Annalise Keating, once again, proves she's the smartest one in the room. And boy, is she always in the room.
We kick off the episode with Annalise and Sam having the final heave-ho over their affairs and failed marriage. We get some serious marital fighting, with a bit of race, murder, and slut barbs thrown in for good measure. If this is what the end of 20 years of marriage looks like, it might be worse than the murder itself. Almost.
After Annalise storms out, Sam decides it’s a good time to start drinking. Michaela picks this moment to appear at the house with the stolen trophy to get out of taking her final exam, and Lila shows up to hack into Sam’s computer. Wes, Connor and Laurel get to the house just in time to talk Sam down, albeit unsuccessfully.
In the ensuing struggle over Rebecca’s flash drive, Michaela pushes Sam over the stairs, and with a sickening crack, we all think we have the final answer to WHO KILLED SAM. As the law students argue over whether they’ve committed felony murder, since they helped Rebecca steal information from Sam’s laptop and then pushed him to his death, Sam magically resurrects and has Rebecca in a death chokehold.
Which leads us to the second biggest reveal of the season: Wes killed Sam. He delivered the death blow with the trophy to save Rebecca from being strangled.
The group all proceeds to panic. Connor vomits, Laurel does some obsessive stroking of her coat, Michaela collapses in the corner, and Rebecca and Wes make out while wiping off blood. Mature.
Wes secrets Rebecca away to a local motel, while Connor, Laurel and Michaela head for the woods. Wes goes back to the house to grab the murder weapon, and then convinces the group to dismember and burn the body with a bit of coin trickery.
As this is all going down, Bonnie gets randy with a rando in a bar, and then Asher.
But more importantly, Annalise heads first to the police station, and then over to Nate’s house. And boy oh boy do they restart the fire. Annalise unburdens all of her fears about Sam’s involvement in Lila’s murder, and confesses to foolishly helping him cover it up. Nate finally comes around, and he officially wins best back of the fall tv season in a steamy wall sex scene. He doesn’t deserve the harsh truth that’s revealed in the final seconds of the show.
Annalise eventually slips away and makes a heartbreaking phone call to Sam, asking him to come back to her. They’ve been through too much together, she pleads, through the good and the bad. Come back to me. Too bad that right about now his lifeless body is already being lit on fire.
Back with our murderous quartet, the group is deciding to throw away the dismembered, charred body, because they don’t want to find an incinerator. This seems like a horrible idea. The other horrible idea they have: leaving the woods without Michaela’s ring.
After they break for the night, Connor finally loses it with Oliver, but then covers it by saying he’s on drugs. Laurel disguises her distress by manipulating Frank into replacing the trophy. Michaela goes home and stares longingly at her Vera Wang wedding dress and finally decides to sign the prenup. And Wes wakes up to Rebecca bringing him coffee in their motel.
Throughout the entire episode, we don’t actually get an answer on whether or not Sam killed Lila, and Wes smashes the flash drive Sam was essentially murdered for before we can get any more clues. Rebecca did leave Wes’ supervision to get coffee and bagels -- was she smart enough to copy the flash drive while she was gone? If she did care for Lila, she should want to prove her real killer. And maybe save her own skin, because she’s still on trial for Lila’s murder. A topic for the second half of the season, perhaps.
Annalise makes the chilling phone call to Bonnie we saw a few episodes ago, saying that something must be horribly wrong since Sam is missing. It’s unclear if she’s noticed her missing rug, but what is clear is she feels in her bones something bad has happened. Bonnie bounces back from being fired (and sleeping with Asher) real fast, and summons the whole group over to the Keating house for Annalise to deliver the news, sans makeup and wig: Sam is missing, and Annalise believes he had a role in Lila Stangard’s death. Annalise then pleads with the group to please, tell the police everything. She just wants to find her husband.
And right as your heart is breaking for the woman whose asshole of a husband is definitely dead, the other shoe drops in the final flashback of the season: Annalise knew the whole time that Wes killed Sam. When Wes went back to grab the murder weapon, she was sitting at her desk. By far the creepiest shot of the whole season is right after Wes apologizes to Sam’s corpse for killing him, Annalise speaks all-powerful from behind her desk: “Don’t be.” Hidden in the shadows, tears streaming down her face, she stares Wes down with the fury of a woman scorned. This is a woman with a plan. This is a woman in charge of what’s going to happen next. This is a woman who is going to tell Wes how this is going down.
Based on the timeline of events, Annalise used Nate as her alibi, calling Sam from his apartment to double-verify her location. She then goes back to the house and leaves Sam a sappy, reconciliatory voicemail. Then she calls Bonnie that morning, saying she fears that Sam’s on the run. Then she involves the police, and asks her students to interview with them. And she does all of this, already knowing he’s dead. That’s one smooth operator.
And while there’s a zillion ways they could all get busted, the show is called “How to Get Away With Murder.” And it wouldn’t be a Shonda Rhimes show if we weren’t all dying for it to be January 29th already.
Until that Thursday...Odds and Ends
- Going to go with the whole "burn the body by the bonfire and incinerate him" had to be Annalise’s plan -- she’s just smarter than the rest of the shell-shocked kids. Also Wes said he was gone a long time -- long enough for her to fill him in on her master plan.
- It doesn’t appear that Wes filled in the rest of the group on Annalise’s knowledge of the murder. That kid may keep more secrets than his professor.
- While the blood splatter was a nice dramatic touch, there’s no way it sprays forward onto Rebecca’s face when Sam is hit on the back of the head.
- Also, Sam tried to strangle Annalise and Rebecca in the same night -- is this concrete enough proof that he strangled Lila?
- Since Laurel and Connor didn’t shove or deliver the deathblow to Sam, how come they stick around to help out? Assumedly because they’re all implicated, but this seems rather unfair.
- What does Bonnie want with a dental equipment salesman? Why would she need a new set of teeth? Does she want a new identity? Did she kill Lila? What is she up to? All of the questions.
- Loser of the episode goes to Asher. He loses the trophy, feels left out over the bonfire pictures, and gets used by Bonnie. Technically he should be a winner as he didn’t kill anyone, but still -- he wins loser of the episode.
- Bonnie gave one helluva come hither speech.
- There are so many ways they can all get busted -- so much blood in the house, fingerprints where they’re not supposed to be, not totally burned body, missing wedding ring, all the people they saw the next day, or just straight up cracking under pressure. How to get away with murder seems much harder than it did from the outset.
"How to Get Away With Murder" airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. EDT on ABC.a