Last week, Holly Gibney added her formidable intellect to the unlikely team of folks attempting to exonerate the late Terry Maitland–and find Frankie Peterson’s real killer. By the end of the episode, Holly had found a connection to Terry in the form of Heath Hofstadter, a nurse who worked at his father’s senior care center before being arrested for the murder of two children and killing himself in jail…and who’d left a scratch on Terry’s arm during a chance encounter the two men had at the care facility six months ago.
Tonight, Holly endeavors to find out where this bizarre trail leads their investigation.
Eggs and Intrigue
The episode opens with a flashback to an alive Heath during happier times as he enjoys breakfast with a beautiful woman. Not only is the dude spitting mad game, but she is totally eating it up and flirting right back with him.
Back in the present, Holly Gibney phones Ralph Anderson to fill him in on Heath and the man’s connection to Terry Maitland. She then attempts to follow the senior care facility’s receptionist, which earns her face full of pepper spray.
Despite being in severe pain, Holly manages to convince the receptionist that she is not a reporter, but a private investigator…which normally doesn’t put people at ease, but seems to do the trick in this instance.
After helping Holly flush out her eyes, the receptionist reveals that she was good friends with Heath and was struggling to believe that he could commit such a heinous crime despite the overwhelming DNA evidence against him. He was also on vacation during the murders, but had come back to the facility to check on his patients, thus ruining his potential alibi.
The receptionist also noted that when she saw him that day–the same day Heath and Terry ran into each other–he was uncharacteristically quiet and acted as if he didn’t even know her.
The strangeness didn’t end there, either. A janitor at the facility remembered seeing Heath come out of the elder Maitland’s room and bump into Terry. There were also multiple eyewitnesses who saw Heath many miles away from where/when the murders occurred, including Heath’s mother.
Searching for Normal
Back in Georgia, Glory Maitland interviews a woman to homeschool tutor her daughters, who she quickly sniffs out as a tabloid reporter. That night, she attempts to go out to dinner with Howie Salomon and his wife Inez. Ralph and Jeannie Anderson sit at a table nearby to keep an eye on things. This potentially awkward arrangement is revealed to have been a solid idea when another man in the restaurant accosts Glory and threatens her children, causing Ralph to forcibly remove him from the premises.
Elsewhere, Jack goes on a deer hunting trip, although he doesn’t seem to being enjoying himself. After taking down a buck, he drags the animal’s carcass to a spot in the woods and leaves it there, all while continuing to suffer from those weird blisters on the back of his neck.
He then makes a trip to his local big box retailer, buys a ton of household items, and brings them back to the the site in the woods. He unloads all of it in the same spot he left deer, which looks to have been snacked on a bit during Jack’s absence.
Quid Pro Quo
Holly calls Ralph to relay her findings about Heath and Terry bumping into each other at the elder care facility–which aligns almost perfectly with what Jessa told Ralph about her dad getting scratched during their trip to Dayton. This inspires Ralph to do a bit more digging on his end.
After convincing Yunis Sablo to let him watch the Peach Crease’s security footage again, he notices what appears to be Terry Maitland (or Terry Maitland’s doppelgänger) scratching Claude Bolton (the strip club’s owner) on his wrist when they shake hands. Ralph then visits the Peach Crease, where Claude confirms that Terry scratched him. Unfortunately, that’s where the trail of information and revelations end.
Back in Dayton, Holly has a fruitless and unsettling meeting with Terry’s father. In her quest for more information about Heath, she contacts Andy, the security guard she met last episode (ugh). In a super convenient turn of of events, he turns out to be a former detective who would be able to give her access to internal police department information about Heath’s case (ugh!)…if she agrees to go out to dinner with him (UGGGGHHHH!!!)
After meeting at a restaurant (and some painfully awkward flirting), Andy reveals the Hofstadter case details, which are remarkably similar to Maitland’s. He also tells Holly that the murder–and Heath’s subsequent conviction–were followed by a catastrophic ripple of tragic deaths. Heath’s brother and mother both killed themselves as did the mother of the murdered girls. The girls’ grandfather had a fatal stroke much like Frankie Peterson’s mother did.
Despite the macabre topic of conversation, Holly and Andy’s dinner goes surprisingly well–so well, in fact, that she ends the evening by kissing him before awkwardly hurrying back to her hotel.
Later that night, Holly has a conversation with the hotel’s bartender that makes something click inside her head. She visits the receptionist again and asks if Heath had visited anywhere before he came back to Dayton. The receptionist tells her that Heath had visited New York and sent back a postcard saying he met a woman while he was there.
Breakfast Can Wait
Holly does some digging and discovers that a young woman named Maria Caneles–the same woman we saw at the beginning of the episode having breakfast with Heath–had been arrested for a child murder around the same time period Heath was in New York. She also vehemently proclaimed her innocence and had multiple witnesses/alibis which were ultimately unable to trump the overwhelming DNA evidence against her.
Holly travels to New York to visit Maria in Rikers. She shows her some pictures of Heath, who Maria remembers trying–and failing–to hit on her in the hotel bar she worked at. While she’s telling Holly this, we see a flashback to Maria (or someone who looks exactly like her) having breakfast with Heath followed by them
engaging in the standard HBO mandated sex scene having sex together…and her leaving a big old scratch across his back.
She also reveals that her father and uncle were killed by the murdered boy’s father, who walked into a bar and shot them both in the head. After Maria and the other prisoners are sent back to their cells, a woman at a nearby visiting table writes her address on a piece of paper and gives it to Holly before departing.
When Holly visits her that night, she expresses her belief that Maria is a victim of El Coco, which is basically a Latin American version of the boogey man. In addition to assuming others’ identities and killing children, the entity feeds off the resulting grief its acts cause.
Despite Holly’s (understandable) skepticism, she researches the El Coco legend that night and realizes its existence/involvement may be the only possibility that makes sense for this case.
Back in Georgia, the boy who originally stole the white van Terry Maitland (allegedly) used in Frankie Peterson’s abduction/murder asks to speak to Ralph.
He admits he didn’t tell them the whole story when they first met. In addition to remembering the parking lot in Dayton where he dumped the vehicle, he also recalled the person who took the van from him–the Green Hoodie Man.
Ralph asks the boy to draw a picture, which ends up looking like a man with a waxen and “blurry” face…just like Jessa described seeing a few nights ago in her home.
Out of the first six episodes of The Outsider, ‘Que Viene El Coco’ is by far the weakest. Thankfully, it’s still pretty good.
The show continues to do a wonderful job in taking a methodically forensic approach to these seemingly unsolvable crimes. It’s a lot of fun watching Holly track down leads that would otherwise appear to be inconsequential or completely unrelated. We also start to get a better idea of the destruction caused by whoever–or whatever–actually killed Frankie Peterson. The flashbacks to Heath and Maria’s families are particularly effective and devastating.
Unfortunately, this episode earns the series’ first two genuine eye roll moments. The worst one comes via Holly’s chance encounter when a woman who just happened to overhear her conversation with Maria…and who just happened to be very well-versed in the mythology behind the legend of El Coco. In the novel, Holly was able to make the connection on her own–I’m not sure why they couldn’t also have done that here.
The other comes from Andy, the smitten security guard who just so happens to also be a former detective with access to information Holly needs. As if that weren’t bad enough, the forced chemistry between them feels like a poor attempt to humanize Holly when Cynthia Erivo was doing a great job of it on her own.
That being said, the pacing and tension in this episode is fantastic, especially during the flashback sequences. Now that we’ve finally mentioned the supernatural elephant in the room, it should be a lot of fun to watch how the investigation–and the danger facing the characters– unfolds.