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Big Little Lies Recap: Renata Klein's Tea Party Crusade

Renata goes rogue to help Celeste

Maggie Fremont

As if Bonnie Carlson (Zoë Kravitz) needed some extra guilt heaped on her already overflowing plate of the stuff, her mother opens up her mouth to say one of the few things she's managed to get out since suffering her stroke at Amabella's (Ivy George) disco party extravaganza and those words are "Kill me." Not exactly the comforting thing you want to hear from your ailing mother, you know?

Not that Elizabeth (Crystal Fox) really seems like the "comforting" type. We already got the hint that Bonnie and Elizabeth's relationship was complicated, but this week's episode of Big Little Lies, "Kill Me," sheds a little more light on their past. We know Elizabeth had (has?) a drinking problem, but she also suffered from some rage issues that led to physical and emotional abuse during Bonnie's childhood. The Howard house was not a very happy place. When Bonnie's dad swings by his daughter's yoga studio to talk about moving Elizabeth to a different hospital, her response is drenched in sarcasm -- she can't believe he's decided to get involved now. Apparently, Martin (Martin Donovan) wasn't much help as Bonnie suffered at the hands of her mother, although he sees it differently. He says he tried his best to protect his daughter. Just when you think the Wrights have a lock on Monterey's most messed up family, here come the Howards. You know what? Instead of thinking about how I could most definitely see Bonnie taking a pillow to Elizabeth's face to grant her death wish, I'll just focus on the fact that there are "yoga" classes where people simply lie on the floor and sing classic rock ballads and no one told me about it. If that's what exercise is, sign this girl up!

​Zoe Kravitz, Big Little Lies

Zoe Kravitz, Big Little Lies

Jennifer Clasen/HBO

Hey, speaking of smothering people with pillows: Mary Louise (Meryl Streep) is still wreaking havoc in Monterey! Her petition to win custody of her grandsons is fully in motion, and she and Celeste (Nicole Kidman) have their first meeting with the family court judge (played by Becky Ann Baker) who will be deciding their fate. It, um, doesn't go well. Mary Louise wants to make a statement about how she doesn't think Celeste is a bad mother and this isn't some "angry mother-in-law" thing. It's all about those boys! Mary Louise is so transparent is makes my skin crawl. If you ever wondered where Perry (Alexander Skarsgård) got his manipulation skills, look no further than his dear old mom. Just because Mary Louise's statement is an obvious charade to win over the judge (BTW, the judge deems Mary Louise's statement inappropriate and ends the meeting -- so at least we know this judge isn't susceptible to these kinds of ploys) doesn't mean Celeste isn't upset by it. Her lawyer, Katie Richmond (Poorna Jagannathan), advises her not to feed into their attempts to rile her up; they want to make her seem unhinged, so any reaction to Mary Louise works in their favor. Still, Celeste isn't loving her lawyer's tactic of sitting by silently.

Celeste decides to talk to Renata (Laura Dern), since she's the one who recommended Katie. You want to know why I love Renata so much? It's because her first reaction to hearing about Celeste's problems is thinking that she should be the one to talk to Mary Louise. She'll convince her to drop the case. She's Renata Klein. Bless this woman and her confidence. Even after Celeste astutely says "thanks but no thanks," even after she learns that she's been cut from that "women in power" piece now that she's not a woman "on top" -- a truly devastating blow in the face of all she's lost thus far -- Renata moves forward with her plan to handle the Mary Louise problem on her own. Seriously, the ovaries on this woman! And although Renata inviting Mary Louise over for tea to talk "mother to mother" makes very little sense, it does give us an excellent Renata-Mary Louise showdown in which ML takes jabs at Renata in her very special way. You know, things like wondering why she doesn't have any furniture in her so-very-large house or pointing out that being bankrupt must be especially hard for a mother who gave up spending time with her child in order to work and is now left with nothing to show for that sacrifice. Renata does not pull a Celeste and slap that woman across the face, and it's honestly the most restraint Renata Klein has ever shown.

