Each episode of Dirty John has been about John bamboozling Debra in the present, combined with something that happened in the past that led them to this predicament, whether it’s John’s awful upbringing, Debra’s ability to forgive, or the police overlooking just how dangerous this guy is. But finally, in this episode, the past and the present collide and now we just have one story.
The first half of the episode retraces everything we’ve learned so far, but from John’s perspective. Honestly, I found this a bit boring because everything revealed in the first 30 minutes are things more astute viewers will have already intuited. John wasn’t just cruising for love on OKStupid or eCarmony or whatever site he was using, he was actively searching for a woman to prey upon. He wasn’t just making Debra smoothies every morning, he was doing that after hacking into her phone and perusing her banking records. He wasn’t late to Debra’s gala because he was working, he was just eating gross tacos somewhere.
The one that I totally called in an earlier recap involves the crazy woman in Debra’s house when they got back from church. We all knew John hired that lady just to freak Debra out and convince her to put security cameras in her house. Thanks to this episode we learned that she was a drug addict he payed in pills to get her to do her part. Yeah, we got that already, dude. Tell us something we didn’t know.
However, some really gory details emerge about John’s behavior that did make a dent in my cynical façade. I think the worst is when he’s talking to Debra’s mother, American treasure Jean Smart, about how she forgave her son-in-law Bobby after he killed her daughter. He’s eliciting real emotion from her and agreeing with her ability to forgive someone who did something atrocious to a family member — which is then intercut with him using that information viciously against Toby. Wow, John really is a scumbag.
There are a few such surprises when we get a glimpse into what John’s life was really like. He wasn’t working as a nurse or doctor at all, he was just entirely a drug dealer. He got other people to steal drugs from their jobs and then, with the help of a quack doctor, was selling those drugs on the black market. And just what the hell were those fentanyl lollipops they were eating? It was sort of an absurd visual, but that is going to give someone with a problem some awful ideas.
The other thing we had no clue about was the blackmail, John using sensitive pictures to get money and compliance out of his victims. He even went so far as to have a same-sex encounter with the guy who runs his NA meetings so that he could get cash out of him and make it easier to get his parole-mandated paperwork signed. Yeah, John really will do anyone dirty.
That brings us back to Debra, who he is really doing the dirtiest of all. As soon as she leaves John, he goes into her closet, takes all of her jewelry and all of her fanciest handbags, and, presumably, hawks them at the nearest pawnshop for only a quarter of their value. That Goyard tote deserves better, John! The next time she sees John is when they both show up to court so that she can get a restraining order against him. While Debra’s attorney Stan (they never tell us his name, so we’re just going to call him Stan, because he really seems like a Stan) is telling the judge that John is dangerous and Debra fears for her life, John shows up with a cane looking all feeble. John is such a stunt queen. He knows just what to do to push perception his way and he’s always doing it.
He’s far from feeble. He uses his spare time in his trailer, which is parked in the desert, to send nude pictures of Debra to all of her clients and to leave negative reviews of her business on all of the Yelps the internet has to offer. My one question is, how the hell is John getting wi-fi in a trailer in the desert? I would like to know, because I can barely get a good signal in my apartment in a major metropolitan area and this dude is surrounded by nothing but sand and loneliness without a telephone pole in sight and he’s at a full five bars. The world is not fair!
As a result of these attacks, Debra thinks the best idea is to meet John at a café and ask him how much money he wants. This move earns Debra the Molly You In Danger Girl GIF of the week. Really? What did she think this was going to accomplish? He’s proven harder to get rid of than a red wine stain on a wedding dress, and she thinks one meeting over muffins is going to swipe this whole thing under the rug? Debra’s naïveté will never cease to amaze me.
Of course, John doesn’t know how much money he wants to leave Debra alone, because it isn’t about money or material goods. It’s about humiliating her. It’s about ending her life, not just in a way that he might murder her, but in the way that he wants to make her so unhappy that she won’t want to live anymore. That’s because she’s a woman who exercised her power over him. She is wealthy, successful, and has a family that loves her. She has everything that John never had and wants to destroy, and he is going to make her pay.
The meeting with John pisses off Stan because he says it will now make it nearly impossible to get a restraining order because if she calls him on the phone and is willing to meet with him in person, how afraid for her life can she really be?
John’s ultimate dirty act this episode, however, is taking Debra’s Maserati and setting it on fire. Okay, there were some good special effects that showed us the front seat of a real Maserati on fire, but please tell me that production didn’t really set this $100K-plus car on fire. Even if it was one of the cheap $68,000 ones, we don’t need to go ruining these cars for our entertainment. If they really want to get rid of a Maserati, they can just flambé the front seat for the show and then give it to me. They don’t even need to replace the upholstery.
Anyway, when the police haul John in because they have footage of him taking the car from Debra’s office parking lot, he convinces them he didn’t steal it at all. He says Debra gives him permission to use the car and he took it to his NA meeting at a church, where it was stolen from him. He convinces them that she is the crazy one and he is the victim in all of this. John is a master manipulator and he does it yet again to Debra. We’ve seen all about how he does it now and he only has so many tricks.
But Stan is afraid. He says that John is playing 3-D chess and that he has a plan, which is the scariest thing he could possibly say to Debra. It’s one thing if all of these attacks were arbitrary lashing out. It’s another thing for her to think that they’re all building up to something big and horrible. By the looks of what we see in the episode’s final frames — John collecting a bunch of knives in a bag — it’s leading up to something big. And we’ll finally get to see it in next week’s series finale.