In True Detective season 3 episode 7, “The Final Country,” we get the clearest picture of what may have happened to Julie and Will Purcell yet. We learn about the one-eyed Mr. June/Watts and Isabel Hoyt and (gasp!) Edward Hoyt. We see Becca Hays as an adult and learn Harris James’ fate.
We’ll run through the episode scene-by-scene, reinforcing important moments and linking the present to the past. And then we’ll dive into themes and evidence, where we pull every bit of research we’ve done to create the best reconstruction of these myriad tragic events.
Table of contents
- Wayne and Becca Hays at college, unknown date
- Roland, Wayne, and Tom Purcell in his truck, 1990
- Amelia and Wayne at home, 1990
- Elisa and Wayne in the interview, 2015
- Roland and Wayne at the morgue, 1990
- Roland and Tom at Tom’s house, 1980
- Amelia at Lucy’s best friend’s house, 1990
- Elisa and Wayne in the interview, 2015
- Roland, Wayne, and the cops at the motel, 1990
- Elisa and Wayne, 2015
- Amelia and Wayne at her house, 1980
- Elisa and Wayne in the interview, 2015
- Henry and Roland talking, 2015
- Elisa and Wayne in the interview, 2015
- Henry and Roland talking, 2015
- Elisa and Wayne in the interview, 2015
- Roland and Wayne at his house, 2015
- Wayne at the police station, 1990
- Amelia at The Sawhorse, 1990
- Roland and Wayne at Wayne’s house, 1990
- Roland, Wayne, and Regina in the park, 2015
- Roland, Wayne, and Harris James, 1990
- Roland and Wayne in the woods, 1990
- Roland and Wayne at Wayne’s house, 2015
- Amelia, Wayne, and Edward Hoyt at home, 1990
Wayne and Becca Hays at college, unknown date
Wayne is dropping his daughter off at college. This is the first scene that takes place in an unknown year. Wayne’s hair is turning gray. Becca’s all grown. Judging by her rough age in 1990, it’s probably sometime in the late 1990s or (at the latest) early 2000s. (We’ll look into this more in Themes and Evidence below.)
Roland, Wayne, and Tom Purcell in his truck, 1990
We’re back at the fire tower in Devil’s Den, at the top of which lies Tom Purcell’s corpse.
There is every reason to believe that Harris James killed Tom, given that the last we saw of Tom, James snuck up behind him. Unless and until we have good reason to think otherwise, this is a murder made to look like a suicide.
His suicide note reads:
I AM SORRY
PLEASE FORGIVE ME
I’M GOING TO SEE MY WIFE AND SON
I mean, come on. It’s from a typewriter (we saw one in Tom’s trailer in episode 6, to be fair). It’s not in his handwriting. Anyone could’ve put that blood-flecked paper there.
Amelia and Wayne at home, 1990
Wayne arrives home, and a worried Amelia tells him about the one-eyed man, who she believes to be the man who Patty Faber said bought the dolls from her in 1980. She thinks he’s the reason that Julie ran away.
Wayne tells her that Tom Purcell killed himself — and he implicates himself, admitting that it happened after he and Roland went after him at the police station.
Elisa and Wayne in the interview, 2015
Elisa asks if Wayne considered the possibility that Tom didn’t kill himself. It’s a continuation of her line of questioning from the previous episode — because so many people surrounding these investigations are dead or missing.
Wayne shrugs it off.
“The ME’s [medical examiner’s] report noted a swollen contusion at the base of his skull, as if he’d been struck there,” she says. Let’s blame Harris James for that, too.
Elisa had an independent ME who examined the autopsy said that “the gunshot wouldn’t account for a particular bruise and blood clot.”
“You’re suggesting that somebody brought him up there, unconscious, and did him that way?”
Why, yes we are.
Elisa shrugs his question off. The important part, according to her, is that Tom’s death “effectively ended the second investigation.”
“It’s like 1980, isn’t it?” she asks Wayne. “A sudden act of violence, a dead man, and the case is closed.”
“Guess I never thought of it that way,” Wayne says.
Roland and Wayne at the morgue, 1990
Roland says to Wayne that it’s like 1980 again. Zing!
They’re both smoking. Roland blames them for Tom’s death. They “drove him to it.”
“We didn’t make that phone call,” Wayne says. “We did our job. If we hadn’t, someone else would have. And you said it: They would’ve eaten him alive. We need to keep going. The missing prints. The man with one eye. What Dan Was saying.”
“Take a fucking minute,” Roland says. “A good man’s dead because we pushed him, knowing we didn’t like him for it, seeing how he was taking it.”
“You sure what’s what happened? You figure Tom for a typist, write a little three-line line note like that?”
“You ain’t worked a case in 10 years. For fuck sake, Purple, what do you think this is about? Why do you think I pulled you in here?”
“To find a girl, and solve what happened.”
