Only Murders In The Building Dives Into Mabel’s Past In The Latest Episode

The seventh episode of the first season of "Only Murders in the Building," "The Boy from 6B", was a true standout. You may recall it well enough if you're a fan of the Hulu crime comedy series: the installment was almost entirely free of spoken dialogue, as it primarily was presented from the perspective of Theo Dimas (James Caverly), the deaf son of deli king Teddy Dimas (Nathan Lane). Theo's connection to Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) and her friends was fraught and darker than anyone could have realized, and it's no surprise that the excellent episode was nominated for Emmys in the category of direction and guest actor. (Nothing against the incomparable Nathan Lane, who got that latter nomination, but it's ridiculous that Caverly didn't snag a nod as well.)

It should come, then, as no surprise that the seventh episode of the show's second season, "Flipping the Pieces," puts Theo into a spotlight again, though this time it's a shared spotlight. It's also no surprise who shares the spotlight with Theo this week: that would be Mabel, of course. You may recall that in last week's episode, "Performance Review," Mabel and her podcasting cohorts Charles (Steve Martin) and Oliver (Martin Short) set a trap for the person who killed Bunny Folger, a killer they have realized has been texting as Detective Williams (DaVine Joy Randolph) in disguise. The trap is in the form of a glitter bomb, which marks the mystery person when they -- clad in a black coat and face mask -- attempt to retrieve what they think is evidence in a New York park. Though the trap works, the trio fail to capture the killer in the act, and what's worse, Mabel is approached by said killer later on the subway. That episode didn't end in a cliffhanger regarding Mabel's safety. No, she got away, but the bad news is that she stabbed the killer in the arm on the subway, in full view of the public, many of whom are live-streaming the event to social media.

"My dad loved puzzles," Mabel tells us via narration, as we see a younger version of our heroine with her late father (Mark Consuelos) testing how they can make the challenge of solving a big jigsaw puzzle harder. Mabel is in a bit of a dream world at the moment, sitting criss-cross applesauce in her old bedroom with a massive puzzle box (intended to reflect the season-long case of who killed Bunny Folger), whose pieces she chooses to flip upside down to make things harder to put together. In reality, Mabel wakes up in an apartment bed she doesn't recognize, soon to realize that she's been brought there by Theo, who re-enters. Mabel is furious at first, knocking him over with a lamp, but then Theo shows her the live-stream video of her stabbing the potential killer on the subway. "Did I stab someone ... again?" she asks as the show shifts into the opening credits. It's a good question to ask, Mabel!

Calls And Text Communications

Charles and Oliver ended the last episode watching the video of Mabel stabbing the killer, and are understandably concerned, all the more so because they can't figure out where she's vanished to. "She hasn't answered any of my calls or my text communications!" Charles shouts. Before they can get any further into their concern, they're met at the door ... by Detective Williams and her newborn son. The detective explains that while she was in Denver until the previous evening, she was kept up by something nagging her -- not her son, but "you, dips***s!" She wisely notes that Charles and Oliver are keeping information from her, which means she may have to agree with Detective Kreps (Michael Rapaport) that Mabel could be the killer. Though Charles tries to confidently dismiss the idea that the previously hidden knife that served as a murder weapon isn't in any of their apartments, Oliver desperately runs to the bathroom and clearly not for a gastrointestinal problem. Oliver's trying to sneak into his apartment "to get rid of the bloody knife you should've gotten rid of ages ago!" (Sadly for them, neither Charles nor Oliver is quiet enough to be unheard by the detective.) Oliver just never got around to getting rid of it, largely because he's been distracted by finding out the DNA tests for him and his son Will (Ryan Broussard). "So you have the knife," Detective Williams says as soon as they reopen the bathroom door. Oopsie.

At Theo's, Mabel notices that he's equipped with a tracking anklet, noting the "kind of" poetry of him being fitted with a new accessory of his own after having robbed jewelry from the dead. She tries to get further into what happened with Theo, but unlike in last season's seventh episode, Theo has a bit of a problem: Mabel doesn't know ASL, so is having trouble understanding him. Via written word, he's shocked to learn that Mabel doesn't seem to have any memory of the climactic events of last week's episode. Mabel's surprised to learn, via a business card, that Theo can only understand about a third of what she says through lip reading, in turn. When she notes how adept deaf people appear to be at lip-reading in the movies, he dryly signs, "Deaf people don't get to write a lot of movies."

