By TVPlus21 December 2022
Donkerbos episode 4 recap: Der mutterbaum
The discovery of six dead children at an abandoned Limpopo farm continues to mystify the townsfolk of Donkerbos as well as the detectives working the case, who are chasing any lead they can find. Here is everything that happened in episode 4 of the chilling Showmax Original thriller, Donkerbos.
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Episode 3 of Donkerbos (read more here) left us disturbed and worried … Kallie (Steph van der Merwe) found his dad Jaco (Jacques Bessenger) and his best friend Francois (Marko Vorster) alone together in his tree house during a blackout and what Kallie saw gave him such a fright that he fell down the treehouse stairs and injured himself.
A million assumptions have been going through our heads as to what Jaco was doing with 15-year-old Francois. In episodes 2 and 3 we saw both sneak into their houses on separate occasions, strip off all their clothes and stuff them into their washing machines. Signs point to sexual contact between the two (Jaco’s actions would be criminal, as Francois cannot legally consent to sexual contact at his age) … or maybe Fanie isn’t the only one to sneak a cigarette now and then.
Episode 4 is called Der Muttenbaum (The Mother Tree), and it starts with an upset Francois sitting in the hospital waiting room with his mum, Marietjie (Nicole Holm).
Marietjie tries to ask Francois why he is so upset, but Francois doesn’t say a word.
Detective Fanie (Erica Wessels), Kallie’s mom, arrives looking for Kallie as Jaco makes his appearance. Jaco tells Fanie that everything is okay, and that Kallie broke his arm and suffered a concussion. But Fanie notices that Jaco has missed a button while fastening his shirt.
When Fanie asks what happened, Jaco starts rambling and he freezes as Fanie snaps, “My kid’s arm is in a f**ken cast!”. Eventually it’s Kallie who tells Fanie what is wrong – by taking her hand and using their secret morse code communication to tell her: “P-a-p-p-a a-n-d F-r-a-n-c-o-i-s”.
Multiple things happen after that: Jaco lies and claims that he was in bed when he heard the crash of Kallie falling, a nurse comes in and announces that Kallie needs scans in Polokwane, Jaco leaves to help Marietjie get more tea, and Fanie tries to approach Francois for answers, but he’s crying and looking at Fanie with big eyes. Fanie’s mom instincts kick in and she realises she can’t ask him the thing she most wants to know. She ends up giving him a big hug, and then stares at him utterly shocked.
“They thought I was sleeping”
After the opening title sequence, we see Fanie throwing up in the bathroom (she knows what Jaco and Francois did, and it makes her sick). She tells Kallie to get dressed and they head to her car, where she finds Marietjie, who asks her, “You will tell me if there is something that I need to know?” almost exactly like Fanie did in episode 2, when she asked Marietjie to tell her if she hears anything about Jaco … but how do you tell someone, “My husband is molesting your son”? That would make an alternative, like that they’re smoking or taking drugs together, look like Sunday church chat!
Fanie just hugs Marietjie and then drives away with Kallie, leaving Jaco behind.
Later, Fanie stops on the side of the road. She tells Kallie that even though her case (the six dead children) is important, there’s nothing that is more important to her than him. Kallie starts to explain, “They thought I was sleeping … in the treehouse … Pappa and Francois … they thought I was sleeping … ” Fanie fights back tears and tells Kallie that he can’t tell anybody about this, this must be their secret. Nobody can know until they have decided what to do.
He will never say no
The story shifts to Pattie (Leandie du Randt), who’s doing her make-up and preparing to go out. As Spook (Eben Genis), Pattie’s brother, sleeps in the background on the couch, her daughter Zellie (Amelie van Heerden) takes her hand and begs her not to leave her alone, but Pattie shrugs it off and says she will be back later.
The scene cuts to Braam (Edwin van der Walt), who’s worried about his brother Sybrand (Wilhelm van der Walt), who’s just getting home (after his night with Fanie before she was called to the hospital). Braam asks him what he did, and whether Fanie gave him back the key to their house, but Sybrand brushes off Braam’s words and heads to his room, where we see police files, including one file with Spook’s photo on it.
