Note: This story contains spoilers from episode 4 of Big Little Lies, “She Knows.” Read at your own risk.
Fleetwood Mac may be one of Madeline’s (Reese Witherspoon) favorite bands, but it’s Elizabeth (Crystal Fox) who’s got the crystal visions.
Episode 4 of Big Little Lies brought both the expected (the women continue to kill at costume parties — this time, only figuratively) and the unexpected (Bonnie’s mother, Elizabeth, collapsed from a stroke). At said costume party, which is a disco-themed birthday bash for Amabella (because what second-grader doesn’t what a ’70s themed birthday party?), the hippie fringe really hit the fan.
Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) confess to Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) that if they had it all to do over again, they never would have lied. It’s a revelation that puts Madeleine on the defensive. Meanwhile, Jane (Shailene Woodley) is falling hard for Corey (Douglas Smith), but wrestling with her trauma, which prompts her to reveal the details of her rape to her new love interest. After attending a bankruptcy hearing where she had to hand over her wedding ring and car keys, Renata (Laura Dern) waxes melancholy to Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) about reconciling the fact that all her dreams have “gone to s—.” Take a number, Renata.
Ed (Adam Scott) and Nathan (James Tupper) have a knockdown, afro-dragout fight (Literally. Ed’s afro gets knocked off), which then leads to passive-aggressive stewing as Nathan and Madeline watch Ed and Bonnie bond on the dance floor. But the entire party is filled with bad energy, a toxic environment that Bonnie’s mother Elizabeth can sense (which we see through the fuzzy visions it’s triggering). Only before she can question Bonnie about anything further, she collapses from a stroke.
While Bonnie sits by her mother’s bedside (in between cussing out Detective Quinlan), things worsen between Celeste and Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) as the mother-in-law from hell plots to file a petition for full guardianship of the twins. It doesn’t help that Celeste adds fuel to the custodial-battle fire when she gets drunk and hooks up with her bartender. But Celeste isn’t backing down, refusing to settle out of court. And Bonnie sits in limbo while her mother appears to have visions of her own daughter drowning — but whether they’re from the past, present, or future is unclear.
To get more on this water-logged imagery, we called up the woman behind Bonnie’s earth mother, Crystal Fox, to talk voodoo, visions, and violence. So, get yourself some Donna Summer-inspired threads and let’s groove our way into the murky waters of Monterey Bay.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When we first met Bonnie’s mom, Elizabeth, it seems like she has an interest in some sort of spiritual or mystical arts – can you speak more to this and what she was doing with the crystals and such on Bonnie’s dresser?
CRYSTAL FOX: She has a spiritual faith and a groundedness. I don’t know how heavy she is into it, but I feel like her background is they’re seers, they’re sensitive, they’re intuitive. There was talk of voodoo for a little period of time, and we weren’t quite sure we wanted to go with that, but when I looked into it and the Haitian culture — a lot of times, we’re used to just dark voodoo or the negative of putting curses on people — what I looked into was the white light of it, and that is the healing part of it. That’s what I wanted to bring to my character Elizabeth and also bring to my daughter Bonnie. I feel like her life is in turmoil and we haven’t gotten to the bottom of it. Until we do, I know there’s an uneasiness there with her and in the house. My granddaughter is there as well. So I wanted to leave some sense of healing and light over her and covering over her.
In that same episode, you also asked Bonnie, “What’d you do this time?” Is it fair to assume there was an equally dark time she’s referring to in Bonnie’s past?
I’m not sure if it’s that. A lot of times your parents will ask you that. You don’t know if they’re necessarily accusing you of something you did or did not do, or if it’s just a parent, you know what I mean. It kind of leaves it open to interpretation that way as well. It’s like, did she really do anything? Or did her mother think she did something?
Might the visions we see Elizabeth having in episode 4 connect to whatever this is in Bonnie’s past that Elizabeth is mentioning?
