There are a few important things to remember when diving into “Flipping the Pieces,” the seventh episode of Season 2 of Only Murders in the Building. The first is that memory is a mix of objective and subjective reality (thank you, Oliver). The second is that at the beginning of the season when Mabel met Alice, she mentioned that her father gave her a puzzle of Frida Kahlo when she was young. And I’m sure you need no reminder that last week’s episode featured a shocking cliffhanger, with Mabel stabbing someone on the subway who approached her wearing all black with shoulders covered in red glitter (thank you, Oliver). And with that, here’s a recap of “Flipping the Pieces.”
Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) narrates this episode. We see her sitting in a white bedroom wearing yellow pajamas. It appears to be a dream; everything in the room is white except for Mabel and a spilled box of puzzle pieces. She talks about how her father (Mark Consuelos) loved puzzles, and we see a flashback of young Mabel and her dad doing a 500-piece puzzle and trying to make it more challenging by not only hiding the image on the box, but also by flipping the pieces over to put it together upside-down. In Mabel’s dream, she turns a piece over and sees Bunny Folger’s face (Jayne Houdyshell) on it.
Mabel wakes up from her dream and looks around. She’s in someone else’s apartment, and she seems disoriented. She notices blood on her white jacket and gets up when she hears someone enter. Mabel grabs a lamp and hits the person on the back of the head. It’s Theo Dimas (James Caverly), who uses American Sign Language (ASL) to speak, pulling out his phone to show Mabel a video online of her on the subway stabbing a person wearing all black with red glitter on their shoulders. “Is that me?,” she asks in confusion. “Did I stab someone? Again?”
Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) is in his apartment on his couch looking exhausted after drinking some Gut Buzz Zero. Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) enters, and we learn that they’ve both been trying to reach Mabel, having called everywhere she could possibly be since she’s not responding to their calls and texts. A knock on the door sends Charles flying in hopes that it’s Mabel, but it’s Detective Williams (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) with her baby Keith. She returned to New York City early from her trip to Denver because she can’t stop thinking about the case and has questions for them.
Theo makes coffee for Mabel, who notices that he has an ankle bracelet. Mabel doesn’t know ASL, so Theo uses Dimas Deli stationary to ask her what she remembers. He also hands her a card that informs Mabel that he can only understand about a third of what she says through lip-reading. As Mabel tries to remember what happened, she realizes she doesn’t have her purse, which had the matchbook with a thumbprint on it that could be a clue leading to Bunny’s killer. Theo writes what happened for Mabel. He was on the Subway train in the car behind hers. When Mabel was attacked by the man in black, he noticed and watched as she stabbed him. Theo got off the train with Mabel and watched as the stabbed person ran out with her bag. But the person dropped something – a security badge from Coney Island. “I need to get to Coney Island now,” Mabel exclaims, refusing Theo’s offer to drive her because she believes he killed Zoe and let Oscar spend ten years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Theo pleads that he’s not like that and Mabel begrudgingly agrees to let him drive her.
Detective Williams asks Charles and Oliver to tell her everything they know about Mabel, threatening to agree with Detective Kreps’ opinion that she’s a murderer if they don’t. Charles brings up the knife as the murder weapon, not the knitting needle, and then rambles on about how she could search all of their apartments and not find it. Oliver acts nervous, stammering that he has to go to the bathroom. After excusing himself, he makes a lot of groaning noises that can be heard in the kitchen, so Charles goes to check on Oliver. In the bathroom, Oliver struggles to get the shelf that hides an entrance to the secret crawlspaces. He was going to rush to his apartment to hide the knife. The two aren’t quiet as they talk and Detective Williams waits outside the door, listening. She finally knocks, and Charles opens it. “So, you have the knife,” she says, accusing them both of perjury.
Mabel and Theo arrive at Coney Island, which is closed for the season. They sneak in through a gate with a gap big enough for them and Theo breaks them into a security trailer that contains employee files. Mabel searches through them while worrying aloud that she could possibly be a murderer who goes into fugue states when she kills. Theo decides to save them time by putting all the files in a bag they can take with them. But when his ankle bracelet chirps that it needs a charge, Theo signs that it will take about an hour. He’s never been to Coney Island before, so Mabel powers up some games for him to play. As he takes out his anger on Whack-A-Mole, Mabel has a memory of watching The X-Files (Season 2, Episode 2 – “The Host”) with her father in his apartment. He recently moved out on his own and apologizes for not having the energy to take Mabel to the zoo, blaming it on his new work schedule. “It is a good mystery, huh?”, he asks as he notices that Mabel enjoys the show. “And a mystery is just a puzzle, right Mabel?”
Theo has moved on to a crane machine, but he’s unsuccessful at retrieving a prize. However, the machine is unlocked, so he opens the door and pulls out a capsule. Inside it is a jewelry box, which he opens to give to Mabel. It contains a costume jewelry ring with a big green gemstone, which reminds them both of the one Theo gave Zoe, which she wore the night she died. Theo signs to Mabel: “Every night, before I go to sleep, I replay that moment in my head. I ask myself, did Zoe slip? Or did I push her? I still don’t know.” Mabel bonds with Theo’s own confusion over his memory of what happened to Zoe because she is questioning whether or not she killed Bunny. She has a flashback of finding Bunny in her apartment, and this one is different. She enters, sees a figure, grabs her knitting needle, stabs the figure, discovers that it’s Bunny, and is horrified as her neighbor falls to the floor to die. Her memory is interrupted by Theo’s ankle bracelet buzzing that it’s fully charged. Mabel says she has to go to the bathroom before they drive back.
