Big Little Lies recap: Marriage problems run deep in the Monterey Five
The power of Big Little Lies was on full display in Sunday’s strong second installment of the sophomore season. With so many talented high-profile performers, it’s no easy task to give them all enough to do, never mind strong material on top of that. But “Tell-Tale Hearts” somehow managed to spotlight the five main women as well as Meryl Streep, Adam Scott, and even Young Sheldon himself.
The episode begins with a groggy Celeste crashing her car. When Madeline comes to pick her up, Celeste reveals that she took a pill at 2 a.m. to help her sleep and doesn’t even remember getting in the car. They soon drive by Bonnie, who insists she’s hiking and not just randomly walking the streets. Everyone agrees that none of them are on drugs (even though Celeste technically is). Mary Louise has a lot of questions when Madeline and Celeste arrive home, with the duo explaining there had been an emergency. But what sort of emergency? “The kind short people have,” quips Madeline. Maybe it’s just because it’s Meryl F—ing Streep, but Mary Louise casually playing with her cross necklace as she talks crap to Madeline is a tiny choice that works perfectly. Walking away, Madeline mumbles, “F—ing weirdo.” The back-and-forth between Madeline and Mary Louise is officially my favorite dynamic on the show (No. 2 is Ed and Nathan because of how much of a dick Ed is to him).
But now let’s check in on my favorite character on the show: Renata. Admittedly, much of that is because she’s played by Queen Laura Dern (long live Enlightened!). But this episode is a real showcase for both the character and actress. Renata and Gordon’s adorable excitement over her scoring the cover of a magazine quickly turns to horror when the FBI shows up and arrests Gordon. As Renata is freaking out, she spots Quinlan driving off. Renata’s anger is palpable when she arrives to visit Gordon, having to go through the metal detector several times. Once inside, Gordon admits he shorted some stock because of inside info and lawsuits are coming, meaning they will soon be broke. Amabella’s trust will be protected, but Renata’s money won’t be. “I’m not not going to be rich,” she declares. “I will not not be rich!”
The babies of the Monterey Five, Jane and Bonnie, are bonding together at yoga. Jane shares that the “very strange” Corey asked her out on a “practice date.” Their conversation is interrupted when Bonnie’s mom, Elizabeth, shows up at the urging of Nathan, who is scared of losing her, admitting that his divorce from Madeline screwed him up. He might regret calling Elizabeth, because she comes in firing, with most of the shots aimed directly at him. “I’m here because you’re ill-equipped to connect with your wife,” says Elizabeth, who appears to be a former alcoholic. She calls Nathan oblivious, pointing out that Bonnie clearly changed after Perry’s death at the fundraiser. Damn, maybe Quinlan could use a partner with these sorts of detective skills!
Back in therapy, Celeste admits that she misses Perry. “I only want him,” she declares. Reisman has Celeste think back to a specific time of Perry’s abuse, which is painful for her. But it becomes even more painful when Reisman forces her to picture Madeline as the one being punched and kicked by him, causing Celeste to let out a Mary Louise-level scream. “Did Madeline deserve that?” Reisman asks.
Celeste isn’t the only one talking about Perry. During class, new teacher Mr. Perkins is telling his students they can talk to him about anything. “What about a dead father?” one of Celeste’s boys asks. On the ride home, Celeste tells them they should talk to her. “A family is meant to be open and honest with each other,” she says, to which Max responds, “I don’t think we’re that kind of family.” Well, some open and honest talk happens when Celeste and Mary Louise discuss a myriad of topics, including the death of Mary Louise’s other son, the truth about Celeste’s morning joyride, and Madeline being a wonderful person (“You’re mistaken,” Mary Louise counters). But the talking turns to yelling and shoving when the boys are fighting and Celeste breaks them up. Max tells his mom to “f— off” and hits her, leading her to push him back and yell, “No, you will not be like him!” She’s immediately in horror at her actions, apologizing and crying as the three of them hug.
