Tom Purcell's Secret Was Revealed On 'True Detective' & It Changes Everything

by Ani Bundel

True Detective always has a few hidden secrets no one wants to give up until pushed. In the case of this new season, the secrets are in the Purcell family. As Lucy says from the beginning, this is not a happy home for children to grow up in. At first blush, it just looks like two people who shouldn't have married but did because out-of-wedlock children were still a scandal in the 1970s. But the relationship between Lucy and Tom never quite added up. Finally, this week Tom Purcell's secret was revealed on True Detective. Warning: Spoilers for True Detective Season 3 follow.

During the 1980s investigation, several indications are given that Lucy and Tom do not love each other. At Will's funeral, Tom's mother even goes so far as to suggest Julie wasn't Tom's biological child, the timing didn't add up.

But also, there's the kidnapping note. Last week, Hays put together it was created by Lucy, to comfort Tom. If she hated him that much, why would she go to such lengths? The show suggests it could be driven by guilt. (Lucy actually says with her human mouth "I have the soul of a whore," revealing the depths of her self-loathing.)

But this week brought up a new wrinkle, one that might explain Lucy's love/hate relationship with Tom.


During the 1990 investigation, the upper brass in charge of accusing a new suspect land hard on Tom Purcell. They actively leap at Hays and West to find proof he did it so they can re-close the case. Among those they re-interview: Tom's boss from the plant where he helped build school buses.

The boss remembers the detectives and admits at the time he didn't want to tell them Tom was probably going to be fired soon anyway. The drinking, of course, was a real problem, being drunk or hungover made working with the machinery dangerous. But Tom was also on his way out because the other guys were on to Tom's big secret, and were very uncomfortable around him. One of them had seen him leaving a gay bar.

A search of Tom's house confirms the guys weren't wrong in their assessment of Tom's sexuality. Among his possessions, there's a brochure for how to pray away one's homosexuality.


Lucy wasn't going around cheating on Tom because she was somehow an evil person driven to sin. She did it because she found herself married to a man who wasn't attracted to her, and couldn't fake it long term. This explains why she cared enough to make a note, while also being unable to bring herself to sit next to him.

It also explains why she was willing to give Julie away without telling him, after all, the girl wasn't his. With this revelation, it's almost a certainty Tom's mother was telling the truth, the dates didn't line up. Lucy probably figured she was doing her daughter a favor. Why be raised by a poor man who wasn't her father when you can be fostered by a rich one instead?