John Stone is working overtime. (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)
Quick note before we dive into tonight’s episode: Since it’s debut five weeks ago, “The Night Of” has become two very different shows — a prison drama and a legal drama. To that end, there are lots and lots of threads on which to pull in an attempt to unravel the two mysteries collectively we are trying to solve: Who is Nasir Khan and who killed Andrea Cornish?
So we’re breaking this into two pieces — a Monday Morning recap and a mid-week breakdown of the episode where I get to apply some AP English style hot TV takes. The first piece is where we breakdown what we saw, and the follow up is where we get to peel off the Saran wrap of these Crisco-laden feet and get down to business.
Having said that, let’s get into it.
Episode 5 of “The Night Of” — entitled “The Season of the Witch” — shined a light on the question we’ve been avoiding all season: Who exactly is Nasir Khan? If last week’s episode, “The Call of the Wild” teased the idea that Naz was going to have to evolve in order to survive his time in prison, this week’s episode turned that thought on its head.
What’s that saying about adversity and character? Adversity doesn’t build character; it reveals it.
Maybe — just maybe — this nightmarish situation isn’t turning Naz into something he isn’t, but revealing the person he truly is. Maybe this is the Nas we’ve been looking at all along and have been refusing to acknowledge it.
Questions Heading Into Episode 5:
- Is Naz changing before our eyes, or is he playing right into Freddy’s hands? Can Naz actually trust anyone? Who actually is in this to help him?
- Why is John Stone so hellbent on helping Naz? What does Naz represent to him?
- Does Box actually think Nas did it, or is he too just pursuing the easiest outcome to clear this case?
- What does the crime scene tell us about the killer and the crime?
Theory Heat Check
- The Cat: Andrea’s cat 100% represents the truth of the situation. Hands down. Over the last few episodes, John has been keeping tabs on the case and continuing his work despite not being Naz’s actual lawyer. In “The Season of the Witch,” John adopts the cat and simultaneously gets officially brought onto the defense team, where is job is to LITERALLY search for the truth.
- The Backdoor Theory: John and Chandra bring in their own specialist to get some fresh eyes on the crime scene. The specialist finds that the back door doesn’t lock (something noticed by many and yet to be addressed in the show), may have found some additional evidence in the garden, and may have introduced reasonable doubt to the defense’s case. It couldn’t have come at a better time as Naz’s “Good Kid” defense has flown out the window.
- Occam’s Razor: Occam’s Razor suggests that,””Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” Lots of things could have happened on the night in question. One possibility is that Naz killed Andrea and just doesn’t remember it. Naz took a ridiculous amount of substances, the combination of which could produce some nasty side effects. At this point all we know for certain is that Naz was definitely in the house when Andrea was murdered. Until new evidence is provided, the theory with the fewest assumptions is that Naz actually did it.
Another week, another circle of hell visited with our tour guide, John Stone. Week after week, I assume we’re seeing John Stone struggle with being John Stone and it being a device to show the audience the depths from which he must rise There are only three episodes left; at what point does he start to burrow up to the surface?
From an excruciating Bring-Your-Father-to-Work-Day presentation in front of his son’s class, to failing to perform when he visits his — **cough** — client/friend, to being ridiculed by both his doctor and pharmacist, to watching another “John” steal his girl and his drink, Stone had a pretty bad week. It would be easy to keep bashing John for this series of unfortunate events, and that is what every other character in the show does. It is also exactly what he expects them to do. While they are picking at his character in the same way he is jabbing at his feet with chopsticks, John is grinding away doing the necessarily work on the case. While everyone involved — both the characters in the show and the audience watching — is focused on his life events, which might as well be accompanied by a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” tuba sound effect, they look past and shrug off the two leads he uncovered:
- Andrea’s drug dealing waiter friend.
- Previously unnamed side-eye slinging dude on the street, Duane Reed.
This is the result of good work that no one else involved was willing to do. John Stone might be rising up from the depths of hell to solve this case, but that means he is starting down in the muck and mire where the only work that can be done is the necessary dirty work. From his point of view, the work isn’t dirty. It’s a head start.
When we left Naz last week he was transitioning from servile puppy to running with the wolves at the front of the pack. This week showed more of that journey as Naz is allowing himself to evolve into a different person while in Rikers. In a move I’m sure we could all see coming a mile away, Freddy isn’t extending olive branch after olive branch just because Naz is “a care package for his brain.” He’s doing it because he’s a puppet master and Naz is his newest dummy.
In exchange for protection, his new single cell, and for the gift of Freddy arranging for him to beat down Calvin — the man who burned him last week — Naz has to play the role of drug mule. What is most interesting about this is that you can see Naz’s sight shifting from long distance — proving his innocence — to short distance — playing his part in Freddy’s game of “How To Survive and Thrive in Prison.”
He’s allowing himself to be manipulated and he knows it; what’s worse is that John knows it, too. Even when John catches him red-handed moving Freddy’s newly smuggled in supply, he refuses to acknowledge it. What does this tell us about Naz as a character? What else is he refusing to acknowledge?
After weeks of focusing on the who, we finally got some what and how in tonight’s episode as Det. Box, Stone and Chandra, and D.A. Weiss started sifting through mountains of evidence to assemble their cases. What I found most interesting was that all three parties were working from the same deck, and all three found different trump cards:
- Det. Box — established the timeline, and uncovered a little bit of doubt.
- D.A. Weiss — obtained a testimony from the medical examiner about the nature of the cut on Naz’s hand.
- John Stone — found both a potential reasonable doubt (the back door, new blood sample), and a potential suspect, Duane Reed.
While the exact nature of how each hand will play out, the “silent friend” theory gained a TON of traction this week and gave birth to the most excitement we’ve had on the show in weeks — a Crisco smeared foot race through the alleys of New York.
With Naz’s character defense all but destroyed and the trial set to begin next week, there should be a lot more evidence coming into play very soon. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we’ve already looked past the piece of evidence that either clears Naz’s name or seals his fate.
Tonight’s episode got us back on track and reinforced that this show is about discovery. This is all about the hunt for the truth, no matter how ugly it is, and what you’re willing to do to uncover it.
You can check out the full “The Night Of” Notepad HERE.
- Duane Reed
- Don Taylor
- Dude from the funeral
- So Det. Box is smoking now? This is new. Does this show that the stress of the case is getting to him?
- We learned that Det. Box has filed his papers after 33 years on the job. Does this case now carry more weight for him as it could be his final one?
- Det. Box pouring over all the video surveillance footage shows that Naz was telling the truth on 10/24/14. What does this mean for where Box stands on the proceedings? Is there now a shadow of doubt in his mind?
- Stone listing off all of the ways the cocktail of drugs Naz took could fry his brain was scary. This lends a lot of credence to the “unreliable narrator” theory from a few weeks back; essentially we’re going off of Naz’s recollection of the night. We’re seeing what Naz remembers, but not necessarily what happened.
- Have we established that the knife found on Naz is the actual murder weapon?
- How could the amount of blood in the bedroom be all over the walls and the mattress, but NOT on Naz himself? His clothes should have been drenched. Will this be brought up in court?
- Who is Duane Reed and why is Trevor afraid of him?
- Where is creepy Step-Dad Don Taylor this week?
- Who is the man at the funeral Don was arguing with?