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‘Big Little Lies’ Season 2, Episode 5 Recap: Keeping It Together

Jul 8, 2019

Season 2, Episode 5: ‘Kill Me’

To lie is one thing. To lie under oath is another.

That’s the predicament the Monterey Five may soon find themselves in thanks to Mary Louise and the guardianship war she is waging. Celeste roundly rejected her mother-in-law’s offer of joint custody of Max and Josh, which means this thing is going to court — which means lawyers are going to be asking a lot of questions.

“It’s a perjury trap,” Renata tells her four co-conspirators at the after-hours beach meeting Celeste abruptly calls. They will each be called to the stand, she predicts, to speak to Celeste’s fitness as a mother, and then, the attorneys will casually slip in some questions about how, exactly, Perry died that night.

As the gravity of this sinks in, everybody squirms. You can see the nervous energy kicking in and the cracks forming. And all it takes is one leak for the whole dam to burst.

But the women can’t let that happen. No, they all have to keep it together. “Keep it together,” in fact, becomes the mantra for this entire episode.

It’s the advice Celeste’s lawyer, Katie Richmond (Poorna Jagannathan), gives to her after Mary Louise feigns naïveté in front of the judge, purposely provoking Celeste. If Celeste becomes “unhinged” — an adjective that’s becoming a go-to on this show — it proves Mary Louise’s case, Katie tells her. Keep it together.

It’s all Celeste and Jane can do when they find out their kids ganged up on a classmate, busting his lip and sending him to the hospital. It wasn’t out of nowhere, they come to find. This child, Brian McPherson (Benjamin Plessala), is a known bully who singled out Ziggy at recess, calling him a mistake and telling him his father was a rapist.

In a vacuum, many parents might see the schoolyard beat down as a typical, albeit unfortunate, response. But we know Celeste and Jane have reason to feel a deeper sense of worry. Max and Josh have already shown signs of their father’s aggression, and now, even Ziggy can’t help but wonder aloud, “Am I going to grow up to be like him?”

But the boys also shouldn’t let themselves be victimized. And maybe, in a weird way, the two mothers feel a twinge of pride that their sons stuck together like a wolf pack. The only thing to do, it seems, in a confusing mess of a situation like this, is to put the boys’ suspension to good use by going kayaking. Because sometimes blowing off your responsibilities just works.

When Renata finds out Celeste and Jane are spending the day with their kids on the water, she decides to keep Amabella home from school for a mother-daughter pool party. Amabella, though — ever the cynic — thinks her mother is really just doing this because she’s sad about being broke and wants to feel better.

She’s right, of course, but so what?

“Everything isn’t about money,” Renata tells Amabella. “Well, it is, but it isn’t,” she adds, which is the truest statement she can make after losing her house, her status, her magazine spread and everything else she has worked for — all while trying to keep it together for her daughter, who feels as if her world were literally ending. But not today. Renata and Amabella splash around in the sun one last time in their pool, yelling, “hello!” to the ocean, momentarily forgetting about the packed up boxes in the house.

But sometimes playing hooky doesn’t work. Although she tells Ziggy she has to spend the morning at the aquarium, Jane actually spends much of the day at home with Corey, day drinking, dancing and attempting to have lighthearted first-time sex. But just as quickly as the mood strikes her, the trauma Perry left her with takes over, and she collapses into tears.

Madeline, meanwhile, is trying to keep her marriage to Ed together in what was one of the few moments of comic relief in this episode. She drags Ed up to Big Sur for that couples workshop, imploring him the whole way to keep an open mind. But after one asinine icebreaker involving impromptu hugs with strangers — “for about the length of a nice inhale, exhale” — the two bail.

Back in the car, Ed lays out his impossible choice: to leave the marriage with his dignity intact, or stay with a woman he can no longer trust. Madeline, at least so she says, wants nothing more than for Ed to choose the latter. She can’t say for sure that she won’t screw up again, but she promises that it won’t be by cheating. All her future mistakes, she says, will be “brand-new ones.”

Finally, no one knows more about keeping it together than Bonnie, who has been doing it her whole life. She survived her mother’s abuse and her father’s passivity, and now she’s fighting to hold on through the guilt of having killed someone, and through the looming danger of a blown cover.

And now, all five women must keep it together — and not crack — for the sake of the lie they’ve been telling for more than a year. If they have to perjure themselves, they will perjure themselves. That’s the plan. Stick to the story, Madeline insists during the group huddle at the beach. How could lawyers possibly prove they were lying?

“What if they can?” Bonnie asks ominously. And at the very end of this episode, we get a glimpse into how.

As she lurks again outside of the police station, just as she did in Episode 1, Bonnie sees Corey exiting the building. As if she didn’t already have enough to worry about, now Bonnie has reason to fear that the cops have a mole inside the Monterey Five.

Things I’ll Be Thinking About Until Next Week:

I think it’s really difficult to say whether telling Max and Josh exactly what’s happening with the custody battle was the right move. On one hand, Celeste told them in haste, seemingly without forethought, and clearly this attempt at transparency is causing the boys incredible stress. On the other hand, they’ll soon be interviewed by doctors, and perhaps knowing in advance will help them process the situation. (And Celeste must imagine that they might actually appreciate a bit of notice if they actually had to move in with their grandmother.) In any case, this is one of the most heart-string-tugging examples of the difficult choices mothers have to make in a show that’s brimming with difficult motherhood moments.

Bonnie, upon touching her mother’s hand, suddenly gets the same visions of drowning that her mother has been seeing all along. Clairvoyance must be a genetic trait.

The episode takes its name, “Kill Me,” from the moment when Elizabeth says those very words to Bonnie. It seems hyperbolic — Bonnie would never do such a thing, even to a mother who has tormented her forever. So why name an entire episode after such a small scene? Maybe because it’s not as small as we think?

Madeline’s promise to stay true may not be enough for Ed, who seems to be contemplating that revenge sex I mentioned back in Episode 2. Tori shows up again at the end of this episode, sidling up to lonesome Ed, who is seated at a bar. She orders two bourbons and downs one right away. Is the other one for Ed? Or is it for her husband, (and Madeline’s ex-lover) Joseph, who is in the corner, watching this all go down? Exactly what is about to happen with this motley trio?

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