HBO’s The Outsider is one tough nut to crack, something Holly Gibney quickly learns on this week’s episode. While she scores some much-needed time with key sources of the spooky saga, she treads water trying to connect the dots. Is the legendary El Coco the missing link? Let’s take it from the top.
We’re treated to a dreamy scene of the now-dead inmate courting a nice woman over a lovely breakfast. Cut to present, Holly tells Anderson the man’s name was Heath Hofsteader, and he worked at the senior center where Terry Maitland’s father lives. She doubts she’ll gain access, but she’s on the prowl regardless.
Holly follows Nurse Angela from the center, and after getting unjustly pepper sprayed, finally gets some answers. Hofsteader’s DNA was on the young girls’ bodies and his fingerprints were everywhere, but Angela can’t believe how blind she was after working with him for five years. She did think it was strange that Hofsteader came to work on a vacation day, and that he looked at her like she was a complete stranger. Holly learns Hofsteader was the nurse Terry ran into when they both slipped and fell to the floor. Like Terry’s case, witnesses say they saw Heath elsewhere that very same day, including his mom who testified he never left her side.
Jack’s out hunting again and his rash is looking like he needs a doctor! It’s bad. Like Freddy Krueger-bad, except swapping burn scars for supernatural hives.
Holly finally gets to interview Peter Maitland, but the man is mentally gone. He rambles nonsensically before saying, “It wasn’t him, you know…” (Do we, though?) “He really did fool all of you, didn’t he?” He then turns the TV volume up to one-thousand, which is PRETTY LOUD, so I guess this conversation’s over.
Holly rendezvouses with former detective Andy Katcavage (the security guard from last episode). He agrees to do some digging, but only if she’ll go to dinner with him. Sensing her discomfort, he pulls back a bit, but surprisingly she says yes. He tells her his heart is pure, and in true Holly fashion, she awkwardly laughs.
According to Andy’s crew, Hofsteader’s brother had been investigated, but ultimately ruled out before overdosing. Having lost both of her sons, Mama Hofsteader drove her car into a telephone pole. In addition, the murdered girls’ grandfather suffered a fatal stroke and their mother tried to poison herself. The fallout was “like a plague,” says Andy.
Before they part ways, Holly unexpectedly kisses him before retreating to her hotel to work. Holly is full of surprises, and Cynthia Erivo is beautifully playing her quirks and mannerisms. She’s quite the standout in this murky tale.
Holly then drops in on Angela to ask if Hofsteader traveled before his arrest (guess she doesn’t text much). Angela confirms he went to New York City because sent her a postcard. The card reads, “Met a girl, don’t tell mama.” Holly then begins looking at NYC crime reports for that time period and pulls up Maria Caneles, aka, the woman from the diner we saw in the beginning! A Google search says Maria was arrested for (surprise!) a child murder.
Hofsteader’s dead, Terry’s dead, but Maria is alive and the woman’s lawyer arranges a visit for Holly. In New York, Maria says she would never hurt a child. Holly shows her a picture of Hofsteader, and we see a between-the-sheets fling between the two, as blood trickles down Hofsteader’s back. Holly explains his case to Maria, whose situation is eerily similar. Adding to the tragedy, Maria’s father and uncle were shot dead by the child’s grandfather.
Holly asks Maria who’s responsible. “If I say his name, they’ll send me right from here to a mental hospital,” she says. “What he does can never be undone.”
Holly then visits a woman (A friend? An aunt?) who tells her about El Coco, an entity that would come for misbehaved children. “All the old cultures have a bad habit of turning truth into fairy tales. When we tell our children about El Coco, we say, ‘If you misbehave, it will take you away and eat you.’ What we should tell them is, ‘It doesn’t matter either way. It takes what it wants,'” the woman says. The entity is also known as “the grief eater;” it takes the child, but then lingers because it craves the pain of the ones left behind. “If the child is its meal, the suffering of the family is its dessert.”
Are you living for Erivo in this role? Does El Coco give you the heebie-jeebies? Drop your thoughts below!