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Just Hug It Out: Breaking Down the Fifth Episode of ‘Big Little Lies’

Is the Monterey Five’s biggest secret uncontrollably unraveling?

HBO/Ringer illustration

The sound of waves crashing against jagged rocks is growing louder, the strumming and humming of Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart” more distinct—that’s right, Big Little Lies has returned! The star-studded miniseries is no longer a miniseries. So join us each week as we recap the latest in lies, backhanded compliments, and carpool crises. The journey continues with Season 2’s fifth episode, “Kill Me.”


Ugh. Ugh. Ugh!!!!!!!

Just two weeks ago, here’s what I had to say about Corey, a.k.a. Cute Aquarium Guy: “He is, so far as we know, a genuinely good guy, and one who makes Jane happy. Mazel tov to everyone involved.” Apparently [spoiler alert!], we didn’t know anywhere close to enough: In the final moments of “Kill Me,” Bonnie witnesses him walking out of the Monterey police department with a police officer by his side, and his seeming betrayal of Jane and her friends looms over everything else that happens this week—and, of course, poor Jane, who so deserves someone great and was just learning how to open herself up to intimacy again.

There is other drama too, of course. Madeline takes Ed to a couples’ retreat, where a group-hugging exercise fails to reignite their marriage; later, Tori, wife of theater director and former Madeline flame Joseph, makes what sure seemed like a successful attempt to flirt with Ed—at least until he notices Joseph sitting in the corner, watching. Bonnie leads a singing-for-sleep-apnea yoga class: The Stanford sleep clinic, she explains, “diagnosed everyone in the class as a cash cow.” The twins and Ziggy together beat up the school bully so badly that he needs stitches in his lip after he tries to start trouble with Ziggy by saying that his father was a rapist—raising new concerns of Perry’s violence living on for both Celeste and Jane. (This seems like the kind of complexly vicious bullying that normally doesn’t happen till the sixth grade, but I suppose kids grow up faster every year.) And the custody battle between Celeste—who attempts with very little success to dress down for kayaking this week—and Mary Louise now seems like it might unravel the Monterey Five’s darkest secret.

The Investigation Into the Death of Perry Wright

We don’t know for sure that Corey was at the police department for anything related to the Perry Wright investigation. Perhaps he’s simply using his aquarium gig as deep cover for infiltrating those Monterey gangs we’ve heard so much about.

But, OK—it doesn’t look great. Setting aside Corey’s betrayal of Jane for a moment—and seriously, what the hell—it does not bode well that Detective Quinlan may have had a mole in the Monterey Five’s inner circle these last few months. We haven’t seen Jane reveal all that much to him, particularly with regard to Perry’s death: She tells Corey that she was raped and that it gave her Ziggy, and while she didn’t say that it was Perry who raped her, that seems to be common knowledge in Monterey these days. But Corey’s status as Jane’s partner has meant that he’s been around her friends too. He was at last week’s disco extravaganza, where Madeline, Bonnie, and Celeste openly discussed the murder (if ostensibly out of earshot of others), and this week, we see him come along on Jane and Celeste’s kayaking trip, during which the two women speak frankly about their lingering trauma from Perry’s abuse (again, ostensibly out of earshot). It’s not clear that Corey—and by extension, apparently the police—has discovered anything truly damning, but the Monterey Five have certainly let their guard down in his presence, and all these months later, they still can’t seem to stop talking about Perry’s death.

And then there’s the fact that Bonnie was outside the police department at all. The last time we saw her there, she was on the verge of turning herself in, and it seems like that might have been what she had in mind this time, too—at least until she sees Corey. When she eventually tells Jane, Madeline, Renata, and Celeste about seeing him there, and about the duplicity his presence seems to suggest, she’ll also have to explain what she was doing loitering around Detective Quinlan’s workplace in the first place. Given the tensions that flared up in last week’s episode, “She Knows,” when Bonnie and Celeste told Madeline they regretted not coming out with the truth of Perry’s death immediately, this is likely to raise suspicions further among the Monterey Five, just as they most need to circle the wagons.

But that might just be the beginning of their problems. Celeste’s custody battle is now headed for a guardianship hearing, meaning that she and anyone else Mary Louise’s team calls up as a witness—the other four members of the Monterey Five among them—will have to testify, and, while they’re on the stand, they will be obligated to answer questions about any and everything, including the night of Perry’s death. It is, as Renata identifies, a classic perjury trap: It’s one thing for the Monterey Five to lie to Detective Quinlan, but it’s quite another to do it under oath. If they stick to the story they told the police—that Perry fell down stairs, and not that Bonnie pushed him—they’ll be committing perjury and potentially facing sentences of their own. That is, if the police—or at least Mary Louise and her lawyer, whom Celeste’s lawyer believes is “getting help from the police”—can prove that the supposed accident was no such thing.

“If we stick together, we’ll be fine. We’re gonna be fine,” says Madeline. She doesn’t seem to have anyone convinced.

The Five Meanest Things People Said to Each Other in Episode 5

5. “Really?” —Ed on Madeline’s singing along to “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”

4. “They said it’s not the story they’re telling. She just said the focus is women on top.” —Renata’s assistant relaying that San Francisco Magazine had decided not to feature Renata as a woman in power

3. Nathan: “Why do you have to be such a fuck?”

Ed: “Well, I don’t have to be. I choose to be. See, not everybody gets along, Nathan. I mean, can’t we just be comfortable not liking each other? There doesn’t have to be a reason.”

Nathan (as Ed bikes away): “This whole fucking world’s lost its mind. This whole planet is inhabited by nutfucks. Hey, nutfuck!”

2. “Stop being such a bitch.” —One of the twins to Celeste

1. “You seem like a nice person who lives in a big house [long pause] with no furniture.” —Mary Louise to Renata

Feud of the Week (and Once Again, This Week in Meryl Streep)

Let’s acknowledge the obvious injustice: Despite mid-filming paparazzi snaps of Reese Witherspoon chucking an ice cream cone at Meryl Streep, when the scene finally aired, Madeline kept her ice cream in hand. It stands to reason that somewhere, perhaps in some chilly HBO vault, there rests unused footage of both the ice cream hurl and, almost certainly, Meryl Goddamn Streep covered in ice cream. Did she scream? Did she lick it off her cross necklace? Did she do her creepy laugh? A potential target for a future Ocean’s franchise, maybe.

With the custody battle for Max and Josh ongoing, Renata insists on sitting down with Mary Louise: “Honey, I need to take a crack at her,” she tells Celeste. “OK? This is what I do.” But when she invites Mary Louise to her newly emptied-out home, Renata too finds that she’s no match for Perry’s mother.

“But you work, don’t you, Renata?” Mary Louise asks as Renata attempts to turn the conversation to Celeste and the boys. When Renata confirms this—and finally, this episode let us get a glimpse of her in her office—Mary Louise addresses the bankruptcy proceedings, which Renata had mentioned to explain why her living room was empty except for a pair of mismatched chairs. “That must be especially devastating for a working mom to lose her house, her belongings. Because, just to think about the sacrifice. You know, all the missed dinners with kids and the not being able to host the after-school playdates. There’s just so many, many moments lost. And for what? A screening room. Maybe a boat.” Renata seems to shrink on the spot. Negotiating might be what Renata does, but this is what Mary Louise does.

Most Profound Child of the Week

Screenshot via HBO

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.