Donkerbos episode 3 recap: The tree house

By TVPlus14 December 2022

Donkerbos episode 3 recap: The tree house

The discovery of six dead children at an abandoned Limpopo farm continues to mystify the townsfolk of Donkerbos as the detectives working the case chase any lead they can find. Here is everything that happened in episode 3 of the chilling Showmax Original thriller, Donkerbos.

Jaco, where are you?

Donkerbos episode 3 recap on Showmax

At the end of episode 2 of Donkerbos (read more here) Pattie Steenkamp (Leandie du Randt) rocked up on the doorstep of her brother dearest (as she calls him, we have other words for him), Spook (Eben Genis), to ask whether she and her daughter Zellie (Amelie van Heerden) could stay there for a few months. Spook agreed, but as poor little Zellie stepped into the house, we suspected this was not going to be the best place for her to find shelter, with Spook’s eye lingering on her.

Episode 3 opens with a shot of the tree house in detective Fanie van Wyk’s (Erica Wessels) backyard, accompanied by ominous music (as if the house is hiding a dark secret). The focus in the scene shifts to Fanie waking up in the dark night alone. Her husband, Jaco, is missing.
Fanie gets up, tucks in her son Kallie (Steph van der Merwe), who’s fallen asleep in front of the television, and sneaks a cigarette outside, but as she is about to climb the stairs to the treehouse, Jaco’s car rolls up in the driveway and he quickly slips into the house.

Fanie finds him taking off his clothes and putting them in the washing machine – just like Francois (Marko Vorster), Kallie’s tjommie, did in episode 2. Coincidence? We think not! When Fanie confronts Jaco, he claims he was at the bar. She doesn’t believe him and smells his neck, but he quickly walks away before she can sniff out more clues. Where are you going at night, Jaco?

Trust your gut

Donkerbos episode 3 is on Showmax

After the title sequence plays, Sybrand (Wilhelm van der Walt) asks his brother Braam (Edwin van der Walt) whether he can take Braam’s car and shows Braam his police ID, indicating that he is back on duty. Sybrand reveals he’d like to use Braam’s car because “the people know my bakkie”. Before Sybrand leaves, he takes Speedo’s bed and gets rid of it (after Braam put the dog down in episode 2).

The scene cuts to Fanie dropping off Kallie at Marietjie’s (Nicole Holm) house, where Fanie asks Marietjie to keep tabs on him. Marietjie agrees (knowing she can’t lie to Fanie) and says, “God gave you that gut, trust it.”

Watch the trailer for Donkerbos episode 3

The story shifts to a new character, Mrs Brenda Kloppers (Mandri Sutherland), who is talking to a social worker about her son Simon (Daniël Snyman) and cursing those who laid complaints against her for child abuse. She even mentions a Mr Pieterse (did Braam Pieterse make the call?). Brenda says that she’s told him to stop interfering and we find out that poor Simon has bruises all over his abdomen which, despite his mom’s claims, can’t be from falling out of a tree. Could Simon have a connection to the six dead children? The mystery deepens.

Hidden deep in the forest

Donkerbos episode 3 is on Showmax

Fanie looks for her new partner, Detective Tsedza (Sanda Shandu), at the lodge and she finds him at the river before they head to the medical examiner’s office to visit the victims. Fanie places the mirror crown above one boy’s head and she and Tsedza discuss the way that the children were found.

“It’s ritualistic, but with no iconography or traditional markers I know,” says Fanie. Tsedza adds, “These children were hidden deep in the forest, buried behind a locked gate, preserved.” But why? Was this violation or protection?

Claire (Anthea Thompson), the medical examiner, explains that the embalming is too sloppy to have been carried out by a professional, and that the children all died of heart attacks. She goes on to explain each one of the victims received around 12 000mg of sodium pentobarbital via arterial injection, adding that this is commonly used to euthanise animals (it’s also used to control seizures, and as a preanesthetic, but the maximum dose for a child would be around 100mg) and she’s also found traces of diphenhydramine, which she reveals is a sleeping aid (it’s also an antihistamine, and the major component of Benadryl. Combined, the two drugs can lead to methemoglobinemia, which gives people blue lips, nails and skin).

