So who was Bunny Folger, really? One of the early episodes of the first season of "Only Murders in the Building" asked the question, "Who was Tim Kono?", but it's worth noting that midway through the second season, we're not much closer to getting a better understanding of who the latest victim, Arconia board president Bunny Folger (Jayne Houdyshell), was. We know from last week's two-part premiere that Bunny had lived at the Arconia her whole life, that her family was connected to the architect of the building, and that she presumably had some kind of interest in erotic art. But what we've seen of Bunny through the first season was that she was, as Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) deemed in the closing moments of the finale, a "cranky old b**ch" who basically no one liked.
Now, one of the great joys of the first season of "Only Murders in the Building" was how often the show toyed around with form. It wasn't just a nod to how true-crime podcasts sometimes shake things up, but how television itself can do the same. The show's single best installment, "The Boy From 6B", was almost entirely wordless, as it was primarily filtered through the point of view of Theo Dimas (James Caverly), the deaf son of deli king and grave-robber Teddy Dimas (Nathan Lane). But other episodes shifted away from our core trio of Mabel, Charles-Haden Savage (Steve Martin), and Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) to everyone from their hardcore fans to a tough-as-nails NYPD detective. So you can consider this a longwinded way of saying that this week's latest episode, "The Last Day of Bunny Folger," has a title that can be taken fairly literally: the installment primarily focuses on ... well, the last day of Bunny Folger, leading up to the moment of her death, meaning that this is primarily a showcase for the delightful and acidic Tony Award-winning Jayne Houdyshell.
But before we can get to Bunny, we must remind ourselves why we're going to revisit her last days: because at the end of the two-part premiere, our trio was told by her bird Mrs. Gambolini "I know who did it." Now, I'm going to tell you right up front something that should not shock you: Mrs. Gambolini doesn't actually have an answer to this tease (and if she does know who killed Bunny, she's not telling anyone yet). But Oliver is prepared for a podcast exclusive as he asks the bird who killed Bunny. Unfortunately for him, all she's willing to say is "F**k off, Oliver", which ... y'know, fair. Charles is too obsessed with the recent revelation that his dad slept with Bunny's mother back in the day, which could mean (but probably doesn't?) that he and Bunny were related. Let's hope not.
It doesn't really matter what our trio of podcasters tries to do, from wheedling or yelling at Mrs. Gambolini or doing hilarious impersonations of her to make the bird think she's back with her original owner. The bird ain't talking. And when the trio rifles through some other papers they took from Bunny's apartment, they see receipts from March 12, the day Bunny died. "We saw her that day," they note somewhat guiltily. (Put a pin in that.) And then Oliver muses into his recorder what it must have been like, as we cut from the present to March 12, in Bunny's apartment as she grumpily wakes up from bed, roused by Mrs. Gambolini herself. "I can't believe this is my last day," she mutters before pointedly adding "... as board president". (And yes, that "Savage" painting is hanging on her wall, too.)
A Very New York Show
I should note that "Only Murders in the Building" is a proudly very New York show, a point that you almost certainly are aware of. But if you weren't, watching Bunny go about her morning routine would be clue enough, since we get to see her hearing a radio DJ complain about (I believe, as a non-New Yorker) the actions of ex-Mayor Bill DeBlasio ("He works out in Park Slope, Brooklyn!"), and see the latest tribulations of the New York Knicks on the back page of a newspaper announcing that Jan (Amy Ryan) has been charged in the murder of Tim Kono. (I get the sense that many Knicks fans will pump their fist when Mrs. Gambolini says "Fire Dolan" in reference to the team owner.) But more specifically, we learn that Bunny has been Arconia board president for 29 years, and as tough-as-nails as she is, she's heartbroken to be leaving, planning to retire in Boca Raton, Florida. "I'm not gonna let those f**kers see me cry," she mutters while practicing her goodbye speech.
Never has Bunny been more charming than when we see her puttering around New York, such as when she shouts "Linsanity!" after successfully throwing some trash via a faux-jump shot. But she's back on her A game as a toughie when she returns to the Arconia and finds that our podcasting trio — and their biggest fans — are holding court in the courtyard with a celebration cake, retelling the events of the finale. I should note that a critical question I had in watching the last episode of season one and the first two installments of this season is how much time elapsed between Jan being arrested and Bunny being killed. Sam (Jaboukie Young-White) helpfully notes to Bunny that it's the "almost one-week anniversary" of the finale. But Bunny is unsurprisingly unmoved, citing a bylaw to end the party and stop the superfans from selling merchandise on the property.
The woman taking her place, Nina Lim (Christine Ko), shows up to support Bunny, but also for one last meeting of the minds before Bunny heads off for Boca. It becomes clear very quickly within this conversation that a) Nina is more than prepared to take over for Bunny, sounding equally as knowledgeable about what to do to ensure the Arconia looks great, and b) ...Bunny does not want to leave. Partly, she's skeptical that the very pregnant Nina can take over while balancing a newborn, but she clearly loves the job as much as she may present herself as a big ol' grouch. Uma (Jackie Hoffman) is surprised Bunny wants to move to Boca at all, even though Bunny is prepared to be a snowbird. Still, their love-hate relationship is such that the only way they can really say they'll miss each other is by lovingly saying "F**k you" to each other. After Uma leaves, it should be noted, Bunny gets a phone call from ... well, from someone who she recognizes, someone who has been calling her often, and someone who wants that "Savage" painting. "Stop calling!" Bunny shouts. Hmm.
