The Rat Pack might be feeling relief over Nate Lahey being arrested for Sam’s murder, but Annalise is wracked with guilt. Last episode we saw her tearfully call her mother saying, “I need you,” so this episode opens with her mother, played to perfection by Cicely Tyson, arriving at the house to shake her out of her funk.
Bonnie, meanwhile, has taken on a new case independently of Annalise — defending a female nurse, Jolene, who was falsely accused of rape by a male patient, Chad. Poor Bonnie fumbles the opening statement pretty badly (“So she’s no Annalise,” snarks Connor, and while I welcome the return of the dude with the sarcastic snippy one-liners, I’m finding it hard to like him when he’s this cheerful about a totally innocent man possibly going down for his crime) but manages to pull herself together enough to handle the first round of witnesses.
Back at the house, Annalise isn’t having the easiest time with her mother Ophelia. Ophelia reveals that Annalise’s birth name was Anna Mae, and insinuates some things about her daughter’s childhood and her reinvention of herself as Annalise Keating.
“Get rich, you give yourself a rich name. ‘Annalise.’ Your name is Anna Mae. Something else your mama gave you from the poor box.”
She goes on to ask Annalise if she really did murder Sam, but when Annalise just stares at her in shock, Ophelia casually continues talking about donating all of Sam’s clothes like she never said anything.
Bonnie’s streak of good luck in the case comes to a halt when it’s revealed via online forum posts that Jolene lied about having sex with Chad after his surgery. Jolene maintains that the sex was consensual, so Bonnie goes about proving that Chad is the bigger liar. Rat Pack plus Asher questions Bonnie’s new approach to the case, which leads to the most hilarious looks of surprise when Bonnie starts screaming at them.
Because no episode of How To Get Away With Murder is complete without weird and mildly uncomfortable sexual tension between Annalise and Wes, Wes sneaks upstairs to talk to her about his girlfriend Rebecca being called in for questioning by the police. They traced some of the calls on Nate’s phone the night Sam was murdered, and want to know what she was talking to him about. Annalise’s mother kicks Wes out before Annalise can give advice other than “tell her to stick to her story.” She then gives Annalise a knowing look and saying, “someone’s always the student, someone’s always the teacher. That’s how sex works best.” I need a gif of Annalise’s eye-roll, stat.
Connor and Oliver (AKA Connor’s only method of getting information; Oliver makes a crack about practically working for Annalise, and I’m kind of starting to wonder why they don’t hire Useful Oliver on and kick Connor out) discover Chad is gay through Humpr, a gay dating app. When Bonnie tries to use this info in the case she’s slammed for discrimination and her whole line of questioning is thrown out. Bonnie goes back to the office to weep into her vodka, where Frank finds her and they get into it over Annalise and Frank not trusting Bonnie with the whole murder thing. Poor, sweet Bon-Bon.
“And say what? ‘I have no idea how to win this case, please Mommy give me the answer?’ If I go up there, she’ll give me that look, and I’ll start to cry and offer to quit. Tell me that’s not true.”
Meanwhile Michaela is off getting shit done Connor-style, cozying up to a DA on Nate’s case to get inside info. Surprisingly, considering how freaked out she was before about losing everything, Michaela seems to be the one most worried about Nate taking the fall for them. Michaela goes to the rest of the Rat Pack to report that Rebecca told the police Nate threatened to hurt her — lies, obviously. Wes is starting to doubt Rebecca’s saintliness, so he goes to ask the police about Rudy. He finds out Rudy was carted off by police after a drug overdose, then taken to a psychiatric hospital… the same night that Lila was murdered.
Annalise has finally dragged herself out of bed and smack dab into a screaming match with her mother, whose antiquated ideas of gender roles cause Annalise to call her mother out on not protecting her from Uncle Clyde sexually assaulting her as a child, even though Ophelia knew what was going on. Ophelia tries to defend herself with, “I told you, men take things. They’ve been taking things from women since the beginning of time. Certainly no reason to go to a headshrinker for help then end up marrying him.” Annalise dismisses her mother, saying she doesn’t need her help. Later they talk about it, and Ophelia confesses to her daughter that after she found out about what Uncle Clyde did, she burned their house to the ground with him in it.
“I know how you’ve been torturing yourself about what went on here, baby. And maybe you did something real bad, I don’t know and don’t much care if you did. I know if you did, you had your reasons. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Bonnie finally wins her case when she discovers that the hospital lawyer that’s been bugging her all episode long to settle and Chad are lovers, and that they were planning the false rape charge against Jolene to con the hospital into paying them. The charges against Jolene are dismissed. Bonnie celebrates by making out with Asher in the parking garage, in full view of a voyeuristic Frank.
Funniest scene of the episode goes to Connor introducing an adorably awkward Oliver to his “friends” Michaela, Laurel, and Wes. They try their hardest to be accommodating even after Connor hits them with a “by the way I told him I’m a drug addict so please for the sake of my sex life just play along,” and it’s amazing. Wes wanders off to answer a phone call from Rebecca and lying to her about where he is, and when Laurel overhears it Wes tells her what he found out about Rudy.
Together they go to the psychiatric hospital where Rudy is staying. The wall above Rudy’s bed has the same claw marks that are in Wes’ room, and when Wes shows Rudy a picture of Rebecca, Rudy croaks out a single word: “wet.” Wet like that water tank Rebecca was found in?! Cut to Rebecca back at their aparment, where she’s apparently tracking Wes’ phone. Mighty suspicious, that girl. Elsewhere, Michaela goes alone to Nate’s arraignment, but runs into Annalise all cleaned up and ready to fight. “He’s innocent… and black,” says Michaela. Annalise replies that it’s her fault Nate is here, so it’s her job to fix it.
Though the rest of the elements of the episode were decent enough — actual Connor/Oliver relationship development, Bonnie gets to do something for once, and Wes is finally, finally not being so damn gullible when it comes to Rebecca — “Mama’s Here Now” was elevated most by Viola Davis and Cicely Tyson’s performances. Every scene they shared together was electric. I’m slowly getting back into this show, which is great because next week’s season finale is two hours long and we’ll be finding out #WhoKilledLila once and for all.