Who says Only Murders in the Building can’t be educational? Prior to the 8th episode of Season 3, I had never heard of a “Sitzprobe,” and I consider myself a theater fan. It sounds invasive, doesn’t it? Find out what it means in this week’s episode recap!
Episode 8: “Sitzprobe” – Written by Pete Swanson and Siena Streiber
Our narrator du jour is none other than Loretta Durkin (Meryl Streep), who monologues about the impact of our choices as we see her getting ready to leave her apartment for the Gooseberry Theater. She picks up the opening night PlayBill from Death Rattle and pulls out a book in which she houses all of her programs. The first one in there is No Strings, the musical she saw as a child that inspired her journey to become a stage actress herself. She tells us about her past and how she was labeled the most talented actress in the Midwest. She was seduced by a visiting director from New York City and was planning to follow him to Broadway, but life threw a 9-month curveball her way. Young Loretta (Taylor Colwell) gave the baby up for adoption before she left St. Louis for the Big Apple. Everything was supposed to go her way. It didn’t. She felt cursed by her decision to give up her baby as she was turned down for role after role.
The parents who adopted Loretta’s baby sent her updates over the years. One day, the family wrote a letter sharing happy news. Against the odds, they were blessed with a child of their own. Loretta maintained a scrapbook about the child she would never know. But wait! One morning, Loretta heard some exciting news! Her child’s brother was coming to New York City… to headline a Broadway show! This was her chance to finally meet her boy. And so she rushed to audition for the play, barely making it, and dazzled the director. As her child’s brother entered the first table read, everyone was enthralled by his magnetic star power. But Loretta’s eyes only locked on the star’s adopted brother. His manager. Dickie Glenroy (Jeremy Shamos). Loretta’s son.
Before leaving her apartment, we see Loretta pen a letter to Dickie, confessing to him how they’re related. She then pulls out her sliding bookshelf and searches for the scrapbook she made about him… she searches… It’s gone! Somebody has taken her scrapbook! She enters the Gooseberry Theater a little late as a result. The cast of Death Rattle Dazzle is already on stage for the first Sitzprobe rehearsal, meaning the full orchestra is present. Loretta’s monologue continues about how this is the moment when you find out if your choices were harmonious or horrific. As she moves towards the stage, we see Dickie sitting in the empty auditorium to watch. She asks him if they can have dinner together after rehearsal. She wants to talk to him.
With the full cast now assembled, Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) is just about to begin rehearsal when he sees Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) in the wings. He asks his assistant, Howard Morris (Michael Cyril Creighton), to hold the cast for a short break while he rushes backstage to talk to her. Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin) follows and tries to smooth things over between his quarreling friends. They learn that Mabel is temporarily living with Theo, and she has a GoPro that Tobert lent her to aid in her investigation. She shares that her lead suspect is Dickie Glenroy, a decision Oliver is happy with since Dickie isn’t in the cast.
Rehearsal is finally underway, with Jonathan (Jason Veasey) belting out a fully orchestrated version of “Creature of the Night.” Mabel sits in the audience, watching when she gets a text from Tobert. “You were right,” it reads. Just then, it seems as if everyone’s phones are buzzing with alerts. Gregg (Adrian Martinez) has been released from prison. Ben Glenroy’s killer is still on the loose. And then the theater doors burst open, a familiar face flanked by two police officers – Detective Williams (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). As she introduces herself to the cast, she is momentarily starstruck by Kimber (Ashley Park), whom she saw as Roxy Hart in Chicago. She is there to bring the entire cast to the police station for interrogation, but Oliver objects, asking to speak with her privately. Before he can exit with the detective, Oliver’s producer, Donna (Linda Emond), asks if she’s hallucinating. He thinks she’s referring to the detective, but she points to the audience where renowned theater critic Maxine (Noma Dumezweni) is sitting. Oliver shares that he was hoping to build buzz around the musical revival with one of the toughest critics in town.
