Ah, love, a perpetual problem all humans must face. What are we without this overwhelming feeling? How do we know it’s real? Can we trust the person we’re with? As Joy (Andrea Martin) points out in her voiceover during this week’s Only Murders In The Building, “Is it possible you’re sleeping next to a lunatic or a liar? Sure it is.” (Really makes you think.) Episode five, appropriately titled “Ah, Love!,” dwells on this confounding phenomenon and how it clouds our judgment of the people we think we know well. Looking at it through the POV of three true-crime aficionados is extra fascinating, even if Charles (Steve Martin), Oliver (Martin Short), and Mabel (Selena Gomez) make some questionable decisions in this really fun half-hour.
Now, naturally, all three are still dealing with past relationship traumas. Charles’ season-one girlfriend is an imprisoned, deranged killer who tried to burn down Arconia, and his other ex abandoned him after six years together on a family Caribbean cruise. Oliver found out in season two that his beloved wife cheated on him with Teddy Dimas (Nathan Lane) before she died. Mabel is apparently “just friends” with Oscar (Aaron Dominguez) now, and Alice (Cara Delevingne) dumped her for accusing her of murder.
They’re clearly weary of romance after they started their podcast and because of their incessant involvement in a little thing called murder. In the past year, they’ve seen multiple dead bodies and suspected people they know to be killers. They’ve turned it into a lucrative job, and OMITB is a lighthearted comedy, but it’s still haunting to trust someone new after witnessing what they have. I already wonder how those with a true-crime career function normally considering they break down gory real-life cases every week. (I get spooked and all I do is voraciously listen.) So it’s interesting that OMITB attempts to understand this too.
“Ah, Love!” doesn’t go as deep as I would’ve liked, but it’s a delightful half-hour nonetheless: Jane Lynch is back, Mabel goes on a hot date with
Dr. Jackson Avery Tobert, and Meryl Streep blows doobie smoke into Martin Short’s mouth. Who are we to complain about any of that? There isn’t much progress on the case, but we’re only halfway through the season (!). OMITB has five more episodes to unravel Ben’s (Paul Rudd) death. So it’s a welcome change of pace to see our trio engage in fun activities. It’s a little unfathomable why Oliver and Mabel still voluntarily go out with two people who are on their murder board. In the words of a Gomez song, the heart wants what it wants, I guess.
It would explain why Mabel sticks around with Tobert (Jesse Williams) after he tricks her into a fancy dinner by lying about trailing Jonathan (Jason Veasey). The date starts with a conversation about random topics: drink of choice, favorite weather, favorite time of day. (Her answers are mezcal old fashioned, “rain,” and night.) It ends with them hooking up in her apartment. The intriguing part happens during dinner when Tobert questions her bond with Charles and Oliver. (“What do you guys even talk about?”) He’s the second person to do this after Cinda last week. OMITB is pointedly saying Mabel doesn’t have anyone else to hold onto. Are they planting seeds for something bigger or is Tobert just being inquisitive? Or maybe he’s genuinely concerned.
Speaking of being concerned, let’s talk about Loretta because boy has she piqued my interest more than usual now that we are learning her backstory. After her plan to cook a meal for Oliver goes awry—why did she make him solid food when all she needed was dips?—they embark on a ferry ride (a confirmed great spot for a first date). We learn they ran in the same circles back in the ’70s when she was trying to be a Broadway star. He never noticed her, but she noticed him. Hmm. And how long exactly has she kept her eye on him?
Oliver and Loretta steamily share a joint, a kiss, and conversations about Ben before returning to her place. In the glowy haze of sex, everything’s looking good to Oliver, even his chipped tooth. It’s not till he snoops when Loretta’s showering that he finds a whole scrapbook in her bookshelf dedicated to her deceased co-star. Why the hell does she have it? Is it actually hers? Maybe there was some credibility to Ben accusing her of stalking him. On opening night, the two got into a physical fight over it until Charles intervened, punching Ben in the face.
Streep is toeing the line so perfectly between innocent and cynical. If OMITB needs a red herring, there’s no one better than her. It helps that her outfits and hairstyle are so cutesy, complete with those braids. Yet there’s a bit of a bad-girl mean streak hidden behind the tenderness. It comes from being jaded over the years but doesn’t fill in all the blanks on her agenda with Ben. Oliver is quite shaken. It was already messy date with Loretta because the podcast hosts were investigating the Death Rattle Dazzle cast, but now both his worlds are colliding in the worst way. Again: How are they comfortable trusting anyone, let alone the folks they’re accusing of murder?
We do find out about Joy’s agenda. If we’re to believe her, she went into Ben’s makeup room to fix his face after Charles punched him. Her lipstick fell out of her purse, and whoever threatened Ben used it to write “fucking pig” on his mirror—the same words Loretta uses to describe him, too, by the way. So she’s in the clear now, but she is upset about Charles accusing her of murder. You know, that’s fair. She breaks their engagement by the end, so she doesn’t learn of the breakthrough he’s had while she was out cake-tasting alone.
The moment of truth for him arrives via his stunt double and close friend, Sazz Pataki (Jane Lynch, welcome back!), who plays a game with Charles to help him. She makes him realize he’s afraid of commitment to joy (lower case), not Joy (upper case). He doesn’t think he deserves someone effusive like her. She’s known him for three decades and still wants to marry him: “Now isn’t that the behavior of a psychopath?” But no, it’s his inability to let someone in. He befriended Mabel and Oliver but that’s about it. When he tried to get close to Jan (Amy Ryan), well, we all know how it ended. It’s nice that Sazz is the one to make him introspect. Lynch is such a superb actor here, mirroring everything Martin does without missing a beat.
Plus, the excellent use of characters like Sazz, Teddy, and Will (Ryan Broussard) proves that Oliver and Charles have lived a rich life and still have other people in their corner. Mabel is kind of floating by. She doesn’t visit her mother in New Jersey as much, and her own aunt is kicking her out of the Arconia. For her sake, I hope Tobert isn’t using her for his next big documentary (like Alice did for her art project). And for my sake, I hope Jesse Williams sticks around. (What, I’m a Grey’s Anatomy defender—sue me.)
- Joy moves fast when it comes to wedding planning. In a matter of days, she’s set up a cake tasting at Magnolia Bakery. Kind of scary.
- I don’t know why Mabel was so hellbent on figuring out why Jonathan was meeting with Ben’s doctor in secret. He’s probably doing what most actors do: pay someone to keep them looking fit and young.
- In case you were wondering, Sazz is still dating Charles’ ex, Jan, and visits her in jail frequently. The plexiglass (or sexyglass, as dubbed by Jan) makes touching each other difficult, sadly.
- Sazz and Joy have some funky nicknames for each other: “Sazzmanian Devil” and “Wile E. Joyote.”
- Bernadette Peters once caused Loretta to pass out in an audition room, causing her to miss meeting Oliver and becoming his Annie Oakley.
- Shoutout to Siddhartha Khosla, whose musical score on OMITB is always impeccable, but it reached new heights in the scene where Oliver and Loretta kiss under the bridge.
- Everyone in the comments is confident Ben was talking to a cookie and not a person in his room before going on stage. I like that theory a lot, so hopefully it’s true (because it’s fun!). At the same time, is it too easy of a solution? Who do we think wrote the threatening note?
- So what’s everyone’s drink of choice, favorite weather, and time of day?