This episode is the fall finale, and yes, we find out who killed Sam — and yes, most of these screengrabs are terrible because it was all in murky lighting, and YES, there is an irritating over-reliance on replaying the bits and bobs we’ve already seen so that we’re SUPER clear where, say, Paris was, when Michaela was losing her engagement ring. The only piece they ignore is when the cop caught them lugging out the rug and Michaela smartened up and lied that Annalise’s mother had died. I’ve decided the writers regretted that piece and are pretending it didn’t happen (because it doesn’t mesh that well with Michaela falling apart again later, and also, that alibi is EASILY checked and they all would’ve been mad paranoid that Annalise would find out).
We begin in Annalise’s house, moments after she has told Sam that she ordered the DA to take DNA samples of all Lila’s teachers. Because for some reason the DA needs Annalise to suggest things to her, as if Annalise has done any actual good lawyering this whole season.
I enjoy the giant knife block right in between them. Very symbolic, as they are severing their tie right now. This fight is NASTY and an extremely unpleasant and off-putting way to begin the episode, because it’s chock full of unlikable people saying unlikable things. Annalise accuses him of killing Lila, and Sam replies that he’s not a violent man — a statement he will prove untrue IN SPADES this hour. Annalise decides to make the murder of a young pregnant woman about her, roaring that she’s just “the black woman on his arm” that he used as “window dressing” so that “everyone” would “see” that he’s “so great” (I decided to turn this into a Zagat review; right now Annalise’s argument gets only two stars for being self-pitying). She implies their marriage was a fraud and that he was always a creep and she was a trophy, and then he replies that he knows she didn’t turn him in because she was covering her own ass, because she is “pathetic” and “weak” and “pretending to be strong (and also her “marinara sauce” was “lumpy” but the “garlic” “bread” was “flavorful”).
Wig is EXTREMELY disturbed that this argument is both loud and verbose without being very compelling. So Annalise goes full Emeril and kicks things up a notch: She taunts him with her affair with Nate, and how fantastic he is in the sack, and then they run through the house saying awful things to each other that I just was not about to write down because I am not even A LITTLE invested in their marriage or this fight or their history, so the insults they hurl at each other are just tiresome. Annalise ends up cooing that she just knows he enjoyed killing Lila and suspects he was aroused doing it while he was having sex with her — she uses slightly more graphic language than that, and it’s sort of unseemly given that this poor girl is DEAD NOW — and so OF COURSE this happens:
Yeah, not a violent man. At some point in this, she starts shouting at him, “Kill me,” and I know it’s terrible that I don’t remember the exact order of all this, but does it really matter? She’s taunting him, trying to get his goat, while also being slightly afraid he will actually do it. And he’s rising to the challenge, choking her, telling her she was “nothing but a piece of ass,” and that he knew she’d “put out [with] dirty, nasty sex” that he’d be “too ashamed to tell anyone about” because “that’s how foul you are, you disgusting slut” (also “cheesecake” was “soggy” and “wine” had “cork” “floating” “in it”).
Somewhere in all this, while she’s pushing buttons and he’s acting repulsive, there is some INCREDIBLY awkward blocking where Tom Verica has to stand there pretending he’s still maybe choking out Annalise even though he clearly is not because she’s speaking clearly, and basically, it’s some hugely strained Hand Acting and if she wanted to get away from him she could’ve just sneezed and those suckers would’ve flown away because they’re taut only with PRETENSE. It was really strange and inert and bad.
I know these two are having an impassioned fight, and he’s a probable killer. But if he did NOT turn out to kill Lila… I don’t know, even so, this is a weird look for the show. Just another example of strange male-female tensions enacted with aggression and a gleeful willingness to rip a person apart by calling her a slut, simply because she might have the audacity to engage in sex, and like it. Strangely one of the worst perpetrators of this is Annalise, about Lila and Rebecca. She flings around the word “whore” very easily. You could argue that in Lila’s case maybe Annalise is calling HERSELF those things because she TOO was Sam’s mistress once up on a time, and she sees that situation uncomfortably reflected in the expired redhead. But I suspect that is a generous interpretation and the show is just trying to be forceful and melodramatic. Instead, it looks gross, and I’m surprised nobody is talking about it more (or are they, and I missed it?).
Annalise storms out and drives away, at which point we see Rebecca holding Nate’s thumb drive, gazing up at the house. Yes, because if Annalise is gone, NO ONE ELSE could be there. Sam has decided to cope with his poor Zagat rating by getting rat-faced drunk, and who should come inside but…
… Michaela, who has decided that stealing the statue from Asher and then just arriving at Annalise’s house will count as earning it, and she’ll be absolved of taking the exam. Never mind the lateness of the hour. Michaela refuses to leave, and in fact, it’s she who notices Rebecca sneaking inside after her and creeping up the stairs to Sam’s bedroom. Everyone freezes, and Rebecca shouts, “Call Wes,” before fleeing upstairs and locking the door and hiding in there with Sam’s laptop. Which, conveniently, is on the bed. I guess that IS where he does his best work.
