It turns out that both of the protagonists of Dead to Me hit Ted Harding on the night he died. His wife Jen hit him first, sending him out into the California night in his Vans, stumbling down the road just to get out of a house that was no longer a happy home. And then Judy Hale hit him with her car, before driving away from the scene of the crime. It explains why no one found Ted until the next morning when Shandy Adams was on her way to school. It wasn’t just that he didn’t come home from a late-night jog. Jen just presumed he was staying somewhere else, and possibly even that their marriage was over. And it explains why Jen’s grief is a bit warped and intense: she never got the chance to make up for the last night of Ted’s life and blames herself.
More importantly, this is the episode in which Judy finally confesses to Jen. It’s handled incredibly well, the pressure finally building up in Judy so much that it forces the truth. It’s telling that the reason she confesses is to take the blame off her best friend. Judy sees Jen beating herself up, blaming herself for Ted’s death, and she can’t allow that to happen. The look on Applegate’s face as Judy reveals the truth is perfect in the way captures confused betrayal. She doesn’t smile or yell — she’s too stunned. She just tells Judy that she wants her to die, and then, in the episode’s final scene, she goes to get that gun from Ted’s safe.
Long before that, Jen looks happier than she has all season. She’s in a dance class while Judy paints. It’s an interesting contrast from the premiere, Jen all smiles while Judy is miserable. They’ve switched roles. Judy is painting a portrait not unlike the ones Nick is admiring at TKG Arts. He confronts Steve about the ’66 Mustang he knows the company owns, which sends Steve to confront Judy. He’s completely ready to sell her out, saying “You were driving. You’re the criminal.” He’s such a garbage person. Abe overhears the conversation and gives Judy what she really needs — a comforting hug.
Meanwhile, Jen is forced to go to Lorna for a job. The return of the monster-in-law adds a thematic motif to the episode in that everyone thinks that they’re responsible for Ted’s death. Lorna thinks it’s because she took a sleep aid and didn’t answer her phone. Jen thinks it’s because they fought. And, of course, Judy knows the role she played.
Nick thinks he knows too. He goes to the Laguna cops with the truth, but has a tough time selling “cahoots” without any evidence. After all, he did just break up with Judy, and he’s on forced leave. He’s not exactly reliable at this point. However, Judy is in the same seat not long after. Is she finally going to confess? Nope, it’s time to sell out Steve! In a clever twist, it turns out the car wasn’t the only evidence that Judy was stashing in that storage unit. There are boxes of files that prove that Steve is a money launderer. Judy tells the cops about it, probably hoping that it will put Steve away before he can turn on her. But won’t he just squeal to put her away too?
Before he can be arrested, Steve gives Jen the sale of a lifetime, buying two McMansions for a total of over $8 million in cash. All of Jen’s encroaching money concerns are alleviated, but she ends up having a much bigger problem when she gets home: Charlie wants to go live with grandma Lorna. See, he saw Ted and Jen fight the night he died, and Jen hasn’t exactly repaired the rift between them in the time since.
The emotional punch of her son leaving sends Jen into a spiral. She cries and tells Judy about what happened that night. Jen and Ted hadn’t been having sex in a long time and Jen was resentful. It was heated. She hit him before he walked out the door. He wasn’t running for his health; he was running away from his marriage. “I hit him. I fucking hit him,” Jen says. “No, I hit him,” says Judy. And she confesses it all. Jen’s eyes look hollow. How could she even respond? She has no idea what to say at first but when Judy offers to do something, anything, she summons three words: “You can die.”
Judy comes back to the nursing home to find that Abe has passed away. She has no one now. Abe, Jen, Steve, Nick — all gone. How will she go on? She may not have a choice, as two major events end the episode. As Jen is going to Ted’s safe to get a gun that she seems likely to point at Judy in the finale, the Laguna police are clearing out the storage unit. They notice blood on the ground. Who will get to Judy first?
• Wondering how much Jen made on the sale of two homes for a total of $8.6 million? Probably around $250,000. Not bad for a day’s work. Although the sale may not go through if Steve is in jail for money laundering.
• Lorna mistakenly applies the Butterfly Effect to not answering her phone at 1 A.M. when Ted called. If you don’t know what it is and/or haven’t seen the Ashton Kutcher classic, here’s a quick refresher on what it really means.
• The opening number is to “Sing, Sing, Sing” by the BBC Big Band. Just in case you want to start your own dance class.
• Where’s Pastor Wayne?
• What do you think happens in the finale? Jen doesn’t seem like a killer, but she has been known to try and scare people as punishment — she wanted to do so with her own son. Could she just want to scare Judy with that gun? Or does she feel so betrayed that she’ll honestly try to kill her?