It’s an understatement to say that this season of Only Murders In the Building (OMITB) has featured a lot of storylines. Charles (Steve Martin) and Lucy (Zoe Coletti); Mabel (Selena Gomez) and Alice’s (Cara Delevingne) romantic relationship; Oliver’s (Martin Short) paternity mystery; the Rose Cooper painting; Cinda Canning (Tina Fey) and her overworked assistant – and that’s just some of the most prominent plots; the list goes on from there. But trying to weave together this many narrative threads isn’t always a bad thing. Handle them well, and you wind up with a compelling, perfectly brilliant season of television. Handle them wrong, though, and you have OMITB Season 2 Episode 9.
With only one episode left in Season 2 after this, it falls to Episode 9 – entitled “Sparring Partners” – to clear up a lot of things and answer some big questions. After the revelation that Glitter Guy is Detective Kreps (Michael Rapaport), we start the episode with his very own voice-over, in which he explains that being a cop doesn’t pay enough to stay afloat. So he works other jobs, like as a security guard at Coney Island. And it turns out that one other way to earn some extra money involved Kreps traveling to Oklahoma to assist on the Becky Butler case…which is how he met Cinda Canning.
Mabel, Charles, and Oliver put Kreps up on their board as their “criminal mastermind.” As far as they know, he’s working alone. But let’s be real here: Kreps doesn’t seem smart enough to pull any of this off by himself. And for having just one episode remaining, we sure don’t know a lot about our potential killer.
Later that night, Oliver brings Ms. Gambolini over to Charles’ apartment in an attempt to pawn off the bird on him. As they fight over the cage, a secret compartment at the bottom opens up, and the real painting by Rose Cooper is revealed. Meanwhile, Mabel relieves a visit from Alice, who apologizes for taking advantage of Mabel and gives her a gift: a handmade puzzle. Charles, bewildered by the Rose Cooper painting, calls Leonora Folger (Shirley Maclaine), Bunny’s mother, who all the way back in Episode 3 went to The Arconia to retrieve the painting herself. But the number Charles has for her is actually for an assisted living facility. Leonora hasn’t left in years. Charles, realizing he’s been played by whoever it was that he met, opens up the watch he got from his father…and finds an address. Could this be where Leonora Folger’s impersonator lives?
Alone in her apartment, Mabel studies the files she and Theo stole from Kreps at Coney Island. She realizes that Kreps owns a boxing ring and heads there. What transpires next is a highlight in an already fast-paced, chaotic episode. As they turn into temporary and literal sparring partners, Mabel and Kreps hurl insults at each other, Mabel asking about Kreps’ arm after she stabbed him on the subway.
While Mabel goads Kreps into revealing more than he realizes, Oliver is at The Arconia dealing with his own drama. When he gets on the elevator with Teddy Dimas (Nathan Lane) the two begin fighting. They eventually stumble into Oliver’s apartment, where he reveals to Teddy that he knows Teddy is the biological father of Oliver’s son. But the two talk it out, and, while I’m not sure I buy that they could have such a productive and peaceful conversation, they both agree that not telling Oliver’s son is the right thing to do. It’s a sad situation for Oliver, but it’s clear he isn’t going to let it ruin his relationship with his son.
Charles, intent on following the address he found in his dad’s watch, does indeed find Rose Cooper. She was only pretending to be Leonora Folger in order to get her painting back. Behind the canvas we’ve seen is a different one, with Charles’ father holding his young son’s hand. According to Rose, this painting shows all Charles’ father ever wanted to be. It turns out Rose had to disappear to avoid an abusive marriage; it was Charles’ father who helped her escape. The most crucial moment from this scene, however, is when Rose tells Charles that a “pushy brunette” woman came to her, asking about the painting. Could it have been Cinda Canning?
Kreps doesn’t give much away to Mabel during their sparring match, but he does reveal that he’s dating “the smartest woman in the world,” and that Mabel’s podcast is nothing compared to Cinda’s career-making “All Is Not OK In Oklahoma.” As Mabel gets back home and works on her puzzle from Alice, she listens to Cinda’s podcast, hoping to put some metaphorical puzzle pieces together while working on the literal ones. She hears Cinda mention a chicken restaurant in Oklahoma, and finds a towel in Kreps’ bag with the same logo. Mabel then visits Poppy (Adina Verson) at Cinda’s studio. Poppy pleads with Mabel to forget that she had ever asked for help, but Poppy drops a bombshell: she is Becky Butler, the missing woman whose disappearance is at the center of Cinda’s award-winning podcast.
We return to Detective Krep’s flashback from the start of the episode: in Oklahoma, locking eyes with Cinda. It seems we now know who our criminal mastermind is, and, as Mabel places a photo of Cinda on their board under “Criminal Mastermind”, Oliver and Charles exclaim “Well, shit.” The episode cuts to black as Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” plays (a perfect needle drop) and now we’re headed into the finale with more questions than we had at the start of the penultimate episode.