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True Detective season 3 episode 5 ‘If You Have Ghosts’ HBO via Polygon

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True Detective season 3 episode 5 ‘If You Have Ghosts’ watchthrough

What does Harris James know?

“If You Have Ghosts,” True Detective season 3’s fifth and best episode to date, provided us with an enormous amount of evidence (and more literary allusions) to dig through. Like we do every week, we’ll break the episode down scene-by-scene, and then we’ll examine the themes and evidence in more detail.

It’s all right there in the episode, but it’s so often fleeting. Our shared meticulous viewing, friends and neighbors, is paying off. We may have solved a big part of the mystery.

Roland, Wayne, the cops and Tom Purcell in the Police Station, 1990

The first shot of the episode shows evidence pinned to a corkboard, including a printout of the woman we believe to be Julie Purcell in 1990.

The police put an APB on the woman they suspect to be Julie. It’ll go to Oklahoma (where the Walgreens robbery happened in Sallisaw), and Missouri, in addition to Arkansas.

But this time they’re getting what they want — the public won’t know. (You may remember that the cops groused when the always political Gerald Kindt let the public in on information they’d rather have kept quiet in previous episodes.)

Wayne says he believes it’s Julie in the security footage. And one of the cops suggests showing the picture to Tom, her father.

“He don’t know what she looks like now any more than we do,” Roland says. “He could make it into her even if it’s not. Just give him something else to hurt about, and I ain’t gonna do that to the man. So we don’t know it’s her. We find her, we can ask.”

We learn more of Julie’s mother, Lucy, from one of the cops.

“I got the file on the mother, Lucy, from Clark County sheriff’s,” he says. “Aug. 12th, 1988 housekeeping, found her Motel in Paradise, Nevada. Right outside Vegas. She’d been staying there about three weeks. The OD fits.”

We also learn that they haven’t found Lucy’s cousin, Dan O’Brien.

“Did nine months [in] Missouri Eastern Correctional,” another cop says. “Bad checks. ’85, ’86. Have him in Vegas [in] ’87, then he drops off the map.”

True Detective season 3 episode 5 Julie wanted poster HBO via Polygon

Another cop says that they spoke to some of the people previously interviewed back in 1980. None of their statements provided anything of value, but what the cop said did.

“One guy said a plainclothes [officer] took a statement, but there’s no record of that interview.”

Remember the farmer from a few episodes ago? He also said that a cop visited him after the Purcell disappearances, but we know there were no official records about that. So it seems clear now that there was someone impersonating a cop not long after the disappearance.

Just then, Tom Purcell walks into the room. Roland rushes him out, to prevent him from seeing the evidence pinned to the corkboard.

Tom says he’s there because “they” want him to make a statement on TV. He noticed the picture, figures it’s Julie. Roland deflects. Wayne pounces, hands Tom a printout, and asks Tom if she looks familiar. Roland, seething, sends Wayne away and takes the paper away from Tom.

Back in the office, Wayne looks at the evidence corkboard, and the camera zooms in on Trash Man’s house.

Trash Man’s house, 1980

We pick up just before where the last episode left off. The man with beard and the long hair pounds on the door screaming for Brett “Trash Man” Woodard to come out. He kicks in the door. Boom.

Woodard starts firing. Everyone scatters. Bullets and blood fly. Roland takes a bullet to the leg.

Trash Man has a clean headshot on Roland, but he lowers his gun as Wayne kicks down the door to the room he’s in. He addresses Wayne as sergeant, military-style.

Trash Man knows his goose is cooked. “I might have been within my rights before I took out those cops,” he says.

Wayne tries to diffuse the situation, saying that veterans affairs may be able to help him out of this.

“I don’t want it to work in my favor,” Trash Man says.

He makes his future clear: He’ll fire on Wayne after counting to three. Suicide by cop. Wayne shoots, kills, and slumps to the floor.

Everyone at the press conference, 1990

As many (including Wayne) watch, Tom gives the statement that he mentioned earlier.

“I’m speaking to Julie now, in the hopes that she’s out there,” Tom says. “Julie? If you see or hear this, please, please call. Call me, or call the police now. I’m sorry I let these years go by, but I love you forever, Julie, and we just want to know that you’re OK and for you to know you can come home. And if somebody is keeping you from coming home, we won’t stop looking for you sweetheart. I’ll never stop now. If anyone might know anything about my daughter I ask you to please come forward. The police have got a hotline, and there’ll be a reward for any information that leads us to her. Please keep Julie in your prayers. God bless.”

One of the gathered reporters asks if Tom now believes that Trash Man was innocent. Tom doesn’t know what he thinks.

