The Big Never
Season 3 Episode 3
Season 3, Episode 3
Written by: Nic Pizzolatto
Directed by: Daniel Sackheim
Original airdate: January 20, 2019

The Big Never is the third episode of Season 3 of True Detective and the nineteenth episode overall.


Ten years after the Purcell children went missing, new evidence emerges, giving Wayne a second chance to vindicate himself. Skip ahead to 2015, and an older Hays recalls his early romance with the children’s school teacher, Amelia, who would later become his wife. Sifting through his memories, he revisits the cracks in their relationship that surfaced after they married and had children of their own.



Wayne Hays and Roland West take the note from the kidnapper to be tested for fingerprints. The note is found to have been mailed from Farmington, and the detectives find that the Ozark Children's Outreach is offering a reward for information leading to the resolution of the Purcell case. Hays goes back to the beginning of the case and the story that the Purcell kids told about going to Ronnie Boyle's house on the night they disappeared. Hays and West begin to investigate why they lied about that and what they were really doing.

Tom Purcell claims that the children played with Ronnie three or four nights a week, but Hays and West realize that this is not true after re-interviewing Ronnie. They begin searching through the children's possessions, finding a map and a series of notes in a Hoyt Foods bag. Hays and West head to the Ozark Children's Outreach, which is a foundation set up by Edward Hoyt to help children after the loss of his own granddaughter several years ago.

Daily searches are still conducted in Devil's Den State Park, and Hays is joined by Amelia Reardon. They talk about the war and their experiences, and he invites her to dinner. While searching, Hays eventually finds Will's roleplaying game die in a pile of leaves, as well as a bag of toys hidden under a rock formation. Looking further, Hays finds a rock with blood and hair on it.

The detectives head out to farmhouse that was not on the maps, believing they have not talked to him. He reveals that he has already talked to police, and regularly saw the Purcell children go down his road and enter the woods. He also reports seeing a brown car with a black man and a white woman in it.

Brett Woodard is confronted by several locals who believe he is responsible for the children's disappearance. He is beaten up and told to stay from the neighborhood and the kids. Heading home, Woodward retrieves a large cloth bag from storage.

At the Purcell house, Hays and West show Tom and Lucy photos of the toys they found to see if they recognize them. They tell where they found them in the forest with the children's fingerprints on them, plus a set of unidentified prints. At the house, Hays goes through an old photo album and realizes that one of the photos taken of Will is posed exactly the same as how his body was found. They learn the photo was taken at Will's first communion.


On the 17th of March, Lieutenant West gives his deposition to Jim Dobkins and Alan Jones about the events of the Purcell case ten years prior.

Amelia gets information out of the Sallisaw police regarding Julie Purcell's fingerprints, using the fact that she has a book coming out on the case as a cover for her questions. At a Wal-Mart, Hays is briefly panic-stricken when Becca goes missing after stopping to eat some free chips and briefly gets lost. Hays is angry but relieved that she is okay. When Amelia gets home, she ends up arguing with Hays since he doesn't like her attitude and the way she gets her information.

West visits Tom Purcell to talk about the reopening of the case. He is sober and religious. Tom already knows about the fingerprints and is hopeful about the news. He wishes that Lucy was still alive to see it. Tom thanks West for helping him get sober five years ago, and asks him to join him in prayer.

West meets with Hays for the first time in years at a bar and invites him to join his task force looking into the newly reopened Purcell case.


Hays has a CT scan to determine if his condition is worsening after the incident that led him out to Shoepick Lane. Hays is sure that he drove out there for a reason, rather than in a fugue or confused state, and he just can't remember why. Henry is more concerned for his father's failing memory.

Hays continues the interview with Elisa Montgomery, and the questions turn to the police coverage in questioning the neighborhood and whether it was sufficient. She reveals that there was never a mention of a brown sedan in the police reports despite multiple eyewitnesses reporting it. Elisa questions whether or not the police investigation was flawed from the beginning. Henry calls the session to an end, but the information provokes Hays' memories.

Hays sits in his office and goes over his memories about the brown sedan. He hallucinates Amelia in the room with him, telling him about infinite dimensions.She talks about what he is afraid of, and urges him to finish what he started.


Main CastEdit

Guest StarringEdit


  • Death Letter
    Written by Son House
    Performed by Cassandra Wilson
  • Blood
    Written by Franklin James Fisher, John Ryan Mahan, Lee Tesche
    Performed by Algiers
  • Another Place Another Time
    Written by Jerry Chesnut
    Performed by Jerry Lee Lewis
  • She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye
    Written by Doug Gilmore, Mickey Newbury
    Performed by Jerry Lee Lewis
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