In True Detective season 3 episode 6, “Hunters in the Dark,” Cousin Dan reappears after years of hard living, we learn that one of our earliest guesses was right, Harris James reveals himself to be a major league creep, and we get a glimpse into a queen’s pink castle.
As we do every week, we’ll run through the show scene-by-scene, pausing occasionally to reinforce important (and so often fleeting) moments and linking the present to the past. And then we’ll dive into themes and evidence, where we make our best case for (and against) everyone.
Table of contents
Amelia and Wayne in bed, 1980
We pick up more or less where we left off last week: with the burgeoning couple, minus a sex scene. The gunfight at Trash Man’s house happened earlier that day. Roland’s in the hospital with a gunshot wound to the leg. Then Amelia and Wayne rolled around in the hay.
Wayne’s more than a little happy, which isn’t an emotion he’s prone to showing. The gunfight was less exciting than what just happened, he says.
And we know why.
A few episodes back, Wayne explained that he’s not into sex without emotion. And that explains why, a few episodes before that, he turned down Roland’s offer to go to, uh, get some girls.
He got what he wants. He’ll spend the next few decades trying to keep it.
Anyway, Wayne says he’s not judging Amelia for sleeping with him so quickly. He shares his cigarette with her. We learn that this the first time that Wayne fired his weapon as a cop. Amelia says she wants to know more about Wayne’s past.
“Honestly,” he says, “I never give it thought. One thing I learned in the war: Life happens now. Then later is now, you know? It’s never behind you. And I’m not avoiding the question. It’s just, I really don’t spend time remembering stuff.”
Amelia doesn’t know how Wayne does that. He says he’s just lucky.
At this point in his life, living in the moment and ignoring the past is Wayne’s choice. He’s deliberate about it, structuring his life that way. But as we know, later, as an old man, his addled brain won’t have a choice. And the irony is that he’ll want desperately to remember. Because the past does matter.
Roland, Wayne, Tom Purcell, and the cops, 1990
As Wayne stares through the one-way glass at Tom Purcell in the interrogation room, we hear the woman who called into the hotline saying “tell him to leave me alone. I — I know what he did.”
“That certainly sounds like an indictment,” Attorney General Gerald Kindt says. He’s ready to pounce, as usual. He and his law enforcement croney, Blevins, point out Tom’s lack of an alibi on the night that his children disappeared, and blame Roland and Wayne for not following up on it.
Roland point out, correctly, that Freddy Burns told them that he saw Will Purcell alone in the woods while they’d placed Tom back at home, working on his car. Blevins wants to pounce, too. There’s no way around it at this point. In an act of mercy, Roland decides that he and Wayne will interrogate Tom.
“I don’t know what that call was,” Roland says to Wayne before he gets into the interrogation room,” But no way we could be that wrong.”
The interrogation is every bit as awful as you might expect. Tom is sad, then confused, then angry. Wayne plays the hardass, as he often does. They talk as if Tom’s guilty, presumably to scare him into a confession. Kindt and Blevins are on the other side of the glass, so there’s no way for them to go easy.
Wayne brings up the “peephole” in Julie’s room. (We’ll find out later than an earlier theory of ours was correct. Good job, us!) He also brings Julie’s parentage into question.
“I held — I fed her,” Tom says nearly growling, teeth clenched, veins engorged and tracing their way up his forehead. “Got up in the night. She is mine. That child is mine.”
Roland and Wayne press on, making accusations disguised as questions. Tom transitions from desk-pounding anger to monosyllabic frustration.
Outside of the room, Wayne says he doesn’t know if Tom’s telling the truth, even though he can usually tell.
Kindt, a world-class jackass, isn’t the least bit deterred, so he keeps talking as if Tom’s guilty.
And yet, interestingly, Blevins asks if maybe Tom might’ve planted the evidence at Trash Man Woodard’s house. And that’s super interesting because the evidence planting theory that Wayne came up with in a previous episode isn’t something that they shared with Blevins or Kindt.
Wayne points out that they don’t have enough evidence to arrest Tom. Blevins says to hold him for 24 hours. In the meantime, he wants Roland and Wayne to look for the evidence they don’t have. Kindt says he’ll give them a warrant to check Tom’s house. Roland, who is reasonable, wants to look into the call.
