Image Credit: Doug Hyun/TNTSPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers from last night’s Southland. Read on at your own risk.

The first shot of last night’s Southland hinted that it was going to be a big episode. A bruised Sammy was sitting distraught on an uncomfortable, cold-looking chair. As a gleam of white light obstructed our view of Sammy through the camera’s lens, a piercing scream was heard, and Sammy’s face crumbled. And my stomach went into a knot.

From that moment, we knew the episode was building toward something. Sammy had made a mistake with dire consequences — that much we knew. But we didn’t know that by the end of the episode, Nate would be dead.

The eerie part was that nothing seemed different about the episode. The drama of the intense situations show was cut by witty batter and hilarious situations. (See yesterday’s exclusive photos of the episode for more on that.) John was teaching Ben a lesson about being too cocky after the rookie botched a bunch of calls (“Why run when you can drive?” John joked to a breathless Ben at one point). Eventually, John blew up, made Ben feel bad (it was all over his face), and we shook our heads in disappointment that Ben didn’t listen to John from the beginning. Oh, I love those two.

Meanwhile, Sammy was dealing with family drama while trying to keep his head on straight for a case that ended with him and Nate booking a high-profile gangster. This didn’t sit too well with his “homies,” but victories for the good guys on Southland are never met with the lauds from the neighborhood. And this week, it got ugly. So ugly that Nate started a confrontation after someone threw a glass bottle at his and Sammy’s car. So ugly that the confrontation turned into a near-riot. And so ugly that Nate got hit forcefully in the back of his head by one of the members of the crowd, causing a major, fatal wound.

“I haven’t read a book or read a story or script in a very, very long time where I actually choked up,” star Kevin Alejandro, who plays Nate, told EW this morning. “I’m not sure if I’m being biased because it was my character, but the way it was written was like poetry. It was all in the stage direction the way it was — to me getting out of the car to exchanging dialogue. It was so beautifully written, the way it finally goes down and Sammy runs out of ammunition. These guys just come and go crazy on me, and Sammy — in a very heroic move and in desperation — covers my body and pulls me up against the car so that he can take all the blows instead of them landing on me. I was so moved.”

Alejandro has known since the beginning of the season that his character would be killed off and added that while he was “sad that I had to be the first one to go, it makes sense with how life on the street works.”

“I’ve heard stories of these situations. And every time I read it — and last night seeing — I was so moved because it is a real story. My wife was sitting next to me and each time they moved in [on Nate], my wife would get closer to me and bury her head in my shoulder. She was crying. I had the same reaction, but I think a lot of people did. And I was very moved by [co-star Shawn Hatosy’s] performance. He deserves some amazing recognition for the way he controlled himself for that scene — and let loose. It was amazing.”

We’re inclined to agree. What about you, PopWatchers?

On Twitter: @EWSandraG

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