‘The Curious Case of Natalia Grace’ Revelations, Twist Ending Explained – The Hollywood Reporter
The second season of ID’s The Curious Case of Natalia Grace concluded Wednesday night with a surprise ending that left audiences with even more questions about the story of Ukrainian orphan Natalia Grace.
The six-episode series, The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks, is a follow-up to the 2023 docuseries that focused on Natalia’s adoptive parents, Kristine and Michael Barnett, and their claim that the child, who’d been diagnosed with the rare dwarfism condition spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, was actually an adult woman who terrorized their family from 2010-2013.
Over the course of the three-night special, Natalia tells her side of the story as she seeks to find answers to questions of her own about her real age and why no one in the Indiana community where she alleges she was in fact victimized by the Barnetts intervened, including Michael, whom she confronts face-to-face for the first time in the final two episodes of the series.
But the series ends with an unexpected call. “Our series was already finished and locked, but we instantly mobilized with our producers to ensure that this shocking development was included in our finale,” ID president Jason Sarlanis tells The Hollywood Reporter below.
Here are five revelations from The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks.
Natalia is Biologically 22
The first episode of the series answers the biggest question around Natalia’s identity: her true age. Through a blood sample, TruDiagnostic, a medical lab specializing in biological aging, determined Natalia to be 22 years old. The number aligns with the estimation provided by Dr. Timothy Gossweiler, a dentist who determined Natalia was between the ages of 6 and 9, when Kristine took her to see him in 2011. It also refutes Natalia’s legal age of 34, a result of the Barnett’s successful petitioning of the Marion County court in 2012 to change her birth records to indicate a 1989 birth date.
Kristine’s Three-Pronged Plan
The series attempts to answer the question of the Barnett’s motives for wanting the world to believe Natalia was a grown woman when they adopted her in 2010 by asserting Kristine was looking to exploit their adopted daughter the way she had her older son Jacob, an autistic child prodigy. When Kristine realized she couldn’t capitalize off of Natalia, who was determined by experts to be of average intelligence, the way she had Jacob — which included a $600,000 advance on her 2013 book The Spark about his academic achievements and a pending movie deal in which she was set to be portrayed by Rosamund Pike — legal expert Beth Karas suggests Kristine then unleashed a three-pronged plan to have Natalia removed from their home.
The first step, Karas proposes, was to have Natalia re-aged so the Barnetts would no longer be legally responsible for her. However, because Natalia’s genetic disorder still rendered her a dependent, Kristine then resorted to finding a way to have Natalia locked up in either a prison or psychiatric facility. In 2011, Kristine alleged Natalia attempted to poison her coffee with a cleaning agent and threatened to kill their family several times, which Natalia refutes. The incident resulted in Natalia being committed to Larue Carter, an Indiana State Mental Hospital, in June of 2012. However, when the psychiatric center determined Natalia wasn’t mentally unstable, she was sent to live in a halfway house. According to Michael, he and his wife later picked Natalia up after she told Kristine she was scared and living with drug addicts.
“Kristine says, ‘We gotta go get her because if something happens to her, I’m famous, and if they find the daughter of the Kristine Barnett dead of a drug overdose… I’m famous,’” he told producers. Michael gives a similar response later in the series when Natalia questions why he and Kristine didn’t give her back to the state to be re-adopted, claiming Kristine was concerned about appearances.
In 2013, the Barnetts left Natalia alone in an apartment by herself and relocated to Canada with their three biological sons. After a five-year investigation, they were charged with multiple counts of neglect of a dependent in 2019. Yet in 2022, Michael was found not guilty on all four charges of neglect of a dependent, neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury, neglect of a dependent resulting in serious bodily injury, and conspiracy to commit neglect of a dependent. One year later, the charges against Kristine were dropped.
Natalia’s Claims of Abuse
In contrast to the Barnett’s allegations that Natalia threatened to harm them on several occasions, Natalia details a slew of alleged abuses at the hands of Kristine, including being pepper sprayed twice in the eyes. In another instance, Natalia claims Kristine attempted to make her overdose by forcing her to take three times the recommended dosage of one of her medications, causing her to become dizzy and pass out. Natalia also describes how Kristine once forced her to insert a tampon when she was just 7 years old. The incident caused Natalia to bleed which she claims Kristine later used as evidence for her re-aging, claiming she was already menstruating.
Natalia May Have Been a Victim of Trafficking in the Ukraine
Part of the mystery concerning Natalia’s age has to do with the lack of a Ukrainian birth certificate. A sewer incident at the hospital where Natalia was born caused her adoption records to be lost. And, according to FBI Special Agent Kenneth J. Maxwell, the judge that handled Natalia’s adoption proceedings was terminated for corruption just one month later and her birth records went missing. In interview footage of Natalia’s birth mother, Anna Cava, who refused her parental rights due to her child’s condition, she says she never wrote or visited her daughter because she didn’t know where she was and was only told that she’d been relocated to the United States. In separate 2014 interview footage with an FBI Child Crimes Specialist investigator, Natalia reveals she’d been touched inappropriately by a man who’d placed something over her face while still in the Ukraine. “Would I be surprised that Natalia was handed off to different people for nefarious reasons, maybe trafficked? I wouldn’t be surprised by anything,” stated retired FBI Special Agent Veronica Maxwell.
Natalia’s Familial Troubles Aren’t Over
Perhaps the most shocking detail to come out the series was revealed in the final 90 seconds of the season two finale when Natalia’s new adoptive parents, Bishop Antwon Mans and his wife Cynthia, allege their daughter is now wreaking havoc on their lives. One of the last scenes in the series shows the family sharing a tearful hug as a judge declares Natalia legally adopted by the Man family, who appeared by her side throughout the series. Bishop Man even stood up to Michael in defense of Natalia during a tense first attempt at a sit-down. However, six months after the adoption, and just two weeks before the premiere of the series, the Man’s reached out to the show’s producers in a frenzy.
“Something ain’t right with Natalia,” Bishop Man is heard saying in an audio clip. “This girl is tweakin’. I feel like she’s the enemy of the house. And she said to us we have held her hostage.”
Cynthia backs her husband’s claims, saying, “Natalia is stabbing her family in the back over a complete lie,” to which the Bishop adds, “We’re done. We’re done with her.”
ID has yet to formally announce any plans for a third season of The Curious Case of Natalia Grace but did go behind-the-scenes of the twist ending — which certainly begs more of the story to be told.
“Natalia Speaks is one of those projects where the further we dug in, the more twists and turns we uncovered,” Jason Sarlanis, president of Turner Networks, ID & HLN, linear and streaming, tells THR. “We genuinely thought Natalia had found a happy ending with her new family, so you can imagine we were all thoroughly shocked when that call came from the Mans.”
He continued, “Our series was already finished and locked, but we instantly mobilized with our producers to ensure that this shocking development was included in our finale. Our viewers are so invested in Natalia’s case we felt our series needed to reflect the constantly shifting truth of her situation. One thing has always proven to be true with Natalia’s story — nothing is ever what it seems.”
First appeared on www.hollywoodreporter.com