Backstage, Oliver begs Detective Williams to do the interrogations in the theater so he can keep rehearsals going. Mabel offers her assistance, but Detective Williams tells her she’s done enough. She agrees to Oliver’s terms. Privately, Mabel tells Oliver they need to find a way to listen in on the interrogations. She puts pressure on him by saying that finding the killer is the only way he gets to have another opening night. Howard interrupts, saying he needs to show Mabel something. Charles and Oliver agree to try to listen in on the interrogations.
Howard brings Mabel to the stage manager's office, where he has discovered the source of the creepy sound he heard on opening night when the door was locked. He was shredding a document when he realized that’s what he heard. And the bin is full of the shredded shards. He tells Mabel about his puzzle-solving skills and asks her to find him some scotch tape so he can get to work.
Charles has generously offered Detective Williams his dressing room for her interrogations, sitting her in his ergonomic chair at his desk. Ty (Gerald Caesar) enters to be interviewed, and Detective Williams kicks Charles out. Mere seconds go by before he barges back in with an excuse that he’s in need of his weighted blanket. He rummages around for it and pretends to be crushed under the weight of it on his couch. He tells Detective Williams not to mind him, but she orders him out. Instead, he puts on a pair of noise-canceling headphones and begins to rehearse his patter song. She acts insulted when he tries to explain what a patter song is. She refuses to continue the interview until Charles leaves, so he follows her orders.
As Oliver moves through the backstage hallways, he gets a text from Loretta asking to talk. He goes to her dressing room. “You took something from my apartment, didn’t you?” Oliver confesses and apologizes, producing her scrapbook from his messenger bag. “You don’t owe me any explanation,” he promises, but when she simply says “Thank you,” he pressures her to explain so they can move on. He says he trusts her, but he needs to know what’s going on. “Mabel thinks it’s Dickie, and Mabel’s never wrong,” he adds. This causes visible alarm on Loretta’s face just as K.T. (Allison Guinn) comes on the P.A. system to call Loretta to the stage to rehearse the nanny’s lullaby.
Mabel is in the wings rummaging through a bin of masking tape when Loretta walks by on her way to the stage. She produces some scotch tape out of her purse and tells Mabel she never leaves home without some. She tells Mabel she’d like to help with the investigation, saying she just wants to help save the show. They sit on a bench backstage as she laments about her delayed Broadway debut. “There’s nothing wrong with being a late bloomer, I’m one myself,” Mabel shares. Mabel tells Loretta that Dickie is her lead suspect, a fact that’s likely hard for her to hear since they have a relationship. Loretta looks flummoxed, and Mabel clarifies that Dickie is her manager. Loretta says she doesn’t think Dickie did it, saying poison is more of a woman’s method of murder. Mabel counters that Dickie was in charge of Ben’s food. Loretta tries to lead Mabel’s suspicions towards Bobo or K.T.
Coincidentally, Bobo (Don Darryl Rivera) is being interrogated by Detective Williams at that very moment. Oliver barges in to apologize for Charles’ behavior, sharing that the Brazzos star has had an awful time with his patter song and how he is guaranteed to freeze up on stage. Just as Williams kicks Oliver out, K.T. calls Charles to the stage, and her interest is peaked. She and the cops go to the auditorium to watch. Backstage, we see Oliver telling Charles that he has to make it through the entire song. The music starts, and Charles begins. To the surprise of everyone – the entire cast, Detective Williams, Maxine – Charles makes it through the song.
Mabel returns to the stage manager’s office with the scotch tape for Howard. She helps him piece some strips of paper together that seem to go together, but it’s not going well. Howard accepts defeat, and as Mabel stands up, she notices a box of rat poison on top of a file cabinet. Mabel tells Howard that his hunch is correct, that the killer was likely in this office on opening night. She encourages him not to give up and says she might even let him on the podcast if he’s able to piece the pages together. He has connected a few fragments that reveal a date in the corner of a document, which matches opening night.
