The Sinner recap: The most awkward dinner ever sheds new light on Percy's disappearance
Never one to let a lead go cold, Harry Ambrose begins The Sinner's third episode hot on the heels of Meg Muldoon. The fishing family's no-nonsense, secret-keeping matriarch lied to him at the close of episode 2, and the dogged detective isn't about to let that slide.
He follows Meg to the mainland, where he witnesses her receive a fat envelope of cash from a mystery man, then watches her argue with a woman outside her home. After Meg leaves the stranger's residence in a huff, Harry heads to the house and hits the motherlode. Turns out the woman is Percy's birth mom. She was 16 when she left her baby, noting, "Nothing I could do was ever good enough for Meg Muldoon."
Percy's biological mother tells Harry that Meg is a "tyrant" before diving into a flashback-fueled tale of the time Percy tried to escape her Hanover Island family. Percy showed up nine months ago because she had nowhere else to go. But she left just as suddenly before her biological mom could ask her what she was running from. On the upside, the tearful woman provides Harry with Percy's most recent address.
This intel brings Harry to the apartment of Percy's former roommate, where we're treated to another info-packed flashback. While gutting a fish on the kitchen counter — to the disgust of her new housemate — Percy confides, "I'm so sick of my family." The pair then go out for a fun night of dancing, drinking, and drugs... before Percy quickly kills the hard-partying vibe with, "Do you ever feel like you're cursed?"
But it's all good because her roomie gets her a job at the mall. Looking awkward in a retail-dress-code polo, Percy's hanging fashionable blouses when she's struck with some serious paranoia. She goes to her roommate/coworker, tells her a man is after her, then leaves. Her friend surveys the shoppers outside but sees nothing suspicious.
The incident leaves Percy freaked out and unable to leave the house. Armed with a little bag of illegal substances, her friend convinces her to go clubbing. All's well until Percy spots a hooded figure with blood running down his hand. She leaves in a hurry. When her friend returns home the next morning, Percy's long gone, and her room's been ransacked.
With Harry's fruitful trip to the mainland wrapped, he hops back on the ferry, where he has another conversation with imaginary Percy. She suggests it may be easier on everyone if she just disappears. More determined than ever to crack the case, Harry meets with Chief Raskin, who's found something in the woods near Percy's abandoned vehicle. Lou leads Ambrose to a tree stump, where an odd assortment of trinkets — including a tiny bird skull and razor blade — rest. Harry notes the similarity to the items he found at the bluff, then asks Raskin if he knows anything about "night swimming," referring to the nude women he'd seen engaged in some sort of ritual. Lou, of course, doesn't have a clue.
Harry regroups with Sonya, fills her in on his progress, and convinces her to pop in at the Muldoon's on the way to dinner. Sonya reluctantly agrees to play good-cop, while Harry attempts to gain more insight into the fishing family's possible involvement in Percy's disappearance. But Sonya soon gets more than she signed up for when Ambrose cancels their plans in favor of joining the Muldoon clan for a meal.
What follows is one of the most awkward, dysfunctional family dinners in television history. Meg leads her brood in saying grace, and Sonya kicks off some polite small talk. So far, so good. But things take a dark turn when a call comes in from Raskin. Sean Muldoon, Percy's father, picks up the phone. Apparently, CJ Lam cut some of their lobster traps. "The gall of that goddamned family," chimes Meg, while Sean and his short-fused sibling Colin argue.
The conversation turns to Percy. Harry asks if she could have been using drugs, prompting suspicious glances between the Muldoons. Harry turns up the heat, revealing he spoke with Percy's real mom. He asks about Percy's escape to the mainland, something Sean apparently wasn't aware of. Sean's pissed, Harry presses, and Sonya nervously pours gravy.
Meg and Colin claim Percy wanted to come home. They say they went to retrieve her, again keeping her dad in the dark, but dodge questions about her disheveled room. Sean's baffled as to why he wasn't kept in the loop: "Why didn't you tell me any of this? She's my daughter!" He slams the table and leaves. Meg follows suit, rising from her seat with a calm, "That about wraps up dinner."
In the hallway, Harry and Sonya argue. He sends her on her way while he hangs back to continue poking the bear. He confronts Meg about her mainland activities, including that beefy envelope of Benjamin's. She's none too happy about being "stalked" and claims the man's a friend helping keep her struggling lobster empire afloat. Harry asks why Percy ran away from home, then calls Meg out on lying about the last time she saw her. Meg's speechless but is saved by the sound of a nearby scuffle. Colin and Sean are exchanging blows in the backyard. Upon being freed from his brother's headlock, Sean literally points a finger at Colin, "If you're investigating anyone, it should be him!"
Meg asks Harry to leave, and we're given a peek at the night she went to get Percy from the mainland. Percy's crouched on the floor and crying in front of a smashed mirror. Meg hugs her and asks what happened, but the scared girl only says, "Please take me home." Back on the island, Grandma Muldoon tucks Percy into bed before pausing outside the door to hear Percy moaning indistinctly.
Cut to Harry and Sonya's cottage, where the former immediately begins apologizing. She's disappointed with how he handled things and didn't appreciate getting dragged into it. He agrees he's better on his own and heads to the living room, where a figure's waiting for him outside. It's Sean Muldoon. "There's something I have to tell you," he says. "We lied about not having seen Percy that night."
Percy was apparently confronting her dad about his drug use. Sean says he's dealing with the problem, something that started with pain killers for a shoulder he messed up while working on the boats. The night of his daughter's disappearance, he was headed to Diez's to "fix" something he'd made worse. But he didn't want his car recognized, so he took Percy's vehicle, the one that was ultimately found abandoned the next day. Following this confession, Harry asks if Colin's been stalking Percy. Sean adamantly denies this but says the two were "close." Harry presses for specifics, but Sean awkwardly avoids the question.
Harry heads inside, where imaginary Percy is waiting. "You can see how I might have just needed an escape," she says. Ambrose suggests maybe she's just hiding out, laying low where no one can get to her. "Running never solves anything, though, for you, especially," she cryptically replies.
While this dark exchange would have aptly ended the episode, we're treated to one final scene. A couple's digging for oysters on the beach... oblivious to the corpse floating facedown just a few yards away.
- The Sinner recap: A secret relationship gives insight into Percy's disappearance
- The Sinner premiere recap: A creepy new case pulls recently-retired Harry back in
- Bill Pullman promotes the use of 'freedom masks' with Independence Day throwback
- Bill Pullman reclaims voice from Donald Trump's Independence Day deepfake video