'Justified' Postmortem: Graham Yost Talks That Moonlit Showdown in 'Collateral,' Constable Bob's Return

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·Deputy Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
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Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Justified — “Collateral,” written by Chris Provenzano and VJ Boyd and directed by Michael Pressman — stop reading now. As he’ll do throughout the season, showrunner Graham Yost takes us inside the writers’ room to break down key scenes and tease what’s next.

The series’ penultimate episode found Boyd putting two bullets into Constable Bob (Patton Oswalt) and surviving Zachariah’s explosive suicide, Raylan and Boyd running into each other instead of Ava on the mountain, Ava being captured by the cops in Markham’s pocket, Markham partnering with Loretta, and Vasquez issuing a BOLO for Raylan (who was nabbed himself taking Bob to the hospital).

Let’s start with Boyd’s final conversation with Hagan (Shea Whigham) in the truck. It feels like we’ve been building to that talk all series: Boyd is like Harlan’s Billy the Kid, and we all love a good outlaw story; but the cold, hard truth is that sometimes outlaws don’t give a s–t about you and may shoot you in the head. Is that how you view that moment?
Yeah. That was part of the thinking behind it. Walton struggled mightily with this storyline and with that scene, but when we told him that we’d cast Shea Whigham, he kind of melted and said, “OK. Now it’s going to work.” He just loves Shea, and they’ve known each other, I’m sure, for years. Shea just brought a truth and a weight and a reality to it that just meshed well with where Boyd was and is. So it was a tough one. I think the way Pressman shot it was beautiful.

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Do you think that’s a moment where some fans could turn on Boyd, watching him kill a seemingly innocent man who’s not involved at all in this world?
Whether or not the audience will turn on Boyd is a question. I think that this has just been part of the reality of Boyd for a long, long time. You know, there is that circular intent for the season, to bring things back to the way Boyd and Ava and Raylan to a degree originally were and restate that question. Heading into the final episode, there is a real question whether or not Raylan will kill Boyd, and he certainly has good reason to.

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Moving on to the Raylan-Boyd shootout in the woods, did you set it at night just so Raylan could have that awesome line about knowing it was Boyd because his teeth glow in the dark?
[Laughs.] You know, the history of that scene is funny. As we were breaking the episode, we realized Raylan’s going to be coming down the mountain looking for Ava while Boyd is going up the mountain looking for Ava. We first thought, “We can’t really have a scene between them, can we? Why don’t we just have them pass close by?” Then we realized we’re missing a huge opportunity. Chris Provenzano really pushed for a big scene. We kidded him a lot, because I think the first draft of that sequence was eight pages long and included so many runs and jumps and just missing each other. Michael Pressman said, “Chris, you get one near miss.” Then the dialogue was hacked down to a degree, but it was still a lengthy scene.

Leonard Chang, one of the writers, came up with this idea from Aristotle — I believe it was in Poetics — which is a scene of anagnorisis. It’s also something that Shakespeare used in the tragedies where the hero, the villain, whoever — usually the tragic hero — has a moment of clarity, of realization of who they are and what’s going on and what their flaw is. The scene is kind of that. It kind of morphed a little bit away from it, but in our short form in the room, we always called it the anagnorisis scene. We really wanted to go to the heart of Raylan’s drive to kill Boyd, and Boyd pushing his buttons on that.

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So the acknowledgment that maybe Raylan can’t get Boyd without becoming Boyd.
Yes. Raylan’s line, “I crossed the line with my eyes wide open,” is that he’s perfectly aware of who he is and what he’s doing. The “teeth glow in the dark” line was something that we’d pitched almost as a joke in the room. It was sort of like, “How does Raylan see Boyd?” And someone said, “His teeth glow in the dark.” Chris ended up using it, and it’s a great line.

At what point did you decide you needed to bring Bob back into the mix? Did you need to give Raylan an out of that scene? Fans wouldn’t have been happy if he didn’t go help him.
That was partly it. We also just loved the idea of Bob stumbling into this whole thing and becoming collateral in a way of Raylan’s adventures, or misadventures, as it were. Are you ready for trivia of trivia?

