The Sinner

S3 E4

As The Sinner’s narrative midpoint approaches, we’re offered some meaty details on the events that lead to Nick Haas bleeding out on the hood of a car. The fourth episode opens with the doomed antagonist and Jamie chatting in a cafe. It’s the night the two met in Manhattan, before taking that fateful drive down the private access road.

Nick, sporting a freshly bandaged hand from the pair’s earlier altercation in the hotel restaurant, is badgering his old college buddy. “You want to feel the truth like we did in school. That’s why you called me.” He orders his emotionally fragile friend a second drink, tells him he has everything they need in his car and pulls out that ubiquitous paper fortune teller. “Pick a number.”

Current-day Jamie is roaming the streets, following his on-foot escape from Ambrose last week. He boards a commuter train, slouches comfortably into his seat, and stares at a sleeping passenger. While glaring at the oblivious woman, he grabs a piece of scrap paper from the floor … and begins folding it into a fortune teller. His coordinates are being tracked by the diligent Detective Soto, though, who passes the intel onto Harry.

He’s headed to the city, out of Ambrose’s jurisdiction, but that’s not stopping him from pursuing his loose cannon suspect. “If he does something tonight, it’s all on me.” In the city, Jamie yells at a woman for dragging her child through the crowded streets before ignoring a call from his worried wife (poor Leela).

Upon nearly running down a pedestrian, Harry decides to park his car to better track Jamie. Burns has ducked into an art gallery, however, where we meet Sophie Greenfield, “Class of 2014,” and former student of Mr. B’s. She tells Jamie every girl in school had a crush on him, then snaps a selfie with her former favorite teach and has him send it to his phone.

After getting on the horn with Soto, Harry’s able to pin his mark at the same swanky hotel restaurant where Jamie was forced to drive a steak knife through his college bud’s palm. Ambrose’s sciatica is still acting up, but it doesn’t deter him from limping up to the roof, where Jamie’s once again enjoying the view from its precarious ledge. Harry tries to talk him off, but Burns breaks out the fortune teller. The folded paper’s forward arrow tells him to jump, but he settles for dangling one foot over the edge. A frustrated Jamie — “I can’t do anything” — runs off, but not before Ambrose promises to stick with him all night.

Credit: Elizabeth Fisher/USA Network

The detective keeps his promise/threat, joining Jamie at a bar and questioning him about the “game” he and Nick play and Sonya’s unfortunate role in it. Jamie says Sonya was chosen randomly, that it’s all a game of chance dictated by the fortune teller. “That’s why Nick liked it.” He then gets on one of his now-familiar tangents, saying Nick was the most honest person he knew, while everyone else is a scared sociopath afraid to face death. He tells Harry anytime you get really honest with anyone, they turn on you.

He then attempts to prove this point by engaging a couple of well-dressed dude-bros. He befriends the pair, helps hook them up with a couple of females who’d been flirting from afar, then introduces them to his by-the-book “Uncle Harry.” They all end up in a hotel room, where the booze and drugs flow as freely as Ambrose’s awkward demeanor. As the partying rises to illegal levels, Jamie flashes to the night at the gravesite. This time he’s doing the digging, while Nick’s gathering supplies, including several planks of wood and that length of hose we’ve seen so much of. Burns looks uneasy and says he’ll need a minute before they start. Nick replies with a sinister surprise. “We’re gonna do things differently this time.” He then informs his friend of a house up the road owned by a woman. “We need to stop there first. We’re gonna bring her down here … for good.”

This fresh wrinkle doesn’t sit well with Jamie. “I’m not about to kill some random woman.” But Nick’s determined to convince him to take “the next step” to “breakthrough.” Jamie senses this isn’t his friend’s first foray into senseless murder. Nick gently touches Burn’s face, reminds him of the bond between them, and rattles off some of his favorite Nietzsche philosophies to bring him on board. “You have to look death in the face, and once you do, trust me, you’ll be free.” Jamie, for the time being, seems entranced by his friend’s argument.

