SPOILER ALERT! This week’s episode of Justified, “Watching the Detectives,” written by exec producer Graham Yost and directed by Peter Werner, found Quarles (Neal McDonough) framing Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) for the execution of Gary (William Ragsdale) on Winona’s lawn, and Sheriff Napier (David Andrews) booking Boyd (Walton Goggins) on trumped-up charges of attempted murder. (Though doesn’t it feel about time for Boyd to blow up something?) As we’ll be doing each week throughout the season, we asked Yost to take us inside the writers room.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with the barroom scene with singer Lynda Kay.
GRAHAM YOST: Our music supervisor thought she might be a good fit for the show, and I heard a number of her songs, and we used one in the second season when Mags is brushing Loretta’s hair in 209 and getting her ready for the big party at Mags’ house. We loved that. As we were in the writers room getting set for season 3 and starting to write, Lynda came and visited and played two songs for us. We were just struck by her presence, and I’ve always loved that song “Jack & Coke.” It’s a Justified kind of song. Where Raylan is this episode, it’s not long after he and Winona are done, and I wanted to remind the audience a little bit of his mental state. And the other big thing was that I wanted to place Raylan in time and location when the other stuff is going on at the start of the episode.
Stuff like Gary getting killed. When did you know that was how his story would end, with Quarles trying to pin it on Raylan?
Back to the practicalities of doing a television show in this day and age, we shot episodes 307 and 308 together. We call it crossboarding. So Peter Werner, who’s been with us since the first season, we gave him that burden. It’s a bear. We knew that one of those episodes had to have a lot of stuff on our stages. Because when you do two episodes together, what you do is you try to save a day — instead of two seven-day episodes, you do two episodes in 13 days. So, we knew that 308, and 307 to a certain extent, needed to have a lot of Marshals office stuff. The idea just came up: what if this is an episode where the walls are closing in on Raylan? How can we get there? What are the elements that are involved? Way back for 303, I’d come up with Raylan throwing the bullet at Duffy. We were kicking around ideas for 308, and it came out of the room: Someone said, “What if they used that bullet to kill?” And it was like, “Holy s—, that is a cool idea.” So that gave us that big twist. The other thing was, what if Quarles uses Raylan’s relationship with Boyd and the fact that Sammy is being watched by the FBI as a way to go at Raylan?
I loved when the Lexington PD detective said that Raylan’s bullet line to Duffy in 303 was one of the coolest things he’d ever heard.
That was improv’d by him on the day.
Let’s talk about Raylan guessing that something had been planted in his car and trying to get to it. As a viewer, you were happy Tim helped Raylan slip out, but you were also tense thinking that if Raylan got caught at his car, he’d look even more guilty.
There were big questions about God, can we shoot him running up stairs? And where are those stairs gonna be? I said, “Oh, just find stairs somewhere in the studio. It just needs to be stairs.” The big thing about that sequence was Raylan and Tim. The theme of the episode became people being incredibly pissed off with Raylan, yet nevertheless having his back. Art is incredibly pissed off at Raylan, but he ultimately has his back. Tim, who is just driven to distraction by Raylan Givens, nonetheless lets him go to do what he has to do. And then the big one is Winona. I mean, Winona saves his life. That was the fun thing for us about the whole episode, in a way: You think you’ve seen the last of Winona, to a degree, in 306, and she just pops up in this episode and does this thing which is really cool.
So did that person poke around Raylan’s car so he’d be focused on it rather than Winona’s house?
Our logic there was that the bartender saw someone by the car, and by being seen, that person left before they could plant the gun. That probably would’ve been Mike, Duffy’s henchman. He couldn’t plant it in the car, so he went to Plan B, which was to plant it in Winona’s house.
After Winona retrieved the gun from the house and gave it to Raylan, she told him not to coming looking for her.
We will see her again. That’s all I’ll say.
So now Raylan has the murder weapon in his possession. When will we return to that?
In season 3 of Justified.
Well played. Is Raylan off the hook since the FBI won’t reveal who made them think to link Raylan and Boyd?
It’s like we can’t prove it, but we don’t know. That will play out in subsequent episodes.
Where was Rachel [Erica Tazel] when all this was going down?
Listen, I think I’ve said this before to you: One of the hardest things to do in this show is to get Rachel and Tim involved. If there’s any great failing of this season, it’s that we haven’t used enough of Erica. We will find more fun stuff to do with Rachel next year. I hope that I am sufficiently apologetic to her, because she is just so wonderful. We all love her. Certainly the audience does, too. So it’s just bad showrunning. Let’s just say that.
