Will and Angie know firsthand the harsh realities of exiting the system on your eighteenth birthday, given nothing but “Two Hundred Dollars and a Bus Pass.” That’s the title of the eighth episode of Will Trent, which finds the lead detective of ABC’s new crime series tackling a murder case that feels like it could’ve been his own story. With that, we dive into this week’s recap.
It’s nighttime when college student Alison Schooner (Kadianne Whyte) exits a campus building to find her ex-boyfriend Jason Howell (Michael James Thomas) waiting for her on a bench. “I’m not doing this right now,” Alison tells Jason, who decides to hang back as she walks away alone. Alison’s commute back to her apartment takes her by a quiet lake. When she hears a twig break, she feels like she’s being followed, calling out to Jason to see if he’s there. Nobody answers and soon a man walking a dog passes, making Alison feel like she’s being silly. She stops by the edge of the lake next to a tree, taking in the peaceful beauty of the moonlight reflected on the water’s surface.
The next time we see Alison’s face, her eyes are dead and hollow as a body bag is zipped up over it. Detective Faith Mitchell (Iantha Richardson) stands by the tree as her partner Will Trent (Ramón Rodríguez) arrives on the scene. Alison’s body was found by several professors who noticed her backpack by the edge of the water, then saw her body under the surface, weighed down by a cinder block. Insider Alison’s backpack was a torn handwritten note that read “I want it to end.” Chancellor Vera Kuo (Jee Ann) approaches the detectives, hoping the university can stay ahead of the suicide narrative. Will, however, bursts her bubble instantly, theorizing that Alison’s death wasn’t suicide. He points to the brevity of the suicide note compared to the planning required to bring a cinder block to the lake. Looking over Alison’s body, Will notices something moving in her neck just under her right ear. Touching it, a small wish wriggles out of a clean incision in her neck. Will imagines Alison’s death, standing under a tree whose trunk would’ve been splattered with blood. He goes to inspect it, dabbing the bark with his handkerchief. Although sprinklers were on early in the morning, the white handkerchief comes back with a red tint. Faith agrees with Will’s theory, Alison was murdered and the killer knew she would be in this spot, where evidence would be washed away by sprinklers.
Will and Faith meet with Dwayne (Tyler Giles), who sublet an apartment to Alison in a house of other college students. He didn’t know much about her, but remembered that she had a boyfriend. Inside her room, Will and Faith find padlocked boxes of personal belongings. Will instantly recognizes this as a habit of someone who grew up an orphan, never having many personal belongings and feeling overly protective of what they do have. All of the boxes are hand labeled and the handwriting matches the note. As they search, Will hears a sound outside and opens the window to find a boy named Milo (Nick Clark) there. Milo gets startled and tries to flee the backyard by hopping the fence, but Will races out and quickly pushes him into the gate to hold him there. Several other students pull out their cellphones to record the encounter as Faith searches Milo’s backpack and finds a sharp knife. Milo says it’s for sculpting and his body suddenly begins to convulse. Will lets him go and Milo collapses on the grass next to a few cinder blocks, having a seizure as foam leaks from his mouth. Will calls for an ambulance.
Back at the GBI, Amanda Wagner (Sonja Sohn) has seen the videos of Will’s interaction with Milo, scolding him and telling him they’re lucky that his parents aren’t pressing charges. She hands Will Alison’s file and tells him he was right, she grew up an orphan being bounced between foster homes and orphanages. Will swears to his boss that he didn’t cause Milo’s seizure.
Faith waits at the hospital to get an update on Milo, finding that the doctor who diagnosed her diabetes is overseeing the boy’s treatment. Dr. Farhad Pournazeri (Kayvon Esmaili) informs Faith that Milo is in a medically induced coma to help with his brain swelling. He has no prior history of epilepsy, and Faith asks to be updated with any changes. Farhad gives Faith his personal phone number and asks if she’s eating regularly, trying to smoothly ask about her diabetes in a roundabout way to ask her on a date. She tells him she’s having dinner with her son, but would like to go out some other time.
Will goes to the coroner to review Alison’s body with Pete Chin (Kurt Yue), who tells him that Alison had elevated enzymes in her liver, which could be the result of heavy drinking. Will imagines Alison’s ghost there with him defending herself, saying she didn’t have time to party with two jobs to pay for her tuition. Will echoes that sentiment back to Pete, handing him a medication vial that was found in Alison’s backpack. The label looks mysteriously void of information, save for just a few numbers. Pete recognizes it as a prescription vial from a pharmaceutical trial. Pete tells Will that the knife wound on Alison’s neck was a precise incision that quickly cut her carotid arteries to make it a quick death. Will speculates that only a hunter could be that methodical.