Mabel becomes more distressed when she learns that Theo has no idea where her purse -- the one with the bloody matchbook from last week -- is located. As he continues to try to get through to her, she asks the more pressing question: "Why am I even here?" Well, turns out Theo was also on the train with Mabel yesterday, by sheer coincidence. If we take Theo at his word (and I hope we can, but who knows), he saw the attack and the attacker take her bag. And he confirms that said attacker had glitter on him, too. Oh, and there's one more thing: the attacker apparently dropped their badge for Coney Island Security, which spurs Mabel into action. Though she initially rebuffs Theo -- pointing out the whole thing where he ... y'know, killed Mabel's friend and let another of her friends rot in jail for said murder -- he presses and tries to convince her he's a better person than that, or has become one.

A Day At The Park

Upon arriving at Coney Island, Mabel clarifies that she's visiting as much to jog her memory as to figure out who the killer is. Once Theo (who's never been to Coney Island before) breaks them into the security area, Mabel feverishly searches through the employee files to find out who the mystery person is, and keeps coming up empty. Theo wisely bags all the files, giving her more time to search them without being hidden. They'll be stuck at the deserted amusement park for an hour -- he has to charge up his anklet. The unlikely duo start killing time by plugging in the various carnival games and giving them a whirl, in part because Theo's never had a chance to do it. As she does, Mabel flashes back to another moment with her dad, as they watch "The X-Files" together and he points out "a mystery is just a puzzle" while apologizing for being unable to take her out that day due to his work schedule.

Back in the present, Theo hacks into a claw-machine game to give Mabel a prize. When it turns out to be a chintzy ring, the toy brings back memories to both of them of Zoe, Mabel's friend who died at the Arconia years ago. Theo bares his soul via ASL to Mabel: "I ask myself, 'Did Zoe slip? Or did I push her? I still don't know." (I don't feel like there was a ton of debate on this last season, but Theo does seem particularly contrite.) Mabel notes that her own personality has changed so much since the start of the series that she's the kind of person who could now stab someone with knitting needles. Here, we play back the moment when the bloody Bunny approached her, wearing a podcast hoodie. Did Mabel mistakenly stab Bunny without realizing who she was, simply attacking a mysterious person in her apartment? "I just don't know if I did do it," she says sadly.

Back at the Arconia, Charles and Oliver are "being dumbasses" and trying to pretend they have no idea what knife Detective Williams is talking about. She's too busy trying to calm her baby boy Keith, refusing Oliver's help. "My son Will used to get a tummyache after a feeding," he says. "Are you familiar with 'A Chorus Line'?" This leads to a wonderful little moment where Martin Short gets to sing part of "One," the show's classic closing number, simply to get baby Keith to let out a little gas -- and it works, though Detective Williams says her kid "has no dignity" now. But it worked! On a more serious note, she tells Charles and Oliver, "I am not trying to put [Mabel] away. I just want to solve this case." Upon consulting each other, the two older men ... head back to the bathroom so they can give her the knife. The detective thanks them sincerely, before belting out a few notes of "One." "Like I don't know f***ing 'Chorus Line,'" she says before leaving. (I should mention here that DaVine Joy Randolph won a Tony about a decade ago, and she's got pipes.)

Stealing My Fish

Flashing back to another Halloween, we see an "X-Files"-obsessed young Mabel angry that her dad -- now clearly stricken with cancer -- can't trick-or-treat with her because he's sick. He's apologetic, but it doesn't do much to quell the young girl. In the present, Mabel washes up in a bathroom at Coney Island before realizing that the sink is full of some debris. You could even call it ... glitter. Uh-oh. Before she can snoop too much in the security area, Mabel hears some noises from an interloper. Hiding in a locker, she sees the same black-clad mystery person enter and begin to use a first-aid kit on themselves near the other lockers. (If I may nitpick: in this moment, as far as we know, the mystery person does not believe they're being tailed, so ... why are they still masked?) In her shock, Mabel can't help but make an accidental noise in the locker, drawing the mystery person's attention. Though they begin to open the lockers up one by one, getting closer to our heroine, Mabel takes charge and pushes out of her locker right before it's opened, grabbing her purse on the way and exiting to the main drag. She finds Theo, and grabs him so they can crouch down by a nearby ride and hopefully evade capture.

