Love & Death Season 1 Episode 3 Recap – Who finds out about Candy and Allan’s affair?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: April 27, 2023 (Last updated: February 28, 2024)
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Love & Death Season 1 Episode 3 Recap – Who finds out about Candy and Allan’s affair?


“Stepping Stone” ends on quite the cliff-hanger, much sooner than expected, and the direction the show might take from here is anyone’s guess.

This recap of the HBO Max series Love & Death Season 1 Episode 3, “Stepping Stone”, contains spoilers.

The conversation around Love & Death will – probably rightly – revolve heavily around Elizabeth Olsen’s leading performance in it, and in “Stepping Stone”, which continues the descent she began in Episode 2 from devil-may-care cheating housewife to woman scorned, will only stir that conversation up further.

Olsen is brilliant here. In just a couple of opening scenes, when she confronts Allan about his daughter, Alisa, having mentioned that Candy cares too much about what other people think – a sentiment Candy assumes she is repeating after hearing from someone else – she crosses the transom from vaguely deranged to outright terrifying.

But it’s worth mentioning that this performance wouldn’t work without Jesse Plemons, who is playing a man torn between his responsibilities and his libido; a weak-willed guy who really does love his wife but is stifled by her, but who is also too naïve and spineless to realize how his present situation is rapidly becoming dangerous not just to his marriage but also, it seems, his physical wellbeing.

Love & Death Season 1 Episode 3 Recap

It’s worth remembering that it has been strongly implied that Candy doesn’t really care about Allan, but what an affair with him represents to her. She feels particularly cheated not because she’s jealous of his marriage to Betty but because his fidelity means an end to her infidelity, which she had increasingly come to define herself by.

This is a deeply Christian community in late-70s Texas. Marriage and family are everything, second only to God. In her liaisons with Allan, Candy existed outside of the social rules. She was free. Allan rejecting her – and she confesses to Sherry that it’s the rejection, specifically, which she is struggling to deal with – confines her once again to the sexless prison of nuclear family conservatism.

This, one suspects, is why she’s unraveling so quickly and completely. Love & Death doesn’t do a very good job of emphasizing the passage of time, so the reaction seems irrationally severe. It helps if you view Candy’s sudden spiral as a profound existential terror.

But blimey, she makes it obvious. When Allan tells her that Betty found a lump in her breast that two doctors have told her is benign, Candy insists on dropping by. She’s able to fake concern and interest for as long as it takes Allan to pull into the driveway. As soon as he’s there, her eye-rolls and discomfort are so obvious that it’s no surprise when Betty looks out of the window at the two of them talking and realizes, immediately, that there’s something going on between them.

It sounds like I’m waffling and reading too much into things here, but I’m validated by a scene a little later in which Candy asks Pat to attend Marriage Encounter. In the conversation, she asks him outright why he thinks he’s here, as in on Earth, and he gives a perfectly serviceable answer – to, like a tree, plant roots and grow fruit and spread seeds.

When he throws the same question back at Candy, she doesn’t have an answer. She doesn’t know.

Don says something similar later to Pastor Ron, who is sulking about none of his parishioners liking him. He claims people just want to raise their kids, love their families, and love God. But what if they don’t?

Candy tries to mask her existential angst by replicating Allan and Betty’s path through Marriage Encounter, naively believing if she can fix her marriage, she can get over the rejection. But Candy and Pat evidently don’t believe in the retreat – Pat describes it as a cult – in the same way Allan and Betty do. It sort of works, in its own way, but it’s a temporary measure; a Band-Aid over an open wound that needs a stitch before it festers.

Who finds out about Candy and Allan’s affair?

As it turns out there’s no real time for the wound to fester. After Marriage Encounter, Candy and Pat try to feign happiness, but he discovers one of Allan’s love notes to Candy.

Pat goes straight to Sherry for confirmation that the affair is over. Crucially, he doesn’t ask if it ever took place – he isn’t in denial about that. When she confirms it is over, she tips Candy off, which he instructed her not to do, but Candy nonetheless waits for Pat to broach the issue. He does so in a self-loathing letter acknowledging how much he must have failed Candy for her to commit adultery.

Does Candy feel shame, as she claims? I think she might. Either way, Olsen does a remarkable job of selling it.

In the aftermath of these revelations, everyone settles into strained domesticity. Candy and Pat try to carry on as normal. Allan and Betty are somewhat detached; they’re over in Wylie, not Collin County, and Betty’s disputes with Pastor Ron keep them away from the church.

However, Alisa is friendly with Candy’s daughter and is always at her house, and it’s while running an errand for her that Candy ends up visiting Betty at home. Allan has left on a work trip, and Betty is frazzled again – she was advised to stop taking birth control in response to the benign mass, and she thinks she might be pregnant again.

Love & Death Season 1 Episode 3 Ending Explained

There’s an instant sense of foreboding when Candy arrives at the Gore house because it’s recognizable from the cold open of the premiere. The yellow laundry basket is on the couch. The playmat and rocking horse are on the floor.

It’s no surprise, then, when Betty confronts Candy about the affair.

The episode ends with Candy confessing, Betty nipping outside, and returning with the wood-splitting axe that’ll eventually kill her dangling by her side. But we don’t see the murder. That’s where we leave things, on the promise that it’s coming. With five episodes still remaining, it’ll be interesting to see how much more of this story there is to tell.

You can stream Love & Death Season 1 Episode 3, “Stepping Stone” exclusively on HBO Max.

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