‘True Detective’ Season 3, Episode 6 Recap: Princess of the Pink Room

*Warning: Spoilers ahead*

In season three, episode five of True Detective, an explosion rocked the Ozarks and, for many, cracked the Purcell case wide open. It brought Wayne (Mahershala Ali) and Amelia (Carmen Ejogo) together, but as we learn in flashbacks, ultimately tore them apart. In 1990, Julie came out of hiding to speak against her father and in 2015, not able to shake lingering doubts about the case, Wayne convinced Roland (Stephen Dorff) to help him give it one last look.

What we learn in episode six, titled “Hunters in the Dark,” puts in perspective just how deep Julie Purcell’s disappearance and Will’s murder goes. Better keep those lights on.

mahershala ali at a typewriter on true detective
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“Hell of a day when a gunfight is the second most exciting thing that’s happened to you,” says 1980s Wayne as he and Amelia cuddle after their first time, you know… She tells him she’s been trying to hold out, because he seems like the type of guy for whom that kind of thing would matter. Amelia wants to hear about Wayne’s time in the war, who tells her what he learned is that life happens now. Later is now. “I really don’t spend time remembering stuff,” he says. Ironic, right?

In 1990, the police and State Attorney General Gerald Kindt (Brett Cullen) are pouring over the hotline call from the person they believe to be Julie Purcell. Kindt would like to indict Tom Purcell (Scoot McNairy) and it is heavily implied Wayne and Roland (Stephen Dorff) gave the Purcell kids’ dad a pass when they shouldn’t have.

But now, a decade later, they’ve brought Tom back in for questioning. “No way we could be that wrong,” Roland says to Wayne, before they go in to get to the bottom of the call. Turns out no one saw Tom after 6:30 p.m. on the night the kids disappeared, so there is room for some answers.

Wayne asks Tom about the peephole looking into Julie’s room. They’re going at him hard about what happened to Will and Julie, about who they were playing with at Devil’s Den. Tom just screams like a madman, which does not aid his cause.

amelia looking exhausted on bed
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The phone call was seen as a major turn in their case, “in light of what happened,” says Eliza, the TV producer. “What happened?” asks Wayne, as if he has no idea what she is talking about. In 1990, they’d established the call was, indeed, from Julie and it originated from a truck stop outside Russell View.

In that decade where Amelia and Wayne can barely stay civil with each other, Wayne asks his wife where she is headed. Amelia says she’s going to write a sequel to her book, based on the current investigation because the publisher wants it badly. A seemingly kind moment where Amelia ties Wayne’s tie turns into another volatile argument between the two about the case at the center of their lives.

As Wayne and Roland continue their investigation, they discover that Tom was day drinking and was about to lose his job at the time the kids disappeared. He wasn’t getting along with the rest of the guys, who caught Tom going into a gay club. While searching Tom’s apartment they come across some poker chips, photos of him and baby Julie, past due bills, condoms and a flyer on how homosexuality can be cured by the church. Doesn’t mean he did anything to his kids, says Roland. “It’s looking less and less like they’re his kids,” counters Wayne.

Even in 1980, when Wayne finds out that a backpack and shirt have been discovered at Woodard’s, he feels there is something wrong with the evidence. Kindt and his people want this case solved, pronto, and despite Wayne insisting that Woodard is innocent, it seems the case is about to go away, just like that.

In 2015, there seems to be an understanding that Tom may have planted the evidence at Woodard’s, but in 1990, the evidence was discovered by Harris James, a police officer who left the force, who we also know disappeared, based on talks with Eliza in 2015.

Apparently, all roads continue to lead to Hoyt, where Harris James is working as chief security officer. He claims he’s the one who made the connection between the backpack and the Purcell kids, but not the one who found it. He also recalls seeing Tom in the field, watching the police go through the scene. As he banters with Wayne, Harris makes a comment about his good-looking body, which we at this point might consider flirting. Maybe Harris and Tom were involved with each other?  

