True Detective: Who is Otis Heiss?

Image Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO

In HBO’s ‘True Detective: Night Country,’ things get darker as the season passes its mid-mark. The number of dead in Ennis increases while detectives Danvers and Navarro seem to get more entangled in the mystery that connects their two cases. With every episode, a new piece of the puzzle is presented to the detectives as well as the audience. In the fourth episode, that piece is a man named Otis Heiss. Finding out about him confirms for Danvers and Navarro that they pretty much still don’t know anything about Tsalal Research Station, its past, and its present, especially what was going on there. But each step they take seems to be clearing things up for them bit by bit. How does Otis Heiss fit into it? SPOILERS AHEAD

Otis Heiss May Know the Truth About Tsalal and the Dead Scientists

Played by Danish actor Klaus Tange, Otis Heiss has been in the shadows for most of his life. After discovering the scientists in the snow and noticing their injuries, Danvers tells Prior to look for any previous cases that might mention similar injuries. At the very least, it might help them understand how the scientists died. At best, they might find something even more important. Luckily, the latter turns out to be true.

Prior discovers that there is only one case that completely matches the injuries that were found inflicted on Tsalal scientists. In April of 1998, Otis Heiss, a German national, had an accident. What caused the accident, what exactly was the accident, or any other details related to the event are not mentioned in the file. What is mentioned is the injuries he had: burns on both corneas, ruptured eardrums, and self-inflicted bites. All these injuries were also found in the scientists.

Considering the eerie similarity in the cases of the scientists and Otis Heiss, it is only logical to assume that the latter must have come across a similar situation as the scientists. Finding him may bring some answers that none of the scientists (other than Raymond Clarke) can reveal. But finding Heiss is not so easy. It turns out that whatever happened that day took a toll on him. The man turned to drugs and has been a junkie ever since. He has no records— personal or professional. He has no family; there is nothing to trace him except the police records from when he was arrested for minor crimes over the years.

As if this wasn’t enough, Otis Heiss is connected to Annie Kowtok’s case when Danvers and Navarro discover that the caves that Annie may have died in are close enough, and the person who mapped that cave system was none other than Otis Heiss. This means that he had been in the same place as Annie, and perhaps, all those years ago, he saw exactly what she would see and be killed for. Not only does he know where the caves are, but he also knows what’s inside them, and talking to him might solve a lot of questions.

At the end of Episode 4, Danvers finds Heiss, but he doesn’t seem to be in good shape. Danvers notices that he is wearing Annie’s jacket, which was last seen on Raymond Clarke. This means that Heiss and Clarke crossed paths, and perhaps Clarke too wanted to find out about the caves, considering that his girlfriend also spent the last moments of her life there. The only thing that Heiss tells the detective is that they are all (including Clarke) in “night country.” However, when he gets sober, and Danvers asks him again, he says he has no idea what that means.


Heiss also reveals that he was part of a group that was working in the caves when it collapsed. They were trapped in there for a while, but when they made their way out, they met a blizzard. His co-workers walked into the blizzard, claiming to have heard something. Heiss tried to follow them, but he doesn’t remember much. He woke up in the hospital to discover all the injuries he had sustained.

By now, Danvers knows that she will need Heiss to get into the caves and navigate them because he knows them better than anyone. She even agrees to give him heroin, and in exchange for the drug, he agrees to help her. His help becomes even more important when she and Navarro discover that the mining company has shut down the entry to the caves. Heiss gives them another way in, where they can dig into the ice, like the children of Ennis used to back in the day. Danvers gets him out of the facility where he was being helped to get clean, gives him the heroin, and he is all ready to accompany her and Navarro to the caves.

When Kate McKitterick is tipped off about Danvers’ dedication to solving the case, she sends Hank Prior to shut her up. He arrives at Navarro’s house unannounced and plans to take Heiss away so that Danvers would have no way to get into the caves and he wouldn’t have to kill her anymore. Heiss doesn’t get time to understand any of this, and before he can run away to save himself, he is shot dead, taking his secrets and anything he might have had on Annie’s case to the grave.

Read More: True Detective: Is Travis Cohle the Father of Rust Cohle?