‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ Episode 5 Recap: Ghosts From the Past

Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 5, “Sweet Surender,” answers some of the questions posed in the earlier installments of the Hulu series. It also shows the aftermath of Masha (Nicole Kidman) moving to the next stage of her mysterious protocol. The guests at Tranquillum House faced some interesting side effects after being microdosed the first time, but the end of episode 4 saw Kidman’s character altering their doses once again. Whatever they’re drinking is causing the guests to act out of character — and even revisit ghosts from the past.

[Spoiler warning: This article contains spoilers for the first five episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers.]

‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ Episode 5 delves into Masha’s past

Grace Van Patten and Nicole Kidman as Zoe and Masha in 'Nine Perfect Strangers' Episode 5. Zoe stands in a denim jacket and skirt and Nicole Kidman has an arm around her shoulder and is wearing a pink dress. The rest of the group stands behind them.
Grace Van Patten and Nicole Kidman in ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ | Vince Valitutti/Hulu

Of course, the guests at Tranquillum House aren’t the only ones revisiting the past in Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 5. The show previously revealed that Masha faced legal trouble over something that happened during another retreat. Although it clarifies that she won that particular battle, the series never divulges why Masha was in hot water.

It’s not hard to guess that Masha hurt or even killed someone staying at her resort, but Nine Perfect Strangers confirms it in “Sweet Surrender.” The episode sees the leader of Tranquillum House having flashbacks, returning to a fateful day that clearly still haunts her.

The scenes show Yao (Manny Jacinto) and Masha attempting to revive the guest in question, but it doesn’t work in the end. Delilah (Tiffany Boone) is also present for the entire situation, and Masha’s guilt over the trauma it caused her attendant is at the forefront of this installment.

Speaking of Delilah, Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 5 adds a new layer to her relationship with Masha as well. Despite the tensions between the characters in previous episodes, “Sweet Surrender” suggests something romantic lurks beneath their interactions. When Delilah asks Masha to stop sleeping with Yao, the two women share a kiss.

Although some fans suspected a polyamorous relationship between Masha and her staff members, Delilah’s insistence that she keep things quiet suggests differently. According to Masha, Yao doesn’t know about whatever’s happening between the two of them. With the camera shifting to view the kiss from the bushes, however, it seems someone knows about their attraction. Could that be the same person threatening Masha?

Grace Van Patten’s Zoe sees a ghost in ‘Sweet Surrender’

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The other major storyline in Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 5 follows Zoe Marconi (Grace Van Patten) as she celebrates her birthday. It’s a bittersweet affair since she shares it with her late brother. However, she doesn’t need to miss him this year. Zach (Hal Cumpston) appears during the episode’s opening scene, a surprising development for anyone who wasn’t expecting the show to delve into the supernatural.

For now, it’s unclear exactly what’s happening with Zach and Zoe. She holds an entire discussion with him when he first shows up. Of course, that could be chalked up to the microdosing. However, a later scene sees Zach running behind Heater (Asher Keddie) in the woods. She doesn’t notice him, so viewers are left to wonder if Zach is really there or simply a figment of someone’s imagination.

The end of the episode raises even more questions after Zoe gives a toast during her birthday celebration. She spots Zach sitting off to the side, and Masha immediately realizes what she’s staring at. The wellness guru sidles up to Zoe and says at much, ending the episode with a strange exclamation: “It’s you. You’re the key.”

Up until now, viewers likely didn’t have “Masha bringing back the dead” on their bingo boards. Her words to Zoe suggest she’s up to more than she’s letting on though — and that she might have expected Zach to show up.

‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ Episode 5 shows the aftermath of upping Masha’s protocol

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Zoe has the strangest reaction to Masha upping her “protocol,” but she’s far from the only character to collide with her past this week. The rest of them don’t come face to face with it in the same way. However, they do confront their trauma in other ways — some through dreams and others by talking (or yelling) things through.

Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 5 sees Lars (Luke Evans) and Frances (Melissa McCarthy) having dreams related to their heartbreaks. Lars sees himself having a baby with Tony (Bobby Cannavale), something he later confesses is related to his previous relationship. He and his partner broke up over disagreements about having a child, a decision Lars still seems to be struggling with.

Frances’ dream is less peaceful, since it happens after she passes out in her oatmeal. McCarthy’s romance writer envisions the man who catfished her making things right — and proving he really is the guy he claimed. However, he also insults her writing, showing there’s more than one conflict happening in Frances’ mind.

Ben (Melvin Gregg) and Jessica (Samara Weaving) rekindle their relationship somewhat, as do Heather and Napoleon (Michael Shannon). Things aren’t totally clear for the two couples, but they seem to be adapting best to Masha’s program.

That’s to Carmel’s (Regina Hall) detriment, as she’s trying to forget about her ex-husband and his new relationship. She and Lars share a surprisingly touching moment after she encounters Ben and Jessica having sex. Tony and Frances also have a few heartfelt conversations during “Sweet Surrender,” though Tony’s sentiment that he’s “not going to make it” doesn’t bode well for the two of them.

Where is ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ headed?

As the Hulu series approaches its final three episodes, viewers have to wonder where Nine Perfect Strangers is headed. Some of the guests seem to actually be healing during their stay at Tranquillum House, but their narrative feels like it’s building to something bigger. That could involve the threats Masha is receiving, but Zoe’s storyline this week raises new questions about the climax.

If one thing is certain, it’s that Nine Perfect Strangers Episode 5 just made things a whole lot weirder. It’s currently available to stream on Hulu.