'Justified' postmortem: EP Graham Yost dissects 'Raw Deal'

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Image Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Justified, “Raw Deal” written by VJ Boyd and directed by Bill Johnson, stop reading now. As he’ll do throughout the season, showrunner Graham Yost takes us inside the writers room.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with Art putting Raylan on walk-in duty. In the end, Raylan was pissed enough to tell Art that he’s taking a vacation and when he gets back Art will either treat him like a deputy again or transfer him.
GRAHAM YOST: We were just like, how are we going to kick off this story? How is Raylan going to get into it? And we just thought well, what about walk-ins? We haven’t done walk-ins on our show, but it’s probably a part of the real life there in the eastern district of Kentucky. That’s probably a little bit of a crap detail for someone like Raylan who wants to always be out running, and gunning, and chasing down fugitives.

Where did the idea for this walk-in, Larry, to be looking for his online backgammon winnings come from?
Much to the room’s annoyance, I usually just pitch things that I’ve been reading in New Yorker articles. (Laughs) There was something about this guy — he’s referenced in the script — named Falafel, and he is this world-famous backgammon player, arguably the best in the world, and he makes a lot of money doing it in big, big tournaments. I just thought backgammon’s better than poker because it’s a little different. We’re always looking for something that feels a little different.

And the website was owned by Charles Monroe.
We knew it was something that would get Raylan’s attention.

TC, the hacker who wrote the message on the site saying it had been seized by the U.S. Marshals, used two Ls in marshal.
It’s funny because we’ve actually seen it in articles about the show. And various writers on the show, the first time they would write U.S. Marshals would often put an extra L in. So we knew it was a common mistake. We just wanted a hacker — and it was Tim [Olyphant]’s inclination, rightly so, that we make him more of a hillbilly hacker, so he’s not this very typical nerd with big glasses. He’s a little more rough and ready. It’s all stuff from the Zeitgeist: The whole story of that guy who ran Silk Road, basically an illegal drug site, and had $70 million in Bitcoins before he was taken down by the FBI. But the big inspiration for the whole episode is this one line we used last year when Raylan’s talking about Drew Thompson being revealed as Shelby, and he says, “Come on, this guy shot a guy in the face, jumped out of an airplane, made it look like someone else had, and he’s been living right under our noses for 30 years. Don’t you want to be the guy who gets him?” We had that line last year, and [then this hacker’s move] came from a true story that Tim was told on the set by a friend of our tech advisor Charlie Almanza who was also a marshal. This marshal told the story of chasing after this guy, and they get into his apartment on the upper story of an apartment building, and he throws his artificial leg out the window, jumps out after it, shimmies down a tree, puts on his leg, flips him the bird, and runs away. And everyone was saying, “Well, I guess we should alert the local police,” and the marshal there said, “Are you crazy? That guy is awesome. Don’t you want to be the ones who catch him?” Tim was really tickled by that story, so we found a way to work in the one-legged guy jumping out a window and flipping him the bird.

That was one of my favorite line deliveries ever from Tim, when Raylan ran through all that and said, “Come on, I love this guy. Let me catch him.”
Right. There was another story he’d heard about the FBI looking for a hacker — and so this actually relates back to TC as well — but they were looking for a hacker, and they couldn’t find him, and the marshal found him, and he was just talking about that relationship, especially on a long drive, that can sometimes develop between a captured fugitive and the marshal who’s caught him. He kind of liked the guy: He was very smart, and they’d noticed all this stuff that he had, and he said, “Yeah, I’m caller number seven. I know how to rig that.” He just loved the idea of this guy saying to him, “Oh, I can teach you how to be caller number seven if you show me some leniency.”

Kemp (Gary Basaraba), the guy Larry had hired to help him get his money from TC, ended up shooting Larry and demanding it for himself.
Gary Basaraba was one of the main cast members of Boomtown [a 2002 show Yost created for NBC], so we’ve now worked in Neil [McDonough], Mykelti [Williamson], and Basaraba. We still haven’t yet got Donnie [Wahlberg], who’s busy doing Blue Bloods, and Nina Garbiras has her design firm in New York, so I don’t know if we can get something for her, and [Jason] Gedrick, if we can. Anyway, it’s always fun in one of these stories if Raylan’s after a bad guy and there’s a badder person who’s after the guy.

Raylan passed Kemp in the hall as Kemp left with TC’s girlfriend, who he took as collateral. Kemp made that Richard Kimble reference from The Fugitive.
We had a real hard time with that scene, and we went back and forth between having there be even less between them on the staircase and more, and we just went with the bare bones so there was some connection so Raylan could recognize the guy. He has an encounter with him, but we always want to be aware of Raylan being what we call ‘bad marshal,’ which is not realizing that the guy he should be stopping is walking right past him. That’s always a fine line for us.

You can see Raylan is wondering if the guy’s being shady or just being funny.
We hope that that’s how it lands, so Raylan doesn’t come off like an idiot, but he also doesn’t have a Sherlockian perception to realize that this guy is someone he should apprehend.

I loved all the stuff with the marshals’ IT guy, Chris. Had we seen him before?
He’s a bit of a jerk, isn’t he? He was in season two, in the episode that we now call the Slow Speed Chase, where Art was chasing after the elderly bank robber with the oxygen tank. Chris was the one who was setting stuff up there and tracing things. So we just liked having him back.

