Walt and Branch; a team? The way things are going, it just might happen. It seems like Branch has lost a bit of that cocky swagger since losing the election, and Walt is finally ready to let go of his issues with his deputy. Writer Sarah Nicole Jones talks about taking these two in a new direction:
"I was beyond excited to tackle these story elements. We have seen Walt and Branch at odds over the election for a while now, but given Branch's loss, Cady's accident, etc. I asked myself, 'What does the future look like for these two men? How will they interact? What will their dynamic be?' I don't want to give anything away, but I think the audience is in for a real treat as we go forward. They are going to be able to see a different side to Walt and to Branch that we haven't experienced before."
Could this be the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
Between taxidermist Lee Rosky's shop and poacher Keith Dixon's home, there's a whole lot of stuffed creatures in this episode. Jones discusses tackling this hairy subject.
"From a writing standpoint, it was a joy. Taxidermy is a fascinating culture and I think, at its heart, it's a true art form. We always seek to include unique and diverse elements of 'the west' into our show."
Diverse, indeed. That's a whole lot of animal parts.
Production Designer Dave Blass was excited to dive in to the world of taxidermy as well.
"Like all things on Longmire it was a chance to get immersed in a world that few know about. Sure we use taxidermy in most every set on the show, but to go behind the scenes of that and see how the pieces are made and what goes into it was fascinating. Like most people I thought when you got a fish 'stuffed' they used the real fish... but nope, they just have a fiberglass mould and paint it to look like your fish."
Need help? Ask the friendly elkman!
Two animal-heavy sets featured in this episode were Dixon's poacher's den and Rosky's taxidermy studio. Blass explains a bit about how Rosky's studio was created, saying, "The set was actually created from scratch by Decorator Marcia Calosio and her amazing staff inside the building that is the 'Red Pony' exterior. They worked so hard to make this place both visually interesting and authentic."
Rosky's Taxidermy interior.
As for Dixon's house, Blass explains, "We wanted to go creepy and cool, so that walking into this place you knew this guy was up to no good. A bit of a 'Silence of the Lambs' vibe. Dark and edgy, but different from the rest of the taxidermy sets we had featured in this episode."
Creepy Keith has a creepy garage.
This episode featured multiple victims. Poor Connor the game warden was one, but the headless elk found next to his body was considered a victim as well. Blass gives some insight into how the headless elk, among many other sadly deceased critters, was created for the show.
Poor little headless elk.
"Prop Master David Baumann does an amazing job with all of the dead animals on the show. He created the dead deer that were in the compost bin in episode two of the season, and created all of the severed deer heads for this episode. It's a process similar to regular taxidermy, but our pieces must remain more flexible so they don't look like mounted animals."
Script Coordinator Emily Thomas shows off the other side of the elk. Ew.
Walt makes a trip to the local high school to talk to Coach Hargis about Troy and the Velvetine supplement. For the sake of authenticity, Blass says the production team always tries to keep it real.
"Whenever possible we try to do real-for-real. We had a real doctor play the doctor in the scene, had the real local football players play the team, and real scientists help us set up the displays in the lab."
These are the football players. Not the scientists. Not that they couldn't be scientists. They just aren't right now.
So it turns out that Ling's laboratory in the episode is an actual center for scientific research. Blass says, "The set was created at the Santa Fe University in a lab that is working to change algae into fuel. We worked with the students and teachers to create our real environment that was both accurate and visually interesting."
Due to Omar's recklessness, Henry falls for an O.I.T. (Old Indian Trick) when he puts his foot in one of Keith Dixon's Apache Death Traps. It may seem like something out of a horror movie, but it's actually a real thing. Writer Sarah Nicole Jones says:
"I had the great opportunity to speak with a few game wardens and forest rangers who provided amazing insight into hunting and poaching. Apparently, it's an age-old survival trap, used by various tribes and trappers. It's still utilized to this day, using the same methods as 150 years ago. Just goes to show you, in Wyoming, 'if ain't broke, don't fix it."
Cutaway shot of the death trap. Before adding scary spikes, of course.
Production Designer Dave Blass explains how the effect was achieved.
"At the location in the field we had several holes dug (without traps) that LDP just stepped into, then we created an insert box that was like a cutaway of the earth, and that had rubber stakes that were cut around Lou's leg, tipped with blood so they looked like they were sticking into his skin."
Robert Taylor and Jim Beaver; just a couple of cool sheriffs, sheriffing around.
Guest star Jim Beaver is probably a familiar face to many, due to his roles on Deadwood, Justified, Supernatural, and many other popular shows. His appearance on the show was a fun reunion for Blass.
"It was great to have Jim on the show. As I design Justified as well, it was particularly funny as Jim was the sheriff on that show, and we had just done a big season-long election with Walt becoming the new sheriff in town."
Extra Bonus Fun Fact: Jim Beaver was a sheriff in Justified, but did you know he also played a sheriff in the TV show, Harper's Island? He just has a sheriffy vibe.
Photos and production notes courtesy of Dave Blass, Sarah Nicole Scott, and Emily Thomas.