But later, that doesn’t stop Celeste from thinking about some good Perry times, playing back an early date of theirs when they talked about their respective families, including the previously mentioned death of Perry’s young brother. In the present, Celeste is fondly looking at some bruises on her wrist, prompting us to wonder whether she’s hurting herself. Mary Louise then pops in with a bombshell: The twins know they have a brother in their class (they don’t know that it’s Young Sheldon). A shocked Celeste calls Madeline, who soon discovers that Chloe is Otter Bay Elementary’s Gossip Girl, having overheard her mom talking about it on the phone and subsequently shared the news with Max, Josh, and Ziggy. Ed and Madeline are both pissed, but for very different reasons since Ed’s upset that he wasn’t told. Madeline then relays the info to Jane. This leads to an emotional scene where Jane rushes to talk to Ziggy. In a truly heartbreaking moment, Ziggy tells his mom that Chloe said “something about Mr. Wright giving you salt. That’s how I happened, he salted you.” Damn. Jane snuggles up with Ziggy and tells him about her assault.
The revelation also brings about another honest discussion between Mary Louise and Celeste. Mary Louise refuses to believe her son was capable of raping Jane or beating Celeste. “We had a sickness,” says Celeste, who admits they were violent with each other. Mary Louise’s suspicions of there being more to her son’s death are only increased, as she suggests seeking out the police for answers. After learning that Jane told Ziggy the truth, Celeste comes clean to her boys about their new brother. They ask if their dad was a bad person, to which she says no, that he was a beautiful person who could be weak like we all can. I mean, I’m comfortable in saying he was weaker than most.
Meanwhile, the woman who technically killed that weak man is still struggling with it, and Bonnie doesn’t think her mom leaving crystals in her room is going to help. Bonnie asks her mother to leave, but Elizabeth is worried because she’s had visions of someone drowning (yeah, that’s definitely Bonnie). There are clearly some secrets here that have yet to be revealed. Elizabeth isn’t the only one exiting Bonnie’s house, as Madeline insists that Abigail move back in with her. And that’s fine with Bonnie, who says she wakes up at night in a sweat worried that “it’s gonna get us.” Who? “The lie,” she tells Madeline. Damn, so close to her just saying, “The big little lie.”
For her part, Abigail is open to coming home as long as it’s not just about getting her to go to college. Madeline argues that education is the most fundamental building block and that Abigail is kicking that to the side, to which Abigail counters that her mom used to say family was the most fundamental building block and she kicked that to the side by sleeping with the theater director. A look of dread immediately comes over the teenager’s face. Oh sh—, a shocked Ed is standing in the doorway. “What’s this about f—ing a theater director?” he calmly asks. After Madeline says he misheard that, he grabs his keys and heads off to “go get his ears checked.” Madeline can’t believe it.
Ed eventually returns and receives an apology from his wife, who says it has nothing to do with him and suggests they try therapy. Madeline wants to know what he is thinking, and he maybe seems most hurt by the fact that Abigail, whom he considers a daughter, has known about this betrayal for a year. “I think we’re done,” he declares, leaving a tearful Madeline behind. The core five women are the backbone of this show, but Adam Scott has been consistently turning in a great performance.
This isn’t the only marriage in trouble. Renata and Gordon are driving home from court when she turns off the radio, prompting him to say, “You used to like that song.” Her incredible response: “I used to like to sit on your face too; you think that will happen again?” And honestly, I’ve been obsessed with that line ever since I first heard it and have watched it at least 10 times. When Gordon dares to put any of the blame on Renata for being a “creature of want,” she pulls over on the middle of the highway and makes him get out. Speeding off, she throws up a middle finger at the people honking and yells, “Will somebody give a woman a moment?!” Weird coincidence, because I’m currently yelling, “Will somebody give this woman a(nother) Emmy?!” Much to my chagrin, Renata turns around and picks Gordon back up.
The episode ends with all the women — minus Madeline, who’s drinking wine solo — keeping their children close. Renata is asleep with Amabella, Bonnie is checking on Skye, and Jane is hosting a family hangout for her, Celeste, and their kids. Early in this promising season, the Jane-Celeste relationship has quickly become a high point.
Biggest Lie of the Week: That Ed misheard the whole “f—ing the theater director” thing. Ed seems like a pretty observant guy, but I still respect the improvised attempt at a save.
Monterey Bae of the Week: Renata, in a runaway. Now excuse me while I go watch that line for the 11th time.
Emmy Submission Moment of the Week: There are so many! I feel like Oprah, just wanting to hand out Emmys as if they are cars. But I’m actually going to go with the Adam Scott and Reese Witherspoon confrontation.