By Mandi Bierly
April 02, 2014 at 07:15 AM EDT
Prashant Gupta/FX

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Justified, “Starvation” written by Chris Provenzano and directed by Michael Pressman, stop reading now. As he’ll do throughout the season, showrunner Graham Yost takes us inside the writers room. And bonus, he offers a few teases for the April 8 season finale.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Last episode had a physical bomb; this one had emotional ones. Let’s start at the beginning. The episode opened with Wynn lying to cartel muscle Alberto and claiming he’d killed Boyd.

Three things: When we get toward the end of the season, we can sort of end up gang-writing a script, to a certain degree, because we’ve got to get it done in two or three days. Provenzano wrote the bulk of the script, but there were a few scenes by other people. This, however, was pure Provenzano, and it was his idea to have Duffy say, “Oh, Boyd Crowder, yeah, I killed him.” When we read it, it was just like, oh that’s fantastic: It gives us someplace to go, and it ended up being a really important part of the episode because it created the tension later on when Boyd sees Alberto and Alberto sees Boyd and it’s like uh-ohhhh. Another thing about it was Michael Pressman, who directed the episode: This was the first time we’ve worked with him. [Justified exec producer/director] Michael Dinner knows him from back in the day, but you never entirely know how a new director is gonna work on the show. You know he’s good because he’s done great work in the past on other shows, but is he gonna get it? I remember when we saw the first cut, and the whole notion of starting over black, and just hearing Duffy speaking, and then coming in and hanging on Duffy before you reveal Alberto sitting there — it was, “Okay, we’re in. This is a great director, and he totally gets the show, and he’s doing fun stuff.” And then the last thing is just Jere Burns’ performance: We play Wynn Duffy being kinda above things and in-charge, or at least in control and having a sardonic take on things. And in this scene, you can just see he’s terrified that he’s gonna be skinned alive.

Alberto gave Wynn till sundown the next day to deliver Darryl, so Wynn called Boyd to his RV to ask for help finding him. Was it scripted for Wynn to put his arm around Boyd like that? You can never quite tell how to read his affection for Boyd.

I’m sure that’s something they just found on set. You don’t know with him, and that’s one of the fun things we have in writing him and Jere has in performing him. I think it’s an appreciation of Boyd, more than anything. It all comes off of the scene at the end of last season where he says, “We’re survivors.” There’s something about that in Boyd that he appreciated.

Raylan, Tim, and Rachel interrupted that meeting to start squeezing Wynn and Boyd in their own search for Darryl.

Tim [Olyphant] was looking for various examples that we could show of them putting the squeeze on both Boyd and Wynn, and we’re doing a basic cable show in seven days, and I said, “Tim, we’re probably gonna be able to just shoot one.” (Laughs) We heard about all these other things that Marshals will do. If they know that a restaurant is owned by bad guys, well, they’ll just start eating there and have cops eating there all the time to dry up the bad-guy business. Obviously pulling licenses and doing anything that they can in terms of the legal status of an operation and taking it down. We thought, let’s just tow the RV.

Are we going to see the RV again? Fans are attached to it.

We will see the RV again. Look, there’s your spoiler for this phone call.

We’ve talked a lot in these postmortems over the years about the fact that you can’t have Raylan and Boyd together a ton because after all that’s gone down, Raylan should bring him in. Now we’re seeing Raylan play that card, threatening to use Boyd’s file. Were you saving that for this point in the series, leading into the final season?

We headed in that direction, and you’ll see in the finale why. But yeah, it’s reigniting, restating, re-presenting the central relationship of the series and the conflict between the two of them…. It’s funny how things change, and yet they don’t. From the very beginning of the season, we liked the idea that Boyd would get into bed with the Crowes and realize it was a huge mistake, and that Raylan would be after the Crowes and Boyd would try to help Raylan get the Crowes — boiling down to Darryl specifically. What we originally thought might be a couple of episodes turned out to be one. Then the other change that happened was that it doesn’t work out for Boyd. That’s just where we got to by the end of the season.

Darryl came looking for “Pecker” at the hotel room and beat Mikey until he revealed that Boyd’s guys had hidden the dope. First, let’s talk about Wynn sweetly giving Mikey water.

