In the affluent beachfront community of Monterey, CA, a fundraiser for the local elementary school has gone horribly wrong--someone is dead, and school moms Madeline Mackenzie, Celeste Wright, Jane Chapman and Renata Klein may have had something to do with it. Though the victim and perpetrator remain a mystery, it's clear that the battle lines leading to this fateful night were drawn at first-grade orientation a few weeks earlier, when Renata's daughter Amabella accuses Ziggy, son of new arrival and single mom Jane, of hurting her during class. Madeline, who recently befriended Jane and who has a pre-existing beef with Renata, sticks up for the mother and her little boy. Later, Madeline bristles when her teen daughter Abigail opines that her mom is still infatuated with her ex, Nathan, and his new wife Bonnie--a feeling shared by Madeline's husband Ed. Meanwhile, after Madeline's best friend Celeste fills in her husband Perry about the kerfuffle at school, the couple end up in an unexpectedly volatile argument.
Detectives Adrienne Quinlan and Walt Gibson walk through a crime scene at a local school, site of an Audrey Hepburn/Elvis Presley-themed fundraiser. Gibson notes there are a number of witnesses to the crime, but "not a lot of clarity." The detectives take note of the body at the bottom of a staircase.
On the first day of school some weeks before the fundraiser, Madeline Martha Mackenzie meets single mom Jane Chapman, who is new to the community. Jane, significantly younger than the other mothers, is nervous for her son, Ziggy's first day, but is happy to see Madeline's precocious daughter, Chloe, take him under her wing. Madeline introduces Jane to Celeste, whose twins, Max and Josh, are also 6. The three women make a fast connection.
Madeline is irritated that her ex-husband Nathan is present at orientation with his new wife, Bonnie, and their daughter, Skye. Her issue, she explains, is not about Nathan specifically, but that he never bothered to be at their daughter Abigail's first day of school. Bonnie apologizes to Madeline for recently signing a petition against a show being done by the local theater where Madeline works.
Another mother, Renata Klein mistakes Jane for a nanny, but Madeline rushes to correct her. The children finish orientation, and Jane is thrilled to hear Ziggy had fun. The mood changes however, when Renata's daughter, Amabella says one of the other children tried to choke her. Encouraged by the teacher to point out the persona responsible, Amabella accuses Ziggy. Renata looks to Jane and her son for an apology, but Ziggy is so adamant he didn't do it, Jane doesn't have the heart to make him apologize for something she believes he didn't commit.
At home that evening Renata explains to her husband, Gordon, the other women at school don't like her because she has a career.
Madeline confesses to her husband, Ed, she feels she is losing Abigail to Nathan and Bonnie. Trying to connect, Madeline and Abigail share a moment at the piano. Abby says she'll get Bonnie to start a new petition "for" Madeline's play.
Celeste tells her husband, Perry, about the incident with Amabella. Perry suggests it's best the twins avoid Ziggy, but Celeste believes this might be an overreaction and tells him he's being ridiculous. Perry responds by violently grabbing her arm – something he has clearly done before.
Each woman reflects on the day's events: Renata looks out across her backyard; Celeste lies awake in bed; Jane unlocks a drawer and stares inside; and Madeline locks eyes with herself in the bedroom mirror.
- Reese Witherspoon (Madeline Mackenzie), Nicole Kidman (Celeste Wright), Shailene Woodley (Jane Chapman), Alexander Skarsgård (Perry Wright), Adam Scott (Ed Mackenzie), Zoë Kravitz (Bonnie Carlson), James Tupper (Nathan Carlson), Jeffrey Nordling (Gordon Klein), and Laura Dern (Renata Klein) make their first appearances and are billed as Starring.
- Iain Armitage (Ziggy Chapman), Sarah Baker (Thea Cunningham), Sarah Burns (Gabrielle), P.J. Byrne (Principal Nippal), Santiago Cabrera (Joseph Bachman), Darby Camp (Chloe Mackenzie), Gia Carides (Melissa), Hong Chau (Jackie), Kelen Coleman (Harper), Joseph Cross (Tom), Merrin Dungey (Detective Adrienne Quinlan), Ivy George (Amabella Klein), Virginia Kull (Emily Barnes), Kathryn Newton (Abigail Carlson), and Sarah Sokolovic (Tori Bachman) make their first appearances and are billed as Also Starring.
- Larry Bates (Stu), Kathreen Khavari (Samantha), David Monahan (Bernard), Joel Spence (Matt), and Larry Sullivan (Oren) make their first appearances and are billed as Guest Starring.
- Nelly Buchet (Juliette), Chloe Coleman (Skye Carlson), Parker Croft (Brent), Cameron Crovetti and Nicholas Crovetti (Max and Josh Wright), Keisuke Hoashi (Dr. Leo Chang), Kimmy Shields (Kelly), Tim True (Detective Walt Gibson), and Carrie Wampler (Lori) make their first appearances and are billed as Co-Starring.
- Gabrielle, Stu, Samantha, Melissa, Oren, Thea Cunningham, Bernard, Harper Stimson, Warren Nippal, Jackie, and Matt deliver testimonies in this episode.
- In the opening credits, Zoë Kravitz's name is misspelled as "Zoe Kravitz." This error persists for the rest of the season, until it is rectified in "What Have They Done?," the premiere of the second season.
- The script for the episode confirms that Jane's mother is named Di Chapman, in line with the novel.
|Big Little Lies Episodes|
|Season 1|| "Somebody's Dead" · "Serious Mothering" · "Living the Dream" · "Push Comes to Shove"|
"Once Bitten" · "Burning Love" · "You Get What You Need"
|Season 2|| "What Have They Done?" · "Tell-Tale Hearts" · "The End of the World"|
"She Knows" · "Kill Me" · "The Bad Mother" · "I Want to Know"