“The Sinner” laid out almost all of its secrets neatly on the table, much like the lines of coke that Cora (Jessica Biel) and her friends snorted during the worst party ever. The penultimate episode of the USA Network mystery answered some of the biggest questions that have been plaguing the show ever since Cora stabbed Frankie (Eric Todd), someone she thought she had never met, but ultimately had a very dark past with.
In an episode that was entirely a flashback to that fateful July night in 2012, Cora is guilted into bringing her sickly sister Phoebe (Nadia Alexander) out to a bar and later to a party with Cora’s boyfriend J.D. (Jacob Pitts). They all end up at the elite Beverwyck Club, the place with the distinctive wallpaper in Cora’s memories, and there, they meet med student Frankie for the first time.
The party devolves into a drug-fueled orgy in the basement where Cora and J.D. also involve a creepy guy named Tod (Gary Holborn) in a threesome, and Frankie takes Phoebe’s virginity mere feet away from Cora. All the while, the electronic music that J.D. and Frankie have made plays on the computer until it hits that trigger song, “Huggin’ and Kissin’.” It’s at that moment that Frankie tries to revive Phoebe, but crushes her ribs accidentally, and Cora hits Frankie in the same seven strikes attack pattern that she eventually uses to stab him to death at the beach. JD then knocks Cora out cold with an ashtray.
Despite all of these revelations, “The Sinner” is still withholding several cards, saving them for the finale in one week. Here’s an examination of the remaining nine burning questions and the evidence hinting at answers:
What happened to Phoebe?
Peter Kramer/USA Network
There’s no way that Phoebe could’ve survived what happened. Not only did she have ecstasy coursing through her system, but she seemed totally out of it even before her chest was crushed. Assuming Phoebe died mid-coitus on the couch at the Beverwyck, it’s possible but unlikely that J.D. & Co. are going to deliver her corpse to her family with an anonymous note. That seems like it would be easily traced, so they’d better think of something better than that.
What happened to Cora in those two lost months?
With Cora out cold and a dead body on their hands, J.D. and Frankie (and Tod) are in a huge mess. This probably explains why Cora, the only witness who would be incredibly biased against them after Phoebe’s death, had to be sidelined. Based on what we’ve seen so far, how they accomplished this appears to be a mixture of imprisonment, scare tactics, and drugs, but even this seems wildly beyond the scope of imagination.
Who’s behind the creepy ski mask?
A mysterious man in a tan ski mask appears to be Cora’s main jailor during her two-month ordeal, during which we saw her hiding under her bed in a hospital gown. At one point, it also looks like the ski-mask man is in scrubs, which could explain how they got access to medical equipment like an IV bag and stand. Given that Cora’s memories have been somewhat faulty so far, even this much is suspect. While her fellow partygoers seem like the most likely suspects, we wouldn’t discount her father (perhaps involved with covering up the circumstances of Phoebe’s death), her husband Mason (Christopher Abbott), or Frankie’s father, whom we met briefly. We believe Det. Ambrose (Bill Pullman) is in the clear, if only because he seems like a pretty good guy and has his own issues he’s still working out.
How is Cora’s family involved with these missing two months?
Cora’s family could be completely innocent — except for that horrible and emotionally scarring upbringing, of course — of any wrongdoing stemming from that fateful party night. But since they’re so twisted anyway, we wouldn’t put it past them to be covering something up. There is no love lost in that household.
What happened to Maddie (Danielle Burgess)?
J.D.’s ex Maddie kept hanging out with him even though he had moved on with Cora, but she was still under his spell somehow. Although he ordered her to leave the party early, we know that in the present, she disappeared under mysterious circumstances around that same time, leaving all of her stuff behind. J.D. was truly cruel to her and didn’t care that she had once fallen pregnant and walked in front of a car willingly. It’s likely that her fate is tied to that night at the Beverwyck, and we have a very bad feeling about it.
Who is the body of the young woman found in the woods near the school bus?
Peter Kramer/USA Network
The authorities assume that it’s Maddie’s corpse, but they never confirmed it. Cora’s DNA is all over it though. Although this body was hidden, it’s possible that the guys at the party planted it there to be found, maybe even as insurance to frame Cora in the future. If that’s the case, then it seems to have worked so far.
Then again, there’s something about Cora’s PTSD memories. Now that the events at the bar and Beverwyck have played out, it’s clear that Cora had conflated her memories of Phoebe and Maddie. It was Phoebe whose rib cage was crushed, who had invited Cora downstairs to the basement, who claimed that Cora wanted to kill her. Either t his was just Cora’s residual guilt hiding Phoebe’s guilt from her or this is Cora’s mind giving us a very important clue about Maddie.
Who is hunting whom?
During one of Cora’s memory sessions, she says, “they’re hunting us.” Who is “they” and who is “us”? At this point, our best guess is that Cora and Maddie have teamed up somehow to evade the boys after Phoebe’s death. That may be why they all ended up at the school bus in the woods. Perhaps Maddie was the unlucky prey who got killed, and Cora got caught… and caged/brainwashed.
What will be Cora’s fate?
Peter Kramer/USA Network
Even if all of the evidence points to Cora killing Frankie as the result of trauma or brainwashing or drugs, she did still kill him. Her evidence would have to be pretty compelling for a judge or jury to be swayed to be lenient on a confessed murderer.
Will Det. Ambrose be OK?
It’s to be hoped that solving the case will bring Ambrose some peace, but his problems with intimacy and self-control began long before the case. The out come of Cora’s trial may be the determining factor for how Ambrose will deal with his personal life next.
“The Sinner” finale will air next Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on USA Network.