Okay, so here’s the thing. Last week’s sneak-peek teaser for How to Get Away With Murder pretty much promised that this week, we’d finally be getting to the long game, the big-picture scenario here — Sam’s role (or not) in the murder of campus heiress Lila Stangard, the defense of star quarterback Griffin O’Reilly, what Wes’s druggie neighbor Rebecca had to do with all of it, and, of course, how the fearful foursome ended up wrapping up and burying Sam’s body.
And we did. Sort of. A bit. But dammit! They still had to go and put another Case of the Week in there. And I was so enthralled with the big story, it caught me totally off-guard.
Here’s what we know about big picture: Annalise suspected that Sam was involved in the Stangard murder. But now (later) he’s dead. The foursome is involved.
We start, as usual, at the scene of the crime, in Annalise’s darkened office, where Sam’s body lays bludgeoned on the hardwood, and our fearful foursome – Wes, Laurel, Connor, and Mikaela — scramble to get the F out of there. This time, a few more quick details: Rebecca is there and Mikaela is panicked. Note the big, fat diamond ring on her finger, too.
Flashback to two months earlier: Mikaela hot and heavy with her fiancé, Aiden Walker. He works for the mayor in New York, the perfect specimen for an up-and-coming Annalise protégé. But at the office, Annalise is hardly warm when Mikaela introduces Aiden. Plus, it turns out Connor knows the guy from boarding school. And we do mean biblically.
Cut to Wes at the precinct, following up Rebecca’s arrest. But he doesn’t get the goods because he’s not press, and he’s not a lawyer. Yet. He knows to hang around long enough to see Griffin O’Reilly — the victim’s boyfriend — post bail and get out. But drug-dealer Rebecca, guilty by association, is still stuck.
Annalise, meanwhile, meets with the University president and Griffin’s coach, who insists he’s a great kid. But Lila’s moneybags clan donated more than $8 million in the last year alone — a major conflict of interest. So Pres decides that Annalise has to pull her weight — by repping Griffin, the star quarterback at this football-frenzied university — in his pending murder trial.
Annalise demurs, then calls Nate. Before she can commit, she needs to know if Sam — Lila’s former psych professor — was involved in the situation. Luckily, Nate is checking Sam’s alibi in New Haven, where he was supposed to be interviewing at Yale. Turns out Sam didn’t make the lecture he was scheduled to give. Eeeps.
And there we go: Just when we think we’re getting to the meat and potatoes, bam, lured off in a different direction again! Annalise takes the gang to the precinct to bail out a friend of a friend, Mrs. Murphy (holla, Hilda from Ugly Betty!), picked up on sex-in-the-park charges. Charges dropped, all clear. But when they walk out, three FBI Escalades swoosh up to arrest the woman: one Elena Aguilar, wanted in conjunction with the 1994 bombing of the World Financial Institute. Turns out she was a member of the anti-globalization Red Leather Brigade. All of which is news to her husband.
Anyway, so Hilda pretty much admits to being the bomber, and the D.A. offers a plea of ten years. But Annalise says hell no. She thinks they can win it. Back at the office, Connor says that they have no defense, immediately losing the MVP trophy. And he is, of course, wrong. They’re gonna use the classic “mind-control defense.” The brigade’s charismatic leader, Gabriel Shaw, was the ringleader. Put it all on him, even though Hilda/Paula/Elena’s fingerprint was on the bomb itself. Annalise says they need to put Gabriel — conveniently “sick” in prison — on the stand. It’s the only way to win.
While they’re all plotting in the office, Wes gets a call on the cell he picked up from the secret spot in his bathroom vanity. The caller asks for Lila — the dead girl — who, apparently, was also dealing.
Cut to: the scene of the crime. Coin flip. Wes tells them heads, they go back for the body. But the coin was actually on tails. Mikaela freaks. They try to convince her that the bonfire is the perfect plan. And Laurel says it: That’s their alibi, the bonfire. So they go and party it up for a few minutes, take selfies.
Back to the Aguilar case. Elena and the law team confront Gabriel in a holding room. There’s clear chemistry between the two even though it’s been 20 years. “Put me on the stand and I’ll say whatever you need,” he says. “The bomb was all my idea. Elena didn’t know anything about it. That work?”
