Laurel saves the day, Wes makes a bold discovery, and Annalise sinks further into confusion about whether her husband is guilty of more than just bad sexting.

By Marc Snetiker
Updated October 24, 2014 at 03:11 AM EDT
Mitchell Haaseth/ABC

How to Get Away With Murder

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Sooo, it’s a Laurel episode. Does that phrase send you into an excited chatter, or does it leave you un-invigorated and pained like you’ve just gotten through your third and final Lunchable pizza? You’d be correct to react either way, because Laurel is both nobody’s favorite character and everybody’s should-be favorite character.

You see, without Laurel, you probably wouldn’t appreciate how comparatively interesting Connor seems, or how feisty and stylish Michaela is, or how sea-turtle-stuck-in-plastic-six-pack-ring Wes appears to be. Without Laurel, you wouldn’t know as much about Annalise’s methods for shaming kids in the classroom, or Frank’s still-skeezy sensitive side, or Bonnie’s icy side-eye gaze (which she’s perfected only after years of glaring at anyone else who dared wear pearls with beige). No, Laurel’s not the most outrageous or endearing—when everyone else is Toy Story, she is Cars—but hey, she kind of grew on me tonight.

Maybe it’s the complete lack of shame she feels when showing off after she’s done something right—the “I got us a mistrial, now give me extra credit and a pumpkin spice” attitude. Maybe it’s her random, hypersexual ferocity which finally came on display after weeks of low simmer. Hell, maybe it’s Maybelline. But there’s a kind of quiet badassery to Laurel that I didn’t notice before. Here’s a lady who’s silent and smart, a wallflower who will show up to school even if the cheerleader forgets her name and the principal forgets her existence. She’s some kind of cross between Reese Witherspoon in Election and Rachael Leigh Cook in She’s All That and Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind and Jennifer Connelly in Requiem for a Dream and maybe a third Jennifer Connelly movie that someone probably saw. Laurel has a lot of secret weaponry hidden behind that soft stare, and much like an Orange Is the New Black calendar, she’s got crazy eyes for days.

Tonight, Laurel exercised some reckless if ultimately savvy law shenanigans during the case of the week—about a kid who killed his abusive father, and the emotional manipulation that Annalise’s office would need to employ to get the jury to forget the media’s sociopathic portrait of the teenager—but most impressive is Laurel’s behavior on the Night of the Flying Cheerleader. After Michaela breaks down into crackers, Laurel volunteers herself to take Michaela’s place and return the incriminating murder trophy to Asher (who hasn’t even won it yet in the six-weeks-earlier timeline). It’s a brave move and a level-headed one when everyone else is losing their sh-t. As Connor sinks into manic depression and Wes lets his Rebecca goggles cloud his judgment and Michaela goes full Pepperidge Farm, Laurel stays strong and calm and cool, like a Sharper Image ocean sounds fan, forever scintillating, forever soothing.

But Laurel still makes her mistakes on the night of Sam’s murder. Her phone goes off, and it’s a sexy picture of Frank calling; the resultant ring (put it on vibrate, girl!) attracts the unwanted attention of a pair of drunk lovers in the woods (who cannot let Jen find out about this, says the horny girl). Laurel’s bigger mistake, though, may be her arrival at Frank’s apartment after the burning/burial. She brings him the trophy—bleached and blood-less—and asks him for help, and it seems like she’s about to explain the whole scenario to him. What is it with these kids going to other people’s houses after murdering a guy!? Connor went to Oliver’s, Laurel went to Frank’s, Wes went to Rebecca’s (motel), and you better believe Michaela probably went right up to her not-gay fiance’s doorstep and cried into her $5,000 sheets. And now I’m sad because I realize that if I ever covered up a murder, I would probably just go home and go to bed alone while watching a Friends rerun. And that’s the real tragedy here.

NEXT: “Why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?” “Uhhhhhhhh…”

ANNALISE AND SAM

After last week’s Nine Words Heard ‘Round the World, it was time to see how Sam would respond to Annalise’s picture-proof accusation of his affair with Lila. Essentially, what you need to know is this: Sam hesitated a whole bunch and unconvincingly admitted that he and Lila slept together “6 or 7” times over the summer, usually in his office (but once in her car), and that he had only lied to Annalise about the whole affair because he didn’t want his wife to connect him to Lila’s murder. Their marriage is really built on a lot of trust, huh.