Wayne and Eliza in the interview, 2015
Wayne becomes confused in his interview. Eliza asks him if it Julie made the call. Wayne says yes — and that it came from a truckstop outside of Russellville where they found Julie’s prints on a payphone. So that’s a lock.
Roland and Wayne at the truckstop, 1990
Wayne says that he didn’t want to tell Blevins and Kindt his theory about the planted shirt and backpack evidence. He doesn’t know if Tom’s guilty, but he knows that telling the bigwig bozos about that would seal Tom’s fate.
Amelia and Wayne at home, 1990
Wayne struggles to tie his tie because he has to go back to work. Amelia helps him. He asks where she’s going.
“I’ve got things to do,” she says. “New book.”
It’s a sequel to her first book, this time about the current investigation. This is the first that Wayne’s heard of it, and who can blame Amelia at this point for keeping that information from him? Every time they talk about it, Wayne is angry and jealous.
Wayne’s back on his kick about people profiting off of others’ suffering. But Amelia makes a hell of a good point: He’s in a position to profit off of the case’s reopening, too. So maybe don’t get so high and mighty.
Wayne says if all goes well, he’ll be home more. Amelia’s not so sure that’s what he wants. She’s convinced that he’s avoiding being home. He’s better as a lone wolf.
And now it’s Wayne’s turn to flip the script: Amelia’s looking for a life outside of the home, too, and her new book is proof.
She grabs her purse and walks past Wayne without a word.
Roland and Wayne on the Tom Purcell investigation, 1990
In a voiceover, Old Wayne tells Elisa what happened next: He and Roland investigated Tom Purcell. They visit people Tom used to work with, including his boss (credited as “Foreman,” as in the shop foreman, we presume) — the guy with the beard from the school bus factory.
The man says that Tom quit after his kids disappeared, but he’d already checked out before that.
“Caught him drinking on the job,” the foreman says. “More than once.” That makes some sense, given that we know that by 1990, Tom’s been sober for five years.
In what seems like a classic throwaway line that’s actually more important than it seems, the man says that Tom was “always asking for a loan and shit.” He also says that Tom didn’t jell with his coworkers.
“I didn’t want to say anything back then, but a few of the boys [we] had around saw him going into a queer club,” he says. “They got on him a lot after.”
Welp. It’s at least possible at this point to say that Tom wasn’t super interested in his wife if he was gay but living straight.
Wayne and Roland at Tom’s trailer, 1990
The last time we saw Tom’s trailer, Roland came to visit him. This time, he and Wayne are here to search it.
What do they find? A bunch of past due bills. The Alcoholics Anonymous serenity prayer framed on the wall. Books about AA. A typewriter. Pictures of young Julie. A picture of Julie and Tom when she was a toddler. A cigar box filled with receipts or maybe lottery tickets and what appear to be poker chips.
Let’s go ahead and remember that his wife, Lucy, died outside of Vegas. And that Tom said he never saw where she died. And also that he had her body brought back.
A bunch of condoms in a drawer. Underneath that, a pamphlet that reads “HOMOSEXUALITY CAN BE CURED!,” which is written above a Christian cross.
As Roland and Wayne drive away from Tom’s place, they talk.
“So he’s not the saint of all suffering,” Wayne says.
“Everybody’s got weaknesses,” Roland says. “Don’t mean he did that to his kids.”
“Looking less and less and less to me like they were his kids,” Wayne says. “Devil’s Den was a homo cruising spot. They kids weren’t supposed to be out there.”
Roland tells Wayne to fuck off. They know that Julie and Will were meeting someone else there. “Tom wouldn’t do that,” he says. And Wayne says that they’ll clear him if that’s true.
Wayne says they have to get this right because Kindt and Blevins are ready to pounce on Tom. And even if it’s not Tom, Wayne is hellbent on solving the case in this do-over investigation. Roland nods in agreement.
Wayne, Kindt and more at the police station, 1980
Wayne sits at his desk alone in an empty office, reading the report about the gunfight at Trash Man’s house. Several men — including District Attorney Kindt — enter the room.
Someone hands Wayne photos of the backpack and the shirt. Kindt is the first to implicate Trash Man in the Purcell case. Wayne says something seems wrong — the kids were meeting someone, for starters. At the mere suggestion that isn’t the whole story, they pounce.
The press is mocking those in charge of the investigation. Wayne implies that Kindt contributed to that narrative.