Laura Dern, Big Little Lies

Laura Dern, Big Little Lies

Jennifer Clasen/HBO

Needless to say, Renata's Tea Party Crusade to Stop the Evil Mother-in-Law is not successful (it does, however, upset Renata so much that she pulls Amabella out of school for a mother-daughter pool day). The custody battle is still on, and a court appointed psychiatrist will meet with the twins, with Celeste, and with anyone else the judge wants to hear from in order to make a decision. Not helping Celeste's cause is an incident at school in which Max and Josh (Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti) beat up a bully who is messing with Ziggy, telling him he's a mistake and pointing out to all of them that their dad a rapist. All four boys end up getting suspended. Celeste sits with her boys and tries to explain that violence is not the answer, but clearly these boys need more than a conversation about this -- especially when one of them tells their mom to "stop being such a bitch" in the middle of it. Are these two still in therapy? Please say yes.

Celeste finally tells them what's going on with Mary Louise and they don't take it well. They want to stay with her -- later they'll tell her they want to protect her, which, again, therapy, please. Celeste handles the whole thing with them pretty well, considering. She doesn't want them to lie about their grandmother, simply to tell the truth about where they want to live. Celeste may regret that choice! She and her lawyer meet with Mary Louise and her lawyer (Denis O'Hare), who offer her a shared custody compromise: Celeste will have the boys during the week, and Mary Louise will have them on the weekends. LOL, that's so cute. That won't be happening, Celeste informs her mother-in-law by way of expletives.

Of course Celeste wouldn't take that deal. She'd rather go to court. What she wasn't thinking about, though, what her lawyer reminds her, is that once Celeste is on the stand and under oath, she's fair game for any type of questioning. Including questions about how Perry died. So that's not great.

She signals the Monterey Five for a super-secret beach meeting to let them know they all could be in trouble. They're all on the witness list, and oh yeah, her lawyer discovered that Detective Quinlan (Merrin Dungey) is feeding Mary Louise's lawyer information. The party line remains the same: They need to stick together. But something interesting is going on. People are starting to crack, and not everyone is convincing when they once again agree to keep their secret. Could one of the Monterey Five be thinking about defecting? I mean, probably Bonnie, right?

Celeste's custody case isn't the only drama going down in Monterey. Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) has miraculously gotten Ed (Adam Scott) to agree to attend that couples retreat. They're there for about a half an hour before they deem the organized hugging too weird and get out of there. It's not an entirely unproductive day, however. During the car ride home, the two open up to each other in a genuinely honest way. Ed knows he was a practical choice for Madeline, that she knew he would be a stable provider and a good father and that's why she married him -- and he's OK with that. He's not OK, however, with being married to a woman he can't trust. Madeline can't promise that she won't make more mistakes in their relationship, but she does promise that infidelity will never be one of them. It's all very refreshing guys! Maybe we shouldn't knock that organized hugging so quickly. Just kidding, we definitely should knock it. Too bad we later see Ed cozying up to Tori New Boobs (Sarah Sokolovic) in a bar. One moment of honesty might not be enough to save Madeline and Ed's marriage.

Jane (Shailene Woodley) is also dealing with a complicated relationship at the moment. She and Corey (Douglas Smith) have some one-on-one time in which it seems like Jane is finally ready to have sex with him, but when things start to go in that direction, you can tell she is forcing it. She breaks down into tears. She just isn't ready. Corey holds her and is generally pretty great with everything, including a lake kayaking trip with Jane, Ziggy (Iain Armitage), Celeste, and her boys on one of their suspension days. Oh Corey, you seem like the best thing to happen to Jane in such a long time... which is why it really stings when Bonnie, on her routine sojourn to the police station, sees Corey walk out of the station and get in his car. If this dude turns out too good to be true, well, just smother me with a pillow, I guess.

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"

Season 2, Episode 4 Recap: "She Knows"