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Flashbacks reveal that Nick and Amy’s marriage had disintegrated; both lost their jobs in the recession and moved from New York City to North Carthage, Missouri.
After Nick’s mistress, his student, reveals their affair at a press conference, Nick appears on a talk show to profess his innocence and apologize for his failures as a husband in the hope of luring Amy.Nick meets Amy’s ex-boyfriend Tommy O’Hara, who claims Amy framed him for rape.He also approaches another ex-boyfriend, the wealthy Desi Collings—against whom Amy previously filed a restraining order—but Desi refuses to share any details.Amy is revealed to be alive and well, having changed her appearance and gone into hiding in a distant campground.She despises Nick for the erosion of their marital bliss, her isolation after they moved to be closer to Nick’s family, and his infidelity.She seduces Desi and kills him during sex by slitting his throat, then returns home covered in blood, naming Desi as her captor and rapist and clearing Nick of suspicion.
When Boney questions Amy about the holes in her story, she sharply responds that Nick would have ended up on Missouri’s death row and she would have remained Desi’s victim because of Boney’s incompetence.
Despite Margo’s objections, he reluctantly decides to stay with Amy.
The “happy” couple announces on television that they are expecting a baby.
Amy plans the framing in great detail: she befriends a pregnant neighbor to steal her urine for the pregnancy test, drains her own blood to leave trace evidence of murder and fabricates a diary describing her fear of Nick.
By using the clues in a “treasure hunt” game she and Nick play on their anniversary, she ensures he visits places where she has planted the corroborating evidence of Nick’s guilt for the police to discover.
Detective Boney unearths evidence of financial troubles and domestic disputes, and a witness states that Amy wanted to purchase a gun.