Blevins Kindt press conference
Blevins (left) and Kindt (right) at the press conference
HBO via Polygon

The (presumably loathsome) Attorney General Gerald Kindt pats Tom on the shoulder. (And Blevins the bald, mustachioed cop is right there, too.) This was his press conference. He publicly reiterates a position he’s already taken privately: Even if Julie’s alive, he still believes that the person (that’d be Trash Man) convicted of her kidnapping (and Will’s murder) was guilty.

Enter Alan Jones, the attorney who we first saw in the deposition back in episode one. Turns out it’s Trash Man’s children, David and Josey Woodard, who want his help in overturning their father’s conviction.

“We contend his posthumous conviction was fraudulent and a significant dereliction of duty on the part of the prosecuting attorney’s office,” Alan says.

One of the reporters asks if it’s a mandate against AG Kindt. Alan doesn’t say yes, but he might as well. He walks over to Wayne, and explains that “press is the only language [Kindt] understands.”

Wayne chastises him, saying it’s not about Alan’s career or getting back at his old boss Kindt. He ought to consider Tom Purcell.

David and Josey Woodard, Trash Man’s children
David and Josey Woodard, Trash Man’s children
HBO via Polygon

Wayne asks Alan if Woodard’s kids know who he is — the man who killed their father, in other words. Alan responds in the affirmative.

“Motherfucker made me carry his water,” Wayne says. “Like I need more of them memories.”

Alan says it’s good to see Wayne back on the job. Wayne flicks him off over his shoulder.

Roland, Wayne, and Freddy Burns, 1990

Roland and Wayne arrive at Freddy Burns’ house. He’s the kid they arrested in 1980 — the one who drove the purple VW Beetle and admitted to chasing Will Purcell off into the woods the day he disappeared.

Freddy, dressed in mechanics clothes, is pissed. So are the cops. They don’t like each other. Regardless, Freddy doesn’t seem to remember much about the night of the disappearance. They ask him about Will.

“He was all nervous like, ‘I can’t find my sister. I don’t know where they went.’”

“They?” Wayne asks. “He said they?”

“Pretty sure he did. I don’t know. You want to slap me around so make sure?”

Freddy’s been holding a decade-long grudge for how Wayne treated him that night in the police station. He accuses them of returning to blame him for what happened that night.

What we’ve got here is something like the inverse of the situation with the one-eyed man from the last episode. This time, though, it’s Wayne who’s dangerously close to escalating the situation, and Roland plays the diplomat.

True Detective season 3 episode 5 Freddy Burns HBO via Polygon

Regardless, it’s clear that Freddy sees that night in the police station as a turning point in his life, which isn’t exactly glamorous.

“And not for nothing,” Wayne says, “things might be what they are because you’re the type that likes bullying somebody weaker than you.”

Cruel as he seems to be, we again get a glimpse of the moral order of the universe according to Wayne Hays. Wayne’s the kind of guy who will shoot rats because he sees it as having “its shitty rat life,” but moments later will stop Roland from shooting a fox who posed no threat. He’ll hunt deer, but only with a bow and never in a stand. He’ll track and kill a boar for days because it’s a fair fight, and you can eat the meat afterward. He’ll pick on Freddy Burns because he sees him as a bully.

But Freddy’s response has surgical precision.

“And you don’t?” he asks Wayne. “I was a teenager, me. What’s your excuse?”

The detectives start to leave, but Freddy, close to tears now, calls out to Wayne.

“Don’t you want to call me a shit-heel twerp again? Tell me how I’m going to get ass raped?”

Roland and Wayne in the car, 1990

In the car after leaving Freddy’s house, Wayne tries to deflect the criticism he received.

“Believe that guy? Acting like I ruined his life? Please explain to me all the hardships and tribulations of being a white man in this country.”

Once again, race enters the picture. Once again, it’s something a character retreats to out of frustration.

Wayne lights up a cigarette.

Roland zeroes in on Freddy’s use of “they” and says they should try again to figure out who Will and Julie were meeting in the forest.

Wayne’s still on a tear about Freddy, who clearly got to him. When he was Freddy’s age, he was in Vietnam.

Roland ignores him, mentions the toys they found in the woods. They ought to run the unknown prints again.

Wayne ignores him, and keeps fuming about Freddy. Says his whole generation is “a bunch of pussies,” which is a word he reserves for special uses like this.

Roland, Wayne and the street kid, 1990

The cops interview a man about Julie. He’s been on the streets since he was 16. He says he recognized Julie from the picture.

“With the same crew a while,” he says. “You know, other kids.” And now we’ve got a vaguely defined idea but tantalizing image of a group of kids living on the streets together.

“We had a good little family. But she didn’t stay long.”

