Only Murders In The Building Gets Explosive In A Glittery New Installment

Two of the aspects of the second season of Hulu's "Only Murders in the Building" that had taken a breather for a while are back in full swing in the latest episode, "Performance Review." (I noted last week in the wrap-up that it felt like some of the show's early-season details were close to vanishing, and I avoided mentioning these two aspects because ... well, I'd seen this episode already. The perks of being a critic.) First, there's the grouchy Detective Kreps, played well by Michael Rapaport. Second, and more importantly, there's the threat of famous podcaster Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) and her new show about our heroes and their potential criminal exploits. But this episode's not focusing on Cinda at the start, but her hapless producer/assistant Poppy (Adina Verson).

"Performance Review" starts with Poppy — taking voiceover duties this week — greeting a young man named Jimmy outside Cinda's recording studio, as we learn that Jimmy is being prepped for an interview for Cinda's podcast as it relates to the presumably violent past of Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez). From what little we hear and glimpse, Jimmy lost one of his middle fingers due to Mabel apparently chopping it off. Yikes. "Can't even use chopsticks," he says angrily before asking Poppy if she's been with a nine-fingered man. Also yikes. After Poppy introduces Jimmy to Cinda, we learn from her narration that she wants very badly "to be great at something" but needs the firm hand of a mentor. And as we know, Cinda is ... well, not a great mentor. (You'll remember that, at the end of season one, Poppy came up with "Only Murderers in the Building" as a podcast title, and that Cinda threatened to sue her if she claimed the idea was hers.) Poppy does still imagine herself as a podcast host, asking her imaginary audience, "What are the little fictions that ferry us through life?" She's got the NPR-speak down pat, I'll say that much.

Elsewhere, Alice is at Mabel's and taking copious photos of her apartment. "You inspire me," Alice says before saying that her latest project is a surprise, and boy howdy, are you going to want to put a pin in that one. (The perks of knowing where this episode is going before I keep writing.) Mabel is her usual guarded self when talking about her family life and her recently mentioned but long-gone father. "How much have I told you?" she asks, before learning that she's basically told Alice nothing and prefers it that way. I wonder why. (Genuine wonder.)

Charles (Steve Martin), meanwhile, can't stop talking to Jan (Amy Ryan), as he's back at the prison and she's reminding him that they're not technically broken up. "You're all I have, Charles. Are you going to leave me in here all locked up, and not in a sexy way?" As insane as it is that Jan is still in love with the man she tried to kill, Charles is equally nuts — I'll say it if no one else will — to still want to talk to her, let alone engage in an over-the-phone relationship.

Oliver (Martin Short) is trying to get to the bottom of the DNA results revealed at the end of the last episode, heavily implying that his son Will (Ryan Broussard) is actually not his son, but the son of Teddy Dimas (Nathan Lane). "My son is Greek, which must mean I must be Greek," Oliver says to a random bystander in the waiting room of a medical facility. "Am I nervous that my son isn't my son? No," he says as desperately as a liar can say. Who wouldn't be nervous then?

I want soup!

After the opening credits, we see a young Black cop walking into a crime scene and noting grimly that the victim "was close" to getting the tenth item at a local ice-cream store and thus getting a free one. And that can be your clue that we're not watching a real crime scene, but a show-within-the-show, that of the "Brazzos" reboot. And as was teased a couple episodes ago, Charles has to play Brazzos in a wheelchair and with a touch of dementia. When Brazzos is asked if the dead body is a hint to a long-gone nemesis, he says he's unsure before shouting "I WANT SOUP!" A truly careful portrayal of dementia, "Brazzos" producers.

Once he's off camera, Charles is greeted both by a friendly makeup artist (Andrea Martin of "SCTV") and by his faithful stunt double, Sazz Pataki (Jane Lynch). I was hoping that we'd get to see Sazz in the second season, and the show did not disappoint. "It is my job — nay, my purpose — to do what you cannot do," she says, even though Charles notes that he doesn't need a stunt double to sit in a wheelchair. Charles isn't alone on set, though, as Lucy (Zoe Colletti), Oliver, and Mabel are there for moral support. Oliver's also there to share the footage he took of the killer at the Pickle Diner, which makes Mabel realize the matchbook she grabbed may have a fingerprint. Oliver suggests they reach out to Detective Williams (Da'Vine Joy Randolph), who texted him the night they were arrested. Mabel notes that she should do the texting, reaching out via Charles' phone. (Put a pin in that too.) The makeup artist, Joy, greets the group and indulges in some playful flirtation with Charles. I would not be against him finding new love, nor would Oliver or Mabel or Lucy, but Charles says he's not emotionally available. Uh-huh. Detective Williams texts back and offers to take the matchbook, saying she's the only person on the NYPD "who thinks you're too stupid" to have pulled off the murder. Ouch. Also an ouch? A real cop has come to the set, telling our trio that Detective Kreps wants them in Bunny's apartment.

