With Mabel forced to move out of her aunt’s luxurious unit at the Arconia, she’s faced with something much harder than finding a murderer: finding an apartment. She tours a tiny studio that pales in comparison to what she’s used to, but despite what the show wants us to believe, is actually pretty nice. The realtor says it’s “460 square feet” as if it’s meant to be a punchline and not quite literally ten square feet bigger than the apartment I’m writing this recap in right now.
While Mabel tours this apartment (and denies a call from an unknown number), we hear a voiceover delivered by a familiar character: Tina Fey’s Cinda Canning. But in a jarring, unsettling twist, now she’s blonde. It’s part of the podcast maven’s post-cancellation rebrand after almost being framed for murder last season. She veered into wellness and self-care territory, now performing a Zen send-up of Gwyneth Paltrow — jade vagina egg and all.
Speaking of moving, Charles’s girlfriend, Joy — played by the brilliant Andrea Martin, which continues this show’s penchant for actors named Martin — has moved in with him. Not only has she moved in, but so has her aquarium filled with all 62 of her pet fish. She suggests they celebrate with a trip to the fish store, but Charles has to go to rehearsal to perform his patter song — a fast-tempo, rap-like musical theater song perfect for those who can’t sing.
When the trio come together before the rehearsal, Oliver announces that he’s in love with Loretta, but is dragging his feet when it comes to planning their first date. Mabel, meanwhile, gets them back on subject, suggesting that they go to the theater and look for evidence that their latest suspect, Kimber, poisoned Ben. Oliver doesn’t particularly love the idea of Kimber going down for murder since she’s one of the few in the cast who can sing, plus her 2 million TikTok followers would be great for the show. But in another strike against Kimber, Mabel says that her anti-aging serum that Ben used (a Paul Rudd in-joke) could have been the perfect way to deliver poison.
Before they can sleuth further, they’re interrupted by their suspects: the cast, who are ready to rehearse. Up first is Charles, who reluctantly gets up to perform his patter song, in which his character interrogates three babies in a murder investigation. In the middle of the song, he begins to spiral, and suddenly he’s transported to a serene, sterile, and completely white room. When he suddenly comes to, his pants are off, he’s sitting in one of the bassinets, and the cast is in shock. “I don’t know what happened. My mind just went blank and I crossed over into this other realm,” a confused Charles says, before being told that he went to the White Room. It’s apparently a phenomenon that happens in theater when you blank out on stage, and he’s told by his castmates that the trick to combating it is finding your happy place.
Circling back to what they were talking about before Charles’s breakdown, Mabel says that they need to get into the theater and test Ben’s serum for poison. But, Oliver explains, Howard is the only one with a key and doesn’t give it up easily — alluding to a weird power dynamic because we were led to believe that Howard worked for Oliver. In any case, Mabel successfully convinces Howard to let them in by targeting his soft spot, telling him she left a sweater there that she needs to retrieve before it’s destroyed by moths.
With Charles worried about his trip to the White Room and struggling to find his “happy place,” Joy suggests that he do one of his favorite things: make an omelet. As he cracks the eggs, chops the vegetables, and whisks away, he sings the patter song to himself, and for the first time does so perfectly. But Joy is concerned that the omelet-making could be a crutch, saying that she’s his happy place now, not the eggs. “I’m gonna look out for you Charlie, just like I did with Ben Glenroy. He knew if he touched one hair on your gorgeous little head, he was gonna have to deal with me,” she says, casually entering our pool of suspects. Something fishy is going on with Joy, beyond just the aquarium.
Having successfully made it into the theater, Mabel and Oliver make their way to Kimber’s dressing room to investigate, where they’re shocked to bump into none other than Kimber herself. She explains that she secretly made a copy of Howard’s key and uses the theater as headquarters for her beauty empire.
