Part V of The Sinner makes way for an even greater conspiracy than we could have anticipated. Plus, Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) is joined by some unwelcome assistance from the state police and Cora (Jessica Biel) gets backed into a corner. Catch up on the episode’s major takeaways below.
Anne Farmer arrives large and in charge
The human remains from last week are not yet determined to be Maddie, though she’s been missing since that fateful July 4, 2012 weekend. They are, however, determined to belong to a young adult woman and to have been there for several years -- no more than 10. The cause of death is unclear, but the bones are found wrapped in a bloodied blanket, indicating that she was perhaps transported to the abandoned bus in the woods from somewhere else. With this homicide added to the mix, Cora’s case is officially placed in the jurisdiction of the state-level police department, and Captain Anne Farmer (Joanna Adler) is on it. She is immediately an unwelcome presence in Ambrose’s precinct and is generally belittling and questioning of the veteran detective’s tactics in the case thus far. Putting an even greater rift between herself and Ambrose, she meets with Cora just once before determining personally that Cora is responsible for both murders -- she just needs to goad her into a confession by offering a lofty plea-bargain. Farmer believes that Cora, in a crime of passion, killed Maddie because she loved J.D. and Maddie threatened breaking them apart. But throughout the episode, even Anne’s most emotionally manipulative tactics (bringing Cora’s son, Laine, into the equation, for instance) can’t get Cora to confess to a crime that she doesn’t believe she committed, even though she can’t yet remember the events of that weekend. “Guilt is a brutal thing, it chews people up,” Anne says. “I see it all the time, and I can see it in you. You must be exhausted carrying all that around.” Cora is forced to admit that she may have had something to do with Maddie’s murder, but she’s not going to confess; she comes to see through Anne’s guise of empathy for what it really is. “Go to hell,” Cora says.
Ambrose’s investigation leads him to the Beverwick Club
Anne may now hold the greater authority in Cora’s case, but that doesn’t mean Ambrose’s hung it up and let her take over -- anything but, in fact. Back at the site where he found the human remains, Ambrose finds something else of interest: a sign reading “Private Property: No Trespassing.” So what does he do? Well, he proceeds through the property, of course, and eventually comes upon a back entrance to the ritzy Beverwick Club. Speaking with a manager, Ambrose learns that the club’s members don’t hunt anymore, but that they still own the woods in back; only the club members and grounds crew have access to the back road Ambrose came in on. The manager speaks with Ambrose candidly about the club’s history before learning that he’s inquiring on behalf of Cora’s ongoing murder investigation; at that, she quickly brings the conversation to a close. Later in the precinct, Ambrose is visited by none other than Mr. Hearding, the slime-ball lawyer who represents J.D. and, coincidentally, the Beverwick Club. The visit doesn’t amount to much, but is as good an indication as any that larger powers are keeping an eye on Ambrose's every move.
The Beverwick Club has a dark, secret history -- and something to do with Cora’s disappearance
Knowing that he has a lead with the Beverwick Club but unable at this point to figure out how they may be involved, Ambrose pays a visit to one Ms. Burroughs, a woman who previously filed a lawsuit against the country club for wrongful termination. While she’s at first resistant to speak with Ambrose (the lawsuit’s settlement mandated she not speak further about the incident), he explains that the remains of a young woman were found buried in the woods behind the club, and that any information she has may be of use. Burroughs concedes, pulling him aside in her front yard and recounting how while working late one night, she joined a group of the club’s members for one drink, and doesn’t recall anything until waking up the next morning naked and sitting in the passenger seat of her car in a Walmart parking lot. She assumes she was drugged by the men she was with. To make matters worse, the club fired her without reason the following week, and she assumes it’s a cover-up. Later revisiting the Beverwick Club, Ambrose sneaks down to the basement, where it’s all but confirmed its club members had something to do with Cora’s disappearance. Opening a closet in the back, he finds ski masks hanging on the wall that are identical to the ones worn in Cora’s memory. Before he can explore further, the manager stops him and forces him back upstairs.