He says Julie (we’re just going to assume it’s Julie) said her name was Mary July. He has no idea about her, including whether or not that was her real name. He describes her as “a little nutty” and says he wasn’t close with her.

Nutty how?

“Like couldn’t get straight on what year it was. Tell some story how she’s a secret princess or something.”

We’re sure as hell going to talk about this in the themes and evidence section of this watchthrough.

The man says he doesn’t know much. He thought she might have become a hooker, but none of the people he talked to knew her. He thinks maybe some of her stories indicated that she was using drugs, but he isn’t sure.

He mentions that she says she was “a princes from the pink rooms.”

HBO via Polygon

Also, she said that she’d lost and was looking for her brother. Seemed like they separated when they were young. But, again, he isn’t really sure.

Wayne and Roland want him to write down names, but the man scoffs. Once again, they dangle the carrot of those who cooperate getting a favor with the police. He writes, reluctantly.

Our dynamic duo walks away from the interview, and Wayne’s sure that Mary July is Julie Purcell. Roland is a lot more cautious. They’re off to find hookers and runaways. Roland looks worried about Wayne’s certainty.

Wayne and Elisa, 2015

Wayne’s back in his living room being interviewed. He explains that, for the next few days they went all over town asking questions. If anybody knew anything, they didn’t say so.

Elisa beings her questioning.

“Were you aware that one of the officers who processed the Woodard scene, Harris James, went missing in 1990 during the second investigation?”

True Detective season 3 episode 5 Harris James HBO via Polygon

Wayne says he didn’t know that. Elisa sighs, which looks a lot like frustration. (Hmmmmmmmmmm.) In fact, he doesn’t know who Harris James is. It seems like memory problems. Might be more sinister.

Elsa hands Wayne a picture of Harris James. (And we’ll talk about this man in themes and evidence below). She says that Wayne interviewed him in 1990.

“A lot of people around this thing are dead,” she says. “A lot of people gone.”

“People do that, miss,” Wayne says, sipping water. “Most people I ever knew are gone.”

Roland, Lori, Wayne, and Amelia, 1990

Wayne and his wife Amelia arrive at Roland’s house in Foxwood. Wayne says he hates suburbs.

The woman Roland hit on at the church in the last episode, Lori, answers the door. A decade later, and they’re a couple. This is the first time she and Amelia have met. It’s been a long 10 years.

Wayne hands Roland flowers, and it’s a cute moment between a couple of dudes.

They catch up on lost time. We learn that they dated for two years, broke up for three years, and reconnected three years later. They’ve been back together for five years. Wayne brings up marriage, and it’s clearly a touchy subject.

True Detective season 3 episode 5 dinner party HBO via Polygon

Amelia asks about the reopened Purcell case (which is now a week old), and Wayne is immediately annoyed. Once again, he’s touchy — embarrassed, even, that his wife’s a good investigator. Ashamed, too, since he never solved the case and it ruined his career (we’re still assuming, though we don’t know the details).

Roland is happy to talk. Wayne pushes back, ostensibly steering the conversation to things that aren’t work. Then he tries to say they can’t talk about it because it’s classified.

It gets awkward. Quickly. At first, Amelia plays the diplomat and apologizes, saying that she’s a writer and can’t help it. Her book — “it’s about the case and us” — comes out next week. Lori wants to read it. Wayne stopped her from bringing a copy of the book to dinner.

“Gifts shouldn’t flatter the giver,” he says. That’d seem entirely reasonable, except that we know how unhinged he gets about Amelia working on the case. He makes a snide comment about how they’ll “talk later about what you’ve been up to.”

Wayne sure isn’t drinking beer, which we learned in a previous episode is what he drinks to relax.

We learn that Lori studied “poultry science,” and Roland says “they make rocket fuel out of chickens.” For whatever it’s worth, this is another chicken connection. Tenuous, sure, but we also know that Lori Purcell worked on the chicken line at Hoyt Foods. Coincidence?

Amelia is getting pissed, and who can blame her? It escalates into a fight, and she excuses herself from the table.

Wayne in his office, 2015

True Detective season 3 episode 5 old Wayne reading HBO via Polygon

Wane sits in his office reading Amelia’s book, Life and Death and the Harvest Moon. It’s the book that Wayne has been avoiding for various reasons. But now, as an old man, he’s digging in.

“There surely exists a mutable area of soul where grief is indistinguishable from madness,” we hear the words in Amelia’s voice as Wayne reads. It’s the story of what we saw in a previous episode when Amelia visited Lucy Purcell. “Standing above the box of her children’s things, she wept and clutched her chest. ‘This wasn’t a happy home. Children should laugh, you know, and there wasn’t much laughter around here.’”