I Don't Want To Go
Later, Bunny heads to the nearby Pickle Diner, where her usual waiter Ivan waits on her one last time. Following on the last scene, Ivan asks if Bunny's "friend" is showing up again — apparently, he was out the day before and she was joined at her table by someone. "Not my friend," Bunny says. Again: hmm. Before we can learn much more, Bunny sees that Oliver is at the diner with his son Will (Ryan Broussard), and the boy is following in his father's footsteps by directing a school play. Bunny knows him as the boy who broke an Arconia window at age 10. "And you still haven't paid for it," she snaps. Yet while Bunny is the Bunny we know to Oliver, she's much kinder to Ivan –— when she pays for her breakfast, she also gives him a massive tip in the form of a wad of money he should use to buy some DJ equipment. "Make me a promise: don't let yourself only love one thing," she says sadly, as we can easily imagine she's thinking of the Arconia itself. (Or maybe not! Who knows with this show and its surprises?)
Later that day, back at the Arconia, Bunny is joined on the elevator by Charles and Mabel, as they're prepping their nighttime celebration, the same one that will end up with them led out of the building in handcuffs. Before too long, the elevator gets stuck midway through its lift, and only Bunny is able to kickstart it back to life by breaking into the circuit box. "Bunny...you're a badass," Mabel says, slightly awed. (And she's slightly cowed when Bunny reminds her of the "cranky old b**ch" comment.) When Charles notes, sincerely, that they'd likely be lost without her, she realizes what's been fairly evident to those of us watching: Bunny doesn't want to go to Boca Raton, and she doesn't want to leave the Arconia.
... Which makes the surprise party being thrown in her apartment by her fellow board members a bit awkward. Though the others just want to party — with decorations emphasizing Bunny's retirement — she wants to focus on the meeting tasks. "But it's your last day," Nina says, to which Bunny snaps at her for being reminded again of leaving. Nina is less than pleased when Bunny says she's changed her mind and won't be leaving, pointing out — via Howard's meeting minutes — that leaving was Bunny's decision to begin with. Bunny wants the building preserved, but Nina wants it "modernized — monetized".
It's a good thing the meeting minutes captured it all down, because in the present, Mabel has gotten those same minutes from Howard offscreen. (That is, by the way, an interesting thing to consider: presumably, Howard wants the trio to think of Nina as being the potential culprit, but he seems awfully willing to share those meeting minutes!) And those minutes make Nina the prime suspect for our heroes. Back in the past, on the evening of Bunny's death, as she's cleaning up the mess from the would-be party, Bunny hears the din from Mabel's apartment next door as our podcasters revel in their victory.
A Simple Act Of Kindness
But Bunny isn't there to crack down on them, instead offering a fancier bottle of champagne than the one Mabel had bought. Oliver, in return, hands Bunny the very same tie-dye hoodie sweatshirt that we saw her wearing in the first-season finale, encouraging her to don it in front of them. And after her kind peace offering, what do the podcasters do? Well ... close the door on her, even though it is painfully obvious that she wants to hang out with someone. "Only Murders" here is digging into one of the great dark-comedy sitcom tropes, which is having the audience look in at the main characters from a different point of view, so that we can get a better sense that the core group can seem like a flock of idiots and/or jerks from the outside in.
It's as much a testament to Houdyshell's performance as to the writing, but this episode does such a good job of humanizing Bunny — simply because we get to see her from her perspective, not from that of Oliver, Mabel, and Charles — that it's genuinely nasty (if not intentionally so) that we now see the main trio realize Bunny wanted to "join" them, and that she's still outside the door, eventually sobbing loudly. Of course, as soon as they open the door to awkwardly let her in, Bunny has vanished and so our trio decides ... to go to the roof to party.
"There's a chance we could've saved her life with a simple act of kindness," Charles intones on the podcast, and I think it's more than a chance, Charles! As the main trio rides up to the roof, we see a mysterious figure — only spotted via their black shoes and long pants — exit the other elevator and head to Bunny's apartment. (It's in her apartment, as she watches an old film noir, that we gather how Mrs. Gambolini knew the phrase "I know who did it" — the line is from that movie.) Bunny clearly knows her killer, greeting them with a confused "What the f**k do you want?" before being stabbed and eventually stumbling into Mabel's arms.
"The Last Day of Bunny Folger" offers both some valuable information and an excellent central performance from Jayne Houdyshell. If anything, the episode makes it clear that our podcasting trio really has even less clue this time around about what's happening than they did with Tim Kono. At least Mabel was close to Tim Kono, but as guilty as she, Oliver, and Charles feel (and should feel) about how they treated Bunny in what turned out to be a few of her final moments, they've yet to learn about Bunny's mysterious dining partner at the Pickle Diner – a safe bet for the same person who killed her, one imagines – or the significance of the painting to those involved. Could it be Nina? The clear answer is yes, in that anything is possible. But her pregnancy seems like a deal-breaker, though she's quite obviously ruthless. My thought here is that we should consider the possibility that the culprit is more than one person. Could it be that, similar to something like Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express", multiple people wanted Bunny gone and conspired to get her out of the picture? I would not be surprised.
— "Not the slapping one." Kind of a shame we only got to see Selena Gomez tease a Cher-like ability to slap someone and shout "Snap out of it!"
— "You are the most difficult animal I have ever directed, and I did a production of 'The Elephant Man' with a real elephant!" Of course you did, Oliver.
— "For a while, I thought you were the killer because Tim was behind in his building fees, and I distrust women in positions of power." Oh boy, Marv.
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