“You don’t think there’s better detectives around? Hey, we find the girl, great. We clear it, great. But how often does that happen? Ten-year-old case. This was me helping you get your career back, you understand? It’s a favor I did.”
“Because I’m such a hard-luck case.”
“You keep talking. Keep talking. They’re going to put you back on public information. Or highway cleanup for the next 10 years. How’d that be, huh?”
“Roland, we need to keep going. If there wasn’t time —”
“What do we got? You want to go back looking for any one-eyed black man in Arkansas? For what? Because your wife saw one?”
“It’s something! And we got other evid—”
“Stop! Let go. This is our job. It ain’t here to make you right. It’s not the place you work out your shit.”
“You been drinking this morning?”
“Fuck you, Wayne,” Roland says as he throws his cigarette and walks away.
Wayne flicks his cigarette after him.
Roland and Tom at Tom’s house, 1980
At home, Tom walks to his car holding a duffel bag that he puts in the trunk. Roland asks what he’s doing.
“I’m getting the fuck out of this place,” Tom says. “Lucy’s gone. Julie’s — Julie’s, you know I thought if there was a chance, but y’all say she’s dead, so I’m getting lost.”
Roland asks what he’s going to do.
“Whatever it takes to stop feeling. I mean, there’s no point. Ain’t nobody left to feel anything for.”
Roland invokes Julie and Will. They wouldn’t want him to hurt himself.
“No. No. They don’t want anything at all now. How could I get hurt worse? Ain’t nothing that could happen to me that wouldn’t be a relief.”
“Where you going?”
“Nowhere. I need you to move your car.”
“I don’t feel quite right about that.”
“Well I ain’t you orphan, detective. Let me go out.”
Roland gives Tom his personal number and tells him to call if he ever gets into trouble.
“Hey,” Roland says. “You don’t need my help. But the day may come. If it does, you’ve got it.”
Amelia at Lucy’s best friend’s house, 1990
We see a shot of an empty, rusting playground. A machine shop where all of the tools are covered up. Abandoned houses patched with plywood, soaked in graffiti.
Amelia walks up to a house that nature is reclaiming.
Inside, she sits across a table from a woman we’ve seen several times throughout True Detective season 3 but we’ve never heard her speak. Turns out she’s Lucy Purcell’s best friend.
Amelia helps her make a wreath out of tree branches. (And we’re immediately suspicious of anyone who makes crafts at home because of the corn husk dolls.) The woman says she’s making it for Tom.
Amelia asks her about Lucy’s affairs, and the stutters through an awkward answer: She never knew the infamously promiscuous Lucy to hook up with black guys.
Detective Amelia explains why she’s asking: A black man with one eye may have given Julie a corn husk doll in 1980, and he may be her abductor. At first, the woman is stunned and says she knows nothing about that. Then she has an idea. She shows Amelia a picture from an old photo album. The image shows something we learned about from a kid named Mike at the beginning of the season: two adults dressed as ghosts on Halloween. (True Detective season 3 episode 5 is called “If You Have Ghosts.”)
Amelia also ties it to the farmer who told Roland and Wayne that he saw a mixed-race couple near his house by Devil’s Den.
The woman bristles when Amelia asks to borrow the photo to make a copy, but she relents when Amelia promises to return tomorrow.
“Do you ever think about leaving town?” Amelia asks.
“Why would I? Somebody’s got to stay. Somebody’s got to remember.”
Elisa and Wayne in the interview, 2015
Wayne tells Elisa that Amelia decided against writing the sequel to her first book. Wayne plays down the idea that he shared information with Amelia during the second investigation.
Roland arrives at the house. Elisa asks if Amelia’s research suggested “a larger conspiracy, like a coverup?”
Wayne says he doesn’t think so, and he asks Elisa if she has any evidence of that.
Roland, Wayne, and the cops at the motel, 1990
The last time we saw the motel, Tom held cousin Dan at gun point. A cop identified Dan’s car in the parking lot.
The motel manager said that the room is paid through the week and that the only people he’s seen visit the room are Roland and Wayne.
The door to Dan’s room is open. They walk in. Dan is nowhere to be found, but his wallet’s on the TV.
Outside the hotel, Roland and Wayne talk.
“[Dan] shows up, says Lucy was murdered,” Wayne says. “Seems to clear Tom.”
“Acting real paranoid,” Roland says. “There’s people out there who don’t want you to know what I know.’”
“So he’s right to be paranoid. Unless he just took off.”
“I can’t see him leaving the car, staging that scene. We fucking lost him. Burned.”
We wrote this last week, but it’s worth repeating here: The last words that we saw Tom say to Dan were about giving him a reason not to murder him. The next time we saw Tom, he was driving to the Hoyt mansion. We’re going to assume that Dan said Hoyt, and then that Tom said Dan.
It all goes back to the Hoyts.
