What We Know So Far About The Night Cora Blacked Out On The Sinner

Photo: Peter Kramer/USA Network.
If there is any TV show contributing to the nation’s insomnia right now, it’s The Sinner. The USA limited series keeps falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole that is Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel), and the murder investigation surrounding her. Not only is the mystery of why Cora brutally killed stranger Frankie Belmont (Eric Todd) truly baffling, it’s also excessively creepy, since it’s filled with chilling masks and flashes of psychosexual horror.
After weeks of not knowing what’s real, what’s imagined, and whether Cora even knows the difference, "Part IV" finally starts to give viewers answers about the night that began this entire ordeal: July 3rd, 2012. The episode follows Cora as she tries to retrieve her memories of July 4th weekend and figure out why she resurfaced at a Poughkeepsie detox center two entire months later. Disturbingly, the time between both events is completely blank.
Of course, the eventual deep dive into Cora’s frightening memories is both confusing and filled with major clues about the life-changing night in question. Here, find out what happened between Cora, her supposed ex-boyfriend and implied tormenter J.D. (Jacob Pitts), and the mystery blonde filling Cora’s memories, Maddie (Danielle Burgess). Maybe then you'll finally be able to get some sleep.
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Photo: Courtesy of USA.
Who Was Cora With On July 3?

When Cora first brings up the night of July 3 on The Sinner, she says she was with J.D. and his friends. However, when we see Cora’s allegedly accurate memories of the evening, the only people she’s seen interacting with are J.D. himself and Maddie. At best that would be described as J.D. and "a friend," not friends.

It’s possible other people joined them, since at one point in "Part IV" Cora is spotted laughing at an unknown brunette woman’s joke. But, no one other than J.D. and Maddie are specifically identified.
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Photo: Courtesy of USA.
What Actually Happened At Carl’s Taproom?

The night begins at Carl’s Taproom. If we’re going off Cora’s retrieved memories, she spent most of her time sitting at a table with J.D. and Maddie, who are planning something Cora doesn’t know about. It looks as though it’s purposeful the duo won’t spill their secret to a curious, but obliging, Cora.

Eventually, Maddie offers Cora a mystery pill, and J.D. nods as a signal for his apparent girlfriend to take it. Cora does as she’s told. Later, we see Cora and Maddie holding each other on the dance floor. Maddie is clearly messed up, as Cora observes the young woman can barely hold herself up. This is noteworthy because Cora is the only one we see take a pill, but it’s Maddie who clearly is feeling the effects of drugs.

We also see three scenes outside of the taproom: one of J.D. and Maddie syphoning someone’s gasoline into a canister, one of Cora kissing J.D. while he "tastes like gasoline," and one of Cora following Maddie out of the bar and into the car. In all of these moments, the women are wearing the same clothing, so this all definitely happened on July 3rd. A betting woman would guess the first two scenes occurred before anyone entered Carl’s, as Maddie is in full control of her faculties, and the latter scene happened as they were leaving for good.

As the trio leave the taproom, Cora seems terrified, saying, "Something horrible is going to happen, I can feel it."
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Photo: Courtesy of USA.
What Is Actually Going On With Maddie?

We get multiple contrasting accounts of Cora’s relationship with Maddie. When we first see her in "Part IV," Cora says Maddie is "J.D.’s ex" who "hates" her because of J.D.. Yet, Cora still accepts a pill from Maddie, who in no way seems like her relationship with J.D. is over.

Later, as I mentioned, Maddie and Cora are spotted dancing together, hinting they’re actually friends. Another arrow pointing towards their connection comes when Maddie tells Cora, "I know what you’re doing so you can just stop. You’re trying to get rid of me. And then you’re just going to go meet up with him anyway. You want me to die." Although the statement sounds harsh, Maddie actually sounds hurt by Cora’s supposed machinations — not jealous or "catty." It actually seems like Cora would be betraying Maddie’s friendship if she "got rid" of her and "met up" with J.D.

A possible friendship is further hinted at when Cora says of Maddie, "I hate her. I want to hold her under water and I want to break her into pieces. Because she won’t let me go." It doesn’t sound like she’s sticking around for J.D., whom she was kissing. Instead, it seems like Cora is staying in this scary situation for Maddie. Especially since she adds at one point, "I don’t want to go, but Maddie is already in the truck." If Cora isn't close with Maddie, why would it matter if she ditches her?

Interestingly, Maddie’s former landlord, a woman named Debra Randall (Pamela J. Gray), tells detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) she was in a polyamorous relationship with Maddie before the younger woman disappeared the weekend of July 4th, 2012, leaving all of her possessions behind.

Debra also confirms polyamory was Maddie and J.D.’s "thing," up until the young woman went missing. That means Maddie was not actually J.D.’s ex, as Cora claims, during the night in question.
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Photo: Courtesy of USA.
How Does Frankie Belmont’s Song Factor In?

After leaving Carl’s Taproom, Cora confirms she and Maddie — and likely J.D. — went to a house afterwards. It’s the house with the blue and gold wallpaper we’ve seen tormenting Cora since the premiere.

Furthering the question of Maddie and Cora’s actual relationship, Cora willingly follows Maddie, not J.D., down the stairs of the house. "The song" is playing in the background and Cora has a violent, visceral reaction to hearing it. It is hinted this place is where Cora was raped by an unknown man. During this flashback scene, we see the back of a man in the middle of having sex and a flash of a man wearing a haunting ski mask, who is clothed. It’s impossible to say whether both guys are one in the same.

In the final moments of Cora’s memories from "the house," we hear a loud crack and see Maddie’s terrified face. A lightening-fast pause of the screen shows the disturbing sound is caused by a shoe crushing Maddie’s chest. The shoe, as the previous scene proves, belongs to Cora.
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Photo: Courtesy of USA.
What Is Going On With The Water Tower?

Although Cora’s memory implies Maddie died in the house, it’s likely that was more of a dreamlike representation of what happened on July 3rd, rather than a straightforward retelling of the evening.

We can guess this because we later see both women in the woods looking at a water tower while they’re trapped in muddy water. This had to have happened after they left the house, since that nightmare of a home is where Cora and Maddie went directly after Carl’s Taproom. In the forest, Maddie clutches Cora for security, saying, "They poisoned me," and complaining she "can't breathe." Cora tries to calm Maddie down, promising her everything will be "okay."

Yet, that’s unlikely, because unseen people are "hunting" the young women through the woods. Eventually, the mystery assailants start shooting at Cora and Maddie, or at least it sounds that way. While no one is hit in the snippet we see, at least two gunshots are fired. Cora is unable to explain why she’s being hunted, saying, "I don’t know [why. It’s] something we did."
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Photo: Courtesy of USA.
How Does The "Hunt" End?

We don’t see what happens after people start firing at Cora and Maddie, but The Sinner heavily implies Maddie was murdered that night. Going off of Cora’s description of July 3, Detective Ambrose goes searching through the woods and eventually finds the remains of a dead body.

As we know, Maddie has been missing since that fateful evening in 2012.
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Photo: Courtesy of USA.
What Does The School Bus Have To Do With Anything?

Cora’s search for her memories stretches over two sessions with Dr. Tammy Chang (Mia Katigbak). During both, she has a flashback to her childhood, where a school bus loudly drives past a young Cora, forcing her to miss it.

The childhood memory first pops up when Cora takes the pill at Carl’s Taproom. The second time, it reappears while Cora remembers being hunted in the woods. During the latter time, the bus’s noisy exhaust is timed to match the sound of a gunshot.

It’s clear the school bus memory somehow factors into July 3, it’s still unclearly what, exactly, the moment symbolizes.
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