Part IV of The Sinner has Mason (Christopher Abbott) becoming slowly unhinged, Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) stumbling upon human remains, and Cora (Jessica Biel) coming ever so slightly closer to discovering the truth to her two-month blackout. Watch the full episode here; catch the breakdown below.
Mason has one hell of a ride this round
If you’ve felt like Mason was a bit sidelined since his wife gruesomely murdered a man in front of their son and a beach full of onlookers, this episode thankfully puts him a little more center while showing the effects his wife’s actions are having on his psyche and well-being. It began last week when he approached (and attacked) J.D. at the bar, getting them both arrested. Episode 104 opens with him in the precinct being questioned by Harry. “[J.D.] did something to my wife … This whole thing is because of him,” Mason insists. J.D., meanwhile, says that he never met Cora before -- just knew her from the news. Before they learn much more from J.D., his lawyer, who is notorious for defending society’s slimiest men, interjects.
Later, Mason decides to take matters into his own hands and tries to get J.D. arrested by going to his home (where his girlfriend and infant baby are) and buying cocaine off of her while recording the conversation. He’s, of course, found out and kicked out of the house, but not until he leaves with an audio file and a baggie of white powder. When he takes the incriminating evidence to Caitlin on the force, however, she refuses to keep helping him. Recalling their brief time together in high school, where he slept with her and never spoke to her again, Caitlin says he’s only looking out for himself and using people. She won’t take a bullet for him.
All the while, Mason is dealing with more marital bombshells; Cora tells him that she had a relationship with J.D. before him and that he took her virginity. But now she’s suspecting that he did something to her during her blackout but she can’t remember. With that evidence in hand, it’s looking unlikely that Mason will take any of The Sinner sitting down.
Cora dips her toe in hypnosis and meets Maddie
Mason aside, this is still Cora’s story through and through. At Harry’s behest, Cora and Dr. Chang, who first determined Cora’s behavior to be stemmed from some sort of trauma, meet to undergo hypnosis therapy in hopes of culling up some blocked-out memories. Her first memory is of her standing in a swamp where her legs are stuck and she can’t move; above her and atop a cliff is a water tower. She begins to panic, but Dr. Chang tells her to start over with a moment of pleasure, and she thinks of her night with J.D. at the bar; they’re kissing, and he tastes like gasoline. As the memory goes on, the blonde girl, who we now know was named Maddie, is with them. She’s J.D.’s ex and is jealous of Cora and their relationship; they have it out for each other. Cora starts getting anxious with Dr. Chang, saying that Maddie and J.D. have a plan for the three of them but she’s not in on it. She takes what looks like an ecstasy pill from J.D., and next thing she knows, they’re in the parking lot and he’s syphoning a gallon of gasoline for their travels. Maddie is still with them, and Cora says aloud that she wants to “hold her under water” and “break her into pieces…because she won’t let me go.”
Harry connects the dots
As far as Harry is concerned, Cora’s first round of hypnotherapy is a success and it brings him closer to learning the truth behind those two months. Knowing that J.D. only had the syphoned gallon of gas to drive from the bar, Harry draws a 14-mile radius from the parking lot. And within that area, there is only one water tower overlooking a wooded area from atop a cliff, and he presumes that that’s where he’ll get more answers. Before following that lead, though, he’s intent on learning more about this Maddie character. Connecting with a woman who once pressed charges against J.D. and Maddie (but dropped them soon after), he learns that Maddie rented the room behind this woman’s house for a time, and that they eventually became lovers. The woman says that Maddie lived in fear of J.D. “He had this control over her,” she recalls. Soon after, Maddie went missing, but mysteriously left all of her belongings at the house. The last time Maddie has been seen was the weekend of July 4, 2012.
Hypnosis Round No. 2
For Cora’s second hypnotherapy session, Harry insists on sitting in with her and Dr. Chang. Though Cora is at first hesitant and distrusting, he tells her that he knows the swamp that she was stuck in and he wants to keep helping her, so she concedes. Harry is given instructions not to talk during the session, but he quickly ignores them as Cora gets deeper into her memories. Cora begins by remembering dancing with Maddie on the dance floor; she doesn’t want to leave the bar, but they’re soon standing back at J.D.’s car. She can’t shake the feeling that something terrible is going to happen. Next thing she knows, she and Maddie are in the swamp, stuck. Searchlights are looking for them nearby, and gunfire cracks through the air. Cora says that people are hunting them.
Before their time in the swamp concludes, Cora is back at the house -- the mysterious, wallpapered house that they apparently went to after the bar. Maddie is goading her to come to the basement, and Frankie’s song from the beach is blaring. She says that she wants the hypnosis to end, but Harry speaks up, telling her that she can’t stop and that she needs to see it through. She creeps down the stairs. As she turns the corner and come into the light of the basement, her vision blurs and is bombarded with images of the wallpaper and the masked man and bare, sexual bodies in quick succession. The final image of her heeled foot stepping down onto Maddie’s chest, cracking her bones. At that, Cora rises with a start, breathing heavily.
“Please don’t give up on me”
After the second round of hypnosis, Cora sits with Harry to discuss what they know so far. She describes the masked man and the old-fashioned decorative wallpaper. When she’s met with little feedback, she becomes defensive, asking Harry why he acts the way he does -- like nothing is good enough for him, even while she’s telling him all her secrets. Putting what he’s learned from marriage counseling into practice, he thanks her for being so candid. “Please don’t give up on me,” Cora whispers. “I won’t,” he says.
Harry (maybe) meets Maddie
The next day, Harry takes Faye on a hike through the woods where the swamp and water tower meet. Unbeknownst to her, though, he’s working, and not paying much attention to her while she talks about how they should maintain individual lives and trips and hobbies while still trying to fix their marriage. (We also learned earlier in this episode that Faye and Harry were unable to conceive a child and endured at least one miscarriage while together.) Midway through the hike and with the water tower in sight, Harry comes upon an abandoned school bus. Beside it is a patch of fertile ground sprouting mushrooms. Following a hunch, he calls the crew in to dig, and just before the screen cuts to black, they discover human remains just a few feet beneath the soil’s surface. Could it be Maddie? Did the “hunters” catch her? We’ll have to tune in next week to find out.
- Just as in weeks past, Episode 104 is pretty flashback-heavy, and we walk away learning more about Cora’s upbringing. This week, though, her abusive mother sticks to the background, and the flashbacks are primarily about her relationship with her sister, Phoebe, and Cora’s sexual awakening. We learn they had watched porn together and eventually, at the coaxing of Phoebe, Cora seduced (and lost her virginity to) their neighbor as a teenager. It’s still unclear if this boy was in fact a young J.D., or if Cora was yet again lying to Mason when she said J.D. took her virginity.- Turns out, too, that Cora is not the only one sleeping with a neighbor; Cora and Phoebe catch their father sneaking over to the woman next door’s home in the middle of the night. Even when Cora tries to stop him and begs him not to go, he makes up and excuse and tells her it’s nothing to be upset about.