Wayne says that, if this is true, then where’s Julie? Kindt speculates that Trash Man burned her in his homemade oil drum incinerator.
“She’s dead,” Kindt says. “Let’s not draw out the family’s pain any longer.”
“Our official position is that Woodard murdered both children,” a man named Warren Twiggs says. “That’s it.”
He tries to soothe Wayne, says there’s probably a medal in this. Wayne gets indignant. He just wants to solve the case. But again, those with the final say have the last word — 10 people are dead, and they have someone to blame. Move on.
Kindt tells Wayne to gather the evidence to make the case against Trash Man. He huffs out of the room telling them to keep their stories straight. If they’re pinning the Purcell children on him, then it’s 12 people dead.
Wayne and Eliza in the interview, 2015
Eliza shows Wayne a picture of Dan O’Brien’s body, explaining that someone found his remains in a drained quarry in southern Missouri. Does Wayne think this connects to Tom? He doesn’t know.
Wayne explains what we already know: After the call, they had to interview folks because they “had to look at the possibility” that Tom planted the evidence — or that he and Trash Man worked together.
“You know,” Wayne says. “It’s terrible what this world makes you ponder. Don’t you think?”
Roland and Wayne interviewing, 1990
The first man they interview can’t be sure if he saw Tom. He’s the cop who was taking pictures when he spotted the pristine backpack under Trash Man’s front porch in a previous episode. He mentions Harris James, who was the highway patrolman who identified the backpack as Will’s.
Roland, Wayne and Harris James at Hoyt Foods, 1990
As first impressions go, Harris James’ is terrible. He’s a smug one.
In 1990, he’s the Chief Security Officer at Hoyt Foods, and he filled his office with guns.
Wayne and Roland don’t seem to like James, and he’s not particularly fond of them, either. They spar about salaries, which leads to a bit of backstory.
James says he moonlighted as Hoyt Foods security for about five years when he was a patrolman. He took the job in May 1981. That establishes a preexisting relationship with the Hoyts when the Purcell kids disappeared. This seems important.
Roland can’t figure out why it took so long to find Will’s backpack.
“Took God six days to make the world,” Harris says. “I can believe it took a bunch of GEDs two days to find a backpack.”
Wayne looks at a picture on the wall. It’s James and an unnamed person smiling over a buck they killed. This seems super important. Unless and until we’re proven otherwise, we’re going to assume that this is a Hoyt — and that he and James are buddies.
Harris says that, back when he was processing the scene at Trash Man’s house, he saw Tom Purcell across the street, watching them.
Wayne points out that Lucy Purcell (Julie and Will’s mother) used to work at Hoyt Foods back in 1979. He said he never saw her, unless she worked 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Let’s once once again point out that this was during the time when Harris was a trooper and working at Hoyt Foods. (Did he and Lucy hook up?)
Harris implies with a ladle of sarcasm that he left the highway patrol for money. He’s a super cool dude. (He’s not.)
Wayne plays bad cop.
“What’s the job involve? Money like that,” Wayne asks. “Hog thieves? People trying to steal the secret chicken recipe?”
“Securing without compromise the integrity of corporate assets while guarding against hazards to daily operations,” Harris says. We strongly suspect that there’s more to this salary subtext, and we’ll discuss that in themes and evidence below.
“But I’ll admit,” Harris says, “now and then I miss wilining away my days, cruising around, eating donuts.”
“I don’t eat donuts.”
“I can tell. You’ve got a good body, detective.”
Maybe this is a throwaway line. Or maybe it’s designed to make us think of Tom Purcell and his indeterminate sexuality.
Roland and Wayne leave the office. Wayne has a bit of criticism for God: Instead of resting on the seventh day, he should have kept at it.
“I always thought he should’ve put the extra day in, instead of half-assing it.”
Wayne sure likes work a lot.
Wayne and Eliza in the interview, 2015
Elisa says that Harris James disappeared during the 1990 investigation. He sure did!
Elisa connects the dots about all of the people dead or missing and speculates that maybe one day someone will find his body in a quarry, too.
“I wouldn’t know, miss,” Wayne says. “But what you just did it called speculation. That leads to projection, we call it. Twists what you see, obfuscates truth.”
Elisa is undeterred. Hasn’t Wayne ever thought about all of the fatalities surrounding this case?
