Recap: Rusty Reaches His Lowest Ebb In ‘Presumed Innocent’ Episode 4

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 26, 2024 (Last updated: 2 weeks ago)
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Presumed Innocent Episode 4 Recap - Did Rusty do it?
Presumed Innocent | Image via Apple TV+

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

4

Summary

Rusty reaches his lowest ebb yet in Presumed Innocent Episode 4, which highlights how his deceptions and the ongoing case have impacted everyone around him.

Every episode of Presumed Innocent thus far has depicted Rusty Sabich as a deeply selfish and arrogant man at best and a hopping madman at worst, and Episode 4, “The Burden”, finds him at his most deranged yet. This is a good excuse for Jake Gyllenhaal to kick an already career-best performance into another gear, though, so it’s a good thing for the audience even if it’s a terrible thing for his character.

It’s worth noting that there isn’t much meaningful development in the case’s particulars in this episode. Instead, it’s mostly about the state of mind of various characters as recent events begin to take more and more of a toll on them, and it’s fascinating to see how each of them reacts, especially with Rusty.

Kyle knew about Rusty’s affair

Let’s start with the obvious. Episode 3 ended with Rusty discovering that Kyle was present outside Carolyn’s house on May 10, which means he knew about the affair before Barbara made him confess it in Episode 2. But why didn’t he say anything before?

Rusty’s treatment of Kyle in this scene is despicable. He immediately gets into prosecutor mode and starts interrogating Kyle about his motive, when really his motive is obvious – he was darkly curious about who his father was cheating on his mother with. Why would Rusty risk everything for this woman? What did she look like? These are obvious questions for a confused young man to be asking in this situation.

But Rusty still plays the victim. In his most egregious move yet, when Barbara sticks up for Kyle and points out that he’s going to need some therapy for this soon, Rusty tells her that she needs to start taking some responsibility.

The gall!

Barbara makes a friend…

To be fair, perhaps Rusty is suspicious of therapy because his therapist is terrible. Dr. Liz is also the therapist for Barbara and now Kyle, which she rightly points out is a bit of a conflict of interest. But she has been deeply unprofessional since the very beginning, passing obvious judgment in sessions and just generally behaving like a catty friend instead of a professional.

This is someone who is being paid, I’ll remind you all again. I don’t think I’d want my son visiting her either.

But Barbara finds a different kind of therapy in this episode. Once again, she returns to the bar she visited in a previous episode, where she met a handsome bartender named Clifton. She spends most of “The Burden” bonding with him, trying not to slip too far into obvious flirtation. But she does return home and have sex with Rusty, clearly not thinking about Rusty during the act, which is never a good sign.

After that, Barbara points out that the sex was good and intense and passionate, which for them is unusual. I laughed out loud at this since it’s such a terrible indictment of Rusty when you think about it, but to Barbara it might have been proof that all of their pretending that their marriage is still alive and exciting has just been delaying the inevitable.

Did Rusty kill Carolyn?

I’m cheating a little here since I already know the answer to the question above. But it’s worth positing it regardless since Presumed Innocent Episode 4 goes to some lengths to imply that Rusty might have killed Carolyn after all.

If nothing else, he was clingy to the point of abuse. Carolyn had confided in Michael that she was scared of a man she worked cases with. He concedes to his defense team that he wasn’t handling being ghosted well. He has said in previous episodes that the implication from the messages he sent Carolyn would be that he was obsessed with her.

Flashbacks make it clear – he was. But was he obsessed enough to kill her for rejecting him? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?

The case takes another bad turn for Rusty

What’s working in Rusty’s favor is that the prosecution’s evidence is flimsy. They’ll have a hard time proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, so he might get away with an obstruction charge. Well, this is as long as he doesn’t take the stand, since if he does his obvious creepy obsession with Carolyn won’t exactly endear him to a jury.

But “The Burden” ends by making things even worse for Rusty. Raymond calls to give him some bad news, which was just smugly revealed to him by Tommy and Nico – Rusty’s skin was found under Carolyn’s fingernails.

Rusty is fuming to hear this and is adamant that he’s being set up. But while this is happening, Ratzer, a suspect he had interviewed earlier, starts angrily braying on his door. This scene is very impressive in the feeling of panic and disorientation it evokes, with Rusty trying to deal with multiple things at once while screaming at everyone.

Eventually, he opens the front door and starts beating Ratzer half to death. Before, Rusty was just smug. Now he’s prone to violence. Perhaps we’ll see him on the stand after all.


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