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Something’s got to be the truth on Rectify

J. Smith-Cameron (Photo: Jackson Lee Davis/Sundance TV)
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The truth and memory are not natural allies. Take the example of Jared Talbot and his Furbys. Janet recalls that her youngest son loved the fluffy chatterboxes as a kid, which is why she and Ted bought three of them for Jared’s 6th birthday. But as Jared recalls, it was his 5th birthday, and he never wanted a Furby, let alone three. Somewhere down the line, the actual story of that birthday got lost, and now it exists only as the fuzzy recollections of the people who were there. The only truth the toys now represent is the $250 check inside that envelope.


That’s Rectify in a nutshell, isn’t it? For 20 years, the people of Paulie have demanded the truth about Hanna Dean’s rape and murder, but 20 years of rumor, conjecture, false confessions, and overturned sentences have pulverized the truth out of the equation. As Jon Stern is still discovering, there’s potentially a baker’s dozen of statements that were never accounted for during the original investigation and trial. Who knows what they might remember all these years later—or if there were that many kids at the sheriff’s office in the first place. When Jon later confronts Trey about one of those absent witnesses—Christopher Nelms—Trey suggests that Nelm’s family had enough money to keep anything from sticking to their boy. Jon replies by saying he has no reason to believe Trey, to which Trey retorts “Something’s got to be the truth.”

Indeed. I’m still not convinced that the true culprit will be identified by the end of this fourth season, but “something’s got to be the truth” is a notion that’s propelled Rectify from the start. It drives stories, it drives characters, and it drives the overall feeling of watching Rectify. We see these people being their true selves, and we see them lying to those selves and others. When Daniel, evidently bothered, tells Chloe that nothing is bothering him, she asks “So when it’s something, we’re going to say it’s nothing? That’s how we’re going to do this?”


But Chloe doesn’t know Paulie. That’s the only way they know how to do this, that, or the other thing. They don’t express opinions directly—the bartender gives the new town pariah the cold shoulder, rather than coming right out and saying he’s not going to serve Trey. They’ll bottle things up, never say a cross word to someone’s face, or straight up lie about having a nephew in Arizona. Everyone in Paulie has their own attic, but not everyone is as interested in purging the contents as Jared is.

By removing its protagonist from his hometown, Rectify found a method for shedding new light on its main setting. Daniel spent most of his life in prison, but it’s Paulie that made him, and what he knows about the way things are done there, in prison, and at New Canaan make him extremely reluctant to break the rules (and a few walnuts) at the home of Chloe’s wealthy client. It’s a strong moment for Aden Young, who takes a looooong, meaningful pause before articulating the fears that are keeping him from joining in on the gelato theft—or opening up more fully to Chloe, or taking a session with the PTSD expert.

Screenshot: Sundance TV

But even though he’s gone, he still shares some sort of psychic link to the folks back home: Amantha shares that story of Daniel’s traumatic hunting trip, and Daniel has that moment with the mounted deer head. It’s a nice touch that further underlines the way Daniel’s absence has Amantha questioning her place in life and her place in Paulie. This week, it seems like she’s trying on the clothes of a Paulie lifer, bird hunting and later sleeping with a former high-school classmate. It’s a valiant effort, but it’s clear the clothes don’t quite fit the woman who took off for the big city: Getting up before the crack of dawn isn’t her style, and she pairs her camouflage shirt and hat with a pair of furry boots. That ensemble cleverly symbolizes the tension Amantha’s feeling: caught between two worlds, not knowing which to settle in, her true home yet to reveal itself.


Meanwhile, her family’s preparing to part with its most significant stake in that hometown. The meeting about selling the tire store starts on an ironically humorous note—the representative for the prospective buyer gets a flat—but what follows is just purely ironic, the Talbots getting the opposite of what they expected. The chain that wants to buy the property doesn’t want to buy the inventory, and the tire store isn’t the only spot in town they have their eye on. There’s a potential for a $650,000 windfall, but for now there’s another check, this one for $5,000. Teddy, so worried about coming across like a rube, immediately tries to haggle the retaining fee up to $10,000. Teddy doesn’t bottle his emotions as tightly as everyone else, as poor Tawney and everyone at the Italian restaurant learn during that disastrous date night.

For Teddy it’s about the money, but for Janet it’s more personal. Like that military jacket up in the attic, the store is one of the last vestiges of the man people called “Mister Lester.” (That small formality, also extended to Tawney’s patient Zeke, is another well-placed signifier of life in Paulie.) As Daniel is now, Lester Holden has always been a presence on Rectify without a physical presence in Paulie, someone else taken away from the Holdens during the years of Daniel’s incarceration. The store is his legacy, so much so that the deed remains in Janet’s name. To part with it now would be to relegate the man to the realm of stories, where the truth of his life is entirely subject to whomever’s telling it.


That’s why favorite interaction of “Go Ask Roger” doesn’t occur between two people—it occurs between Janet and the ceramic mechanic. Back in season one, Teddy flips out about the mechanic’s disappearance from the register. Touching the sculpture is part of his daily routine, and when he asks Ted Sr. why he let Daniel take the ceramic mechanic, Ted Sr. says “Well, it belonged to his daddy.”

When Janet reaches out to the mechanic in “Go Ask Roger,” she’s unconsciously mimicking Teddy while calling back to Ted Sr.’s words. The ceramic mechanic belonged to Lester Holden. It represents him, keeps his memory alive in the same way that award-cum-nutcracker may some day do for Mr. Gelato-Eating Musical Moneybags. Now, that memory isn’t necessarily the truth of the man who scarred his son by taking him out into the woods to kill something. But that story doesn’t necessarily tell Lester’s truth, either. The truth Janet knows in that moment, however: The ceramic mechanic, and what he stands for, is worth more than six figures.


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