It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that, had Wayne been less pigheaded, Amelia’s research could’ve helped him solve this case years ago.

Reading this sparks a memory. He makes the connection: Those are the same words that were on the “ransom” note.

He says he should’ve read this a long time ago. He looks out the window and sees the same car that he saw in a previous episode parked across the street.

Amelia, Wayne, Amelia’s mother, and the kids, 1990

Amelia thanks her mother for watching the kids while they were at dinner. The fight continues. Wayne’s out of control at this point.

“You didn’t tell her about the divorce?” Wayne asks/accuses Amelia.

“What?” she says.

“How you referred to me the other day as your ex-husband. In Sallisaw.”

And now we know what’s been bothering Wayne, on top of everything else. He went to the same police department where she did. She flirted and got information. She asks why he didn’t tell her he went. He says why would he? He also says he found footage of (who he believes to be) Julie.

“Seemed like you were getting real comfortable, having secrets,” he tells her. It’s like he withheld the information as revenge.

Amelia accuses him of trying to control her, of trying to make her a quiet and obedient housewife. And she’s not having it. Wayne doesn’t even think that she cheated on him. He thinks she’s “a tourist,” someone who trades on others’ misery for her own gain.

“I think you use people,” Wayne says. She denies it. He continues, weaving in some feelings of inadequacy, too. “Like we’re all stories to you, and you use them to make yourself bigger than us.”

He may be wrong, and it may be cruel, but he’s also consistent. He effectively leveled the same accusation at Alan Jones earlier in the episode — accusing him of drumming up a media circus for his gain (and we might as well through in Kindt here, too) and admonished him to keep Tom and Julie in mind.

She accuses him of using the case to avoid being home. She’s noticed that he’s smoking again. He says she hasn’t figured him out in 10 years, and she says he’s too smart to play this dumb.

The kids come downstairs, and the fight ends abruptly. Wayne suggests that they all get into the parents’ bed. Their daughter, Becca, puts it all in perspective.

“Mom? Dad? What do we do not?”

Amelia and Wayne share a glance.

“We do not say goodnight without I love yous,” they say together.

“I love you,” they say to each other.

Wayne, 2015

Old Wayne is confused. He thinks he’s young. He’s unstuck in time. He doesn’t know where his family is. He peers into his bedroom, and we’re back to …

Amelia, Wayne, and the kids, 1990

The family crawls into bed. Amelia reads a story.

“They fed me behind bars from an iron pan till one night I felt that I was Bagheera — the Panther — and no man’s plaything, and I broke the silly lock with one blow of my paw and came away; and because I had learned the ways of men, I became more terrible in the jungle than Shere Khan. Is it not so?”

“Yes,” said Mowgli; “all the jungle fear Bagheera — all except Mowgli.”

“Oh, thou art a man’s cub,” said the Black Panther, very tenderly; “and even as I returned to my jungle, so thou must go back to men at last, — to the men who are thy brothers, — if thou art not killed in the Council.”

“But why — but why should any wish to kill me?” said Mowgli.

“Look at me,” said Bagheera; and Mowgli looked at him steadily between the eyes. The big panther turned his head away in half a minute.

That’s from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. And that deserves a breakout in themes and evidence below.

Wayne and Amelia at the hospital, 1980

Wayne looks into the room where Roland is being tended to after being shot. He goes over the story of what happened at Trash Man’s house.

The doctor comes out of the room and says that Roland is stable.

Amelia arrives. He turns on her for a moment, pushes her away, but she calms him down. Reasons with him. Offers to clean him up.

He thinks she’s wearing perfume. She calls it Ivory soap and chalk dust.

They leave together.

Wayne and Amelia at her house, 1980

They walk in her door. She offers him refreshments. He starts taking his clothes off. She follows his lead.

She leads him to her bedroom, where they make love for the first time.

Wayne in the police evidence locker, 1990

Wayne scours the archives at a police station. He discovers a set of missing fingerprints — the unknown fingerprints, surely, on the toys that Roland mentioned earlier. Wayne knows they were there because he put them there. The dopey cop isn’t terribly cooperative. Wayne has to shout before he’ll go look for the log book.

The next shot tells us what’s going to happen. A card on the corkboard that Wayne is staring at says “Backpack & shirt found.” A phone rings. He smokes. Doesn’t answer.

HBO via Polygon

In his mind, he’s going back over the evidence gathered at Trash Man’s house. A cop finds a red shirt among ashes. It’s not as burned as you’d reasonably expect. Through the hole that the mine blasted in Trash Man’s front porch, another cop finds Will Purcell’s backpack. It’s pristine.

“Harris,” the man who discovers the backpack calls out to another cop. “I’ve got something here.”