Sam blames the entire affair on Lila, saying she was needy and persistent. But Annalise doesn’t love the characterization: “Just like you found me. How you like your mistresses—weak, broken messes you just clean up.” GASP! So Sam cheated on his first wife (whom I’m sure we’ll meet by season’s end, unless she’s dead, which still doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t meet her) with Annalise! Sam tries to comfort Annalise, but it weirdly turns into a physical altercation, which is definitely what happens when you put your arms around your wife’s neck and try to shush her. The result is a “Don’t touch me!” shrieking match and another master class in acting from Viola Davis as she throws pillows at Sam and kicks him out of the room. Sam shamefully descends the stairs, where he briefly has a stare-down with wistful Bonnie, who has overheard the whole thing in a smart sleeveless floral.

Over the next few days, Annalise drinks cheap vodka and replays every conversation with Sam through her head. She finally cracks and goes to find Nate, who, when we last saw him, was telling Annalise that Sam’s alibi checked out (when, in fact, it doesn’t). Despite possibly dubious motives, it turns out that Nate only lied about Sam’s alibi to protect Annalise’s feelings and paranoia—but now he’s not so keen to spare her suspicions, since he’s been fired! For conducting an unapproved investigation of Sam! And he thinks Annalise is the reason why! So Nate tells her everything she never wanted to know about Sam: “If you want to sleep next to a killer, go for it. That’s right—I lied to you. Sam wasn’t at Yale the night Lila got killed. He left New Haven.” Oh, snap! Now Annalise has even more reason to distrust Sam, and her ex-boyfriend hates her, and she knows that somebody with intel on the Nate-Sam-Annalise escapade spilled all the cookie crumbs to the cops. (See the next page for “What Did Bonnie Do This Week?”)

So after her run-in with Nate, Annalise sits on the stairs waiting for Sam to get home in his gross tweed jacket, and she asks him straight up, “Were you at Yale when Lila was murdered?” In a refreshing bit of honesty, he openly admits that no, he wasn’t—Lila apparently called him and sounded upset and suicidal, so he skipped the lecture, came to see her, couldn’t find her (and couldn’t reach her on her phone), and drove back to New Haven. Annalise isn’t convinced that nothing happened, nor should she be. But my guess is Sam is actually telling the truth now, however sketchy it sounds. I believe that Lila indeed didn’t have her phone, and Sam didn’t kill Lila, and we should turn to a completely different suspect who really disposed of DGL in the sorority water tank with the candlestick.

Now, it’s time to introduce WES AND REBECCA to the pancake mix.

Throughout the episode, Wes tries to get Annalise to submit Lila’s phone to the police as evidence, now that they have an incriminating penis to show the cops (and a new suspect attached to said penis). But Annalise refuses to relinquish the phone, and Wes kind of tilts his head and wonders why, but decides it’s probably best to not ask questions.

At the episode’s end, as part of Annalise’s defense, Rebecca submits to a psych evaluation from professor Sam, and it reveals a bunch of important tidbits about her relationship with Lila. She repeats her story that she met Lila at the bar, where Lila asked if she could help Rebecca deal drugs, simply for the thrill of it. (That’s… weird.) More importantly, Rebecca claims that the reason she is in possession of Lila’s phone is because Lila “left it at my apartment the night before, said she was done dealing.” Now, this directly conflicts with Sam saying Lila called him the night of her murder. And why would a person who decided to stop selling drugs leave her personal phone as a testament to walking away from the dealer game? Rebecca isn’t telling the truth, methinks.

Sam and Rebecca’s conversation (which Annalise is secretly filming, BTW) quickly turns into an inquisition about how much Rebecca knows about Lila’s sext-exchanging affair with a married man whom she apparently calls Mr. Darcy. Rebecca doesn’t seem to know it’s Sam, and so the interrogation ends without much fanfare, but then Rebecca disappears into the bathroom…

The next thing we see is Wes, later that night, entering Rebecca’s ratchet apartment and finding that it’s been cleaned out. He calls her, and she’s already in full runaway hoodie mode (the same mode we find her in on the night of Sam’s murder). “Did you know that they were in on it together?” she asks Wes, who has no idea what she’s talking about. “You can’t trust Annalise. The wallpaper, Wes. Look at the wallpaper!” And so he sneaks into the Keating house again (does anybody lock their doors? Also, WHAT TIME IS IT!?) and realizes that the wallpaper in the bathroom matches the wallpaper in Mr. Darcy’s dickpic. Annalise exits her bedroom and is shocked to find Wes standing in her hallway. And then he says, “Your husband’s Mr. Darcy.” And her mouth goes boom. And Wes and Rebecca have drawn a major line in the sand. And Sam is now sleeping on the couch.

