The season 3 finale opens with Monty getting a visit from his dad in prison. His dad wants to know Monty if it’s true that he sexually assaulted Tyler. “It wasn’t sexual assault,” Monty says. “I was messing with him.” His dad asks Monty why he did it. He also asks Monty if he’s gay, but uses a derogatory term. Monty replies, “What if I was, Dad? What if I was?” His dad wonders if Monty knows what other prisoners will do to guys like him. “They will beat you to sh*t,” his dad says. “Well, at least none of them will be my dad,” Monty quips. Before he leaves, Monty’s dad asks his son again if he’s gay. “Sure,” Monty says. His dad spits in his face and walks away.
Deputy Standall is looking into the evidence from Bryce’s crime scene and takes notice of the interesting scuff marks from the struggle and the tire tracks. Clay thinks he’s going to go to prison for the rest of his life, but Ani has a plan. She goes to talk with Deputy Standall. “Everyone had their reasons,” she tells him. She wants him to know all about who could have done it before she reveals who actually did it.
“It’s all about homecoming night,” Ani explains. “Everyone was there. Everyone had their reasons for wanting to kill Bryce. At the end of the night, one of them would follow through. Clay Jensen had been broken by Bryce more than once, Bryce had threatened to ruin Monty’s life, Jessica Davis was on fire with a cause with anger at Bryce, Justin Foley would have done anything for her, Tony would have loved to get into that fight. Tyler felt under attack all over again, and Zach’s dreams were destroyed with one hit so he tried to destroy Bryce’s dreams. But as you know he didn’t finish the job.”
Ani acknowledges that the football players told him Clay attacked Bryce on the field and Justin pulled him off. She knows that the players also must have brought up that Monty and Bryce got into it on the field. “I will take you out,” Monty later told Bryce after the game. Bryce knew that wasn’t true and called Monty a coward.
Ani says that’s when Monty got into his car and followed the bus Bryce was on back to Hillcrest. But he didn’t. When the bus pulled away, Winston was there. Winston is the guy Monty kissed and then physically assaulted at the Hillcrest party last summer. Monty apologized for what happened at the party and Winston invited him back to his place. They ended up having sex and Monty was nowhere near the pier.
Ani frames Monty for Bryce’s death, though. She says Jessica was home in bed, Justin was out getting high. Tony was meeting a fixer, Alex and Tyler met up at Rosie’s Diner, and Clay was with her. But Ani is lying for two people in particular. Jessica and Alex met Bryce at the pier after his fight with Zach. Bryce had a confession tape to give to Jessica. She took it and walked away. Bryce begged for help and Alex ended up helping Bryce get on his feet. When Bryce got angry and accused Jessica of setting him up, Alex pushed Bryce into the water, which led to his death. Ani keeps the narrative that Monty killed Bryce and tells Deputy Standall that there’s a tape in Monty’s locker, the tape Bryce gave to Jessica.
When they’re off record, Ani and Deputy Standall discuss the truth. Deputy Standall knows some of the evidence points to Alex. Ani stresses that Alex wouldn’t have gone to the pier alone. “He would have been there for a friend,” Ani says. Deputy Standall notes that it would be a “terrible thing to blame the wrong person for Bryce’s murder.” Ani claps back, “And yet you were all ready to blame Clay Jensen.”
Deputy Standall then reveals that Monty was killed in his jail cell just hours before Ani came in. “Even the dead deserve the truth,” he says. Ani is not going to budge from framing Monty for Bryce’s death. “I’m sorry that Monty’s dead,” Ani tells Deputy Standall. “I am. Justin tells me he could be loyal and fearless and that he stood up for his friends. I’m sorry that Bryce is dead. He was my friend and I believe he would have shown the world that redemption is possible. But they both caused pain while they were alive. They caused great pain to a number of people and it is time for that suffering to end. So let the dead bury the dead, Deputy Standall. Let the dead bury the dead.”
Earlier in the day, Alex goes to Tyler and asks if he still has a gun. A worried Tyler tells Alex that Clay got rid of his gun the night of the dance. Later, Alex admits to Zach that he wrote a confession. Zach wants to know why Alex was asking about the gun. Alex doesn’t have an answer. “I think we should be the kind of friends who can tell each other everything,” Zach says.
The crew convenes together at Clay’s place. Jessica reveals she made a copy of the tape Bryce gave her. Here’s the full transcript of Bryce’s tape: “Hey Jess. It’s me. Yeah, I know, a tape. Yes, I did it on purpose. Not to be a d*ck but because the day I listened to those tapes, my life changed. And I bet the same is true for you and for Justin and Zach, everyone. And I wanted to give you this. I thought you’d hear me better if I wasn’t standing in front of you. You said I had no idea what I’d done to you. You were right. I can’t stop thinking about you, replaying that night in my mind. I raped you. I heard you say no and I did it anyway. Because I wanted to and I didn’t care how you felt. Justin tried to stop me. I wish I could tell you there was a tiny voice in my head telling me that what I was doing to you was wrong but there wasn’t. I’ve never had one of those before. That’s not an excuse. It just is. I raped Hannah Baker. I raped 7 or 8 other girls. Some of them were my girlfriends at the time. I won’t name them, but if they chose to tell you, believe them. I’m broken. I know that. I’m a person in a thousand pieces but I’m seeing a counselor. It’s a long, hard process but little by little you start picking up the pieces and you realize that what you’re making is a mirror and the more pieces you put together er the more you see yourself. I’d like to say that I’m not the same person who raped you anymore, Jess. But what I’ve come to realize is that I’ll always be him. But I’m trying to be better, to be someone worth something in this world. I have this dream that I could be someone who protects people somehow. Protects them from people like me, like who I was. I don’t know. I am so f**king sorry for what I did to you. And I know words add up to nothing compared to what I took from you. Someone once told me it will take me a lifetime to learn what sorry is. They’re right. But I’m starting. If you’ve listened this far, thank you. It’s more than I deserve. I wouldn’t blame you if you smashed this tape to f**king pieces. I would. I wish you the best, Jess. Truly. Goodbye.”
Deputy Standall goes to Alex and tells him that Monty is dead. They don’t talk about what really happened, but there are so many unspoken words between them. The case is closed now. They’re safe. Deputy Standall even burns the clothes Alex was wearing the night he killed Bryce.
At Thanksgiving, Justin admits to the Jensens that he hasn’t stayed clean. He apologizes for lying and believes he needs more help. Mrs. Jensen vows to get Justin whatever help he needs. Afterward, Clay goes to talk with Ani’s mom. “I would do anything to protect her,” he tells her. Ani walks up to both of them and announces to her mom that she and Clay are dating.
Tyler unveils a special photo wall at Monet’s and everyone comes to support him. Alex sees a photo of Justin and Jessica looking so in love. “You know I’ll always love you,” she tells him. He asks her, “How are we going to live with this?” Jessica has just the answer: “We’re survivors. You and me. FML forever.” As Jessica, Justin, and Clay reflect at Monet’s and all agree that they deserve some happiness, there are rumblings of trouble.
A boater picks up Tyler’s gun that Clay got rid of the night of the dance. When Ani walks outside, Winston is waiting for her. He wants to know what she told the cops about Monty. “He didn’t kill Bryce,” Winston says. “He was with me.” Ani says Monty was already gone, confirming that she lied to the police. “He was a human being,” Winston tells Ani. “He didn’t deserve to die like that.” Winston walks away but he may not keep this secret for long. The dead deserve the truth, too. Right, Ani?