Synopsis of Justified 6.06 “Alive Day” from the FX network’s Website: Raylan investigates a murder that has sown discord in Markham’s camp. Boyd’s latest heist forces him to revisit his mining days. In my review of “Sounding” (episode 6.05), I wished Justified “didn’t take so many shortcuts when it comes to characterization and the depiction of reality.” One of my criticisms in that review focused on Choo Choo—a character I thoroughly enjoyed when he was introduced in “Cash Game” (6.02)—and I noted that “each of his scenes presents him as a caricature. As a constant caricature, Choo Choo is beginning to wear thin.” A week later, I’m here to praise Choo Choo, not to bury him. After all, the title of this episode is “Alive Day”—which is the day a person came close to dying but survived. It’s akin to a second birthday except that it’s often a day of quiet reflection that isn’t openly celebrated. It tends to be a day that is significant to military veterans who served in a war and received significant injuries in battle—such as when Choo Choo was nearly killed after his Humvee flipped over due to an IED. In this episode, Ty Walker tells Avery Markham that Choo Choo was in the captain’s seat—and when he was pulled from the wreckage, splinters of the driver’s bones were embedded in Choo Choo’s face. It’s not clear whether the brain injury was caused by the impact of the explosion or if some of the bone shrapnel penetrated into his brain. Anyway, because Choo Choo (also known as Mundo) is a brain-damaged veteran-turned-thug who speaks in a consistent, slow monotone, actor Duke Davis Roberts has not had much opportunity to display his acting skills. Based on his work on Justified (and not much else according to his IMDB page at this point), there is no way of knowing whether Roberts can actually act. Robert’s hasn’t had the opportunity to show his acting skills, as he must play Choo Choo the way the writers and the directors indicate. Playing a dimwitted character as one of his or her first major performances has to be incredibly difficult for an actor—just ask Jessica Lange, who received negative reviews of her acting ability for the work in her first film; she played a stereotypical dumb blonde in Dino de Laurentiis’s King Kong (1976). Apparently, critics believed Lange’s delivery style was bad acting. However, the character, Dwan, was supposed to be a bad actress who found her way to Skull Island and her meeting with Kong after she was the sole survivor of a group of Hollywood partiers on a yacht—which means Lange was playing a dumb blonde character who was supposed to be a bad actress that was just being used by Hollywood for her body and pretty face. Subsequently, Lange defended her performance in King Kong by stating she played the character exactly as director John Guillermin told her to play the role. Nevertheless, three years passed before Lange was given another chance—when she was cast as Angelique (the Angel of Death) in Bob Fosse’s masterpiece, All That Jazz. So, I will wait to see more of Duke Davis Roberts’s work rather than judge his acting ability solely on his performance as Choo Choo. It’s difficult to tell if he’s doing a great job in the role or if he is merely playing a version of himself to some degree. Regardless, at least the actor’s character was able to shine in “Alive Day.” In the previous episode (“Sounding”), Choo Choo killed real estate agent Calhoun Schreier, and “Alive Day” opens with Ty Walker and Seabass discussing the way to dispose of Calhoun’s body. They decide to dump it on a hill in the woods while Choo Choo tracks down Caprice—the prostitute who was with Calhoun when Seabass and Choo Choo showed up to question him. Because Caprice can identify them as being with Calhoun just before his disappearance, Choo Choo is sent to kill her. It is during his meeting with Caprice that we learn more about Choo Choo than we have in all of his previous episodes combined. During his off-screen call to her, Choo Choo arranges to meet Caprice for sex—and she sets up the loading dock of an abandoned warehouse as the meeting place. When Choo Choo arrives in his beat up 1970s Toyota (possibly a Corona Mark II), Caprice slides off the loading dock and walks to the driver’s side of the car where Choo Choo has his window rolled down: Caprice: You Choo Choo? Choo Choo: (Grunting affirmatively) Yuh. Caprice: Wasn’t sure I heard you right over the phone? That your real name? Choo Choo: (Shakes head) Nuh, that’s what they call me. Caprice: How come? Choo Choo: (Hesitates as he contemplates an answer) Not really sure. At this point, Choo Choo’s grunting, monotone delivery reinforces the notion of him as dimwitted—which is reinforced further by his inability to think of a reason for why people call him Choo Choo. However, viewers