So, the questions roll in: Do Wes and Rebecca now have a common enemy in the Keatings? Is that the night Rebecca first hits up the motel and never leaves? Will Wes ever return to Annalise’s side? Is the couch one of those couches that’s a lot more comfortable than the bed?

NEXT: Bonnie gets boned

THE NIGHT OF THE FLYING CHEERLEADER

As I mentioned earlier, the flash-forwards to the Night of the Foamy Busch Light were all about Laurel’s phone calls with Frank.

When Frank calls Laurel and spooks the drunk couple, Michaela insists that “moron” Laurel answer the phone so that he can hear the crackle of the Keating fire in the background and strengthen the alibi that the Scooby-Doo gang was at the bonfire. When she answers, Laurel seems peeved at Frank—she feels like just another peg on his sticky list of student conquests—and is quick to hang up. They must have had a fight that night, or maybe she just realized that his beard style shows no room for growth. She then admits to the rest of Murder, Inc. that she had been sleeping with Frank while dating her boyfriend Kan, thereby confirming the news to the entire group (instead of just Connor and Asher, who already knew) because she’s inclusive like that.

But did you notice, amid all the name-calling and rudeness toward Laurel, that she referred to herself as a murderer? It was a quick moment, but it really makes me believe that we need to move away from the theory that one person killed Sam and the rest of Murder, Inc. is just there helping cover it up. Instead, what actions must each of the five kids have taken to be considered a party to the murder and not just a bystander? As Connor says, “We all had to do things tonight that we didn’t want to do.” Maybe they passed the bloody trophy around the circle and each took a hit? It is college, after all.

WHAT DID BONNIE DO THIS WEEK?

Ahhhh, yes. Bonnie, Bonnie, Bonnie. Annalise summons her to the office, and confronts Bonnie about how she obtained Rebecca’s confession tape last week by telling the cops about Nate’s off-book investigation (thereby ending the investigation, firing Nate, and protecting Sam). Annalise pieces it together and confirms (to viewers) that she’s more than fully aware of how often Bonnie eye f—s her husband: “We both know what person in this house you did it for, and it wasn’t me.” Now, the jury is still out on whether Bonnie and Sam have ever actually had physical contact, or if it’s simply a case of Bonnie’s unrequited love, which is a lot more likely considering Bonnie seems like the kind of lady who would probably go from heartbreak to murder in 60 seconds, but the drama between Annalise and Bonnie is now up-front and center. I’d also wager that there is history here—as one colleague of mine suggests, could Bonnie be Sam’s first wife?!—and now Annalise has at least two people in her home who have beef with her (and next week’s preview suggests Wes will be a third).

ANNALISE’S PIECES

–I love a good HTGAWM legal techno montage, especially when it’s about choosing a diverse jury that’s halfway between a Getty Images banner ad and the back page of a Highlights magazine.

–Why does Asher desperately need the trophy back on the night of Sam’s murder? Yes, he came furiously knocking at Annalise’s office, but the kids really seem intent on getting it back to him immediately. Couldn’t Michaela just saunter over to him in a day or two and be like, “Sup, Asher, here’s the trophy, stop bitching about it”? Let’s get real here.

–HUMPR. The show’s Grindr is called HUMPR.

–Connor is gay. Get over it.

–I’ve come to really enjoy the comedy between Asher, Michaela, and Connor, particularly when they’re nonessential to the episode. During late nights in Annalise’s office, their banter is fantastic, and I’d easily watch a web short of just the three of them trying to get along on this crazy Whole Foods line that we call life.

–”I guess we’ll have to cancel the wedding.”

—Wes in a towel next week. And full neck!

COMMENTER THEORY OF THE (LAST) WEEK

None! But I bet you’ll have some crazy ideas after the big Sam revelations this week. As usual, hit me up!

Episode Recaps

How to Get Away With Murder

Viola Davis stars as a law professor where she teaches, wait for it, how to get away with murder.

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