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'Sharp Objects' Episode 7 Recap: 'Falling'

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“Sharp Objects” is a new HBO limited series that covers topics like trauma, self-harm and addiction. We’ll be reviewing each episode, and analyzing what it means for the mental health community.

Editor's Note

This post is a review of episode seven of “Sharp Objects” and contains spoilers. If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Additional warning: There are major spoilers about “Sharp Objects” ahead! Proceed with caution.

Holy moly, this episode.

It feels like the fist that was clamped together in episodes five and six has finally been released. We finally learn new information about Camille’s past, get some substantial answers about the case  — and now there’s only one episode left.

Here’s what happens:

In a dream, Camille examines Amma’s dollhouse, which is an exact replica of the huge Victorian house she grew up in. The lights on the dollhouse go on, and Camille carefully looks through all the windows into every room. A shadow passes, and she jumps awake.

When she wakes up, she realizes her mother, Adora, changed her into a white nightgown. She’s sitting in the bedroom, waiting for her to wake up. Camille insists she has to get up and work to meet her deadline, but Adora pushes her (literally) to stay in bed.

Immediately, Camille has a flashback of her mother doing this to her as a child, forcefully trying to get her to lie down and take some kind of medicine. We see Adora give adult Camille a spoonful of honey (“A little sweet before the bitter.”), but when she tries to give her the medicine, she gets up and says she has to get to work.

“Camille, will you let me wrap your ankle for you please?” Adora whispers, grabbing her swollen ankle. Camille cries out in pain. When she finally gets up to get dressed for work, Adora tells her,

Make it a short day and come right back to me. This has been coming for awhile, your health. It’s not a debt you just cancel. The body collects, Camille.

Camille slams the bathroom door, and we see a vision of her sister in the mirror.

The police chief, Bill Vickery, seems to be in a good mood. He runs into Jackie O’Neele at the store, and they have a curious exchange. (All exchanges with Jackie O’Neele seem to be curious lately…) She asks him, “How’s our girl?” and the police chief assumes she’s asking about his wife. When he says, “Jocelyn is fine, I’ll give her your regards,” she replies, “No, I meant the other one.”

Here, I can only assume she’s talking about Adora. Then, they have the following, typical Wind Gap exchange.

Chief Vickery: “Are we going to keep doing this?”

Jackie: “Or we can do what we always do around here and pretend it doesn’t exist.”

Chief Vickery: “I like that better.”

Jackie: “Do you?”

What does Jackie know about Adora, and what is the police chief in denial about?

Camille visits Amma in her room. She’s sitting in a white nightgown, playing with her dollhouse, childlike again. She tells Camille her favorite part about getting wasted is that her mom will take care of her afterward.

When Camille asserts she can take care of herself, Amma says, “I want momma. And she wants me like this.”

You can see this sparks something in Camille. She tells Amma, “Don’t do this for her. You don’t have to.”

As a side note, Amma also tells Camille that John Nash, brother of one of the murdered girls, is getting arrested today.

Detective Richard, still digging into Camille’s path, goes to a clinic. Apparently, Jackie gave him the name of a nurse who might have information about how Camille’s sister, Marian, died.

According to the nurse, Marian was “passed around” from doctor to doctor.

Different doctors, different diagnoses. Crohn’s, heart palpitations, respiratory issues, gastrointestinal issues, renal issues. All those conditions suspected, but none confirmed. The night she died, the attendant was a guy who’d never seen her before.

Finally, the nurse blurts out the words, “Munchausen’s by proxy syndrome — MBP,” as if she has been holding in the diagnosis for a decade.

Richard clearly doesn’t know what this is, because without looking up he says, “That’s what killed Marian?”

“It’s a mental illness… in adults,” the nurse says. “Munchausen’s is when you hurt yourself to get attention. Make yourself sick, everyone’s at your beck and call. Munchausen’s by proxy, on the other hand, is when you make someone else sick so you can care for them, so you can save them or try. Be seen trying.”

Now she has the detective’s attention. She’s saying this is what Adora has, and consequently, how Marian died. “Why didn’t you tell the police?” he asks her.

“I did,” the nurse replies, gravely. “And I lost my job at the hospital, after which I never heard another thing about it.”

Does the police chief actually know about this? That Adora potentially killed her own child? 