Wayne says he needs to stop for the day. Elisa apologizes. Wayne walks away and his son, Henry, steps in to handle Elisa.
As she talks about the sheer body count, Wayne looks at a picture of Amelia.
Amelia and the runaway at nunnery, 1990
Amelia is conducting her own investigation for the sequel to her book. She begins by thanking a nun who runs a house for girls who aren’t at home for a variety of reasons. The nun doesn’t recognize Julie from the surveillance photo flier.
Amelia interviews a girl who recognized Julie. Last she saw her was four or five months before that when they were in some kind of group together. Amelia asks why Julie left.
“Things had gotten kind of shaky,” the girl says. “Drugs. One of the guys had gotten some of the girls to trick. Just got … ugly. I dropped out [of the group] a couple weeks after Mary.”
Sometimes, Julie called herself Mary. Other times, Mary-Julie. Sometimes Mary July, “Like Julie but July. Like summertime she said. She had different names.”
There’s a shot at this point out of the window of the room they’re in. A man gets out of a blue pickup truck that belongs to Ardoin Landscaping. Could be that’s nothing, but let’s keep it in mind.
Amelia asks if this Mary ever talked about where she came from.
“She mentioned something about ‘living in the pink rooms.’ Or — ‘a queen in a pink castle.’ You know what I think? I think she didn’t know who she was. I think she just pretended”
The girl says that Amelia should write a book about what happens to girls “out here,” which presumably means on the street.
Amelia, heartbroken, holds her hand.
Roland, Wayne, and Dan O’Brien at the Waffle Place, 1990
As they drive down a rural road, a call comes over the CB. Someone called the hotline and wants to talk to Roland.
Looks like old cousin Dan’s been living hard since we last saw him. As he eats and smokes at the same time, he demands $7,000 for the information he says he has about the Purcell case. He thinks he has the upper hand, because it’s clear to Dan that the cops are just as clueless now as they were in 1980.
We learn that Lucy came to live with him when she was four, after her mother died. Dan implies that they were somewhat more than kissing cousins.
“Look: I got you out here because if you’re looking for Julie again, that means that right now there are people trying to make sure that none of your questions can never been answered,” Dan says.
When Wayne asks who, Dan says “People who do not renegotiate. People who in their interests make Lucy look like she OD’d.”
Dan goes on to explain that Lucy had a problem that sounds a lot like low self-esteem … or an extreme case of being super horny. Or greedy. Or maybe all of the above?
“Lucy, she had this problem,” Dan says. “Self-defeating, hm? She didn’t know when to stop pushing. She’s push until she got what she wanted, and then she’d keep on pushing until she got what she didn’t want. Y’all ever know anybody like that?”
I’m voting Wayne Hays on the anybody like that ticket.
As usual, Wayne plays tough cop throughout the conversation, but nothing phases Dan. He’s got an answer to everything — and he introduces a sense of urgency when Wayne threatens to throw him in jail for a week.
“You think she’s got a week?”
So if they want to threaten him or beat him up, all they’ll really do is make sure that they’ll never get their answer. This is actually a really compelling reason to pause, given that we know that Roland and Way aren’t afraid to beat scumbags up.
Dan isn’t the least bit afraid of Tom. In fact, Roland asking if it has anything to do with Tom is just further proof to Dan that they’re clueless. He also says that he’s “sticking his head aboveground,” which sure implies that he’s been hiding for a long time.
It’s all about the kids, Dan says. And they’re not the only ones looking for Julie.
Someone opens the door to the restaurant, and Dan jumps, which seems like a good indication that he’s paranoid (or that he recognized the man and he’s possibly not just making this up).
He says he’ll call them the day after tomorrow. They let him go, and he thanks them for the meal.
Wayne wants to get the phone records from Lucy’s hotel, going back two years. And figure out where Tom was when she died. He also thinks they ought to get $7,000.
Tom Purcell in the police station, 1990
A notably unhelpful cop sets Tom free. He heads to the police station in a frenzy. Roland isn’t there.
Down the hall, other cops are discussing the case. Tom listens and learns that Roland and Wayne just had lunch with cousin Dan who says he has the whole story and wants a payout. And also that they want phone records for the Diamond Cactus Motel in Paradise, Nevada.
So Tom’s all caught up, too.
