The Sinner Chapter 7 is when we finally answers to what happened to Cora (Jessica Biel) that July 4 weekend in 2012. It also stands alone as a full flashback episode -- no Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), no Anne (Joanna Adler), no investigation; just the events that lead to the blackout and a bevy of revelations dispelled at a mile-a-minute clip. In other words: this is a great hour of television. Catch up on the highlights (with major spoilers) below.
Some of Cora’s memory has been unreliable
That’s right, the Maddie that Cora remembers luring her downstairs is, in reality, Cora’s sister Phoebe, who talks her way into joining Cora and co. for the night after celebrating her 19th birthday with their parents at home. It’s a major revelation that a) highlights that Cora’s hypnotherapy memories may not be as reliable as we once thought and b) shows that Phoebe was with Cora on the last night she was seen. As we come to learn, that latter bit has some dire consequences for both sisters. The real Maddie is there too, but the lines are a bit blurry.
The episode opens with Cora repeating the same words that closed Chapter 6: “I remember now.” She then turns the corner of the house and imagines herself standing at the foot of her own childhood staircase holding a birthday present for Phoebe as her mother brings in the cake lit with 19 candles. Phoebe opens the box to reveal a beautiful summer dress, which after convincing Cora to let her join her and J.D. at the bar after their parents are asleep, is worn for her big night out.
At the bar, J.D. offers Cora molly “and some other stuff” in a pill, just as her memory showed, but Cora doesn’t take it: Phoebe does, despite Cora’s “that could kill you!” protests. “Too late now,” Phoebe says. While Cora quickly tires of playing babysitter to her rolling, drunk sister who says things like, “You’re so sad. I can see it; it’s all around you,” to an also-rolling Maddie, they do share a nice moment on the dance floor where Phoebe tells her that she needs to stop waiting for J.D. to choose her. “That’s not your game, because you’re a giant,” she says. “You could pluck up anybody you wanted. You could have anything you wanted. Do you even know that?”
Later, Phoebe continues riding Cora’s coattails (and now riding high) into the back of J.D.’s truck while they’re on their way to an unknown destination. In her stupor, however, Phoebe pees herself, and forces them all to pull to the side of the road so they can rinse off in the creek. It’s here that Phoebe begins peaking, screaming that her heart is racing and that they must have poisoned her with the drugs. It’s the same panic that Cora remembers Maddie expressing while knee-deep in the swamp. The gunfire she remembers in her hypnosis was actual gunfire, too, but it’s just J.D.’s friends messing around while growing impatient waiting for Cora and her little sister.
Cora debates leaving Phoebe behind.
While Phoebe’s vision blindingly vibrates from the drugs and she’s left in her underwear in the creek, there’s a moment where Cora looks from her sister to J.D. and seems truly torn as to who to choose. With her sister’s now-clean dress in-hand, it seems like Cora may actually step out on Phoebe for good. She folds and does the right thing, though, returning to Phoebe’s side with the dress.
Cora abandoning Phoebe is a growing fear that’s further realized when Phoebe notices her sister’s bag is packed with clothes. She accuses Cora of planning to spend the night with J.D. tonight without letting her know, but it’s worse: Cora admits that she was going to move in with J.D. and not tell her beforehand. “I’m not letting you ruin this for me,” Cora says. Both sisters, now resenting each other, then walk back up out of the creek and get back into J.D.’s car where he drives them to the evening’s after-hours destination: the Beverwyck Club.
Frankie Belmont greets them at the Beverwyck and falls fast for Phoebe.
In the series biggest full-circle moment thus far, we finally see Frankie Belmont (Eric Todd) in the flesh again, proving once and for all that Cora did, indeed, meet him before stabbing him that day on the beach. He’s waiting for J.D. and his clique inside and lets them in with a grand, showy entrance slide down the bannister. Immediately, he seems to have a connection with Phoebe, who is the only one who slow-claps his entrance.
Soon enough, he pulls her to the side and introduces himself before bringing her to the next room to show her the club’s exclusive “women’s parlor.” Phoebe meets his flirtations mark for mark, and even though both of them are under the influence of one thing or another, it seems like a genuine connection. Getting more flirtatious as the night goes on, Phoebe eventually confesses to being a “dying girl” with “Swiss cheese for a heart” and a touch of lymphoma. “Well, I’m a med student good boy looking for his balls at the bottom of a bottle,” Frankie admits. “Life’s too short too be good,” Phoebe responds
The night goes on, and Frankie confesses that he’s smitten: “I feel like I’ve always known you,” he says. “It feels right.” The sentiment brings Phoebe to tears. (Mind you, this is the girl who until this evening was confined to her bedroom for the first 19 years of her life and never imagined she’d be getting such attention from a boy.) Frankie is quick to comfort her with a kiss.