The nurse tells Richard she still has friends at the hospital where Marian died if she wanted to talk to them — but not about Marian, about the “other one.” Here, I wasn’t sure if she was talking about Camille or Amma, but considering Camille and Amma’s earlier conversation, I’m guessing Amma.

Meanwhile, the police are searching Ashley’s pool house, where John had been living. He went on a drive and hasn’t come back, she tells them. Although hesitant, the police chief eventually coaxes Ashley into giving some information about John. Although she doesn’t know where he is, she shows him the blood spots under the bed. (I’m still unsure about where this came from, to be honest.)

Adora brings Amma medicine, but of course, now any gesture of Adora’s seems like a sinister act. Perhaps inspired by Camille, Amma fights back when her mom tries to get her in bed. “I don’t want it, I don’t want it,” she says, referring to the medication.

“I’m not really sick,” she whispers. “I had a few beers last night, I’m sorry.”

Of course, Adora blames Camille — and then makes Amma feel guilty for even suggesting she feels OK. It’s awful. She says, “You don’t need me to make you feel better. You don’t need me to make you a grilled cheese… do your own laundry while you’re at it. Clean your own room. Pay your own way. Oh, and you don’t need this anymore, do you?” She picks up Amma’s dollhouse and starts to take it away.

Amma screams, “Stop it,” and gets into bed, at her mother’s whim.

The twisted way Adora uses her role as a mother makes me sick. Of course, Amma has a natural tendency to want her mom to take care of her. Adora takes this natural inclination and uses it to control her. I bet she hates Camille so much because she wasn’t able to do this with her.

“It hurts me that you don’t trust me to do the best for you,” Adora tells Amma, sitting on the bed next to her. Amma just stares at her.

Richard sits down with the police chief at the diner, but he doesn’t want to talk about the case Bill is so sure he solved. He asks him about Marian. The police chief accuses him of falling prey to gossip and says the nurse he talked to got fired for malpractice. Richard throws Bill’s words back in his face, calling what he believes to be true “ugly gossip” as well.

Camille goes to a bar a town over to look for John. The bar literally looks like a house, and there are kids on the front porch, but she finds him there. He’s already drunk, and Camille hands him a double shot of bourbon. He doesn’t look too surprised to see her, and almost laughs when she hands him the shot.

He said he wanted to have one last drink or two before he got arrested. Or that he’ll probably go into the woods to kill himself. It seems like he’s given up, acting like a man who’s accepted his fate.

Considering the situation, they have a light-hearted conversation. He asks if his sister and Camille’s sister would have been friends. “Hell no,” Camille says. “So what, your dead sister is too good for my dead sister?” John laughs.

Camille tries to get him to tell his story, to defend himself. But he won’t. He says he just wants the whole thing to be over. He goes into this fake monologue about why he killed the girls, how he did it. It’s bullshit though. He didn’t do it, but John doesn’t feel like fighting for his innocence anymore.

See, I can tell stories too. Use that one if you’d like, I truly don’t give a shit. Or how about this one? A brother misses his sister so bad, he wants to die. But that’s boring as shit, right? So spin another.

John and Camille are connected through loss. He tells her he thinks she’s beautiful, and she says, “So are you.” I thought this connection was innocent and endearing… until what happens next.

Before we get to that, Detective Richard goes to the hospital to look at more files. Now, we see Amma’s name on medical records, and they start from when she was young. Apparently, she was on a feeding tube. After remaining calm this whole time, Richard finally lets out a “Jesus Christ.”

Amma’s friends stop by the house, but Adora tells them that Amma needs to rest and that they shouldn’t come back.

In what starts as an innocent question, Amma asks her mom, “Do you think I won’t grow up? Is that why you want me to stay little? So I’ll be like Marian?”

“You are like Marian,” Adora says.

“No, I’m not as good,” Amma says, “I can never be as good as someone who’s dead.”

I can never be as good as someone who’s dead.

Adora insists that’s fever talk, gives Amma more medication, and takes away her second cell phone.

Camille brings John to a motel so he can sober up. But his car was spotted, so the police chief and Detective Richard are on their way. Ignorant of this, John sees Camille’s self-harm scars and asks if he can look.

“Nobody sees,” she tells him.

