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Top of the Lake: Episode 5 

Photo Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh
Photo Credit: Sundance Channel/Parisa Taghizadeh


Five episodes into Top of the Lake, and I like it even more, and I’m intrigued that what was initially billed as a missing persons mystery hasn’t really been that at all. Instead, it’s been an intense character study of how that disappearance has left the people in its wake. Most importantly, it’s the story of a woman trying to figure out who she is now as she holds a mirror of her life up against Tui’s situation.

This week’s episode finds Robin and Johnno in bit of a bliss state—happily together and living a quiet domestic life. We’re told that it’s now two months since Tui’s disappearance. Again, there seems to be no active investigation going on, especially in light of Robin’s suspension. Robin isn’t quite settled though, and so she asks Johnno to tell her the terrible thing she didn’t want to know.

He tells her that he tried to intervene when she was attacked but was berated by the men and so he did nothing. She forgives him, telling him he was a boy and there was nothing he could have done. It’s not enough, though. He takes the trash out to the street as Robin begs him to talk to her and heads straight to the RV park, storming in on Sarge. He slams him into the wall and tells him he raped his friend, his sweetheart and he has to go. He kicks Sarge outside into the dirt until he scrambles into his truck and drives away while one of the neighbors starts to clap.

Then he goes home to Robin and climbs into bed and kisses her as he promises her that he’s going to love her forever. The next day, Al comes calling, looking for someone to play nice with the press. Robin gives the reporter a solid story but no leads and is reinstated. Al makes a pitch, half serious, that she should marry him and redeem him and he could make her happy and she tells him no. He tells her she could exterminate him, then. She says she doesn’t want that, either.

Over at the Mitcham house, Matt wakes up when Tui’s dog goes upstairs to her room and begins barking and whimpering, although the room isn’t disturbed. The next morning, he tells his sons and the mystery girlfriend with the baby that when Tui comes home, they’ll be a proper family with meals and conversations. He says he’s hiring two hunters to find her but not hurt her. Then his sons confront him that they saw him in Tui’s bed with Tui walking up and down on him while he was asleep. He rails at them that it was innocent and nothing and that he loved Tui.

Also lingering this week is that Robin’s mother, Jude is failing, and she and her boyfriend make a visit to GJ’s, where GJ asks her if she’s afraid of death (she is), and what her plan is for the pain. When she says morphine, GJ startles her with the response that heroin is better. But she reassures her that the body knows how to die and it’ll be OK. Her family will be the ones left to mourn.

Next, they go see Robin, with Pratt’s widow, Carolyn (Lucy Lawless) in tow. Jude is visibly shaken when she realizes that Robin and Johnno have reconciled, and she asks Robin to stay away from him. Robin lies that she will. This manifests later when Robin accuses Johnno of somehow setting the rape in motion. He’s so distraught at the suggestion that he leaves.

Carolyn asks Robin to help her figure out what happened to her husband. She tells Robin that he was terrified and he’d made the deal with GJ as a last big payout before getting out of Laketop. Robin doesn’t find anything on his computer but she offers to keep looking when Carolyn says she can take the PC home.

Returned to his tent out on the lake, Johnno sees Jamie out on the water and comes to get Robin. They follow but lose sight of him in the woods. Alone with Johnno, Robin caves that she’s sorry, and she was scared. She kisses him and things escalate pretty quickly to the point that they give two men in the woods (who I think are Matt’s hunters) an unexpected show. When Johnno realizes they’re being photographed, he jumps up completely starkers and gets the phone, but not before one of the men hits an artery with a knife.

Robin binds his leg and they walk the river until they end up at GJ’s. Once they arrive, Johnno’s patched up and regaled with more oddities from the women. He scrolls through the photos, admiring them for what they are and what he and Robin have but she’s mortified and tells him to delete them. It’s unclear if he does but as he keeps going through the phone, he hops down off the table and show Robin a video of the woods. And there, moving through the trees, is Tui. “Good girl, Tui,” is her relieved and happy response.

When she and Johnno get home, they find out Jude has died. Her boyfriend tells Robin that she called and called but couldn’t reach her and finally left a message for her at home. She listens to her mother’s phoned goodbye and crumples. After they bury her and return home, Johnno tends to Robin in her grief until she’s called to the precinct to help when Jamie is pinched for shoplifting groceries.

She’s the only one who realizes he must be feeding someone on the sly, because hunger isn’t a problem for him. She condemns Al for berating the boy and then takes Jamie home. His mother tries to intervene as he beats on himself and the next morning she finds him gone and her cupboards bare.

Out on the water, Jamie paddles with several trash bags stashed in his kayak. When he hits land, he sets them down and walks away. He hears a rustle and turns around and a disheveled and ravenous Tui appears and starts tearing her way through the bags of chips and packages of crackers.

So. Tui’s alive. Next week, we get the final two hours in one go.

I really like Johnno and Robin together and I hope that Robin’s hunch was right that Jude was so nervous about them together because in her illness she mistook Johnno for Matt. I don’t want us to find out that Johnno’s been a bad guy all along (or that there’s some familial thing there with Robin that Jude took to the grave). I think in his own way, he’s as damaged from the night of Robin’s rape as she is. For him, it manifested in addiction and prison. I like the idea that they could find each other again and try to have the relationship they were robbed of. I won’t be happy if there’s a rug pull.

It’s interesting that Tui became the background for this larger story, and it’s part of why Jane Campion is such a compelling storyteller. I have no idea where we’re going, but I’ve enjoyed having something very different to tune into this spring.

Sundance will marathon episodes 1-5 this Sunday beginning at 6 pm/5c. Episodes 6 and 7 run back to back Monday night starting at 9/8c. You can catch a sneak peek here.

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