Yeah. That’s not how it was scripted. The way Provenzano scripted it, he actually had Wynn Duffy sitting on the couch cradling Mikey’s head in his lap. And it was just like, yeah, that’s too far. But the same intent was there, that he cares very much for Mike.

Boyd came up with the idea to lead Darryl, the Marshals, and the cartel all to the dope. He walked into the Marshals office like, “Your savior has arrived,” and told Raylan that he wanted a clean slate in exchange for helping them catch Darryl with the heroin. The first step was getting Carl and Caleb to tell Darryl where the dope was but not make it seem too easy. Caleb taking a bullet in the knee and yelling, “This is the worst job in the world!” — so great.

That was a pitch early on in the break of the episode. We thought that would be an act out [leading into a commercial break], and it turned out to be.

Knowing everyone was looking for him, Darryl guilted a distraught Wendy into going to pick up the dope. She came to her senses and decided not to touch the drugs, but even though she walked out empty-handed, the Marshals grabbed her on suspicion. Plan B was Boyd wearing a wire and trying to get Darryl to admit he shot Art on tape. Boyd was against it — “I look good wearin’ a lot of things, but a wire ain’t one of ’em” — but he agreed once he saw Albert cruise by and spot him.

That evolved. In the first draft, Raylan was pushing for Boyd to wear a wire right from the beginning, and Boyd said no and came up with this alternate plan: get him for drugs and maybe you can squeeze him with that. And then the decision was made to save the wire for that scene. It worked fine, but the notion of seeing Alberto being the thing that gets Boyd onboard came fairly late in the game, and it was a combination of Tim, Walton, and Chris.

Boyd arranged to take the dope to Darryl at Audrey’s, where Dewey had returned to say goodbye to his whore friends — again. Let’s back up to him stealing gas from that woman to get there and his line, “If you’re just gonna be a minute, you mind if I run in and take a s—?”

[Executive producer] Fred Golan really thought it was too crude, and I kinda sided with him, but on the other hand, we give the writer, and the director, and the actors a lot of leeway. They thought it would work and it would be funny, and it ended up being really funny.

So often, the things fans think of as “so Justified” are the things you guys have debated about.

Oh yeah, that’s been the way right from the beginning. You’re just afraid of making him too ridiculous, or of any moment being too ludicrous. That’s part of the little razor’s edge that we have to walk.

NEXT: Dewey’s (possible) farewell is a callback to the pilot

The whores Mina and Teena admitted that they got rid of Dewey’s precious turtledog and gave his necklace to another customer. Was there debate about Dewey’s line, “The anus [sic] is on you to take care of it”?

I thought, is that too jokey? Would he even know that? (Laughs) Again, it was like, let’s see what happens and if it doesn’t work, we can cut it out. That comes back to the brilliance of Damon Herriman and his ability to just play Dewey as straight and as earnest… Dewey is the star of his own picture, and we’re just seeing a few scenes of it. He really believes it. Him talking about the turtledog and the neck-lace — he doesn’t say necklace, he says neck-lace — that’s Damon. You really believe that he cares. (Laughs) “And seeing you two so soft…” (Laughs) Poor Dewey.

Dewey followed Boyd, who was now wired, into Audrey’s — and he not only confessed to killing Wade Messer but also shouted that the heroin was his. Such a good payoff.

I would love to take credit for it, and so I will. What happened was, due to actor availability, we had to flip the shooting of episodes 11 and 10. We didn’t have Damon for 11, so we were thinking of 12, and whether Dewey was gonna play a part. At one point, in the first break of 10, Dewey was arrested with the dope. And then that turned into, no, let’s have him on the run — and then that turned into the whole thing of Danny bringing the dope back and the end of Danny. So we knew we had Dewey out in the wind, and we knew that we wanted to have Raylan and Boyd try to set up Darryl to take possession of the drugs and then Raylan could arrest him. We were thinking, how could that go wrong? And this is where I’ll take credit for it — although it probably was not me, but you’re only speaking to me — let’s use Dewey. What if Dewey is our deus ex machina? What if he is the thing that comes in from outside and screws everything up? We went back and forth in terms of where Dewey would be at the end of the season: Would he be still out in the wilderness somewhere? Would he be dead? Or would he be in jail? We didn’t want him dead. We kinda didn’t want him in jail, but on the other hand, he did kill Wade Messer. And there was just this sort of tragic-comic thing of him, in his mind, getting this shot at finally getting his dream. (Laughs) Darryl doesn’t know what’s going on, but Boyd knows, and Boyd has a small affection for Dewey, too, and says, “Turn around and walk back out.” He gives him two chances to leave, and then it’s too late. Dewey full-on confesses everything, and we just thought that was funny.

