Monterey’s local 7-Eleven is sold-out of Marlboro Lights thanks to Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon). She’s started smoking cigarettes to manage her stress, and for good reason. (I really wish the gang passed around Abigail’s [Kathryn Newton] Juul instead because you A. Know she has one, and B. As Renata points out, “nobody smokes cigarettes anymore.”) Madeline’s marriage is as strong as single-ply toilet paper, and her daughter, Chloe (Darby Camp) literally uses her face as a visual representation of the word “unhinged.” “This is a door,” she tells her mom, showing off her language arts project on antonyms. “And this is you...the door is hinged.” So, yeah, cigarettes it is.
We’re halfway through the season, and the chess pieces are starting to move in Mary Louise’s (Meryl Streep) favour, which is a very scary thing to witness. I don’t know why it’s so scary — she hasn’t proven to be a violent or murderous villain, but her overall shadiness is unsettling.
And even though things are getting serious with Bonnie’s (Zoë Kravitz) depression, Madeline and her impending divorce, and Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and her monster-in-law, it’s hard to take this episode too seriously thanks to Amabella’s disco-themed birthday party (it’s not even her birthday, by the way). The Kleins are using the last bit of their fortune — and shred of Renata’s (Laura Dern) sanity — to throw Amabella (Ivy George) an unforgettables ‘70s bash, which is where a chunk of the episode’s action goes down. Oh, and the death by drowning I keep mentioning? I think it really might happen…
Madeline Martha Mackenzie
Madeline is sticking to her original story: Her own personal issues led her to cheat on Ed (Adam Scott). She still loves him and their life together. She still wants to be with Ed, but does he want to be with her? She cold pitches the idea of a couple’s retreat on Big Sur. She tries to initiate sex. She asks him to dance at the party. No bites. He’s done faking things, including their relationship. “I’m sick of all the pretending...This is pretending. You, me, us. Everything.” Later in their kitchen, she begs him to leave her — if that’s what he wants. She’s tired. She’s lonely. She’s thinking about theatre guy again. She’s NOT okay.
On top of that, Madeline feels like the other moms are blaming her for their guilty conscience over Perry’s (Alexander Skarsgård) death. Although, it is weird how little Madeline thinks about the night she helped coverup the murder of her best friend’s husband.
Bankruptcy court and the Kleins go together like oil and water. Their hilariously stern trustee takes all their assets, including their Tesla and, briefly, Renata’s wedding ring. He tries to question Renata about the possibility of a major inheritance coming through, prompting her to smuggly declare: “I’m self-made.” As a little fuck you for her snideness, he makes her clarify a $4,200 medical charge in front of her husband and lawyer. (It was for a face lift. She blames men like him for needing one.)
Broke but not broken, Renata still hosts a themed birthday party for the ages. In the middle of all the fun, Renata reminds Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) of her utter disappointment of their current life: “All my dreams have gone to shit.” She’s confident she’ll be rich again, but like Madeline, she’s so consumed with her husband drama that she isn’t really thinking too much about the fact that the POLICE HAVE SEIZED HER COMPUTER AND iPAD. Is there really no evidence left in an email or text?
Is Celeste a mess? I can’t decide. I do think that she is grieving in her own way, and that she isn’t a bad mom per se, but she has been giving Mary Louise a lot of material to build a pretty impressive case against her in child custody court. Celeste is taking Ambien, bringing home strange men (hello, Joe the bartender [Christopher Backus]), shoving her kids, and hitting Mary Louise. (That open-handed smack is one of the most iconic scenes of the season: “What should we call that?” Mary Louise inquires. “Foreplay?”)
I wonder what these next few episodes are going to look like for her as she begins to unravel around the custody battle. Mary Louise is calling the best lawyers, while Celeste is starting to second guess even her strongest relationships. First, she tells Madeline that if she could do it again, she would not have followed her lead in covering up Perry’s death. “This fucking lie has had quite a shelf life,” she snaps. While she has a point, her delivery of it is harsh, and unexpected. It’s really unclear what Celeste feels about it all. Then, after hearing the news that Mary Louise plans to take her to court, she loses her shit at her therapist’s office, basically accusing Dr. Amanda Reisman (Robin Weigert) of using her sessions against her. As of now, the boys are none the wiser to the turmoil between their mom and grandma, but they probably know more than we realize. Remember when Celeste didn’t think they knew about her and Perry’s conversations behind closed doors?
