We’re only four episodes into the tangled web of secrets and lies, and one thing is becoming clear. Is it that Ryan Phillippe isn’t shirtless enough? Tht Detective Cornell needs an ambush makeover? Good guesses, but no. What’s becoming increasingly evident is the fact that everyone has skeletons in their closet, and before this crime is solved it’s going to look more like Halloween than Christmas in that neighborhood .
The latest episode begins with Ben watching a news report on Tom’s murder while folding laundry—because murder suspect or not, the damn laundry still needs to get done. The FBI profiler being interviewed suggests that Tom left with someone he trusted the night he was killed, and was most likely also abused sexually. Disturbing, certainly, but not really anything we didn’t know or suspect. Let’s not forget, there was no forced entry into Tom’s house that night, which points all kinds of fingers at the neighbors of that quiet, quaint little street.
Natalie still isn’t talking about what happened between her and Dave and also still hasn’t taken the pregnancy test. Christy tells Ben (with satisfaction) that she’s taken away Nat’s laptop and phone until she talks. Um, I’m sorry, but didn’t she sleep in a grown man’s bed after lying to her parents about going to the party, not to mention the fact that she was completely drunk despite the fact that she might be pregnant? And they just took her phone away? Pretty sure I’d be thinking of better ways to scare her straight.
Speaking of frightening—in comes Detective Cornell, who shows up full of her usual piss and vinegar. She’s not there to talk to Ben, but rather to Natalie. (That should do the trick). Cornell asks Natalie where she was two nights before Tom’s murder, and she remains stoic. Christy tells Cornell that Natalie was babysitting Tom. But she wasn’t. It turns out Christy called neighbor Vanessa Richardson (Kate Ashfield) to come watch Tom after he went to sleep so she could go to a concert with her boyfriend, Cooper.
Ben, needing to know what else Natalie lied about, pays Vanessa a visit and finds her day drunk, holding a bunny from Tom’s shrine in the woods. After confronting her about taking the bunny, Vanessa tells Ben that the stuffed animal actually belonged to her son Malcom, who was “taken from us too soon.” When Vanessa leaves to fix Ben a drink, he discovers a box of Malcom’s things which contains a photo of the boy covered in welts and bruises, along with a report of child abuse, which Ben snaps a photo of with his phone. These are just the kind of secrets and lies Ben needs to clear his name, and he’s going to get to the bottom of this himself, obviously.
Vanessa’s husband, Joeseph (Steven Brand), a pediatrician who, conveniently, was Tom’s doctor, wants to take a look at the cut that isn’t healing on Ben’s head, so Ben and his faithful sidekick Abby pay him a visit. Ben shares that he knows about Malcom, and Joe tells him that he was the one who put the bunny at Tom’s shrine because he and Vanessa have “different ways” of dealing with their son’s death. When Ben leaves he notices a bulletin board full of soccer things. I have no idea how that’s going to come back into play, but it was an oddly isolated observation which makes me think it will, and I want to be able to yell, “I KNEW IT!” at some point before this whole mess is over.
Ben’s new painting client, Arthur Fenton (Michael Beach) is still pushing Ben to go to the press to set the record straight. Abby overhears (she’s good at that) and blurts out that her dad is innocent and that he even took a lie detector test to prove it. How’d she know Ben had taken a lie detector test? You guessed it. She overheard it. Sneaky little monkey, isn’t she?
Back at home, Ben reaffirms to us that he’s the most shortsighted suspect in history by loading the photos of a beaten Malcom and the abuse report onto his own computer. Discovering that Malcom’s legal guardian is listed as one Joseph Rawlings, Ben Googles his way into determining that Joseph Rawlings is really Joseph Richardson, and that he was fired from a hospital in the UK for sexual misconduct. Dun dun dunnnn.
After talking to a reporter from the UK who’d covered the Rawlings case, Ben goes to the sex crimes department at the police station and discloses what he knows. When Cornell shows up (really, she’s everywhere), Ben wonders why she’s not investigating the Richardsons, who are not only liars, but child abusers. Cornell reminds him that everybody lies, even his daughter, who apparently wasn’t at a concert with Cooper two nights before Tom’s murder, but was with Dave. Man, that girl is a piece of work.
