Poker Face episode 7 ending explained: how does Charlie solve the case?

Angel Desai and Natasha Lyonne listen to the radio in Poker Face
Angel Desai and Natasha Lyonne in Poker Face (Image credit: Phillip Caruso/Peacock)

NOTE: this post contains spoilers for Poker Face episode 7, "The Future of the Sport."

For the first time in its first season, Poker Face does not feature a murder. But that doesn't mean the tensions aren't just as high as episode 7 of the mystery series, "The Future of the Sport," places Charlie (Natasha Lyonne) in the world of high-speed dirt-road racing.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? star Tim Blake Nelson and Riverdale's Charles Melton are the big name guest stars joining the Poker Face cast, playing rival race car drivers who will stop at nothing as they compete for the end of the year championship. But who takes it a step too far and how does Charlie call them out on their "bulls**t?" Let's explore what happens in the end of Poker Face episode 7.

The crime

Tim Blake Nelson in a garage in Poker Face

Tim Blake Nelson in Poker Face (Image credit: Peacock)

As we said, there is no murder in episode 7, but there is an attempted murder and two guilty parties.

Nelson's Kyle Owens is a veteran driver who is quickly being eclipsed by the upstart youngster David McDowell (Melton). Knowing he has lost what he calls "the flow," (his loss of confidence physically manifesting itself in his hand shaking), the only way to protect his legacy, gracefully retire and hand the steering wheel to his talented daughter Katy (Jasmine Aiyana Garvin) is to beat McDowell for the championship. But to do that he knows he has to take McDowell out of the competition.

Knowing McDowell has a side job as a tow truck driver, Owens makes a fake call to get him away from his garage. Owens then sneaks in and attaches a fish hook on a gear wire to McDowell's engine, so when he accelerates it'll catch the clutch, preventing him from decelerating and then crashing his car.

The next day on the track that's exactly what happens, with the car also going up into flames. However, Owens didn't know his plan had actually backfired.

Things switch to McDowell's perspective. His rivalry isn't just with the older Ownes, but Katy as well, who ends up showing him up on a go-kart track. After taking his frustrations out on the Owens' mailbox, McDowell's mom Jean (Angel Desai) tells him that he needs to be smarter and take his anger out on the track. That night, when the tow call comes in, Owen is still stewing and has a few beers, so Jean takes the call. This allows him to notice Owens messing with his car in the garage. McDowell quickly finds the fish hook, but rather than remove it, he leaves it in and then tinkers with the car's seat belt.

Back to the following day at the track, McDowell goads Katy into driving his car in an attempt to beat his fastest practice run from the previous week. So it is actually Katy who crashes into the wall, not McDowell, something Owens finds out too late.

Thankfully, Katy is not killed, but she is severely hurt and in a coma.

How does Charlie solve the case?

Natasha Lyonne smokes a cigarette outside in Poker Face

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

Charlie fits into all this as she works at the local arcade with Jean and gets to know McDowell a bit. He doesn't seem like the hotheaded racer we first meet, being gracious with his young fans and telling them his inspiration was his grandfather, Big Ed, who he always has on his dashboard when he races.

After the accident, McDowell starts to suggest the car may have been sabotaged, so he looks at it with Charlie and her co-worker Randy (Jack Alcott), discovering the fish hook, which McDowell says used with a gear wire could have caused the clutch to latch and result in the crash. Ready to string Owens up, Charlie convinces them to let her go and talk to him and see if she can get him to reveal the truth. Charlie catches Owens lying about it and tells McDowell as much. But before they can do anything about it, Owens, racked with guilt, confesses on TV and says that it was never his intention to hurt anyone, something Charlie does not call "bulls**t" on.

All things are clear for McDowell to become the next big star of the racing league, but when a young fan comes up to him nervous about racing because of how Katy's seat belt broke, McDowell says that it was a freak accident. Charlie overhears this and can tell it is a lie.

Learning from Randy that seat belts aren't actually checked before a race, Charlie figures that McDowell could have tinkered with it. She sneaks into the garage but the car is being looked at by investigators. McDowell finds her and Charlie confronts him about the seat belt lie. McDowell all but confirms he did it, saying he's not afraid to kill to get what he wants on the track. Jean comes in, which allows Charlie to make an exit. But as she is driving away McDowell is on her tail in his tow truck. Thankfully, Charlie's car is faster and more nimble, so using some pointers McDowell gave her earlier she is able to get away.

At his next race, McDowell is reaping the benefits with a brand new sponsor. But before the race begins, Charlie stops by and tells him she was finally able to confirm he purposefully sabotaged Katy because she saw his picture of Big Ed in his garage the night before; he took it out of the car so it wouldn't burn up in the crash. She also tells him she visited Katy in the hospital and she is thankfully expected to make a full recovery and is eager to get back to racing.

Charlie leaves, but knowing that Katy is going to be his competitor soon enough causes McDowell's hand to shake. Like Owens, he has lost "the flow."

Poker Face premieres new episodes on Thursdays on Peacock.

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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.