DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Only Murders in the Building episode “The Tell” has spoilers. Prepare to send the investigation into a whole new direction and proceed at your peril.
Welcome back, Arconiacs! We’ve reached the halfway point in this season of Only Murders in the Building, and “The Tell” adds more intriguing clues to the Bunny Folger case. “The Tell” toys with our perception of who’s the killer while injecting the theme of identity into this captivating, humorous narrative. Martin Short delivers his show-best performance, infusing the grandiose Oliver Putnam with charisma, wittiness and verve.
Ready to delve into “The Tell”? Let’s get to it.
Son of Sam
We open with Will (Ryan Broussard) narrating the episode while he constructs a family tree project with his son Henry. Will regales the audience with a tale about his father, Oliver, in the 1970s. Oliver’s knack for knowing someone’s “tell” spans decades, starting with his famous “Son of Sam” parties.
Next, we see young Oliver (Samuel Farnsworth) in 1977, playing the Son of Sam card game with Teddy and their friends. Kudos to Farnsworth for accurately depicting Oliver’s eccentricities and physicality.
Fast forward to what appears to be the late ’80s/early ’90s. Oliver (Short) hosts another Son of Sam party with his wife Roberta (Marie-Francoise Theodore) and Teddy (Nathan Lane) among the attendees. Young Will peers around a corner, observing the festivities from afar. Oliver departs briefly to put his son back to bed. Will asks Oliver why he’s so adept at knowing when someone’s lying or telling the truth. It’s because he’s Oliver freaking Putnam, that’s why!
The Bloodthirsty Bassoonist
Later, we return to the present, wherein Charles (Steve Martin) chats with an imprisoned Jan (Amy Ryan). Jan seems to believe they’re still an item, while Charles boasts a one-track mind. He wants info regarding Bunny’s murder. Jan feels our sleuthing trio mislabeled Nina as a prime suspect. She believes they should hunt for an artist or a storyteller — only a creative person could execute such a murder.
Meanwhile, Mabel (Selena Gomez) explores the tunnels while talking on the phone with Alice (Cara Delevingne). Alice has a problem: her ceiling is leaking, and she has to throw a fancy shindig for an eclectic art crowd. Mabel follows the tunnels to a grate in her closet. Alice asks if Mabel wouldn’t mind hosting the party at her apartment. After discovering how the killer exited her home, Mabel eagerly agrees to play host for the evening.
Mabel finds a matchbook from The Pickle Diner lying underneath the grate, and she notices a red substance on it. Could it be blood or ketchup?
Then, we see Will holding rehearsals for the school production of The Wizard of Oz, with Oliver supervising as the older, more seasoned director in the Putnam clan. Will cast Winnie as Todo. Let’s be honest — that beautiful bully should star in everything from here on out.
Mabel calls Charles and Oliver to her apartment to showcase this new piece of evidence. So, Bunny’s killer is a patron of The Pickle Diner. After the guys date themselves by embarking on a tangent about the Iran-Contra affair (which, according to Oliver, is a bigger scandal than Watergate), our trio heads to the diner to brainstorm.
Ivan (Ariel Shafir) hands them a list of his regular customers, most of whom possess Russian monikers. Charles and Oliver broach the subject of Alice being a suspect since she’s an artist and appeared shortly after Bunny’s murder. Mabel defends Alice, citing that she’s a cool artist chick from London, not a killer. That’s when Charles and Oliver learn that Mabel and Alice are dating. Oh, and she’s throwing a party that night.
The Arconiacs butt into the conversation, and we see they’re sitting adjacent to our trio. They want the scoop, y’all!
Art and Murder
Later, Oliver and Charles finally meet Alice at the artsy shindig. Charles’s suspicion regarding Alice melts away after she gushes about a Swedish porno in which he had a bit part. However, Oliver remains skeptical. He throws the party a lifeline by seizing the reins for a rousing game of Son of Sam, much to Mabel’s dismay. Alice invites the chaos, though.
Oliver doles out decades-old drugs like the Pill Fairy and sets the scene for the card game. We see the partygoers’ attire transform into 1970s garb. Charles even boasts an ill-fitting wig!
After Oliver explains the game’s rules, we see the attendees bow out individually as Oliver tags them for being murderers. Thus, only Mabel and Alice are left standing. Oliver accuses Alice of holding the Son of Sam card, but the accusations hit a little too close to home when he blends real life with the make-believe game. Oliver calls out Alice for lying about her credentials after claiming her “tell” is that she plays with her hair.
Finally, Alice admits to lying about attending Oxford and her upbringing, revealing no one would want to purchase art from the child of a plumber from Essex. Alice storms out, with Mabel hot on her heels. Everyone departs the party.
The Party Is Over
Next, Oliver catches Ivan slipping an envelope of cash under Bunny’s door. If you recall, Bunny gifted Ivan with a sizeable amount of money on the day of her death.
Mabel informs Alice that all the attendees left and asks Alive why she lied. Alice doles out a flimsy excuse (in my eyes), explaining that she desperately wanted to be an artist and obscured her past in the hopes of fitting in among the hip crowd. Mabel forgives her but discloses her trust issues, so the lies stop here.
Meanwhile, Jan and Charles chat on the phone and reminisce about those blueberry bagels they were supposed to eat the morning after their fun night of horizontal tangoing. Charles appears to warm up to Jan again even though the latter’s in prison for murder.
Killer on Camera
Then, Oliver meets with Ivan at The Pickle Diner to learn why the waiter deposited money on Bunny’s doorstep. Oliver wants more info about Bunny’s final days. Perhaps Ivan knows if she was acting suspiciously or with someone shady. Ivan shows the restaurant’s camera footage, which appears to be from 1985. After remarking on the diner’s need to upgrade to 4K, Oliver spots the killer (presumably) sitting with Bunny. Before they leave, they grab a matchbook. Bingo!
Unfortunately, the footage is too grainy to make out distinct physical characteristics. Oliver texts said footage to Mabel and Charles, hoping this makes up for his behavior the night before.
Meanwhile, we see Mabel and Alice sleeping in bed as the camera focuses on the Son of Sam card in Alice’s purse. Charles revisits Jan in prison with a bag of blueberry bagels. Will hangs out with Oliver in the latter’s apartment and asks his father about his lineage. Will’s DNA results came in for Henry’s school project. He learned that he’s part Greek. Teddy Dimas is Greek! Uh-oh.
Oliver flashes back to a moment at the Son of Sam party from the beginning. We see him plop down between Teddy and Roberta, who give each other “knowing” glances. Funnily enough, Teddy has the Son of Sam card at this shindig.
So, Will isn’t Oliver’s biological son. We love a good family drama!
My only gripe with “The Tell” is Delevingne’s performance. I’m not a massive fan of her as an actress, but I was open to her wowing me. Instead, her work feels underwhelming, as if she’s too in her head and not allowing her physicality and body to live in the moment (Sorry, I studied acting, and I can’t turn that switch off). She’s not terrible, but when surrounded by high-caliber performers like Martin, Short and Gomez, it’s easy to seem lackluster in comparison.
On a somewhat similar note, I still don’t trust Alice. Her excuse doesn’t hold water. She appears to fit the murder profile, but I’m used to this show surprising us. Making the killer another significant other à la Jan would be too easy and predictable.
“The Tell” unfolds the mystery in new ways, allowing Martin Short to showcase his always impressive comedic chops while delivering an exciting cliffhanger that keeps Teddy Dimas in the story. I’m all for more Nathan Lane.
Only Murders in the Building drops new episodes every Tuesday on Hulu.
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