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Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched the March 24 episode of Justified — “Trust,” written by Benjamin Cavell and directed by Adam Arkin — stop reading now. As he’ll do throughout the season, showrunner Graham Yost takes Yahoo TV inside the writers’ room to break down key scenes and tease what’s next.
You said this episode would have surprises, and you were not joking: No one expected Ava to shoot Boyd and flee with the $10 million. Let’s just get this out of the way: Is Boyd dead?
Here’s one of my favorite things about this season: As word leaked out that Walton [Goggins] was doing the Tarantino film [The Hateful Eight]… You, last week, were doing the mental calculation: “Are they going to kill Boyd because he’s doing the Tarantino film?” No, Boyd is not dead.
The big idea was that we wanted to build a season that was about Raylan versus Boyd with Ava caught in the middle. To a degree, it was kind of a little bit like Boyd’s old thing of blowing up a car on the edge of town and distracting people while he’s actually going to go hit a bank. To a degree, we wanted to distract people with the Raylan versus Boyd and not have them realize that the story was really about Ava, and that she was going to do something that was going to confound them both. The story would then be about getting Ava and who’s going to get her first.
So was Boyd wearing a vest? He could have had one on for his meet with Markham, and Ava could have felt that when she hugged him.
No vest. But there is the semiotics of gunshot wounds in film and television, which of course we violated in the pilot because Raylan shot Boyd right in the heart and yet somehow Boyd lived… But if you see where he was hit this episode, it was not in the heart; it was in his sort of upper left [torso] and that’s the way he spun and went down.
How did you guys work around Walton shooting the Tarantino film in Colorado at the same time you were wrapping the series?
It was crazy. It was one of those things where we were terrified of it, and we were terrified mostly of Walton being stuck in Telluride and us being unable to get him. The solution was simply to have, in that case, a car and two drivers standing by to drive him back to Los Angeles if he couldn’t fly out. Not that that would have been safe. As it turned out, they had a paucity of snow in January and into February. Once we were done with Walton, then they got dumped on. They had all the snow they needed and they finished their stuff in Colorado, and now they’re back on the stages in L.A. It all worked out fine.
What we also did, and it was hard on us writing, was, [executive producer] Sarah Timberman worked out with their producer, Stacey Sher, that we would get Walton for that first week in January. So we shot stuff for [episodes] nine and 10 in that week. Then we got him for a few more days, and did the stuff for 11 and then 12 and 13. We had him here and there. For the last two weeks of filming, we shifted from a Monday to Friday schedule to a Wednesday through Sunday schedule so that we could have Walton on the weekends.
Actually, scheduling him was honestly not that much more difficult than scheduling for Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Loretta, because she’s on Last Man Standing. So we could only get her on certain days. Jere Burns is off doing his TBS show [Angie Tribeca], and I think Sam [Elliott] was doing something else and Mary [Steenburgen]’s on other shows. So, there was a lot of scheduling difficulties, but we got through it.
In your mind, at what point did Ava decide to shoot Boyd? Did she know when she was telling Raylan she’d get Boyd to confess to Dewey’s murder and Raylan expressed his doubts?
We went back and forth on that. We had her setting up an alternate plan and all these things. What we finally landed on is that it came in the moment to her. She was hugging him, she feels the gun in his back, and she grabs it. She just knows if she’s going back to prison that’s not going to work. She doesn’t trust Boyd anymore. He was kind of rough with her at the end of [episode] nine when he thought that she had conspired with Zachariah to set off the explosives. She’s just caught between two men. She’s basically raising her hand and saying, “Excuse me, what about me? You got your own stories going on. What about my story?” So, we just felt that she made the decision in the moment.
Did Raylan think about shooting the truck’s tires as Ava drove away?
No. This goes back to Speed, the movie I [wrote]. Have I told you this?
I think so, when we talked for the movie’s 20th anniversary. But let’s hear it again.
I was reading Janet Maslin’s review in The New York Times, and she says, “When he’s running after the bus, which is now not yet going 50, so the bomb has yet to be set, why doesn’t he shoot out the tires?” I remember reading the review and going, “Oh crap, why doesn’t he?” I honestly never even thought about it.
And Raylan doesn’t look down right away to help Boyd either.
The scene, as shot, went on longer, and he actually kneeled down and checked in on Boyd. The feeling was that he really should be focused on Ava, and what we didn’t shoot would be him pulling his phone and saying, “We’ve got a runner.” The other thing, honestly, shooting the tires, you can still drive on rims. She’s not going to stop. “I don’t want to damage the rims on my getaway truck.” She would just keep driving. She’s got the keys from the other car, so Raylan can’t go after her. That’s the car they came in, the getaway car. So, there you go. There’s your answer. It would have served no purpose to shoot the tires. Raylan’s a Harlan boy: He doesn’t want to damage a nice pickup truck.
There we go.
I’m good at rationalizing.
Did you know that Dewey’s necklace would come back into play like this from the moment Dewey was killed? Or was it just something you just had in your back pocket?
