In Slate’s Justified TV Club, Rachael Larimore will IM each week with a different fan of the FX drama set in Harlan County, Ky. This week she chats about “Ghosts” with special guest Jacob Pitts, who plays Marshal Tim Gutterson.
Rachael Larimore: Thank you, Jacob, for joining the TV Club to discuss the season finale of Justified. But before we get to that pretty-darn-perfect episode, I wanted to talk a little bit about your storyline with Colton Rhodes this season. A lot of fans were glad to see Tim get a big story of his own, and it was very affecting. Did you know from early on that Ron Eldard’s character would be a troubled war vet and your foil? Or did that develop from week to week, kind of how we saw it at home?
Jacob Pitts: At the top of the season, I had been told some vague thing about an old war buddy of Boyd’s coming into town, crossing paths with Gutterson—or at least I took it vaguely. I’ve learned things can change somewhat abruptly week to week, but yeah, it was nice to see this relationship come to a full bloom of sorts. Television’s a hell of a place for a neurotic.
Larimore: Episode 11, when the marshals had to get Drew out of Harlan alive, had so many memorable moments, not the least of which was your phone call with Colt, trying to figure out if the abandoned cars were rigged with explosives. It was one of those things the show does so well—mixing tension and humor in just the right proportion. Since you were in different locations, did you and Ron Eldard shoot your lines separately? What did you think when you saw the end result?
Pitts: As a matter of fact, during Colt’s side of the scene, in the woods, I am just behind camera, doing my side of it, just as the next day, Ron sat in the back of the SUV, doing his side. I haven’t actually seen it—I can’t stand to watch anything I do—but I’ll tell you this: I’m a pescatarian—haven’t had red meat in four years—and as I drove home from work that day, I was so excited as to be desperately searching for some celebratory In-N-Out Burger. Fortunately for my diet, there was nothing that was terribly convenient, but thank god for Ron Eldard, is what I’m really getting at.
Larimore: It’s always fascinating to learn about how things are put together behind the scenes. Last question about Colton Rhodes: In their final scene together, Tim had to confront Colt at the tent church where he’d gone to look for Ellen May, and he ended up having to shoot him. How did you prepare for that, knowing that Tim had to have greatly conflicted feelings about Colt?
Pitts: Other than knowing the lines and having some idea of where I was coming from, as little as possible. Both as characters and as actors, that scene seemed to depend so much on what the other guy was going to do. I just tried to be as receptive to Ron as I could. I went to the firing range throughout the week before, in order to get my body used to rounds going off. I don’t think that really took.
Larimore: It was really moving, as a viewer. Colton Rhodes was a character we were supposed to dislike, and Ron Eldard played him such a way that even though you knew Colt had to die, his death was tragic. Now, let’s talk about the finale, where a lot of other people died, and it was far less emotional. Just to review: Raylan starts his suspension and is off to spend time with Winona, and Boyd and Ava are trying to take care of Delroy’s body. But everyone gets to where they need to be a little too late. Raylan finds Tonin’s men waiting for him at Winona’s, with a gun drawn on Winona; and Boyd and Ava find that the cops have already found Delroy’s body. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and things turn out very differently by the end of the day for Raylan than they do for Boyd and Ava. I thought we might be in for a long standoff between Raylan and Tonin’s men, but he quickly dispatched them so we can get to the heart of the episode, which is whether or not Raylan is going to kill Nicky Augustine himself. The writers did a good job of leaving that in doubt up until the last minute. Do you think, though, there is any other way they could have played that?
Pitts: Sure. Cut to Gutterson at home, drinking, being very impulsive with the Home Shopping Network. I think he would order a lot of vintage Super Soakers, under the impression this was a neat delivery system for alcohol. Unfortunately, in the morning, this would prove to be a gross miscalculation.
Larimore: It’s true, the downside of Raylan being on suspension is that we didn’t have more Tim and Rachel in the show. At least Art got to come out and warn Raylan not to go after Nicky Augustine, which was our cue that Raylan was about to go after Nicky Augustine. On the bright side, Tim didn’t have as gross of a job as Jimmy, who had to go grave-digging with Boyd and then body-swapping with Ava.
Pitts: I understand Jesse Luken broke an ankle filming that episode.
Larimore: Ouch! Speaking of Boyd and Ava, last week they both talked about how events really come down to a series of choices, one after the other. Ava made the right choice not to kill Ellen May, but that came too late. In the end, Ava’s choices catch up with her (and Boyd’s choices really, since he put faith in Paxton and that backfired in the worst way possible). It stinks, because Delroy wasn’t exactly an upstanding citizen, but somebody had to pay in the end, right?
Pitts: Well, that seems the satisfying thing, story-wise. Unfortunately, in life, most of the time no one pays, and if they do, then yeah, it seems to be over piddling lots like Delroy. I don’t know where Ava (as a character) is going, but I’m more than a little resentful and jealous of Joelle Carter’s ability to pull it off. One of the most underrated actors going.
Larimore: Ava’s scene the week before, where she ended up throwing a drink in Nicky Augustine’s face and almost setting him on fire … I hope the Emmy voters were watching.
Pitts: Emmy Schmemmy: She needs not your pathetic trophies!
Larimore: We saw last week that Justified got picked up for a fifth season. Do you have any hints for us, as to what we can expect?
Pitts: No idea. No one does—but I reserve Graham Yost’s right to pull out the tablecloth at the end of the sixth season and say “Ah-hah! I had it worked out all along.” I was just thinking, though, that as there’s been talk of Reservoir Dogs homages lately, that I would love to do a Rain Man homage with Dewey Crowe.