When Faith gets back to the GBI, Will catches her up on what he was able to find in Alison’s social media profiles. There’s a picture of her with her ex-boyfriend Jason, who Faith has learned is a research assistant at a high-profile pharmaceutical company running a trial on campus. Will found Jason’s account and a photo of him and Alison at his family’s hunting cabin, with a big deer hook in the background of the photo. The two lovers broke up several months ago, but had to keep seeing each other because Jason helped Alison get a spot on the clinical trial, which pays well but also required that she keep contact with him.
Will and Faith make an impromptu visit to the lab to find Jason, instead meeting another research assistant, Darla (Fern Cozine), who tells them that Jason stepped out for a break. She shares that they’re in the middle of a phase one trial for hypertension medication. When Jason enters, Will and Faith pull him aside and ask specifically about the cabin photo. He tells them it was a retreat at which he introduced his entire family to his girlfriend. Asked about hunting, Jason says his brothers do it, not him. Asked for his whereabouts last night while Alison was murdered, Jason’s alibi is that he was working at the lab all night with Darla, stating that the trial’s leader, Dr. Tilda, has had them on a tight deadline. Alison never told Jason about any side effects she may have been having and she also never told him why she broke up with him. He believes she suffers from an outsider mentality and makes a statement that she felt undeserving of love. Will takes offense to this sentiment, saying “Maybe she wasn’t that into you.”
Faith reprimands Will outside of the clinic for snapping back at Jason. Will justifies his comment by saying that it was offensive to his lived experience. As they walk, they notice Darla doing jumping jacks in the middle of the walkway. She excuses her behavior as trying to stay awake and Faith asks if she was up all night with Jason. She lets it slip that she actually stepped out for a little bit to go workout and that when she came back, she took a nap on Dr. Tilda’s couch, begging them not to tell on her.
Shortly after, Farhad calls Faith with an update on Milo, whose seizure has been determined to be related to a medication in his system. Faith asks if the drug is for hypertension and Farahad is confused about how she could’ve known that. She tells him that Alsion was part of a clinical trial and wonders if Milo was, too, but Farhad says that no trial should’ve accepted Milo with his preexisting conditions. Reviewing the facts with Will, Will theorizes that this drug could’ve had other side effects that made it desirable by other students on campus who weren’t part of the trial. Faith says she has a plan for getting other students to talk.
While all of this has been going on, Angie Polaski (Erika Christensen) and her partner Michael Ormewood (Jake McLaughlin) have been dealing with a strange case. A magician named Steve Susperio (Larry Herring) was found stabbed in the back on stage at a nursing home where he was a regular performer. The manager, Nancy Hernandez (Vanessa Martinez), showed the two around the crime scene, where no fingerprints were found on the knife. The only thing missing from Steve’s personal effects is his cellphone, which is odd because a tripod for a phone was set up on the stage as if Steve had been recording himself when he was murdered. While Angie and Michael interview residents and staff and begin their search for the missing phone, the fire alarm is pulled and the entire building needs to be evacuated. Angie asks Nancy to bring all of the residents to the APD along with a list of all of the residents.
Faith’s plan was to lure college students to the GBI with free pizza, which distracts the senior citizens in the APD one floor below when they see an elevator full of pies on their way up. As Will and Faith interview college students and learn that the hypertension medication helped with students’ ability to focus and study, therefore becoming highly sought after. Students participating in the trial were required to undergo a blood test to prove that they were taking the medication before receiving their next vial, which made it harder to get the pills for students not in the trial. Milo was buying the medication to reportedly help with his art and rumor has it he was getting his pills from Alison. While the pizza distracted Angie and Michael’s interviewees from the senior citizen’s home, Angie was present when the daughter of a resident named Gus (Tony J. Scott) came in to yell at Nancy for not keeping her father away from the computer, stating that he reportedly can’t stop online shopping and racking up a lot of credit card debt. On his way out, Gus confusingly states that he doesn’t even use the internet. Angie goes to inquire with the GBI’s financial crimes division. On her way, she stops to check in with Will and finds that he’s emotional about Angie, a girl with an upbringing similar to theirs. When Will gets back to his office, he dictates his notes on Alison’s case, remembering that all orphans receive when they turn 18 is $200 and a bus pass to try and start a life for themselves. He recalls how it wasn’t enough for him to live off of, so he shoplifted and eventually got caught. It was Amanda who took pity on him, guiding him in a direction that led to him becoming a detective. He imagines Alison is standing in his office, promising to find who killed her.