That would be Harris James, the cop who went missing in 1990, according to Elisa.

“Well that looks like that boy’s backpack,” the soon-to-be-vanished Harris James says. “The dead boy.”

Wayne and Roland at the police station, 1990

Wayne’s still staring at the corkboard. He takes the pictures of the explosion at Trash Man’s house down. He takes the pictures of the backpack down, too. Something isn’t right.

“Motherfucker,” he says.

He’s got it figured out. He rushes into Roland’s office, closes the door behind him, and makes the case: The evidence was planted. Three days went by between the explosion and when they swept the area for evidence. He’s even got an explanation about the shirt.

“I thought on that,” Wayne says. “They needed to see the girl was dead, see? Somebody was moving fast. When that shootout happened, somebody saw an opportunity. And our side slammed the fucking door shut.”

True Detective season 3 episode 5 backpack photograph HBO via Polygon

Roland hangs a lantern on the obvious: Why hasn’t Alan (the lawyer working for Trash Man’s kids) said anything? And Wayne has an answer: He hasn’t seen it. We learned a few episodes back that the police are shuffling their feet getting the evidence to him, so that checks out.

Roland seems convinced, but he knows that he’s in a bind. If he brings it to Blevins (the cop who was with Kindt when they talked to Roland and Wayne last episode) and Kindt (the current attorney general), he’s sure they’ll shut the investigation down. Remember: the state’s (read: Blevins and Kindt’s) position is that Trash Man’s conviction should stand, which means that Roland and Wayne’s job is to help uphold it. But they’re investigating, not complying.

Wayne says this is too big for “that political bullshit,” but Roland protests. This, as far as I’m concerned, is more fuel for my suspicion that Wayne’s career circled the drain after 1980 because he couldn’t play politics, while Roland succeeded because he could.

The phone rings. Roland answers. A call came on the hotline last night, and they need to hear it.

Roland, Wayne and Henry at Roland’s house, 2015

Roland tunes the radio to 99.9 and fills several bowls with dog food and raw eggs. He pours himself a cup of half coffee, half booze. He feeds the dogs, but the runt of the litter isn’t getting food. He talks to them. It’s very sweet. He takes the runt into the house to feed it and continues his conversation.

Wayne and his son Henry pull up to the house. Wayne’s surprised to find that Roland’s house is in the country. Doesn’t seem right for a people person. He doesn’t remember the last time they saw each other.

Roland calls to them from the house, and Wayne smiles ear to ear.

Inside, Henry explains Wayne’s memory problems. Roland says he’s pissed at Wayne, though nobody knows if Wayne knows or remembers.

We learn that Roland never married, though Wayne could’ve swore he did. He and Lori didn’t work out. Also, they haven’t talked for 24 years.

Roland, Wayne and Tom Purcell at the police station, 1990

HBO via Polygon

Roland lets Tom Purcell into the interrogation room where Wayne is waiting for them both.

They press play on a tape recorder, and this is what we hear:

Police officer: State police hotline. Hello?

Unidentified woman: You’re looking for me. I saw on the television.

Officer: What’s your name, ma’am?

Woman: I saw him on the television. Leave me alone. Make him leave me alone.

Officer: Ma’am, is this about Julie Purcell? Do you have information about Julie Purcell?

Woman: That’s not my real name.

Officer: What is your name, ma’am?

Woman: Tell him to leave me alone. I — I know what he did.

Officer: Who?

Woman: The man on TV acting like my father!

Officer: Can you tell me where you’re calling from?

Julie: Where’s my brother? Will. I don’t know what he did with him.

Officer: What who did with him, ma’am?

Julie: We left him resting.

“What’s she saying?” Tom asks. “What’s that mean?”

Officer: Can you tell me where you are? We can take care of you, ma’am.

Julie: No you won’t. You work for them. Tell him to leave me alone! It — He took me, and I’m never coming back.

Officer: Ma’am, can you stay on the line, please? Could you talk to me?

Julie: Just leave me alone!

She hangs up. Poor Tom. Unless … wait. “Tell him to leave me alone. I — I know what he did.”

No. Poor Tom.

Unless …

Roland and Wayne at Roland’s house, 2015

Roland knows of the TV people interviewing Wayne, says he told them to buzz off. Roland says that the TV people know a lot, and that he doesn’t want anything to come back on them.

“Anything?” Roland says. “Like killing a man? Well is it? Coming back?”

Wayne mentions that Elisa showed him pictures. We know of two — Dan O’Brien and Harris James. The former is dead. The latter is missing.

“How you going to talk to these people [when] we’ve done what we’ve done?” Roland asks. “You don’t know what you might say. Or might remember.”