“When you say knife, what exactly do you mean?”, Charles asks Detective Williams to clarify as they sit at his kitchen table. Keith is on Detective Williams’ lap, and he is fussy, refusing his pacifier and toys. Oliver reminisces about how when Will was a baby, he would get gassy after eating. “Are you familiar with A Chorus Line?”, he asks as he gets up to lay a blanket on the table, referring to it as a stage. He picks Keith up and lays him on the blanket, singing “One” as he moves Keith’s legs in the air to the choreography, which produces a big fart. Keith is now a happy, giggling baby and Oliver hands him back to his mom. She says she will never do that, but Oliver says that as a parent, you will do anything when you have a kid. She recognizes that they both have this parental instinct towards Mabel and that they could help prove her innocence by sharing what they know with her. Charles announces that both he and Oliver need to go to the bathroom.
Mabel washes her hands in a bathroom mirror at Coney Island, seeing her reflection and having another memory of her father. It’s Halloween, and she arrives at his apartment dressed as Detective Scully with an FBI badge for her dad to join her as Detective Mulder. He is wearing a winter hat over his bald head, and he no longer has eyebrows. He looks unwell and tells her he can’t go trick-or-treating. Mabel is crushed, and when he holds out a puzzle box to offer an alternative activity, she knocks it onto the floor and sends the pieces flying. Mabel tells her dad that all he does is break his promises. “I know I do,” he laments, “And I wish I could keep them, especially for you.”
Charles and Oliver return to the kitchen table holding a paper bag, which they hand to Detective Williams. She looks inside and sees the knife, winking as she tells them she doesn’t know where it came from. Oliver announces that his fingerprints are on it since it was his knife and Charles adds that Lucy’s will also be on it, but she has nothing to do with this. “I’ll let you know what I find,” Detective Williams says as she puts Keith back in his stroller and heads towards the door, belting out “One” and laughing that Oliver didn’t think she would know A Chorus Line.
Mabel finishes washing her hands and looks down at the water draining, noticing that the sink is full of glitter… red glitter. She quietly exits the bathroom into an employee locker room. She walks past a trashcan and sees bloody bandages on top. A door opens, and Mabel hides in an empty locker, watching through the vents as a figure dressed in all black with red glitter on their shoulders sits down on a bench with a first aid kit. The figure seems to sense that they’re not alone, getting up and starting to open locker doors. When they get to Mabel’s, she bashes the locker door into them, sending them flying back so she can make a run for it. But first, she grabs the backpack they left on the bench.
Mabel finds Theo outside and motions for him to follow her, ducking in an alley and hiding behind a go-kart as the person in black runs past. Mabel motions to Theo that they need to get to the car. Once inside and on the road, Mabel examines the black backpack she took, which has a patch with a chicken on it. She finds her purse inside, but the matchbook isn’t there. She pulls out her phone and finds a backlog of texts from Charles and Oliver, who are at The Pickle Diner. She notices something else in the backpack that alarms her. She tells Theo that they need to get to the diner right away. As Theo drives, his father Teddy tries to Facetime him and Theo ignores the call. “My dad died when I was 7,” Mabel reveals. “They didn’t tell me what was really happening. They wanted to protect me.” We see another flashback, Mabel visiting her father on his deathbed in the hospital. It was stomach cancer, and she talks to Theo about how she didn’t know how to cope with his death, so she didn’t. She just figuratively flipped the pieces over in her mind until she couldn’t see the image anymore. “That was when I lost my first memory,” she shares, adding that she’s lost several since, and always when something is too traumatic in her life. “But I have to flip the pieces now. All of them. Otherwise, I’ll never see the full picture.” Mabel has another memory of the night she found Bunny dying in her apartment. She opens the door and walks in, noticing a figure in black running into her bedroom closet. She turns to grab a knitting needle, but they aren’t in her box of yarn. Bunny stumbles around the corner with a knitting needle already protruding from her chest. “It’s not my fault,” Mabel remembers aloud. “I didn’t stab her.”
Theo pulls up to the diner. Mabel tries her best to use ASL, signing “Thank you for stealing my fish.” It makes Theo laugh, and Mabel admits that she was wrong about him, motioning to his phone and suggesting that pushing people away doesn’t work very well. She goes inside and reunites with Charles and Oliver. Theo watches and unlocks his phone. His call log is mostly missed calls from his dad (and three other names: Steve, Ron Adams, and Lisa R.). He touches his dad’s name to call him.
Inside The Pickle Diner, Mabel sits down and shares that she has bad news. She opens the backpack she stole at Coney Island and pulls out the item that made her want to rush right there: a photo of Charles and Lucy standing on the curb outside The Arconia (from Season 2, Episode 4 – “Here’s Looking at You….”). Charles picks up his phone and immediately calls Lucy (Zoe Margaret Colletti), asking where she is. We see that she’s in his apartment waiting for him and he yells for her to get out of there. The call is cut off, the lights go out. Lucy has no service. The power goes out in the diner, too, as Mabel questions if the call dropped. “I know this,” Oliver realizes aloud. “We’ve got a blackout, people!”
We will have to wait until Tuesday, August 9th, to find out what happens next when Hulu releases the eighth episode of Season 2 of Only Murders in the Building, titled “Hello, Darkness.” Here is the official episode description.
A blackout throws the city into chaos. As the trio races to save a loved one from the killer, other Arconia residents begin to explore unexpected connections in the midst of darkness — all enhanced by Gut Milk and a yodel or two.
Want to know more about how Only Murders in the Building incorporates ASL through Theo’s character? James Caverly and Nathan Lane both talked about it during a press conference to celebrate the show’s success at the end of last season. You can read my article from that event right here.
Fun fact: All 11 seasons of The X-Files are available to stream on Hulu.