Ah, Christmas vacation. A time for coming home and coming out—be you recently gay, freshly sororitized, or no longer a biology major because you decided vocal performance was actually your passion. Plenty of big life developments can happen over those three short months of the fall semester in those secluded, idyllic college towns, where the only thing that doesn’t change with the seasons is the Burger King that’s open till 4 a.m.
But rarely do students return to their childhood homes with a conscience that sags heavy with the weight of a full-grown man-corpse. Such loaded consciences are weighing down the members of Murder, Inc., who have the distinct displeasure of hiding a homicidal secret while facing their inquisitive families with a bloodlust for their well-being.
Connor Walsh and the Cozy Christmas Party
Connor returned to his family home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is basically his version of the house from Home Alone. The Walshes are a very large family that enjoy chunky sweaters and baked brie, both on full display at their annual cozy Christmas party. Connor’s sister—who is his sister and not his mom, despite visual cues otherwise—has brought Connor a possible new love interest, but he uncomfortably refuses, claiming, “I’m just trying to be good.” He then confesses that he has a boyfriend, but doesn’t want his sister to make a big deal of it.
That’s probably because Connor doesn’t actually have a boyfriend. When our intrepid Mr. Walsh returns to campus, Oliver is kindly agreeing to spend time with him, but the hottest IT guy this side of Scranton is still peeved about… well, everything. “We’re not dating,” Oliver insists, tossing aside the knit hat that Grandmother Walsh has so lovingly knitted for Connor and/or someone on South Park. Oliver is still upset about Connor’s cheating, but he’s even more hung up on the supposed drug problem, which Connor probably didn’t expect to continue lying about. But savvy Connor uses it to his advantage and flirts away the trouble: “If you kick me out right now, I can’t guarantee I’m not going to go straight to a dealer.” And lo, they cuddle, and it was good.
Oliver demands more than this temporary solution, though, and he explodes at Connor after their cuddle sesh. “I more than like you! You know the way that you can’t do drugs? That’s how you are for me.” Poor Oliver hates slow Internet speeds and people who accidentally reply all, but the thing he hates most of all is how much he loves Connor. “I don’t trust anyone in my life right now except you,” Connor coos. “So don’t make me go, please.” And maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for them to become Coliver once more.
But though Connor is channeling his Sam Keating Guilt into repairing his relationship with Oliver, he’s giving the cold shoulder to his cohorts in Murder, Inc. He’s still bitter that Laurel and Wes sold him and Michaela out to Annalise, and he’s very skeptical that they won’t turn on him again. “For all we know, they’re still playing us,” he fumes, but the arrival of Sam’s sister Hannah (played by the ferocious Marcia Gay Harden in a dynamite display of Ann Taylor Loft) will likely be the outside threat that forces Connor to accept the group’s company in a dire time. Such as the entire month of January.
Laurel Castillo and the Telenovela Brunch
What did Laurel get for Christmas? A big pair of cajones, apparently, since Laurel is now a walking sass machine capable of lobbing scoffs and side-eye with the grace of a smack-talking Kerri Strug. At her family’s extravagant Florida mansion, Laurel is the odd man out of a family that looks like the Malfoys relocated to Miami. The Castillos are uninterested in what Laurel seems to be doing up in Philadelphia, but a few glasses of red wine give her the courage to mouth off to her parents, who have never expressed remote interest in her life. She’s channeling her Sam Keating Guilt into nerve, which she’s using brilliantly to shame her rich family. Give me more post-murder Laurel!
Though she’s fierce at home, she’s warm at school. She’s the only member of Murder, Inc. to demonstrate friendliness toward her fellow murderers. “Unless we all start talking, we are all going to fall apart and that is exactly how we’re gong to end up in jail,” she stresses to Connor, Michaela, and Wes, who have completely shied away from each other since returning to campus. And when Laurel says “I actually missed you guys,” she proves that she’s the sweetest member of the group—a character trait I didn’t pick up on until just now, but perhaps should have seen all along.
She’s also as brilliant as ever, trying to extract important intel from Frank about the impending threat of Sam’s sister and the possible DNA evidence that’s plaguing Connor’s car. When the forensically deflowered SUV is suddenly stolen, Laurel obviously knows that Frank had it obliterated, and that all the time he’s been spending with Asher is a good sense strategy to keep an eye on the loose, collar-popping cannon. Laurel’s admiration for Frank’s dirty work might even be turning her on, which is bad news beard since she just rekindled things with Kan.