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Always.
When you hear Bob yelling “Help!,” did it sound like Bob? It was distant, mixed down, and all sorts of effects on it and stuff, but we didn’t have Patton doing that. We were doing the final playback of the episode where we go through all the sound and say, “Bring up this helicopter sound,” or “Take it down,” or “Add this line,” or “Take it out,” and we didn’t have anything that worked. So that’s me. That’s me yelling, “Help!” They set up a microphone on the mixing stage. I backed away from the mic and did a few takes. That is my one big moment of performance on this series, me yelling “Help!” as Constable Bob.

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I love that. Was it always the idea to have Boyd shoot Bob off-screen then? Because I think, again, that would have been tough for fans to watch.
I mean, we talked about showing it, but the smart idea there was to stay with Ava, because Ava is the client of the show for the last three episodes, really. You’re worried about what’s going to happen to her. Are the bad guys going to get her? So the idea of her knowing that it’s Boyd, and Bob going to investigate, and her saying, “No, Bob. Don’t go,” and then hearing that [while she’s] zip-tied to a handhold in the crappy Gremlin, and is she going to get free? Thank God it’s an old Gremlin and she can tear herself free. But just the idea of playing that terror off of her was a really strong choice.

Anything else you can say about the Ava and Bob scene? The whole idea of him trying to soothe her by saying there’s an air freshener in the car that smells like a mocha latte…
[Laughs.] I can’t remember if that was scripted or if that was Patton. He has come up with some of the great lines for Bob. I mean, “Stay frosty” was his, back in Season 4. “Beef stew,” when he did the whole thing about pulling his knife and stabbing someone. But there is a moment in there that just sort of, to me, exemplifies the greatness that is Patton Oswalt, which is this very, very funny line where he accuses Ava of trying to bribe him and all of that, and he says, “And don’t try to seduce me. It’s been tried.” When we read that line, we laughed. It’s very funny in the show, but the thing is that the laugh is truer and better because he just plays it straight.

We saw Ava call someone when she was on the run.
You’re not supposed to know who she’s calling.

That’s something we will find out in the finale?
Yes. To a degree. It will always remain somewhat of a mystery, but I think the audience will understand what happened.

And when Markham’s dirty cops caught her, Ava dropped Dewey’s necklace out of her back pocket. So that will come back into play as well?
Yes.

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I also wanted to talk about that scene with Gutterson relaying Vasquez issuing a BOLO on Raylan to Art over the phone. It was kind of like the marshal version of a live tweet — so funny. But Raylan getting caught at the end of the episode seems to suggest that we’ll see more of Gutterson, Art, and Rachel in the finale.
A certain amount. Certainly a lot of Art. Gutterson and Rachel, but sort of in a different context. And that’s all I’ll say.

[That scene] was just fun. It was just something that evolved in terms of how incensed and how riled up Rick Gomez got playing Vasquez. I will say this, that’s his last scene in the series. We all talked about it, that it was bringing it back around to how Vasquez was about Raylan at the beginning. He’s just so furious, and Gutterson is just so cool and kind of funny about it. It’s just the joy of working with Jacob [Pitts], frankly. It’s also Mel Fair as Nelson: “You having a bad day, David?” It’s one of his nicest moments in the series.

Vasquez also has that scene with Wynn, when we get the nice tennis callback for Duffy with the Billie Jean King memorabilia being among his returned personal possessions.
The big thing in that scene was we wanted to get to that moment where Vasquez asks him straight out, “Who killed my boss?” We know that Duffy arranged it. Duffy just says, “I honestly, truly don’t know.” We knew that there would be a variety of things in the box. Now, you can’t apparently say that something is a Billie Jean King autographed tennis ball unless you actually get an autographed Billie Jean King tennis ball with a certificate. You can’t just fake that on a show, apparently. I didn’t know that. So John Harrington, our head of props, sent away and got a Billie Jean King tennis ball and a certificate. That was real.

Then as you see in the bus stop scene later, that tube of prescription toothpaste serves a purpose, as does the Eagle Scout knife. So we were planting those two things, but the Billie Jean King tennis ball was just kind of a fun bit.

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The whole idea of Wynn wanting a dog grooming van as his next mode of transportation is just perfect.
Yeah, and there will be a payoff of that.

