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Directed by: Leigh Janiak | Written by: Emily Kaczmarek
Official synopsis: In 2006, Sophie pursues a far-fetched new theory about the night of Kathleen’s death. Then, in 2017, Michael grapples with compromising his principles in exchange for his freedom.
It is 2017 and Michael and Sophia are together. After the last episode’s surprise when she visited Michael in jail, episode 6 of The Stairs begins with moments that show how they bonded and planned ahead to live together. Larry, who ended the last episode in suspense with a new discovery, reveals it to Sophie. His theory is that an owl killed Kathleen. Hold your horses before judging the man because jolly ol’ Larry has an explanation, albeit, a little crazy. So, here it goes.
The area saw confirmed owl attacks, a slurry of them during that time. In each case, the owl would attack the person from behind them, i.e., on the back of their heads. The barred owls are known to be aggressive and territorial when mating. It goes to Kathleen’s head when she’s outside, attacks her, and in a bid to fight it off, she struggles. It flies away, unharmed. But Kathleen is disoriented. She leaves a trail of blood as she walks back inside – drops on the floor and smudges on the door handles. She decides to get linen from the closet above but stumbles as she ascends the stairs.
Unfortunately, Michael loses his second appeal. Rudolf explains that they do not have any more legal avenues and that this is the end of the case. He informs Michael’s family and they gather to greet their father, together with Sophie. Despite the attempts to cheer him up and make the instant atmosphere positive, Michael stubbornly asks them to stop visiting them in an indirect way. The Petersons weren’t really a tight-knit group. The frictions that we see during the trial in the house were also quite evident even when Kathleen was alive. One such incident is the last Thanksgiving Michael and Kathleen’s family shared with her. Surprisingly, it is only Claire who accompanies Michael and Kathleen to Candace’s house as none of Michael’s children come home for the holidays. Instead, they meet up in pairs: Clay and Todd, despite their immense hatred as we saw in the house.
Martha stays with her partner in SF, and Margaret surprisingly visits Blair and her husband. It is just a little peek into the dysfunctional family’s fractured relationships. But also into some of the sweet moments that made their time together memorable. The broken kids all had issues that kept them at a distance not just from each other, but also from themselves. Margaret’s visit turns out to be the one that spills the secrets of the past that begrudge her. At one time, Patty surrendered the sisters’ custody to Blair but Michael took them back. When Martha’s behavioral issues started, he wanted to send her to Blair and keep Margaret.
Sophie meanwhile is obsessed with Larry’s theory and believes it. She begins to play it out and research it along with Larry and Jean sends a crew to document it. The two keep finding little clues that were unseen and fit the theory. They dig deeper and look at the evidence again. And actually, their theory does find credible support in it. Sophie takes the evidence and new details to Dr. Radisch, who is surprisingly welcoming about it. She agrees to reexamine the body with these details in mind, except it is already buried. It would have to be exhumed. But first, a third reenactment. Sophie calls Caitlin with the theory. She instantly refuses and asks her to never call again. The episode ends just the way it started – Michael’s Alford plea in 2017. With freedom beckoning him the face, Michael refuses, again, to accept that he killed Kathleen. “A lie cannot set you free”, he says.