Elisa and Wayne, 2015
Elisa plays a video on her MacBook Air. It’s Attorney General Gerald Kindt in yet another press conference, saying that Tom Purcell committed suicide. Wayne looks anguished. Kindt ends saying that he’s willing to overturn Trash Man’s conviction. And the implication is that Tom was the guilty party.
Elisa knows the truth: Wayne wasn’t satisfied with Kindt’s conclusions. And Wayne admits it.
Amelia and Wayne at her house, 1980
Wayne’s doing the dishes the morning after they slept together for the first time. And he’s smiling, which isn’t normal.
He says he’s only doing his half of the dishes. Amelia says she’s just happy that Wayne isn’t looking for a mother — someone to take care of him, in other words. It’s an echo of the advice that old Roland gave his dog in a previous episode.
Amelia’s playing detective, and Wayne knows it. He’s pumping her for information while trying to look disinterested. It’s the beginning of her book, though she doesn’t know that yet.
She asks him if he’s ever read In Cold Blood, Truman Capote’s nonfiction book about four murders in a small Kansas town. It’s basically the template for the book she’ll eventually write.
Wayne makes another joke about his love of comic books. She says she’s thinking of writing about the community, using the crime as a backdrop.
Wayne’s scrubbing hard now. He encourages her to write, and she’s surprised.
“Somebody ought to point out what they’re saying doesn’t fucking hold,” Wayne says.
She wonders if their relationship constitutes a conflict of interest.
“People ought to know they closed [the Purcell case] because they wanted it closed,” he says. “It’s not solved.”
Amelia is concerned about him — wouldn’t writing it hurt him or his job?
“Fuck ’em,” Wayne says. “They don’t want to do it right, it’s not a job worth having. I could tell you all kinds of shit.”
Turns out he did her half of the dishes, too. He chuckles and blames his work ethic.
Elisa and Wayne in the interview, 2015
Eliza says that, after Tom died, there was “a man going around looking for Julie.” He was black with one eye. Someone identified him as “Watts.” Elsa’s theory is that Julie ran away from Watts, whose job was to find children like her.
Henry and Roland talking, 2015
We cut to Henry and Roland talking as Elisa fiddles with her computer. Roland says he declined to be interviewed — and he told Wayne that he shouldn’t participate because it “could be dangerous.”
“Dangerous how?” Henry asks.
Roland lets Henry in on Wayne’s evening routine, studying the Purcell case with a Chekhov’s gun on his desk.
Elisa and Wayne in the interview, 2015
Eliza plays something else on her computer: a direct reference to the case in True Detective season 1. Big grins from all of us at home.
“Dolls are used as signifiers in the human trafficking underground,” she tells Wayne. “Like this blue spiral. It’s code for pedophiles. In 2012, two former Louisiana state police stopped a serial killer associated with some kind of pedophile ring. Despite evidence of accomplices, the case never went wider.”
“Think I read about that,” Wayne says. “So what are you saying? Hm? I think at this point, I deserve an explanation, Miss. What do you say happened?”
Henry and Roland talking, 2015
“Never a moment of doubt in that man, right?” Henry asks Roland. “Watching him like this, I — I can’t — I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
“He needs somebody staying with him, watching out for him,” Roland says.
Elisa and Wayne in the interview, 2015
“I think what happened to the Purcell children was connected to a similar group,” Elisa says. “I think one or both of their parents sold them off, probably with the cousin’s help. That’s why they’re all gone. Vanished, killed, kept silent.”
“Hmm,” Wayne says.
“These groups, they take runaways. Kids in orphanages. Outright kidnapping. And wider investigations are consistently curtailed. In both the Louisiana and Nebraska cases, high-level politicians and businessmen were implicated. People with the power to make these things go away.
“You were transferred off Major Crimes after the ’80 investigation. In 1990, you left the force. You saw nothing that suggested obfuscation from higher quarters? No evidence ignored? No forced conclusions?”
Of course he did, but he’s not going to tell her.
“Being police, there’s no certainty,” Wayne says. “A lot of the time, there’s no clarity at all. You just do your best, and learn to live with ambiguity.”
That sounds reasonable. Knowing Wayne Hays, it’s bullshit.
Elisa is disappointed. Her belief that he questioned the official version of the case is the reason that she wanted to interview him.
“Young lady,” he says. “my whole brain’s a bunch of missing pieces.”
And here we see Wayne doing what he told Roland he’d do if things got messy: Using his addled brain as an excuse. He apologizes.
“I don’t got answers for you, miss,” he says, and at least that’s true. “I wish I did, but I don’t.
He excuses himself, refusing to discuss her (conspiracy) theory.
“I’m tired of walking through the graveyard,” he says. (He’s not.) “The story’s over for me.” (It’s not.)
Roland and Wayne at his house, 2015
Wayne walks out of the room to Roland.
“’Watts,’ she said. The one-eyed man. You heard that? Write it down before I forget. Watts.”