You know, it’s interesting you say “in the back pocket,” because you’ll see how that plays out. That’s a little teaser/spoiler. You know, I’d love to say that we planned everything out, but no. It was basically [Dave] Andron’s decision in the second episode to have Earl find the necklace and put it up on the bar, that somehow it came off of Dewey when Carl was rolling him up in whatever. It was really something that we didn’t know how we were going to use it but it was nice to have, as you say, in our back pocket. I will just tease it out that we’re not done with Dewey’s necklace.
Nice. Was having Boyd kidnap Katherine and asking Markham for the $10 million in ransom how you always anticipated that Boyd would get the money?
No. Listen, we liked the idea of the ill-fated attempt to break into the vault from below causing a fire that would then cause the place to have to be evacuated and the money would have to be moved. So, initially we were thinking, “What’s the cool, big set piece we can do where Boyd tries to grab the money?” We just thought we’ve done that kind of thing before. The Elmore [Leonard] rule is basically cutting through the expectation and finding what’s the smartest move. So Boyd figures out that Raylan’s probably going to be on top of this, so he does the smarter move and he goes right to use Katherine.
Raylan figures out that Boyd will figure it out, and so he just goes to Ava knowing essentially that the money will come to Ava, so all he has to do is be with Ava and he’ll get to the money. Raylan and Boyd are so fixated on their own plans that they have a big blind spot, which is what’s Ava going to do.
I love where you left off with Katherine and Markham, that Boyd got the pleasure of ratting on Katherine to Avery as he’s leaving.
[Laughs.] “I just thought you should know.” That’s something that we follow through on pretty early in the next episode.
Moving on to Wynn, Mikey turned on him this episode and has a message into Katherine to out him as the rat. How did that idea come about?
We were thinking, “What are we going to do with Duffy?” We hit upon the notion of what would happen when Mikey finds out that Duffy had been a rat and is a rat today? We just thought that that would be an interesting dynamic to play with. Jonathan Kowalsky has really blossomed: What started out as the part of the very bad bodyguard for Duffy has really become one of those beloved characters on the show. I love the way Adam Arkin directed the [moment] when Mikey grabs Duffy’s head and smashes his face into the table. He just laughs and then grabs his head. It was so startling. It was like, that’s hilarious and awful. So, there will be consequences in the next episode. We follow that story. Put it that way.
Let’s also talk about the diner scene with The Walking Dead's Gareth, Andrew J. West, playing a hipster waiter that Boon torments.
It’s a long scene, and sometimes you’re looking at an episode and going, “We’re over [time], and do we want to give this much real estate to this new character?” Ben just wrote a great scene that they all just played perfectly and Adam Arkin was shooting it, so it all came together. It was suggested by something, I think in The Moonshine War, an old Elmore book where one bad guy torments a guy in a café and forces him to take off his clothes because he wants his clothes. Just that idea of the menacing character getting what he wants without ever having to beat anyone is, we thought, a good, scary Elmore scene.
Boon’s earlier scene in the diner with Raylan is definitely lighter.
It just felt like it was a good time to have them reconnect. We also have Raylan eating ice cream, which is something that Elmore established in his early Raylan stories.
And that we’ve seen on the show before.
To tease that, there will be more ice cream in the series. That’s all I’m going to say.
Like, the final shot is Raylan eating ice cream on the beach…
I’m not saying anything other than that.
There’s that moment when they’re driving where Ava asks Raylan how things would be different if he hadn’t left when she was 16, or if he took her with him. Do you have an answer?
It’s something that goes back to the end of [episode] eight, when Raylan’s tearing into her for not having warned him about Walker being there and what the hell is going on. She says, “We’re cut from the same cloth. We’re not that different.” Basically, if you had stayed, who’s to say you wouldn’t have ended up like Boyd? Raylan basically says he’s not unaware of what might have happened. I think that that’s our rough guess about what might have happened if Raylan had stayed. He might have eventually wandered into a life of crime, although… We also came up with this notion that we just wanted to have on the periphery, that Arlo kind of gave Raylan a big gift by being such a son of a bitch, which is he pushed Raylan out of Harlan. Raylan left, encouraged by his mother and his aunt Helen. But Bo was a much more likable dad for Boyd. You know, big bear of a guy, kind of friendly, party guy, made crime look fun and enjoyable. Arlo didn’t. Arlo made it look mean and venal. So, there’s a question of what might have happened if Raylan had stayed.
Any other scene you wanted to touch on?
When Raylan finds out what Vasquez thinks about Ava and how she’s probably going to go back to jail, you can see he’s not real happy about that. I just loved Tim [Olyphant]’s performance when he comes up to Ava’s house and he gives her the bad news. He’s not happy about this himself. Part of it was, there’s a certain circularity to the whole series. Vasquez started out as a strong antagonist to Raylan in the first season. You know, he was looking into Raylan’s shootings and all this stuff. He was the one that told Art and Raylan that he had evidence of Raylan sleeping with Ava. She’s a material witness in a case, so Boyd gets released because of that. Over the years, Vasquez has sort of become an ally. You see in this episode that there’s a greater antagonism between them again. You’ll see where that goes.
Anything more you can tease about the next episode?
I don’t want to oversell it. It’s a strong episode, and that’s all I’ll say. We’re very proud of 611. Taylor Elmore and Keith Schreier wrote it, and John Avnet directed it, and our incredible cast performed the hell out of it. You will see.
Justified airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.