Fanie reads the German words written in ink under one the victims’ eyes: “Sleep forever under the tree.” And just after that, Claire reveals that one of the female victims was pregnant and that the killer knew about it…

He smells like secrets

Donkerbos episode 3 is on Showmax

Fanie and Tsedza head to the new dominee in town, Abel Roodt (Carel Nel). When Tsedza wants to know why they are talking to him, Fanie says, “because he smells like secrets”. Fanie questions him about moving around a lot, and asks whether he dislikes tea (because he doesn’t kuier with the congregation).

But soon they are called away when Tsedza gets a mysterious phone call.

Meanwhile, Officer Wolf (Stian Bam) questions Spook at the flower and timber farm because Spook used to work for the man who once owned the farm where the six victims were found. But Spook undermines Wolf, and he doesn’t get much out of him. And Sybrand talks to one of the victims’ grandmothers. He searches the victim’s room and finds another rock with a painted eye on it. Sybrand also checks out the vet and gets his record book.

Sleeping with the enemy

Donkerbos episode 3 is on Showmax

We drop in on Wolf having sex with the local reporter, Mariaan (Nicola Hanekom), who butters him up with compliments. But the moment his back is turned, she takes picture of the files of the victims in his bakkie, eager to get her scoop (what did you expect, Wolf? Nothing is off the record).

Tsedza and Fanie head to the pregnant victim’s house, where they talk to her dad, a reverend. But he seems to be in denial about his daughter and walks away before they can talk to him about her more.

Plot twist: Her dad might be responsible for her pregnancy. Officer Bongani (Aphiwe Sithole) calls and reveals that he’s found out the German words written on the victims’ bodies come from an old German children’s book called The Mother Tree (yes, a fresh clue!).

“You know what he is”: Leandie du Randt as Pattie

Donkerbos episode 3 is on Showmax

Sybrand makes a pit stop at Spook’s house, where he finds Zellie and Pattie.

Pattie tells Sybrand that “Spook (who’s at work) is on the straight and narrow,” but Sybrand cuts her off and makes it clear “you know what he is.”

Back at the station, Fanie chews Wolf out because Mariaan’s story is making waves and all because Wolf couldn’t keep it in his pants.

More clues are revealed at Spook’s house when Zellie plays in the backyard and tries to get into a locked storeroom. Spook chases her away from the storeroom, and just as he walks away the camera reveals another rock inside the storeroom with the painted eye.

A human lie detector

Donkerbos episode 3 is on Showmax

We cut back to Kallie and Francois hanging outside his house. Francois stares at the tree house and asks Kallie, “do you ever lie to your mom?” to which Kallie answers, “she’s a human lie detector, so the day I want to die I’ll lie to her . . .”

And in a rapid series of scenes. . .

Kallie tells Francois his parents are fighting and that he thinks his dad is having an affair.

Fanie and Tsedza have a drink at the lodge, which doesn’t end well when Tsedza presses her about her ex-partner, Wim.

Pattie appears on TV to plead for her missing son.

We find out that Fanie and Sybrand are lovers.

Donkerbos episode 3 is on Showmax

Dominee Abel prays at the church and puts a mirror crown on the floor (wait, what? Dominee, are you the murderer?) of the church just as a power cut plunges the town in darkness.

Simon, the boy who is being abused, gets thrown around by his father and escapes through his bedroom window when someone knocks on it and lures him out.

And then there’s what happens to Kallie. . .

In the pitch darkness Kallie wakes up to find Francois’s made-up bed in his room empty (the boys had a sleepover). His dad, Jaco, is also not in his room (again). Kallie sees a light in the treehouse, and he goes to investigate but what he sees gives him such a fright that he falls down the treehouse stairs just as Jaco (who is in the treehouse, possibly with Francois, draw your own conclusions) calls his name…

The next episode airs Tuesday, 20 December. New Donkerbos episodes land every Tuesday, only on Showmax.

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