Speaking of Tim, his line “I mean, she’s older for a Victoria’s Secret girl, but that’s how you know she knows what she’s doing.” Was that in the script?
That was just improvised on set.
Before we leave that story line: The spare key hidden by Raylan’s gas tank. I’d never seen that before, but it makes sense for a lawman to have a spare, incase people take his keys thinking he can’t then chase them.
Absolutely. That was one of those big [conversations]: Where is the key gonna be? Do we need to show the key? Do we need to see how Raylan gets out of this? We went back and forth. I think I’d had it under a bumper, on one of those magnet box things and someone came up with the gas tank, and it was just really cool and easy to shoot.
Let’s talk about Napier parading Boyd in front of the TV camera after arresting him.
[Laughs] Honestly, I looked at the script, and I was like, “Man, this is short, I need another scene.” It’s like, well, you know, we got David Andrews, so he’s great. We know Walton’s great. Let’s just have a scene there, that whole idea of Napier being this slightly preening peacock who knows how to do the perp walk for maximum effect.
So Boyd is headed to jail, but won’t be with Dickie.
Right. He’s just in the Harlan County lock up.
Looking ahead, will he be in there for awhile or back out causing trouble?
Just yes. He will be in there for awhile, and he’ll be back out causing trouble. I think the audience can tell we’re not interested in Boyd’s long-term incarceration at this point in a season. But it’s how does he get out? And that’s a big part of what episode 9 is about. And it’s no escape. It’s cleverness on his part.
Limehouse told Quarles he wants to back the winner of the sheriff race. That was just to fuel Quarles’ feud with Boyd?
As we found out in 306, Errol was behind the use of Tanner in the shooting up at Boyd’s Oxy clinic, and his idea was to set Boyd versus Quarles, clear the field, have them wipe each other out. Now Limehouse has to follow through on that. So Limehouse’s only play is to have both sides align themselves with him. You’ll see where that’s going down the road.
I wanted to touch on the speech Duffy (Jere Burns) gave to Raylan about being inclined to break him over that step-ladder and paint the room an entirely different color — that was a memorable little monologue…
Yeah. I didn’t write that. The episode may say ‘Written by Graham Yost,’ but that was probably written by [producer] Taylor Elmore and/or Jere Burns and Tim Olyphant, working it out on the day. I had written a far less energetic scene that wasn’t nearly as good. So that was something that the team created.
Whose idea was Duffy’s MythBusters reference in that scene?
That was me.
Are you a fan of MythBusters?
Of course. Ohmygod, it’s a great show.
I was kinda upset though when they busted the myth of Real Genius‘ overflowing house of popcorn.
Look, they did a whole episode on Speed [which Yost wrote]. So, they giveth and taketh away.
Raylan told Duffy to tell Quarles that he has the gun and can return it to Quarles whenever he wants. Sammy officially cut off Quarles, and Quarles went to see Limehouse. A desperate Quarles is terrifying to me. What can you tease about where he’s headed?
I would say this, we saw Quarles get into trouble in 307 with Raylan and Raylan’s shutting down the house. We saw Quarles figure a way out in 308 and almost get Raylan — almost pin him for murder and get him investigated for his relationship with Boyd. That didn’t pan out. The bit of Quarles driving the car [in 308] was something that we added after the episode was shot. That was something from Neal: He thought it would be cool if Quarles started using the product. So, we thought let’s establish that in 308. From 308 on, Quarles is on a bad spiral. Everything hinges for Quarles on making the Oxy clinic thing in Harlan work, so he has to have Napier win the relection. That will play out in 309 and 310. And then the fallout from that is the rest of the season. Quarles makes moves that almost work out, but he becomes more and more desperate. I think that people could sorta spot that coming, to a degree, from the opening of the season. This is a pretty messed up guy. It will come to the forefront, and that’s certainly where we’re headed. We get to stuff in 311 and 312 with Quarles that is pretty insane.
‘Justified’ EP Graham Yost talks ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’
‘Justified’ EP Graham Yost talks ‘When the Guns Come Out’
‘Justified’ EP Graham Yost talks ‘Thick as Mud’
‘Justified’ EP Graham Yost talks ‘The Devil You Know’
‘Justified’ EP Graham Yost talks ‘Harlan Roulette’
‘Justified’ EP Graham Yost talks ‘Cut Ties’
‘Justified’ EP Graham Yost talks the season 3 premiere