ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING Season 3, Episode 3: “Grab Your Hankies” for a Showstopper
Writing a musical takes more than a day, but that’s not going to stop Oliver from trying. The third episode of Only Murders in the Building, “Grab Your Hankies”, begins with the director trying to salvage his mess of a show by writing some showtunes.
News flash: it’s not going well. Jonathan and Harold are trying to help but they don’t love the songs and keep falling asleep. Harold suggests bringing on his cousin at State Farm to help sponsor the production. Oliver is writing notes on take-out menus. It’s all a sloppy mess driven by a man who is grasping at straws just to keep the lights on. Is it worth it? Who cares…Broadway is calling and Oliver just knows he can make it work.
Now that it’s a musical, it’s been rebranded at Death Rattle Razzle (Fosse-esque key art work included)! He pitches it to the lead producers and Cliff is into it but Donna would rather be Amagansett sober (read: drunk in the Hamptons). You see, what Oliver needs is a showstopper, according to Donna. A song so powerful that a theatre kid hears it and it becomes like a drug. Someone like Debbie from Duluth who “becomes an addict from the first second she hears it during Girl’s Night Out at The Calorie Pit” and then spends all of her money on a trip to New York City just to sit in the back of the rear balcony to hear it sung live.
Side bar: This is such a little moment within the story of the episode but wow, give Linda Emond all the awards. Her entire monologue is both a testament to the power of theatre across the country and how bleak this industry is. Fans do really fall in love with a song from the first few notes or lyrics; we’ve all got one. Mine is Dorothy Collins’ version of “Losing My Mind” and, yes, I took a bus to see Bernadette Peters in the revival of Follies when I was living in Boston just to see her perform that one song. Those kinds of shows, they risky ones with no clear hit songs for viral moments or karaoke tracks, are dying because musicals are expensive to make. Producers are loathe to sign a check in the best of circumstances, which, fair, but also where’s the risk?!
Thankfully, Donna relents and Cliff rejoices (he loves musicals), and they give the OK to continue writing. Oliver wants three months to prepare for the next meeting. He gets 3 days but hey, if he wrote 2 musicals in one night in the ‘70s (or was it one musical in two nights?), surely he can capture the magic again.
Meanwhile, Charles and Mabel are in podcast land, looking at a suspect board. Having a Broadway show be the world in which is murder happens is an incredible way to get a lot of potential murderers. It’s so smart, and because this is the theatre, you just know everyone is going to have big personalities. This is good TV, people! After some general musings, Mabel cames up with their next step. If Ben was holding a hankie when he was found dead, presumably he grabbed it from whomever pushed him in the elevator shaft! Off Charles goes to chat with the cast.
Of course, Charles is not subtle at all trying to get his fellow thespians to discuss the hankies. They’re too preoccupied with how horrible the show is, anyway. Kimber feels weird about doing a show without Ben. Trying to stay on the cast’s good side, Charles says he can relate and doesn’t want to diminish their grief. After all, the pain of knowing some who died is felt by all, no matter how awful the person who died might be. For example, Stalin’s wife, who surely has a name. Charles almost completely loses the plot but Oliver thankfully comes in to announce that Death Rattle is now a musical, sending the cast into a tizzy. Even later, during rehearsals, everyone is too focused on how bad this show is to realize a killer is lurking in their midsts! Charles sees an in when all of the cast wants to bond over how much they hate Oliver, so he has them over, where they decide two things: 1) they’re not going to do the musical version of Death Rattle and 2) they’ll all bring the hankies tomorrow.
Meanwhile back at the Arconia, Mabel, who has been banned from sleuthing at rehearsals from an increasingly manic Oliver, bumps into Tobert in the elevator on her way to Ben’s penthouse apartment (previously occupied by Sting and Amy Schumer). They’re both clearly looking for evidence from the night Ben died but neither one is willing to trust the other just yet. When Dickie comes in to pack up his dead brother’s things, they have to hide in an armoire and wait it out.
Sitting in the dark, in between deliberate name jabs and elephant safari anecdotes, Tobert reveals his camera was recording Ben’s dressing room the night he died, so that’s what he’s looking for. Mabel manages to swipe the drive but needs a password, so the next day, she finds Tobert at a cafe and they watch it together. The footage shows a never-seen person in Ben’s dressing room. Desperate, and maybe a little horny, Ben asks whoever is there to leave. They are bad news!
Despite some initial prickliness, the documentarian and podcast co-host decide to work together—for the time being—to figure out who this mystery person is. At this point, I think it’s fair to say Jesse Williams and Selena Gomez have scorching chemistry! I hope Tobert is not the killer… a horrible name can make a guy crazy, but can a drive to deliver a blockbuster documentary make him even crazier?! We shall see.
Meanwhile, Oliver has gone full villain after learning that Loretta has won a part on a network TV spin off of Grey’s Anatomy! When Dickie, Ben’s brother/Loretta’s manager now, says they start filming next week in LA, the director reminds her that she is under contract and can’t leave (booooo!!!!). It’s a startling shift, if not unsurprising, given Oliver’s mania while attempting to keep the show alive and the heartbreak on Loretta’s face is palpable.
Of course, Oliver finally sees the error of his ways, leading to both an apology to Loretta and an incredible presentation of the Nanny’s Lullaby that saves the show. It’s a heart-rending number that might not be the showstopper Donna was looking for, but Cliff doesn’t care. They’re going to do the musical! We wrap up the episode with Loretta deciding to stay with the musical, which is unsurprising even though I am sad to see her say goodbye to those inevitable sweet, sweet royalty checks. But more importantly: Kimber doesn’t have her hankie!!! DUN DUN DUNNNNNN
Treading the Boards
-Mabel’s version of Oliver being sassy towards Charles is an A+ effort.
-Grey’s Anatomy: New Orleans: Family Burn Unit is exactly the kind of show I would watch in my college dorm with friends and we’d have weekly watch parties.
-I was not emotionally prepared for how good the Nanny’s Lullaby would be, which is actually called “Look For the Light” and is written by Sara Bareilles. When Ashley Park joined Meryl on that stage, I got the feels and welled up a little bit, proving the episode title was indeed warranted.
-Part of me wonders if Ben was yelling at a man. Just a hunch!
-It’s too soon for Kimber to end up being the actual murderer, but her narration at the end of the episode about the competitive nature of theatre also hit close to home on top of Donna’s showstopper monologue.
-It’s no surprise the musical numbers are good even when they’re bad, as this season also features original music written by Pasek & Paul, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and Michael R. Jackson.
Only Murders in the Building Season 3 is now streaming on Hulu.