Roland tries to talk Wayne out of pursuing the truth, invoking Amelia and what she’d want. Wayne is defiant. She’d want him to finish it.
He says Watts again.
Wayne at the police station, 1990
A police officer tells Wayne that Nevada Bell faxed the phone records from three weeks in 1998 around Lucy Purcell’s death.
Roland pours through the phone records, smoking, rubbing his eyes. Then he sees it.
His pager buzzes. He ignores it without even looking at who’s calling. We see that it’s Amelia. Wayne was supposed to be home by now to watch them. She gets the kids, Becca and Henry, out of bed and tells them to get into the car.
Wayne make a call to request flight records for every plane that landed in McCarran International (the Las Vegas airport).
Amelia at The Sawhorse, 1990
Amelia’s doing her own investigation at The Sawhorse, the restaurant where Lucy Purcell used to work. (We were here once before a few episodes back and a decade ago when Tom got drunk and roughed up one of the guys that Lucy had an affair with. Roland rescued Tom that night.)
She asks if Lucy had many visitors. The answer is yes, and the implication is that they came around for more than a hello. It was good for business.
She asks if he ever saw a mixed race couple — black man, white woman. No.
How about a black man with one eye? He remembers cousin Dan O’Brien (not Lucy) talking to someone who fit that description.
Amelia looks into the car and doesn’t see the kids. She bolts up from the table, rushing to the car. Thank God they’re just sleeping in the back seat.
Roland and Wayne at Wayne’s house, 1990
Wayne shows up at Roland’s house, and Roland isn’t thrilled. He also looks like three miles of bad road in his bathrobe, V-neck undershirt, and an adult beverage in his hands.
“Oh, great,” Roland says. “’Cause we don’t see each other enough.”
“You need to look at this,” Wayne says.
“I got the whole thing.”
“That phone number. Called eight times in one night. Less than two days before Lucy OD’ed. Her room — unpaid on her bill.”
“Belongs to this address. Place is owned by the Ozark Trust. Dug through a bunch of private records. It’s the Hoyt Corporation. Security. Harris James’ personal line.”
“This is the passenger manifest on the FAC out of Tulsa. First-class passenger to Vegas. This is it. Harris James flew to Vegas the day before Lucy died. Came back the day after.”
“So you want to bring this to Blevins?” That’s the police handlebar mustache who’s always hovering around Attorney General Gerald Kindt.
“What would they do, except shove it in a file and stuff me in another basement? They planted the evidence at Woodard’s, man. [Harris James] Probably took the fingerprints from the toys in the woods before he left the force.”
“So what do you think we can do with this, Wayne?”
“We can go and ask him what the fuck he was doing in Vegas.”
“And we ask hard, man, like we used to. Have to do with Hoyt, don’t you think? Harris getting that job? If it had to do with his boss, we can get him to roll.”
Roland finishes his drink in one gulp.
“No. We can’t. We can bring it in. That’s all there is. We can’t do something like that. He doesn’t talk, we’d be fucked forever. And I get what you did here. It’s good. But all we can do is make our case.”
From the earliest episodes, we’ve operated under the assumption that Roland knows how to play the political game, and Wayne doesn’t, can’t, or won’t. That’s why Roland’s career took off, and Wayne wound up in a basement.
On the surface, this backs up our case — unless Roland is more involved in the coverup than we’ve suspected so far. But if that’s true, then why would he hire Wayne back and do this whole covert investigation behind Blevins and Kindt’s back?
Wayne pours himself and Roland a drink.
“I’m thinking about Tom. Thinking about that note. You see him wanting to be with Lucy again? You see him typing it? We gotta do this for Tom.”
This is a brilliant move. Roland’s skepticism is so obvious that Wayne appeals to his emotions.
“And what if James won’t talk?”
“We get enough on him, he’ll break. Get him out to that barn, he’ll break. If we — if you feel like you let Tom down, this is how you make it right, Roland. Don’t let it slide. Don’t let them put this on him.”
“This is how we do right by Tom.”
“You can stop saying that now. I’m not simple.”
Roland takes another drink.
Roland, Wayne, and Regina in the park, 2015
They’re interviewing a woman who worked for the Hoyt family from 1955 to 1985, first as a kitchen maid and then as a housekeeper. Her name is Regina. That’s Latin for queen. That seems important, and we’ll discuss it more in Themes and Evidence below.
They talk as she pours them tall glasses of lemonade. They ask if she knew Harris James.
“Seen him more than known him,” Regina says. “He came on in my last years there. He ran security for Mr. Hoyt.” That’s consistent with the timeline of events that Harris James told Roland and Wayne when they interviewed him at Hoyt Foods in 1990.
They ask about the Hoyts, and Regina says that they only luck the Hoyts ever had was in business. The Hoyts had a daughter, Isabel, who Regina helped raise. Isabelle’s husband and daughter passed away in a “bad wreck” in 1977 — three years before the Purcell kids went missing. Harris James was a Highway Patrolman at the time, too.
