Part III
S1 episode 3 Aired on August 16, 2017

Warning: Recap contains spoilers

The big question going into Part III of The Sinner is whether or not Cora (Jessica Biel) can (and will) claim temporary insanity in the murder of Frankie Belmont. The episode wraps with an answer to that question -- and a bombshell of a revelation that has us speeding into next week. All that and more in this week's recap. 

Cora Passes Her Initial Mental Examination

After an interrogation that had her answering whether or not she's ever wanted to hurt herself (she thought about it when she was younger) and what advice she'd give her preteen self ("Run."), the psychoanalyst determines that Cora is of sound mind. Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) is not convinced. He speaks privately with the examiner and explains that a song caused her to lash out and punch him in the same pattern that she stabbed Frankie Belmont (Eric Todd). The analyst hypothesizes that she may be suffering from PTSD psychosis, which is often found in veterans and plays out like a hallucination with the right trigger (in this case, the song). 

Harry Learns More About Cora's Childhood Firsthand

After debriefing with the psychoanalyst, Harry visits Cora's parents, who Cora previously claimed were dead. They say that they haven't seen her in five years -- that she ran away at age 23 the weekend of July 4, 2012. Elizabeth, Cora's mother, still blames Cora for Phoebe's sickness and eventual death to lymphoma one month after Cora disappeared. A missing persons report was never filed because "Cora died when she left this house.”

That's not the whole truth, though. Cora is next shown having a nightmare where a blonde woman goads an unseen figure to "give her [who?] another hit; it'll loosen her up." In the dream, a foot then steps in the center of a chest and cracks. Cora wakes with a start, hyperventilating and screaming. Guards come and when they pull up her sleeves to sedate her, they find track marks. Harry approaches her about her heroin scars the next day and learns that for two months after July 4th, Cora was using and sleeping with men for a fix. She doesn't remember who she was with because she was high the whole time. It was her Aunt Margaret (Rebecca Wisocky) (the one with the chocolate) who later connected with her at a rehab center in Poughkeepsie. Upon visiting Margaret, it becomes clear to Harry that Elizabeth wasn't telling the whole truth. Margaret took Cora in after Elizabeth saw the track marks and kicked Cora to the curb, shaming her for being a sexual deviant and drug addict. Margaret remembers now the signs of how hurt Cora was: she'd awake from nightmares screaming each night, she had a mysterious scar on her head, and more. But regrettably, she never asked why. 

Harry Doesn't Believe Cora Was Truly an Addict

With all this new information in hand, Harry goes to the Poughkeepsie-area rehab center where Cora had been. It's state-funded and primarily for homeless and low-income addicts, which is particularly peculiar because Cora, apparently, was brought in freshly showered and in a new pair of sweatpants. The man who signed her in went by the name of Caleb Walker; Harry seeks him out. Caleb tells Harry that he simply found her lying in the middle of the street, unconscious and high, and he brought her to the center. While the visit seems to have not done any good, Harry spots another homeless addict in an alleyway with needle scars on his feet, and it's a revelation: Most addicts begin shooting up in their feet and hands before progressing to their arms, but Cora only has scars on her arms. Was someone else shooting her up?

Harry's Theory Holds Up, but Is It Too Late?

To test his theory, he visits Cora once more. She's now pled guilty a second time and opts out of a trial. But as a last-ditch effort, Harry presents her with a rubber arm band, a spoon, a lighter, a needle, and a packet of Splenda, and asks her to tie off her arm and show him how she used to shoot up. At first angry and adamantly against practicing such an exercise, it is soon realized that Cora doesn't know how to do it. 

Harry's hypothesis on Cora heroin use is proven true, in that she has unconsciously blocked out the trauma of those two months and simply taken her mother's narrative of "you're a sex and drug addict" as truth. But it seems what she's blocked out is much more sinister: Cora was held captive and injected with heroin against her will.

"How are you feeling today, Cora?"

Later alone in her cell, Cora lets herself go back in her mind; she closes her eyes and remembers. She's lying in bed in a room with blue and white wallpaper. She's apparently only able to move her head very slowly from left to right (the camera is placed in her point of view). She slowly pans from the wall over to her bedside, and there’s a masked man sitting beside her. With only his lips and eyes visible in the mask, he asks: "How are you feeling today, Cora?” And the screen goes to black. 

Other Takeaways


Mason (Christopher Abbott) and Cora are further on the rocks after Mason learns of Cora’s drug-addict past. (Of course, at this point, he doesn’t know the truth of her situation.) He’s just as frustrated, though, by the fact that Cora refuses to tell him much of anything. “I’m done. I don’t even feel angry anymore,” he tells Cora in the prison’s visitor center. But that later turns to a taunt: “Have you ever thought about what he’s [their son, Laine] going to think of you when he gets older? Has that even crossed your mind? The fact that you pled guilty and you didn’t even try to be his mother.”


Mason gets himself arrested after tracking down the notorious J.D. at the same bar Cora was last seen in with him. J.D. is shown doing a sly drug deal while Mason watches from afar that first night, but he later gets the courage (liquid or otherwise) to confront him and ask about his relationship with his wife. “What did you do to her?” he asks. “You mean she didn’t tell you?” J.D. responds. The fight escalates from there until police are called and Mason is removed from the premises in handcuffs.


Harry is trying his best to save his marriage -- having friends over for dinner, going on hikes with his wife, and later sleeping with her. But -- and it’s a big but -- he rekindles his sadomasochistic affair with Sharon, despite his better judgment.


Cora and Phoebe’s relationship was even more complex than we thought; in a series of flashbacks, it appears as if, even in light of their mother’s abuse (she’s shown here forcing Cora to pray with her bare knees on a line of dry rice after she and Phoebe are caught with a woman’s magazine), they had a trusting, loving, sisterly bond. If anything, Phoebe was a liberal influence on Cora, who maintained a steadfast honesty and religious zeal while Phoebe insisted that God doesn’t listen to or care about them. Later, they’re shown sneaking down the hallway while their parents sleep, removing the giant wooden Jesus wall mount and bringing it back to their room. Breaking crackers and sipping wine in a form of makeshift communion, they together caress the figure and whisper, “I love you, Jesus.”