Well, this show took a nosedive in quality. I thought this hour was a hot mess. While I can’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of the legal world, or the courtroom, I have watched a lot of The Good Wife, so I plan to object HEARTILY to several aspects of this hour. I encourage you to do the same in the comments.
Previously on How I Met Your Murder, the Pretty Little Lawyers burned Tom Verica’s corpse to try and destroy any traces of (their?) DNA, while Viola Davis farmed out an absurd amount of legal brainstorming to a bunch of students. She’s very good on this show but her presence also feels like someone brought a strongman to a toothpick-lifting contest. She is throwing all her skills at this and almost everyone else is like, “Eh, Thumb and Pointer will suffice.”
Let’s begin with my first OBJECTION: this wig.
Remind yourself that Viola’s hair looked chic in the pilot. Then behold how plonked it looks in this hour. Someone should put out a helpful leaflet for them called How To Get A Wig With Murder.
My notes here read, “WIG!!! Kitchen porn.” So let’s get to the second part.
If this kitchen were all in white and chrome, it would be a Nancy Meyers movie.
Anyhoo: Annalise Keating is reading the Philadelphia Dispatch, which presents the most wonderful headline about freshly discovered corpse of Lila Stangard.
And it’s true. A dead girl floating in her sorority house’s water tank really might not be muuurder. “It’s a story as old as time. Lila was always trying to swim laps in the water tank,” said her sorority sister Kayla. “She said she refused to live anywhere that didn’t have a private pool.” Added her roommate, Appalachia, “We told her she might accidentally go too hard off the little diving board she built, but she never listened. It’s a tragic but obvious accident with no other possible explanation. “
Annalise appears to be in a suit with a breast window. Her husband Sam is off to consult with the university on grief counseling, and the two of them have a chat full of pregnant glares, where what she’s not saying is, “Were you banging her,” and what he’s not saying is, “I bet you’re wondering if I was banging her.”
We also get a flashback — slightly new pieces to the puzzle, I guess — of the night Sam died. The Pretty Little Lawyers are all freaking out about where Wes is, and saying things like, “It’s all her fault,” and, “Wes wouldn’t do that to us.” The lovely Michaela starts shrieking that she wants to call someone named Aidan, who I assume is her fiancé, and then Connor very appealingly turns to her and shouts, “Shut up. Stop acting like a little bitch baby.” OBJECTION. This was actually the opening scene of the show (I just decided to start with Viola’s wig, because it was a better visual), so if you turned this on to check it out, within twenty seconds you got a character calling another one by an incredibly nasty little epithet, all because she isn’t accustomed to hiding evidence and disposing of corpses. How dare she not be inured to muuurder. Also, it’s germane to nothing else in the hour. It’s just there to be shocking. Boo.
Ahem, HTGAWM, I believe it’s respectful to call it Duchess of Cambridge University now. At any rate, last week, I made blithe comparisons to The Breakfast Club with these people, and this week Annalise’s expository speech basically underlines that and circles it and then draws arrows pointing to a scrawled note that wonders if it’s too close. “Look around you — the quiet girl you share your notes with, the cute guy you’ve got a crush on, the gunner who can’t stop talking in class…” Annalise says, as we cut to Laurel, Connor, and Michaela, respectively. “Do you know who anyone really is?” Anthony Michael Hall just felt a tremor in the Force.
Next, we meet Steven Weber, who plays murder suspect Max St. Vincent — who, someone on Twitter accurately noted, feels completely ripped off (and poorly replicated) from Dylan Baker’s character on The Good Wife. So, there’s an OBJECTION right there. When you have a dude who may or may not have killed his wife, and he’s really dry and wry and quippy and seems to be enjoying discussing it, you invite comparisons. And you will lose. Dylan Baker will smarm-charm you straight up a tree.
But nothing is as stupid to me as what’s coming right here:
They kept the crime scene. In his house. It’s not closed off. OBJECTION: WORDS.
“You never know what forensic clues you’ll find,” says Annalise Keating. Yes, because EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU IS GETTING DNA ALL OVER EVERYTHING. AND SO IS THE SUSPECTED KILLER. So now you’re all suspects. Never mind the potential for tampering. THIS ENTIRE ROOM SHOULD BE INADMISSIBLE NOW. I get that the police investigation is probably over, and they don’t need it anymore, and yada yada yada, but this is pushing the boundaries of being worth my time. Plenty of other shows prove that MUUURDER and the law can be intriguing without making them pregnant with the child of Asinine and Shove It.
But then it gets worse, because it turns out that Asinine ALSO slept with You Need To Shut Your Mouth, and the baby THEY had is this:
Yes, that’s right. They are not just hanging out AT the crime scene; that are hanging out ON the crime scene. OBJECTION. Annalise asks her client TO REENACT THE SUSPECTED METHOD OF KILLING ON TOP OF THE STILL-BLOOD-ENCRUSTED CRIME SCENE. OBJECTION TANGO. ON THE GROUNDS THAT SANE HUMAN STORYTELLING LOGIC HAS DESERTED YOU.
