Recap: A New Suspect Emerges In ‘Presumed Innocent’ Episode 6

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: July 10, 2024 (Last updated: 10 hours ago)
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Presumed Innocent Episode 6 Recap - Let's Talk About Barbara
Presumed Innocent | Image via Apple TV+

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

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Summary

Rusty’s failings are brought into stark relief in “The Elements”, but do they prove his guilt? Or is someone else to blame for Carolyn’s murder?

Let’s interrupt our regularly scheduled recapping by reiterating a point. When I wrote about Episode 5 of Presumed Innocent, I mentioned the small things; the details. Episode 6, “The Elements”, opens with a good example of what I meant.

Rusty Sabich is, as far as we know, innocent. He also looks incredibly guilty. When Tommy Molto delivered an impassioned speech to the assembled jurors, Rusty knew he was in trouble. When Episode 6 catches back up to the trial, it’s an imagined version playing out in Rusty’s head, where he paces back and forth and gradually loses his temper until he starts grabbing people by the scruff of their neck.

In reality, he’s just sitting there. Listening. Powerless. That opening immediately puts you in Rusty’s hemmed-in headspace. But it also says something about him, about how he works through stress. His desire to lash out when he’s challenged is very strong — we saw that at the end of Episode 4 when he assaulted Ratzer.

Is it so much of a stretch to believe he might have lashed out at Carolyn Polhemus?

Presumed Innocent Subverts Expectations

I was being a bit dramatic there, as “The Elements” is less about implying Rusty’s guilt than it is about implying his failings. And this is a crucial distinction.

In the same way that Presumed Innocent is interesting as a legal thriller because it uses the case as a way to explore the lawyer rather than the lawyer as a way to explore the case, it’s also interesting in how it ensures that all the things seemingly implying Rusty’s guilt can also, in a roundabout way, imply his innocence.

The entire case rests on this idea of a stalemate. Yes, Rusty’s anger and impulsiveness led him to examine Carolyn’s corpse in a way that was unusual and frantic. But, the fact he’s awful means that the medical examiner, Kumagai, who takes the stand first in Episode 6, has a well-documented dislike of him.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other. And so it continues throughout. Yes, there were traces of Rusty’s skin and saliva on Carolyn. But that could just as easily be a result of them kissing as her defending herself against him.

The prosecution can’t prove murder in the first degree. The defense can’t prove Rusty was innocent.

Let’s Talk About Barbara

Rusty’s imagined lashing out in the opening contrasts with a scene later when Barbara tells him about kissing Clifton and he grabs her in anger.

Barbara has a lot to do in “The Elements”, mostly as a component in Rusty’s trial, but her demeanor and dialogue give her more agency than that. Barbara refuses to play along in the charade of a happy family, even though her truth — her anger, her disgust, her shock — won’t win over a jury. This isn’t Barbara betraying Rusty, but defending herself.

Similarly, Barbara tells Rusty about Clifton because she thinks they have reached the point where they can be open and honest. They haven’t. Rusty receives the news like a child, which is hilarious considering all the things he had been getting up to behind Barbara’s back.

But let me be the first to say it. This is the first time Barbara has looked guilty of something, and I don’t mean cheating on her husband. Pay attention to her monologue in the prosecutor’s office. I’m not buying it.

Tommy Remains Terrible

After his excellent opening statement at the end of Episode 5, Tommy could only go downhill from there. And he does so rapidly in Presumed Innocent Episode 6.

He just can’t help himself. After getting precisely what the prosecution needs from Kumagai, he can’t help but press the issue further, despite Nico telling him not to. He fumbles when Eugenia reveals that Carolyn filed a HR complaint about him, not Rusty, and he can’t help trying to paint a damning picture of Rusty when Michael takes the stand at the end of the episode.

We know Tommy is jealous of Rusty. We know he had a thing for Carolyn. But did those two things potentially coalesce into a murderous rage? Is Tommy guilty of killing Carolyn? When she told Michael about the man she was having trouble with at work, who she was becoming fearful of, was she talking about Rusty — or was she talking about Tommy?

Raymond Has A Heart Attack

Presumed Innocent Episode 6 ends with Raymond preparing to cross-examine Michael… and then having what looks like a heart attack and seemingly dying on the courtroom floor.

Raymond’s ill health has been foreshadowed all throughout. It was clear he was risking a lot for Rusty, and not just professionally. But his medical crisis comes at the worst possible time. Without him, who will defend Rusty? And how will his apparent death effect the dynamics of the case?

There are only two more episodes left to answer these questions, and presumably reveal the truth about who murdered Carolyn Polhemus. Will it be the same killer as in the book and the movie, or will the show deliver a last-minute swerve?

Read More: Presumed Innocent Episode 7 Explained

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