SPOILER ALERT! This week’s episode of Justified, “Loose Ends,” written by Ingrid Escajeda and directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton, found Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) asking Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson) to team up with him to take down Quarles (Neal McDonough) to no avail, Boyd (Walton Goggins) winning the debate between the candidates for sheriff, and Ava (Joelle Carter) putting a bullet in pimp Delroy (William Mapother) to save junkie prostitute Ellen May (Abby Miller) and deciding to become the girls’ new madam. As we’ll be doing each week throughout the season, we asked executive producer Graham Yost to take us inside the writers room. Special bonus: We also talked to Carter about Ava’s first onscreen kill and flip-flop on her “no whores” policy. (For more with Carter, including her thoughts on Raylan kissing Ava — a callback to the pilot — click here.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: With it become increasingly difficult for Delroy’s girls to get Oxy pills to sell, Delroy made them try to rob a Payday Loans place. Where did that idea come from?
Graham Yost: The whole inspiration for hot women robbing a place comes from Elmore Leonard’s book Raylan. I think in his book it’s bankrobbing strippers, and the guy who runs the strip joint is this African-American character Delroy, but we decided to make him the pimp daddy at Audrey’s whorehouse. We had that from the beginning of the season. We wanted to do bankrobbing hookers pretty early. And then we switched it off of a bank because we’ve done a lot of banks on the show, and we knew we were going to a big bank thing in a later episode.
What was it Delroy said would eat dead hooker Crystal’s body up when they dumped it?
Yost: Slurry. They have these things called slurry ponds, and it’s all the horrible stuff from coal mining. So it’s water with a lot of awful, awful chemicals in it. When they shot that scene of rolling Crystal’s body down into the slurry pond, there was no pond there. It was just a hillside. So we owed a shot of a body rolling into a pond. Basically, they were up in Green Valley one night and dug a hole in the ground and filled it with water and lit it so you could only see one edge of the thing. It was only 8′ by 6′ and maybe 2′ or 3′ deep. [Laughs] Don Kurt, our line producer who also directed episode 6 and will shoot second unit and splinter stuff, felt it was an Ed Wood shot, a real cheapo shot, but it worked. So the body hitting the water is just something shot on another night in another place. The stunt woman who did the role was too buoyant, so she was grabbing at the bottom to try to pull herself under. [Laughs] We ended up cutting out of the shot as soon as the body hits the water, but anyway, Don thought it was hilarious that it worked.
After Ellen May realized Delroy was going to kill her, she ran to Ava for help. First of all, I’m sensing that Johnny (David Meunier) was kinda hitting on Ava when they were discussing what to do with Ellen May. True, or am I just reading too much into it?
Joelle Carter: Oh, you’re a very perceptive woman. Before we shot that scene, we talked to the writers about it. I always kinda thought that Johnny was the one Crowder that was really on her side. Every scene I’ve ever had with him, like even when I went there with a shotgun to talk to Bo, he was like, “Don’t go in there. What are you doing? Are you crazy?” I think he has some little feelings for Miss Ava, and if Boyd wasn’t around… I don’t know what would happen. [Laughs] We intentionally played the scene that way. I’m glad it’s subtle, but that it makes people think, Wait a minute, is something else going on here?
Yost: I would say keep that in mind for subsequent seasons.
To me, Johnny looked worried what Ava might tell Boyd about the conversation they’d had.
Yost: I’m sure he is concerned, and we’re also headed for something with Johnny that will play out toward the end of the season…. But really, the whole thing about Delroy and how she took care of that situation, you see glimpses in episode 10, and certainly in 11, where that causes certain dissension in the ranks.
Let’s talk about Ava shooting Delroy.
Yost: I don’t think we’ve seen Ave shoot anybody [before]. We knew that she shot her late husband Bowman, and we’ve seen her wield a gun, and shoot some critter in a bag last year. But as I’ve told you, one of themes of the season is crossing lines, and this is a big line for her to cross.
Carter: You can definitely say she was shooting someone in self-defense when she shot her [abusive] husband, even if it was premeditated. In this moment, she’s definitely making the decision to do this with the consequences known. I call this episode the Triple Threat, because it was written, directed, and played by a woman. And it was a big discussion that we were having: Is she going into this knowing that as soon as she lets our sweet little whore Ellen May in, this is what she’s gonna do? I’m gonna say no. Not right when she has her come in. She’s trying to pawn her off on Johnny. When he throws Boyd in her face, and she makes that phone call [to Delroy], I think her head’s spinning, but I think she knows that she’s gonna have to step up and do something. I think by the time she’s invited Delroy over, and she’s throwing Ellen May out there, she does know.
I loved the way Walton played that scene when Ava told him she killed Delroy and was going to run Audrey’s. He was amused and proud.
Yost: That’s the land of Justified, that he’s amused and proud because his girlfriend murdered somebody.
Carter: We loved doing that scene. Walton and I were both like, “This is like people coming home and talking about what school they’re gonna send their kids to, except for Ava and Boyd it’s like, ‘Okay, you killed a man, and you’re gonna be the new madam. That sounds good. I’m proud of you, baby.'” [Laughs]
Ava’s always been adamant about Boyd not having whores be a part of his business model. Why the change of heart?