“[Isabel] was … troubled,” she says. “Never left the estate. Then one night, she took a car out, put it through a guardrail. Caused a big accident. After that, Mr. June watched over her. He’d drive her — whatever she needed.”
“Mr. June?” Roland asks. “Who was that?”
“He was pretty close with Mr. Hoyt. Black gentleman. Stayed in the main house. Basement level. Whole part of the house for Miss Isabel, with Mr. June the only one could go down here.”
Well, we’ve seen the basement of the Hoyt mansion. The bank safe door. The pink room. This was Isabel and Mr. June’s territory.
“You know his first name, Mr. June?” Roland asks.
“I’m not sure was ’June,’ his last name. We just called him Mr. June. There wasn’t much talk between him and us others.”
“You know if he’s still around?” Roland asks. “How about a description? Anything you noticed about him?”
“Just his eye,” Regina says. “His left eye was white. Dead, you know.”
There’s plenty more to say about Mr. June, and we’ll get into that in Themes and Evidence below.
Roland asks about a man named Watts, but that doesn’t go anywhere. A young woman walks up to the table where they’re sitting and asks if she can go swimming. Wayne, unstuck in time again, mistakes her for Becca. He asks her if she’s packed for her move to the dorms that we saw at the beginning of the episode.
Roland soothes him, and Wayne stays silent and confused. He asks Regina why she left.
“Around ’81, they started restricting where we could go. Had to stay in the kitchen or foyer, in the main house. Miss Isabel, I don’t know what was happening, but I think she was getting worse.”
Julie and Will Purcell disappeared in 1981.
As the old friends and partners walk back to their car after speaking with Regina, Wayne apologizes for something he said 25 years ago.
“I shouldn’t have said that,” Wayne says. “About Tom. I’m sorry.
“What about Tom?” Roland asks.
“Getting you to go after Harris, trying to make you do what I wanted. I shouldn’t have done that. I just — What happened, I — I didn’t realize how different we were. Hope we can move past it.”
“We’re past it, bro.Come on,” Roland says and pats Wayne on his shoulder.
Roland, Wayne, and Harris James, 1990
Roland takes a swig from his flask as they wait on the side of the road near Hoyt Foods for Harris James to dive past. When he does, they put the car in gear, light it up, and pull him over.
As always, Roland plays the diplomat and Wayne plays the tough cop. He gets into the passenger seat, pistol raised. It escalates quickly. Now they’re both tough cops. Wayne finds a pistol in the glove box. They wrestle him out of the car and take him to the barn where they interrogated the convicted pedophile, Robert Hebert nee Ted Lagrange, way back in episode 2.
Inside the barn, Harris James is tied to a post and bloody.
“Lucy called the Hoyt Corporation eight times the day before she OD’ed,” Wayne says. “We got you coming into Vegas for two days when she died.”
“You put that fucking backpack and dress in Woodard’s way back, didn’t you?” Roland says. “And you were going around re-interviewing witnesses, see if anybody saw anything?”
To be clear about this: The person interviewing people like the farmer and impersonating a cop in 1980 was Harris James. And it fits. The farmer said the man showed him a badge. And in 1980, Harris James was still a highway patrolman moonlighting security at Hoyt Foods. He would’ve had a badge to waive around.
“You gave Lucy a hot-shot,” Wayne says.
That’d be a lethal dose of heroin. Harris denies it, and Roland rewards him with several punches.
“Lucy wanted what? Money?” Wayne asks. “What’d she say, you flew out there and killed her? Dan O’Brien said something about, uh, people who don’t renegotiate.”
“[You’re] who he was worried about, huh?” Roland asks. “You found him.”
“Let me tell you both something,” Harris James says. “Them two, the mother and her cousin, they ain’t people you should worry on. I mean, what’s this for? Y’all can’t give a shit about that trash.”
“My friend’s dead,” Roland says, referring to Tom Purcell.
“The kids,” Wayne says.
And there we have it: Roland and Wayne’s motivations — the reasons they each justify beating a bad guy in a barn.
“I got kids,” Harris James says. “I wouldn’t ever — I would — I would never hurt a child. Oh, God. Something’s wrong inside. You busted me up, man.”
They ignore his complaints.
“Tell us what happened,” Wayne says. “The whole story. The kids were meeting somebody in the woods, regular. That’s who took ’em. Maybe the mother’s involved, maybe O’Brien. But you planted the evidence in ’80. And you took the fingerprints out of evidence. All for Hoyt, we figure. He got something for kids?”
“Maybe there was a group of them,” Roland says. “Friends of his. People into kids.”
“You two are really up shit creek, huh?” Harris James says with a laugh. Roland repays him with more punches, and Harris James collapses to the ground.
Harris James acts like he’s ready to talk, as long as they let him live. Sobbing, he pleads and convinces them to untie him. He attacks Wayne as soon as he’s free, wrestling for his gun.