Even Wig is like, “OBJECTION. I can’t look.”
We then come to the portion of events in which Annalise makes the students do a bunch of stuff for her.
She plays the warm and fuzzy — and still slightly sexual, in a creepy way — maternal figure with Wes, before ordering him to go get the supplemental arrest report from the police office. Which I assume they’re not supposed to have, or else she wouldn’t say to him not to use any of their names. This might have been a nice moment for Wes to do something resembling ANYTHING that suggests he has moves, or any kind of canny, but instead he just shows up and asks for it, and the woman at the police station immediately gives it to him because she assumes he’s with the D.A.’s office. OBJECTION. That woman is fired. The fairies of Contrivance are going to shoot her out of a cannon later.
Wes gets the credit but actually does nothing creative or interesting to earn it, so THERE’S a wasted opportunity. At least Annalise is wearing an interesting blouse. The report shows that the officer whose name is on the primary report does not match the one from the other, which means she can invalidate the murder weapon as evidence — or something — because of inconsistencies in who showed up at the scene and such. It’s our second incidence of police incompetence in as many episodes.
It’s okay, you can object, Annalise. I too think it’s too early to use the same crutch, but at least your necklace is good. I have extreme concerns about why Wig is having a Justin Bieber 2011 moment, though. Perhaps Wig needs to see that it did not turn out well.
Nate, her hot detective paramour with cancer-stricken wife, drops by to tell Annalise that she should be wary of pushback from the cops. He should consider whether the cops want to be wary of continuing to blow at their jobs. Except for the part where he says, “I’m done with your crazy,” this scene was a little duller than I wanted it to be, considering that I really like both actors in it. Also, I enjoy that he had to come to the courthouse to have a personal conversation, rather than just calling her. OBJECTION. Everyone knows that on TV, covert conversations happen in a house of worship, because then both actors can sit in pews and face forward and you get the heavy hand of a deity in the scene.
I also need to express concern that I BELIEVE we can see Wig’s glue along her temple. OBJECTION. Fix it in post.
Wes’s fascination with his punky and standoffish neighbor Rebecca continues apace. She baits him at 3:45 a.m by showing up in a towel — which she of course drops in a timely manner — and asking to borrow his shower because hers is clogged, which becomes relevant LATER when she and the quarterback get arrested for the Lila Stangard murder and Wes susses out that she used that bathroom visit to hide a phone under his floor. OBJECTION. Unless it’s a story point that someone has repeatedly had to hide things in that apartment’s bathroom, it is absurd that there is a phone-sized hide-hole in there and that she knew about it.
Current day. We discover that when Wes flipped the coin to decide what to do with the body, he came up tails — which was, “Leave it where it is” — and then lied to everyone about it. He then continued on his errand to a convenience store to get lighter fluid to torch the corpse.
I would object to him thinking two candy bars is going to distract from the amount of lighter fluid he just bought, but I guess it’s the campus bonfire night — HOW LUCKY — and so everyone probably bought lighter fluid in hoodies on that particular evening. Instead, I will OBJECT to the fact that he bought a prepaid wireless phone in the same batch of goods, and then stood in the back of the convenience store and USED IT while looking EXTREMELY UNSUBTLE. MY OBJECTION IS EQUALLY UNSUBTLE.
I will tell you right now what we learn at the end, because this is when I figured it out: He’s calling Rebecca, who is holed up in a motel room, and this is all somehow a gambit to do with her, or protecting her. He tells her he is taking care of it, and then later, when he gets to her, she’s freaked out and trembling, and he kisses her.
While the Pretty Little Lawyers are doing all the casework for Frank and Paris, Michaela basically shouts over mousy Laurel, which makes her look like a sad sack. Michaela’s big idea is to discredit the next witness, the victim’s best friend, who claims Steven Weber wanted a divorce. Connor volunteers to do the legwork, and seduces more I.T. trickery out of that goofball…
… who is actually pretty cute, if also inexplicably unable to resist Connor’s squirrelly muuurder face.
But the way they use his information is what got me. Basically, he steals a copy of a speech the best friend gave at Steven Weber’s anniversary party, in which she compared their love to the Von Trapps. OBJECTION. While Captain Von Trapp would have worn that cardigan from the top of the hour, he also would have been like, “You guys, marinating in my wife’s dried blood and rubbing ourselves all over the crime scene is an absurd idea and I won’t do it. Not even via surprisingly high-quality puppetry.”
