Prashant Gupta/FX
February 05, 2014 at 08:30 AM EST

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Justified, “Shot All to Hell” written by supervising producer Chris Provenzano and directed by Adam Arkin, stop reading now. As he’ll do throughout the season, showrunner Graham Yost takes us inside the writers room. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When I was on set in November for a piece in EW, I asked Timothy Olyphant about it being a violent season ahead, and he joked that the show had too many characters so people were going to have to go down. Is this episode setting the tone for the remainder of the season, or just an extraordinarily active episode?

GRAHAM YOST: It’s an extraordinarily active episode. The next few episodes regroup, in a way. Stuff moves forward, but the big thing, especially in the next episode, is the aftermath of this one: the effect it has on Boyd to have Ava whisked away to a worser house of incarceration and then on Raylan for having stepped up and admitted to Art, in the best way he could, what Art already kinda knew. We had this idea that we wanted all three stories to reach a peak where everything is going great for everyone, and then it all falls apart in the matter of one act.

Let’s start with Boyd and Ava: Was the plan always for Boyd to shoot a framed, disgraced Paxton and make it look like a suicide? 

Yeah. We had one version where we were gonna do that right off the top of the season, and then we started to think, “No, let’s take some time to get there.”

Later, Boyd hired an old coal-mining buddy, who was dying of black lung and looking to provide for his family, to shoot Mooney in a restaurant. Boyd also told Mara to leave town because she won’t be getting her money either. Is that the last we’ll see of Mara (played by Karolina Wydra)?

I will be honest that we explored an idea of her popping up into the story later in the season, and it just didn’t work out. She’s on True Blood. They give a certain allowance to go and do another show for a certain period — x number of episodes — and we maxed out. We hit our five episodes. It was gonna be a tough get, and then we just decided the story should go in another way. But we loved her.

With Lee Paxton’s credibility shot, Ava was due to be released the next day. She told Boyd those wonderful things about wanting to fall asleep and wake up in his arms. We really thought she was going to walk — and then her cell mate helped guard Albert (played by Danny Strong) frame Ava for allegedly stabbing him with a shiv that he’d “found” under her bed.

We originally had this idea that Albert was going to assault her, and she’d have to kill him, but we thought, let’s do it in a way where she’s utterly blameless and it’s not anything that Boyd could have predicted or Ava could have predicted. But in a way, it was started because Boyd had arranged for protection for Ava, and that guard beating Albert down humiliated him, so this is his odd way of coming back.

When Boyd showed up to see Ava and was told she was already transferred to the state penitentiary, and Walton Goggins started screaming, “Get off me! Get off me! Get off me!” to the guards holding Boyd back, I almost burst into tears. (It was the second high-pitched “Get off me!”)

Oh good. They’re both criminals, and yet, you’re supposed to feel for them. That was the goal.

And things will get worse for Ava?

You’ll see in the next episode. She goes from Harlan County Detention, where she’s in a sense protected by Boyd and things are kind of easy, to someplace where it’s a bigger jungle.

Boyd also finally came face-to-face with Darryl Crowe this episode. As Darryl said, Boyd pretending he wasn’t himself when he found Darryl and Jean-Baptiste waiting for him in his bar was “cool as ice.”

Chris had written a really good scene, but Walton had the idea of, “What if Boyd comes in, and he and Jimmy play it like he’s not Boyd? Then what could happen?” It’s great, and it’s fun, and it makes for an interesting scene, but when Michael Rapaport says [in accent], “Goddamn man, that was cool as ice,” that’s everything you want from Michael Rapaport. And it establishes this thing for Darryl that yeah, he got out-played, and he sort of admires the play, but he’s not gonna back down. And Boyd gets to keep his dignity. It was a nice way for the two characters to meet.

NEXT: Art gets a story that his fishing buddies will be hearing about for the next 10 years

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