When Charles arrives, still smelling of eggs, the three decide to split up. While Charles and Oliver try to break into Ben’s dressing room, Mabel attempts to get Kimber talking, asking her about her beauty empire. Kimber talks about having to hustle in every way she can to make it in New York, which seemingly makes Mabel, who’s been struggling with her own lack of direction, self-conscious. She says she’s impressed with how Kimber has juggled it all, and brings up the rumors of a showmance between her and Ben. It’s a common assumption, Kimber says, but clarifies that it wasn’t sex that she was after, it was an endorsement of her products. He promised that he’d help her, then bailed at the last minute — which was why she sold his opening night gift on eBay, which she now regrets.
She tells Mabel how hard Ben could be on himself, specifically saying that on opening night he was freaking out about a red mark on his face, calling in someone to help cover it up. She doesn’t know who it was, but they were able to get rid of the mark. So what was this red mark? And who came to fix it?
In Ben’s dressing room, Charles and Oliver make a discovery of their own, finding the words “Fucking Pig” scrawled in red lipstick on the mirror (accompanied by a doodle of said pig). Either a queen eliminated from Drag Race had been in there, or they’ve got a new clue. But as ominous as that graffiti is, it still supports my theory that the person Ben was arguing with on Tobert’s tape was in fact a plate of cookies. After devouring said cookies and breaking his diet, it’s fair to imagine him writing that message about himself while looking at his own reflection. Who among us?! However even in that case, a question still remains: why would there be lipstick in his dressing room?
With Charles getting a text from his new roommate and Oliver’s mind on the musical (“The key here is to find a murderer that won’t cost me the Tony”), the pair leave Mabel to handle things herself. She wraps the red lipstick in a tissue and puts it into the pocket of her white coat, like some kind of fearless lunatic with access to free dry cleaning, before getting yet another message from the unknown number that’s been reaching out to her all episode. She finally agrees to meet this person, and sure enough it’s none other than Cinda Canning.
We find out that this Goop-like rebrand of hers has been an act, and she’s just been biding time until she can get back to what she really loves: murder. That’s why she’s been reaching out to Mabel, proposing that the two of them team up to join forces on a new true crime venture: The Bloody Mabel Show produced by Cinda Canning. Mabel tells her that she already has partners, but Cinda hits her where it hurts, telling her that they’re busy with their musical, which will leave Mabel left behind. On top of that, Cinda’s offering a steady paycheck — something that Mabel needs for rent now that she’s leaving the Arconia.
But Mabel stands firm, saying that she doesn’t need a comeback, being that she’s busy with the Ben Glenroy case. “You lucky bitch, it’s like these murders just fall into your lap,” an envious Cinda says, telling Mabel that she can crack it if she has the right partner. Sure, Oliver and Charles have their drawbacks, but a loyal Mabel says that they’re her guys. In a last-ditch effort, Cinda makes Mabel an offer, then adds some extra zeros to it. And though it gives Mabel pause, after seemingly considering it for a moment, she ultimately turns Cinda down.
Back in the rehearsal room, Charles is ready to proudly show off his newly mastered patter song. He does it perfectly, with the one caveat being that he’s miming making an omelet as he performs. When Oliver tells him he has to stop, ordering him to perform it with his hands behind his back, Charles falters yet again and back to the White Room we go.
Oliver pulls Charles aside and wonders if it’s something beyond just the song, asking him how he’s adjusting to Joy moving in. It’s been a struggle, but Charles says he wants to be someone who can share his home with a woman and her 62 fish. Oliver, however, tells him that maybe he shouldn’t have to change, convincing him that he has to ask Joy to move out. As for Oliver’s relationship woes, Charles encourages him to stop overthinking things and finally ask Loretta out on their official date, which he does … over text, of course. Meryl has a busy schedule.
When Charles attempts to broach the conversation with Joy about moving out, he panics, finding himself back in the White Room. When he emerges from the blackout, he’s on one knee in front of Joy, who’s excitedly accepting his marriage proposal. It’s a scene that Mabel and Oliver are shocked to walk into, but even more shocking is Joy recognizing the lipstick in Mabel’s hand. “You found my lipstick,” she exclaims, putting it back into the empty slot of her set. Who better to cover up a mysterious red dot on opening night than a makeup artist like Joy?