How to Get Away With Murder Recap: A Long Match and a Very Flammable Hooch

This week's Case of the Week defends a nurse accused of sexual assault on a patient. Photo: Mitchell Haaseth/? 2015 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
How to Get Away With Murder
Episode Title
Mama’s Here Now
Editor’s Rating

Mama’s here now. Everything’s going to be all right. Or not.

This week, as poor Nate gets booked and humiliated at the precinct, taking the fall for a crime he didn’t commit, Annalise Keating calls on the only one she could truly trust: her mother.

Mama walks right into that old Victorian, and when Bitter Blonde and Crankie Frankie question her, she shuts them down with the first in a series of laugh-out-loud zingers. “Your boss came out of my V, and her daddy’s P, so show a little respect for her mama.”

She heads upstairs to drag her petulant child out of bed (and into the shower). “Ain’t got no husband, ain’t got no boyfriend, and you’re holed up in this bed like the queen of Sheba.” Yeah, Mama’s about to put Annalise in her place, starting by using her real name — Anna Mae. Next step: cleaning out Sam’s closet for Goodwill. And then she asks what we’ve all be wondering: Did Annalise kill Sam?

And dammit, all we get is a world-weary shake of the head. C’mon, Annalise, it’s time to come clean. You didn’t pull the trigger, but you definitely loaded that gun.

Case of the Week, or Bonnie Breaks It Down? This Week, It’s Both!:
Yes, Annalise is having a meltdown. She’s properly devastated. Even Hannah would be satisfied. And where is Hannah, by the way? Is there only room for two powerhouses on the show at any given moment? Is she gone for good? Hope not. Anyway, the show must go on!

This week, the team is on the case for Jolene, a nurse accused of sexually assaulting a patient. But since Annalise is not quite up to the task, BonBon is taking it on. And of course it’s a mess at first, but then Bonnie gains confidence, thanks to a few smart moves from Asher and Connor, and they realize that the “victim” and the hospital lawyer are lovers, conning the hospital to set up their love nest in Mykonos. And poor, desperate Jolene was an easy mark. Case dismissed. Bonnie and Asher seal it with a kiss (!).

The last few episodes have really seen Bonnie stepping out of Annalise’s shadow a bit. But dude, why can’t we see Bonnie accomplish anything without help from the boys? This seems to be a pattern here — it’s always Frankie or Connor or even clueless Asher filling the details for Bonnie, even though the whole point of this arc is to show that she can handle her shiz. Why you gotta undermine, Shondaland? Give the girl a real break. C

This Week’s Lesson:
Mama’s always right. Even when you think she’s so totally wrong.

When Annalise finally comes downstairs, Mama’s cooking, and she offers up a lecture about the difference between men and women, grabby hands versus nurturing souls. But Annalise doubts her own ability to nurture (even though she’s totally mentoring those murderers — how ironic!). And then she totally calls Mama out on the fact that she never nurtured her, either. Mama’s like, WTF? — especially when Annalise throws that vodka bottle at her head. That’s when it comes out: what Uncle Clyde did to Annalise, what her mama helped cover up.

But Mama doesn’t let Annalise throw that blame card. Oh no. She sits that girl down, grabs her comb, and tells her what really happened. Mama confesses that she knew what Clyde did to her baby. And yes, that trail of abuse has left Annalise forever scarred. But Mama didn’t ignore it or abandon her. She says deadbeat Uncle Clyde infiltrated every nook and cranny of her beloved house — the one into which Mama had poured her heart and soul — always with his cigarettes and hooch. She tells her about the night, not long after she saw him coming out of little Anna Mae’s room, that she got her children out of that house, got them safe and sound ... and then she watched her house burn to the ground. “And Uncle Clyde burned right with it.” 

She adds, “You’ve been torturing yourself, baby. And maybe you did something real bad, but I know you had your reasons. Because sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Even if all you have is a long match and a very flammable hooch.”

And in that moment, Annalise realizes that she can change her name and her hair and maybe everything about herself, but she’ll always be very much her mother’s daughter.

It may have taken us till 2015, but look what we’ve got here, finally: two powerhouse actresses of color, Viola Davis and Cicely Tyson, in a meaty, fast-paced thriller of a show that does not center on race — although race and class both play a critical, organic role here. It’s about damn time. This is a moment worth rewinding and repeating, so we can unravel the grace, the twistiness, all of it. And the fact that Tyson, at 81, can steal the show with a character that is at once funny, conflicted, and confounding is remarkable. Some may say "Only in Shondaland," but damn if it doesn’t give me hope. A

A Date With Nate:
While everyone else is on Team Bonnie, helping Bitter Blonde out, Michaela’s working another angle: how to help Nate. She chats up a prosecutor on the case, and finds out what Rebecca told the cops — that Nate threatened to hurt her if she didn’t help him.

As the trial begins, Michaela sits, worried, watching. And of course, Annalise, all put together again thanks to her cathartic moment with Mama, shows up to sort out the mess. “How am I supposed to be okay with this?” Michaela asks her mentor. “He’s innocent and black.” Annalise warns the girl that this is her mess to fix, not Michaela’s. 

After the initial hearing, Annalise goes to see Nate in the holding room — one that’s monitored by cameras. “Liar,” she says. “Pleading not guilty, pretending you didn’t do this?” Her dialogue is right on the nose. Until she gets to this part: “Thank you. That bastard deserved a grave.” 

And when she walks out, he unfolds the note. “Fire your lawyer.” 

Another sleight-of-hand here, but at this point, it’s not a surprise. Of course she’s got a plan. The question here, though, is one of emotional investment. Can love really be enough for Annalise to risk it all? We’re set up now to doubt it. But maybe she’ll prove us wrong. B 

The End Game
News of Rebecca’s lies worries Wes — and he wonders about Rudy, the MIA neighbor. You know, the scratches on the wall and all. Cops tell him the guy was shifted to a mental institution. And the night Rudy was hauled off was the same night Lila was murdered. The two have to be connected, right? What if Sam wasn’t the killer? “What if I was wrong about it the whole time?”

He and Laurel go to the facility under the pretense that she’s Rudy’s sister. Rudy’s pretty much catatonic. Still, Wes sees something he recognizes — those old, familiar scratches on the wall. Wes pulls up a photo of Rebecca on his phone. And then Rudy says the word that gives it all away: “Wet.”

As in, the water tank. 

And as they panic, realizing they’ve had it all wrong, Rebecca knows exactly what they’re up to. Because of course she’s tracked down her pawn Wes’s phone, and she’s looking all wicked in the half-light. Can you say creep-tastic? Well, start practicing, because next week’s two-hour finale promises to be a doozy!