Poker Face Season 1 Episode 5 Recap – why was Ben Holmes murdered?

By Adam Lock
Published: February 2, 2023 (Last updated: February 14, 2024)
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“Time of the Monkey” defies expectations with one surprising twist after another. This is clever and exciting storytelling. An entertaining murder mystery that keeps you guessing, subverting expectations and tired cliches to produce something entirely unique.

We recap the Peacock series Poker Face Season 1 Episode 5, “Time of the Monkey,” which contains spoilers.

Peacock dropped four episodes of Poker Face in its first week, which gave viewers more than enough time to get acquainted with Natasha Lyonne’s Charlie Cale and the show’s unique formula. In “Time of the Monkey,” the series continues that rigid formula yet uses this predictable structure to its advantage, with the most surprising entry yet. This installment is crammed full of shocking twists and a sense of real danger for our intrepid amateur sleuth, as she investigates yet another murder, this time at a retirement home.

Poker Face Season 1 Episode 5 Recap

The episode starts by introducing us to the grounds of Mossy Oaks retirement community. We are then shown best friends Joyce (S. Epatha Merkerson) and the wheelchair-bound Irene (Judith Light). These kooky, rebellious residents are the outcasts in the nursing home, causing chaos wherever they go. They are known to smoke drugs on the premises and defy all the rules. Irene refuses to use her wristband, which monitors the resident’s heartbeats, while Joyce is antagonistic to all she encounters.

A new resident joins the community, Ben Holmes (House of Cards star Reed Birney), and immediately the dynamic duo want him dead. Joyce nabs some sodium nitrate from the gardener and Irene steals some syringes. Together they initiate their murderous plan just as the residents are about to leave on a zoo trip. Irene locks herself in the toilets and clambers up the wall to Ben’s room. She takes his wristband and injects him with poison. Irene returns to the toilets just in time.

What is Joyce and Irene’s plan?

The killers head to the zoo as if nothing has happened. The organizer, Betty (K Callan), invites them to the monkey show, but they have other plans. Joyce wheels Irene to a secluded part of the zoo and tasers her friend. This triggers Ben’s wristband and the nursing home staff rush to his room. They perform CPR via a defibrillator, but Ben cannot be resuscitated. The gang return to Mossy Oaks to find Ben’s corpse being stretchered out of the place. They replace Ben’s wristband seamlessly – it’s the perfect crime.

The show reverts back to before this murder took place and we find Charlie working at the retirement home as a cleaner. Betty warns Charlie about Irene and Joyce, who she describes as felons and junkies. Charlie ignores this warning though and hangs out with the ‘cool’ ladies. They smoke joints and have a real laugh together. This leads them to divulge their past lives. Both women were political prisoners for decades. They met a man called Gabriel, who changed their lives. But one day their little protest community were raided by the police. Irene was shot and lost the feeling in both her legs, whilst they never saw their lover and leader Gabriel ever again.

Ben moves into the retirement home and Charlie shows him around his new room. Ben’s awkward nephew (played by The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg) drops him off. Charlie tries to make conversation with Ben, but he is very cold and abrupt. Next, we get the first major twist in the tale. Ben visits Irene and Joyce that night, where it is revealed that he is in fact Gabriel. The trio reconnects, holding hands. Gabriel throws another twist into the narrative though, confessing to working with the police all those years ago. He orchestrated the raid and then went into witness protection.

Why do they want Ben Holmes dead?

Joyce and Irene are hurt to hear of Ben/Gabriel’s treachery. He still believes that he did the right thing, but his conscience has been eating away at him in the decades since. He needed to confess. Joyce states that they lost decades of their lives and Irene lost her legs, this apology is not enough. Gabriel asks for their forgiveness and they lie through gritted teeth, offering their fake forgiveness. After Gabriel has left the building, they plot to kill the traitor.

Who is Luca Clark?

Charlie walks past the toilets as Irene instigates the murder. Joyce says that Irene has been gone a while because she has diarrhea. Charlie hears her first lie. The gang goes on their zoo trip. Charlie invites them to the monkey show, but Irene and Joyce decline to go, making up another lie. Charlie watches the monkey show alone and then they all return to find Ben dead. At the funeral, Charlie meets Ben’s nephew. She knows that he isn’t Ben’s real nephew and he eventually confesses. He is actually Ben’s case agent Luca Clark, who works for the FBI. Charlie recognizes Ben’s photo and puts the puzzle pieces together. Ben is Gabriel. Luca is shocked to hear Charlie figure it out and she then reveals that he was Irene and Joyce’s old flame.

With this new knowledge, the FBI descends upon the retirement home and arrest the ladies. Although it soon becomes apparent that they have a sound alibi, they cannot be the killers. Luca tells Charlie to be careful of Irene and Joyce, they are terrorists. Charlie laughs this off but is soon given ample reason to believe it. Irene and Joyce were part of a group that planned on bombing a model UN, to kill rich high schoolers. Charlie initially liked these ladies, and I suppose the audience did too, even though we knew they were killers all along. This was new for the series, but now our opinion of them starts to change.

Poker Face Season 1 Episode 5 Ending Explained

The killers confront Charlie and call her a rat. She asks if they killed Ben, but they won’t answer her, paranoid that she’s wearing a wire. Next, Charlie begins her investigation. She finds out that Ben was poisoned with sodium nitrate and that the gardener was supplying Joyce with the untraceable gardening ingredient. Charlie informs Luca, but he needs more evidence. The ladies still have a concrete alibi, Ben died at 2:23. Charlie calls this the “Time of the Monkey”, when she was watching the orangutan show, Joyce and Irene were elsewhere. She proposes that the ladies possibly faked the time of death.

Charlie inspects Ben’s wristband data and discovers a blip on the charts at 11:10, around the time they left for the zoo. She connects the dots; this was when Joyce lied about Irene being on the loo. Charlie calls Luca, he ponders how they could simulate a heart attack. Charlie remembers Betty talking about seeing Joyce and Irene pleasuring each other at the zoo. What Betty actually witnessed was Irene being tasered. Charlie has Betty repeat her story over the phone, but she’s already confronted the killers about it. In another shocking twist, Betty gets blown up for her naive mistake.

In the finale, Charlie confronts the terrorists face to face, laying out the entire scheme. The ladies attack Charlie, throwing every weapon they have at the amateur detective. Charlie manages to defend herself and avoids being poisoned. Although, when she has the chance to taser the attackers, Charlie turns it on herself instead. The shock triggers her wristband and the nursing staff comes rushing in, followed by Luca and the other FBI agents. Joyce and Irene have been caught in the act and are subsequently arrested. Luca offers Charlie a chance to join the FBI, but she declines. Just as she is leaving, her golf buggy explodes. Charlie just escapes with her life.

What did you think of Poker Face Season 1 Episode 5? Comment below.

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