Also, this gambit works because, as Annalise says, this speech she gave at a public event is CLEAR PROOF that Steven and his formerly alive spouse truly loved each other. Yes, because nobody has ever lied in a speech before. NOBODY has EVER been asked to speak at a friend’s anniversary party and thought, “Ugh, FINE, I have to think of something nice to say. Maybe I’ll just watch The Sound of Music and see what comes to me.” So, OBJECTION. I can’t believe anyone bought that, and I can’t believe the witness didn’t say on the spot, “IT WAS A TOAST OF LIES.” It’s not like she was going to get up there and say, “Yes, hello everyone, welcome to this utter farce celebrating the disastrous union of my friend and her sociopath. I hate him and they’re going to get a divorce. Enjoy the dinner rolls,” although it’s worth noting that I want to attend that party, and not just for the bread.
Here, Annalise asks someone to “write the prep questions for the first witness,” because none of these people have ANY OTHER CLASSES TO GO TO and she doesn’t have two associates who sit around flossing their teeth with the strands of their own smug self-satisfaction. Laurel volunteers, because the meek shall not inherit the Earth, and Annalise recognizes her as to Laurel as “Frank’s girl.” This upsets Laurel, so she goes to Paris late at night, when they’re both working late, and tries to extract from her the truth about why she’s there. Did Frank pick her? Paris sighs and says that she suspects she must have a nice face, because everyone seems to think she will listen kindly to their problems — this is a very Paris Geller moment, in fact — and that Laurel would be well-served to stop worrying about Frank and start making Annalise want to learn her name. It is a good point. But OBJECTION: Paris and Frank are not doing any actual real work on this case, and we all know it, so she should just go home.
Meanwhile, Frank and Michaela and Asher are rooting though Steven Weber’s neighbor’s garbage, Frank having chosen them for this errand by calling them “Prom Queen” and “Doucheface” — which, while potentially accurate, is also doing NOTHING to make him a person I want to watch do anything, ever, except possibly lock himself into a hatch. Except HE wouldn’t bother writing “NOT PENNY’S BOAT.” No, Frank would gleefully write a note spoiling the Game of Thrones books for everyone and then add, “OOPS I HAVE YOUR PHONE CHARGER.” And Asher has only distinguished himself by his ability to be annoying (his take on dead Lila: that corpses release their fecal waste, and thus the girls in the sorority house were all drinking and bathing in her bacteria for a month, which makes me wonder why they did’t find her sooner on account of a sudden and RAGING epidemic of pink-eye).
Back to our show. Asher finds a receipt for a strip club. So they use it to blackmail him into corroborating Steven’s alibi that he was taking a walk on the night of the murder. OBJECTION. Just tell your wife you went to a strip club. Man up. She might be cool about it.
I just thought you’d like to see inadvertent finger guns. I wish they were vertant finger guns. OBJECTION. All finger guns should be vertant.
Spoiler: The witness who just showed up in the bright red dress is the murderer. She is Steven Weber’s daughter, and the gambit here is to put her on the stand and let her say HORRIBLE things about her father so that the nice things she says will ring true.
OBJECTION: Please look at these people and tell me what the hell season it is (remembering again Steven Weber’s layers from the first scene). Some hybrid of all of them? Auttersuming? That sounds like a German word for that thing where you cannot stop clearing your throat.
And then: Annalise wastes this AMAZING necklace on the stupidity of the following scene. While the daughter is on the stand, the prosecution stands up and delivers a death blow to the defense that I will explain in a moment. And the prosecutor stands there yapping about all this, putting words in the witness’s mouth, until Annalise snarks, “Your honor, if the prosecution wants to testify, swear her in.” And then… things keep going.
OBJECTION: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SAYING, “OBJECTION”? Or, say, “Miss Keating, if you don’t object properly next time I’m going to hold you in contempt of court”? Please tell me that all those years of watching L.A. Law and The Good Wife and Law & Order and My Cousin Vinny did not teach me FALSEHOODS about the law. I need to believe that the word “objection” is not just a folksy invention of the entertainment industry, and that the correct ignition timing on a 1964 Bel Air Chevrolet with a 327 cubic-inch engine and a four-barrel carburetor truly is four degrees before top-dead center.
OBJECTION: This hair is not working on Paris right now. HER ignition timing seems to be off by a degree or two.
