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Big Little Lies Recap: Mary Louise Might Be the Most Terrifying Villain on TV

Meryl Streep is giving us a Halloween costume for the ages

Maggie Fremont

Hey guys, do you think when Season 2 of Big Little Lies is over we'll all be like, "Oh, so having The Trammps headline Amabella's birthday party so that they could sing the lyrics 'Burn, baby, burn' was a very deliberate choice and not just a fun Renata goes hard into the disco theme for her 8-year-old's birthday moment?" I mean, the latter isn't technically wrong -- see also: Renata (Laura Dern) and Amabella's (Ivy George) matching gold dresses and berets -- but the lives of the Monterey Five are burning to the ground, is what I'm saying. And fast!

Obviously, not all of the damage is caused by Perry's (Alexander Skarsgård) death and the presence of monster-in-law extraordinaire Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) -- both Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Renata have some other, unrelated pressing problems at the moment -- but when it comes to Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Mary Louise is most definitely the one lighting the match and tossing it in the garbage dumpster of her life. In "She Knows," Mary Louise makes two extreme moves. One of them is not her extended pizza-eating lesson when she stretches out the cheese as long as possible -- terrifying in its own special way -- but that was a close No. 3.

The first is, of course, her new living situation. Why, she's just rented a unit in the same building as Jane (Shailene Woodley) and Ziggy (Iain Armitage)! Isn't that just wonderful? Doesn't it make you want to simultaneously punch a wall and throw up? The best (worst) part is that Mary Louise makes this big announcement at a Halloween pumpkin carving party at Madeline's house to which she was most definitely not invited. Listen, it is inevitable that this Halloween there will be tons of Mary Louises parading around town, and you may have your sensible sweater and your cross necklace and your teeth all ready to go, but for it to be a true Mary Louise Halloween costume, you'd better be showing up to a Halloween party uninvited with a cake in hand and then proceed to make every single person feel uncomfortable. It is the Mary Louise way! Not only is her news deeply upsetting to Jane, but Mary Louise's mere presence and scathing looks really put Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz) on edge. She's sizing her up, and Bonnie is worried what that could mean.

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It's Celeste who pulls Mary Louise aside to tell her how "perverse" moving in next door to her son's rape victim is, because apparently that is a thing that needs to be explained to this woman. Of course, Mary Louise once again launches into her speech about not actually believing Jane, but, if you can believe it, it's actually worse than the first time around because now she is not-so-subtly hinting that it was Celeste's fault Perry strayed, and that there must be other women out there. AND THEN CELESTE SLAPS HER. It knocks her glasses off!! Is this what the show The Slap was about? It should've been. Mary Louise barely registers any type of reaction; instead, she simply asks if they should call that foreplay. YOU GUYS. Is Mary Louise the greatest villain of all time?

Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies

Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies

Jennifer Clasen/HBO

The women do manage to have a post-slap coffee, but things have been set on an unchangeable course at this point. We get some more insight into what makes Mary Louise tick -- we learn that after her first son died, her husband left her and started a new family and that Mary Louise believes she was to blame for everything, which is, well, a lot to unpack. Still, the gist of the coffee date is that Mary Louise thinks Celeste is growing more and more erratic and she's worried about the welfare of the twins. Which explains why the next time we see her, she's meeting with a lawyer (welcome to the party, Denis O'Hare!) and plotting to petition for full custody. Here's the thing: Mary Louise isn't wrong in pointing out that Celeste is "unwell." I mean, she shouldn't be trying to steal the woman's kids, but it doesn't help the cause when Mary Louise walks in one morning to return the twins after a sleepover and finds Celeste in another Ambien-fueled stupor. Celeste wasn't recklessly driving around town this time, but she was taking a different kind of joy ride -- with the shirtless bartender she brought home the night before. Thank you, good night, be sure to tip your waitress!

Anyway, this is the final straw for Mary Louise, who promptly informs her daughter-in-law of her plans to fight for custody. She basically throws a copy of the court petition at Celeste while backing out of the room. "I'm going to destroy your entire life, okay byeeee" is honestly maybe the best way to deliver such devastating news. Celeste is livid and makes plans to fight Mary Louise to the ends of the earth for her kids, even as her therapist (Robin Weigert) warns that no one wins in a contentious custody battle. Which, like, whose side are you on, doctor? Also, someone does win -- we, the audience, win because hello, this contentious custody battle will be great television. Celeste certainly has the support of the rest of the Monterey Five -- Jane even confronts Mary Louise face to face, fearing the woman may go after Ziggy, too. This custody battle showdown is going to be pretty awful, isn't it?

Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies

Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies

Jennifer Clasen/HBO

Celeste isn't the only one whose life is slowly crashing down around her: Renata and Gordon (Jeffrey Nordling) go to their bankruptcy court hearing! Quick side note: If anyone out there is considering making a web series called Renata Klein Walks Through Metal Detectors, know that you already have one fan! This hearing is about as humiliating as you could imagine, capped off with the perfect button of the Kleins having to hand over the keys to their Tesla and take an Uber home. Renata's entire arc in this episode really adds some layers to a character we typically love for her big, brash moments. The subtle devastation on her face when she has to hand over her wedding ring? The smile she plasters on her face as she reminds herself and her husband that Amabella's birthday will be full of happiness and magic? The speech she gives to Gordon explaining that she's trying to reconcile with the fact that all of her hopes and dreams for what she could provide Amabella are suddenly gone? These are all truly gutting moments, compounded by the reminder that Renata is a self-made woman who lost everything she worked for because of the man she decided to marry. Anyway, Renata Klein for everything.

The disco-themed costume party she throws for Amabella is, yes, the last gift she thinks she'll ever be able to give to her daughter, but it is also a gift for us, the audience. First: The entire cast is in disco costumes and it is glorious. Second: again, The Trammps in the Klein living room. Finally: We get to watch Nathan (James Tupper) and Ed (Adam Scott) get into another spat, this time while Ed is wearing a wig. A true dream! These Nathan-Ed fights are always amusing, but I have yet to figure out where exactly we're going with this, though Nathan watching Ed and Bonnie dance their little disco hearts out was ominous.

The party is memorable for a few other reasons, too. It's here, in full '70s costume, that Jane decides it's time to tell Corey (Douglas Smith) everything about her past. She's still having flashes of Perry's attack any time Corey touches her and wants to be upfront with him. He just sits with her and holds her hand and honestly, if this doesn't work out I'll probably eat a gallon of ice cream and listen to Celine Dion songs alone in the dark for awhile. Let Jane Chapman have good things, show! The party also illuminates just how dire Madeline and Ed's relationship situation is. Oh, he'll don a wig and a three-piece suit but he will! Not! Dance! With! His! Wife! Things are so strained between them -- Madeline had even suggested a couples retreat, the horror! -- she finally calls him out: If he's going to leave her, he should just do it. He might be staying in the same house and sleeping in the same bed, but he's certainly not trying to fix what's broken in his marriage. It probably doesn't help that when their daughter does a class project on opposites and chooses to draw a door and a picture of her mother to illustrate "hinged" versus "unhinged" he laughs. Things are really deteriorating over at the Mackenzie house.

Zoe Kravitz, Big Little Lies

Zoe Kravitz, Big Little Lies

Jennifer Clasen/HBO

But of course, Amabella's birthday party will mostly be remembered for how it ended: with Bonnie's mother Elizabeth (Crystal Fox) suffering a stroke and having a seizure right there in the Klein foyer as she's being handed Amabella's party favor and Renata is complimenting her on her dancing skills. Throughout the entire party, Elizabeth repeatedly remarks on the bad energy in the house. She sees Bonnie in a huddle with Celeste and Madeline and knows something isn't right. She once again touches her daughter and gets flashes of deep, dark water. So it almost makes sense when Bonnie's dad (Martin Donovan) walks into the hospital room and immediately asks his daughter if she said something to set Elizabeth off. "You know how upset she gets," he says. So, obviously, these feelings Elizabeth's getting whenever she's around Bonnie aren't a new superpower. But also, could just one of these women not be blamed for something they have no control over? JUST ONE.

But whatever Elizabeth's deal is -- empath, psychic, whatever -- I do not envy her. When she wakes in the hospital room and Bonnie comes to her side and takes her hand, she gets her most detailed vision yet: Bonnie, face down in the ocean, drowned.

Oh, and on top of all of this craziness, Detective Quinlan (Merrin Dungey) is still creeping around town. This time she pops in to say hello to Madeline and Renata while they're having coffee and makes sure Madeline knows that she knows all about her little Otter Bay Auditorium breakdown. The detective's suspicions about the Monterey Five are only growing by the day. Burn, baby, burn, indeed.

Big Little Lies airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO. Need HBO? Add it through Hulu or through Amazon.

Previously on Big Little Lies...
Season 2, Episode 1 Recap: "What Have They Done?"
Season 2, Episode 2 Recap: "Tell-Tale Hearts"
Season 2, Episode 3 Recap: "The End of the World"