As rehearsals continue on stage, Loretta watches in horror as Detective Williams and the cops approach Dickie. When she’s able to take a break, he tells her he can’t join her for dinner because he’s been called to the police station. Loretta goes to the restroom to try and compose herself, but she’s not alone. Donna emerges from a stall as Loretta cleans her face. Donna tells Loretta she’s nervous, too, and how she only agreed to produce this version of the show because of her son, Cliff. “You spend your whole life looking out for your child,” Donna tells her. “It never stops, and you’ll do anything to make sure they’re ok.” As Donna leaves the restroom, Loretta takes a deep breath.
Backstage, Oliver and Charles reveal to Mabel what they did. Knowing that Detective Williams is a closeted musical theater fan, they enticed her with the premise of Charles making a spectacle of himself on stage during his patter song as a way to get her out of Charle’s dressing room. While he was on stage, Oliver had just enough time to sneak into Charle’s dressing room and plant the GoPro Tobert lent Mabel, which means the camera is recording the rest of her interrogations. They unite their hands together in celebration.“Wanna make a podcast with me?”, Mabel asks.
It’s time to rehearse the finale, and Oliver can’t find Loretta. In the auditorium, Maxine tells Oliver how extraordinary Loretta is. She shares that she thought this musical approach would be a disaster, but calls it “Pure Oliver Putnam.” He smiles. “Tell me, Maxine, does it sing?” Maxine purses her lips. “You’ll have to wait for my review.”
Loretta finds Dickie in the theater lobby, and he asks why she’s not on stage for the final number. She tells him she can’t stop thinking about opening night. “I keep thinking about the fight I had with Ben,” Dickie replies. “He said I was dead to him.” He thought for sure they would make up the next morning, and he’d be right back in his subservient position to his brother. “When he was gone, for those few brief moments, I felt free… And then he was back…I was trapped again. I couldn’t take it anymore.” K.T. interrupts on the P.A. system, calling Loretta to the stage. Dickie asks if she had something to say to him. “You didn’t deserve this,” she stammers. “None of this ever should have happened.” Dickie tells Loretta that meeting her has been the best part of these past few months. They hug, and he escorts her to the stage theater.
As Loretta makes her way to the stage, Oliver pulls her aside. “I know you’re upset with me, and that’s fine, but I need to say that I do trust you,” he says, adding that he just wants to be with her. “I love you,” he says to her for the first time. Loretta begins to tear up as Howard calls her to the stage. She sets her bag in a seat and goes to the stage. That seat just happens to be right in front of Charles and Mabel, and they can see an envelope sticking out of the scrapbook Oliver recently returned to her possession.
“A nanny’s only duty is to her children,” Loretta sings as Charles and Mabel slyly pull the book and letter out of her bag. The letter is addressed to Dickie, whose attention is solely focused on Loretta. As Charles and Mabel read the letter, Detective Williams and the cops go to Dickie to bring him downtown. Charles and Mabel realize that every photo of Ben Glenroy in Loretta’s scrapbook has Dickie right behind the star. The scrapbook wasn’t about Ben, it was about Dickie.
Loretta pours her heart out in the nanny’s lullaby song, singing about giving up her soul for the sake of a child. Dickie is moments from walking out of the auditorium with the cops when she stops singing and declares, “I did it, I killed Ben!” She stammers about how she poisoned his drink, and when that didn’t kill him, she pushed him down the elevator shaft. Oliver is in shock, begging her not to do this. “I’m sorry, Oliver,” she says. Dickie shakes his head in disbelief.
As Loretta is arrested and escorted out of the theater, Oliver’s world begins to spin. He leans against the orchestra wall and feels for his pulse. He begins to keel over in pain. He appears to be having a heart attack.
The penultimate episode of Season 3 of Only Murders in the Building premieres September 26th on Hulu. I leave you with a description of the next episode, “Thirty,” written by Elaine Ko.
The trio have amassed a plethora (oh yes, a plethora) of clues, suspects & theories but find no concrete answers about Ben’s murder. They devise a peculiar method of throwing themselves into the actual case to recreate the final moments of Ben’s life.