I don’t think so, but I don’t know. A lot of times people don’t know. When people have visions, you get a vision and it’s not always clear where the vision is from — is it from the future or is it from the past? So I don’t know. I know that my character says to her, “I’m uncomfortable and I’m having these visions.” She wants to talk to her daughter more to find out if they’re connected to her or something around her. Everybody’s trying to find out what the visions are about, and why are they happening now.
I think a lot of people might assume the title “She Knows” in this episode will refer to Mary Louise or maybe even Detective Quinlan, but now it seems like the “She” might be Elizabeth — is that fair to say?
I love that. I’m not trying to be vague. I love it because we all shot our scenes separately, but I bet we’re all thinking the same thing as you. It’s like, which one of us knows? Do any of us know? Because I thought the same thing. I thought, “Do I know? Does she know?”
It seems like Bonnie and her mom have a complex, fraught relationship. Is that fair to say and will we learn more about it/why that tension exists this season?
I think you will. I think it is fair to say. But I don’t think it’s any more or less than most relationships in general. I was speaking to someone about it, and we were talking about the different dynamics of family. It’s harder possibly for mothers and daughters because a mother is responsible for how to develop another woman when it’s a daughter. Maybe it’s easier when it’s a mother and son. Just like it might be easier when it’s a father and daughter relationship. But these two women, yeah, it’s inevitable that they will buck heads probably at some point in her growth and her mom’s.
In the novel, Bonnie is a survivor of domestic abuse at the hands of her father. It seems possible that maybe now the perpetrator could be her mother. The flashes of the past suggest, if not outright physical abuse, something strange going on. Is that an outlandish assumption from what we’ve seen for far?
No. No, no, I don’t think it is outlandish.
The final moments of the episode are Elizabeth’s dreams or visions and it looks like Bonnie is drowning. We’ve had this theme of water and Bonnie learning to swim come up already. So, first off, is that Bonnie in that vision? Can you say whether we saw what we thought we saw?
I think so because I saw Bonnie as well. If they changed that, then that’s a trick of the eye on all of us. I really thought that was Bonnie as well.
What is the deal with Bonnie and water? It’s clearly a recurring theme for her and seems perhaps dangerous, especially given the show’s tendency to link the violence of the waves crashing on the shore and these women.
[Elizabeth is wondering] the same thing. Is it literal? Or is just where [Bonnie] was in what’s going on with her life? You know when you feel like you’re drowning, when you feel like you’re suffocating, when you feel like you can’t breathe — is it that or is it literal? That is what’s on Elizabeth’s mind the whole time.
Viewers might assume this is a memory from the past. But it sounds like there’s a chance it’s a premonition or something from the future?
Right. It can be. We all have to wait and see.
Elizabeth can tell something is up. How close is she to learning the truth of this lie and what the Monterey Five have done? How much will her stroke set her back in sniffing that out?
I don’t know if she’s close. That’s just it. She has a stroke before she can get any answers, even from the vision that she had at the party. So she doesn’t know.
Her being in the hospital has certainly complicated things with Detective Quinlan. Will she have any interaction with the detective herself?
We don’t know how well she’ll be or how quickly she might recover, but might Elizabeth become embroiled in Celeste’s custody battle in any way — this show has a lot to say about mothers and children, and it seems like she’s a mama bear and maybe she’d step into that fight somehow?
[Laughs]. Exactly right. If she recovers, absolutely she would be involved, as much as Bonnie would allow her to be.
Is there a scene coming up you’re looking forward to audiences getting to see?
I am just like the rest of the world. Anything that Ms. Streep is in — I could watch her just drink water. I like my scenes with Bonnie. The audience is going to be surprised and moved.
Can you tease something for Elizabeth for episode 5?
You see where she is. She’s in the hospital, so that right there is a lot. It’s not an easy awakening anyway. A person that has a stroke — their life has possibly been changed forever.
- Big Little Lies star Douglas Smith on Corey and Jane’s relationship
- Big Little Lies Beauty Hunter: Breaking down the makeup of Monterey
- Big Little Lies casting director David Rubin on how they landed Meryl Streep for season 2