.

That said, it does make sense that Raylan would want to get his daughter out of Dodge given the way Clement creeped on her. Fans of Jason Gedrick might note that Raylan mentions Richard, the character he played in the Justified series finale, so apparently things have worked out between him and Winona (Natalie Zea) this past decade. For Raylan’s sake, I hope he stopped calling Willa “punk.”

But I digress.

Clement splays his arms with hands against the glass as Raylan looks through the other side
CR: George Burns, Jr./FX.

As expected, Clement comes to Carolyn trying to play the card that Raylan beat him bloody. However, she’s not really having it. I found that mildly surprising, but perhaps I shouldn’t have since there were indications in the premiere that she actually hates this weasel; she’s just worried about his ability to hurt Sweety.

Further, the authorities in general show little inclination towards putting Raylan in hot water over what he did to Clement. Norbert (Norbert Leo Butz) actually suggests they discreetly murder Mansell in one way or another, which is a no-go from everyone else, but the general sentiment is one of understanding in relation to the fact that Clement moved on Raylan’s daughter.

I think there might still be some trouble for Raylan on this front down the line, but the most striking comment in relation to all of this in Episode 3 is Carolyn’s. She tells Raylan that she understands why he’s angry. She’d be angry, too. But not everyone gets to be angry like he gets to be angry. She’s not wrong, and it’s a nice subtle commentary on how our protagonist benefits from his position, not just as a marshal but as a white man.

The cops arrest Clement and Sandy (Adelaide Clemens), and they also bring Sweety in for questioning. We cycle through these interrogations, and it’s important to note the lies various cops tell along the way: they don’t have the gun; Sandy is not spilling her guts; and they don’t have a witness to the judge’s murder. Cops are allowed to lie! I don’t care for it, but here we are.

Sandy sits across an interrogation table from Wendell
CR: George Burns, Jr./FX.

This serves to explain why Clement and Sandy go free. I’m not sure why he wouldn’t let her use the toaster once they’re back in Dell’s apartment, or if there’s even a reason for that besides him being controlling, but regardless, they’re back on their scheme to rob Skender (Alexander Pobutsky), the Albanian fellow Sandy spent the night with in the premiere.

This poor sap is totally in love with her, but as Episode 3 comes to a close it looks like all Clement and Sandy are getting off of him is the engagement ring he gave her. Clement gets him to reveal his secret room, but the safe in there only has guns in it. Skender makes a remark about preferring Venmo to cash, and while we don’t actually see Clement kill him, signs point in that direction.

Maureen (Marin Ireland) tells Raylan on the phone that something has gone down at Skender’s place, and he says he’s on his way there in the final scene of the episode. They know about the relationship between Sandy and Skender, and more importantly Clement knows that they know. Earlier in the hour, he stayed put at a green light to expose how Norbert and Wendell (Victor Williams) were tailing him.

Still, it’s possible that Clement has taken Skender hostage, or something along those lines. It wouldn’t be the most rational thing to do, but I suppose they don’t call him the Oklahoma Wildman for nothing.

Sweety looks on, wearing a gold necklace, in Justified: City Primeval Episode 3
CR: George Burns, Jr./FX.

Sweety has the gun that Sandy hid in his ceiling, and he’s told Carolyn he has it. She’s going to try to arrange immunity for him, so there’s also a threat to Clement on that flank. One has to guess that it’s not going to work out as they hope, since Justified: City Primeval has five episodes to go and it seems pretty clear that Clement is its overarching villain.

I suppose he has some charm, but I do look forward to seeing him get what he has coming. I’m curious what the fallout of that might be.

See you next week.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos

One Comment

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  1. What’s up FX ? Last nite’s episode for us ended with the cops’ car crash, followed by commercial & coming attractions for next week. Then we learned, from online episode recaps, there were two additional scenes that were missed by us, what happened at the Albanian guy’s place & Raylan & Willa parting ways at the airport. Just watched them now on demand, but how does that happen, where the episode’s cut short & two big scenes are missed ???

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