Ambrose continues getting closer (perhaps too close) to Cora
Looking over the documents of evidence that Ambrose has accumulated thus far, Anne seems put off by his private meetings with Cora through the course of the case. Worsening her opinion is the fact that he doesn’t have official documentation of these meetings, including the hypnotherapy sessions. Her concerns come to a front when Ambrose approaches her about offering Cora a plea-bargain before there’s any solid evidence that Cora could have committed the murder of the woman in the woods. He accuses her of coercion, which immediately chills her demeanor. She responds by implying that he may be a little too close to Cora, that it’s affecting his work, and that it may have lasting effects on his position in the case. “Do you do that with all your defendants, or just the ones that look like Cora Tannetti?” she asks. Despite her threatening tone, Ambrose continues speaking privately with Cora. At one point shortly after in the episode, he’s shown at his computer in the precinct in the middle of the night when he receives a call from Cora. They go on talking for some time about their family history and seem to, as friends, feel the need to keep each other company.
Maybe Cora should have taken that plea-bargain …
“Your girl Cora, she’s all over that blanket,” Anne tells Ambrose at the episode’s close with snide satisfaction. So it looks like Anne didn’t need a confession after all; she’s got the evidence mounting against Cora whether she takes the plea-bargain or not. That’s it for this week, but we imagine Cora’s DNA won’t be the only bombshell to come out of those human remains. Stay tuned for the next episode.
- Sure, there were some major revelations in the present day of Cora’s case, but the past holds even more secrets, as made apparent in Part V. Let’s start with the flashback of how Cora met J.D. It seems that Phoebe and Cora’s porn-watching habits and neighbor seductions were just the beginning of their sexual co-conspiracies. Together, they want a means of getting out from under their mother’s thumb and their father’s infidelity, so Cora has been saving them money to fly out to Naples, Florida and start their lives anew. One of the ways they’ve been saving money, though, is through an online escort service. Cora will meet with wealthy men and charge them a hefty sum to take her out to dinner. While meeting with these men bring her and Phoebe one step closer to Naples, it also puts Cora in a certain amount of trouble—something that becomes clear when she goes to meet one married man who’s offered her $1,000 to meet but then becomes aggressive when she changes her mind and begins walking away. As he grabs Cora’s wrist, J.D. spots them from afar and steps in to chase the man off. Swooning for her then-unknown savior, Cora accepts J.D.’s invitation to a house party, where they sit by themselves at the fire pit and get to know each other before eventually making their way to J.D.’s bedroom. She tells him it’s the first time she’s ever done anything (countering her claims to Phoebe that she slept with her neighbor, so it’s still unclear who she’s telling the truth to). Cora is so swept up in the moment, though, that she forgets to text Phoebe that she’s alright after meeting with the man offline, and her little sister begins fearing the worst. When Cora gets home later that night, Phoebe is in hysterics and requires medical attention. Their mother looks Cora up and down and calls her a whore, blaming her eldest daughter once again for Phoebe’s failing health.
- Cora has another flashback while sitting in a prayer circle in prison. Closing her eyes, she’s inexplicably drawn back to the room where she first saw the masked man. Here, she’s lying on the floor and wearing a hospital gown. She appears to be hooked up to an I.V. drip and is wearing a bandage on her head. That’s when the door creaks open and a man wearing scrubs and a ski mask enters the bedroom. He kneels down onto the ground and cocks his head at Cora. “How’d you get all the way down there?” he asks. She looks like a patient and he looks like a doctor, but it’s still unclear if this is some sort of sick role-play or if he’s actually caring for her after an accident and head injury. (Our bet is on the former.)
- Faye leaves Ambrose for good in this episode. Sitting with him in couple’s therapy, she tells him that she still feels alone even when they’re together, and that their efforts to fix things aren’t working. She wants him to move out. And how does he cope? He pays Sharon a visit, of course.
- And Mason (Christoher Abbott) -- poor Mason. Relentlessly followed by the paparazzi in the wake of Cora’s highly publicized murder case, the Tannetti family business in selling home appliances has taken a major hit in revenue, and Mason’s mother is thinking about skipping town and starting over. It’s when his father ends up in the hospital as a result of the ongoing trial, however, that Mason is pushed over the edge. It begins when his father is prank called into delivering an A/C unit to a home that didn’t order it. Dejected and angry at the apparent prank, he walks back to his van to find J.D. waiting there for him with a bat. In two swings, he’s knocked unconscious to the ground. Now standing over his father in a hospital bed, Mason is angrier than ever (and likely has a feeling of who did this to him). The episode ends with Mason driving away from the hospital and pulling up to someone’s home. Walking across their lawn, he holds a cocked pistol in his right hand. We’ll have to wait until next week to see what Mason intends to do with that pistol, but it can’t be good. It looks like his might be taking a page out of Cora’s book for the worse.