In the car, Elena cracks up. “We believed in something. I forgot how it feels,” she tells Annalise. “The thrill of it all. He’s that feeling. I miss it. Every day.”
Annalise can relate. She feels the same way about Sam. Even though he’s right there. At dinner with pals, Sam says she needs to think before she takes the Griffin O’Reilly case. What’s he trying to tell her? In bed later, Sam’s asleep, and Annalise texts Nate, who’s still digging. He discovers more lost time on Sam’s working weekend.
Back at the office, the gang interviews Griffin. He tells them about a party — Lila wasn’t there, but the rest of the kids wanted coke, so he called Rebecca, a friend of Lila’s. Rebecca came over, and she and Griffin ended up hooking up when his girlfriend Lila walked in. The girlfriend with whom he’d taken a “vow of chastity.” So she lost it, screaming, scratching. That’s why his DNA was under Lila’s nails. And when Lila left, Rebecca was smiling. She’d set him up. Or so he claims. He tried to find Lila, but to no avail. And then she turned up murdered.
Wes doesn’t trust that. He creates a fake lawyer I.D., dons a suit, and heads to the precinct, where Rebecca’s still being held. He tells her he found Lila’s phone. Why would she keep the evidence? Panicked, Rebecca calls the guards on him. As they drag him out, he shouts, “Griffin’s going to pin it on you.”
All work and no play? Not here. Law Review party! Woo-hoo. Laurel meets a hot Indian dude. Trouble, since Frank showed, thinking they might, you know, get together. Connor flirts with Mikaela’s fiancé. She thinks he’s joking. But he’s not. “Relax, we were 16, locked away at an all-boys boarding school. It’s not a big deal.” Uh huh, sure. Cue massive fight.
Annalise shows up at the precinct to bail out Wes. But first she reams him for not telling her the other suspect is his neighbor. He rants about the system and how Rebecca’s going to get pinned, and how she’s innocent and Griffin’s going to get off scot-free. “I just wanted to do something,” he says. “But I’m done.”
If we’re expecting sympathy from Annalise, well, shouldn’t we know better by now? She tells him to get it together. They have an actual client waiting in court.
Oh, look! A black female judge. That’s pretty much amazing. Moving on: Gabriel hits the stand. He says they were fighting the good fight. But then he puts all the bomb plotting on Elena. Uh, so not the plan! Annalise is not happy. He says Elena is the love of his life, that he would say anything to protect her. But then he came to his senses and decided to tell the truth.
Annalise asks what deal the prosecution offered him. And there it is: early release. Annalise gets it: “After 20 years in a cell, I think I’d say pretty much anything for that.”
They have three hours to rebuild the case. This time, it’s Mikaela to the rescue. She gets some files from a desk clerk, calls Allentown police, ignores calls from Aiden, and finds out Gabriel got multiple calls from a woman named Santoro. Which is Elena’s maiden name. Meanwhile, Elena has gone MIA during the break. Gone, girl. Oops. Which means the case is on hold.
Cut to a bus, Elena and Gabriel sitting next to each other, kissing as they make their escape.
Burned again, Annalise tells Mikaela: “Choose your husband carefully Ms. Pratt. You’ll only have yourself to blame if it ends badly.”
Then Annalise meets Nate, who tells her that he found nothing on Sam. His alibi is solid. She rubs Nate’s leg, tells him she missed him. But he’s good and done with her.
And back to the woods: The deed is done. Mikaela’s freaking again. Why? Her big, fat diamond is gone. They’re in trouble now!
Flashback again: Mikaela gets home and Aiden is there. She asks if he’s gay. But he insists he’s not some guy on the down-low. He was just a horny kid. She tells him her wedding dress is bespoke Vera Wang. So he better be sure. Because otherwise, she will destroy him.
This week, the MVP trophy goes to Wes for having the “audacity to speak up for the pawns in this world.” And no more talk about the Lila Stangard case in class. Because they’re going to be defending one of the suspects. Rebecca. One major glitch: Rebecca just confessed.
Things are just getting interesting here, because Wes has set them all up for failure now, which we know is not an option for Annalise. But these case-of-the-week distractions are totally slowing things down. C’mon now, ShondaLand! Let’s get this moving. Let your star shine already.