USA’s The Sinner
Season 3: Part VI
Directed by Radium Cheung
Written by Julie Siege
* For a recap & review of Part V, click here.
* For a recap & review of Part VII, click here.
While Jamie’s teaching Ernest Hemingway and Langston Hughes re: fascism at school, he’s also dealing with the collapse of his perfectly constructed life. Interesting for a murderer to be talking about fascists— that’s a talk for another day. At the same time, Leela is talking with Dt. Ambrose about the murder of the psychic. She’s shocked to hear this, considering she’d never seen her husband be violent before. Harry digs in asking about Jamie’s past, hearing about a friend who beat him up once but they stayed friends, and about his “totally absent” father. One thing Leela says? Jamie “doesn‘t get angry.” She clearly doesn’t actually know her husband, but only because he just as clearly closes off parts of himself to her. We do find out more of what happened a couple years ago between the married couple. Leela had an affair, yet Jamie blamed himself and believed it was his fault.
At work, Harry’s relationship with his colleagues is frayed. Vic tries to talk with him, but Ambrose isn’t interested, especially after all that’s happened. Sure, the way the lieutenant detective handled things wasn’t entirely the best. Nevertheless, he wasn’t getting any backup from the same colleagues giving him shit now, and who knows what might’ve happened if he wasn’t so close to Jamie. He does appear to have a little comfort in Sonya. Although they’re being watched by Jamie. Shit.
Great flashback scene with young Nick (Ryan Stiffelman, who sounds eerily just like Chris Messina) and Jamie (Garrett Coffey) in a philosophy class, both pushing back against a cocky professor who clearly isn’t a huge fan of guys like Friedrich Nietzsche. Nick comes to the aide of Jamie in a philosophical discussion about God, evidently the beginnings of their coming relationship. The two started hanging out, getting to know one another. They seem to have specifically bonded over a lack of a strong father in their lives. Things progressed, and during a Thanksgiving together at the dorms they bonded further through Nietzsche’s concept of the Ubermensch.
That night, Sonya sees Jamie on her security camera. He comes inside, looking at her artwork, and finding her behind him with a loaded gun. He’s pretty menacing, asking why she’s been sleeping with the detective investigating him and snooping around his wife. Then she finds pictures of him and knows she’s been following him. Sonya’s essentially done it as a method of control, to take back some of it in the wake of Jamie and Nick involving her in their hemisphere of madness. Things are tense, but Sonya takes a few snapshots of her intruder. They talk more, particularly about Harry. Sonya says Harry “worries about” Jamie. And eventually, the artist asks the teacher if he’ll remove his clothes so the photography session can get more intimate. What a strange cat-and-mouse-like relationship.
Leela and Jamie meet to talk. He tries to speak honestly about his worldview, that Nick simply gave him the vocabulary necessary to express it. His wife just needs to know whether he’s guilty of murder. Jamie’s honest and tells her about what happened with the psychic. He says he “couldn‘t control it.” He admits that he needs help. Can Leela possibly stay with a murderer? Jamie isn’t mentally ill, he’s not out of control, either. He’s a psychopath. He takes that energy into his school, too. Jamie’s not supposed to be there, though winds up being present when his student Emma goes into convulsions on the floor after taking too much Adderall. She’s okay later, and Jamie tries to give her supportive advice before he’s kicked out of her hospital room.
When Harry and Sonya talk about Jamie, she suggests it may not be one single traumatic event in the teacher’s life that caused everything but rather “a million little things, little cuts” accrued over the course of a lifetime. Maybe it was the case of a dam breaking, she thinks. She brings up “the cultural expectation” of men as having to be strong when, in reality, so many are “wounded little boys” crying out for intimacy.
Flashback to young Jamie and Nick climbing onto the ledge of a bridge. They play their little folded paper game, preparing to jump into the precarious waters below. “This is our mutual fate,” Nick tells Jamie as the paper reveals JUMP. Nick jumps, but Jamie’s too much in shock to move and then hates himself for not following suit. Later, Nick tells his friend the point is to be scared: “The crime is pretending otherwise.” You have to accept the reality that existence is terrifying, and you jump because “you want to live.” So they went back to the bridge again in the dark— Jamie jumped.
Sad to see Harry’s daughter explain what’s going on with Eli. The boy’s “acting out” the way his grandpa punched Jamie recently, and so Melanie tells her father that he can’t see his grandson for a while. Ouch. It leads Harry to do some reflecting, so he calls up Jamie, apologising for what he did the other night. The teacher’s currently busy barging in on his wife’s life despite their rocky marriage. A bit awkward as he pretends like nothing is wrong and that everyone doesn’t know what’s happening. Jamie causes a scene then Vic has to break it up. The detective escorts the teacher away, then sees him have a psychotic breakdown in the stairwell. Vic tells Harry about it, knowing the latter’s on to something.
“No God here”
Harry meets with Jamie again. The teacher continues to believe he and the detective are one and the same. He wants to begin a relationship with Harry like the one he had with Nick, to show him exactly how it is he feels. Our ever curious and determined Dt. Ambrose is willing to “go round the prickly pear” with Jamie, who’s all but transforming into Nick before our very eyes with that T. S. Eliot quote. The teacher explains the grave game he and Nick used to play. Sometimes they’d spend anywhere between 4-10 hours below the ground “to actually touch the void.” Now Jamie would like to play the game with Harry. The detective’s not so sure he’d be dug up if he chooses to be buried. So Jamie hands over a written confession, saying that if he leaves Ambrose down there the confession will be found, but if he digs Ambrose up they burn it.
And thus, the game begins with a coin toss: looks like Harry’s going in first.
A very quietly thrilling episode that raises the stakes so high.
What’s actually going to happen? Will Jamie really dig Harry up? Not looking good.
Part VII is next.