Cora gets in over her head with J.D.’s drug dealing.
Cora begins her night at the Beverwyck watching Phoebe and Frankie’s budding romance from afar. She looks happy for her sister. That’s until J.D. comes asking her to come downstairs to meet “a good friend” who he’s “trying to go into business with.” J.D. says, “I need you to help me impress him.” Cora follows. Downstairs is where she meets Todd, a real estate developer who is also an esteemed member of the Beverwyck Club. He immediately gives off bad, predatory vibes, and that’s before he buys heroin off J.D. Soon enough, Todd is shooting up his purchase from J.D. and, now high, hitting on Cora, stroking her leg up into her skirt. Maddie comes into the room to interrupt and sit on Todd’s lap. She begins flirting and batting her eyes, touching his chest, reminiscing on their history together. “Maddie, you need to leave,” J.D. says, cutting things short. “I’m tired of you hanging around all the time. Why don’t you go home?” Maddie, perhaps understandably, gets very upset and asks what she’s doing wrong; she’s convinced that unlike Cora, she’s done everything he asks of her. “Getting pregnant doesn’t make you matter,” J.D. responds. “Neither does jumping in front of a car.”
Odd that this is the same lie that Cora initially made up about Frankie when first being interrogated by Harry. Perhaps a subconscious coincidence? The comment upsets Cora enough to want to leave, though, and she gets up. Even when J.D. grabs her wrist and tells her to stay, she pulls away. “I have to go.”
Cora goes down to the basement.
Leaving J.D. and Todd in the other room, Cora goes in search of Phoebe so that they can get out of there together. Walking the club’s grounds and out into the lawn, she finds the house that Harry finds at the end of Chapter 6 -- the house with the basement where it all happened. Standing in the doorway to the house, she finds Phoebe and Frankie slow dancing in the living room. They kiss. “This night had plans for us; look at him,” Phoebe says when she sees Cora watching them. Cora, with tears in her eyes, says that they need to leave. She can’t rid herself of a growing dread that something is wrong, particularly with J.D., but Phoebe refuses to come with her. She wants to stay with Frankie. “I know how much you’ve given up for me all these years, and I’m sorry because I let you do it,” Phoebe says. “You have to think about yourself, you have to take care of yourself, OK? Promise me.” It’s then that J.D. and Todd arrive behind Cora. At Phoebe’s request, they decide to move the party downstairs to listen to Frankie’s music. Madeleine is nowhere to be seen (she presumably left?), but as everyone files downstairs, Phoebe trails behind as the last one. Silhouetted from the basement’s light, she turns around and looks at Cora: “Cora, are you coming?”
The horrors of the basement unfold.
Once they’re downstairs, Cora, Frankie, and Phoebe all share the couch while J.D. gets lines of an unnamed white powder ready for Todd and whoever else wants some. Phoebe, apparently never wanting the night to end, convinces Cora to do a line. “You deserve to feel good,” she says. “Let yourself go for once.” The effects are immediate and Cora quickly loosens up. Looking to her younger sister, they both smile and share a kiss, then at Phoebe’s goading, Frankie joins them for a three-way kiss. Clothes soon come off and J.D. takes over for Cora while Frankie and Phoebe get busy on the couch. Then they’re all high and having sex and doing drugs, Phoebe clearly enjoying herself...until it all goes bad. Cora, not in the right state of mind, is flipped on her hands and knees presumably to continue having sex with J.D., but she turns around and sees that Todd and J.D. have switched places. Then she looks over to Phoebe and she notices her hand has gone limp and Frankie is doing CPR. Phoebe’s not breathing. Her chest cracks, just like in her nightmares. Cora freaks out, pushing Todd and J.D. off of her and springing to her feet, hitting Frankie in the same frantic pattern she later stabs him. Frankie’s song blasts in the background as J.D. comes up behind Cora to pull her off Frankie, but she slaps him away. Not taking kindly to that, J.D. grabs an ashtray and hits Cora unconscious. The screen goes to black.
Questions for next week’s finale.
Though we now know what happened that night at the Beverwyck, there are still looming questions going into next week’s eighth and final episode: Who’s remains were found in the woods? What’s the Beverwyck’s involvement? And perhaps most importantly, if and when these circumstances come to light, what effect will they have on Cora’s murder trial against Frankie Belmont?