Okay, so: The twist is that apparently, Max St. Vincent’s first wife — the girl’s mother — died in a car accident in Switzerland, and then he met the victim etc. EXCEPT, supposedly, the first wife was in fact murdered with a hunting knife, same as the second wife was, and he just lied about it to the daughter. There was a whole murder trial in Switzerland and then he was exonerated and moved to the U.S. and changed his name. And NOBODY ON ANNALISE’S LEGAL TEAM FIGURED THIS OUT. They’re all, “HOW COULD ANYONE KNOW ABOUT THIS?” It’s called RESEARCH. I mean… sure, okay, maybe learning about Swiss murder trials is very hard to do. But the thing is, the DAUGHTER figured it out, without ANY fancy legal resources, and is the one who tipped off the prosecutors. And from my reading of the scene, the mistress-turned-second-wife did NOT change her name — just Steven and the daughter — which means YOU COULD PROBABLY JUST TYPE THE VICTIM’S NAME INTO GOOGLE. Search on her name and MUUUURDER and not one but TWO big stories would come up. THERE WAS A WHOLE TRIAL. COME ON. Wouldn’t you also maybe run a background check on your client, at which point you’d find out he didn’t exist before a certain point? OBJECTIONS EVERWHERE. WE ARE SWIMMING IN THE ATLANTIC OBJECTION.
I’m sure it will turn out that this tantrum is inaccurate, or something, but it was very cathartic. So thank you.
Steven Weber is surprised Annalise wants to represent him still. She replies, “You underestimate how much I like a challenge.” And a MUUURDER.
Asher is disgusted, DISGUSTED I TELL YOU, that Steven Weber might be crazy. This character has no pieces yet that add up to Yes.
Somewhere in all this, Annalise also poked into Sam’s phone and figured out that he had a ton of correspondence from Lila Stangard, although it seemed relatively benign — except for how she signed it, “L.” And now she’s stressed and suspicious, so she comes home and pours herself and her bracelet a super stiff drink. That accessory deserves a cocktail, because it is doing marvelous work.
While her associates eavesdrop, Annalise lays into Sam about whether he was screwing Lila, because, apparently, it’s happened before. He gives her some schmaltz that she decides to believe, and they start making out all over her desk.
The way Tom Verica grabs her face — gently and as if he had a mark to hit — it’s like he’s afraid of upsetting Wig.
The Pretty Little Lawyers go back to the crime scene, because OF COURSE, and then Laurel figures out from the decor on the walls that Steven Weber is a hunter. As in, he’d know how to make a clean and painless kill. Everyone decides this is a BRILLIANT defense because on this show, prosecutors don’t know how to poke holes. (Couldn’t you make the argument that it was a crime of passion — given that she was stabbed about 18 times — and that he MIGHT not have paused to think “What would Crocodile Dundee do”?) OBJECTION, except, overruled. It isn’t the worst point. Steven Weber is clearly a passionless weirdo, and also, everyone should live their lives by the WWCDD creed.
But, Annalise wins again: She gets Steven Weber to emotionlessly describe how to kill a beast cleanly, and then he admits that’s how he killed his first wife — because he can’t be retried for it, even if his first was hosted by Switzerland. (The fondue was average.)
Paris’s dress, while she’s getting her jugular sliced, is very cute. OBJECTION. It was pretty gross to make her go up there and pretend to be muuurdered. He shoved her head around and everything.
And a forensics expert pops by to point out that the two murders were clearly committed by different people — one, by a sure-handed killer, and the other, the opposite (couldn’t he have also done THAT on purpose, knowing this would come up? I’m overthinking, though, especially because he actually IS innocent of this one). Wes figures out that the daughter did it, then realizes Annalise already nailed that part of it. So Wes has yet to contribute much of anything useful to the legal cause here, and the other students — who are wondering why he’s in their little clique — are probably right to side-eye it.
OBJECTION: Do lawyers come out of a case smiling this smugly? What about when the client they just freed DID admit to the murder of another person years ago? Is that a good time to smile? Are we using our social judgment to its fullest, Ms. Keating?
She isn’t using her coat judgment well, either. Steven Weber is busy suggesting he might someday have to kill his daughter for trying to frame him, and she’s like, “Hmm, well, that is what it is,” but she should be paying attention to the fact that her trench is one size too small. THIS is why she needs five student assistants. Details are not her strong suit. OBJECTION. Better call Saul.
When Annalise goes home for a romantic dinner with Sam, she checks his phone in a fit of nerves and sees that he has deleted ALL records of Lila Stangard from it. So she hightails it out of there and finds Nate, and begs him to quiet her mind by figuring out if Sam’s alibi checks out. Nate is grossed out that she keeps selling out people she loves, but seems to consent to do it, and Viola Davis is basically amazing again in the scene because you can’t tell if she used tears to manipulate him or if she’s really that upset about it– or, again, both, and three more things to boot. I’m sad she lost the Oscar to Meryl Streep, because as much as I love La Streep… look, I think even La Streep was kind of like, “Are you kidding?!?”
After this confrontation, she goes home and basically nails the HELL out of her husband, urgently and hungrily…
… and then rolls over and silently cries when she’s done. Not a beat we haven’t seen played before, but she does bring a lot of richness to it. There is so much absurdity swirling around her in this damn show, but then she’ll get a short moment like this one and the one above it, and really NAIL IT. And it’s about all that makes me want to come back next week. So come back I will.