‘Poker Face’ Episode 6: Recap And Ending, Explained: How Did Charlie Solve Ava’s Death In The Seneca Theatre?

In the newest episode of Peacock’s show “Poker Face,” about the human lie detector Charlie Cale, her adventures take her to a theater that caters to the elderly, and as usual, a death riles up the atmosphere. We’ve known Charlie as the genius poker player who’s fleeing from the casino tycoon Sterling Frost Sr. (Ron Perlman) because her lie-detecting abilities and desire to punish the guilty led to the junior Frost jumping to his death. Since then, Charlie has been roaming the countryside, trying to shake off the men Frost has sent to bring her in, and in the meantime, solving mysteries where people seem to die under suspicious circumstances until she uncovers the truth. In the sixth episode, Charlie witnesses the death of a woman in the audience during a play and spends the rest of the runtime putting her detective brain to work.

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Kathleen Townsend (Ellen Barkin), a phenomenal actress in her twilight years, arrives in an expensive dress at a mansion that exudes signs of affluence and is led to the swimming pool by a butler, and she looks at the several awards and posters of herself and Michael in a show called “Spooky and the Cop.” Michael (Tim Meadows) is reclining next to the swimming pool when Kathleen arrives, and from the get-go, it’s made obvious that they despise each other. Michael’s new wife, Ava (Jameela Jamil), drops by to say hello to Kathleen, to whom Michael explains that all the riches are thanks to his wife, who founded a successful business called She-Trade that helped him retire rich. Kathleen begs him to do a one-night-only play with her at the regional theater, and it’s titled “Ghosts of Pensacola”—a mopey, sob-story that was utterly cliché even three decades ago, according to Michael. He expressly refuses, more so because Kathleen will be present in the play, and he loathes her with every cell of his being. Frustrated, she leaves with expletives directed at him and Ava, and Michael clutches his weak heart. Ava offers him his pills and then suggests that he take up the role.

Three weeks later, Michael and Kathleen are hurling insults at each other, and she’s making life difficult for everyone on the stage, with a particular bone to pick with Rebecca, a young actress with a nut allergy. For her big exit, Kathleen wants to set up a trapdoor on the stage, marked with a big “X,” that she’ll go through at the end of the play. Phil, the stage manager, organizes everything from the lights on the stage to the trapdoor bolt underneath, and Kathleen gives him a hard time as well. While practicing her monologue, a stray noise distracts her, and she screams at the one responsible off-screen. In the process of trying to annoy her further, Michael accidentally steps on the trapdoor, and we get an early view of the mechanics when he goes through the door and lands noisily on the mat below. Michael immediately wants out, but Kathleen reminds him of the contract and the $200,000 fee for quitting at the last moment, further solidifying his disgust toward her. The two threaten to ruin each other’s lives and careers before the play starts, and the hatred doesn’t seem like it can get any worse.

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At the Seneca Lake Theatre, after the play begins, Michael and Kathleen depart, leaving Rebecca for her 3-minute monologue, and they head to two different areas around the stage with sinister ideas. While constantly cursing each other, Michael and Kathleen seemingly create death traps for one another, with him messing with the trap door and her tinkering with the overhead lights. Michael picks up a piece of dry ice and replaces the trapdoor’s bolt with it, removing the mat and exposing the wood below as Phil sleeps. Meanwhile, Kathleen loosens one of the lights up above so that when the stage shakes during the mock jets flying, the light crashes down on her victim’s head. The moment of truth is nigh, and Michael keeps staring at the trapdoor while Kathleen stares at the light above. The stage shakes one more time, and the light crashes, but Michael jumps at the last moment, but the event spikes his heart. Ava rushes onstage with his pills but accidentally steps on the trapdoor, hits her head on the wood, and crashes down, cracking her skull open and dying. After a cop leaves, chalking the case up to a tragic accident, Kathleen enters Michael’s cabin and celebrates their achievement with a kiss. As it turns out, this entire rage and loathing was all a ploy to get the innocent Ava out of the way so that Michael and Kathleen could inherit her massive fortune.

It’s time to introduce the reluctant sleuth Charlie Cale, who’s now working as a waitress at the theater when “Ghosts of Pensacola” is staged. She quickly strikes up a friendship with Phil, the stage manager, who gets her this gig, and it was her dumping ice in a container that irritated Kathleen during one of the practice sessions. The crone bursts into the kitchen and lays it on Charlie for carelessly dumping ice and is leaving when Charlie calls out her fraud, saying she didn’t believe anything, which ends up impressing Kathleen. During the play, the entire kitchen crew hears Kathleen and Michael verbally attacking each other because they didn’t turn their mics off, and Charlie realizes that one elderly gentleman with earphones on is hearing their words. Ava tips Charlie to get her drunk because she can’t sit through the play sober before Charlie witnesses the overhead light collapse. The explosive sound jolts awake Phil, who spots the unbolted trapdoor (the dry ice has melted away) and notices that the mat is missing, but before he can do anything, Ava falls through and dies before his eyes. Phil is heartbroken because his carelessness led to a woman’s death, and he can’t figure out how he could’ve fallen asleep, and he sobs as Charlie consoles him.

