People gravitate toward true crime — and true-crime podcasts in particular — because having a theory makes them feel like they’re a part of a “community,” as Charles puts it. Fans who think of themselves as experts have been a toxic part of the true-crime space for years, with its peak in 2015 when Netflix’s Making a Murderer — a heavily biased documentary that erased the victim and her family’s perspective — inspired galaxy-brained theories online and confusing thirst for the defendant’s lawyers (what a time to be alive). This category of true-crime fandom is why Only Murders in the Building is a podcast in the first place: Charles, Mabel, and Oliver created it because they felt like being fans somehow made them experts. But now their inexperience is biting them in the ass — they’ve gotten major parts of the story wrong.
It’s tough to follow an episode as emotional and creative as “The Boy From 6B.” “Fan Fiction” shifts back to the show’s quirkier, upbeat tone and shows how much our main characters have changed since we met them.
Without realizing it — or really even trying that hard, even though this is what Charles and Oliver wanted — the Only Murders in the Building podcast has dedicated fans with their own theories about Tim Kono’s murder and about the hosts themselves. “Fan Fiction” cleverly examines the joys and the toxicity of fandom when the fans help solve the case before time runs out for the hosts. Unfortunately, the listeners are so excited to be around the hosts that they just end up agreeing with everything they say and leading the team further in the wrong direction.
The episode opens with an Arconiac (as fans of the Only Murders podcast call themselves) played by Jaboukie Young-White. To him, being a fan means “undying, absolute loyalty.” He’s seen with other Arconiacs, who are frustrated that it’s been one whole week since the newest episode aired and criticize the podcast (including Sting being a suspect). This, my friends, is exactly what it is like to be on Twitter dot com. The Arconiacs also hold signs outside the Arconia, which is beyond the fandom of any other true-crime podcast (at least to my knowledge). Jimmy Fallon really got their attention!
Oliver and Mabel are tied up in the back of Theo’s van, surrounded by corpses. When they’re finally released, they see Teddy in a parking lot and are quickly ushered into an SUV. Oliver attempts to use his charms to get out of being captives of the Dimas duo. Teddy threatens to kill Mabel, Oliver, and Charles if they don’t release an episode of the podcast that absolves Teddy of any involvement in Tim Kono’s murder by the following morning.
When Oliver and Mabel return to the Arconia, they meet the Arconiacs for the first time before finding Jan in Charles’s apartment (he’s out getting bagels), where she’s enthusiastically reviewing the case and considering herself part of the team. Oliver and Mabel don’t take this very well. They’re not even happy that Charles and Jan celebrated each other’s bodies and made “Brazzos” their safe word. The OMITB team had just gotten over being so guarded and finally embraced getting to know each other, so a new addition is unwelcome, especially considering that the next episode is literally a matter of life or death.
But Charles and Jan didn’t exclusively play sexy Scrabble. They spent all morning going through meticulous record-keeper Tim Kono’s phone. They discovered exactly what we learned through Theo’s perspective last week: Tim saw Theo push Zoe off the roof, and after Teddy threatened Mabel’s life, Tim has been on a mission to bring down Teddy and get justice for Oscar. Jan’s sudden enthusiasm for the case raises so much suspicion. Is she getting close to this group just to protect herself? Her timing so far has felt very convenient. Or maybe she’s completely innocent, and this show is just very good at melting my brain?
Oliver, Mabel, and Charles (in the tiny hat!) meet Detective Williams in an incredibly discreet location. After Charles basically does a Brazzos scene, Detective Williams advises them only to accuse Teddy if there is enough evidence to back their theory up. “You don’t want to be sitting ducks,” she says.
So the team — plus Jan, Oscar, and the Arconiacs (recruited by Oliver on a dip run) — spends the evening trying to piece this story together. Oscar has done some detective work on his own and learned that Cutter sold Zoe’s ring to Tim the day before he was killed. But the ring was not in his apartment, and Mabel has “every piece of jewelry he had in there,” meaning that whoever has the ring probably killed Tom Kono.
Mabel and Charles are initially hesitant about the Arconiacs helping with the case. They’re a little weird and smelly. But then Oliver reminds them of their roots: They used to be exactly like the Arconiacs, connecting at a restaurant over their theories about Cinda Canning’s podcast. A charming but chaotic Oliver Putnam production leads everyone (except Jan) that Teddy and Theo are responsible for Tim Kono’s murder. Despite Jan’s objections, the episode accusing the Dimases is released. Detective Williams arrests Teddy and Theo. Mabel shows Oscar the apology video Tim Kono recorded on his phone, meaning there is testimony that Oscar had nothing to do with Zoe’s death.
At the end of “Fan Fiction,” we learn that Jan might have been right all along. There is evidence that Teddy and Theo were not in the building when Tim Kono was murdered. Maybe Teddy threatened Oliver, Mabel, and Charles only because he is trying to protect his son, in addition to keeping his little jewelry-and-funeral side business a secret. A toxicology report also reveals that Tim was already dead when he was shot; someone had poisoned him.
When Jan arrives at her apartment after a long night of closing the case, she finds a handwritten note on her apartment door that reads, “I’m watching you.” Later, Charles visits Jan’s apartment to apologize for not listening to her and discovers her hopefully-not-dead body on the floor, blood pouring out of her side. In “Fan Fiction,” pressure from Teddy and their fans make Oliver, Mabel, and Charles rush the most crucial episode of OMITB.
• I aspire to one day own every article of clothing Selena Gomez has worn on this show.
• While writing this recap, I realized that I always write out Tim Kono’s full name. He’s just not a Tim! I also have like six Tim’s in my extended Irish family, so maybe I’m just used to labeling every Tim in a specific way.
• Jan almost proved her innocence in this one, but I’m still suspicious that she killed Tim or is involved somehow even though she got stabbed. She could have stabbed herself to make herself appear more innocent, and the note could be from someone who is onto her. At this point, it probably sounds like I have something against Amy Ryan, which I do not. I’m sorry, Amy.
• Besides Jan, now that we once again do not have an obvious murder suspect, my mind immediately went to the dumbest thought: What if they were right about Sting? I’ll leave you with that until next week.