Roland shoots him. Harris James is dead.
Roland and Wayne in the woods, 1990
Roland and Wayne bury Harris James in the woods.
“Listen,” Wayne says.
“Fuck you!” Roland says. “Fuck you for this.”
“He didn’t give us a choice. And I was right. You seen it. He knew.”
“Nah, you were talking shit about Tom. Getting me to go along with this. Getting your way.”
“Hold up. You’re a grown-ass man. I didn’t force you to do anything.”
“I just killed a man, you dumb asshole! Now it’s all gone! Done! Whatever he knew, gone! You fucked my life!”
“We did it, Roland!”
“You manipulative, egotistical, uppity fucking —” And for the umpteenth time, race enters the picture — but as always, only in times of deep anger and frustration.
“What? Huh? What you gonna say?”
“Guess what word’s runnin’ through my mind right now,” Roland says. In this moment, under these circumstances, he wants to hurt Wayne.
“Say it, then. Say it, motherfucker.”
“I just want you to know I’m thinking it.”
Roland and Wayne at Wayne’s house, 2015
They talk about the Purcell case. The facts: Harris James was Highway Patrol in 1977, when Isabel Hoyt had the accident that Regina told them about. That may be the point at which Harris James and the Hoyts started working together.
Wayne says that Amelia learned that the one-eyed black man, Mr. June, met with Dan O’Brien at The Sawhorse, where Lucy worked.
Roland says that he always assumed that Wayne would always keep working on the Purcell case. Wayne explains that, at some point, he and Amelia made a deal and he stopped. This may not be entirely true, given what happens at the end of the episode.
Wayne tells Roland of his hallucination in episode 3 in which Amelia appeared to him.
“She said, uh, she said that I hadn’t known myself, and that — that it made me harden my heart.”
“Amelia told you this?”
“She was sitting right there. She always knew how to cut into me, [when] she wanted to.”
This is the difference between young and old Wayne. The younger version did harden his heart, didn’t take responsibility for how his actions affected the lives of those around him. The older version is circumspect, willing to concede that he was wrong.
Think of the conversation he had with his son, Henry, in the backyard. He knows that Henry and Elisa are having an affair. A younger Wayne would’ve put it all on Henry. But the older Wayne apologizes, under the assumption that his behavior mangled his son.
Think of the conversation in this episode, where he apologizes for tugging on Roland’s emotions and convince him to shake down Harris James.
“Son of a bitch is back,” Wayne says referring to the dark sedan he’s seen parked outside of his house. He told Roland about this once before, but Roland (said he) didn’t see anything. He sees it tonight.
The two old gunslingers execute a plan. Baseball bat in hand, Wayne confronts the driver (or tries to, at least). Roland sneaks up behind the car. The car screeches away. They didn’t talk to anyone, but Wayne gave the car a good whack while it drove away. They don’t know who it is. But they’ve got the license plate — Arkansas T14 4TF.
Wayne becomes unstuck in time as he walks away from the car.
Amelia, Wayne, and Edward Hoyt at home, 1990
On the night that he and Roland killed Harris James, Roland stands in his underwear and burns his clothes in a backyard fire. Not for the first time, he senses himself looking at him from the future.
Amelia comes to the backward. She asks what’s wrong, and Wayne looks terrified. Says he can’t talk about this. It’s the same pattern as before, except much, worse.
She says they have to talk in the morning. She asks if he will. He doesn’t respond.
The next morning,
“We haven’t been honest,” Amelia says at kitchen table the next morning. “What’s going on, what we’re doing.”
“No, I know,” Wayne says. There is no front here. No defense. No lashing out.
“Maybe we could turn it around,” she says.
“If I tell you,” he says with a sigh, “things you’re better off not knowing.”
“Not about you, there’s not. With you, I need to know everything.”
“I’d be a son of a bitch if I did that to you.”
Oh, the dramatic irony. At the moment, Wayne is (perhaps for the first time) willing to talk. But this is a situation he can’t talk about. He’s not wrong. But how could she know that?
The phone rings. He apologizes and answers. It’s Edward Hoyt, who we’re presuming to be the patriarch of the family.
Somehow he seems to know about Harris James.
“I’d like to discuss the events of last night, as I understand them,” Edward Hoyt says. “I could come inside, if you like. I’d be pleased to meet your family. Your wife, the writer? Little Henry and Rebecca. It’s lucky, having a family.”
“Then maybe you’d like to come out and talk to me. My preference, you understand, is to keep this between us. For the moment.”
“How about a little later?”
“You may not realize this, but I’ve been pretty damn patient with you already. Perhaps I should take my information to the prosecutor’s office. Or like I say, happy to talk inside.”
“No,” Wayne says, looking out the front window. “I’ll be out in five.”
Amelia knows that something terrible is happening. He apologizes to Amelia, asking her to trust her this one last time.
“One last time, Amelia says. “This is it.”
