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1.03 - "Smile, or Go to Jail"

This week’s episode was a lot more coherent than the last. It had better editing and better writing, though they have started to subdue their cases a bit. There weren't much scenes from the flash forward, but the writers are starting to focus on the main murder story (Lila Stangard, not Sam Keating, though I think that the two murders are very connected).

The episode starts with the students at the scene of the crime. Laurel was looking over the body, Wes was comforting a relieved looking Rebecca (for someone who looked very distraught herself last week, she was pretty chummy with Wes in her short scene). Michaela was cowering on the floor in panic when Connor entered the room. He was telling her to pull herself together while Laurel tried to calm her down. The scene later on shifts to Michaela in the arms of Aiden, her fiance, who was in town for a visit. They vaguely talk of their future together before she gets a call to head to the office.

Because of her tardiness, it allowed her a chance to introduce Aiden to her colleagues. She immediately finds out that Connor and Aiden were affiliated, with Connor hinting that her fiance might have kept some secrets from her. They all head to the station to pick up a Paula Murphy, who was charged for prostitution in the park. However, their case turns when fingerprints ID’ed her as Elena Aguilar, a wanted fugitive for a bombing that took place in 1994, killing innocent people. 

The case seemingly to be airtight, Connor voiced out that there was no way they were going to win the case, immediately forfeiting the trophy. Does the trophy have any other relevance besides being the murder weapon? The team proceeds to work on the case, with basically every word against them. Her fellow ex-associates wanted her to do time, and the only way they were going to win the case is if they find the leader, Gabriel Shaw, and have him say on court that their client had nothing to do with the whole incident. 

They eventually tracked him down. On a meeting with Shaw, it was evident that Elena and Shaw still harbored strong feelings for each other, with Elena voicing out the thrill that she missed even when she was with her family. Her thoughts had sent a few people in the car thinking, particularly Annalise and Michaela. 

Michaela’s life was about to unfold further when Connor explicitly shared that he and Aiden had carnal relations, much to the chagrin of the couple. The bar scene also sets the stage for the Laurel-Frank relationship to begin, which would probably go to play in the succeeding episodes. The couple then argue about the incident, with her accusing him of lying and his defense going with choosing not to tell her because there was nothing to tell. To be honest, I thought that the fight was insignificant because the incident happened years ago. I guess withholding such information is crucial to the relationship, but to let it swell up that big? I guess it does matter, especially with Michaela and Aiden’s career tracks in life. 

The trial for Elena’s case begin, and Annalise got in a surprise when Gabriel Shaw went to the stand and blamed Elena for the whole event. She had then berated that he was lying, and demanded to know what deal he got for saying those words on the stand. He replied that he was getting an early release if he helps put Elena in jail. The trial was all but over, until they find out that Elena has fled. Her trial was put on hold until she was found. However, we see that Elena has boarded a bus to leave town, and when she sat down on her seat, she took someone’s hand. The camera spans and reveals Gabriel Shaw, with the two sharing a kiss as the bus left the station. Prior to that, however, Michaela has discovered that both Elena and Shaw were in contact with each other after the visitation, and had planned the whole thing together.

Back to the Lila Stangard case, two suspects were arrested last week with one of them posting bail. Because of the student’s status as an athlete, the school president has asked Annalise to represent the football player, to which she had asked for some time. She immediately called her ex-boyfriend, Detective Nate Lahey about the alibi of her husband. Despite being on probation, he does what Annalise asks and snoops on the whereabouts of Sam Keating the night of Lila’s murder. He was expected to give a talk in Yale, but according to a colleague, he didn’t show up. His car was also recorded to have left hotel parking at the night of the murder, but hasn’t returned until the following morning. When Annalise prods him again, he had lied and told her that his alibi was solid, allowing her to rule out her husband as a suspect.

Meanwhile Wes was trying in his own way to help Rebecca out. When the football player presented himself as their potential client and blamed Rebecca for the murder, he pretended to be a lawyer to talk to Rebecca. He found out that the cellphone she hid in his apartment was Lila’s, and he informed her that she was going to take all the blame when Rebecca had screamed that Wes wasn’t a lawyer. When Annalise picked him up at the station and reprimanded him, Wes went on a heartfelt tirade that it was unfair that Rebecca wasn’t going to get represented because she was unfortunate. 

Going back to the flash forwards, when the group was deciding about what to do with the body, they were in heated debate about getting caught, when Laurel had suggested that they use the ongoing bonfire as their alibi. Hence, the title of this week’s episode, which Connor practically hisses to Michaela because she was pretty much panic-stricken the whole time. When they were packing up the body in Connor’s car, Michaela realized that her engagement ring was missing, a crucial detail that can implicate her (and ruin her alibi) when it is found. 

The episode ends with Annalise rewarding Wes the statue, and representing Rebecca in the trial. However, as they were headed to talk to their client, it was revealed that Rebecca had already confessed to the crime. 

THOUGHTS

It’s still too early to call but the episodes seem to be veering away from case files and into that one murder trial, which I’m certain affects the murder of Sam Keating. The coherence of the episode has gotten better compared to the mess of last week's, and the plot certainly thickens. There are some details that the show continually repeats, like the statue, but it might just be because of consistency. I also think that in some point, the show is going to start exploiting Bonnie's attraction to Sam, but I'm not certain how that'll come to play. 

The writing has certainly improved, and the editing was much better. While I'm not fond of Michaela's story line (she's the good person of the group, but would her panicking be caused by her actually being the one hitting Sam on the head?), the episode showed another power play between her and Connor, and how Connor could easily get to her. Hopefully by next week, we get to figure out what's in Lila's cellphone, and that couldn't be the only major clue of the plot. 

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