If you watched Martin Scorsese’s “Casino,” by a common rule of thumb, the casino wins every time. Rian Johnson takes this concept and flips it on its head, thanks to a good-for-nothing son of a casino owner, Sterling Frost Jr. (Adrien Brody), and a gifted poker player called Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne), who has the ability to detect when someone’s lying by one look at their faces. The series, “Poker Face,” starts off with the death of Charlie’s friend Natalie (Dascha Polanco) and her husband, and throughout the first episode, Charlie uses her keen observation skills to get to the bottom of the mystery and earns quite a bounty on her head by the end of it. The first episode is funny, with just the right dash of mystery to keep you at the edge of your chair till the end. So, let’s get into it!
“Poker Face” Episode 1 opens with a hotel maid entering a suite for housekeeping until she notices something in an open laptop that horrifies her to the point that she has to take a picture of whatever she saw on her phone. She flees from the room before the guest steps out of the washroom and tries calling someone by the fire exit. When nobody answers, she heads downstairs to the casino and shows the picture to the Head of Security, Cliff, who in turn takes her to the office of Sterling Frost Jr., the hotel owner’s son. The room from where Natalie, the maid, got the picture apparently belongs to Mr. Caine, some big shot that is pretty popular in the casino. Sterling says he’s morally repulsed by the contents of the picture, and they’ll contact the FBI and give a statement. He advises that Natalie should directly go home and that they shall be with her in this while surreptitiously deleting the picture. After Natalie leaves, Cliff asks Sterling if they should contact his father, but Sterling refuses and says he’ll handle everything. Cliff is seen taking a revolver out of a locker, leaving the casino, getting in a car, driving to Jerry and Natalie’s house, and killing him. The moment Natalie enters, she’s shot dead too. Cliff places the gun in Jerry’s hand, gets in a car, and calls Sterling to inform him that the task is completed, and the junior Frost disconnects and continues a conversation with a woman off-screen.
Charlie Cale lives in a run-down trailer, and her morning routine is cracking open a beer outside her mobile home and sipping it while tanning. Her friend John-O carries out small scams, and she seems totally comfortable living the way she does. While driving to Frost Casino in Natalie’s car, Charlie, a tabloid news lover, announces that a ring of underage pornography hosted by Russian dark websites is making the rounds on the tabloids. The two women are repeatedly dinged by the metal detector while entering the hotel where they both work, and it turns out that Natalie had to wear sunglasses because her husband, Jerry, had struck her. Apparently, he was sending lewd photographs to others, and Natalie found out about it from iCloud, and upon interrogating him about it, he attacked her. She says she has evicted him from the house, and Charlie immediately catches her lying.
While serving drinks on the casino floor, Charlie is called upstairs into Sterling Jr.’s room, and she immediately assumes she’s getting fired. Sterling narrates the story of a young woman who was unbeatable in poker games, and no matter the stakes, she’d always win, so when this woman came to Frost Sr.’s casino, he observed her for two days straight until he found the trick. She never used any cheats like shills or wires but always managed to win, so Frost Sr. had her blackballed from every casino in the USA and employed her as a drinks server on the casino floor. The woman in question was Charlie, who lived the high life for a while, and now she’s really at peace with where she is at present. Sterling then reveals her secret: she’s a human lie detector, and she instinctively knows when someone is lying. He offers her a gig where she can use this skill of detecting a lie to help the casino, through which she can get richer than her wildest dreams.
Meanwhile, Natalie’s husband barges into the casino and makes a scene asking to see his wife, when security guards arrive, along with Cliff. The Head of Security places Jerry’s revolver on his table before the raucous husband is dragged away. Natalie spends the night at Charlie’s trailer, and the next day, she and Sterling watch Kazimir Caine play in the casino, and Sterling says that Caine is running his own private game from his hotel room and not spending money in the casino. So the manager of the hotel wants Charlie to enter his private game, detect his lies, loosen his pockets a little, and teach him a lesson so that he stays away from private games. He promises to organize a video system as well to keep Charlie hidden. However, Sterling gets a phone call and sends Charlie away, only to receive Cliff and Natalie and kick off the episode’s opening sequence. While waiting in the crow’s nest—casino slang for the owner’s observation room—Charlie notices the missed call from Natalie and calls her back, but there’s no answer. Sterling returns, and while discussing the plan, he gets a phone call (the one from Cliff about killing Natalie and her husband) and then returns to the conversation. He offers her $1.5 million for the job 48 hours from then, and she accepts.
Charlie wakes up to find the news of the deaths of Natalie and her husband all over the tabloids, which claim it’s a murder-suicide. At the casino, another employee tells Charlie that she had seen Natalie leave at around 8 p.m. and that she’d looked upset. The officials try breaking into Natalie’s locker, but an employee gives them the code, and it’s easily unlocked. While Sterling is trying to explain how they shall fit cameras in Caine’s room to help Charlie look at his expressions, she can’t shake off the death of Natalie. She admits that she has spoken to Louise, Nat’s manager, who said that she didn’t clock out and left at 8 p.m. Sterling gets upset and advises Charlie to focus, so she suggests adding cameras to the lamps to make them undetectable. She heads out to the police station, and while talking to the officer, she spots a photograph of Jerry with the gun in his hand.