Wayne kisses his wife. He walks outside. Amelia watches through the blinds. The door to a Cadillac opens. Wayne gets inside. It drives away.
Themes and evidence
We’ve got enough yarn to connect the dots between all of the characters we’ve met so far and learned more about in this episode. We’ve connected them to the mysterious brown sedan and the cornhusk dolls on our crazy wall.
Let’s talk about it.
The first scene in “The Final Country” in which Wayne drops Becca off at college might be its most interesting and confusing. It’s important for a few reasons.
First, it’s the only scene this season that takes place out of the strict 1980/1990/2015 timeline constraints. But when does it take place?
If Becca was maybe six or eight when we saw her in the 1990 timeline, that’d place this scene in the late 90s — let’s say 1998. Literally every other scene in True Detective season 3 fits within three tidy timelines, so why deviate from that formula? And if you’re going to deviate, why do it here? Why choose this scene with these characters in this setting?
I have more questions than answers, but I just can’t believe that this scene is there for flavor. Take it out of the episode, and what do we lose? Nothing, really. Wayne gets confused late in the episode, mistaking a young woman for Becca on the day he took her to college. Seems like a lot of time to chew up for a seemingly small reference.
And speaking of nothing, nothing in True Detective season 3 is meaningless.
At its most ephemeral, it’s an example of Wayne overcoming his natural tendency to withhold his emotions. He’s sad and vulnerable enough to tell his daughter that he doesn’t want her to go, that he doesn’t know what he’ll do without her. It’s good to learn that Wayne isn’t an eternally emotionless robot, and knowing that gives his character depth, but it doesn’t feel like that plus a callback later would justify the scene.
At its most mechanical, it’s an introduction to Becca as an adult and the actress who plays her (Deborah Ayorinde). I strongly suspect that we’re seeing her now so that we recognize her when we see her again in the final episode.
At its most terrible, maybe something happens between Becca and Wayne (perhaps related to Wayne’s memory problems) that causes irreparable damage to their relationship.
Mr. June/Watts, Isabel Hoyt, Harris James, the brown sedan, and the cornhusk dolls
We’ve known about a one-eyed black man for some time, and it feels like we know who he is now. His name is either Mr. June or Watts — or both.
His story — or what we can make of it, at least — encompasses a ton of True Detective season 3 mysteries. So let’s rearrange the evidence in roughly chronological order and make it easier to understand.
In or before 1980, Julie Purcell drew pictures of pink rooms and castles.
In 1980, during episode 1, Wayne found Will Purcell’s body, in part because he followed a trail of strange dolls made of cornhusks.
In 1980, back in episode 2, Wayne gave Amelia a photo 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 1980, back in episode 3, Wayne discovered a bag of toys and Dungeons & Dragons dice that in the woods. Those toys had the Purcell children’s fingerprints on them, as well as other, unidentified fingerprints. Wayne then discovered a nearby farm. The cops initially missed it because it didn’t appear on any maps.
Roland and Wayne interviewed a man with a white beard who lived on the farm. He said the police had already stopped by, but Roland and Wayne don’t have any record of that. (Spoiler alert: That was almost certainly Harris James, but we’ll get to that later.) The farmer said he’s seen the kids a couple times. He also saw a nice brown car, with a man and woman — not the same day as he saw the kids. Black man. White woman. He declines to allow them to search the house without a warrant.
Later in that same episode, but in 2015, Elisa talks to Wayne about the car, too. Two independent witnesses claim to have seen “a very nice brown sedan driving around the neighborhoods, and later away from Devil’s Den on the day of the murder.”
Everybody in town is poor, except the Hoyts. So we’ve long figured that a nice car may be code for Hoyt money.
In 1990, during episode 3, Roland and Wayne visit the Ozark Children’s Outreach Center at Hoyt Foods.
“Mr. Hoyt endowed the foundation after they lost their granddaughter a couple of years ago,” a representative of the company tells Wayne and Roland. He also says that Mr. Hoyt has been on an African safari since mid-October — weeks before the children disappeared.
There’s a photograph hanging on the wall in the office. It’s probably the young, blonde granddaughter that Mr. Hoyt lost. Julie Purcell was also young and blonde.
In episode 3, Wayne finds a picture of Will Purcell in a photo album. It’s Will’s First Communion photo. He’s posed eerily like he was when Wayne discovered his body. That leads Roland and Wayne to the Purcell’s church.
In episode 4, Roland and Wayne interviewed the Purcell’s pastor. He remembered Julie being excited about seeing an aunt. Julie doesn’t have an aunt. The “aunt” may have been Isabel Hoyt.
The pastor has information about the strange dolls, which leads to an interview with Patty Faber.
“That’s a chaff doll,” he says. “Patty Faber makes them for our fall fair, first week in October. She’s a good, dear woman, I can tell you.”
Patty Faber tells Roland and Wayne that she sold those dolls at the festival that the priest referenced. One man bought 10 off of her. She doesn’t know who, exactly.