Henry and Wayne at Wayne’s house, 2015
Wayne’s in the backyard looking at the photo of Dan O’Brien’s skeletal remains. He hears Elisa and Henry fighting inside.
Wayne’s smoking again. Henry isn’t happy. Then he bums a smoke from his old man.
Wayne knows that Elisa and Henry are having an affair. We caught that a few episodes back, when Wayne went to her hotel room and thought she might’ve had company. She said she was alone, but we saw two wine glasses on the bedside table.
Henry feels bad about Heather, who is either his wife or his partner. It’s not clear. He think he should tell her. Wayne isn’t so sure.
“There’s something to be said for truth just hurting her,” Wayne says, a sentiment that could apply to a baker’s dozen of situations in True Detective season 3 from anything Wayne can’t remember to the whereabouts (or status) of Wayne’s daughter Becca. “Causing pain because you feel guilty. Is that fair? You feeling better, she feeling worse?”
This is Henry’s first affair. It just … happened. She was exciting. Things aren’t like they used to be with Heather.
“Nothing says like it used to be,” Wayne says. Truth.
Wayne asks a question for himself.
“Did I teach you to withhold?”
Henry doesn’t understand.
“I didn’t intend that,” Wayne says. “I didn’t realize it was happening.”
Henry doesn’t answer. He changes the subject, says he’s got the addresses that Wayne asked him for. He asks what he’s looking for. Wayne ignores the question just like Henry did.
“Before you ever knew me,” he says, “I wasn’t scared much. I wasn’t a fearful man. I did things some people even called brave. Y’all made a coward out of me. I’ve been terrified since the day you were born. Maybe you know what I mean. Can’t shrink from it. Can’t be singy, son. People you love — can’t hold it back, see? Can’t hold anything back.”
Wayne sees his mistakes in Henry, and he’s blaming himself for it. As a younger man, he raged at the suggestion that he’s ruined Freddy Burns’ life. He’s introspective in his old age, willing to take his share of blame for how his actions impacted others.
Wayne looks into the backyard and sees a young Amelia and Henry gardening.
Amelia, Julie, and Kindt at the community center, 1980
Kindt is behind a podium again, this time making the public case against Trash Man. Lucy’s there, barely keeping it together. Tom reaches for her hand, but she recoils. Tom leaves. Lucy starts crying harder and leaves, too. A reporter follows her. Amelia follows all of them.
Amelia shames the reporter.
“It’s my job,” the reporter says. “I’m just trying to get it right. If I don’t, someone else will get it wrong.”
Sounds a lot like what Amelia tells herself when she’s researching and what Wayne tell himself when he’s investigating. Sounds a lot like everybody, really.
Amelia tells Lucy that she wants to apologize for how they left things when Amelia came to her house. Lucy lashes out.
“Don’t apologize to me,” Lucy says. “Ever. For anything. You two bitches, you talk to each other. Make up a story on your own.”
She gets in her car and drives away.
A heavyset woman we’ve seen with Lucy a few times before runs out into the parking lot.
Roland and Wayne driving, 1990
It’d be ironic if Dan O’Brien clears Tom, Roland thinks. It’s also astounding how quickly the town died.
“Didn’t die,” Wayne says. “Got murdered.”
Roland wants to try and figure out who else might have planted the backpack and shirt at Trash Man’s house. Wayne says it could have been anyone, and he’s not comfortable with clearing Tom yet because “the man has secrets,” which is not wrong, but also you could say that about every human ever. He wants to look at the church program about curing homosexuality and contact coworkers, presumably those who harassed him because of his indeterminate sexuality.
Roland tells Wayne that he’s taking him home, and Wayne balks. He’s still got work to do. (So did God, remember?) They’ve got a lot to think about, strategize about, maybe even talk to someone in vice about “the queer underground.” Roland says it can wait.
“Just stop, alright?” Roland says. “You don’t want to go home, don’t go home. But don’t make it the job.”
“Maybe we just work it different.”
“Oh, yeah, we work it different.”
“I just said.”
“And I agreed. That’s why I’m where I’m at, and you —” This seems like fuel for our theory that Roland knows how to play the political game and work within the system, whereas Wayne’s inability to suffer bullshit hurts him and his career.
“What? Me what?”
Wayne tells Roland to pull over. And when he doesn’t, he grabs the wheel. He starts walking.
“I don’t care so much about my time card,” Wayne says. “I’m working.”
He starts walking.