Credit: Peter Kramer/USA Network

Back in the hotel room, the debauchery is in full swing. A very reluctant Harry is receiving a stress-reducing, standing massage from one of the women, an act that’s caught on her friend’s camera. But Jamie quickly kills the vibe by dropping some Nick knowledge on his new friends. “We’re all scared. There’s this big, yawning void, and we’re stuck in the middle just grabbing onto anything we can.” That lovely sentiment gets Jamie and Harry’s party invites revoked. The situation is much worse in Burns’ head, however, as he imagines killing just about everyone in the room with a knife, Harry’s gun, and a very hard table surface.

Fast-forward past a plate of french fries covered in blood, and Ambrose and Burns are back on the street. This gives the two a bit of time to have a heart to heart. Jamie relies on his usual crazy-talk, but Harry’s had it with his “dark thoughts” BS. “Just do something! You’re gonna act out, you’re not gonna act out. Do it!” Jamie calls his bluff, gets in a cab, and takes off to another party.

He hits a gathering Sophie Greenfield, Class of 2014, invited him to. It’s a house party, complete with a medium/psychic who’s helping guests connect with deceased loved ones. When Jamie enters the room of this gifted individual, the man senses something. “An old friend is trying to reach you. He’s so close to you it’s like he’s attached to you.” Jamie’s pretty impressed until the medium utters a line from T.S. Elliot’s The Hollow Man, the same “…prickly pear…” passage Nick and Jamie recited on the hotel roof’s ledge in episode 2.

Under the guise of making a beer run, a freaked Jamie leaves the party with Sophie. The girl begins to get suspicious when he speeds past the bodega. Mr. Burns assures her he just wants to play a game, “kind of a bonding thing.” Of course, it’s not long before he turns the conversation to “facing death,” while pressing the vehicle’s accelerator to the floor. The girl begs him to stop, Harry pursues them — complete with flashing lights — and it seems Burns could be involved in another vehicular homicide. Things quickly escalate into a game of chicken between Jamie and Harry, until the two swerve at the last minute.

While a collision is avoided, the next scene revisits the story’s central car-crash mystery. Nick’s at death’s door, splayed on the car’s hood, intermittently moaning in pain. He seems at peace, though. While the life slowly drains from him, we again hear Kevin Morby’s “Come to Me Now” playing on the radio. Nick actually begs Jamie — who’s kneeling on the ground before him, tears in his eyes — not to dial 911. Jamie doesn’t want him to die, but his friend pushes him to let fate play out. “You’re almost there. Just wait.” Even with only a few breaths left, Nick is manipulative and controlling. “Promise me you’re gonna keep going.” Jamie nods yes, but Nick follows with “it’s in my back pocket,” possibly suggesting he wants his friend to retrieve the fortune teller and finish what they started.

Returning to Harry and Jamie’s eventful night, we find the two in the detective’s car. Ambrose is driving him home, where he wants Burns to tell his wife what’s going on with him. But Jamie’s struggling, craving a comforting sign from Harry that he’s not crazy, that he’s not the only one who feels lonely while the rest of the world seems oblivious. Harry tells him what he wants to hear, reclines his seat, and pops a couple of pain pills — despite his usual no-pill policy. We get one final shot of Jamie, as he enters his home and smacks his head in anguish, clearly not satisfied with Ambrose’s response to his existential crisis-curing questions.

The next morning, Ambrose awakes in his car, still outside Burns’ place. He retrieves a voice mail left earlier by a friend in the NYPD. There’s been a homicide at the same address where the previous evening’s house party was held. Bracing for the worst, he crosses the police tape, ascends the stairs, and enters a bedroom. Face-down on a carpet caked in blood is the medium who spooked Jamie the night before.

Hopefully, Harry enjoyed that snooze in his car, as it looks like he’s got another long day ahead of him.

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The Sinner
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