Love & Death Season 1 Episode 6 Recap – Did Candy Montgomery kill Betty Gore in self-defense?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: May 18, 2023 (Last updated: February 28, 2024)
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Love & Death Season 1 Episode 6 Recap


The trial gets underway and the media furor begins, drastically changing the tone and format of Love & Death.

This recap of Love & Death Season 1 Episode 6, “The Big Top”, contains spoilers.

Hey, remember when an earlier episode of Love & Death used the visual of Candy Montgomery grinding meat as a visual signifier of her descent into madness? Cooking-as-metaphor seems to be becoming a trend in this show. “The Big Top” opens with a voice emanating from the radio explaining the beginning of Candy’s trial while Candy herself aggressively stirs something in a pan, all trance-like.

Maybe this is a coincidence. Or, maybe it’s very intentional. I suppose it stands to reason that a housewife would unravel during quintessential housewife activities. Candy’s trying to keep up appearances. But the cracks are starting to show.

Love & Death Season 1 Episode 6 Recap

Candy looks 20 years older. Stress probably isn’t helping, but it’s more thanks to Don’s deliberately conservative makeover. She has a new short haircut, giant jam-jar glasses, and a cardigan. She shuffles into the courthouse — the outside of which is absolutely packed with journalists and curious on-lookers — like someone’s grandmother.

Why is Don held in contempt?

As was immediately apparent in Episode 5, Don is absolutely loving this. He goes before the potential jurors and reveals, for the first time, that Candy did indeed kill Betty Gore, but only in self-defense. He promises them one hell of a story, from Candy herself, no less. But he’s pulling the strings, for sure. He tells Ron that the jury needs to hear that God is on Candy’s side as soon as possible, and implores Pat to fix up. It’s all about the optics, and Pat’s sadsack cuckold routine isn’t doing anyone any favors.

To be fair, not everyone is keen on Don’s showmanship either. After talking to the media and backchatting the judge he’s held in contempt and sentenced to time in county jail post-verdict, but he’s still allowed to represent Candy when the trial begins, and he certainly makes the most of it.

Did Candy Montgomery kill Betty Gore in self-defense?

Don’s angle is obvious. When Allan takes the stand, he’s questioned about the affair, Candy’s friendship with Betty, the amicability of their separation, and about whether he believed Candy would have any cause or motivation to kill Betty. He didn’t. As far as he can tell, Candy didn’t even know they owned an axe, let alone where they kept it.

Jesse Plemons is quietly brilliant here giving only yes/no answers, but he’s not much use to the prosecution. In fact, Betty’s father later tells him that he might as well have been a witness for the defense.

But, as far as we know, Candy had no intention of killing Betty. She didn’t drive to the house to do so. We saw Betty confront her with the eventual murder weapon. In snippets of flashback, we’ve seen Betty attack Candy with it.

This all comes up during the trial. Don asks the obvious questions of the witnesses and experts. If Candy intended to get away with it, could she possibly have been more inept about it? No. Is an axe an ideal murder weapon for a small woman? No. There were defensive wounds on Betty’s body, implying a back-and-forth struggle. It seems pretty obvious that this wasn’t premeditated, and likely that Betty initiated the physical confrontation.

But there’s a particular problem for the defense. Well, two, actually. The first is that Candy keeps taking pills which make her notably zombiefied, which the press have been keen to highlight. Don is adamant about her looking human, but Candy is adamant about her holding it together. She won’t give the press the satisfaction of seeing an erratic and unstable housewife, even if they need to.

The other problem is that Candy struck Betty with that axe 40 times, which makes the idea of self-defense somewhat preposterous. And the prosecution knows this. They deliberately save the pathologist until last, and call him to the stand right after lunch in the hopes that one of the jurors will spill their guts and essentially end the trial then and there.

Love & Death Season 1 Episode 6 Ending Explained

That doesn’t happen, but the evidence is compelling nonetheless. 40 blows is a lot. It’s more than might be needed to chop a tree down. Several of them could have caused Betty’s death. Two of them came from above and went so deep that they required the axe to be wiggled back and forth to free it. And since only one of these wounds occurred post-mortem, Betty was alive for 39 of them.

Don questions if she would have necessarily been conscious for that long, an important distinction given the prosecution wants the idea of Betty’s pain and suffering to be forefront in the jury’s mind, but beyond a reminder that there remains no evidence of who started the fight in the first place, that’s really all Don’s got.

The prosecution rests. So, the defense can call their first witness — Candy, who happens to be completely strung out on pills.

When Don approaches the judge to appeal for a delay in Candy’s testimony, he’s given ten minutes. Perhaps it wasn’t wise to antagonize the judge after all.

You can stream Love & Death Season 1 Episode 6, “The Big Top” exclusively on HBO Max.

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