Poker Face episode 6 ending explained: how does Charlie crack the case?

Audrey Corsa and Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face
Audrey Corsa and Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face (Image credit: Sara Shatz/Peacock)

NOTE: this post contains spoilers for Poker Face episode 6, "Exit Stage Death."

Charlie Cale takes to the stage in Poker Face episode 6, "Exit Stage Death," as she finds herself involved in another suspicious murder, this time at a dinner theater and involving two past their prime TV actors.

In this episode of the Peacock original series, Natasha Lyonne is joined with a trio of big name guest stars — Ellen Barkin (Drop Dead Gorgeous), Tim Meadows (Saturday Night Live) and Jameela Jamil (She-Hulk).

Let's dive into the murder and just how Charlie cracked the case in our Poker Face episode 6 ending explainer.

Poker Face episode 6: the murder

Kathleen Townsend (Barkin) is a past-her-prime actress looking for one more shot at glory, but to do so she needs the help of her former TV co-star, Michael Graves (Meadows). The two appear to have no love lost for each other and at first, Michael refuses to do a play with Kathleen, citing the Hell their past working experiences were together. Even the thought gives him heart problems, which his new wealthy wife, Ava (Jamil), is sure to treat with his prescribed medicine. However, Ava convinces Michael to do the show.

Unfortunately for everyone, the two have still not learned to work together, arguing throughout the rehearsal process. Kathleen is also a dictator on stage, demanding that a trap door be set for her grand exit, even though the stage manager, Phil (Chris McKinney), says that it is not safe.

When opening night arrives, Kathleen and Michael grouse about each other every time they are off stage. Then, when their co-star, Rebecca (Audrey Corsa), has a long monologue, they each continue to berate each other while separately setting up each other's murders — Kathleen loosens a stage light directly above one of Michael's marks, while Michael removes the safety measures for the trap door, including replacing the latch with dry ice from the fog machine, for Kathleen to fall through.

Back on stage, as Michael is about to reach his spot, the light falls, barely missing him. He falls to the ground clutching his heart and calling for Ava, who rushes to the stage to give him his medicine but trips and falls right on the trap door, which gives way and sends her falling to her death.

The police rule it a tragic accident, not even blaming Phil, who was asleep underneath the stage. However, we quickly realize this was actually all a plan from Kathleen and Michael (including knocking Phil out with Ambien), who are actually lovers and wanted to kill Ava for her money.

How does Charlie solve Ava's murder?

Natasha Lyonne backstage in Poker Face

Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face (Image credit: Sara Shatz/Peacock)

Charlie works at the dinner theater as a waitress, but she is certainly not a fan of the stage, or at least Kathleen and Michael's performances, which she can tell are crap from her ability to spot lies. Upset that her friend Phil is taking Ava's death really hard, Charlie sets out to understand what really happened to clear his conscience.

She's not alone though. Rebecca is able to piece together what Kathleen and Michael did because the argument they had backstage as they set the traps — used as their alibi because they kept on their mics used for the older audience to hear them — was dialogue directly lifted from an episode of their TV show. She blackmails them. Kathleen decides they now need to kill her, planning on having her eat peanuts, which Rebecca is allergic to.

Meanwhile, when Charlie sees that Phil had set everything up for Kathleen to fall safely, she thinks someone was trying to murder Kathleen. Charlie looks over the footage from the fateful performance, noticing smoke coming up from the stage. Someone tells her that it is probably dry ice. She investigates the dry ice, burning her hand on it. She tries to warn Kathleen during the performance, but she continues to go on with the show. Charlie then notices dry ice burn marks on Michael's hand, leading her to believe that he is the murderer.

However, when Rebecca—now lying to protect Kathleen and Michael so she can get her money—mentions Michael would have been the one standing on that spot first if the light hadn't fallen, Charlie gives that a look. She finds a tuft of fabric that matches Kathleen's slippers. Then, when hearing Kathleen deliver a line on how she loves Michael's character, Charlie knows that it's the truth, and she realizes Kathleen and Michael worked together to kill Ava.

Charlie finds one final clue, Rebecca's blackmail note in Kathleen's dressing room. Remembering that Rebecca is allergic to peanuts, Charlie puts together that Kathleen will try to kill her and rushes on stage to stop Rebecca from taking the fateful bite. After Charlie's awkward hints that she figured it out, Kathleen and Michael go back to the dressing room and argue about what they've done. It's only after this though, that Kathleen realizes Charlie left a mic in the dressing room, so everyone in the theater heard their confession.

What happens to Kathleen and Michael?

Tim Meadows and Ellen Barkin in Poker Face

Tim Meadows and Ellen Barkin in Poker Face (Image credit: Sara Shatz/Peacock)

Knowing they're caught, Kathleen and Charlie decide that instead of just packing it in, they are going to go out big, giving everything they can for their final performances. No one stops them, even as the police arrive to arrest them. As the curtain closes, even Charlie has to admit that the two gave beautiful, moving performances.

New episodes of Poker Face premiere on Thursdays. Stream all the episodes on Peacock.

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.