The Sinner recap: School days
The Sinner's sixth episode finds Mr. B back in class, reminding his students to do their reading homework before dismissing them for the day. Outside of school, he leaves Lela a voicemail, begging to meet with her so he can “explain everything that happened.”
But Lela's busy. She's having a chat with Harry, who's trying to tell her – as gently as possible – her husband's a murderer. She can't make sense of it. “Jamie doesn't get angry.” Even after she'd had an affair a few years back (that mystery incident Jamie referenced last episode), her husband blamed himself and stuck with her. While baby Burns cries in the background, the two grasp for answers. The only possible clue Lela comes up with is a grade-school fight that saw Jamie beaten by a childhood friend.
Back at his new home/hotel, Jamie flashes to his college days. He's participating in a round-table discussion on Kierkegaard. The professor leading the debate is making the argument for an all-powerful god. Across from the youthful Burns, a shaggy-haired, nasally-voiced student counters the professor's assertion with snark to spare. And so begins Jamie Burns' weird obsession with Nick Haas.
Later that evening, Sonya and Harry are growing ever closer at the detective's cabin in the woods. She discusses the case, which, of course, makes him uncomfortable. The two drink, kiss, and sit in front of the fire. Outside, by the window, a seething Jamie watches them get cozy on the couch.
College-age Jamie isn't having a great day either. He's just found out his parents are traveling during his Thanksgiving break. No worries, though, as Haas insists on staying with him. After that's decided, they head to Burns' dorm room to get their Dead Poets Society on. Jamie reads Nietzsche aloud – “Brave is he who knows fear, but conquers fear” – while Nick carves “Ubermensch” into his headboard with a pocket knife. “So you don't forget.”
At Sonya's place, the artist is sketching Jamie, using the pics she secretly snapped as reference. She's interrupted by a ping from her security system. A glance at her outdoor camera feed reveals a hooded figure. It's Jamie, who lets himself in when Sonya intentionally fails to lock the door. She greets him with a shouldered shotgun, then accuses him of trespassing. He accuses her of “stalking my wife and f---ing the detective that's after me.” He spots the sketches, things get weird.
Sonya lowers the gun, picks up her camera, and begins taking pictures of him. He asks if she'll show Harry the pics. “This is about you and me,” she responds. Fast-forward a bit, and Jamie's stripped naked, posing for her, while she's taking extreme close-up shots of her unwelcome (welcome?) guest's face.
The next day, Burns has a meeting that doesn't require showing his bare backside. He and Lela are talking in a seaside gazebo. She wants answers, he wants help. He admits to the Brooklyn murder, but counters, “It was just a moment. I was so lost.” He pleads for his estranged wife's help, but it's all a little too much for the new mother. She leaves.
Jamie returns to work, where he's passing out advanced placement exams like business as usual. Emma, who he's not supposed to have any contact with, is nervous. His boss calls him from class. She's not happy he's completely ignored her request he take a leave of absence. They argue, but are cut short when Emma suffers a seizure brought on by her Adderall habit.
The next scene returns us to young Jamie's happy college days. He and Nick are peering from a bridge's ledge, looking at the water and rocks below. It's a long way down. Nick pulls out a paper fortune teller. “Pick a number. This is our mutual fate.” It reads, “Jump.” Nick takes the plunge. A scared Jamie just can't do it.
Back at the Dorchester police station, Harry's paid a visit by his daughter. She's not thrilled he punched and choked Burns in front of her son. “He liked it. He's been acting out what you did over and over.” Harry wants to talk to his grandson, smooth things over, but she prefer he not see him for awhile. Family Thanksgiving is canceled.
Meanwhile, Jamie's visiting Emma in the hospital, until her agitated mom boots him out. But that's cool, because Burns has a grade-school fundraiser to disrupt. The event is a silent auction, where a basket-full of Lela's artisanal goodies is up for grabs. She's not happy to see him. Neither is her brother. Things get heated. Jamie drops several loud f-bombs in the busy auditorium. Thankfully, good ole' Detective Soto is in the house. He escorts Jamie into the stairwell outside. Burns absolutely loses it, repeatedly smashing a metal chair into a concrete wall.
Exhausted from his tantrum, Jamie takes another mental trip back to his college days. It's Thanksgiving, but as planned, he and Haas are doing Turkey Day in the college cafeteria. Burns is upset over chickening out at the bridge. Nick gives him a pep talk as only he can. “You're supposed to be scared. That's the point. You jump because it's terrifying. You jump because you want to live.” Caught up in the moment, Jamie's convinced to go back to the bridge. While Nick sings “here we go 'round the prickly pear...,” Burns lags behind, stiff and terrified. But Nick pours on the peer pressure – “This is your moment” – and Jamie takes the leap.
While Soto's breaking down the fundraiser incident for Ambrose, he gets a call. An officer who's since been trailing Jamie says the suspect wants Harry to meet him at the school. Soto promises to track Harry's phone. “This guy's capable of anything.” Ambrose offers a nervous smile. “If you don't hear from me by the time you wake up, come find me.”
While Harry is traveling to meet Jamie, we get a quick peek at what Lela's up to. She's cleaning house...and finding the bloody tissue she'd previously used to wipe her husband's “mosquito bite.” She secures it in a zip-lock bag.
When Ambrose meets Burns, the latter seems confident and enlightened. “Things are becoming clearer now.” Convinced he and Harry are trying to work through the same sort of issues, he breaks out some Nick greatest hits. “You have to accept the fear, embrace it. You want the same thing I do, to step into the abyss and find some kind of relief. I want to show you.”
This all leads to Harry and Jamie walking through the Dorchester woods, carrying small bundles of wood and a length of hose. Burns happily recites the “prickly pear” verse Nick was so fond of. They arrive at the grave, where Jamie explains its true purpose. “It was never for killing. This is for us.” Harry smartly deduces the two used to bury each other alive, but stupidly accepts Burns' invitation to give the sick game a try. “I want you to experience it, the freedom you feel when you move past fear,” urges Burns.
It's not his suspect's words that convince him, though, but a handwritten confession he hands to Harry. Jamie promises to dig him up, but also offers the note as insurance; because letting him die would eventually lead the police to his body and the confession. Harry looks at the six-foot hole, shoves the confession in his pocket, and flips a coin to determine who's buried first. One bad coin toss later, and Ambrose is on his back, peeking between the boards while Burns covers them with dirt.
Jamie advises the detective to keep the hose near his mouth so he can breath. Lying in the increasingly claustrophobic space, Harry checks his phone. No service. The hose begins to retract from the grave. He tries to grab it, but can't hold on. Completely buried at this point, he screams for Jamie. He's met with silence before the screen goes dark.