Poker Face episode 1 ending explained: how did Charlie solve the case?

Dascha Polanco and Natasha Lyonne sitting in a bed in Poker Face
Dascha Polanco and Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face (Image credit: Phillip Caruso/Peacock)

Rian Johnson has another engaging mystery for viewers to enjoy in Poker Face. But rather than the suave and calculating Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) in Knives Out and Glass Onion, Poker Face's crime solver is Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne), who may not be a traditional detective like Blanc but has the incredible ability to know whenever someone is lying and a moral compass that compels her to try and figure out why someone is lying.

In the series premiere of Poker Face, that ability is put to the test after her friend Natalie (Dascha Polanco) is killed and she realizes that her boss, Sterling Frost Jr. (Adrien Brody) is lying about something.

So let's recap the Poker Face episode 1 ending — how Charlie solved Natalie's murder and how it sets up the rest of the series moving forward.

Who killed Natalie in Poker Face episode 1?

Dascha Polanco looking shocked in Poker Face

Dascha Polanco in Poker Face (Image credit: Peacock)

Like Columbo, Poker Face doesn't wait to tell you who the guilty party is, so very quickly in the first episode we find out who killed Natalie. Things start off when Natalie goes to clean the room of a high-roller, Kazimir Caine (Eddie Gorodetsky), staying at the Frost Casino. She sees something troubling on Caine's computer (what it is we never learn, though it is called both legally and morally disturbing), takes a picture and brings it to Frost and his head of security Cliff (Benjamin Bratt). They tell her they will do something about it and for her to go home. But we see that before giving Natalie back her camera, Frost has deleted the pictures.

Cliff is told to take care of it, which in this case means killing Natalie and her partner and making it look like a murder-suicide. Cliff grabs a gun from his vault and is able to beat Natalie back to her house. He kills her partner, Jerry (Michael Reagan), and then waits for Natalie, shooting her as soon as she walks in the door. He poses their bodies and puts the gun in Jerry's hand.

This is done because Frost is planning on cheating Caine out of a bunch of money in a private poker game he runs in the casino, something he thinks that his father (Ron Perlman) has let happen and that he wants to fix to prove to his dad that he can run the casino better. To help him, he recruits Charlie to watch Caine over hidden cameras and tell if he is bluffing.

How does Charlie solve the case in Poker Face episode 1?

Natasha Lyonne, Benjamin Bratt and Adrien Brody in Poker Face

Natasha Lyonne, Benjamin Bratt and Adrien Brody in Poker Face (Image credit: Peacock)

After we see Natalie's murder, things go back about a day. Before being recruited for Frost's Caine plan, Charlie works as a cocktail waitress at the casino, where she spots a drunk and angry Jerry looking for Natalie. She gets Cliff to take him off the floor, pointing out that he has a gun concealed on his right ankle, which Cliff grabs and puts in his safe. Charlie goes to check on Natalie, who is rattled, believing Jerry showed up because he had been texting her all morning but she leaves her phone off during her shift.

When Charlie learns of the murder the next morning, she immediately senses something isn't right. She is told by a coworker that Natalie left the casino early, looking worried, and then sees Natalie had tried to call her just a few minutes before that. This has Charlie dive deeper into things.

She breaks into Natalie's house and finds her iPad, where she is able to eventually uncover the pictures that Natalie took of Caine's computer (saved because they were uploaded to the cloud). When she brings it to Frost he says they should still go through with their plan and then turn Caine over to the authorities. This, paired with Frost telling Charlie to stop talking with the local police, raises her alarm bells even more.

One thing that catches her attention is that Jerry's gun was found in his right hand, but if he strapped it to his right ankle, that likely made him a lefty. She asks Cliff about this and also whether Jerry came back to the casino at any point after he threw him out. Cliff says no, he didn't come back, which Charlie can tell is true.

When it comes time for Caine's poker game, Frost is worried because both Caine and Charlie are late. Charlie finally does show up, where she tells him she knows he killed Natalie. How? She saw footage of Jerry being thrown out of the casino by Cliff, including going through a metal detector. However, the metal detector didn't go off when Jerry went through, which meant he didn't have his gun, Cliff did. And since Jerry never came back, Cliff must have been the one to take the gun and leave it at the scene.

Frost admits it, but is confident Charlie can't prove anything because of who he is, his connections to the cops and that she isn't recording their conversation. However, Charlie did record a previous conversation they had, one where they were talking about the Caine plan. She shared that recording with Caine, who leaves and tells other high-rollers that Frost Casino is dirty, ruining it. Maybe she can't send Frost to jail, but she can hurt him financially and put him in the ire of his dad.

Knowing he is beat and rather than face his father, Frost jumps out the window. This forces Charlie to go on the run. She eventually gets a call from Frost Sr., blaming her for his son's death (even though it was his scam that blew up in his face) and telling her there is no where she can go that he won't find her and that Cliff is on her tail. This puts Charlie on the road where she'll solve cases each episode in the different places she stops.

Poker Face is now streaming on Peacock, with new episodes releasing on Thursdays.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.