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Only Murders in the Building season 2 episode 5 review: everyone has a secret

Can Oliver detect a liar?

Martin Short and Steve Martin in Only Murders in the Building
(Image: © Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

Our Verdict

Tension builds between the group as the secrets stack up in a fun episode with several twists.

For

  • The 1970s aesthetic during the Son of Sam game
  • A very funny back-and-forth between Oliver and Charles that has nothing to do with the case
  • The Teddy twist
  • Amy Ryan is hilarious as Jan in prison

Against

  • It is harder to buy the secret Alice has been keeping

NOTE: This post contains spoilers for Only Murders in the Building season 2 episode 5, “The Tell.” Read our previous Only Murders in the Building season 2 episode 4 right here.

Even before he made it on Broadway, Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) knew how to direct a scene. Oliver’s confidence is his gift and fuels his ability to read people. However, missteps in his career and personal life indicate this personality trait isn’t always a winner. "The Tell" offers a glimpse of how little Oliver has changed over the years, while dropping a bombshell unrelated to the current case. Or maybe it is tied into what happened to Bunny (Jayne Houdyshell), as everyone’s past on Only Murders in the Building is rearing its head.

"Son of Sam" is a parlor game where Oliver is tasked with sussing out a killer in a midst of party guests. Pulling it out with friends over the years, the game allows Oliver to flex his showmanship qualities and his claim that he can single out a liar.

"Everyone who has a secret has a tell," he explains to a young Will in the flashback. However, in a present day voiceover, adult Will (Ryan Broussard) ominously mentions a secret he doesn’t even know he is keeping from his dad that suggests a ticking time bomb.  

Someone else keeping secrets is Charles (Steve Martin), as he has gone to see Jan (Amy Ryan) seemingly behind Oliver and Mabel's (Selena Gomez) backs. Not only is Charles visiting her in prison, but the pair are talking on the phone (somehow her proclivity for killing her boyfriends is not a deal-breaker). Charles might claim he is only interested in her unique murderer perspective, but the phone conversations resemble rom-coms like Pillow Talk and When Harry Met Sally. Charles thinks he is in control, but his forlorn look after the abrupt end to the call suggests otherwise. Ryan is very funny during these conversations; it's good to have her back. 

Jan does come up with a plausible theory that Charles relays to the group without revealing the source of this suggestion. She thinks the killer is a storyteller, an artist type who is behind this crime. Jan also tells Charles to look out for anyone who has recently inserted themselves into their lives. The two criteria point to one person and one person alone. Here’s looking at you, Alice (Cara Delevingne).

After a few episodes without any updates regarding this burgeoning romance, Alice is back in the spotlight. A phone conversation reveals how much Alice already knows about Mabel, right down to her choice of a grunge-era cardigan. It's sweet and flirty but impossible not to view her suspiciously. 

Cara Delevingne in Only Murders in the Building

Cara Delevingne in Only Murders in the Building (Image credit: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

During this chat, Alice reveals she's dealing with a leaking roof that jeopardizes the art collective’s plans for a party. Alice asks if they could do it at Mabel's apartment and she  agrees. 

While on the phone, Mabel is also exploring the secret passageways and finds the point of entry into her apartment via a grate in her closet. The killer likely used this to escape undetected, although we still don’t know how the gravely injured Bunny entered. This search provides more physical evidence as a matchbook from the Pickle Diner fell near the grate. A red stain could be either blood or ketchup, as Charles and Oliver press Mabel to remember details of that night. 

What follows is a hilarious debate about the Iran-Contra affair ("Worse than Watergate, just not as interesting," per Charles) and the notion of memory that Oliver describes as the difference between objective reality and subjective perception. The funny back-and-forth links to Oliver's belief that he can spot a liar and the theme of the episode.

The Pickle Diner introduces Ivan (Ariel Shafir) to the group, who later tells Oliver about the big tip Bunny gave him on her final day. Ivan shows Oliver security footage of the acrimonious meeting Bunny had, but the footage is incredibly grainy (and we don't see the person enter for some reason).  

Earlier at the diner, Mabel mentions Alice and the other two immediately become suspicious due to her art background — the podcast superfans also sit nearby and have notes. They invite themselves to Mabel’s gathering and Alice immediately wins over Charles as she has seen an obscure Swedish movie he did. Oliver is confident there is something fishy here and whisks out his Son of Sam cards to prove his point — is it bad taste to play a murder mystery game in a recent crime scene? 

Selena Gomez and Steve Martin in Only Murders in the Building

Selena Gomez and Steve Martin in Only Murders in the Building (Image credit: Craig Blankenhorn/Hulu)

Everything switches to a 1970s aesthetic, a fun stylistic pace change boosted by "Psycho Killer" by Talking Heads. As the game reaches its climax, Oliver confronts Alice about her deception and they find out her entire backstory is a lie. She pretends she is wealthy to get ahead in the art world, but instead comes from a working class background. One drawback of casting someone as famously rich as Delevingne is it's hard to buy this revelation. 

Mabel is furious at her friends for this behavior. But as Alice spends the night, it's a troubling sign when the camera pans to show the Son of Sam card is in her bag, so maybe she is the killer of the parlor game and Bunny. 

Oliver is in for a different rude awakening of his own when Will comes to visit. He reveals that a DNA test suggests Oliver is not his biological father. Instead of Oliver's Irish background, Will is half Greek. Oliver then recalls the 70s party from earlier and hints that Teddy (Nathan Lane) very well could be Will's father.

At the halfway point of season 2, there is tension in the group. Each episode ends with more questions than answers and they are no closer to proving their innocence. Everything is falling apart, but Only Murders in the Building is stronger than ever. Now to find Bunny’s killer.

New episodes of Only Murders in the Building release on Tuesdays on Hulu in the US and Disney Plus in the UK.

Emma Fraser
Emma Fraser

Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.