'Justified' season finale postmortem: EP Graham Yost dissects 'Slaughterhouse'

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Let’s back up and talk about Quarles getting to Noble’s Holler. Where did the idea come from to have Quarles kidnap a camping mother and her two Christian rock-loving teen sons?
That was me. I just figured what would he do? He’s gonna know that there’ll be roadblocks put up. How did he figure he could get past them? It ended up being a kind of misdirect because his plan is not to get past the roadblocks, his plan is to get the ability to move around and have hostages. Just trying to make those characters particular, the idea of a mother and two sons sorta reflects Quarles’ life and, to a degree, Raylan’s. Of course, Quarles didn’t have a father after a certain point BECAUSE HE’D KILLED HIM, but nevertheless, there’s the idea that life would have been fine if it’d just been mom and me. And I think Raylan shares that. One of the writers on the show, Jon Worley, knows Shawn and Cathy Ryan, because he’d worked on Terriers. And my wife Connie and I met Shawn and Cathy last fall at a film festival and hung out with them for a few days, so when Jon suggested that maybe Cathy could play that mother part, we jumped at it.

Having it be two sons who ultimately end up alone with Quarles — I assume that was to worry us since we know his history with young boys.
Yeah. I think in the very first iteration, it was just one boy. And then we realized we needed one to drive and a younger one to then be used as a hostage later. It was, “Oh, let’s just add a kid.” It’s funny. They were both great. The younger one, who played Mitch, there was another project where we were looking for someone, and I said, “What about that kid?” And Cami Patton, our casting director, said, “Oh, he’s already on The Glades.” It was like, Yeah, we didn’t find a kid that good. He’s already working.

So Quarles calls Theo (Adam Arkin), and Theo was really willing to let him come home for the $250,000 he owed him and $250,000 more for Sammy’s pain and suffering?
As much as Quarles’ perversion has completely alienated Theo, he knows where that comes from. He knows what Quarles’ father did, so as repugnant as he finds it, he still has a little bit of affection for Quarles deep down inside. And, he’s a business man. He owed him $250,000. Here’s a way for him to make another $250,000. Sure, he’ll go for it.

When we first talked about Theo, you told me Adam Arkin wanted Theo to have a certain physical trait. It was the eye?
Yeah, one of his eyes is milky, and there’s also a scar about that eyebrow. Now, it’s funny: I had said, “Please, don’t make him a Bond villain.” I was concerned. But Fred and I were looking at it and I was like, “Eh, it could’ve been milkier. We could have upped the scar on the eyebrow.” I was so afraid of it being cheesy that it became almost too subtle. That was just my reticence.

Quarles then had the boy Mitch call Raylan so he’d meet them at Noble’s Holler and Quarles could try talking Limehouse into giving him the $500,000. That was very convenient, the way Art told Raylan to go back to the office to get his files on Quarles so Raylan would be alone to get the call.
Yeah, I mean, you can kind of hear the typewriter keys on that one. We generally try not to do that. Usually in our show, Art would say something and Raylan would say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second” and they would have a discussion. But you know what, we just needed to get to it.

And Quarles had Raylan’s cell number memorized?
He’s had it for some time. In our world, anyone can get anyone’s phone number, and anyone can find out where anyone lives. Unless we need to make a big story point about it.

There was that great exchange of looks between Quarles and Mitch when Quarles had him reciting to Raylan and Mitch got confused when Quarles said, “I will kill you.”
There was some debate over that in editing, and I said [in petulant child voice] “No, I want it in.” And then Bill and Fred said, “Ah, okay, you’re right, it’s cool.”

Fans love those moments of comedy, like when Quarles asked Raylan for Ibuprofen.
That wasn’t scripted. I think that was Neal, Tim, Fred, or Dean on the day. Neal was having so much fun playing this guy as though he still has a plan, he’s still workin’ it, but he’s in a lot of pain. He’s been on fire and he’s been blown up and he’s still going. He’s pretty unstoppable… until he loses his arm.

We’d been waiting all season for Quarles to reveal his rail gun to Raylan.
And Raylan says, “That’s cute.” We debated how that was gonna go. Charlie Almanza, our tech advisor, said in a situation like that, a Marshal wouldn’t give up his weapons unless he got something in return. And so, we went down that path, and then realized if Quarles slides the rail gun out, he’s in a more superior position because now he can kill the kid and Raylan at the same time. So, that let Quarles win that.

And Raylan saying he’d want the one gun back…
And then saying about the other one, “That one you can keep.”

That’s the gun Quarles had used to kill Gary?
Yes. When Raylan gets out of the car, he’s got this feeling that Quarles is probably gonna want his guns. And so he put that gun down the back of his pants. He said he would get it back to him. So he did.

An equally cool move: How did the idea for Limehouse keeping his money in a pig carcass come about?
Some of it was just practical. We needed the money to be on site. We didn’t want them to go anywhere else. Someone had heard stories about people storing stuff in frozen meat. At one point, it was gonna be frozen. No, that’s too difficult. We could have had it under the floorboards, but it was a cooler scene to have that. And now I know what you’re gonna ask about, and I don’t know. I don’t know whose idea “piggy bank” was. It wasn’t scripted. It was a set line.

Let’s talk about the pig tongue scene then.
Nichelle Tramble Spellman wrote that. She took a pass and just came up with a whole run about pig tongue being a very specific flavor that only some people like. We just thought it would add to the history of Errol and Limehouse.

Was there ever talk of Limehouse killing Errol instead of sending him away?
That’s not Limehouse’s thing. If it’s not necessary, he wouldn’t do it, especially to Errol, who was like a son to him even though in age they’re probably only around 15 years apart… There is a little bit of back story about that scene. The guy sitting next to Errol was supposed to be played by T.O.N.E-Z, who is the hip hop artist who raps the main title song. We were supposed to shoot the Limehouse and Errol scene on a Friday, but because Tim was sick as a dog on that Thursday, they had to pull up everything that didn’t have Tim in it and shoot it on Thursday so it gave Tim a day to rest. When Raylan comes into the Marshals office and they’re gonna take Arlo into the conference room and Raylan stops to talk to Art, Tim was running a fever of about 103°, 104°. So they added in Art saying, “Are you okay?” And he says, “I could use a little sleep.” So anyway, poor T.O.N.E-Z flies in too late on Thursday to make that scene and then had to leave on Friday before the scene was shot. He had done a small bit in an earlier episode when Dickie is calling Limehouse about getting the money when Dickie and Dewey have been sprung from prison. He hands Limehouse the phone and says, “He just keeps on calling.” So there you go.

And we needed to see Raylan drive by Errol, so Errol could come back.
As originally scripted, there was a scene on the bridge where Raylan drives up and Bernard [Cleavon R. McClendon III], who was the young kid Limehouse is dressing down for falling asleep on the bridge the first time we met him, was with some guys blocking the way into Noble’s Holler. Raylan says, “Bernard, I need to get pass.” And then Bernard lets him go because Raylan says I’m a freakin’ U.S. Marshal. So Errol passes by, sees Raylan, stops his car, comes out, and asks Bernard who was in the car. So we put more of a spotlight on the fact that Errol had seen Raylan. But [the drive-by in the episode] worked well enough, given the time constraints…

NEXT: A look ahead to season 4.

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