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Episode 5: The Beating Heart
HBO Max  ·  50 minutes  ·  Original Broadcast: May 19, 2022

Directed by: Leigh Janiak  |  Written by: Craig Shilowich

Official synopsis: In the aftermath of the verdict, the Petersons struggle with the court’s decision, and Michael finds solace in an unlikely friendship from thousands of miles away.

Episode Recap
Please note that recaps feature spoilers on the individual episode.
This recap was written by Arnav Srivastava for The Review Geek, June 01, 2022

Michael’s anxious wait for an appeal in the jail is testing as we begin episode 5 of The Staircase. He does not have any friends. Jail mates look down upon him as his fame gets him certain desired privileges. He even gets beaten up because he is bumped up in the list of those getting single cells. During his stay, he is in direct communication with Sophie through postcards and letters. Outside, Sophie and the team are working religiously on the documentary and on helping the Defense with the appeal.

With Michael in prison, the family has sort of gone their own ways. The kids each have different priorities in terms of jobs and personal lives. Denis, Sophie, and Jean have now started to finalize episode cuts for the documentary. We see a scene with an intense discussion as to including/excluding certain scenes from the sets. The positioning that is apparent from the arguments is that Sophie and Denis are at extreme ends. One is for him, the other, against him. Jean is the mediator and neutral between the two to pacify the situation and help reach an agreement.

Inside the prison, Michael has to resort to making deals with inmates for protection by trading postage stamps. His time is only slightly made easier by Sophie’s company, whose accomplished penmanship provides him comfort. For his family, it is worse. Not getting the backpays from Nortel has seen them selling things like furniture and antiquities to pay the legal fees and keep the trial going. And eventually, the house. Sophie decides to stop writing Michael for a while until the documentary is released. Clayton is moving up the order in terms of hierarchy for Michael when he considers something important among the children. Todd, after a wild night of drinking and partying, forgets to put money into Michael’s account. Hence, he almost loses the protection of the gang as he isn’t able to pay for stamps. But Clay comes to the rescue and saves the day. He also lets out the news that Becky, his partner, is pregnant. The elation does not last as the decision on the appeal is soon announced.

The Defense’s plea for a new trial is rejected. The only avenue now left is the NC Supreme Court. At least another year in jail – more, if the appeal doesn’t go his way – is tough to take. It remains to be seen how Michael handles the bad news in prison. “The Staircase”, the documentary, premieres in France to great acclaim and enthusiasm. Sophie, called the “beating heart” of the project by Jean, is relieved. She decides to write to Margaret and sends her a copy of the finished documentary. To everyone’s surprise, Sophie visits Michael in jail, and Larry, Peterson’s next-door neighbor, goes through the autopsy photos.

Guest Cast: Joel McKinnon Miller (Larry Pollard), Susan Pourfar (Dr. Deborah Radisch), Frank Feys (Denis Poncet), Samuel Ray Gates (Big Ray), Michael Forbs (BK), Michelle Rivera (Diane), David Silverman (Carl), Cynthia Barrett (Carol), Karson Kern (Nate), Eric Poulain (Jacques (as Eric Poulan)), Kandé Amadou (Assistant Editor #1), Jean-Luc McMurtry (Gaultier), Andre Martin (Yves), Erik J. Jensen (J-Smoke), Martin Bats Bradford (Loop), Seth Dousman (Sneaky Inmate), Dayne Catalano (Inmate #1), Paul Vincent Freeman (POD C.O. #1), Adam James King (Yard C.O. #2), Donna Duplantier (Visiting Area C.O. #3), Leanna Adams (Commissary Worker), Nick Basta (George), Sailor Larocque (Payton), Jean Brassard (Francois), Caroline Bloom (Rosalie), Paris Benjamin (Claire), Abigail Susan Williams (Conductor), Giovanni Pucci (Remy), Rachel Walters (Expat #1), Lindsay Rootare (Expat #2), Ian Gregg (Lucas)