Guess who else is there? Cinda and Poppy. "You need to stop f**king podcasting!" Kreps yells at them all. He doesn't actually have anything to show them — he just wants to yell at them for twisting up what should be a career-advancing case for him. Cinda is confident that she could help Kreps, especially as she teases an upcoming interview with Jimmy Russo from the opening scene, who Mabel deems "a liar" whose presence is irrelevant to the case of Bunny's death. "There's nothing more tantalizing than an unhinged murderous beauty," Cinda says, all but saying that the point of her podcast isn't to tell the actual truth but to "scare ... and yes, arouse" her audience regarding the possibility of gruesome murders. It's an interesting and sly take on the advent of true-crime podcasts, many of which are plenty popular but could just as easily twist their audience's minds into thinking there's a killer around every corner, like Mabel, in this case.

As Cinda and Poppy take their leave, Oliver asks what may seem like a pretty obvious question: why isn't Detective Williams there? Well, it turns out that she's on maternity leave in Denver. (You may recall from last season that her partner was, like the Arconia's new board president Nina, pretty heavily pregnant.) Which means ... well, our trio has been texting with someone who isn't Detective Williams. And it also likely means that when Detective Williams said in the premiere that she wasn't the one who texted them to leave the building, she was telling the truth. So who's the mystery person on the other end?

No getting rid of glitter

Mabel chases down Poppy at the elevator, pointing out that Cinda treats her pretty terribly and she deserves better. Though Poppy laughs it off, noting that any genius like Cinda is likely to be abusive enough to throw staplers at her employees (... sure, Poppy), Mabel notes that until she "acts like a producer, not an assistant" regarding the Jimmy Russo interview, Poppy won't get her big break. Poppy tries to play off Cinda literally whistling at her to come as a joke, but we all know that Cinda doesn't respect her (and is clearly bad at her job).

Later, the trio realizes that "we're texting with the killer," as "Detective Williams" now says they can't meet at the Arconia. But maybe our friends can drop off the evidence at a nearby park instead? Charles, taking inspiration from "Brazzos," decides to agree to the killer's terms, dropping off fake evidence in the form of "a paint bomb" that would mark the killer so they know who the mystery person is. Instead, Oliver suggests glitter — "There's no getting rid of glitter," which is sadly very true. Later that day, Oliver plants the glittery evidence in a trash can at the park, and then the trio just ... well, they just wait in Charles' car.

Back at Cinda's recording studio, after she records an ad for "Pink Ladle — soup by women, for women," she sees a new item in her calendar added by Poppy — the performance review of the episode's title, as Poppy nervously says that if her performance is good enough, she might be worthy of a promotion. Cinda carefully compliments Poppy for finding Jimmy at all in front of the podcast's sound engineer, and then says she'll think about a promotion though she doesn't usually consider them "until Year Five." Poppy seems excited, but if you have ever watched an episode of television before, you likely noted the enigmatic look on Cinda's face. That promotion ain't comin', Poppy.

"When we did this on 'Brazzos,' it was always the third guy," Charles grumbles as the trio continues their stakeout. Oliver is understandably still focused on waiting for the DNA results, while Mabel thankfully gets distracted from getting too emotionally close to him as the latest episode of "Only Murderers in the Building" gets published. We quickly learn Jimmy's accusation — that Mabel chopped off his finger while they worked at a local Long John Silver's, and that she deep-fried it and served it. Yuck. Mabel, though, clarifies that Jimmy was a groper who got his finger caught in a meat slicer. Still ... yuck.

