‘Big Little Lies’ Episode 3 Recap: Living the Dream

Maybe the mommies of Monterey aren’t so perfect after all.

big little lies episode 3 living the dream recap
Need a quick catch up? Be sure to check out our recap of last week’s episode

This recap contains spoilers

Despite Episode 3 of Big Little Lies being titled “Living the Dream,” I think it’s more accurate to say that these characters are stuck in a nightmare. Now that we’re a few episodes in, watchers are well aware that the women and the families of this prestigious community are much more than their shiny cars and oceanfront mansions.

After watching this week’s episode, I was left at the edge of my seat. There are some big plot points happening, and all the pieces and clues we’ve been given so far about these characters and their twisted lives are finally beginning to make some sense.

To start: Renata is uptight, corporate, and self-described as “tragically un-fun.” She’s also a driven mommy and will stop at almost nothing to ensure that Amabella’s birthday bash is one for the books. Despite princesses, a bouncy castle, and huge goodie bags, Amabella is visibly disappointed when Chloe and co. don’t RSVP for her party. Even after deliberating excluding Ziggy from her daughter’s get together, I was really surprised to see Renata swallow her pride and call Madeline, begging and pleading her to change her mind by bringing Chloe to Amabella’s party. Madeline relentlessly stands her ground, of course, and the call ends with Renata hissing, “You’re dead in this town,” before chucking her smartphone into the swimming pool out of pure rage.

Meanwhile, we Madeline remains all smiles as she sips champagne alongside Celeste, Jane and their kiddos en route to Disney on Ice. Madeline has won, but only for the moment.

Madeline has a clear Type A personality, and I would have been shocked had she agreed to let Chloe attend—who turns down an all expenses paid sleepover to Disneyland!—but it irked me a bit to see her leverage Chloe in order to get even with Renata, and consequentially, Amabella, too. These moms are super involved and devoted, but seeing them use their kids as weapons against each other is just fighting dirty.

Speaking of, fighting dirty is clearly nothing new to Madeline, though. At one point in the episode, Ed even mentions that “agitation is her preferred state,” and I’d have to agree. It seems like she always has her fighting gloves on and is ready to throw the first blow. Not only is her production of Avenue Q dangerously close to being canceled, but Abigail (played by Kathryn Newton) also breaks the news that she wants to move in with her dad, Nathan (played by James Tupper) and Bonnie (played by Zoe Kravitz).

That had to be a knife in Madeline’s heart—we all know how she feels about her ex and his new wife (especially his new wife) and when we later see Madeline standing in her oldest daughter’s now-empty bedroom, I could really sense her pain.

It’s getting hard not to feel sympathy for these characters, and when we’re finally given a piece of Jane’s past, I wanted to break down in tears just as Madeline did.

Between losing Harry the Hippo (the first-grade class mascot of more than 10 years) and overlooking Ziggy’s family tree project, Jane’s definitely having a tough week this episode. And when Jane refuses to reveal to Ziggy the identity of his father’s name, he throws a temper tantrum. And just like that, we’re finally given some useful context behind his conception. As Jane sits on her front porch and sips a beer with Madeline, she walks us through flashbacks of a horrific night of abuse and rape. She confesses that she has never told anyone before, and that Ziggy’s father is a man named Saxon Banks.

Sadly, we don’t get to see Saxon’s face during these flashbacks, but it’s hard not to notice that the actions and mannerisms are fairly similar to another abusive character on the show. (It’s a running theme on the show if you haven’t noticed already.) That’s all Jane reveals for now, but I’m holding onto this piece of information hoping it’s another clue that will come in handy in a later episode.

With all that’s going on with Jane, it’s easy to see how Madeline is still pretty clueless about Celeste’s dirty secret. We see Perry choke Celeste once again in the midst of another argument, and she, in turn, threatens to leave him. But after talking openly with a therapist about their dysfunctional relationship, she tells Perry that she finally feels hopeful about their marriage for once. They’re good together for the moment, but we’ve seen this before. Unfortunately, it seems only a matter of time before Perry lashes out again.

In the midst of all this dysfunction and drama, Episode 3 gives us a trivia night announcement! With trivia night being the scene of the crime, it feels like we’re one step closer to uncovering the mysterious murder the series courses around. With an Elvis Presley/Audrey Hepburn theme, it’s sure to be a show (and a showdown.)

With only four episodes to go, there are plenty of theories swirling. Does Celeste kill Perry, or in vice versa? Will Ed and Nathan finally fight, or maybe Renata kills Madeline to avenge her daughter’s failed birthday party? There are a ton of different ways this series could turn out, and based on what we know about these characters so far, it seems that any of them could be capable of murder.

What did you think of Big Little Lies?

What do you think Jane’s past means for the show? Are Celeste and Perry headed for happiness, or doomed for divorce?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!