And even though the lie got plenty of air-time this episode, the actual root of all this mistrust and animosity isn’t Perry’s death — it’s his brother’s. Mary Louise’s husband, who has been out of the picture for awhile, blamed her for the death of Perry’s brother, and she still obviously hasn’t forgiven herself after all these years. Is she trying to take the twins in order to live out her personal fantasy of raising two boys? Does she hate Celeste, or just love being the sole matriarch? Is she going to try to take Ziggy, too, like Jane (Shailene Woodley) so fears?
Jane and surfer boy Corey’s (Douglas Smith) relationship has slowly gear-shifted from neutral to drive. They dance, all cuddled up, at the party, and he tenderly holds her hand while she tells him the story of her rape. She doesn’t say who attacked her, but she does reveal that Ziggy is that man’s son. In response, he simply takes her hand and unclenches it, holding it in his own. We...stan!
But it’s not all roses for Jane — she has two majorly awkward conversations this episode: One with Celeste where she asks if Perry has ever raped her (Celeste lies and says no), and another with Mary Louise when she tells her to leave her and Ziggy alone. “Are you going to try to take my son, too?” she asks Mary Louise, who has also conveniently moved into Jane’s building. Mary Louise insists she isn’t, but who can trust that woman right now?
It’s hard to tell if Bonnie’s mom was actually onto something with the Monterey crew, or just showing premature signs of a stroke. After Elizabeth Howard (Crystal Fox) passes out at the party, Bonnie is shaken up and spends the evening at the hospital by her mother’s side. Prior to her fainting, Elizabeth had been enjoying the party, except for one thing: She feels, like really feels (again, pre-stroke), a bad energy in the Klein house, and tells Bonnie she knows there is something up with the other moms there. Underneath their plastic surgery, and their crimped hair, they are hiding secrets, and those secrets are tearing Bonnie apart. Elizabeth ain’t wrong! But Bonnie won’t admit it.
The only time Bonnie almost folds is when Mary Louise surprises the moms at Madeline’s house (my favourite frenemies — Mary Louise is still winning) during a pumpkin carving session. The two exchange an intense glance, and Bonnie looks...simultaneously unbothered and on edge. Mary Louise notes how pretty she is as her gaze lingers in her direction. There’s no way Mary Louise actually knows what happened, but she may notice that Bonnie is the most emotional about it all.
The scene made me imagine Mary Louise cornering Elizabeth in the hospital to ask about Bonnie’s state of mind since Perry’s death. Would she tell this strange, grieving mother about her suspicions? And if she did come to the hospital, would Detective Quinlan still be haunting the halls, waiting to hear a crucial piece of information to finally build her case against the Monterey Five?
Speaking of, Elizabeth’s suspicions are getting stronger, even post-stroke. The doctors tell Bonnie that her mom has some bleeding in her brain, but it’s minimal, so for a little bit viewers think that the visions would cease. But no. As soon as she regains consciousness, Bonnie reaches out to touch her. Instantly, scenes of water, waves, and Bonnie floating, lifeless, fill the screen. I’m still left with the same questions: Is this literal? Is Bonnie going to die? Or is this just the visual manifestation of her feeling like she’s drowning in the lie? Or could it be both?
Good husband moment: Ed and Nathan tussling. *Chef’s kiss* “We were playing! We were playing!” More of this, HBO, please. I need a little zaddy comic relief every once in awhile.
Bad husband moment: Bonnie’s dad blaming her for her mother’s stroke. How??? That is not how that works. Just leave her alone. However, I do crave so much more context around Bonnie’s fraught relationship with her parents.
-Mary Louise is sweet in the pizza scene. And now I can’t stop thinking about her leaning over and whispering, “It’s the best pizza in the wooo-rld.”
-Ziggy and the rest of the kids don’t play a huge part in the episode, so I feel like a big kid-centric moment is in our midst. These parents forget that kids are like sponges, absorbing all this toxic energy around them. I mean, hello, Amabella.
-The episode ends with a Timmy Thomas track (no relation to Lil Timmy Tim), that’s about unity, and togetherness. “Why can’t we live together,” he asks? Isn’t that the question on all the mom’s minds as all the marriages continue to splinter. Will peace (peace of mind, peace financially, peace physically) ever be possible again? Or did the lie kill that along with Perry?