overnights

Unbelievable Recap: We’re Big Into Vengeance

Unbelievable

Episode 6
Season 1 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating *****

Unbelievable

Episode 6
Season 1 Episode 6
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Netflix

It’ll be “like this never happened,” Marie’s lawyer explains to her when they sit down in his office to discuss his plea deal. If she pleads guilty, her record will be expunged in a year. And all she has to do (ha) is meet with a probation officer once a month, as well as a therapist. Oh, and pay a $500 fine. This might sound simple to an attorney — or hell, maybe to some of you, dear viewers. It will certainly end the legal mess Marie has found herself in. Of course, for a recently unemployed young women with no parents and a virtually nonexistent safety net, $500 might as well be $5,000. And explaining her probation circumstances might make finding new employment near impossible, which just might set the cycle going round and round, with Marie being tossed like a ragdoll at the center. Oh, and then there’s the fact that no amount of expunging will wipe her brain clean of the trauma that has taken up residence inside it.

But yeah, sure, this will all magically go away.

Interspersing Marie’s continual downward trajectory between scenes of Duvall and Rasmussen digging into their files and raging over the case’s sluggishness is a magical pairing. It makes Marie’s slippery fate even starker, and further impresses the need for the detectives to solve this damn thing. As viewers (and, potentially, as readers of The Marshall Project’s reporting of the true story this is based on), we know that three years in Marie’s future, in 2011, her rape hasn’t been resolved. We know that she has a slog ahead of her. We know that, even if Duvall and Rasmussen catch her rapist, she may or may not get “closure” (whatever that may look like), and it will be years coming.

“If you ever wondered what spinning out of control looks like: This, this is what it looks like,” Judith crows at her. And in a way it’s true. Marie is spinning out of control, though slowly and quietly. But much of that is due to Judith, whose concern is poisonous. Her worry about Marie has now encouraged police to doubt her story, and encouraged Marie to internalize the feeling that one of the only people in the world who cares about her believes that, “Maybe this could end up being a good thing. You know, sometimes the system actually works.” Ha. Judith.

The spinning only gets worse. She has a PTSD attack in the midst of her driver’s test — remember, the coveted license and a car have been Marie’s raison d’être — spurred on by a glimpse of a passerby’s backpack, and certainly fails the test. Back at her apartment, sucked in by what looks like a … Netflix binge, she sheds the last of her hardworking, head-down persona. We haven’t seen Marie drink before — and here she is, trying to buy a forty (of all things!) with an ID that might as well say “McLovin” on it. Kaitlyn Dever’s diminutive size has served the character well, making her look even more vulnerable. Seeing her try to buy a beer is almost painful.

Of course, Marie’s night out doesn’t end well. She breaks curfew, and next thing we see, she’s dragging her bags into Judith’s house. Marie has lost that last bit of momentum, her apartment at Oakwood, and retreated fully back into being a dependent, enduring Judith’s condescension as she watches those pink, little-girl sheets cover her new bed.

If Marie quietly accepts the indignities heaped upon her, Lilly takes the opposite tack. She saunters indignantly into the Westminster police station brandishing the knife that the investigating officers somehow never spotted in her backyard. “Isn’t it Cop 101,” she snarkily asks, “check the backyard?” And she’s right. It is. She’s spent a year worrying that her attacker may come back and urging the police to act, and all the while nobody bothered to get down on their damn hands and knees in her own backyard.

A new grid search of her yard and adjoining yards turns up nothing (after all, it’s been a year) but a few other leads pop up. Duvall has the idea that maybe the rapist is using the pictures he snaps of his victims on porn sites, and sets the team scavenging the web for “rape bondage porn.” Their caches will never be the same. Meanwhile, intern Elias (so pleased that I now know his name) is taking his assignment to look into suspicious cars to pretty great depths, sprawling out on the floor with what looks like a protractor and some state maps.

But Rasmussen has grown fixated on the idea that this must be a cop, and that Massey looks good for it. He made calls in the general vicinity of Amber and Lilly’s homes on the nights of their attacks. His wife has taken out a restraining order against him, he’s been marked for excessive force on the job, and apparently he’s the kind of dedicated husband who tells his wife to “shut the fuck up.” How exactly Rasmussen locates him at a local dive, one of the few logical hiccups in an otherwise airtight show, is unclear.

Did anyone else believe that they might be about to slip off together? That Rasmussen might hustle Massey into a bathroom and see if he became aggressive? I sure did — Massey played the part of an interested spaniel so well. Even at the moment when he asks the bartender to leave the bottle, I didn’t realize that Grace was caught, that he knew who she was and what she wanted. Still, kudos to Rasmussen for taking the bottle in for DNA testing anyway, although I’m still rather shocked that she didn’t hurl anything back at him after that spit to the face.

It’s no wonder she’s resigned to all the dead ends this case has brought up by the time she enters that meeting. Rasmussen and Duvall have teeter-tottered throughout the past few episodes: When one is convinced that the evidence is leading them nowhere, the other can usually step in and offer ballast. But this time, Duvall’s clear-eyed “Just because we can’t see the path doesn’t mean it isn’t there” only stokes the fire. “Your lord has not given us one goddamn break,” Rasmussen rages back in one of the most uncomfortable moments of recent television history. “So as far as I’m concerned he can go fuck himself.”

Of all people, intern Elias saw that path clearly, or at least saw the data clearly. (It’s rather adorable how cowed he is by the women in the room — finally, a dude who knows that it isn’t his role to leap up and make grand pronouncements.) His software search of all the suspicious cars near the rape scenes turned up a white Mazda truck, as in the white Mazda truck that Duvall tracked passing by Amber’s house 11 times. No slouch, Elias also has the registration info and the name: Christopher McCarthy. And he just so happens to perfectly fit the physical description of the attacker: blue eyes, tall, in shape. (Oh, and he’s the owner of superkinkysluts.com, a site I do not recommend typing into your browser.)

The final minutes of the episode focus on two equally thrilling moments. The first is the action, the cops waiting outside his house, tailing him to a diner, Duvall waiting and waiting until he (Ken Cosgrove, by the way, from Mad Men) leaves to bag his mug and hope for some good DNA samples. (Note to self: If you’ve committed any crimes, ever, do not eat or drink in public.) And at the same time, Rasmussen and Taggert heading for the door, hoping to set up some cameras to track him while they wait and pray for a warrant. Until, that is, the door opens and in a burst of inspired storytelling, Rasmussen explains that they are looking for a robber in the area and will he call them if he sees anything?

The second, perhaps more riveting moment, is Duvall and Rasmussen’s evolution into confidantes, and their slow disclosures of just how thoroughly this job has eaten them up. Here are two master actresses locked in a scene that passes the Bechdel Test with such flying colors it basically shoots rainbows. Duvall met Rasmussen, we learn, on the day of a huge drug bust that Rasmussen had been working undercover for at least a year. It was a glorious success. And Duvall, then a rookie and second-guessing herself as a woman in such a male-dominated field, came in to witness the aftermath, seeing Rasmussen in her “dope-queen outfit” and realizing, she says, “she didn’t need to defer.” The scene hits every note: desolation, triumph, camaraderie.

They foisted themselves on each other at the beginning, more determined to close this case than find kinship. Now they’re joking with the kind of ease that comes from really understanding someone else. Duvall mutters that she hopes this guy chokes on his own vomit, and Rasmussen responds that she’s shocked to hear such a thing from a Christian. “Read your old testament, woman,” Duvall sasses her back. “We’re big into vengeance.”

Unbelievable Recap: We’re Big Into Vengeance