Roland says he remembers what they did and what not to say. He also tells him about the “ransom” note and his theory that Lucy Purcell wrote it (because of what he read in Amelia’s book earlier in the episode). His theory: Lucy was trying to make Tom feel better. She’d let go of the kids, and she was trying to help Tom do the same. It’s a fine theory, except that we’ve never seen Lucy offer an ounce of compassion to her husband that she made a career of cheating on.

True Detective season 3 episode 5 old Roland HBO via Polygon

“So what? So what if she did?” Roland asks. “We already knew she had some connection to — that guy whose name you just said.”

That’s either cousin Dan or Harris James.

Wayne says that “Hoyt” came to see him the “day after what happened.” What happened?

Roland says he never told him.

“I made a decision,” Wayne said. “Yeah. Had other things to think about. Including a family. I let it go.” Whose family? His? The Hoyts?

Wayne can’t remember if he got any information from Hoyt, but Hoyt knew about what Wayne and Roland did (presumably killing someone) and it “seemed like he was in the dark on some stuff, too.”

Truth is, Wayne really can’t remember. Hoyt passed away.

Roland said that Wayne walked away. “Not this time,” Roland says.

Roland’s finally pissed. It’s nuts that Wayne thinks he can show up, and they’ll just pick up where they left off. People drift apart. He’s upset that Wayne never called, never stopped by, never apologized. He was going to put all of that aside. But not now. Not this.

Roland says he’s fine. Alone. No woman. No kids. No old friends. He can drinks as much as he wants to. Wayne doesn’t get to judge him. He’s standing now, fired up.

“I know you,” Roland says. “I know what you did. What I did. You talking about my drinking, I’d whip your ass if it wouldn’t kill you. And you still ain’t apologized.”

“Roland?” Wayne says. “I don’t remember. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, but I just can’t remember.” He stammers. “Can’t remember my life, man. I can’t remember my wife. I don’t know. If you tell me I did something wrong, well, OK. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright,” Roland says. He’s crying now.

“I’ve got this file I’m working on,” Wayne says. He’s crying now, too. “And I read it every morning. But I’m missing so much.”

He remembers Roland. But it’s other things.

Roland says if he’s looking for ways to kill time, he’s there. He lights up a cigarette. But not this case. He’s not doing that again.

True Detective season 3 episode 5 old Wayne HBO

“She could still be out there,” Wayne says.

“Oh, don’t give me that. Half the cases you ever worked never closed. You quit the job. I was there.”

“There were other considerations at the time. I just, between me and Ame. And before I’m a drooling fucking squash plant, and with whatever brains I’ve got left, I’m going to finish this.”




“Oh, yes.”

“No, man.”

Wayne leans in.

“Come on,” he says, openly weeping now. “Stir some shit up with me.”

Roland protests again. They’re old. This is nuts.

“Seventy-year-old black man going batshit crazy, running around with a badge and gun? You shouldn’t miss that.”

“Well,” Roland says, “I could use a laugh.”

As two old gunslingers sit on the porch, the camera pans up to catch the sun shining through the trees. The inimitable genius of Warren Zevon plays over the credits. It’s from his song “Desperados Under The Eaves.” It’s about drinking too much, and it goes like this:

Don’t the sun look angry through the trees?

Don’t the trees look like crucified thieves?

Don’t you feel like desperados under the eaves?

Heaven help the one who leaves.

Themes and evidence

This week, we’ll talk about a new character, revisit Wayne’s late night hallucination, The Jungle Book, and make an admittedly tenuous but tantalizing prediction about a character we’ve known since the beginning but never suspected.

Harris James

In this episode, Elisa hands Wayne a picture of a cop. She says that Wayne interviewed him in 1990.

During the scene in which the cops find the sweater and Will’s backpack at Trash Man’s house, the officer with the camera tells a cop holding a clipboard about it. The man with the clipboard is Harris James.

HBO via Polygon and HBO via Polygon

At the end of the episode, when Roland and Wayne are sitting on the porch, Roland straight up says that they killed someone. We don’t know who they killed, but they only mention two other names in that conversation — cousin Dan O’Brien (who we already know is dead) and Harris James (who disappeared). If it’s Harris James, then what could his connection be? Did someone make him disappear?

Try this one on for size: We know that Julie’s mom, Lucy, cheated on her husband Tom. What if Harris James was one of Lucy’s affairs? What if he is Julie’s biological father (or even Will’s, too)? What if Roland and Wayne learned of this, confronted him, and it went badly?

Sure, it could be something less seedy. Maybe Harris James just knew there was something hinky with the backpack. Or maybe Harris James and Tom are connected, uh, somehow.

