Every Single Question You’ve Had About The Sinner Mysteries, Answered

Photo: Peter Kramer/USA Network.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
When I first watched the pivotal The Sinner episode “Part IV,” I immediately noticed some parts of Cora Tannetti’s memories were suspect, to say the least. For those who don’t remember the fourth Sinner installment, it showed Cora, who brutally murdered supposed stranger Frankie Belmont (Eric Todd) without explanation, attempting to retrieve her lost memories of July 4th weekend 2012 through hypnosis. But, why would Cora (Jessica Biel) care so much about Maddie (Danielle Burgess), her supposed romantic rival for the heart of J.D. (Jacob Pitts)? Why would anyone be hunting Cora and Maddie in the woods? And, most importantly, why does Cora seem to believe she crushed Maddie’s chest in a basement?
Finally — finally! — viewers got the real answers to our questions in Wednesday night’s Sinner episode, the penultimate “Part VII.” The show opens with Cora walking down the stairs of the Beverwyck House cottage, which we’ve seen in flashes throughout the series intercut with psychosexual horror, and telling Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman), “I remember now.” What follows is an episode-long flashback to the actual events of July 3, 2012, the taproom, the woodsy “hunt,” and that terrifying, terrifying basement.
Keep reading for all of the answers to your biggest The Sinner questions, including the horrifying reason why Cora killed Frankie Belmont.
Read These Stories Next:
1 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
Why Is Maddie All Over Cora’s Memories?

“Part IV” suggests in multiple ways that Maddie and Cora are extremely close, from the fact Cora says Maddie “won’t let her go” to the simple truth Cora follows Maddie down into the Beverwyck cottage basement. That is because Maddie was never Maddie at all — she was Cora’s sister Phoebe Lacey (Nadia Alexander) the entire time.

The weekend of July 4th was Phoebe’s 19th birthday, and she forced Cora to take her to the Taproom, where the older Lacey sister planned to meet J.D.. Cora’s brain clearly overwrote the legitimate memory, inserting Maddie wherever Phoebe actually was.

So, it’s Phoebe Cora was dancing with at the bar, it was Phoebe who told Cora, “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," and it was Phoebe who wouldn't let Cora go.
2 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
Who Actually Took A Pill At The Taproom?

Cora’s hypnosis-found memories suggest she took a pill at the taproom, despite the fact “Maddie” was the one couldn’t hold herself up. This makes more sense now, because it’s revealed Phoebe actually popped a pill at the taproom, which J.D. described as MDMA and “some other stuff.”

Cora, however abstained from drugs until later at the Beverwyck Club, when Phoebe told J.D. of her sister, “Give her a hit, it’ll loosen her up.” At one point in Cora’s faux memories, Maddie tells J.D. the same thing about Cora, but in the taproom.
3 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
What Does The Taproom Bell Have To Do With Anything?

Throughout Cora’s memories, she continuously hears a bell, which sounds deeply ominous. The only significance the bell has it that it’s the taproom’s closing bell. After it is rung in the flashback, Cora, Phoebe, J.D., and Maddie all left the bar, going deeper down into the rabbit's hole we all know ends in chaos.

Once everyone left, Phoebe gave Cora the “you want me to die” speech. At the same time, Maddie and J.D. were syphoning gas out of a truck. This explains why in Cora’s incorrect memories, Maddie’s faculties were still all there during the siphoning scheme, but she was clearly high when they left the bar; the former and the latter situations actually involved two completely different women.
4 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
Were Cora And “Maddie” Actually Hunted?

No, no they were not. During the drive from the taproom to the Beverwyck country club, a very inebriated Phoebe accidentally urinated on herself. Cora, who, remember, was still sober, asked J.D. to pull over so Phoebe could clean herself. The repeated scene in the woods, where Cora and “Maddie” are stuck in some water, was, of course, really Cora and Phoebe, who were busy washing the soiled dress.

What Cora thought was a complaint about Maddie possibly being “poisoned,” was actually Phoebe’s MDMA-influenced ramblings. And Cora's comment about being “stuck” is a simple metaphor about how she’s trapped with Phoebe, who won’t let her go.

The gunshots and bright lights are similarly not as terrifying as previously believed. At least two trucks drove to the Beverwyck from the taproom, and they were both simply parked on the road as everyone waited for “the sisters Lacey” to emerge again from the woods. The gunshots weren’t aimed at the young women. Instead, J.D.'s intoxicated friends were merely shooting into the air as they waited, as drunk associates of drug dealers are wont to do in the desolate woods.
5 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
How Did Everyone End Up At The Beverwyck?

Frankie’s parents make a good argument in “Part II” about why Cora could have never slept with Frankie or gotten impregnated with his baby: during the summer of 2012, their son was working at a volunteer clinic is Los Angeles with his father’s friend. Except… he wasn’t.

Frankie was squatting at the Beverwyck for two days prior to July 4th weekend and invited his friend J.D., along with other pals, to hang out on July 3. While morbidly joking about his own death, Frankie said of himself, “He leaves behind a prestigious scholarship in L.A. as well as some humiliating footage of a panic attack he had on the jetway.”

So, no, Belmont parents, Frankie wasn’t in California that summer. He was very much in Dorchester, 40 miles above his hometown.
6 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
How Do Cora & Frankie Know Each Other?

And, this question is the crux of The Sinner mystery. Phoebe, who has Non-Hodgkins lymphoma and a “Swiss-cheese” heart, among other ailments, and the perfectly handsome Frankie immediately fell in head-over-heels, drug-induced love together, and had many heart-to-hearts throughout the Beverwyck. Frankie pledged to be Phoebe’s assistant during her “destined” career as a travel show host. He said he felt like he’s always known Phoebe, making her cry. They kissed. It was all very emotional.