With all they know about the trial, Will and Faith assume that Alsion wasn’t selling her prescribed pills, but was getting them from somewhere else. They decide to meet with Dr. Tilda (Grace Junot), who oversees the project and would have the ability to falsify data. Faith also theorizes that Alison’s handwritten note may have been intended for Dr. Tilda to resign from the trial. During the meeting, Faith brings up that she is aware of Dr. Tilda’s divorce, theorizing that she needed extra cash quickly and was making it by selling drugs on campus. She denies the allegations and takes Will and Faith to see the lab, shocked to find blood on the floor from a supply closet. Opening the door, they find Darla on the floor with a stab wound, calling for paramedics to come help.
In recovery, Will and Faith talk to Darla about what happened. She says that she was helping Jason catch up on some reports when she noticed that the blood results for multiple participants were identical. She went to the records room to see if this had happened before and while she was looking through the logs, Jason snuck up and attacked her. Will and Faith race back to campus where a Security Officer (Miguel A. Gatean) tells them that Jason’s car is still there and he is presumed on campus, but his dorm is empty. Will notices a stairwell to the basement and heads down. Jason’s body is on the floor, a puddle of blood under his head and a gun in his hand. Heat is leaking, making the basement hot, and on the wall, a message is written – “I’m sorry.”
Back at the GBI, Will can’t help but shake the feeling that something isn’t right. For one thing, Jason was a strong guy. If he wanted to kill Alison and make it look like a suicide, he could’ve easily held her under the water to drown her without needing to stab her. Faith argues that he loved her and wanted her death to be quick, but Will wonders if someone else merely wanted them to think it was Jason. Is the case really closed?
Meanwhile, Angie and Michael solve the mystery of the magician’s murder. Steve was under investigation for identity theft, having been siphoning money from residents of multiple senior citizen communities where he performed around Georgia. He would hypnotize them to get their banking information and had a network of lovers in power at each location to keep it quiet for him. As they learn all of this, Steve’s missing phone is found in the room of a resident named Sheila (Jennifer Van Horn). Now having access to the video Steve was recording, Angie and Michael see the magician filming his audition for a television talent competition. While he records, Nancy storms in angry at Steve, who she just learned is planning to leave her and move to the Bahamas. She takes his stage knife and stabs him in the back with it. Fast forwarding, Sheila enters the crime scene, opens a crate to take Steve’s prop bunny, and, noticing the phone on the tripod, takes that too. Soon after, Nancy is in custody for Steve’s murder.
Will and Faith return to the hospital to talk with Darla, telling her that Jason is dead. Dr. Farhad pokes his head in the room and asks to speak to them. Faith steps out as Will wraps up the conversation with Darla, who cries as she vows to dedicate the rest of her career to the memory of Alison. As he steps out, Will is careful to leave the door open as he joins Faith in Farhad’s conversation. Dr. Farhad shares that Milo has awakened from his coma and that he said he witnessed Alison’s attack. Milo needs a few more hours to rest before the doctor will let Will and Faith interview him. Inside the room, we see that Darla has been listening intently.
Later, we see Darla sneak into Milo’s hospital room, seemingly undetected. She pulls out a syringe and approaches the covers, peeling them back to find pillows laid out to look like a person. A light turns on in the corner and Will reveals himself, telling her that Milo is still in a coma, but congratulating Darla on opening the boiler to keep Jason’s body warm so that the time of death couldn’t be declared as prior to her stabbing. We see inside Will’s mind, with Darla luring Jason to the basement, shooting him, planting the gun in his hands, turning up the heat, and writing the note on the wall. She then went back to the lab, stabbed herself, hid the knife in an air vent, which Will has since found, and then pretended to have been attacked. He points out that it would’ve been reckless of the same person who attacked Alison with such a precise incision to then carelessly stab Darla in a spot that wouldn’t cause death. Will accuses Darla of taking advantage of Alison’s situation, killing her when she wanted to walk away. Darla backs out of the room to run, only to discover that Faith and several officers are waiting outside to arrest her. She confesses that Alison was going to tell and ruin everything Darla had worked for.
That night, Will serves a home-cooked meal to Angie and Nico (Cora Lu Tran). Angie recognizes that this case was particularly tough for Will and proposes that they honor Alison’s memory before they eat. “I’d like to think that eventually if things had been different, she’d be sitting in a room just like this, not alone,” Will says, leading a toast to Alison. “You were seen, you were known, you will be remembered.”
After that case, Will Trent is taking a well-deserved two-week break. We will next see ABC’s “objectively hot” detective on Tuesday, March 21st.