Elsbeth – Episode 5 “Ball Girl” Recap & Review


Ball Girl

Episode 5 of Elsbeth Season 1 starts with the murder of a famous tennis player named Yoyo. He was on the verge of retirement but suddenly decided to suspend the whole process indefinitely, angering another player, Hunter. Yoyo has been Hunter’s most significant opponent and always crushed him during their matches.

During an upcoming match in New York, which also happens to be Hunter’s comeback match after his mother’s death, his first opponent is Yoyo. His father worries because Hunter’s game has not peaked since his mother’s death, and further losses would lead to the loss of brand ambassadorship deals. Therefore, the father takes matters into his own hands to sabotage the match by secretly applying nitrogen ointment on the towels, and Hunter collapses and dies after using it during the match. 

Elsbeth and Kaya are enjoying lunch when the news of Yoyo’s death is announced. Hunter’s father says something during an interview that catches her attention, and she tries to bring it up during the investigation, but the detective in charge does not give her a chance. When they question the father, he suggests looking into the Russians, saying that Yoyo was very outspoken against them and that the government might have assassinated him to send a warning. However, Elsbeth does not buy it and sticks around after the detective leaves to observe Hunter’s father.

Ashley, a ball girl, approaches the father. She had seen Hunter’s father during the act, and she knows he is responsible for Yoyo’s death. She tries to make a deal with him, wanting to sabotage Hunter’s entire opponent list and place a bet on him. She says that she has kept the towel as evidence, but Hunter’s father is unwilling to work together. Meanwhile, following closely, Elsbeth watches the interaction and approaches the father, later wanting to know what they are talking about. She makes small talk and gets an invite for a coaching session with Hunter’s father. 

At the police station, Wagner approaches Kaya to understand what Elsbeth has been up to, and she tells him about her asking about Wally. Wagner subtly asks her to report anything suspicious that Elsbeth does by reminding her that Elsbeth will be with them for a short while and Kaya has a long career ahead of her at the NYPD. He then invites Elsbeth for lunch, and they get to talk about family and why Wagner decides to take an administrative role at the NYPD rather than stay a detective.

To give Elsbeth the whole five-star experience with the Sushi, even though they are having a meal in his office, Wagner asks the assistant to microwave some towels. Elsbeth suddenly knows what might have happened to Yoyo and shares it with Detective Smullen. She thinks that Yoyo was drugged during a break and the drug administered using the towel. However, it is a complicated theory because the towels should have been cleaned soon after the match, but they catch a break when they get an anonymous tip.

Ashley plants the towel in the room of the Russian Yoyo’s girlfriend, and the detectives can easily find it while they follow up on the tip and bring her in for questioning. Smullen finds out that the girlfriend lies about being Russian and that her social media accounts are fabricated. When she is questioned, she admits that she gave Yoyo erectile dysfunction meds, which were found in his system.

Smullen thinks that the girlfriend is the killer, but Elsbeth is not convinced. Wagner asks Smullen to check the CCTV footage for anything suspicious, leading to the anonymous call, and they bring in Ashley for questioning. The cameras show that she went to the gym at the same time as Yoyo’s girlfriend, was seen heading towards her room later, and making a call at the same time the police got a tip. However, Ashley knows they have nothing concrete to hold her. When Smullen asks about the bet, she mentions that she made it before the coin toss, so if she drugged Yoyo, how would she know which side he would choose to take since the towels are placed before the match? 

Ashley’s point gives Elsbeth an idea, so she looks for Hunter and his father. They are finishing an interview since he just qualified for the finals, and Elsbeth stops him to ask for an autograph on a towel. When Hunter is distracted signing other fan items, Elsbeth asks his father about the coin toss and learns that whichever side it lands on, they can either pick a side or serve.

Elsbeth asks what Hunter would have chosen, and the father says to serve. However, Hunter overhears their conversation and remembers that his father had told him which side to pick if he was the one to choose. His father’s response when he asks why he lied makes him suspicious, and at home, Hunter finds the nitrogen ointment in his father’s drawer. 

On the final match day, Hunter stresses out about everyone betting against him. His father encourages him, saying he believes in him before confronting Ashley, who leads the ball boys betting against Hunter. Ashley gets very aggressive, draws attention, and makes the father leave her alone. During the match, Hunter chooses to receive. He uses his towel at break time and asks Ashley for a new one. His father notices that Ashley hands him the towel and immediately gets protective. He thinks that the ball boys are betting against Hunter because Ashley did something to the towel to sabotage him, so before the game resumes, he calls Hunter aside and tells him not to touch the towel.

Hunter wants to know why his father does not want him to use the towel, so he presses him and finally says that Ashley poisoned it to sabotage his match. Hunter withdraws from the final game since his father has proven Elsbeth’s theory true. It turns out that the police approached Hunter and asked for his help. He thought that they were lying and only agreed to play along to prove them wrong. His father and Ashley were arrested.

At the end of the episode, Wagner asks Elsbeth about Teddy and learns that he has gotten a new job with an NGO, and he is very excited. Suddenly, she remembers telling Wagner that Teddy did not like his current job and realised that Wagner helped recommend her son for the new job. The realisation leaves Elsbeth very conflicted, as shown on her face.

The Episode Review

The episode included exciting guest stars, including Blair Underwood of Agents of SHIELD and Quantico as Hunter’s father. Omari K. Chancellor plays Hunter; you might remember him from The Greatest Beer Run Ever and Swipe NYC. Although the case is not very interesting, the script adds tension to Elsbeth and Captain Wagner’s relationship. We know that Captain Wagner figures out that Elsbeth is investigating him, so he has put Kaya on the case to report anything Elsbeth does.

In addition, he helps Elsbeth’s son find a new job, which makes Elsbeth conflicted about her investigation. However, it leaves the audience wondering why Wagner has gone to such an extent. Is he worried Elsbeth might find something about him? We are still yet to get an update on Wally and why he was angry with the captain. Is the captain involved in any illegal or corrupt dealings?

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