Harper's Island: Week 1 Recap

For anyone who wasn’t able to watch the Harper’s Island premiere but still wants to play along with the mystery, I’ll be providing synopses of the episodes here, so you can catch up on anything you missed.

The episode opens with a fly-by of the island, as onscreen text announces that there’s been a history of murder on Harper’s Island… 7 years ago a madman named John Wakefield killed 6 people – but why, and for what purpose? And why did he, unlike any serial killer ever, string them up like cristmas decorations on a tree?

The action then cuts to a yacht, where a wedding party is planning to head out to an island for a week’s worth of nuptual celebration! We’re introduced to our main cast here, Henry, the groom, Trish, the bride, Thomas, the evil father of the bride, some fratboy groomsmen who go infuriatingly unnamed, some sorority girl bridesmaids who suffer the same fate, and Abby, who’s awkwardly established as our main character. It turns out that she grew up on the island, and that her father’s the sherrif. That’s not why she’s nervous to go back to the island, though – it seems her mother was one of the people in the tree above. She’s only going because Henry is her best friend from childhood, and he’s insisted that she go to the wedding.

Just before the boat leaves Henry’s sleazy uncle Marty (Harry Hamlin!) arrives, played up the gangplank by a mariachi band he hired for the occasion. Immediately heading below-decks, Marty pauses to take a pill with some champagne, and then opens the satchel which represents all the luggage he brought for the trip.

Yup, that’s a gun, somewhere close to a million dollars, and a mysterious blue plastic case. Just what’s he got planned for the festivities, I wonder? Also, the show pulled the classic thing of not understanding just how heavy money is – he certainly didn’t walk onto the ship looking like he was carrying a thirty-pound briefcase. Making things even more suspicious, Marty takes the gun out and sticks it into the back of his belt. Just what is he expecting is going to happen on the boat?

Now that everyone’s arrived they’re ready to leave, well, almost ready – Trish’s cousin Ben is nowhere to be found. Of course, since this is a slasher show, that can’t mean anything good-

Yup, someone really doesn’t like Ben. What could he have possibly done to deserve this? Since he’s chopped up as the engine starts, we probably won’t be finding out for a while. Out on the open water, Trish gets a call from a ‘Hunter Jennings’, then pretends it was unimportant in front of her father… mysterious!

When the boat arrives at the dock, Abby runs into Jimmy, a local fisherman that she dated years earlier. After some banter she elects to wander through the woods rather than taking a shuttle to the hotel, which leads her to run into… the murder tree! If nothing else, this confirms that yes, Abby’s mother was the body on the bottom left of frame. Henry bursts out of the woods and assures Abby that the killer’s dead, and that she’s got nothing to be afraid of. They walk towards the hotel, while a mysterious figure watches from the woods, holding a… um, I’m not really sure-

Is that a gun? A knife? An axe?

Abby and Henry arrive at the hotel, where they’re welcomed by Maggie, the manager, who drops the important information that the hotel is completely booked by the wedding, and that it’s the end of the season, so the island is essentially empty except for them and a few townies.

Upstairs Chloe and her boyfriend Cal find their room, where Cal reveals that he’s rented them a boat because she loves to sail. He doesn’t also reveal that he’s planning to propose to her, saving that for later.

Back on the dock Jimmy helps untangle ‘something’ from the yacht’s prop, and narrowly avoids finding the severed head that we’re all assuming is Ben. I mention that because although they cut from a scene of Trish trying to call Ben to a shot of the guy strapped to the propeller, it’s not like we’ve seen a picture or anything.

In what may or may not be a clue, we then see a cart full of luggage rolling up to the hotel, with an air tank clearly visible at the bottom. Does that mean the scuba killer is definitely in the wedding party? Yes. But who is it? One of the groomsmen runs up to claim a bag from the cart, but is that suspicious in and of itself? They pointedly avoid showing us whose face it is:

But simple clothing comparison establishes that it’s ‘Black Guy’ from the boat.

Does he have something in his bag he’s nervous about someone finding? Hopefully we’ll discover soon…

Now we get our first introduction to Trish’s sister’s family, including her disinterested husband Richard, and creepy duaghter Madison, who’s interested in burning snails with a magnifying glass. In other creepy relative news, it turns out that Henry’s brother JD has creepy, evil tattoos. Also, Thomas recieves an email from Hunter Jennings (from the cell phone!) announcing that he’ll ‘get to her’ tonight! Rounding out the creepy communique sequence, Abby gets a call on her cell phone that just plays ‘ave maria’. For this scene Abby is in her underwear, because this show needs to be thought of as ‘sexy’.