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Inside Kathleen’s dressing room, she tells Michael her plan for an encore, right after Ava’s death, which will be their story of how they fall in love—for the world to see. Rebecca walks in and tells them that their jig is up because she found the piece of paper Michael was reading his script off of full of made-up curses for Kathleen. She also knows that the two ripped off the same technique to kill Ava as they used in an episode from the Season 6 episode of “Spooky and the Cop” titled “Exit Stage Death.” She demands a $5 million fee for her silence before the play is over, or else she’ll go to the cops. After she leaves, Michael decides that they’ll have to pay her the ransom, but Kathleen has other ideas. She looks meaningfully at the peanut butter-based dog food for her dog, and we can guess what’s going on in her head. Inside the kitchen, Charlie can’t believe that the actors will be doing an encore the night after a woman died when a chef arrives and says that they need to make room for the Sheriff in the audience because he loved “Spooky and the Cop.”

At the backstage, Charlie goes through Phil’s notes and finds that the bolt had been locked, which means someone unlocked it. She figures out that Kathleen’s life might be in danger and approaches the veteran actress with the news, but she ignores Charlie’s warnings and heads to the stage. Charlie looks at the previous night’s footage to find smoke rising from under the floorboards and picks up a piece of dry ice from the canisters, burning her hands. Throughout the rest of the play, she pokes around the stage, constantly trying to tell Kathleen that her life is in danger until she finds similar burn marks on Michael’s hand from handling the dry ice. Charlie climbs up to the overhead lights and finds a piece of satin stuck to the lights, like the kind in Kathleen’s shoes. What proves to her beyond a sliver of doubt that Kathleen isn’t in danger but that she and Michael were in cahoots to kill Ava is when Kathleen looks at Michael during the play and says that she loves him, and Charlie knows it’s the truth. She then approaches Rebecca to explain the findings, but she has to get on the stage, but the young actress points at the piece of paper in her coat pocket for Charlie that had the script for Michael to curse at Kathleen. The sleuth heads back to Kathleen’s dressing room, connects the script with the piece of paper she had spotted the actress hiding earlier and finds Rebecca’s ransom scribbled on it. She also finds the peanut butter-laced dog food for Kathleen’s dog is almost empty and realizes there will be another murder that night.

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Charlie rushes back to the stage sidelines but finds Rebecca is about to eat the food prepared for her, which will be signing Rebecca’s death sentence. Her indications to the young actress fail, so she barges onto the stage and knocks the food out of Rebecca’s hands before awkwardly calling herself the “Ghost” of Pensacola and hinting to the actress that the two veterans have poisoned it to kill her. Infuriated, Rebecca makes an announcement that her price for silence is now doubled, and as she starts her monologue, Michael and Kathleen head to the dressing room, where he lambasts her for planning to kill Rebecca. The two put out the entire blueprint of how they killed Ava and how she was about to finish Rebecca without his knowledge when Michael spotted a recorder in the room. Charlie hands the receiver to the sheriff, and Michael and Kathleen’s crimes are exposed. Michael panics, but the Femme Fatale thespian plans to use their downfall as motivation for delivering one last performance to be remembered. Indeed, the performance the two deliver brings a non-believer like Charlie to tears, and the cops gathering to arrest them flick a tear or two. After delivering a monologue that far supersedes Rebecca’s – which she had lorded over the senior actress earlier—Kathleen jumps through the trapdoor to end the play as the curtains fall.


Final Thoughts 

Every “Poker Face” episode usually ends with Charlie leaving with a smile on her face, having destroyed the murderer(s)’ ploys and helping the innocent find justice. However, in this episode, Charlie learns the truest extent of an actress’s skills when she delivers her final monologue, even though she’ll be spending the rest of her life in jail afterward. There’s not a lot of lie detection in this episode, though, and Charlie manages to find the clues by spotting the anomalies like the dry ice mist, Michael’s burnt hand, Kathleen’s satin sandals, and the half-empty dog food packet. Tying all the clues together shows that despite their acting careers falling into tough times in recent years, Kathleen and Michael were tremendous actors who fooled everyone, including his wife, into believing they despised each other. However, the truth prevails once more at the end of this episode, and Charlie is able to show that Phil wasn’t bad at his job and that he didn’t lead to Ava’s death.

With six episodes on the books, it might be argued that Charlie miraculously ends up in whichever location the murder for the episode happens, but we need to consider that as artistic liberty. In almost every episode, she ends up being somehow connected to the victims, from being Natalie’s best friend in Episode 1 to ensuring that Ava was especially drunk when she died in the latest episode—which serves as her motivation to solve the cases. However, in all this time, Cliff, who has been pursuing her so relentlessly, has only managed to find her once, and even then, she escaped. If Cliff isn’t able to provide some real threat to Charlie anytime soon, the audience might lose faith in the whole plotline of Sterling Frost Sr. spending every ounce of his power to hunt down the woman who got his idiot son killed. That being said, each episode with Charlie Cale being the laidback detective is a lot of fun to watch, so we hope she’s here to stay.


Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh Talukdar
Indrayudh has a master's degree in English literature from Calcutta University and a passion for all things in cinema. He loves writing about the finer aspects of cinema, although he is also an equally big fan of webseries and anime. In his free time, Indrayudh loves playing video games and reading classic novels.

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