Later, outside her trailer, when Sterling calls her because he found out that she went to the cops, she says that Jerry is left-handed, so using his right hand to shoot himself makes zero sense. Sterling strongly advices to let go of this issue and also hints that all the cops in the city answer to him, so Charlie has her friend John-O break into Natalie’s house. There, she finds a tablet, but she’s unable to unlock the passcode, so she leaves with it. She spends hours trying to unlock the device until she calls up the employee who provided the locker code for Natalie’s locker, and upon entering the same code, the device is unlocked. While surfing through the gallery, she stumbles upon the deleted files, and over there, she finds the photograph that Sterling had deleted from Natalie’s phone. Horrified, she rushes directly to the lion’s den—Sterling’s office—and claims that Caine must’ve seen her take the picture, which is why he had her killed. She wants to contact the FBI, but Sterling suggests taking his money first and then calling the cops on Caine, and Charlie quietly leaves. At the casino. Charlie takes a coffee instead of the usual beer when the news shows footage of Jerry being dragged out through the metal detector by security. After her coffee, Charlie is full of manic energy and splutters her words with Cliff, who’s repulsed by this woman’s incessant questions. He says that the casino didn’t press charges, Natalie was with Charlie, and Jerry never returned to the casino.
In the room where Caine will be set up, Sterling goes over the plan to have Caine tapped and also introduces the shill for the game as well as the clicker that Charlie will have to alert the shill. She then asks Sterling about the call he got at the crow’s nest and what it was about, to which the casino manager says it was Cliff, and Charlie quickly realizes what the call was about. She makes an exit, but Cliff is suspicious and wants to put a stop to the plans while there’s time. In the evening, Cliff sets up the cameras in the room where the play will happen as Caine gets in a car and drives off. Twenty minutes after she’s to arrive, Charlie comes, and Sterling says it’s lucky that Caine is having a late dinner, which is why they still have time.
After a few moments of consideration, she blurts out that she knows Sterling had Natalie and Jerry killed, and the final clue she needed was the news clip where Jerry was seen being dragged out. If Jerry had his revolver on him as the casino maintained, then the metal detector would’ve dinged while he was being dragged out, but it didn’t, and Jerry never returned afterward. Sterling is incredulous and says nobody cares what a woman like Charlie has to say about a murder based on her clues, especially when he owns the cops. He also has her phone taken away for good measure to ensure she’s not recording. Charlie admits she’s not recording now, but she was in the afternoon when Sterling laid out the plan to get Caine, so she sent the recording to him as well as all the major players and a few small-time players who frequent the Frost Casino. From that point forward, the casino has been blackballed, and nobody will step foot inside because it’s been known that Sterling Jr. uses cheap tricks. Sterling realizes the mess he’s in when his father starts calling. The manager quietly walks towards the balcony and jumps off.
A chase ensues between Cliff and Charlie, with the latter running from the Head of Security’s bullets, although one grazes her stomach. She manages to escape the casino, and while stopped near a highway, she gets a call from Sterling Frost Sr., who promises that he’ll hunt her till the end of his days and kill her as brutally as possible. He asks for her location to make it easy for either party, so she hangs up, smashes her phone, and drives away.
‘Poker Face’ Episode 1: Ending Explained
A waitress for a popular casino who lives in a trailer and drinks beer for breakfast utilizes her gift of detecting lies to bring down a greedy son of a casino owner who greenlit the murder of her friend and her husband. Charlie Cale has the rare gift of detecting lies no matter how small of a lie, and she uses this gift to ruin Sterling Frost Jr. Charlie had quickly picked up that the murder-suicide of Natalie and Jerry was strange, and although she kept collecting clues throughout “Poker Face” Episode 1, she was never able to directly link the casino with the deaths until she saw the footage on TV. The fact that the metal detector didn’t ding when Jerry was dragged out meant that he didn’t have the revolver on him. So, the gun was with Cliff, who carried it and shot the two people dead. She had figured all of it by the afternoon, which is why she recorded the clip of Sterling giving her the brief, wiretap, and all and sent it to Kazimir Caine. After losing his dad’s casino and earning the ire of his father, the good-for-nothing son jumps to his death as Charlie flees.
This must feel like a victory for the commoners, where a rich kid gets his comeuppance for having two people killed, and Charlie holds her head high in pride, although Sterling Sr. is after her. However, what she misses out on is that thanks to her, a pervert like Caine gets away scot-free after being a part of an underage pornography ring. In her quest for vengeance to destroy Sterling Jr., she lets a criminal far worse than Sterling get away, unconsciously foregoing the rage she exhibited at the start of “Poker Face” Episode 1 when the news about the circle was released.