Look at this thing. I have never copied a phone backup onto a thumb drive and had it look anything like this. The hoops some shows jump through so that our microscopic viewer-noggins can see a progress bar are astonishing.
So, of course, Team Wes is nearby, because they knew Rebecca was headed that way, and he told them all that Sam killed Lila. Michaela is standing on the stairs shrieking, “This is NOT GOOD,” into her phone at Wes, when Sam is just talking at Rebecca through the door. She makes it sound like Sam is carving her into edible pieces. Sam does kick through the door — how, pray, will anyone explain THAT — but Rebecca locks herself into the BATHROOM until Progress Bar pleasures itself to completion. Wes arrives and bodyguards his way to the bathroom so he can escort Rebecca past Sam safely, at which point she is all, “Yeah, oops, there was nothing on there,” while palming the flash drive. As they pass Sam, he is INCENSED and lunges at both of them. There is a mighty duel. And then…
… SPLAT. Sam lunges past them all and Michaela throws him off her and he goes over the railing and smacks his head on the banister and then PLOP onto the ground with a really sloppy sound. This appears to be one point for They All Did It/No One Really Did, which would have been an enormous cop-out, so…
… I’m glad it turned out to be that thing where nobody checked the dead guy’s pulse. Sam is ALIVE and choking out Rebecca — now the SECOND person this Not-Violent Man has strangled in this hour — and his face looks completely fine and shows NO ill-effects from being mashed into a wooden pole and then a floor (trust me on this; my only screen grab was blurry). Rather than ask Sam how he managed to have bionic cheekbones, everyone panics.
Everyone, that is, except the person who grabbed the statue and clocked Sam on the back of the head with it, causing a volcanic torrent of viscera to explode all over Rebecca’s face. (And possibly into her open mouth, let’s be real, and no, she doesn’t brush her teeth, and yes, Wes kisses her anyway. And now they’re both vampires.)
The show cuts first to Michaela’s terrified face, but no, don’t believe the trickery. The real wielder of justice:
He’s real sorry, guys. We know this because he actually comes back to the house later to reclaim the murder weapon, and he apologizes to Sam’s corpse. He says, “I’m sorry,” in this low and respectful tone you might use to say to someone, “I’m sorry for your loss,” but usually “their loss” is not “their brain tissue” and “their life” (also, “the” “cocktails” are “low-shelf” and “surprisingly bloody” and “scallops” were “suspiciously” “fishy”).
Next we get Connor vomiting into the sink in a loving close-up which I will spare you (he really should NOT have ordered the scallops), and Laurel lecturing Michaela on not answering any of her fiance’s calls because the cell tower will trace her to that location if she does. Laurel also washes off the statue with shaky hands, which means I hope we get six episodes later of her wandering around in a daze murmuring, “Out, out, damn spot,” and rending her garments and things. Wes then also says something like, “Take Michaela to the woods,” which is a REALLY weird thing to say. I guess she’s freaking out? But why are “the woods” the very first place he thought of? I mean, the “trees” are “tall” and “lush” but “no good tables” for “four or more” and “meat” is “gamey.” It feels like somebody on the staff was like, “Well, shit, why DID we have them all congregate in a freaking forest BEFORE they had the body there with them? Maybe… Michaela is freaking out and that’s where she goes to do her best healing? Dammit, no, that’s The River Court on One Tree Hill. Well, whatever, just steal it.”
Bonnie, meanwhile, is getting drunk and accepting the advances of a total loser who says things to her like, “Don’t we all have secrets?” And I still think it’s possible she will turn out to have killed Lila, because everyone in the episode says SO DEFINITIVELY that Sam did it — and I don’t THINK he ever admitted it except by caving to Annalise’s harassment about it, which he might’ve done just to goad her — that I suspect A Twist Is Coming. We’ll see. ANYHOO, this guy has his tongue in her mouth when she says, “So you’re in dental equipment sales?” and then realizes that is as much an aphrodisiac as eating a deck of cards. This is why she hightails it out of there and calls Asher for easy sex. She totally pounces on Asher despite his reservations about how drunk she is, and when he tries to take control, he knocks her head into the arm of the couch. It’s funny. I love Asher now. Remember when he was pointless and awful? That was before I truly understood that he is THE ONLY FUN THING HERE.
I mean, he totally went to the bonfire alone and did this. He ALSO got really hurt that everyone ELSE went without him — he saw their alibi pics on Instagram — and will not soon let them forget it. Poor Asher. He didn’t even get to use any pickup lines about how you can’t spell “Asher” without “Ash” which is a hot bonfire byproduct.