Eliza is getting a little pushy with Wayne about the deaths of the Purcell clan: Tom, Lucy and Dan are gone, and she’s wondering if a drained quarry is going to produce the remains of Harris James as well. “I wouldn’t know, miss,” Wayne says with a cold stare. Eliza continues to push him about the number of fatalities surrounding the Purcell case. Wayne asks to stop and as he walks out, his eyes land on a picture of Amelia.

amelia in parking lot true detective
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In 1990, Amelia is searching for Julie at a local convent and discovers a girl who knew her. She says Mary, or Mary Julie, or Mary July, disappeared after things got shaky with drugs and a guy who was getting her to turn tricks. She talked about being the Queen in the Pink Castle. “You want to write a book? Write about what happens to kids out here—what happens to girls,” says Julie’s friend with dead eyes.

Dan is back, and whatever he is on is not a sugar high. He wants $7,000 to share whatever information he has. “And I want a boat,” quips an unamused Wayne. Dan reveals Lucy lived with his family when she was a child. “Her and I shared a lot of milestones growing up,” says Dan in a way that makes it sound like they didn’t have joint birthday parties. Dan implies there are powerful people out there, powerful enough to make it seem like Lucy overdosed. But to share what he knows, Dan wants them to show him the money. They may not believe Crazy Dan, but there is no harm in looking into Lucy’s phone records before she died or Tom’s alibi. And maybe even trying to procure seven thou, just in case.

Tom overhears the cops in the precinct talking about Wayne and Roland lunching with Dan and he does not seem happy about it.

lucy and tom true detective

In 2015, Wayne’s son is fighting with Eliza over, what we assume is, her pushy behavior. Turns out that’s not what is happening at all. The two of them are having an affair (remember that second wine glass in her hotel room in episode four?) and Wayne’s figured it out—because, hey, he used to be a pretty good detective once. Wayne seems to blame himself for his son’s behavior. He sees a vision of 1990s Amelia, and his face appears full of regret.

In 1980 the Purcells and Amelia are at a press conference where the district attorney declares Woodard the killer of both children. Tom attempts to hold Lucy’s hand but she pulls away and he storms out, which Amelia observes. When Amelia tries to apologize to Lucy for their last encounter, the Purcell matriarch is not interested, leaving Amelia in the dust as she drives away.    

In 1990, Wayne gets pissy with Roland for wanting to stop their work for the night. “You don’t wanna go home, don’t go home, but don’t make it about the job,” snaps Roland. Wayne mutters that they just work differently, to which Roland seems to imply that this is why he is a Lieutenant and Wayne’s career has stalled. Wayne gets out of the car and walks off in a huff.

Oh, but look! While Wayne and Roland are engaged in angry banter, there’s Dan and Tom at a motel. A drunken Tom points a gun at Dan, asking him to spill whatever he knows, but what he’s really angry about is the idea that Dan was watching his daughter through the peephole, which Dan adamantly denies. With a gun to his forehead, he asks Tom to consider where Lucy got the money to run off, or what she lived on until she died? Dan knows who was paying her.

mahershala ali walking in the dark on true detective
Warrick Page/HBO

Wayne is taking the long way home, by which we mean he’s visiting the old Purcell house on Shoepick Lane. He opens the door to the abandoned house, which is covered in graffiti and goes straight for the peephole. But what if it wasn’t for peeping at all? The kids were passing notes through the hole, he realizes.   

In 2015, Wayne and Roland are at Wayne’s house going over old clues when Roland sees Wayne’s gun and a copy of Amelia’s book full of Post-its and notes in the margins. When Wayne returns from a bathroom break, he seems genuinely surprised to find Roland in his office. He asks Roland to see if the dark sedan is outside his window, surveilling him, but his old partner sees nothing. Wayne tells Roland he never read his wife’s book all the way through, and she didn’t mind. (Right, Wayne. You keep telling yourself that.)

amelia at a book signing true detective
Warrick Page/HBO

A drunken Tom drives over to Hoyt’s mansion and is dumb enough to break in despite the cameras in every corner. Someone’s watching him on CCTV, as he makes his way down to the basement where he finds a bright pink room. “What the hell? Julie?” he exclaims at the sight of something disturbing, as Harris James sneaks up behind him. And we cut to black.

Is this what Julie meant by her whole “princess of the pink rooms” and “Queen of the Pink Palace” spiel? Are the Hoyts part of the Crooked Spiral after all? And—the biggest question—how in the world did this get covered up?

True Detective returns with season three, episode 6 on Sunday, February 17, at 9 p.m. PT/ET.

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