The gambit works, yet as Theo drives Mabel back into the city, she's frustrated to find that the matchbook from the nearby diner where Bunny had her last meal has been taken. Charles and Oliver -- Mabel sees via their many calls and text communications -- are at the same diner, so Theo reroutes them before Mabel sees ... well, something that makes her want to get back "right now." Theo is then called via FaceTime by his dad, but he actively ignores the call. "My dad died when I was 7," Mabel says. "[My family] wanted to protect me." We then cut back to a flashback, as her ailing dad is now in a hospital with stomach cancer, very much on death's door. "I didn't know how to cope with him dying ... so I didn't." Mabel explains that seeing her dad in the hospital is how she lost her first memory -- she just "flipped the pieces" in her mind of something that was "too much or too difficult," like her dad dying or Bunny's body. Basically, anyone either about to die or someone she attacks, sounds like. "I have to flip the pieces now." 

As she does -- in her mental bedroom -- we learn what I would hope is obvious to most of you: Mabel did not stab Bunny with her knitting needles. In truth, when Mabel re-entered her apartment to get champagne, she saw the mystery killer escaping through her closet (and we now know, through the walls of the Arconia), and Bunny already had the knitting needles deep in her chest. As Theo arrives at the diner, she tries her best to sign a thank-you to him: "Thank you ... for stealing ... my fish," which elicits a smile from him. Good try, Mabel. She does note that "pushing things away" doesn't work for her, which inspires Theo to begrudgingly call his dad back.

Inside the diner, after briefly hugging Charles and Oliver, Mabel reveals what she saw in her purse that was so concerning: a photo of Lucy (Zoe Colletti) and Charles, clearly taken in secret. Charles desperately calls Lucy, finding out that his would've-been step-daughter is at his place at the moment. That's good! Then, the call abruptly drops and the power goes out. Because "we've got a blackout, people," as Oliver notes, and it looks to be city-wide. That's bad.

Missing Puzzle Pieces

So, here's the thing with "Flipping the Pieces," an episode I mostly liked but didn't quite love. There's one niggling detail that doesn't crop up in this episode that I was fairly perplexed by. If you remember last week's episode, you may recall what led Mabel to enter the sort-of fugue state that landed her on the subway train and stabbing the killer: when she discovered that her girlfriend Alice (Cara Delevingne) was in the process of making an expanded art installation that was a warped, inexplicable recreation of moments from Mabel's life. It's pretty screwed up! The sharp-eyed among you may note that I didn't mention the art installation anywhere else in this recap, and that is because this episode flat-out doesn't acknowledge it. Which is also pretty screwed up! There's three episodes left this season, and plenty more to uncover, I'm sure, but I find it odd that one piece that remains unflipped is what the hell Alice is doing, and why. On one hand, Mabel going into this fugue state means she likely forgot Alice's whole ... deal, but then, it's not like anyone else is aware of it, which means that cliffhanger might as well not even have occurred.

The other aspect of the episode that is perhaps necessary to clarify but not terribly suspenseful surrounds the question of whether or not Mabel stabbed Bunny. Certainly, it would be different than Mabel actively stabbing the board president vs. Mabel accidentally doing so. But I kind of feel like one of the trio becoming a killer themselves -- specifically, killing someone who clearly did not have it coming creatively speaking -- is a bridge too far. So of course she didn't stab Bunny. I didn't expect her to have done so! I'm glad she didn't! But I'm not super-shocked, and a little puzzled (see what I did there?) that an episode was focused on this question.

But that said, we now have a much more pressing concern for the Arconia Three regarding the blackout. Is someone in the building going to use that blackout to attack Lucy? One hopes not, but you never know. Hopefully, the new problem will give next week's installment more creative focus.


– "The only Mabel I found was 99, and had just died." Funny even when it's dark, this show.

– "That was kind of fun." Mabel's line about how the ASL sign for "glitter" is bang-on.

– I want to see Oliver's production of "12 Angry Men" with women, including "one of the sisters from 'Hamilton.'" I hope it was Renée Elise Goldsberry.

– "I love cringe comedy, but this is painful to watch." True, detective.

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