When Dewey left Audrey’s, he walked right into Raylan, Tim, and Rachel. After arresting him, Raylan gave Dewey the advice to stop referring to himself in the third person. “What? This guy?” Dewey said, looking at the cop about to drive him away. “Man, I don’t understand you.” Are those Dewey Crowe’s last words on Justified?

I wrote that little scene between them, and the reason was is, we don’t know for sure what’s gonna happen with Dewey Crowe. We don’t know if we’d ever see him again. I think it would be strange if we never did — he’s been a big part of the show. But we knew this was gonna be his last scene in this season, and so I wanted an exchange between them that would serve as a final scene if that’s what it came down to. And so what Raylan says to him mirrors something that happened in the pilot: In their first scene together [at Ava’s house], when Dewey says, “I’m goin’ out and comin’ back in,” and he gets the shotgun, and Raylan comes out and says, “I only pull my gun if I shoot to kill,” and he gets the shotgun from Dewey, gets him in the car, and Dewey mouths off, and Raylan slams his head against the steering wheel and says, “If I were you, I’d go back to poaching gators. Give up this Nazi bulls–t, it’s safer” — Dewey, at some point in that scene when Raylan is walking to the car, says, “Man, I don’t understand you.” So Raylan’s speech, “If I were you, I’d stop talking about yourself in the third person, it makes you look like a fool,” is a nod to his line to Dewey in the pilot. And then Dewey saying, “Man, I don’t understand you” — if that’s his last line in the series — takes us back to the pilot, too.

NEXT: Raylan’s biggest (baddest?) moves

Darryl got brought in for questioning, but his lawyer threatened a harassment suit if Vasquez held him. I’m guessing Darryl’s awesome “get at him” to his lawyer wasn’t scripted?

That’s got to be Michael Rapaport. We brought back the lawyer [who’d represented Dewey] from the first episode of the season, because she was great. It just shows Darryl and Wendy are smart. They don’t get caught that easily. A little bit of that goes back to me reading City Primeval, one of Elmore [Leonard]’s earliest and best crime fiction novels. There’s a bad guy in there who the good guy keeps setting traps for, and he just can’t get him. Again and again, the guy weasels out. So that was always an inspiration for Darryl Crowe. You think you got him, and then you don’t.

In the end, Raylan convinced Vasquez and Judge Reardon (played by Stephen Root) that their only option was to decide they’re going to try Kendal as an adult, which means for attempted murder of a federal officer, he’s facing 40 years to life. There’s a 50/50 chance it’ll work. That’s a huge gamble for Raylan, who thinks that kid is innocent.

It is. One of the fun things about that is the idea of having Judge Reardon, who we established in the first season is known as “The Hammer” for just throwing the book at anyone for a minor offense, say, “Yeah, that’s my reputation, and that means I don’t have to do that.” We liked the idea of him taking the contrary position in this, and also having Vasquez say, “I’m not really comfortable with it either, but it could be the only way.” So Raylan is really driving this thing, and it’s dangerous.

That brings us to the climactic scene between Raylan and Boyd. Since they didn’t get Darryl, Raylan isn’t tossing Boyd’s file, which is “thick with the names of the sufferin’ and the dead.” Boyd said he was willing to fill in missing details in Raylan’s file about the role he played in Nicky Augustine’s death. I gasped.