“People see your black ass skulking around, you’re going to get yourself shot!” Roland yells after Wayne, who ignores him. He drives, literally leaving Wayne in the dust.
Dan and Tom at the motel, 1990
Tom figured out where Dan is staying. It’s the same place where Dan used to do meth.
Tom looks unhinged. Big, wide eyes. Shirt buttoned wrong. Dan acts cocky, bumps Tom with his shoulder as he passes. He already told Roland and Wayne that he isn’t afraid of Tom. He’s about to realize that was a mistake.
As Dan mocks Tom saying there’s a truck stop and a glory hole up the road, Tom pulls out a gun and shoves Dan into the room.
“You know something you son of a bitch! What is it? What are you selling the cops?”
Dan smells alcohol on Tom’s breath, punches the gun out of his hand. It doesn’t go well for Dan. Tom beats the shit out of him and recovers the gun. Kicks him in the nuts. Talks about the body parts he’s going to shoot off, starting with his junk. Then he accuses Dan of creating the closet “peephole” to spy on Julie. Dan denies it. He says he doesn’t know where Julie is.
“Shit man,” Dan says. “You ever ask yourself where Lucy got the money to run off? Or what she was living off of for all them eight years before she died? Hm?”
“Say what you’re saying, goddamnit!”
“I’m saying — I’m saying I know who was paying her. Listen man, I know who was paying her and who would have a problem if she asked for more. That’s all I was going to give the cops, man! That’s all I was going to give the cops! A name! Shit! Just a man’s name.”
“Alright you dumbshit,” Tom says. “Give me a reason not to murder you.”
And that’s where we leave these two.
Wayne at the Purcell house, 1990
It’s dark now, and Wayne is still walking under a(nother) full moon. He arrives at the abandoned, boarded up Purcell home on Shoepick Lane. He enters the house. The walls are covered in graffiti.
He sees the “peephole” in the closet. He takes a piece of paper from his notebook and rolls it up. He debunks the peephole theory.
Roland and Wayne at Wayne’s house, 2015
Wayne says that the “peephole” wasn’t a peephole. It was a way for Julie and Will to pass notes to each other. (Score one for us!)
He tells Roland that Elisa mentioned Harris James, and Roland doesn’t look happy. Is Wayne sure that he knows what he’s doing with her? Wayne evokes Dan O’Brien. He’ll retreat to being a sick man as cover if he screws up.
Wayne says he got a list of names and addresses — “a former domestic, Hoyt’s house, Harris James’ widow” — that Henry referenced earlier. When Roland asks what he thinks they’re going to do, Wayne says he needs to pee.
While Wayne’s indisposed, Roland looks at Wayne’s desk. We see Chekhov’s revolver yet again. We see Wayne’s copious notes, circles, yellow post-its, paperclips, and highlights in Amelia’s book. He picks it up and starts thumbing through.
When Wayne reenters the room, he’s surprised and thrilled to see Roland. It’s sad. Roland handles it well, rolls with the punches.
This is how Wayne’s condition manifests itself. He gets lost for moments at a time. He tries to cover it up. He returns to reality.
Wayne’s back. He asks Roland to look out the window to check for the dark sedan he’s been seeing. Roland sees nothing.
Wayne asks Roland how he’s been. He’s unmoored.
“It’s 2015, isn’t it?” Roland asks after a bit of small talk.
“That’s right, pal.”
Amelia at the bookstore, 1990
“A lost child is a void that echoes backwards and forwards in time,” Amelia says. “It encompasses not just when the rooms you were in with them and are no longer, or even those rooms you will never enter together. The negation is deeper.
“It’d the knowledge that in every room you enter for the rest of your life, they should be there arend are not. Your memories of them become totems to that absence. A lost child is a story that’s never allowed to end.”
This is a public reading, and the crowd assembled applauds. She asks for questions. A man in the back shouts.
“They saying the girl alive now?”
“There were fingerprints found recently, yes,” Amelia says. “I’m writing about the new investigation now.”
The man starts walking toward Amelia, clutching her book.
“You got any idea where she is? Do they?”
Amelia can see him now. He’s a black man with a dead eye. The smile drains from her face.
“Uh, no. Nobody does. Are you —”
“And what about your book?” he shouts. Visibly angry now, he takes a couple more steps forward. “You got any theory here? You got some idea about where she’s at?”