(Oh, and what about Frank’s remark to Annalise that he can “take care of” that thorny Hannah Keating? The mystery of Frank being a possible hitman/possible gangster/possible parolee/possible Rudy deepens.)
Michaela Pratt and the Crazy Lady in the Red Dress
Things aren’t looking good for the future Mrs. Aiden Walker. I mean, things are actually looking very good because Michaela stuns in a red dress at a cocktail party with hair by Jackie O and body by Naomi Campbell. But things are looking utterly horrible for Michaela’s fragile psyche, which was rocked by the murder, and the lost ring, and the pre-nup, and the j/k-I-actually-signed-the-pre-nup, and the paranoia that every time Aiden shares a laugh with a guy, it means he’s also secretly Butterfingering his BBs in a back alley.
A drunk Michaela approaches Aiden about these exact gay suspicions, and it’s the last straw for the exasperated fiance. “I think we should postpone the wedding,” says Aiden, and it’s clear that Michaela is desperate for this wedding to happen because it’s the only thing keeping her remotely sane and tethered to a life that doesn’t involve orange jumpsuits and Uzo Aduba. But Aiden walks away, and Michaela is so desperate to keep up the ruse that she even buys herself a fake new engagement ring. She is going BANANAS. (Also, does anyone know when Michaela’s wedding was/is actually supposed to be? Sometimes it feels like it’s months away and other times it seems as if it’s supposed to happen, like, tomorrow.)
Wes Gibbins and the Crippling Night Terrors
If Michaela is going crazy, Wes is going even crazier—a classic Anna-Hans situation. Instead of going home for the holidays, Wes remained in his wallpaper-less dump of an apartment with newly-free Rebecca, who uses her sudden innocence to take more showers and find silly animal videos on YouTube. Glad we helped keep her out of jail.
Wes can’t sleep, though, because of nightmares that are wracking at his brain—he did kill a guy, after all—and so Rebecca redeems herself by being a good protector, helping her man through his painful nights and keeping his mood lofty during the day. He also becomes increasingly fascinated again with Rudy, the former tenant of his apartment who seemingly went crazy and scratched his way out of law school (and out of a bed frame warranty). Could a Rudy-sized mental breakdown be far off for Wes? The more he stares at the claw marks in the wall, the more of a possibility it could be.
It’s basically this resurgence of Rudy talk that dictates Wes’ behavior in the episode, and the low-key reveal that Rudy (Walters, from somewhere in Iowa) still gets mail from his grandmother, who either doesn’t know that Rudy doesn’t actually live there anymore, or who is senile and going deaf and blind and will publish her second novel this summer despite everyone knowing she’s being manipulated by her lawyer.
And finally, we arrive at Annalise.
NEXT: Annalise and the Way-Too-Mini Mini-Bar[pagebreak]
We’ve seen Angry Annalise. We’ve seen Sad Annalise. We’ve seen Betrayed Annalise, Horny Annalise, Vulnerable Annalise, Sneaky Annalise, Camera-Ready Annalise, Wigless Annalise, and even Sarcastic Annalise. But we haven’t seen Despair Annalise, and that’s who she became in the devastating two weeks when school was out, but the only class that was in session was… Intro to Heartbreak. (Feel free to stop reading this recap now.)
Annalise took to a hotel room for two straight weeks of crying alone in bed. She quickly empties out the vodka in the mini-fridge and makes quick friends of room service—if Sweeney Todd befriended his razor blades, then Annalise Keating did the same with pancakes. Jokes aside, it’s actually quite heartbreaking, watching her grieve and shut out the world (including Nate, whose phone calls she ignores) in favor of watching what is likely very crappy hotel television that includes a channel that describes the other channels.
After Christmas, it’s right back to the office for Annalise, who fully expects the arrival of Hannah, Sam’s steely sister who arrived on the scene shortly before vacation and has been trying to call Annalise ever since. Annalise obviously avoided her, opting to disappear entirely (Bonnie lied that Annalise was at her mother’s house). But Marcia Gay Harden does not take things at face value, and she’s determined to crack her sister-in-law and find out why she’s been gone when her husband is missing. “Fled,” Annalise corrects.
Hannah hears about a woman upstate who may have spotted Sam, and she smugly thinks she’s figured out something Annalise hasn’t, but she’s still operating under the assumption that Sam is alive. What does Hannah suspect? She’s less concerned about Sam’s whereabouts as she is about Annalise’s nonchalance, hiding in a hotel at a time when she should be leading the search. But Annalise needs to change Hannah’s mind and get her to truly believe Sam’s a killer, so she gives Hannah the box of evidence she has against Sam.