Annalise, meanwhile, is at Nate’s. His dying wife is in the hospital, so of course he lets Annalise into his house. He’s sympathetic as she pours out her woes about how she believes Sam killed pregnant Lila, although she tells a key lie here when she insists nobody knows any of this but her. MAYBE she just means, “Nobody knows I think he did it,” or whatever, but it was where I wrote in my notes, “This feels fake, like an alibi.” She flirts about how he’s a better and more virtuous person than she is, and let’s be clear, we all knew– including them — that this was going to end in her straddling them and then him flipping the script and slamming her against a wall. Women get sex-slammed against walls a LOT in Shonda Rhimes shows. There must be a Carnal Bruise Support Group somewhere, and it’s FULL of confused people who showed up wanting to talk about their shitty Carnival Cruises.
This is all happening while the Pretty Little Lawyers are moving the body, and when Sam’s rug-wrapped head bangs against a doorframe the music actually makes an “AAAAAH” sound that works against the tone of the scene because I giggled.
Next: My notes actually genuinely do read, “Annalise has killed enough time at Nate’s, so when he’s asleep she sneaks out and goes home to discover Sam is missing, calls Paris, summons her, then starts calling Sam.” She finally leaves him a long message, which we hear intercut with other familiar action wherein the PLLs chop him into bits and bag his remains and dispose of him in a Dumpster rather than an incinerator. (Connor fights Wes on that. WHY? An incinerator is a way better idea, fool.) And the sniffly message Annalise gives is long and winding and all about the “power” of their “twenty” “years” together, and how “truly” and beautifully you can know a person in that time, and you don’t just throw that away, so “please” come “home” so we can “be together” (but “don’t” order the “fava beans” and “avoid” “Chianti”). I smelled a rat here because there is NO WAY Annalise would have left a begging, pleading, gentle message to Sam after their earlier confrontation. Not unless it’s for show. I’m not trying to be all ME ME ME, because I’ve been wrong about plenty on this show and others in the past, but the writers here did not build a character who could fool me with this one. She is just almost NEVER this vulnerable with someone unless she’s twisting it for her own gain.
Here, I mostly wanted to show you that Wes looks cute in a ringer tee, but he also destroys the hard-won flash drive because the information on it will link them to Annalise’s house that night. All for naught, then as Rebecca points out. Whoops! Sorry, everyone.
Connor ends up playing off his freakout to Oliver as him tripping on a bunch of drugs. And when this adorable boy says he thought Connor didn’t do drugs, Connor does not think to say, “I don’t, but I’ve been completely torn up about losing you, so I did stupid stuff.” Instead, he goes for the grandiose,” I HAVE A DRUG ADDICTION THANK YOU GOODBYE WORK IS CALLING!” Run, Oliver. RUN. Except, not too far, because I do actually like you. Maybe you can hook up with Asher.
Frank calls WhatsHerFace his “ex” girlfriend — no further clarification — and Laurel lies to him that she stole Asher’s statue because she panicked about her position in the class, and would Frank mind returning it for her THANKS EVER SO MUCH. He’ll do it because he wants to see her naked again.
Asher would LOVE to see Bonnie naked again, but just as she’s about to let him down gently — possibly, probably — Annalise calls them ALL to the office. I also just thought you’d like to see the weird lighting on Asher here. He looks like someone tried to make a knockoff Avatar soft-core porn.
All this killing — and the rooting through remains but failing to find her engagement ring — has inspired Michaela to suck up and suck IT up and sign the prenup. She does so in that horrible uneven coat I don’t like, and that should have been reason enough for Mama Aidan to rip it up and laugh in her face and say, “WEDDING’S OFF, I’ll send you a bill for the ring and the Vera Wang.”
And finally, Annalise assembles the PLLs and says she is bringing the cops in to talk to them. And she ensures she look at her most naked and vulnerable — except for that groovy robe — when she sniffles that she has a confession: Sam was having an affair with Lila, Sam got her pregnant, Sam may have killed her, and now Sam has disappeared. She wants them all to cooperate fully with the police. She finishes this with a special look right at Wes…
… and sure enough, back when Wes showed up to offer his deepest condolences to Sam’s oozing body, an unseen Annalise hisses from her desk, “Don’t be.”
So, yeah. Sorry if I busted the surprise of this last screen grab, but… it’s just what I was thinking as I watched the episode. Those two moments rang too manufactured to me, but it certainly makes sense that Wes did everything he did to influence the outcome, like lying about it when the coin came up tails instead of heads (tails being, “Don’t move the body”). But here is my question: If Annalise has a home that doubles as her office, and she is a criminal defense attorney with lots of windows and a large porch and employees who frequently forget to lock up, DOES SHE NOT HAVE SURVEILLANCE EQUIPMENT OUTSIDE? I mean… I guess she only has one bathroom way upstairs, so I shouldn’t expect much from The Law Office of Annalise “O Captain My Captain” Keating. DONE! After nine episodes of bizarre burned potential and weird-ass decisions, my expectations are officially on the floor.