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Only Murders In The Building recap: A pretty perfect penultimate episode

"Thirty" tracks the final half hour of Ben Glenroy's life in a hysterical and even moving way

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Selena Gomez, Martin Short, and Steve Martin in OMITB
Selena Gomez, Martin Short, and Steve Martin in OMITB
Photo: Patrick Harbron/Hulu

Only Murders In The Building hones in on a crucial part of solving a mystery in season three’s ninth episode. The half hour is all about the satisfying fun of putting together puzzle pieces and discovering, step-by-step, what exactly went down. The Hulu comedy hasn’t felt much like a suspense show lately—not in a bad way, of course—but that is its genre. “Thirty” does an excellent job of reminding us that OMITB is an enticing murder mystery. It’s often predictable but still comforting, primarily because of the leading trio. We’re more invested in Mabel (Selena Gomez), Charles (Steve Martin), and Oliver (Martin Short) resolving a case over who actually did it. And “Thirty” goes all-in on that.

Who else was grinning from ear to ear when Mabel finally said on her podcast, “The besties are back!” Indeed they are. Now, is it a little too soon for Oliver to jump into the action after he was in the hospital for five days? Yes. I was surprised OMITB didn’t make a big deal of it. It’s the man’s second heart attack in a span of weeks! (Where is his son during his health ordeal this time?) But nothing will stop Oliver from proving Loretta (Meryl Streep), a.k.a. the love of his life, didn’t kill Ben (Paul Rudd). She’s in jail now, so the trio is motivated to get her out in time for her arraignment that evening. In basically half a day, they successfully put together the thirty-minute timeline of what Ben was up to from his arrival at Gooseberry Theater on opening night to going onstage.


“Thirty” is an immensely effective episode because of the trio’s banter, yes, but also because of the direction and editing. Cherien Dabis gets to helm some of OMITB’s most outstanding installments, and she always delivers. The creative choice to place Mabel, Charles, and Oliver (and therefore us, the audience) in the same scene as Ben, witnessing his conversations closely as they trace his movements, makes this one truly sing.


The trio uses the secretly recorded footage of Detective Williams’ (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) interrogations from episode eight as a starting point. One by one, they account for all the suspects’ interactions with Ben that night, in this particular order:

- KT (Allison Guinn) yelled at him for being tardy.
- Cliff (Wesley Taylor) offered him Schmackery’s cookies.
- Dickie (Jeremy Shamos) confessed he’s quitting after Ben caught him in a conversation about it with Loretta.
- Ben fought with Loretta about it, then bumped into Charles, who punched him smack in the face.
- Donna (Linda Emond) met him right after, encouraging him to do whatever it takes to make the night a success (like perhaps giving in and eating a cookie that’s left in his room if it makes him feel better?).
- Tobert (Jesse Williams) arrives to film behind-the-scenes footage—but a frustrated Ben essentially fires him.
- Joy (Andrea Martin) goes in to fix his makeup, leaving a red lipstick behind that was used to write fucking pig on the mirror.

Whew. For some reason, they think everyone is accounted for now, but that’s simply not true. We still don’t know what Tobert was up to or what his relationship with Ben was. Mabel’s feelings are blinding her from an obvious suspect, and it doesn’t track. Plus, what about his understudy Jonathan (Jason Veasey) and his co-stars like Kimber (Ashley Park)? Doesn’t everyone warrant a second look if they want to clear Loretta’s name?

Perhaps an explanation will come next week. At this point, it’s clear OMITB is pointing the finger at Donna and/or Cliff with all the cookie foreshadowing as we head into the finale. The pair could’ve read Maxine’s (Noma Dumezweni) shredded negative review of Death Rattle, which heavily criticizes Ben. But would they straight-up scheme to kill him instead of, I don’t know, firing him since they’re the producers? Or did they think murder was the only way to get rid of him? The answers are due in episode ten, “Opening Night.”

Linda Emond and Wesley Taylor in OMITB
Linda Emond and Wesley Taylor in OMITB
Photo: Patrick Harbron/Hulu

With the mystery stuff aside, I do want to dig into the emotional tangents of “Thirty.” They take far too long to figure out Ben wasn’t talking to a secret lover in his dressing room. As everyone envisaged, he’s passionately chatting to the sugary treat he’s supposed to avoid on his diet. Of course, he doesn’t know the cookie is probably sprinkled with rat poison when he swallows it whole. I knew the reveal would, I just didn’t expect it to be such a captivating scene, thanks to Rudd’s absolutely ace performance here. He finds a complex human side to Ben, who has been a one-note douchebag so far. “Thirty” isn’t told exclusively from his POV, so there are still gaps in his personality and past, but it’s helpful to see him knowing he doesn’t have anyone to lean on.


Ben’s unraveling is phenomenally put together as Mabel, Charles, and Oliver get a front-row seat (sort of) to him breaking down in front of the mirror. Rudd’s facial expressions are astounding as he goes from an orgasm-like joy after eating the cookie to instant, bitter regret at the state of his life. He’s anxious and jittery before making his Broadway debut, sure, but he’s isolated everyone he loves by this point. No wonder he’s vulnerable, confused, and on edge. The only people he seemingly relies on are the five sweet old ladies he’s in a sewing group with. He stayed up all night with them making the infamous hankies for his crew. And he even saved them seats at the theater, leaving them a tense voicemail before he needs to go up to perform, right as Oliver knocks on his door.

OMITB could’ve shown this aspect of Ben sooner to make us care a little bit more about this season’s murder victim, but as I said earlier, the show isn’t about that. It’s about Mabel, Oliver, and Charles, the unexpected goofball BFFs. “Thirty” cements that further because they’re clearly overjoyed to be working together again, none more so than Mabel. Her childhood dream of marrying Josh Hartnett and having two kids isn’t going to come true. But her current birthday wish to spend the day with them, poring over clues, manifests perfectly. I’m relieved.


Stray observations

  • I let out a big “aww” at Oliver saying to his pals, “Can we take a moment to appreciate how magical this is?” when they start recording again. It’s really fucking sweet, alright?
  • Another incredibly nice scene is Oliver and Charles singing “Happy Birthday” to Mabel as she blows out a single candle placed on a dip.
  • Oliver referring to his dips as his naughty little mistress...sure, why not?
  • Mabel was extra sarcastic in this episode, and I loved every second of it. “I’ll take this one. Joy’s mom is still alive?”
    “Yeah, I’ve got a bucket of menthol.”
    “Why does it always have to be a groom?”
  • The reference to Father Of The Bride, and actually getting Steve Martin to say it, was hella cute.
  • Are we supposed to believe a wedding dress meant for Joy that belonged to her mother easily fits Mabel?
  • Who knew Martin Short and Meryl Streep would turn out to be one of this year’s sweetest TV couples? That brief scene at the end with them in the courthouse is utter perfection. The chemistry is top-notch.
  • Going into the finale, my top suspect right now is actually Tobert. And I’m buying into the theory of two killers: Someone tried to poison him, and someone else pushed him down the elevator shaft at the Arconia. What are your biggest suspicions before next week’s reveal?

Stream Only Murders In The Building: Hulu