Hannah notices certain inconsistences in the evidence—no DNA of Sam’s on Lila, and no witnesses in the sorority who can testify that they saw Sam go to the roof. “Annalise should get this case thrown out with her eyes closed,” Hannah begs to Bonnie, and it’s a valid point. And it’s why Annalise eventually finds that she has to indulge Hannah, who’s been following her in the hopes of getting some kind of answers.
So Annalise invites Hannah for a meal—Domestic Home Chef Annalise, who is perhaps the most jarring Annalise yet—and encourages her to ask all the questions she wants. Hannah asks when Annalise began sleeping with Nate; Annalise says it was after Sam started seeing Lila. Hannah asks when Annalise found out about Sam’s affair; Annalise says, three months ago. Hannah knows that’s contradictory to what Annalise told the police, and here’s the coup de grace: Annalise admits she lied about this, this little detail, because she was desperately trying to cover Sam’s tracks and help him avoid jail. And that is all Hannah needs to hear—that Annalise tried to help him.
With that confession, Hannah understands Annalise’s behavior, and she’s immediately struck up a lighter tone. Threat level: not green, but definitely no longer red. But oh, that doesn’t last long. No, no. Because at the tail end of the episode, Wes and Rebecca are watching a news report announcing that SAM KEATING’S SKELETAL REMAINS were found in a landfill outside of Philly. And from the sound of next week’s preview, Hannah is quick to shout murder from the rooftops.
Alas. It’s the second time one of Sam’s bones has caused drama.
NEXT: That bizarre case of the week, plus the Asher-Bonnie blow-up[pagebreak]
The Case of the Week
Oh, you want to talk about the case of the week? Because maybe you can explain it to me. From my simple understanding, Annalise has been shooing away plaintiffs who only want to hire her because she’s a gawk-worthy media sensation, but there’s something intriguing about Jackie, a frail woman who looks like she’s just escaped some kind of cult with only enough time to grab a chunky brown cardigan. If there’s anything TV has taught me, it’s that skinny white ladies with frizzy hair and baggy brown cardigans are not to be trusted.
Still, Annalise represents her. Jackie claims she was in an abusive relationship with her husband, who kidnapped two young girls after Jackie herself proved to be sterile. Rather than leave, Jackie helped keep the girls captive—but in, like, a totally loving way—and when one had a baby, Jackie told the girl it had died while secretly keeping the child for herself. When her husband threatened Jackie’s non-child, she pretended the child was dead, but secretly SECRETLY kept raising her on her own. And now that the other captive girl is pregnant, Jackie has turned him into the cops in the hopes of doing the right thing.
Got it? Okay, good, because Annalise withdraws from the case, and so do I, because that’s some strange that nobody needs to dip a toe into.
Bonnie and Asher
Not all is well in the wintry land of Narnia. The Ice Queen (Bonnie Winterbottom) and Mr. Tumnus (Asher Millstone) have been quarreling ever since she served him with some harsh truths about their one-night stand, but now Tumnus is channeling his hurt feelings by acting out like a child, and the Ice Queen is pissed.
Asher’s been questioning Bonnie’s authority and just being generally uncooperative, threatening sexual harassment whenever Bonnie threatens to kick him off the team. It’s all because of the way Bonnie so cruelly took out his heart and crushed it into Jamba Juice (light, 1/3 less calories). But Asher is a human, and though he may be a painfully horny one who frequents bars with skeezy Frank, he’s a human nonetheless, and Bonnie finds herself apologizing once Asher stops acting out and starts getting real. “You were mean to me for no reason,” he says with puppy-dog eyes worthy of their own Instagram. And Bonnie concedes that yes, she crossed a line, but Asher also has to grow up. Do I now find myself hoping for a real relationship between Asher and Bonnie? I’m not entirely sure yet. But please, more Sassy Asher.
The Totally Safe Space for Vocalizing Awful Theories
This week, I want everyone to think about who Rudy might be—is he a character we’ve already met? Someone who has been mentioned in passing by someone other than Rebecca?—and I also want to contemplate the purpose Frank serves for Annalise. We’ve had plenty of hints that Frank has no moral barrier when it comes to helping Annalise, and so I have to wonder why he’s so indebted to her, if that’s the case, that he wouldn’t bat an eye at murdering for her. Unless murder is already in his past, and it’s simply the thing he’s actually good at that she keeps him around for.
Also, Annalise’s class is called How to Get Away with Murder. I would really like it if someone in law enforcement pointed this out.