Poker Face episode 5 ending explained: Time of the Monkey

Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face
Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face (Image credit: Phillip Caruso/Peacock)

A retirement home, 1970s domestic terrorists and an orangutan are just some of the key details of Poker Face episode 5, "Time of the Monkey." When a new resident dies of an apparent heart attack, how does Charlie (Natasha Lyonne) put everything together to solve the case? We break it all down in this Poker Face episode 5 ending explainer. But first, let's lay the scene and introduce our murderers for this week.

The episode opens by introducing us to Joyce (S. Epatha Merkerson) and Irene (Judith Light), two rebellious ladies living in a retirement community. They have been friends for a long time but can't stand everyone else that they live with. Things ratchet up another level when a new resident moves in, Ben (Reed Birney). They recognize him, but not in a good way, as they quickly determine that they need to kill him.

Their plan consists of trading some of their homemade weed for gardening supplies to use as poison, which Irene delivers climbing out a window from a ground floor bathroom up into Ben's room. Irene slips Ben's heart monitor onto her wrist, replacing his with one that is not working, and injects him with the poison. They then use a community outing to the zoo as an alibi, where they enact the final part of their plan. Away from the group, Joyce tases Irene, which sets off the nurse's monitor for Ben. When they get back, Ben's body is being wheeled out, with the nurse saying it was a heart attack. They are sure to replace the dummy heart monitor with Ben's original.

We then jump to before the murder, where we see how Charlie plays into this. She has taken a part-time job at the retirement home and finds herself drawn to Joyce and Irene over some of the other uptight residents (ie, K Callan's Betty). She is enthralled by their stories of fighting the man in the '70s with their group's leader Gabriel and is sad to hear they went to prison after they were raided by the police, where Irene was paralyzed and Gabriel was believed to be dead.

However, Gabriel is not dead. He actually was the one who ratted the group out and was put in witness protection and now goes by Ben. He also recognizes Joyce and Irene right away. He apologizes for what happened to them and they fake their forgiveness before enacting their plan.

After Ben's death, the kind soul that Charlie is goes to the funeral knowing that Ben was all alone and that his "nephew" Luca (Simon Helberg) is not really his nephew. With Ben dead, Luca lets slip that he worked with Ben in witness protection. When Charlie sees a younger picture of Ben she quickly realizes that it is Gabriel. Luca eventually tells Charlie that Joyce and Irene weren't just protesters, they were domestic terrorists planning on blowing up a Model UN gathering of high schoolers. Even so, there's nothing that Luca can see that points to them being responsible for Gabriel's death. 

Charlie tries to be upfront with the ladies about it. They don't confess, but Charlie can tell that something is up. So she is back on the case.

How does Charlie prove Joyce and Irene killed Gabriel?

S. Epatha Merkerson and Judith Light smile in Poker Face

S. Epatha Merkerson and Judith Light in Poker Face (Image credit: Peacock)

Charlie clocks a few of Joyce and Irene's lies before she even knew they were suspects. The first came as Joyce was stalling for Irene outside of the bathroom — as Charlie eloquently put it, "bulls***ing about s***ing" — the other came at the zoo, where they lie about having an allergy to monkeys to excuse why they don't go see an orangutan who can tell time.

The orangutan is actually Charlie's first big clue. Luca tells her Gabriel died at 2:23, which was the time the orangutan correctly gestured during the show. But she knows that Joyce and Irene were off on their own at that time.

She convinces the nurse to let her see Gabriel's heart monitor data, which shows that his heart stopped at 2:23 and showed no activity after that despite them using the defibrillator. Another weird thing was that Charlie can see that the readings change hours before Gabriel's death, "almost like he had a new heart," she notes; in this case Irene's heart. That time was also right about when they were leaving and Joyce was stalling for Irene.

Charlie then turns to some of the residents to fill in other missing pieces. A group of murder-mystery enthusiasts explains that sodium nitrate is a great poison to use in killing someone because its found in garden products and naturally occurs in the body. The gardener then tells her he gave Joyce and Irene some sodium nitrate a day before Gabriel's death, but didn't think much of it because they typically use it to grow weed, which they trade for the sodium nitrate. Then Charlie learns about "sexual zapping," which one of the resident says is a kinky thing people can do where you tase each other. Charlie learns Betty confronted Joyce and Irene about doing something with a taser at the zoo, which leads them to killing Betty by blowing her up with a bomb in her Instapot.

With all of this, Charlie is ready to confront Joyce and Irene about what they did. She's sad that they weren't the cool ladies she thought they were, but she knows they have to go away. They put up a strong fight though and are able to get Charlie on the ground and are getting ready to poison her when she sees the taser, grabs it and shocks herself. This confuses Joyce and Irene, but when Charlie comes to she reveals that she is wearing a heart monitor, which quickly brings the nurses and authorities into the room to arrest Joyce and Irene.

Parting gifts

Simon Helberg as FBI agent in Poker Face

Simon Helberg in Poker Face (Image credit: Peacock)

As Joyce and Irene are arrested, Luca tells Charlie she can contact him anytime she is in a bind or if she wants a job with the FBI. Charlie declines, but holds onto his number.

She is about to drive away on a golf cart when she gets a shock and notices it is making strange noises. She jumps out just in time before it explodes. From the car, Joyce and Irene look back with wry smiles on their faces; even if their plan to kill Charlie didn't work, it gave her a scare. Charlie, for her part, gives the two ladies the bird as they are taken off to jail.

New episodes of Poker Face stream exclusively on Peacock every Thursday.

More on Poker Face

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.