Also a big yuck is what Oliver and Mabel realize when they notice Charles' list of recent calls on his phone, and how many come from the location of a local women's correctional facility. "Please tell me you're not still in contact with Jan," Mabel says, to which Charles lies very, very poorly. Mabel and Oliver see straight through it, of course, so Charles acknowledges that he first contacted Jan because of the case. "She says we never broke up!" he meekly explains, before saying he has no idea how to break up with her. Instead of yuck, let's go with yikes here because ... come on, yikes, Charles. As Charles acknowledges that he knows he has to break up with Jan, though, the trio misses out — thanks to a very effectively framed shot — on the black-clad mystery texter walking up to the trash can behind them, grabbing the evidence, and being caught in a massive glitter explosion. They only notice the person — who we can't make out but appears to be moderately tall and of average build — as they're standing back up after being startled by all the glitter, and running off. They miss out on the culprit, and Mabel — heartsick that Charles continues meeting with the woman who killed her friend — begs them to give her some space. And Charles realizes that he may not have to break up with Jan at all. Hmm.

The wide world of South American salsas

Back at Cinda's office, as the podcaster gets ready to leave and tasks Poppy with writing her three-year-old a birthday card, she also insults Poppy for having "put me on the spot" with the performance-review request and says that the younger woman will never be promoted. "Don't be too good at a job you don't want," she says to Poppy, stating that her excellent assistant skills are too valuable to make her move up in the world. How cruel! 

Jan, meanwhile, is surprised that she's getting the breakup speech, but not from Charles: instead, it's Sazz on the other end of the visiting-hours call at the prison. "Come on, let's face it, it's 80-20 you," Sazz says as she reads off a speech Charles has written for her to deliver. Though Jan is initially annoyed, as Sazz goes into detail with "the anatomy" of Jan's bassoon, she gets strangely aroused at the "weirdly porn-y" descriptions Charles has laden into the speech.

Meanwhile, let's take a pin out of the scene earlier in the episode where Alice mentions that her latest piece is a surprise, because it's a surprise no longer. Mabel heads over to her art studio, only to find a truly disturbing set of sights: first, she sees actors playing her friends Zoe and Tim Kono, before seeing a recreation of her apartment mural and her apartment itself, replete with Alice dressed up as Mabel on the night of Bunny's murder, and another actress playing Bunny. Though Alice says Mabel wasn't meant to see the piece just yet, our heroine is understandably shaken to her core by something that is absolutely inexplicable. (It still seems too early to assume Alice could have been the killer, to concoct this baffling art piece, but ... uh ... real weird, lady!) Mabel runs away without saying another word, and can you blame her?

Oliver returns to Charles' apartment, stressed that he's yet to get the DNA results even though it's past the 36-hour threshold. "While we wait, maybe I can introduce you to the wide world of South American salsas," Charles says to some displeased grunts.

As Mabel heads to the subway, she gets a call from Poppy, who reveals that Cinda Canning never finished college. "And her teeth aren't real," Poppy says breathlessly, implying that the podcaster got ahead by doing anything she could. "I know where all the bodies are buried," Poppy says. And though that seems helpful, as is her promise of helping our trio, Mabel has a new horror in the subway car: the mystery texter, still with plenty of glitter on their black jacket, is staring right at her.

We cut back to Oliver now thoroughly enjoying a salsa (they're pretty tasty, my friend), before getting a ping on his phone. He asks for an awkward hug before seeing that the text isn't from the DNA facility, but his son Will, who sent him a video ... of Mabel stabbing the black-clad mystery texter in the arm with her knitting needles. And as she runs out of the car, still being filmed, Charles and Oliver share that awkward hug and the episode ends.

So, now that we're in the back half of the season, "Performance Review" certainly ramps up the tension. If we ask ourselves who the black-clad person is, I maintain that it can't be Alice (and obviously not Poppy, who's on the phone with Mabel when our heroine sees said texter). And if we assume it's someone we've already met, there are really only a few options left. I still have my doubts about Howard from the Arconia, but who knows. I'm sorry, Howard, I just think you're too suspicious to be ignored! (It could also be Jared, Nina Lin's baby daddy, though the character has had so little screen time that I'm not sure how much of an impact his reveal would be.) One assumes this will guarantee further trouble with Cinda's podcast, and with the cops. Will "Only Murders" keep up the blend of creepy tension with humor in the last four installments? Well, only time will tell.


– Cinda Canning is quite obviously a parody of the NPR host Sarah Koenig. I wonder what she thinks of the parody!

– "This Ferrari needs her premium gas." Sazz demanding drool from Martin's makeup artist. Jane Lynch as Steve Martin's stunt double is both ridiculous and still extremely funny casting.

– Don't worry, Cinda, I think most of us would have a problem saying "Chickashay–shaw–shay–s**t."

– "I call it the Mariah," says Oliver of his big glitter bomb. Creative!