“Well this — I wrote it when she was believed dead.”
“So you don’t know nothing. You just — you just making your money and milking they pain. Shame on you, woman!”
As he walks out, he slams her book on a table.
“Dolls,” she says recalling the conversation that Roland and Wayne had with Patty Faber back in episode 4.
Tom Purcell drinking, driving, breaking and entering, 1990
Tom’s off the wagon, drinking as he drives. He circumvents security and walks up to the Hoyt mansion.
He breaks in. Makes his way through the empty rooms. Someone smoking watches him on security cameras.
In the basement, there’s a long hallway lined with bricks under a vaulted ceiling, barely lit. It’s behind what looks like a bank vault. A sign hangs above the vault:
DO NOT DISTURB
Tom approaches a green door, gun raised. The door’s hinges creek as he opens it.
With a hand that’s still sporting a wedding ring, he flips the light switch. He walks in.
The walls inside are painted pink.
“The hell?” he says as he looks at something we can’t see. “Julie?”
Behind him, out of focus, a man walks into the room. It’s Harris James.
Cut to black.
Themes and evidence
At this point in True Detective season 3, our theories are commingling. This week, we’ll explore the nexus between Harris James, Gerald Kindt, Lucy Purcell, and (as always) the Hoyts. We’ll also take a look at a landscaping company.
Harris James and the Hoyts
When we first saw Harris James, it was 1981. He was a state trooper holding a clipboard at the Brett “Trash Man” Woodard crime scene, and he was the first to identify (but not discover) Will’s backpack.
Eliza also told old Wayne that James disappeared during the 1990 investigation. (And we strongly suspect that he may have been one of the two men who stood out in one of Wayne’s hallucinations.)
In this episode, we met Harris James, and boy howdy does he seem like a creep. But before we get to that meeting, let’s talk about how we got here.
We’ve known for a while that Lucy Purcell used to work at Hoyt Foods. Now we know that, before he became the Chief Security Officer, Harris James worked security at Hoyt Foods part-time, too. Lucy and Harris’ time at Hoyt overlapped, too.
In episode 3, Roland and Wayne asked a representative of Hoyt Foods and its charitable offshoot, the Ozark Children’s Outreach Center, to provide the company’s employee records — “names and dates of hire for every employee that works at this plant.” That was in 1980. The Ozark Children’s Outreach Center was offering a $10,000 reward for information about the Purcell case. At that point, James was still a state trooper moonlighting at Hoyt Foods and Lucy Purcell was working at The Sawhorse bar and restaurant.
If we presume that the authorities have similar information in 1990 (as everyone implies), that helps explain the scene with Roland, Wayne, and Harris. The subtext of Roland and Wayne’s interview with Harris James is all about money.
“What’s the job involve? Money like that,” Wayne asks. “Hog thieves? People trying to steal the secret chicken recipe?”
“Securing without compromise the integrity of corporate assets while guarding against hazards to daily operations,” Harris says.
Sure, he’s talking about pigs. But it sure seems like he’s talking about more than livestock, too.
On the surface, the jabs they take at each other are about government versus private sector salaries. But if you dig a little deeper, it’s easy to imagine more going on here, too. We don’t know what Harris James is making. But it sure sounds like a lot for not much, right?
Why would the Hoyts pay him so much? Maybe he’s just good and worth it. Or maybe he’s in deep and tight with the Hoyts, as the picture hanging on the wall in his office implies. Maybe he’s involved with the Purcell case. Maybe his salary is less about his current job and more about ongoing compensation for helping the Hoyts out with a little bit of abduction and murder.
And as we see at the end of the episode, James’ responsibilities don’t end at Hoyt Foods. He’s the Hoyts’ personal home security man, too.
We’ll bet Harris James in tight with the Hoyts. And we wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the thing that makes Tom say Julie winds up looking a lot like the portrait in the Ozark Children’s Outreach Center from episode 3 (pictured above).
The evidence planting theory
We’ve long suspected that Gerald Kindt is six feet of stacked garbage in an expensive suit. This episode only strengthens our convictions.
After Julie calls the hotline in 1990, Kindt and his toady, Blevins, are quick to point the finger at Tom Purcell. The Trash Man conviction is falling apart, and now he has a convenient new scapegoat.
He’s never interested in the truth. He’s interested in pointing fingers and getting a conviction.