“Negro man, like yourself,” she says to Wayne. “Oh, he had a dead eye, you know? Filmy like cataracts.”
That leads to a tense conversation between Wayne, Roland, a man called Sam Whitehead, and the inhabitants of a part of town called David Junction. It is, as far as we can tell, a dead end lead. Whitehead isn’t the man who appears in this episode.
Turns out that Mr. June/Watts has a connection to the cornhusk dolls that led Wayne to Will Purcell’s body.
In 1990, Julie Purcell calls a hotline. Everyone knows that she’s alive now. The most important part of her call: She believes Tom isn’t her father. Someone had to put that idea in her head, right?
In 1990, during this episode, Detective Amelia visits Lucy Purcell’s best friend — the heavyset woman we’ve seen a few times before. Amelia explains why she’s at her house: A black man with one eye may have given Julie a corn husk doll in 1980, and he may be her abductor. The woman shows Amelia a picture from an old photo album. The image shows something we learned about from a kid named Mike at the beginning of the season: two adults dressed as ghosts on Halloween. (Might as well mention here again that True Detective season 3 episode 5 is called “If You Have Ghosts.”)
In 1990, a one-eyed black man showed up screaming at Amelia’s book reading and signing, pumping her for information about Julie’s whereabouts now that he knows she’s alive.
In 1990, Amelia interviewed a young woman in a nunnery. She claimed to know Julie from their shared time on the streets. Sometimes, she says, Julie called herself Mary. Other times, Mary-Julie. Sometimes Mary July, “Like Julie but July. Like summertime she said. She had different names.”
In 2015, during this episode, old Roland and Wayne interview a woman named Regina (queen) who worked at the Hoyt home for decades. She says that Mr. June/Watts was man with one eye who kept looking for Julie after Tom died.
Regina is Latin for queen. Roman Catholic readers may also recognize it as name used in connection with the Virgin Mary — as in Salve Regina, which means “hail holy queen.”
The young woman in the nunnery said that Julie talked about being “a queen in a pink castle.” 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.” Julie drew pictures of pink rooms before she disappeared. The room in the basement of the Hoyt house is pink. And queens make princesses.
Regina says that the Hoyts had a daughter, Isabel, who Regina helped raise. Isabelle’s husband and daughter passed away in a “bad wreck” in 1977 — three years before the Purcell kids went missing. Harris James was a Highway Patrolman at the time, too. That puts him in the right place to work for the Hoyts and cover up whatever happened — and to impersonate a police officer on the case, as he almost certainly did when he almost certainly visited the farmer.
“[Isabel] was … troubled,” Regina says. “Never left the estate. Then one night, she took a car out, put it through a guardrail. Caused a big accident. After that, Mr. June watched over her. He’d drive her — whatever she needed.
She also says that something changed within the house around the same time that the Purcell children disappeared.
“Around ’81, they started restricting where we could go,” she says. “Had to stay in the kitchen or foyer, in the main house. Miss Isabel, I don’t know what was happening, but I think she was getting worse.”
So what can we make of all this information?
Considering that Julie and Will disappeared in 1981 when the rules of the Hoyt house changed … well, correlation isn’t causation, but it’s too contemporaneous to ignore. It’s a credible link between Mr. June/Watts, Isabel and the Purcell kids.
Maybe Mr. June and Isabel Hoyt were the mixed race couple that several people saw around the time when the Julie and Will Purcell disappeared. Maybe they weren’t a couple in the romantic sense. Maybe they went trick-or-treating so that a grieving mother could be around kids — or two kids she cared deeply about. Maybe it was Mr. June’s job to keep an eye on a grieving mother who lost her husband and daughter and then her grip on reality — and then things got out of hand.
What if the one-eyed man was just a nice guy who liked the kids? Maybe he and Isabel Hoyt “adopted” and played with the Purcell children, who had a tumultuous family life. Maybe they thought they were doing the kids a favor. Maybe Will’s death, as we’ve said before, was an accident. Maybe Edward Hoyt bought himself a cop to cover up what happened.
Roland and Tom
We know that Roland and Tom were close after 1980. We have enough evidence to conclude that Tom is gay. What if Roland and Tom had a relationship beyond friendship?
Look: The evidence isn’t exactly rock solid. Knowing that Roland never got married isn’t exactly proof of anything. And, of course, we’ve seen him in a relationship with a woman (not that that’s proof of anything either).
They could easily just be friends. It’s just that we don’t know how or why Roland and Tom were so close. And this is one possible explanation among others.
For the first time, we hear a person who I’m going to assume is the patriarch of the Hoyt family — Edward Hoyt. But I don’t think it’s the first time we’ve seen him. Looking at the picture in Harris James’ office from the previous episode (above) and listening to his voice in this episode, it’s rather clear that it’s actor Michael Rooker. Get ready for the finale.