Big Little Lies
Though it seemed last week like Bonnie might be turning herself in to the police, she was there just long enough to spot Jane’s surfer boy talking to the cops. Did Jane accidentally fall for an undercover police officer? Seems highly unlikely, but Jane shows up at his door (this will be a recurring theme, get excited) to demand to know if he’s a cop, as if he were a fake teen who’d just asked her for some weed in a very unconvincing way. Obviously, no, Corey just got called in for questioning. He reports that the detective knows Jane’s “history” with Perry and “she clearly doesn’t think he slipped.” This detective told Corey, of all people, that she knows one of the five witnesses is bound to crack. “The first one gets a break, and the other four are fucked.”
This revelation brings us to this episode’s patented “Beach Time With the Girls!” segment, when things get real heated. Madeline lunges at Bonnie and is all “You’re the one who fucking pushed him” and everyone word-vomits their lie in a chorus of WE ALL AGREED HE SLIPPED, as if repeating it could make it so. I like that we get to see these tensions, because even without these especially edgy circumstances (hiding a murder, encouraging your children to bond with the son of your husband’s rape victim), these are women who are not all going to be natural allies or besties. In fact, some of these friendships are downright implausible, bordering on hilarious. Why would Jane and Renata ever be buddies? Madeline is really going to get over her rage about her first husband’s leaving her for Bonnie and start, what, doing shout-therapy yoga with her?
Madeline goes home and admits to Ed that she told Bonnie to fuck off. They are trying this cool new thing where they are honest with each other, but given that the dominant thread in Madeline’s life right now is lying about Perry’s death, their transparency is going to hit a wall — which it does, when Ed asks why exactly they need to have these late-night seaside-coven gatherings anyway. Ed was so heartened by that glimpse of honesty Madeline gave him the other day; he is going to be quite disappointed by the fact that she’ll be lying to him indefinitely. It’s so hard to be forthright with your husband when you’re covering up a homicide. Save that juicy insight for your next wedding toast! Madeline moans to Renata that she wants to be honest with Ed, and Renata — sounding like a Now and Then teen — whisper-shouts, “It’s a fucking PACT, Madeline.” Hey, rules are rules.
Meanwhile, Bonnie returns to the hospital to make the extremely ill-advised choice of writing her confession down in a bright-green Moleskine. Seems like the sort of thing she is bound to leave lying around that will get discovered and ruin a relationship and/or a life. In her imagination, she smothers her mom with a pillow. Later she asks the doctor if they can kill her mom; her dad is quite taken aback, while the doctor is unmoved.
Jane is ghosting Corey — though I’m not sure what she expected him to do in that situation; not talk to the cops? Was that really an option for our lowly surfer boy without an attorney present? — and Corey responds by saucily negging her in front of the aquarium-tour children. “Do you want to touch something prickly? She’s here to my left.” OKAY, COREY, I SEE YOU.
Elsewhere in Monterey, Ed is being aggressively pursued by Tori, the theater director’s wife. I refuse to hate on her strategy — strong cleavage, eye contact— and I will say I am down for a woman just asking for exactly what she wants. Her come-on: “I keep both a masturbation diary and a bucket list. You made both.” Congratulations, Ed! Going to just throw it out there that I don’t think Ed would cheat with Tori, though I don’t think Ed cheating in general is off the table. Please share your adultery predictions in the comments!
That night when Ed gets home, he finds Madeline adorably sloshed, wearing her half-zipped wedding dress and her veil. She is dancing around to a version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” that Ed loves. Madeline is pretending she is embarrassed by this, but you know she knows how adorable she is. Ed is feeling the feelings. What an intense time for him: the most female attention he’s received in this entire series, all coming at him in under 24 hours.
Over at Renata’s empty mansion, it’s time to say goodbye to the nanny, Juliet. Juliet is beautiful and young and I am immediately concerned, given the well-documented dirtbaggery of Gordon, a grown man who collects expensive toy trains. This suspicion is proven correct when, at a bankruptcy hearing, Juliet demands severance plus $150,000 for “other services rendered” like, ahem, “stress management.” On the car ride home, Renata HOWLS at worthless Gordon: “Shut the fuck up for the rest of your fucked-up fucking life” and then she jams his mouth full of tissues to prevent him from spitting out a defense while she shrieks, “The fucking NANNY.” It is … perfect? Do we even deserve Laura Dern?
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the painful over at Celeste’s custody battle, which is nightmarish without relief. I have to say that this weird detour from a show about rich people and their accidental murder to an extremely sad and high-stakes struggle over the fate of the children of a dead rapist and abuser is … not really the vibe I was hoping for this season. I am here for a show that balances its real-estate porn and ridiculous quotes (I WILL NOT NOT BE RICH) with a story about trauma and violence, but this felt awfully excessive, bordering on trolling. What do we gain, as an audience, from the wall-to-wall slut-shaming, victim-blaming fest that is Mary Louise’s lawyer grilling Celeste about her sex life? Where is the expert on abuse who can testify to the wide range of behaviors one can see in a survivor of sexual violence? Celeste is not the first person to be traumatized by the death of a spouse; it’s not like the norm is to remove children from the home of their only surviving parent just because said parent is in mourning. Why is the only counter we see to Mary Louise’s lawyer’s narrative that of Celeste’s lawyer telling her client that the goal is to “not appear erratic”?
That night, Jane — who I guess did NOT get the memo on “don’t appear erratic” — bangs on Mary Louise’s door and screams at her to call this off. Mary Louise responds by coolly expanding her custody claims until she is parenting all the youths of Otter Bay, like the old woman who lived in a shoe. “Are you struggling, Jane? With your conscience perhaps? Ziggy told me you purchased a gun.” Here Jane thought Corey was tattling on her, when really the narc was coming from inside the house. Look, Mary Louise is an agent of chaos and I respect that.
At the hospital, Bonnie shuts the door and I write in my notes if you confess now it will haunt youuuu your mom is not gonna die! Bonnie reads a very 10 Things I Hate About You–style list of all the reasons she resents her mom, which I must say is quite harrowing and includes the sure-to-disappoint-Nathan reveal that Bonnie settled for a man she didn’t love. And then, of course, she says she resents her mom for killing Perry. “When I lunged at him, I was pushing you.” Hmm. Was she, though? Is nothing ever anyone’s fault?
So the next day at court the judge FINALLY says, “I’m all too familiar that many women stay with their abusers,” but then she still asks Celeste to explain why she stayed. CAN SOMEONE JUST CITE THE FUCKING DATA ABOUT HOW YOU ARE MOST LIKELY TO BE MURDERED BY YOUR ABUSIVE PARTNER WHEN YOU ARE IN THE ACT OF LEAVING THEM? Because every episode of Big Little Lies requires that at least two of its leads do basically the same thing, Celeste pulls a Madeline and gives a vulnerable, moving, almost-entirely-honest speech. She says she stayed for her boys.
The judge is prepared to enter her finding, but Celeste wants to call one more witness. Ooooh shit, we’re putting Mary Louise on the stand! I am all for it until Celeste, in her Ambien-induced wisdom, says she wants to question Mary Louise herself. Celeste is a lawyer, so you’d think she would know better, but, out here in real life, obviously Nicole Kidman wasn’t passing up the opportunity to get that back-and-forth with Meryl on her Emmy reel. Bring on the season-finale boss battle.