“I do,” he says. He starts undressing her. “Let me see you,” he keeps whispering. He reads the words on her body out loud. Then, they have sex. I must have audibly made a sound of disappointment at Camille, but at the same time, I can understand it. It’s how she connects with people, and at that moment, she felt close to John. But, still! I don’t have to tell you this won’t end well.

While they’re lying in bed together, John tells Camille the only person who cared about his sister was her mom. John said Adora kept coming back and coming back, even when the girls would fight her. “I never let her solve me,” Camille says, “Maybe I should have.”

Unfortunately, right at this moment, while they’re still naked, the cops bust through the door, Detective Richard and all. They arrest John while Camille covers herself with the blankets.

When they take John away, Richard lingers, staring at Camille as she rushes to get her pants on. This is the most shook up I’ve seen him. “This room fucking stinks of you,” he tells her. When she tries to defend John, he says they found Natalie’s blood under his bed. (Did they actually prove it was Natalie’s blood, or is he just saying that?)

“You and I have been jerking each other off,” he tells her. “Back on Earth, it’s the family, Camille. It’s always the fucking family.”

Richard says he’s been studying her, trying to figure out what she’s been hiding. “I don’t think you’re bad,” he says to her when Camille begs him not to go. “I think one bad thing happened to you, and you blame the rest of your shitty life on it. People really buy it, your sad story. But really you’re just a drunk and a slut.”

Ouch. Ugh. Camille takes in these words like poison. You can almost see them absorbing into her body.

Before he leaves though, Richard leaves Marian’s medical forms in Camille’s car, including autopsy requests with the word “denied” stamped on them. Because they were all requests from Jackie O’Neele, Camille heads to her house to talk to her.

Jackie’s house is just as I imagined it. It’s glamorous, with a huge portrait of herself over the fireplace. She makes Camille a drink and offers her a pill, rattling off all the things she’s been diagnosed with, including hypochondria. (The irony is not lost on her.) “I hurt is all,” she says.

Camille finally asks her about the medical forms she found. “What were you looking for?” she asks her.

Instead of answering, Jackie asks Camille what she remembers about her sister’s funeral.

“Marian looked like an angel,” Jackie says, “Your mother never looked more beautiful than that day. She cried and cried, and then she burned her.”

Camille is surprised. She starts to freak out, seeing visions of a woman in white luring a girl into the woods. Jackie continues, in her own kind of wisdom:

You don’t like my bloodies [referring to the Bloody Mary she served her]. That’s cuz they’re shitty. I know. But every time I ask you to drink it, you do. Why is that? Because it’s easier. It was easier for Marian. You made it hard. Hard on yourself, hard on Adora. Marian it was easier. She would just lie back and take it.

“And you knew?” Camille asks, slowly realizing what she’s insinuating. “And you just let it happen.”

Jackie says no one would believe her, and Camille fires back, “No wonder you’re sick.” In a rare moment of anger, Jackie screams, “God damn it, I did what I could,” as Camille runs away.

Camille calls her boss at the newspaper. She can’t even get her words out. Finally, breaking down, she lets out: “My mother did it. My mother did it.” He tells her to come home, but she won’t listen. “She’s doing it again, and I need to take care of it.” She hangs up on him.

The police chief stops Amma’s friends to ask them where Amma is. She’s sick, they tell him. The chief tells them to watch out for drunk drivers because “he’ll hit you before he sees you.”

“Or she,” one of the girls says. “Don’t be sexist, chief.”

Our rating: 

Damn, a lot happened in this episode — but it was exactly what I needed from the series. So much is explained, but enough is left out that I can’t wait to see what happens in the finale. Something to look out for — so far they’ve done a compassionate job with Camille’s mental health. It would be disappointing if all of the sudden Adora is painted as “crazy.” Not that they must have compassion towards Adora, who has always been a villain and will continue to be a villain, but I hope they can explain her behavior in a way that doesn’t stigmatize. In the real world “Munchausen’s by proxy” is actually considered a rare form of child abuse, and is really hard to diagnose. I feel like I can trust this show, though, so we’ll see what happens.

Discussion question:

In “Sharp Objects,” the town seems to protect Adora, even though she is clearly abusive. If you have personal experience, what signs of childhood abuse do adults typically miss? Why do you think they miss these signs?

Originally published: August 21, 2018
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