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"Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat" is the fifth episode of Stranger Things and the fifth episode of the first season. It was written by Alison Tatlock and directed by the Duffer Brothers. It premiered on Netflix on July 15, 2016, along with the rest of the season.


Hopper breaks into the lab while Nancy and Jonathan confront the force that took Will. The boys ask Mr. Clarke how to travel to another dimension.


Jim Hopper sneaks into Hawkins National Laboratory and is caught by two guards when trying to enter the quarantined lower level. He incapacitates them both and descends. Lonnie and Joyce Byers have a drink together, and he tries to convince her to get counseling following the death of their son. Hopper finds a child's bedroom with a drawing of a child being forced by their father to do something to a cat hanging on the wall. Mike Wheeler, Dustin Henderson, and Lucas Sinclair discuss what they heard Will say about where he was, and Eleven murmurs "upside down." Mike recalls Eleven flipping their Dungeons & Dragons board over to explain Will's location to them and claiming Will was inside his own house, and theorizes that Will may be in the "Upside Down". Dustin equates it to the concept of the "Vale of Shadows" from Dungeons & Dragons. As he describes it as a "dark reflection of our world, a place of decay and death, right next to you and you don't even see it," Hopper comes across the fissure. Before he can step into it, the guards knock him out.

The Flea and the Acrobat - the tank

Jonathan Byers returns home, mortified to see his father. He demands Lonnie leave, but Lonnie insists he is here to help them. As the Byers' dog lies down in Castle Byers and whimpers, the residents of Hawkins attend Will's funeral. Joyce recalls watching Will draw his Dungeons & Dragons character, Will the Wise. Hopper wakes up in his trailer, his table covered in pills and alcohol. He tears his trailer apart and finds a bug in his overhead light. Martin Brenner listens to a recording of the boys listening to Will and realizes Eleven was with them. Nancy Wheeler and Jonathan decide to hunt down and kill the Demogorgon that took Will and Barb Holland. The lab-employed repairman checks the destroyed radio at the school and reports his findings back to his superiors.

The boys approach their teacher, Scott Clarke, at Will's wake and ask him how to travel to another dimension. He illustrates on a paper plate the theoretical concept of a tightrope that separates two dimensions, an acrobat being able to inhabit one but a flea being able to duck under the tightrope and inhabit either. He concludes that to get under the tightrope, they would need an inhuman amount of energy. When Mike mentions the possibility of a "gate" already existing, Clarke explains it would change the magnetic fields surrounding it. Phil Callahan and Calvin Powell visit Hopper and report two people going missing in the woods. They also note that they found Barb's car, state troopers having found it at a bus station. Lonnie muses to Joyce that they should make the Sattler Company pay somehow for Will's death. She later finds an advertisement for a lawyer specializing in accidental deaths in his bag.

The Flea and the Acrobat S01-E05 SS 002

Mike explains the plate analogy to Eleven. Dustin realizes all their compasses are not pointing north and remembers Clarke saying the gate would disrupt magnetic fields. He concludes that if they follow the compass needles, they will find the gate, which quietly distresses Eleven. Steve Harrington approaches Nancy and apologizes for his dismissal of Barb, asking to take on her a date to take her mind off things, but she rebuffs him. Joyce confronts Lonnie over the flyer and only coming back to get money out of his son's death, insisting that she will never give up looking for Will as long as she believes he is still alive. She orders Lonnie to get out of the house instantly. Jonathan practices shooting with moderate success, telling Nancy a story of his father making him hunt and kill a rabbit as she arrives. Nancy perfectly hits a practice target with a shot as she rambles about her parents' loveless marriage.

S1E5-Nancy declining Steve's invitation

Hopper calls his ex-wife Diane. Initially hesitant and believing he has been drinking, she soon becomes concerned just as he hangs up. The phone rings again and Hopper ignores it. Following their compasses, Lucas notes to Dustin that Eleven is quieter than usual. In a flashback, Martin Brenner has Eleven placed in "the bath," a giant sensory deprivation tank that amplifies her abilities. In the present, she tries to get Mike to turn back, but to no avail. Nancy asks Jonathan what he thought she was saying in her picture, and he tells her he saw "this girl trying to be someone else" and that she believed she was alone in that moment. Annoyed by this, Nancy starts to argue with Jonathan over Steve breaking his camera and Jonathan taking her picture in the first place.