Down at the first night gathering Trish gets a message from Hunter telling her to meet him in the lobby. She goes, like an idiot, and they kiss before she announces that she’s getting married. He announces his intent to break up the wedding. Back in the ballroom Chloe is slutting it up on the dance floor with uncle Marty, much to the chagrin of Cal, who’s sitting on the sidelines.

More family trauma going on, as Trish confides in her sister Shea about Hunter showing up, and Henry tells Abby that JD has disappeared. Trish insists that she’s going through with the wedding, while Abby heads into town to find JD. Outside in the garden Thomas and Hunter are scheming about how to break up the wedding more effectively, which Uncle Marty just happens to hear as he’s walking by outside.

In the town bar Abby runs into her old friend Nikki, hangs out with Jimmy for a while, then watches JD start into a bar fight that Abby’s father, the Sheriff breaks up.

Over at the hotel Marty confronts Thomas about the plan to break up the wedding, and announces that he won’t let anything derail the nuptuals. The Sheriff drives Abby and JD back to the hotel, and Abby announces that she’s still too traumatized about the past to be willing to talk to her father. Mysterious! Okay, not really that time.

We’re now winding things up for the night, as Henry and Abby hang out by the fire, chatting about their hectic evening. Creepy Madison shows up in her mother’s bedroom, scaring her awake, and announces that her ‘new friend’ has told her about a series of murders on the island. Is it a ghost, or an older friend who wants her to keep a secret?

Meanwhile outside Chloe and Cal have gone out to the beach for some skinny-dipping. Well, obviously not skinny-dipping, because this is television, but at least underwear-swimming. Cal’s attempts to propose are foiled by Chloe’s game playing, as she pretends to drown in order to scare Cal by pulling him underwater. This pisses off Cal a lot more than it should, and he shoves her head underwater in a surprisingly mean fashion. identifying him as another character with serious anger control issues.

This freaks Chloe out and she swims off, then throws his clothes into the water. She runs off into the woods, still in her underwear, while Cal is left at the beach, desperately searching for the ring that fell out of his clothes. Chloe storms across this bridge:

And the second she’s out of frame, she SCREAMS!

Back at the hotel Henry and Trish finish having sex, and she suggests that they get separate rooms for the rest of the week. Henry agrees, and while she’s in the shower, her phone rings – Henry sees that the call is coming from Hunter!

Back at the brige, Uncle Marty comes walking out of the woods from the direction that Chloe went before SCREAMING. The wood of the bridge breaks under his feet and he falls halfway through to the creek below. Somehow, despite his gun being tucked into the back of his pants, it falls out in front of him.

As Marty calls for help someone walks into the creekbed below him and starts hacking at him with a sharp implement. He grabs the gun and fires blindly down, but it’s all for naught, and Uncle Marty winds up like this-

One more trip back to the hotel as the episode winds up – Abby returns to her room and discovers that someone has taped an old newspaper clipping about her mother’s death.

If nothing else, we’ve learned that the people who write the local paper don’t have the greatest grasp of grammar. Oh, and that someone’s stalking Abby.


Abby’s pretty clearly our main character – it would take some real guts to shock us all by killing her off, so don’t expect that to happen. As for tonight’s murder, we can assume that the show is playing fair, and that the people we saw in their bedrooms around the time of the murder didn’t leap out of bed, get dressed, run out into the woods, find Marty, and hack him in two with a machete. This means that for this first murder, the people with an alibi are:

Abby Mills
Sheriff Charlie Mills
Henry Dunn
Trish Wellington
Ben Wellington (Killed in Episode 1)
Madison Allen
Richard Allen
Shea Allen

Now for a quick look at possible motives. Thomas has one, because Marty was interfering with his plans – we can extend that motive to Hunter as well. Cal’s another decent suspect. There’s a good chance that Marty waylaid Chloe in the woods after she stormed off, and the screenshot above proves that Cal has some pretty severe anger issues.

Of course, none of those three motives have anything to do with Marty’s satchel of cash, so I’m guessing there’s more to that story we haven’t heard yet.

See you next week for another Harper’s Island wrapup!

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