It’s not often you can link Latin and turducken into a murder mystery, but this week’s episode of Longmire — the splendidly titled “Carcasses” — does so within the first few minutes.
OK, so now we know why we love this show; let’s find out what happened.
It starts out as so many Longmire hours do, with a quiet, serene drive along the roads of Absaroka County, Wyo., when all of a sudden death intervenes. This time it’s a lady named Holly who earns what is apparently a good living collecting animal carcasses off the road and putting them in her compost piles where they eventually turn into high-dollar topsoil. But as she’s tamping down her latest addition, she notices something that surely doesn’t belong in her inventory: a human hand.
Walt (Robert Taylor) and Vic (Katee Sackhoff) are soon there to investigate. They find wounds, bruises and scratches and determine because of his placement between two other carcasses approximately when he might’ve been killed. There’s also some weirdness about Holly the compost lady. You know, I mean besides the fact that she’s made a career out of roadkill. She’s got a gun — it’s registered! She insists with all the shifty-eyed conviction of a squealer in a 1930s gangster film — and she seems to name each carcass. That one over there is Big Charlie. And, oh, say hi to Slender Betty.
We break away for a bit to see Branch trying to find Cady, but finding nobody home at her place.
Meanwhile, Walt and Vic are reading over a medical report on the victim (gee, that was fast) and it has a bunch of strange words on it that Vic can’t make out. Walt kindly takes it from her and starts spouting it off and translating. It’s Latin, don’t you know, a working knowledge of which must often come in handy on the wilds of Wyoming. It says that the contents of the dead men’s stomach were turkey, duck and chicken, the famous “turducken” combo that sets many a redneck heart racing. Er, racin’. But where would one get such a culinary concoction?
Let’s ask Henry (Lou Diamond Phillips). He provides them with the info, a place called the Saddlehorn Truck Stop, but not before there’s a nice exchange where we learn that Henry prefers to call the fourth Thursday in November “Thankstaking.”
A trip to the choke’n’puke (Smokey and the Bandit, anyone?) reveals the turducken burger isn’t served till after 5pm, further narrowing when the victim was there. But Walt has other fish to fry (ooh, bad mixed metaphor) when he sees a pretty young thing walking by and he concludes that perhaps the truck stop’s ladies of the night trade is what the victim was interested in even more than a mediocre sandwich made from the spare parts of three birds. That night they stake out the truck stop — and Walt wears a regular old baseball cap instead of his trademark Stetson — catching quite a few, um, transactions taking place in the cabs of a bunch of 18-wheelers. One gal in particular tries to drive away in a big rig with Walt hanging on desperately to the door.
Eventually he corrals her and puts her in the lineup as part of a big question-and-answer for all the parties involved. Nobody claims to recognize the victim, so Walt dismisses everybody except that girl who tried to drive away. The little gal does know a little about the guy. Not a name, but a scent. He stunk like tar, she says, leading Walt and Vic to canvas a bunch of road construction crews, one of whom finally gives them a name: Ross Lanton.
A visit to Lanton’s address leads to an empty house, but some very vocal neighbors, Brandy and Greg (Brendan Fehr). They’re vocal, anyway, about how much they didn’t care for Lanton. Quite the physically fit couple, too, with the guy a black belt and the wife itching to go on her daily run. They apparently convinced Lanton’s wife to leave him for North Carolina after they videotaped him at the truck stop with the hookers.
If you were wondering if we were going to get to see the crazy compost lady again, the answer is an emphatic yes. She’s at the Red Pony, where Branch goes after another search for Cady ends unsuccessfully. While Branch is worrying, Holly is out-and-out losing it, obviously on some sort of substance. She spits some racism at Henry who tells her to hit the bricks. But while she goes out, she’s not quite finished with her night, as she comes back in dragging in a big ole dead deer carcass and telling it to meet its father (a deer head mounted on the wall). Then after threatening Henry with a knife, she breaks down and reveals that she knew Ross Lanton.
Holly is sobering up at in Walt’s office, where she tells him that 20 years ago Ross had raped her. To add to the trauma, Holly’s parents were less than sympathetic, saying what happened was God’s punishment. She says she didn’t kill Ross, but she knows who did: God. She prayed for it, after all. … So yeah, let me remind everybody now that this woman owns a gun.
Despite this new revelation, and the fact that Holly now has a big motive, Walt doesn’t believe she did it. She had 20 years to exact revenge, after all. So he goes back to the ho’s, and again questions the one from the truck stop. She tells him that all the girls knew Lanton was rough, and that’s what happened with her, as she describes an encounter that sure sounds an awful lot like rape, but she’s convinced herself he just got what he paid for.
Then it’s back to the neighbors’ house, where things really get interesting. As Walt and Vic approach, a projectile flies through the window that Vic incredulously (and correctly) identifies as a kettlebell. Then there is a series of gun blasts, which causes them to take shelter behind a vehicle. But Walt notices that no glass is breaking, and now gunpowder scent is in the air, so this gun must be firing blanks. Inside the house he hears the wife, Brandy, shouting military speak, and it’s apparent she’s suffering some PTSD from her time in the military. This also explains the bruises we saw on her husband’s face earlier in the episode.
Later on at the Sheriff’s office, when she’s asked point blank if she killed Ross, Brandy says that she doesn’t know, maybe. Greg tries to defend her, but she rebuffs him pretty hardcore.
It could all be a moot point, though, as a search warrant for Holly’s place turns up the murder weapon. Branch wants to arrest Holly right away, but Walt says the evidence is far from beyond a reasonable doubt. Then things get personal, as Branch presses Walt to tell him where Cady is. Branch then taunts Walt by getting him to admit that he doesn’t know where his own daughter is.
Back on surer ground, his job, Walt and Vic go to a Montana college to find Holly’s son, who flees immediately before being chased across campus and tackled by Walt. He’s also revealed to be one of the employees from Ross’s old roadwork crew that Walt and Vic visited earlier. When they get him back to the office, he spills the beans about knowing that Ross Lanton raped his mother and — in by this time is really no big surprise — is also his father. After spending some time with his dad, the kid concluded that the guy needed to die, and he made it happen.
So yeah, lotta red herrings this particular episode, and a few double-backs, but overall another solid effort. The button at the end, though, spins the larger narrative ahead as we hear Walt — who is just as unsure of himself in the role of dad as he is in command as sheriff — pleading with his daughter via voicemail to not make the same mistakes in life he did, and that he’ll always be there for her. Where is Cady? She’s in Denver, dropping in to see Detective Fails. You know what this means, right? An excellent chance we’ll be seeing Charles S. Dutton again soon. Truly a cause for celebration.
Photo: © 2011 Credit: Angeline Herron