We gave it a B
After endless teasing, tonight’s episode of The Catch finally gave viewers some long-awaited insight into Alice’s past, including how she first met Val and the details of her relationship with mysterious bad boy Ethan Ward. There’s a lot to unpack in “The Hard Drive,” so let’s dive right in.
Last week, Nick Turner visited the AVI offices and asked his old partner, Val, to investigate his past cases in hopes of unearthing potential skeletons before the mayor’s office starts its background check. After some hesitation on Alice’s part — she doesn’t seem too thrilled at the idea of revisiting that part of her life — she agreed to forge ahead. Nick’s specific request? To revisit the case of Ethan Ward, a cryptic but charismatic character we only just met a couple episodes ago.
Not only is Ethan a former boyfriend of Alice’s — whom she was with for five years — but he was also her boss and soon-to-be partner at the development firm he founded in Los Angeles. In a flashback, we see the happy couple enjoying a morning in bed when Nick and then-detective Val show up to arrest him for the murder of Det. Steve Mason, who was last seen entering a warehouse 30 minutes before it exploded from an alleged gas leak. A still-high Alice is none too pleased to see her boyfriend being carted away by police, so when Val tells her to stay back, she lashes out by punching her future friend and partner in the face. Val has always been able to handle herself, though: She takes Alice to the floor and arrests her for assaulting a police officer.
In present day, Alice and Val brief Danny and Sophie about the cold case. At the time of his death, Mason had been investigating a commercial developer accused of bribery and extortion. Said developer was — you guessed it — Ethan Ward, who had just finished buying up all the riverfront property except for the warehouse. The building’s owner was the last holdout, giving Ethan a clear motive to commit the crime. The charges against him were eventually dropped, suggesting he may have bribed people to secure his freedom.
Back in the past, Val interrogates Alice about the night of the murder. Alice’s initial story is that she and Ethan had dinner and went to a club with some friends before grabbing a cab at 2 a.m. and going home. It’s clear she’s lying, however, by the way she averts her eyes. (I’ve watched enough episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to know the signs. It’s a textbook tell.) But she doesn’t budge under Val’s questioning, even when she shows Alice photos of the deceased detective’s family to play on her sympathy.
Ethan’s understandably tense about the whole ordeal, so he throws Alice’s stash of coke down the sink and tells her they need to lie low for a while — exactly what Alice doesn’t want to do. After he tells her he didn’t kill they cop nor hire anyone else to kill him, he (again) asks her to marry him, only for Alice to counter with a request to become his full partner at Ward & Associates. It’s a somewhat bizarre exchange, but you can’t fault a girl for wanting to get ahead in her career.
The current investigation reveals that Mason had some demons of his own, including a gambling problem and an addiction to painkillers, for which he spent time in rehab. Val maintains that Mason was a good detective but later discovers his widow is now living in Bel Air and paying $80,000 a year to send her kids to private school. She’s not working, which implies she might be one of the people Ethan paid off to keep quiet about her husband’s murder.
Despite Alice’s insistence on Ethan’s innocence all those years ago, she becomes doubtful when she finds out her beau hired one Danny Yoon to spy on her. Alice quickly offers to hire Danny to keep her secrets and pretend he’s still following her for Ethan. She then visits Val to tell her the truth: Ethan wasn’t with her when she left the club the night of the fire. She’s still unsure of his guilt, but Val wants her help finding the truth.
The AVI team makes a break in the case when they look into the finances of Mason’s widow and learn she makes a monthly $10,000 payment to a nonexistent charity. The so-called Altgrove Foundation is registered to one Marty Dixon, Val’s supervising officer at the time of Ethan’s case. Adding further suspicion is the fact Dixon opened a safe-deposit box one week after Mason’s murder, though he hasn’t been back to the bank since. Alice, posing as a bank manager, calls and tells him the branch is closing, so he’ll have to come collect his belongings. When he exits the bank, Val and Alice are waiting to confront him.
And surprisingly enough, Ethan is innocent of Mason’s murder: What Dixon kept hidden was Mason’s suicide note, proving he set the fire himself and staged his own homicide so his family would be compensated for his death in the line of duty. Dixon kept the note all these years to blackmail Mason’s widow for the aforementioned monthly payment. The note clears the way for Nick to be promoted to police chief, but knowing Ethan had been telling the truth all along pushes Alice to show up in the lobby of his office building and apologize. After the flashback we get of their breakup — during which Ethan, incredulous that Alice could think he might be a murderer, called her weak, selfish and incapable of thinking of anyone other than herself — it makes sense he doesn’t have much to say in response.