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Zachariah decided to wait at Grubes’s place for Boyd and try to kill him. Was that the fate you always had in mind for Zachariah?
He tried to blow up Boyd once before and that didn’t work, and he tries again and sadly for his sake, it doesn’t work. I will tease that the presence of dynamite in that part of the story was important to us. The idea of him blowing himself up, we thought, was pretty cool. But the big thing was that in the manner of our series — where we think we’re going to kill someone off and then say, “Wait a second, let’s just keep him around. We might be able to use him” — we thought of Zachariah dying in [Episode] 9 when he tries to blow up Boyd. Then we saw that there could be something else pretty cool for him, and there is an echo of Zachariah in the final episode. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Loretta had some great scenes in this episode. RIP, Derek (Riley Bodenstab).
We just liked the idea of Loretta’s in a jam, she’s hiding out, she’s bought the Bennett property so she’s got all their drying sheds and homes and all of that. Hiding out in that old drying shed was a cool place to have her be. We liked the idea of bringing in Derek, who had been her quasi boyfriend back in Season 5. He makes the mistake of taking the job, because he goes up against Boone and Jenny.

That conversation between Markham and Loretta — I love how close they were sitting and that Kaitlyn Dever totally holds her own up against Sam Elliott. What did you want to accomplish with that moment?
Without teasing or spoiling anything in the final episode, we were breaking the two of them kind of together at the same time, to a degree, so we would go back and forth of where we needed Loretta to be in the final episode and therefore where we’d have her in the 12th. Really, the crux of it was Markham saying, “I see some of Katherine in you, and even more than that, some of Mags in you.” There she is, she could be killed, and she talks her way out of it, and we just thought that was a great thing for Loretta to be able to do.

If felt like you needed that earlier scene of Markham talking to Katherine’s body, to explain that he wanted to kill Duffy but he was going after the money first.
Yes. You hear it so many times — everyone always says, “Where is the goddamn money?” “I’ve got to get the goddamn money” — that that’s what the money is called. It’s the “goddamn money.” You know, that’s unintentional, but I think there is something to it, which is that the money, to a degree, is cursed. That money has been damned. All of the trouble that has unfolded over this entire season is people’s quest to get or defend that money.

That scene in the morgue, first of all, thanks so much to Mary [Steenburgen] for coming back to spend a few hours lying there on the stage to do that scene. In the gag reel, they do have her waking up and looking at the camera going, “Wait, there’s money?” It was just Pressman directing and Sam performing it; it’s really a wonderful scene.

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One of the sad things about this episode is our great composer, Steve Porcaro, his brother passed away while we were in post on this episode. He had had a long, long struggle with ALS, so Steve couldn’t do the music for this episode. Mark Bonilla wrote most of the music for this episode. Mark wrote the cue for that morgue scene. It was just a beautiful piece of work.

One of the interesting things about this episode was how much work we ended up doing in [post]. It’s a mad, headlong rush at that point [in the season] to write the scripts and get them shot. You wish that we’d been able to plan and plan and get stuff written far ahead, and it’s the end of the series, and let’s have everything nailed down. It’s like nope, this is a television series and we are running for the finish line. There was a great deal of work we did in post structurally, moving scenes around, and that [morgue] scene was a scene that could move. It was originally supposed to be before the credits and the teaser, and we moved it later because we wanted to get things really moving for Raylan by the end of the teaser, having him leave Cope and head up into the hills.

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Raylan signing over Arlo’s home to Cope (Tom E. Proctor) and the hill people seemed like him making his intent clear: He’s leaving Kentucky. He wants to be gone.
We talked about Raylan encountering Cope and the hill people one more time in the series. This sort of came to us, that this could be an obstacle for him trying to get up the mountain. It was the notion that times have even changed for the hill people, that they can’t just stay up where they’ve been for generations, that they’re going to have to move, that things have shifted. Then the idea going back to the sort of origin story of Arlo, and Bo, and Drew Thompson, and the drugs that came down from the sky and all of that — that Arlo had been instrumental, and it sort of started his empire, as it were. That it came back to the hill people, which related to Raylan’s mother, Frances. We just liked the circularity of that.

The notion of him signing over the property really landed well with all of us. Also, Raylan states that was one of his many excuses for not leaving, and now he’s just giving it up.

Justified airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.