Yost: Here’s someone who said “no whores,” and now she’s gonna be the madam — we just thought that was an interesting path for her.
Carter: In some ways, it’s kinda happenstance because she was put in this very crazy position. I don’t think she just said, “Okay, when Delroy comes to pick her up, I’m gonna kill him.” I think Ava definitely decided, “Okay, if this happens, then it’s gonna leave problems for Boyd and for our business, so I’m gonna step up and I’m gonna run these whores and help us make some more money.” I think she really thought it through. It was one of her first business moves. I really can be a partner, not just a partner…. When they first told me at the beginning of the season that they wanted to see all of our characters cross lines and Ava might be running whores, I was like, Wow, okay. THAT’S interesting. And then they told me something else is gonna happen, which happens in episode 13 [the season 3 finale], that I had to wrap my brain around and try to figure out how that was going to go down because of where this woman’s come from. Season 3 is a very nice, interesting growing period for Miss Ava.
Moving on to the race for sheriff, it was also nice to see Walton get to preach at the debate. I’ve missed that.
Yost: We knew we were gonna do that scene from the beginning of the season. We knew pretty early on that Boyd was gonna run Shelby for sheriff. For a long time, we were thinking of other jobs — is it mayor? Is it judge/executive? But we decided to come back and land on sheriff. And we knew we wanted Boyd to give one of those speeches that is ultimately nonsensical and has absolutely nothing to do with the matters at hand, but due to his bravura delivery of the speech still gets people cheering. And the model for that is an old Hitchcock film called The 39 Steps. Robert Donat is on the run, but he finds himself shepherded up to a podium, and like he’s campaigning for office, he has to talk to a room full of people and just says platitude after platitude and gets them cheering for him — even though he has no idea what he’s talking about. That was sorta the inspiration for the Boyd speech.
Sheriff Napier preparing for his meeting with Tanner was also great, just the way he took out the shovel made me laugh.
Yost: We created this character of Napier, and David Andrews’ name came up and I said, “Absolutely,” because I’d worked with him on From the Earth to the Moon. There are a bunch of old Earth to the Moon hands on this show, from Nick Searcy [Art] on down — David, Conor O’Farrell, who plays the [real] ATF guy. When David did it, I had no idea what we were gonna get. I mean, I knew it’d be good because he’s good. But the way he played the whole sort of vanity. He told me a whole story about the mustache. He got a fake mustache to begin with. And then over Christmas, he had a few weeks between episodes, he thought he’d try growing one. And it just kinda looked exactly like the fake one, so it worked perfectly.
Another great bit: Raylan having a trucker pose as an ATF agent to tell Sheriff Napier that the bomb on his car matched Tanner’s M.O.
Yost: That was all Tim’s idea. In the first draft, he came in with the ATF guy, with Conor O’Farrell’s character, and then Tim just came up with that idea.
The idea of having Tanner meet his demise on a Bouncing Betty landmine, where did that come from?
Yost: We had cast that actor [Jim Haynie] back in season 1. We created this guy who has little gadgets and gizmos. He’s flying a little helicopter and talking about how they’re so cheap to buy now because of the Chinese. Boyd just grabbed it out of the air and got a rocket launcher from him. We just liked that guy Lemuel. So when we were looking for a climax for this episode, we came up with the idea of Tanner going back to basically kill him and get some money. We just thought if he’s that crafty, maybe he has some kind of failsafe mechanism in his workshop. Given his age — we played that Arlo was a Vietnam vet — it just seemed appropriate… And we wanted stuff to blow up.
Tanner’s mother was only in a few scenes, but she was a fun character.
Yost: The starting point was that turn: Raylan comes in on someone who seems very sweet and kinda ditzy. Then he says, “I need to get to your boy before really bad people do,” and she says, “Oh please, they’ve been pulling that on me since he was 10. Get outta here.” The details of her calling him in, and he thinks there might be some danger but it’s just some soap opera she can’t watch, that’s something that just developed.
And in the end, Raylan did fix her TV.
Yost: He’s a good guy. AND, he let her keep the money. The money was stolen from dear dead Lemuel, but, you know, Lemuel is an arms dealer. So I think Raylan makes those moral calculations, like this woman can use the money more than Lemuel’s family can. If he had taken it from her, it would get into a whole court mess and blah blah blah. So he just thought the better part of valor is to just let her have it.
Sticking with Raylan, once he realized the connection between Tanner and Errol, he asked Limehouse for help with Quarles, and it didn’t seem like Limehouse was ready to give it. Are we going to see Limehouse come around?
Yost: What do I always say in these phone calls? Keep watching…
Are we supposed to know who called the tip into Raylan about Quarles and the hustler Brady Hughes?
Yost: No. Keep watching…
To end on a happy note, that shoofly pie scene between Quarles and Limehouse was hilarious.
Yost: That’s Neal and Mykelti. They go back to Boomtown together, and they love working together, and they were just sort of throwing stuff at each other. I’ll see how you react, you’ll see how I react. They were just sort of playing. It was in the script, but Neal’s whole take on it and doing his mock Southern accent — just trying to insult the hell out of Limehouse — that was all Neal.