Braam heads to his car (which Sybrand was using) and after he searches it, he calls Fanie and asks her whether Sybrand was with her. When Fanie confirms that he was, Braam seems upset and tries to make Fanie understand that Sybrand will never say no to her.
The Mother Tree
Meanwhile, Marietjie tries to get Francois, who is still crying silently, to talk to her about what happened the previous night, but he remains mum. And we cut to a scene with the social worker at the Donkerbos police station. She reports Simon (Daniël Snyman), the abused child she was assessing, missing. Detective Tsedza (Sanda Shandu) gets assigned to the case and Captain Baleka (Thoko Ntshinga) tells him to take Sybrand with him.
The new dominee, Abel Roodt (Carel Nel), walks into the station and asks to see Captain Baleka. As they talk, he says he has arranged a special service for the six children that were discovered. We also see Zellie playing outside with her dolls until Spook tells her she needs to go inside and take a bath because she is filthy (oh, nooo).
The Polokwane doctor has told Fanie that Kallie seems okay but he can’t be left alone yet due to his concussion. Mother and son make a pitstop at the city library, where a librarian helps Fanie to find the book Der Muttenbaum (The Mother Tree), a German children’s story containing the phrases that were inked onto the six children’s bodies. The librarian reads the book to Fanie, and it turns out that the story is about children that are abused and who were afraid of their parents.
“The children cried, and their tears flowed down to the roots of The Mother Tree and the mother Tree was angry,” reads the librarian. We see visuals of the tree, the painted eyes, and the words on the children’s bodies in the book and in flashbacks. Fanie seizes the book, which the librarian strongly objects to.
Sybrand and Tsedza question Simon’s mom, who claims that he ran away and she shows them his room and where he left out of his window. As Tsedza and Sybrand search for clues outside Simon’s window, Tsedza asks Sybrand to tell him why he was suspended, but their conversation halts as they find yet another rock with a painted eye on it…
Breaking and entering
Pattie gives an interview to reporter Mariaan (Nicola Hanekom) about her missing son, and the six children that have been found, and as she gives this interview, we see Zellie in the bath, where she is playing and singing: “I’m a little mermaid swimming in the sea.” Suddenly there is a loud sound, like someone breaking down the bathroom door, and Zellie looks up, frightened.
Meanwhile, Marietjie makes coffee and takes it to Jaco, who is talking to Francois in his room (if you only knew the truth, Marietjie, you wouldn’t have allowed him near your son!). As they speak, the scene shifts to Fanie and Jaco’s house. The camera focuses on a strange painting of a boy in the house and then someone with black gloves breaks into their house and starts to search it … no drawn-out mystery here – we soon see it’s Tsezda!
Sybrand drives to Spook’s house and when he sees Zellie’s toys outside, he puts on gloves and heads into Spook’s house.
Meanwhile, Fanie arrives at Braam and Sybrand’s house to ask whether she and Kallie can stay there. Fanie tries to comfort Kallie after he takes a shower, and she tells her son how sorry she is that he had to see what he saw. But her phone keeps on ringing. It’s Marietjie, who tells Fanie that Jaco has explained everything, and she tells Fanie something about “boys will be boys” (we suspect that Jaco has been economical with the truth).
Unconvinced, Fanie heads home and packs a bag for herself and Kallie. But just as she’s about to drive off, she turns around and heads to the tree house. As she starts to search it, Tsedza phones her and he tells her to come to the Steenkamp house urgently. He struggles to explain what has happened, but says “I can’t do this alone.”
Fanie arrives on the scene, where Pattie stands to the side, crying uncontrollably with a blanket around her. Tsedza stops Fanie before she enters Spook’s home and warns her that she must brace herself, before he goes on to start the manhunt for Spook. Sybrand tries to talk to Fanie saying, “They knew, and they did nothing,” but officer Wolf (Stian Bam) forces him back into the police bakkie.
Fanie breathes heavily as she goes inside. The horror that she sees in the bathroom is the body of Zellie. She is covered in a bath towel, the top part where her face is, is soaked in blood (her face has been battered) and on top of her head is the broken mirror crown. The episode fades out with Spook on the run from the authorities.
The next episode airs on Tuesday, 27 December. What further cruelties is Donkerbos hiding?