Maybe Kindt is guilty as hell, having played a part in the Purcell disappearance, entangled with the Hoyts. Or maybe he’s just a garbage person who wanted a conviction while knowing full well (but not sharing) that the shirt and the backpack that the cops discovered at Trash Man’s house after the gunfight was likely planted evidence. Either way, with Trash Man’s posthumous conviction in serious question, he’d need another way to explain it.
Look: I don’t know the extent of Kindt’s involvement, but I’m sure he’s involved. At best, he’s a political opportunist looking for someone to blame. At worst, he, Harris James, and the Hoyts are an evil superteam.
No matter who’s guilty, someone needed to have access to the backpack and the shirt and plant it on the crime scene. We’ll bet on the Hoyts and Harris James.
Lucy Purcell, Dan O’Brien, and the Hoyts
If someone was paying Lucy, then I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that it was the Hoyts. But for all we know, Lucy may have been turning tricks in Vegas. It’s difficult to characterize Dan as a reliable source.
Still, let’s assume that cousin Dan O’Brien is telling the truth that Lucy had a benefactor after she moved to the greater Las Vegas area. And back then, before the big push to make it a family-friendly destination, Vegas was seedy. Dan says it was a man. Is that a Hoyt? Or Harris James?
The last we see Dan, he’s cowering at the point of Tom’s gun. Tom wants Dan to convince him not to shoot. We don’t see the answer, but we can infer it. The next time we see Tom, he’s heading to the Hoyt mansion.
I’m going to assume that Dan talked. The reason not to murder Dan was that he gave Tom a name: Hoyt. And that’d explain why Tom ends up at the Hoyt mansion at the end of the episode.
A queen in a pink castle
From the moment I saw the Purcell children’s drawings, I was sure that they were important. It’s difficult to express how, though. It feels like a splash of intuition and a dusting of knowing True Detective’s unwritten rules.
Here’s what we’ve seen and heard:
- Drawings of notably pink structures (which you can see in the gallery above)
- An unnamed street kid who Roland and Wayne interviewed in episode 5 said that Julie used to say that she used to “Tell some story how she’s a secret princess or something.”
- In this episode, the girl in the nunnery said that Julie “mentioned something about ‘living in the pink rooms.’ Or — ‘a queen in a pink castle.’”
It isn’t exactly tidy or obvious, but it seems relevant.
Maybe to a little girl could think that the Hoyt mansion is like a castle. The room in the basement is pink. Maybe she was drawing that room. The mansion isn’t pink, though, so that’s imperfect. Then again, associating pink with little girls isn’t exactly bulletproof evidence of anything.
But here’s the thing: The drawings predate the abduction. That’s what’s important. Julie likely knew of this room before she disappeared.
(Mike) Ardoin Landscaping
When Amelia is interviewing the girl at the nunnery, we get a look out of the girl’s window. A man from a company called Ardoin Landscaping is walking around an old, blue pickup truck. (According to IMDB, the man’s name Mike Ardoin.)
This could be nothing more than a bit of spice added to the soup, but knowing True Detective as we do, it probably isn’t. So what can we make of it?
Back in episode 2, Wayne gave Amelia a photocopy of the corn husk doll. She took it to school, and asked kids about it. One kid says he saw someone passing the dolls out on Halloween. That resulted in a brief interview with one the kid. We don’t know his last name, but Amelia calls him Mike.
In episode 1, as Julie and Will are riding their bikes, Julie waves to a kid playing in his front yard. That is the same Mike.
If you’ll indulge a little tin foil hattery, maybe that was more than a wave between friends. Maybe Mike knew where the Purcell kids were going.
Then again, it could be much simpler: If Mike was landscaping and Julie was at the nunnery at some point, they may have reconnected.
Life and Death Under the Harvest Moon (but not)
Toward the end of the episode, Roland thumbs through a book. We see chat transcripts, characters named Ed, Lizzy, and Olivia.
It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble―and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock—an unforgettable thriller that Gillian Flynn calls “amazing.”
In the novel, Ann’s husband is Ed, and their daughter is Olivia. It’s probably something between set dressing (a real-world book in a different dust jacket) and literary allusion. But it’s probably not specific not foreshadowing. (Unless Wayne is so far gone that he doesn’t realize what he’s reading. But that feels like the stretchiest kind of stretch.)