Ben confronts Dave at his parents’ house, and Dave tells him it’s true: Cooper flaked at the last minute and he took Natalie to the concert. Ben is irate but Dave continues to insist that nothing is—or ever has been—going on between him and Natalie, and angrily throws him out.
NEXT: Worst dinner party ever[pagebreak]
Later, Christy and Ben are lamenting the fact that Natalie won’t take the pregnancy test and how hard it is to be parents. They’re chuckling and relaxed, suddenly very easygoing with each other. Wait. When did they decide to be on the same side? Did I miss something? Christy mentions a dinner party the Richardsons invited them to, but Ben refuses to go.
Ben tells Fenton about Richardson (Dude, really? You don’t even know this man) and asks him to investigate Richardson’s case in the UK. Fenton agrees to see what he can dig up, and tells Ben that if Richardson does have a history of being a pedophile he’ll probably have “trophies” around his house: locks of hair, small toys, etc. Suddenly, Ben is going to a dinner party.
Suspicious and nervous during dinner, Ben eventually excuses himself to go upstairs (because that’s not unusual) and starts frantically snooping around Dr. Richardson’s office, opening drawers and rifling through files. Richardson catches him (of course) and Ben confronts him about leaving England and the sexual misconduct before delivering his blows. “What happened to Malcom?” he yells. “Did you touch Tom? Did he threaten to tell so you beat him?” Then he gets to the real point. “YOU MURDERED MY SON AND YOU USED MY FLASHLIGHT TO DO IT,” he yells in front of all the guests. Guess the Crawfords won’t be staying for dessert.
After Ben tells Christy everything he knows about Malcom, Vanessa shows up and tells them the real story (according to her). Malcom had undiagnosed hemophilia and bruised easily, and Joe was wrongly accused of abuse. When Malcom was removed from them and put in a group home, the man in charge beat him. The photos Ben had discovered were evidence the Richardsons had collected to try to get Malcom back, but he’d died before that happened. Likely story. I don’t buy it.
The next day, Natalie stalks in and tosses her negative pregnancy test on the kitchen counter (“We eat here,” Christy says). After Christy and Natalie spout hateful jabs back and forth about making mistakes, Ben gives Natalie an impassioned—and pretty damn near perfect—father speech about how he’ll do anything to protect her no matter how she treats him, which seems to strike a chord in her. She tells them that nothing happened between her and Dave. Oh, okay. Here’s your phone back.
When Ben goes back to Fenton’s house, he discovers two things: Joe and Vanessa Richardson are really half-siblings, and Fenton is a double crossing reporter who has taken all the information Ben has given him and written an article about them. Ben tries to persuade Fenton not to run the article (“I won’t ruin their lives to save mine”) but Fenton will only agree if Ben will give him an exclusive and let him tell his side of the story. Uh, never mind.
When Ben calls the Richardsons to warn them about the story, he can’t get through to them and discovers their house is abandoned; the dinner party mess still on the table, but the skeletons in the closet apparently gone.
Catching Dave moving his things out of the guest house, Ben pleads for forgiveness, which Dave gives him, along with the tidbit of information that when Cornell questioned him she asked if Ben had a blue jacket. Ben is paranoid. He still can’t remember that night.
As Dave pulls away (they’re pals again, but he’s still moving out), Detective Cornell is leaning against the car staring at them, as usual. (At least I think it’s Detective Cornell. She’s uncharacteristically wearing a blue shirt so I’m not entirely sure.) Asking if Ben called Jess the night Tom was killed (“no”) and asking him if he knows someone named Sarah Jenkins (“no”) she tells him that Sarah Jenkins shares almost the same phone number as Jess, and plays a voice mail Jenkins received the night of Tom’s murder—from a drunken Ben. “Jess, I don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow, I just wanna say I’m sorry.”
Who is Fenton and what’s his MO? For more background information, head over to ABC.com and check out Cornell: Confidential. Looks like Fenton and Cornell have a bit of a history, and Cornell may be hiding some skeletons of her own (like we didn’t see that one coming).