SPOILER ALERT! This week’s episode of Justified, “Coalition,” written by Taylor Elmore and directed by Bill Johnson, revealed who really had Mags’ money, set Boyd (Walton Goggins) and Quarles (Neal McDonough) on a collision course designed by Limehouse (Mykelti Williamson), and gave Raylan (Timothy Olyphant) another reason to want Quarles dead. As we’ll be doing each week throughout the season, we asked executive producer Graham Yost to take us inside the writers’ room. Bonus: This week he also offers five teases for next week’s season 3 finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We need to discuss Quarles smoking Oxy through a shotgun with the whores Boyd had watching him.
Graham Yost: [Excitedly] Yeah. Okay, so here’s the story. Taylor Elmore had had dental surgery and he had to write that whole script in a weekend. He wrote the whole script in like two days. I think he was high on Vicodin, coming off this big round of dental surgery, and wrote what we call ‘the whore party’ scene. I think that was the first scene he wrote of the episode, and then it got moved around a little bit, but that stayed pretty much intact. That caused a lot of raised eyebrows among the producers. But I thought it was worth going for, so we did.
I was actually worried one of those whores was going to lose her head.
No, we’re not gonna blow off someone’s head! We’re Justified. We’re a prim and proper show. No, that’s not what it was ever about.
And so they put a long chain on Quarles so he could reach the bathroom, and so he could eventually tie it around someone’s neck.
We built the long chain in just so he could have movement, just so he wasn’t tied to a bed, and just so we could put a kimono on him… [Laughs] so that he could do drugs with whores and dance to REO Speedwagon. So when we realized the chain was long enough, it’s like, okay, let’s use that.
REO Speedwagon was a nice choice.
Taylor just wanted a real ’80s power ballad playing. Because we couldn’t afford the performance rights, because we’re a basic cable show, we had to have it redone by an L.A. band, and they did a spectacularly good job. It was just musicians cobbled together for this purpose.
Moving on to Errol (Demetrius Grosse), Dickie (Jeremy Davies), and Boyd… first of all, I loved the look on Errol’s face when he was waiting for Dickie to come into the bar.
Demetrius and Jeremy are great actors. They really make stuff like that land.
Was any other form of violence considered or was the plan always for Boyd to beat Dickie while trying to suffocate him with a bag?
Originally, it was Boyd dunking his head in a sink and holding him under. But Jeremy said he’s prone to sinus infections and didn’t want to do that. So we came up with the bag. The bag was so much better, because we could see his face. The idea of him bleeding underneath the bag was really kind of disturbing.
How did the idea for Limehouse making them think the money was in a safe deposit box in a bank come about?
Listen, this whole episode went through many iterations before we landed on what we got. There was gonna be a big robbery of mining machinery and all this stuff, but we knew we wanted Limehouse to be setting up both Quarles and Boyd. That was our goal. That was the way he was gonna deal with them: Set them up, and have them get arrested. It doesn’t really work out that way because Boyd’s a little bit smarter and Quarles is a cockroach. So then we came up with the idea of a bank and a safe deposit box.
And Boyd knew right away Errol was setting him up.
As he says, the second he came in the door he knew something was up. These bedfellows were too strange, and it’s that old phrase, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Let’s talk about Arlo (Raymond J. Barry). There was that moment at the start of the episode when Arlo said he was proud of Boyd. For me, it bookended nicely with the quality time Raylan and Art (Nick Searcy) spent together in last week’s episode. You wanted to remind us where those loyalties lie?
Yeah. That there is a closeness that has developed between Boyd and Arlo, something obviously that Raylan and Arlo never had.
Boyd left Johnny (David Meunier) alone with Dickie and Errol to go check on Ava (Joelle Carter), who was supposed to be keeping an eye on Arlo. I feel like maybe that wasn’t the smartest move to leave Johnny alone with two able-bodied men.
Well, he’s armed. It wasn’t the smartest move, but Boyd is concerned about the safety of Ava more than anything.
We never saw where Arlo went after he ditched Ava.
We will find out in the season finale where Arlo went.
To the bank?
You will find out in the season finale where Arlo went. What? Are you gonna go down a list of locations and see if my eyes go to the left?
And there was never talk of Arlo shooting Ava in that scene?
I’m just checking!
What’s wrong with you? You want a shotgun to go off and take off a poor whore’s head. You want Arlo to shoot Ava. You’re trigger happy. Settle down.
Errol eventually told Dickie the money is with Loretta (Kaitlyn Dever). How long have you known she’d have the money?
When we had the scene with Loretta and Raylan earlier in the season and her saying, “What, do you think I’ve got the money?” It just kinda went around the room, and we all said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if, in fact, she does have it?” And then, what would Raylan do? So we’ve been heading toward that conclusion for a long time.
Raylan and Limehouse made a deal that she can keep the money. Where does she keep the money? In her room?
I don’t know.
We’re done with the money story line now?
Yes. It’s wrapped up.
Raylan ended up shooting Dickie, but he’s still alive. Does he figure into the season finale?
He does not. He’s goin’ back to the big house.
Limehouse told Quarles that Boyd still had to pay for wanting to steal Mags’ money from him. He sent Quarles to kill Boyd. Duffy (Jere Burns) detonated a bomb on Quarles’ car when Quarles and Boyd were standing near it, and the blast knocked Boyd out. Trooper Tom (Peter Murnik) arrived on the scene and Quarles shot him. Is Tom dead?
You will see at the top of the next episode. Of course, Peter Murnik said, “It’s just a flesh wound. A little bandage, he’ll be fine.”
Yost has told us before that Raylan’s drive to “get Quarles” reaches new heights in the season finale. Here are five more vague teases for next week:
• “Raylan gets something that he’s wanted for a long time, but it’s not as sweet as he thought it might have been.”
• “There’s a big surprise about Boyd. There’s a big surprise about Arlo.”
• Theo Tonin (Adam Arkin) makes another appearance. “We will not see the ear,” Yost says.
• Will we see Limehouse wield his cleaver? “It’s Chekhov and a gun. The slaughterhouse that comes out in the first few episodes is certainly to feature in the last,” Yost says. The season finale is, in fact, titled “Slaughterhouse.” Promising!
• Brad Paisley’s “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” won’t close out the episode as it did the first two season finales. “And when you see it, you’ll understand why,” Yost says.