Hopper sweeps the Byers' place for bugs and finds nothing, explaining Will's fake body to Joyce. Lucas realizes by the blood from her nose on her sleeve that Eleven has been tampering with their compasses and leading them in a circle. Eleven insists that the gate is not safe. Enraged, Lucas, suggests that she is the real monster, and Mike attacks him.

The Flea and the Acrobat S01-E05 SS 003

Eleven uses her powers to break up the fight, throwing Lucas into a junked car. As Mike and Dustin run to him and Mike shouts at her, she flashes back to using the bathtub and awakening in a dark void. She finds the Russian man Brenner instructed her to find and broadcasts his voice through the speakers. Something growls, forcing Eleven to wake up and scream to be pulled out of the tank. In the present, Lucas awakens and leaves, and Eleven vanishes.

The Flea and the Acrobat

Nancy and Jonathan find a heavily injured deer in the woods. Jonathan takes the gun to put it down, but it is dragged away before he can. They split up while following its tracks, and Nancy finds a gate in the base of a tree. She crawls through it into the Upside Down, where she sees the Demogorgon feeding on the deer. She accidentally alerts it to her presence, and it turns around and roars at her, making its face open to reveal rows of teeth. She screams, and as Jonathan hears it across dimensions and starts to frantically look for her, the gate begins to seal itself up.



Also Starring[]




  • "Elegia" by New Order - Instrumental music on the morning of Will's funeral.
  • "Green Desert" by Tangerine Dream - Hopper tears apart his trailer looking for listening devices.
  • "Nocturnal Me" by Echo & The Bunnymen - Jonathan tries to find Nancy. Plays into end credits.

Original score[]

  • "Hopper Sneaks In" - Hopper sneaks into the lab.
  • "What Else is There to Do?" - Lonnie denounces Joyce's belief in Will's survival.
  • "Breaking and Entering" - Hopper makes his way underground as the kids read about the 'Vale of Shadows'.
  • "Lay-Z-Boy" - Joyce relives a moment between her and Will.
  • "In Pursuit" - A lab worker masquerading as a handyman investigates the Heathkit Ham Shack in their search for Eleven.
  • "Theoretically" - Mr. Clarke explains the concept of dimensions.
  • "Joyce and Lonnie Fighting" - Joyce and Lonnie fight.
  • "Walking Down the Tracks" - The kids follow the lead of the compasses along the train tracks.
  • "I Know What I Saw" - Eleven experiences a flashback involving a sensory-deprivation tank.
  • "Fresh Blood" - Lucas exposes Eleven's attempts at sabotage.
  • "Inside the Black Room" - Eleven relives her first encounter with the Demogorgon.
  • "Eleven is Gone" - Eleven disappears.
  • "Lights Out" - Nancy and Jonathan watch as a deer mysteriously disappears.
  • "Tendril" - Nancy encounters the Demogorgon in the Upside Down.

Influences and references[]

See also: Influences & references


  • Bambi (1942)
    • When Jonathan reminisces about how Lonnie forced him to kill a rabbit on his tenth birthday, he tells Nancy, "[He's] a big fan of Thumper".
  • Altered States (1980)
    • The sensory deprivation tank El is placed in is a direct homage to the film.
  • Risky Business (1983)
    • Steve mentions to Nancy how Carol thinks he looks similar to Tom Cruise in the film and begins to sing the song featured in the film, "Old Time Rock & Roll".
  • All the Right Moves (1983)
    • Steve offers to take Nancy to see the film still playing at the Hawk.
  • Stand by Me (1986)
    • The quartet of friends walking along the train tracks is a direct homage to the boys traveling via train tracks.




View Gallery For this subject's gallery, see The Flea and the Acrobat/Gallery.


  • The scene in which Jonathan and Nancy are about to kill the deer out of mercy resembles a similar scene in the video game Until Dawn. In the scene, Jessica and Mike find a deer and try and give it a mercy kill before the deer is dragged away from them by a monster.
  • This is the first episode in which Eleven, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas refer to the alternate dimension as the Upside Down.

External Links[]

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