Joelle Carter

[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Tuesday's episode of Justified. Read at your own risk.]

On Tuesday's JustifiedAva Crowder took control of her own destiny.

After weeks of sitting behind bars waiting for Boyd (Walton Goggins) to come to her rescue and being manipulated by others in the prison's power structure, Ava (Joelle Carter) made two bold moves.  The first (and most heartbreaking) involved her basically breaking up with Boyd, telling her fiancé that, for now, she had to go it alone. 

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With her mind free of the complications of the outside world, Ava then set out on a more dangerous mission: killing Judith (Dale Dickey), the mother hen of the prison that controls the drug flow. But even though prison nurse Rowena (Deidrie Henry) would only help Ava smuggle in the drugs if Judith was out of the picture, Ava didn't want to go through with the murder. Unfortunately, Judith rejected Ava's proposal to work together. Instead, Judith attacked Ava and, after a brutal brawl in the chapel, only Ava walked out alive.

So, is Ava the new queen of the prison? Or will she have more of Judith's goons coming after her? And is this really the end for Boyd and Ava's relationship? TVGuide.com chatted with Carter to answer all our burning questions.

Has it been hard shooting all your scenes behind bars this season?
Joelle Carter: In some ways it's like being on a completely different show. I even watch the other parts of the show, and I get intrigued, like I'm watching someone else's TV show. I go, "Oh, what's going to happen to Dewey and Boyd and Raylan?" It's almost like no acting required. It puts me in an isolated position, away from the other cast in a completely different location. So, I've kind of gotten a feeling of being stuck somewhere I can't get out of. It's been different and I miss my peeps, but I also have the experience of acting with some wonderful ladies. Ava's whole journey has been hard to shrug off when I leave [the set] because she's just being put upon continuously this whole season.

In this episode, Ava makes a tough choice to cut Boyd out of her life. What led to Ava's decision?
Carter: Boyd's been Ava's shield and that shield's not there now. She's left to her own defenses. I think she's just trying to put herself in the strongest position and keeping that inkling of hope [of Boyd saving her] is just not good for her. She's trying to break the ties so that she's not even thinking about the outside world. And maybe she's having second thoughts about what she's done to get where she is, you know? 

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It was a heartbreaking scene. I think viewers have really come to root for Boyd and Ava.
Carter:
 I don't doubt for a second that they still love each other and have great loyalty for each other. It's just, she has been let down a little bit. I don't think Ava thinks there's any way she can get out. So, she's mainly trying to survive, and she's trying to put Boyd in the back of her mind as much as she can. It's a big struggle.

Is she trying to maybe also take some of the pressure off Boyd?
Carter: I'm sure it's all of the above. Boyd's out there and he's doing all this stuff to potentially get Ava out, but he's kind of lost control of the journey. In the beginning, the mission was about Ava, but now I'm not sure what it's about. So, yeah, I think she would want to relieve his pressure in any way she could.

How hard is it for Ava to see Boyd's reaction when she says goodbye?
Carter: Ava's always been a person of instinct and action, and she sometimes doesn't put a lot of thought in things. But I feel like she probably thought about this, and the reality of it was harder on her than she could have imagined. But coming to that window to talk to him and to ask for what she needed, she was bringing the whole experience of this season, and she's a completely different woman. She's changed. She's getting stronger... and she just has to continue on because the place she's put in right now is not very comfortable. She's done everything by intuition, but now... she's put a little forethought into it. She stood up and walked away, even though I think she probably wanted to fall to the ground and start crying.

Once Ava makes that break from Boyd, she truly is on her own. How confident is she in her ability to survive?
Carter: Well, she has the drugs coming in. She knows Boyd well enough that she knows he's not going to stop that. As angry as he may be at her, he doesn't want to see her die, obviously. I think she knows the only thing she has to do now to be in a place of safety is kill Judith.

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Ava wrestles with that during the episode.
Carter:
 She's kind of started admiring Judith and taking note from her. Even if she doesn't totally believe in what this woman preaches, she believes in how she communicates and how she can give people something to believe in. She doesn't want to kill her, but again, she's put into a really hard position. It's her or somebody else. Honestly, for me, Ava was constantly like, "How can I get out of this?" When she walked into that chapel, she basically believes she can talk Judith out of this.

Ava's not a killer for the flavor of killing. All her kills have been justified or for her own protection or for survival. I think Ava honestly feels like the planet is a better place without those people. I don't think she can freely feel that way about Judith. But Judith couldn't take that deal for them to try to work together again, and Ava just survives like we see her do. It's emotional. It's a hard thing to know that you've put somebody down, even if it's for your own perseverance.

Does it make it any easier that earlier in the episode Penny (Danielle Panabaker) tells Ava she wants Judith dead too?
Carter:
 After Rowena reneges on her deal, Ava's constantly being taught you can't really trust anyone. So, people are telling her that they want Judith dead, too, and she [thinks], "OK, maybe people will have my back in this decision." But she's left with just not knowing. Ultimately, you have to do what you have to do, or you're going to be dead. So she has all these thoughts and all these opinions, but in the end, it's like, "What's my next step to keep me alive in this place?"

Do you think Ava ever really thought Judith would agree to her deal?
Carter: 
Faced with the other alternative, she was hoping Judith would take the deal. ... Deep, deep down inside, she knew Judith probably wasn't going to say yes, but she had to take a chance. Also, Ava doesn't like to be pushed into things. Someone was telling her she had to go kill somebody; it's not her choice. When she killed her ex-husband, it was her choice. When she killed Delroy, it was her choice, even if it was in the moment of passion both times. This wasn't her choice, and she was trying to find a way of maintaining some kind of control of the situation. But she wasn't naïve about it. She was ready if something was going to happen, but I think in her heart she hoped maybe she wouldn't have to kill Judith.

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Because Ava did feel the other murders were justified, will this one hang more heavily on her conscience?
Carter: If it's kill or be killed, you kind of come out of this like, "Well, I survived, so now I have to move forward."  You carry a bit of guilt because you did something that in your own mind isn't moral and just. But in the environment that she's in, she has to either suck it up and use it and go on, or it crushes her and she dies. So, I think it will give her some strength and some power to move forward. Nobody else knows what went down in that room. Nobody knows the fear she was carrying. All they know is that Ava walked out, and that gives Ava some power. So, she has to use it.

Killing Judith might satisfy Rowena, but has Ava also made new enemies?
Carter: She's definitely carrying around doubt. Yes, she did something that Rowena wanted her to do, but now she is either in change or she's fighting all of Judith's people. She can still get the drugs in, but now she's left with, "Where does this leave me in the hierarchy? Am I the queen or am I still fighting to stay on top of the hill?"

Should fans hold out hope for Boyd and Ava in the future?
Carter: There are bumps, but I'm holding out for them! So, I would hope that everyone else will hold out for them too. It's been bruised a little bit, their relationship. It's tender right now, and they'll have to figure out how to mend it and overcome that if they can. And they have to figure out who they are now.

Right, if Ava is the queen in prison, will she even need Boyd on the outside? 
Carter: 
I don't know. There's more mental and emotional torture ahead for Ava. We really get to see more and more how this woman's going to hold onto that amazing humanity that she has, and how she's going to make all her beliefs for life come true. She was a woman that had simple but pure dreams, and it's kind of taken on a life of its own, this journey of hers. So I'm just hoping that she makes it through Season 5, and that she walks away in the sunset. And it it's with Boyd, I think it would be nice.

Justified airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.