Hallucination suspects

True Detective season 3 Wayne dream two men HBO via Polygon

In episode 4, old Wayne hallucinates late one night alone in his house. Most of the people who appear around him are soldiers. Two of them aren’t.

There’s a man with long hair. There’s a man with short hair in a business suit who Wayne touches and apologizes to. Both have gunshot wounds. Long hair in the head. Suit man in the chest.

Who are they? We might be able to figure that out now.

Is Harris James the man in the suit with the gunshot wound to the chest? Is Trash Man the man with long hair with the gunshot wound to the head? Or maybe his son David?

Julie’s worldview

There’s every reason to assume that it’s Julie who called the tip line, if only because she tells the cop on the phone that’s it’s not her real name. What does Julie believe?

She clearly believes that Tom is a bad guy impersonating her father.

“Tell him to leave me alone,” she say, referring to Tom. “I — I know what he did.” When pressed on who “he” is, she says “The man on TV acting like my father!”

She also believes that her brother, Will, is alive.

“Where’s my brother? Will. I don’t know what he did with him.”

“What who did with him, ma’am?” the officer on the phone asks.

“We left him resting,” Julie says.

Will wasn’t resting when Wayne found him. He was dead — although it’s worth pointing out that he wasn’t dumped. He was placed, seemingly with care. Regardless, somehow Julie doesn’t realize or know that Will is dead. It may be that she was there with him in the cave, believing for a decade that he was alive and well and cared for when she last saw him.

She also has a distrust of the cops — or the government or authority figures. We see this when the cop on the phone offers to help her.

“No you won’t,” she says. “You work for them. Tell him to leave me alone! It ... He took me, and I’m never coming back.”

Maybe the people who kidnapped Julie convinced her that Tom was a bad guy who “took her.” What if she’s been fed the story that she’s a Hoyt?

Then again, Tom told Roland a few episodes back that he and Lucy married because she got pregnant. It’s reasonable to assume that the child, Will, was Tom’s. But given what we know about Lucy’s tendency to cheat on Tom, it doesn’t have to be. Again, maybe someone twisted the truth and made Tom out to be the bad guy.

Either way, this is the second time in this episode that we learn that Julie’s grasp on reality seems tenuous.

When Roland and Wayne interview the unnamed man who remembers Julie from a makeshift family of street kids, he says that she called herself Mary July. He thinks maybe some of her stories indicated that she was using drugs, but he isn’t sure. Also, she said that she’d lost and was looking for her brother, who she asks about in the phone call.

He also describes her as “a little nutty” and says he wasn’t close with her.

“Like couldn’t get straight on what year it was. Tell some story how she’s a secret princess or something.”

He also mentions that she says she was “a princes from the pink rooms.”

There’s no way to really figure out what that means. She’s speaking in code, and we don’t have anything like a Rosetta stone. I’m sure we’ll learn in time, but for now, let’s reexamine the Purcell children’s drawings that I continue to think are important.

In one of the drawings, we see a castle. It’s not a stretch to imagine a princess living in a castle. And the “secret” part of “secret princess” could also be a reference to the Purcell kids’ “secret friend,” as someone wrote on an index card and attached to a corkboard in 1980, referring to the person they met in the woods.

Cover-up Kindt

I continue to suspect that Gerald Kindt is bad news bears. The scenario I’ve got goes like this: It was to his political benefit in 1980 (when he was the district attorney) to get a conviction in the Purcell case, and Trash Man’s untimely and gruesome death offered him a convenient scapegoat.

The 1980 prosecution proceeded from the assumption that Julie Purcell was dead like her brother. In 1990, AG Kindt’s position is that, even if Julie is alive, the state still posthumously convicted the correct man a decade ago.

True Detective season 3 Kindt and Blevins HBO via Polygon

We learn in this episode that the fingerprints on the toys that Wayne found near the D&D dice in the woods disappeared at some point between when Wayne put them in the evidence box and when he reopened the evidence box in 1990.

In short, Kindt is the most vile and opportunistic kind of politician, angling for fame and promotion even back in 1980, convicting an innocent man for the sake of political expediency between his appearances on Donahue.

By 1990, when Trash Man’s children hire Alan Jones to fight their father’s conviction, he (and his henchman, they bald cop with the mustache Blevans) put together a task force explicitly to uphold the conviction.

If evidence straight up vanished, I’m comfortable believing that Kindt played a part in it. I’ll continue to assume that the unidentified fingerprints on the toys belong to the adult(s) that Julie and Will were secretly meeting in the woods. And if, a decade or more later, someone were to run those fingerprints through a database and discover who they belonged to, then that’d be bad for Kindt and the state’s case.

Whether high-powered individuals like the Hoyts are involved and Kindt is protecting them, I’m not sure. Could be that Kindt is just protecting his own ass.

