‘Insomnia’ Episode 5 Recap & Ending Explained: What Does Caroline Intend To Do With The Burnett Sisters?

The thing with unreliable protagonists is that they never let viewers commit to one or another absolute version of the truth of events, irrespective of the reason behind it. If having a lead character of questionable credibility meddles with our understanding of the story, one can only imagine what turn the narrative can take when the majority of the characters are unreliable, which is what happens in “Insomnia.”


Previously, Emma’s life continued to deteriorate as her mental afflictions continued to distance her from her family. After having a spat with her husband, Emma decides to spend the day before her birthday at her sister Phoebe’s place and ends up visiting her new friend Caroline Mitchell. After going through a tough week, Emma decides to unwind, and as Caroline offers her amphetamines to help her unwind, she shares a bit too much about her sordid past, her relationship with her sister, and trouble in the family. Emma had also learned that Phoebe used to visit their late mother, Patricia, at her psychiatric care center on a regular basis, until she was barred from visiting after hitting Patricia on one occasion. On the other hand, Phoebe, too, unwinds with Robert, gets a bit too close for comfort, and later reveals some concerning details about Emma’s mental state, insinuating that she might have killed their mother, Patricia, without being aware of it due to her mental afflictions. Emma returns to her home after realizing that Phoebe had lied to her repeatedly, and the two sisters get into a heated argument before the police arrive and arrest Emma on suspicion of killing Patricia. The fifth episode further takes the drama up a notch in the most unexpected way, which once again shifts  viewers’ understanding of the narrative in a major way.

Spoilers Ahead


How Did Emma Finally Get Out of Custody?

At the police station, Emma gets questioned about her recent activities, and it becomes clear that the chief investigators are adamant in their opinion of her being the obvious culprit. After all, she doesn’t have a strong alibi, and all the evidence points towards her being responsible for Patricia’s death. Emma was acting erratic through the week; her disdain for her mother is also known to the authorities, along with the fact that she had visited her for the first time under a long while, mere hours before she passed away. Even her DNA has been found in Patricia’s nails, and all this has made Emma the obvious suspect. In custody, Emma once again revisits the childhood memory of drowning, which seems to be connected with Phoebe as well. 

Robert seems quite dumbfounded and helpless regarding the situation, but he knows that informing Faisal, Emma’s partner in her law firm, should be the first step to take at the moment. Since the last few days, he has been bombarded with concerning details about his wife, Emma. Be it the death of her mother, whose psychotic breaks gave her much trauma during childhood, or the fact that Emma herself is displaying some of the same behaviors while sleepwalking, which is a concern for the safety of their children. As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, their daughter Chloe is having an affair with their family friend, Julian, without any consideration for the latter’s family or her own future. Robert doesn’t know what to think right now, and Phoebe comforts her, stating that she will help him tackle the situation. 


Phoebe sends Robert away to tend to Will, while she takes this opportunity to send the surveillance video of a sleepwalking Amy taking a pillow and moving towards a sleeping Will, to Faisal. Is this Phoebe’s effort to further ruin her sister’s life, or did she genuinely want to inform Emma’s lawyer colleague about the problems she is facing out of concern for her sister? We don’t know yet. As Faisal meets Emma in custody, she reveals information that she had hidden from the police. Patricia had woken up during Emma’s presence and had tightly grasped her hand, which was the reason behind the presence of her DNA under Patricia’s fingernails. This information proves significant enough, and Faisal uses it to thwart the authorities’ suspicion. For now, Emma is free due to a lack of circumstantial evidence. However, Faisal mentions that Phoebe has sent Emma’s sleepwalking videos to him, upon knowing which Emma gets livid and starts blaming her sister for Patricia’s death. Faisal tries to calm her down and wants to know the reason for the estrangement between the two sisters in order to build Emma’s defense after all, but finds no answer from her. 

Why Did Emma Return to Her Childhood Orphanage?

On the other hand, Robert tries to console Will, who has already started missing his mother. Chloe seemingly comes to her senses as she realizes that her affair with Julian will end up destroying his family, and she decides to distance herself from him for the time being. Emma returns to her home to find her family absent, and she rummages through her old childhood pictures as fleeting memories of drowning during her stay at the orphanage continue to play in her mind. After finding a picture that identifies the orphanage, Emma rushes to the location and remembers Phoebe attempting to drown her during her childhood. 


Meanwhile, Phoebe returns to her home, and finding the empty bottle of medication that Emma and Caroline were using to get high the night before, she tracks down Caroline’s house and questions her about Emma. Phoebe also states that she might have seen Caroline somewhere previously, but the exact details escape her. Caroline, who was tending to her mother at that time, denies knowing anything about their family from Emma, and their conversation is interrupted by Emma’s call to Phoebe. Emma remarks that she has remembered Phoebe attempting to drown her in childhood and mentions that she is present at their childhood orphanage. Phoebe asks her to stay there as she decides to go to the location as well, and surprisingly enough, Caroline decides to tail her from a distance. 

What Does Caroline Want to Do With the Burnett Sisters?

Phoebe reaches the outskirts of the orphanage, located in a secluded area in the wilderness, and spotting her from nearby, Emma calls out to her. All of a sudden, Caroline revs up her car and runs over Phoebe. Before a shocked, horrified Emma could spot her, she speeds off from the area. Phoebe is immediately admitted to the hospital, and Robert, Chloe, and Will meet up with Emma to check up on her. Robert simply can’t think straight after having been through so much, as he almost insinuates that Emma might have caused this in the heat of the moment. Later, as Emma learns about Phoebe’s pregnancy and miscarriage, she becomes even more devastated and, for the first time in a long while, tries to see her sister from a sympathetic perspective. On the other hand, Caroline returns to her home to find her mother has taken her own life by breaking shards of glass. Caroline breaks down, but her motivation behind attacking Phoebe out of nowhere doesn’t get clarified. 

As a battered and bruised Phoebe recovers in the hospital from her unconscious condition, a remorseful Emma tries to reconcile with her. Upon waking up, Phoebe’s first thought turns out to be the last one she had before her accident—as she remarks, she hadn’t tried to drown Emma during her childhood; instead, she’d tried to rescue her sister—and the orphanage authorities blamed her as she was seen as mentally disturbed. She also mentions that, contrary to Emma’s belief, she didn’t write up cryptic numbers on the orphanage wall; instead, she took the blame on herself to protect Emma, which resulted in the two sisters being treated differently later on and going through vastly different walks of life as a result. Emma realizes that she has been remembering events from her childhood quite differently, and her memories have become foggy as well. 

Phoebe also mentions a strange little girl and a connection with a frog, and as the scene shifts right after to show Caroline, viewers can’t help but think that Caroline is the girl to whom Phoebe is trying to refer. Additionally, the frog showpieces in her home shown during the previous episode corroborate Phoebe’s statement as well. Caroline seems to be on a psychotic killing spree after all, as she bakes a medication-loaded cake for Emma, and as the episode ends, she arrives at the doorstep of Emma’s household, approached by Robert. It is an easy guess that Caroline, who seemingly had suffered from psychotic affliction since her childhood, had tried to drown Emma, and after seeing Phoebe arrive at her household and interrogating her, she might have considered the possibility she’d be apprehended for her past crime. Which is why she ran over Phoebe to escape her fate, but there might be something more to the story as well. Obviously, with Emma not remembering the events clearly, things can’t be confirmed, and Phoebe’s motives can’t be pinpointed as a result as well. But it can be said for sure that Caroline’s presence is connected with Emma’s past trauma one way or another, which will be focused on in the upcoming episodes of the series. 


Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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