I’ll take credit for the “sufferin'” speech. We’re just banging away, all throwing ourselves at scenes. But the structure of it really came from Tim and Chris. In a first pass, we’d had Boyd bring up the whole notion of Nicky Augustine, and Raylan being complicit in his death, in the motorcoach scene earlier on when they’re first squeezing Boyd and Duffy. Tim thought it would be better in this scene if that came up because, as he put it, Raylan doesn’t have a win in the episode, really. He does convince Reardon to go along this dangerous path, but he doesn’t get Darryl because Dewey screws that up. And so the win of the episode for him is in the shot after Boyd has leveled this accusation: there’s Raylan, and then there’s Rachel and Tim in the background, and they back Raylan up. It comes back to Raylan’s whole thing of, “There’s us on this side of the law, and then it’s you on the other side of the law. We are a team, and you cannot break us.” That’s his win. Michael Pressman shot that in a great, subtle way.

Boyd finally got access to a phone and called Jimmy to warn him about the cartel, but they were already there with guns pointed at him. This episode taught me that I’ve grown to care about Mikey and Jimmy. When did you decide to off Jimmy?

He’s not dead. They didn’t shoot him.

Right. We didn’t see it, but he was crying so…

They’ve got guns pointed at him, but Jimmy is not dead at the end of episode 512. We’ll see him in the finale.

Let’s circle back and talk about Ava. Early in the episode, Raylan visited her in jail to ask her to pressure Boyd into getting him Darryl. When she said she couldn’t help because she’d broken up with Boyd — and that she wouldn’t anyway, unless he could get her out, which he can’t — Raylan threatened to have the guards look the other way when it came to Ava’s safety. That was tough to watch, especially considering their history. Was reaction to that move from Raylan a concern?

It was a concern, but it was a good concern. You can see over the course of the series that we’re not opposed to showing Raylan doing stuff that makes us wince a little bit. And Tim wholeheartedly embraces that and seeks it out, because that gives more color to his character. It goes back to the statement in the pilot — Winona saying, “You’re the angriest man I’ve ever known.” Raylan is capable of this stuff. It’s my take on it that Raylan is really kind of tortured by saying that to her, but he feels… [in dramatic movie trailer voice] justified. He’s doing it for a reason. He’s trying to not only get the guy he believes shot Art (one of the three people he cares about in this world the most), but also to get that kid [Kendal] out of jail. He’ll do anything he can. A big thing about that scene and the one later with Ava was that they were really things that Tim asked for. We had a different configuration that I can’t talk about too much because it’ll sort of tip off what happens in the next episode, but the whole notion of using Ava — going to her and asking for help, and her rebuffing, and then later on her wanting to help — existed in a different way, and not even with Raylan. But Tim said, “Let it be Raylan,” and it ended up giving us two wonderful scenes.

Between those scenes, Gretchen made a move against Ava and had Penny killed.

The actress, Danielle Panabaker, got a pilot, so we had to finish her out in episode 12. (Laughs) In the original draft, we actually had it flipped: It was Nikki [played by Heather Olt] that got killed, and it was Penny who said, “Oh, this is serious trouble.”

The murderer was caught, which made Ava look like a snitch.

That’s the unforgivable sin, from what I understand. I mean, I only did a couple of years in Kingston, outside of Toronto. But that’s what prompted her to call Raylan back in.

She practically begged Raylan to strike a deal, but he told her she was too late: Boyd had tried to play ball to save himself and had said nothing about her. That was also difficult to watch.

We talked about that a lot. Our argument would be that Boyd would say, “Well, wait a second. You broke up with me. You said you didn’t want to have anything more to do with me.” He’s just trying to stay alive. It’s just not what he was thinking about. But yeah, we wanted to make it complicated [between Boyd and Ava]. There is something a little heartbreaking to it, and you’ll see where that goes next episode… or where that goes [in dramatic movie trailer voice again] next season.

What else can you tease about the finale? You’ve said we’ll see Art again, and Katherine Hale, and that there’s a Winona sighting via Skype. Will we see Raylan and Boyd in a scene together?

You will not see Raylan and Boyd together in the finale. Boyd goes off on his own story. He tries to make contact with Raylan, and that leads to a certain surprise, but he has no words with Raylan directly. But you will see how the story coalesces ultimately around Raylan and Boyd at the end of the season, and then of course, at the end of the series.