The Hoyt family

I’ve been particularly harsh on the Hoyt family. They own the local meat packing plant where Lucy Purcell used to work. They lost a child and created the Ozark Children’s Outreach Center. There may be a connection to draw between Lucy, the grieving Hoyts, and the children’s disappearance.

We don’t learn much more about the Hoyts in this episode, but we do learn something.

Wayne says that “Hoyt” came to see him the “day after what happened.” We don’t know what happened, but we can be pretty sure that the off-screen Hoyts will become part of the show at some point.

Whether that’s because they really were involved in the disappearance or are really invested in solving the case remains to be seen.

But I can say this, at least: If my theory that Hoyts kidnapped her to give her a better life, then her being a loner on the streets a decade later sure doesn’t make that seem likely.

The Jungle Book

That Wayne refers to Vietnam as the jungle and a light dusting of The Jungle Book might seem a bit on the nose, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Amelia reads from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Here’s where she begins, with a bunch of added context, courtesy of the full text on Wikisource.

“They fed me behind bars from an iron pan till one night I felt that I was Bagheera — the Panther — and no man’s plaything, and I broke the silly lock with one blow of my paw and came away; and because I had learned the ways of men, I became more terrible in the jungle than Shere Khan. Is it not so?”

“Yes,” said Mowgli; “all the jungle fear Bagheera — all except Mowgli.”

Bagheera is a powerful black panther in The Jungle Book and a mentor to Mowgli.

“Oh, thou art a man’s cub,” said the Black Panther, very tenderly; “and even as I returned to my jungle, so thou must go back to men at last, — to the men who are thy brothers, — if thou art not killed in the Council.”

“But why — but why should any wish to kill me?” said Mowgli.

“Look at me,” said Bagheera; and Mowgli looked at him steadily between the eyes. The big panther turned his head away in half a minute.

“That is why,” he said, shifting his paw on the leaves. “Not even I can look thee between the eyes, and I was born among men, and I love thee, Little Brother. The others they hate thee because their eyes cannot meet thine; because thou art wise; because thou hast pulled out thorns from their feet — because thou art a man.”

“I did not know these things,” said Mowgli, sullenly; and he frowned under his heavy black eyebrows.

The most straightforward connection between this and True Detective season 3 is that Wayne is Mowgli. Wayne “must go back to men at last,” where by men, we mean the police, the case.

But there’s more. Wayne’s a loner trying to have a partner, trying to have a family. It’s difficult, but his place is among men.

“What is the Law of the Jungle? Strike first and then give tongue. By thy very carelessness they know that thou art a man. But be wise. It is in my heart that when Akela misses his next kill, — and at each hunt it costs him more to pin the buck,—the Pack will turn against him and against thee. They will hold a jungle Council at the Rock, and then—and then…I have it!” said Bagheera, leaping up. “Go thou down quickly to the men’s huts in the valley, and take some of the Red Flower which they grow there, so that when the time comes thou mayest have even a stronger friend than I or Baloo or those of the Pack that love thee. Get the Red Flower.”

Wayne understands the law of the jungle. But he lives in the world of men. Wayne sometimes applies this law, like when he deals with Freddy Burns. I suspect he’ll have this law applied to him in 1980 when his career circles the drain.

By Red Flower Bagheera meant fire, only no creature in the jungle will call fire by its proper name. Every beast lives in deadly fear of it, and invents a hundred ways of describing it.

“The Red Flower?” said Mowgli. “That grows outside their huts in the twilight. I will get some.”

“There speaks the man’s cub,” said Bagheera, proudly. “Remember that it grows in little pots. Get one swiftly, and keep it by thee for time of need.”

”Good!” said Mowgli. “I go. But art thou sure, O my Bagheera”—he slipped his arm round the splendid neck, and looked deep into the big eyes—”art thou sure that all this is Shere Khan’s doing?”

”By the Broken Lock that freed me, I am sure, Little Brother.”

”Then, by the Bull that bought me, I will pay Shere Khan full tale for this, and it may be a little over,” said Mowgli; and he bounded away.

”That is a man. That is all a man,” said Bagheera to himself, lying down again. “Oh, Shere Khan, never was a blacker hunting than that frog-hunt of thine ten years ago!”

A hunt a decade ago? Sure sounds like 1980 versus 1990 in True Detective season 3.

Julie Purcell, 2015

In 1980, a little blonde girl named Julie Purcell disappeared. In 2015, Julie Purcell would be in her mid- to late-30s, right? What if we’ve already seen her as an adult?

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HBO via Polygon

What if this is Julie Purcell? What she’s performing her own investigation to find out the truth of her life?

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