already learned the origin of his nickname in “Cash Game” when he told Raylan, “Cuz when I hit you, it comes hard; it comes fast; like a Choo Choo train.” Obviously, he knows not to tell Caprice the reason for his nickname; she might worry that he’s going to hit her with one of his “Choo Choo punches.” The fact that he realizes he shouldn’t tell her how he got his nickname indicates he’s not stupid—which means he has the ability to obtain, comprehend, and analyze information (three of the six cognitive skills). However, the brain injury he suffered in Iraq slowed his ability to synthesize and apply information (two of the other three cognitive skills). He could have simply told Caprice, “Because I like trains”—which is the reason Raylan considered when he and Choo Choo first met—but Choo Choo is incapable of thinking that quickly . . . literally incapable. As he then drives Caprice out to the spot where he plans to kill her (she must think he’s driving her to a motel or to his own place), they begin to talk—with Choo Choo attempting to give her a compliment that doesn’t quite come out the way he meant: Choo Choo: (Grunting, and then referring to the abandoned loading dock) Uhh, I was surprised you wanted to meet me here. Figured . . . it’s a lower class girl that works the street. Caprice: Well, I’m not working the street. I just don’t meet new guys at my place. Choo Choo: Yeah. No, I meant . . . girl as pretty as you are; you know, clean and all. Caprice: No, it’s all right. I know what you meant. Choo Choo: Good thing about people thinking you’re dumb is they tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. Caprice: What makes you think people think you’re dumb? Choo Choo: Heh . . . huh. That’s all right. Before my alive day, if I’d met a guy that looks and talks the way I do now . . . I’d a-thought the same thing. Caprice: (After waiting a second) You’d be amazed how many guys think that if they talk fast enough no one will realize they got nothin’ to say. I like the way you take your time. It’s like all you want is for the other person to understand. Choo Choo: (After several seconds pass as he glances back and forth at her with the realization that she may be the first person who has understood him since he was injured) You ever wish . . . things . . . wouldn’t have to be the way they are? (After waiting a couple of seconds) You know, like if ya . . . close your eyes and open them . . . things’d be different? Understandably, Caprice looks mildly confused and slightly worried about what exactly Choo Choo might mean by his question about things being different. To a certain extent, the title of the episode is about Caprice—but the question is whether there’s irony in the title; whether she’s having her “alive day” or her last day. By the conclusion, the day actually ends up being the “alive day” for several characters—though it is the death day for a couple of them. Ultimately, “Alive Day” was a more satisfying episode than “Sounding,” as the overall level of characterization and action was more realistic. Beyond the welcomed character development of Choo Choo, what fascinated me was the increased duplicity that occurred between characters in interesting ways. For instance, Avery Markham asks Katherine Hale two very important questions—either of which might be sincere or might be strategic questions that involve high levels of duplicity. However, the single question that is on the minds of four characters—Art, Rachel, Gutterson, and Boyd—is: Did Raylan and Ava have sex between the end of “Sounding” and the beginning of “Alive Day”? No one has directly asked Raylan whether he and Ava had sex the previous evening—but Rachel, as his interim boss, nearly asked before choosing not to out of fear the answer would ruin the current evidence being built up against Boyd (though she risks her own job by not asking Raylan the question). Gutterson actually came the closest by implying the question rather than explicitly asking it. Instead, he asked if Ava was back on track as the confidential informant. He then asked how Raylan managed to get her back on track—a question that Raylan “answered” by paraphrasing the question as his response: Raylan: How did I manage that? I wonder. What do you think? Gutterson: Oh, I’m trying not to. Based on the evidence that Rachel has from GPS records, along with the implication of Raylan’s reply to Gutterson’s implied question, all signs point to yes, Raylan had sex with Ava the previous evening—which makes next week’s reappearance of Winona and Willa in Kentucky even more intriguing than it otherwise would be when someone’s ex-wife suddenly shows up with their infant daughter. Justified 6.06 “Alive Day”3.9Overall ScoreReader Rating: (1 Vote)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.