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February 12, 2013 at 03:00 PM EST

With Wynn Duffy planning to let Johnny kill Boyd after Boyd delivers Drew Thompson, and Ava not yet knowing that Ellen May is alive and well and with someone who wants her to share the secrets that could take Ava and Boyd down, things aren’t looking good for our favorite Justified couple. But tonight’s episode (FX, 10 p.m. ET) may offer a bit of hope. “If people are a fan of this relationship, they don’t want to miss it,” Joelle Carter says. “You start to take this ride with Ava and Boyd, and you get a little nugget of gold in this episode, and you see that maybe they may actually make it and have this existence that they want. And then,” she continues, looking ahead with a laugh, “it all gets all bad.”

Ellen May’s alleged death still weighs heavy on Ava. “It’s been harder for her to justify it for herself than the other deaths she’s been a part of or seen. She knew Devil was killed because he betrayed Boyd. She knew she killed her husband to free herself from that life and to give herself a chance, even though she knew she might go to jail. And she killed Delroy to protect someone who she related to, to try to give Ellen May a bit of freedom. I think she justified all those because they were kind of just cockroaches of life — evil characters,” she says. “But Ellen May, she really liked. She was taking her under her wing. And so what Ava’s dealing with now is that decision that she made to kill someone she’d rather have seen live.”

Carter won’t say when or how Ava will learn that Ellen May didn’t die, but she will tease this: “It’s the worst day of her life when she finds out Ellen May is alive. There’s that instinct to get it fixed. ‘Okay, what do we do to fix this insurmountable trouble now?’ And there is a time later on in the season where she actually comes face-to-face with Ellen May, and that’s where I think the relief that she’s actually alive comes in for a few seconds. And then, you go back to, ‘Okay, what am I here for? What do I have to get done? Who do I have to protect?’ Unfortunately,” she says, with another laugh, “Ellen May ends up on the bad side of that equation every time.”

Come back to Inside TV tonight for our postmortem chats with Carter and Justified exec producer Graham Yost.

Read more:

Weekly postmortems with EP Graham Yost

‘Justified’ recaps

Emmy Watch: ‘Justified’ star Walton Goggins talks playing an outlaw betrayed, in love

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