And the idea for Raylan to ask if there was a way to reply to TC’s blog, which said he’d made a marshal his bitch?
I’ll take credit for that. “Oh no, we’re years away from that kind of thing.” The thing is that every now and again, we just go for standard fare, and frankly, jokes about IT people being arrogant is pretty standard. I mean, Saturday Night Live with Jimmy Fallon years ago had a great IT guy. So occasionally we’ll add an old chestnut because it’s funny.

And it’s funny to see him talk down to badass gunslingers like Raylan and Gutterson. What was the inspiration for Judith (Dale Dickey), the leader of a religious congregation in Ava’s jail that also brings in the heroin?
There was an old tradition in prison that the people who got left alone were people who either belonged to a big gang like white supremacists or black power or Mexican Mafia — some sort of big ethnic or racial identification. But we had always heard that religious people got left alone. So we thought, let’s play with that. But then we found out yeah, that was more back in the ’70s and maybe the ’80s that if you were religious you got left alone. So we thought, what if we set it up that it was religious, but then the reality is the reason they get left alone is because Judith, who’s the head of that congregation, was incredibly tough, and also that they were the ones who were bringing in the drugs. We just totally lucked out that Dale Dickey was available and ready to play.

We’ll be seeing more of her?
Yes.

To join the congregation, Ava was going to have to sleep with a guard each time she picked up the heroin smuggled in through the plumber. Instead, Ava planted the heroin on the plumber’s backpack to put an end to that pipeline, and now she has to figure out how to get heroin into the prison.
Ava is caught in a very horrific video game where each time she thinks she’s gotten out of a jam, there’s something even worse coming. That’s her story this season. From the sixth episode on, it’s one damn thing after another. She was hoping that they could restart it in a different way, and maybe it wouldn’t involve guards. She didn’t have it all planned out. She just knew she didn’t want to be having sex with the guard. Which is Judith’s great line, “I hope to God almighty you didn’t risk all our lives to keep from havin’ to screw a guard.” We always want to remind the audience that Ava’s in prison, and she’s made some really bad choices in her life, and you know, from one point of view, if that’s what you got to do to survive, you do it. But Ava is just always moving and trying to find a different way.

Ava’s new plan should, presumably, involve Boyd. Will this give Joelle Carter and Walton Goggins another reason to have scenes together?
Boyd hasn’t seen her since the fifth episode, and I’ll give you this little tidbit: He doesn’t see her in the next episode either. So, there’s a good amount of time apart for them, and that has consequences. She’s on her own, so she’s doing the best she can on her own.

Let’s talk about both Boyd and Johnny (David Meunier) going to Mexico. I loved the scene of Boyd and Johnny sitting outside as they were waiting for Johnny’s money to be delivered — so the cartel would allegedly side with him — and Boyd saying, “For what is to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun.”
You know, I’m sure that was probably a Walton quote. He loves to have Boyd being incredibly literate. I think that’s about right at the edge of believability of what Boyd would know.

Being a major character, Boyd was never going to die.
Well, I mean, that’s the thing: the audience pretty much knows that Boyd’s not going to die, but how can he [kill Johnny] in a surprising way? We wanted at least a couple scenes between Boyd and Johnny before Johnny met his end, with just a sense of past, and regret, and their years together, and this is where it ended up. Then when it came right down to the killing of Johnny, it was my push that it happen in a way where there was not a big buildup to it. That you think there’s going to be a big buildup to it, but instead it just happens. Because we’ve had big, big moments before, like when Boyd killed Devil, but this just sort of felt like that was the right way to do it.

Danny and Darryl shot Johnny’s men (which led to Boyd shooting Johnny). That’s because they want to keep Boyd in danger so they have jobs?
You get the answer for why they did what they did next episode. They tried to make it look like someone had a gun and was pulling, but we all could see that that wasn’t happening. Now they’re in a jam. The whole thing was, “I don’t care if you guys kill each other. I just don’t want any bodies in the Mexican dirt.” Now there’s four bodies in the Mexican desert. What’s gonna happen?

Moving on to the ladies, that was a nice little encounter between Wendy and Allison. Will we see more of that?
You won’t see much more of that, but we thought, what could Wendy’s moves be to negate the threat that Raylan’s been dangling — which is he will get Darryl’s parole reinstated, and also, couldn’t he just pull Kendal out again? So we liked the idea of Wendy having two cool moves that she could do: one just going right at Allison and blowing up her work life for a little bit, and the other one having contacted the judge in Florida.

Allison and Raylan had drinks after she’d been suspended, and she seemed annoyed with him. Will this affect their relationship moving forward? Getting involved with him has screwed up her career unintentionally.
Well, it’s not so much the screwing up her career, but you’ll see what happens in the next episode. There’s a couple of big Raylan/Allison scenes. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Did Raylan really think Wendy would turn on Darryl?
Well, it’s a standard procedure for marshals and law enforcement to divide and conquer. You can set one criminal against the other, play one off of the other. That’s a really good option.

Wendy seems like she could be genuinely attracted to Raylan, but she also just wants to distract him and throw him off his game. What is the split there?
It’s 55/45, but I’m not going to tell you which way.

Kendal called his Uncle Jack, who we’ve yet to meet. He’ll arrive next episode?
Yes. He’s played by Kyle Bornheimer. We wanted someone a little different, someone who’s not of either the Florida cracker or Kentucky hillbilly world.

Is that a multi-episode arc?
No, but it has great consequences, as you will see. You will go, “Really? Holy s–t!” after you see the next episode.


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