Cora is unable to monitor her sister’s activities since J.D. dragged her into a drug-related business meeting with a creepy older man named Todd, who keeps trying to caress Cora's leg. J.D. encouraged her to allow it.
7 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
How Does Everyone End Up In The Beverwyck Cottage Basement?

Since Cora wasn't keeping an eye on Phoebe and Frankie, they wandered out to the cottage, which is where the older Lacey sibling finds the new couple slow dancing. Phoebe, who was originally angry when Cora revealed she was planning to move in with J.D. that weekend, told her sister she’s never going home again; Frankie is her home now. Cora begged Phoebe to leave the Beverwyck with her in that moment, but her younger sister refuses, posing in front of that famed Sinner basement door and asking, “Cora, are you coming?”

As we know, the answer is yes. This is why Cora walked down those creepy patterned stairs.
8 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
Was Cora Sexually Assaulted In The Basement?

Everything went truly wrong in the Beverwyck basement. As I mentioned earlier, Phoebe goaded Cora into snorting some cocaine, since she “deserve[s] to feel good.” Then Phoebe kissed her sister, then had her kiss Frankie, and then finally had her kiss J.D. The camera fuzzes out for a moment, and when it refocuses, it’s clear Cora went on a small cocaine binge after all the kissing.

Cora’s mental state is further impaired by J.D. dipping his hand in some cocaine and then pressing his fingers directly into her vagina. Afterwards, J.D. played that bizarre game with Cora where he has her beg for orgasms, which she does. Although she believed she was having sex with J.D., she was actually being penetrated from behind by the extremely creepy, and criminal, Todd. Cora went along with it because she was deeply intoxicated, and J.D. is sexually manipulating her. But, she never gave consent (not that either of these men asked). So, yes, she was raped.
9 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
How Does The Song Factor In? And The Demonic Man’s Back? And Cora’s Memory Of Crushing Someone’s Chest?

While all of this was happening, “The Song” was playing, which is by Frankie’s band. Interestingly, Frankie mentioned J.D. is actually the person doing the vocals on the song.

During her coerced encounter with Todd and J.D., Cora looked over toward the basement couch and noticed Phoebe and Frankie were having surprisingly sweet sex (it’s sex, not rape, because it’s consensual). At one point, Cora focused on the way Frankie’s shoulders are moving, which look demonic in her drugged-up state. These are the shoulders that have appeared in Cora’s memories before. The reason Frankie’s shoulders were moving so rapidly is because Phoebe’s heart seemingly gave out in the middle of sex and Frankie was trying to use CPR to bring her back. Cora realized this because Phoebe’s limp hand was hanging off of the couch.

Frankie, a medical student, kept trying to bring Phoebe back to life, but eventually pushed too hard down on the teen’s chest. The sound of Phoebe’s chest cracking filled the room, announcing the young woman's death.
10 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
Why Did Cora Stab Frankie The Way She Did — And Assault Ambrose In The Same Way?

After Cora heard Phoebe’s chest crack, she jumped up and hit Frankie in the chest in the exact same pattern, screaming, “Stop it! Get off!

Cora has been reliving the moment her sister died for five years.
11 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
How Did Cora Get That Gash On Her Head?

J.D. tried to get Cora off of Frankie, but she elbowed him directly in the nose during her fit of rage. J.D. responded by picking up a nearby, surprisingly thick, ashtray and hitting Cora over the head with it. The implied place he hit Cora perfectly lines up with where her scar is.
12 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
Where Do The Ski Masks Come In?

While we’ll likely get more clarity on this question in Sinner finale “Part VII,” it’s implied the three men involved in the apparent manslaughter of Phoebe and rape and near-fatal assault of Cora (J.D., Frankie, and Toos) kept the older Lacey sister prisoner for two months as she healed. Then, they shot her up with heroin to explain her absence. They used the ski masks to hide their identities, which makes sense, since one of J.D.'s buddies was wearing the terrifying mask in question during the party.

It’s worth point out the fact Frankie is medical student who can handle duties like stitching wounds, bandaging heads, and injecting people with needles.
13 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
What Happened To Phoebe?

Phoebe obviously died the night of July 3rd after Frankie accidentally cracked her chest open. Yet, in “Part III,” Cora’s father William (C.J. Wilson) tells Detective Ambrose that Phoebe died “about a month after Cora left” of lymphoma. This is a lie.

Considering how the Beverwyck has a history of paying people off when they’re involved in their darkest secrets, it’s possible the Lacey parents got a big pay-off to keep the actual events that led to their daughter’s death a secret. That would also explain why the Lacey parents never filed a missing person report for Cora during her two-month period in captivity.

The body in the woods still hasn’t been identified — could it be Phoebe’s?
14 of 14
Photo: Courtesy of USA.
Who Got Pregnant And Jumped In Front Of A Car?

During one of Cora’s earliest explanations for the murder of Frankie, she says Frankie falsely told her his name was J.D., they slept together, she got pregnant, he didn’t want to be involved, and she was so overcome with grief over this fact she jumped in front of a car, killing the baby. None of this happened.

But, over the course of “Part VII,” it’s revealed Maddie was the one who was actually impregnated by the real J.D. and subsequently almost died by jumping in front of a car.

J.D. eventually got so fed up with Maddie’s (understandably) unhinged behavior after that fiasco and her ex-boyfriend’s flagrant relationship with Cora, he ordered Maddie to leave the Beverwyck and “go home.” This is the last we see of Maddie, but, at least she’s alive.

Interesting, Cora also said in her false baby story she went to an unknown man’s home for “treatment” after her supposed accident. It’s possible Cora was mixing up that untrue memory with her real one of being held following her ashtray head wound.

More from TV


R29 Original Series