Bravo’s Dirty John
Season 1, Episode 3: “Remember It Was Me”
Directed by Jeffrey Reiner
Written by Diana Son
Years ago in Dayton, Ohio, Tonia Sells (Sprague Grayden) arrived at bar in her scrubs from work, where she got chatted up by John Meehan (Eric Bana). He was charming, as usual. She told him about her job as a nurse assisting an anaesthesiologist. Soon she had to go, but he talked her into spending more time together first. Jump ahead and we’re already at John’s wedding to Tonia— there’s so much history in Mr. Meehan’s past.
Speaking of that past, it’s being discovered in full view by his current wife, Debra Newell (Connie Britton). She’s found tons of documents, from printouts on the internet – a website called Men From Hell – to legal papers showing the long list of charges he’s had brought against him. It’s a horrifying discovery for her. She even finds papers suggesting John is either looking for gun parts or hoarding them. Very sinister. Meanwhile, John’s pretending to worship his “beautiful, sexy woman” and acting as if he’s the perfect husband, whereas Debra’s attempting to conceal all she’s uncovered so far.
Debra spends her day looking into her husband. She’s still convincing herself partly that John is truthful about parts of his life. She doesn’t want to believe she’s been duped into believing a horrible monster of a man was the man of her dreams. Who’d want to admit it? Love’s a powerful drug.
Back when John was with Tonia, before they were married, he was looking to be respectful, so he opted to ask her father for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He told her he was “raised by monsters” and that made him reluctant to be around such a happy, functional family. He said he hadn’t talked to them in years. He then asked her to promise him his family wouldn’t be part of their lives, and she agreed.
Debra gets a visit at work from Veronica (Juno Temple) after she found out via Toby (Kevin Zegers) that her mother got married. The daughter’s pissed, especially after how John acted towards Toby when he went to the house recently. Veronica scared for her mom. She’s also worried about the money Debra has— did she and her new hubby get a prenup? Doubtful. He was trying to stash cash in a safe deposit box, which he convinced her to put her bag of money in, too. Not a man we should expect to have signed such important legal documents. And now John’s talking about new investments for their money, preemptively getting ahead of things after received a text alert from the bank. This guy’s got everything covered.
At a convention, Tonia met a woman named Maggie speaking about neurosurgery during a workshop and they got to talking. When Maggie saw Tonia’s new last name is Meehan she began to nearly breakdown. Later, Mrs. Meehan went home to her husband where she confronted him with what she learned. Apparently Maggie had been dating John for 10 months behind his wife’s back. He didn’t deny anything. Worst of all, he didn’t even really know— a pathological thing. This is perhaps the most unsettling thing about him so far.
Veronica’s having her private eye dig up the dirt on John. She finds so much on him, too. There are “concurrent sentences” for some of his charges. There’s also “good behaviour” along with prison overcrowding and other institutional madness that’s as silly as it is infuriating. Not long after he got released from his last stint in prison he met Debra.
What was nasty for Tonia, aside from the lying, was that she got John a job at the hospital as a CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anaesthetist). After a while, things went bad. Another nurse noticed John was sneaking painkillers meant for the patients. He was hooked on them, nodding off at home with Tonia and the kids. This could’ve possibly meant serious legal trouble, like having her kids removed from the home if John was keeping any drugs there, which he was— a further stab to the heart is he was hiding them in one of the kids’ toy shelves.
“When I want something, I know how to buckle down.”
Poor Debra is finding out everything she feared is true, and she comes close to having a full-on heart attack. Badder still, she can’t find legal help because her current lawyer isn’t willing to get involved with someone like John after seeing he’s taken his own lawyers to court after they won for him so he didn’t have to pay. This is how women become worse prey to men by the way their toxicity seeps through every level of the system, not just the personal relationship.
Ages ago, it was poor Tonia, who went about tracking down John’s friends from the wedding, guys he knew since college. Y’know, the dudes who called him “Dirty John” or “Filthy John Meehan” because of his greasy habits, including his dog-like behaviour towards women and his habit of trying to con people into financial settlements over fake accidents. Nothing she heard was any good. She also had to deal with John’s threatening presence in the wake of the medical board getting wind of his shady behaviour.
The private eye is painting a scary picture for what could occur should Debra decide to leave John. At the same time, she doesn’t encourage Debra to stay, either. The once happily married woman’s tasked with becoming a “difficult target” for the dangerous man she’s fallen in love with, and it’s not easy for her to cope. In the face of all she knows, she can’t yet break away from John, both out of a desire for him to not be this horrific man and also out of fear.
She should be scared. Because years prior Tonia was scared for her safety. She kicked John out and he was coming back to try and get his drugs, though she’d long disposed of them. Nevertheless, it was only more evidence she was with a psychopath. She decided to call Dolores – John’s mother – after being forbidden to contact his family so long.
John’s having difficulties because of a “history with narcotics.” He’s rushed to the hospital, where Debra finds out more about his previous injuries. He continues insisting it was from his service in Iraq. He can tell things aren’t going well with Debra after she decides not to stay with him while he’s in his hospital bed, just by the look in her eyes. It’s getting harder for her to pretend she doesn’t know what she knows. She’s rushing home to start cleaning things out, to try and start getting away from Mr. Meehan. Simultaneously, we get bits of his wedding to Tonia and bits of his wedding to Debra cut together, along with Tonia receiving a veiled death threat from John over the phone. A genuinely chilling montage set to “Angel Baby” by Rosie & the Originals, ending with Debra and Veronica driving off in a moving van on the next step in what will become a harrowing journey for the entire family.
Maybe the best episode yet. Lots of good, creepy stuff going on, and the past colliding with present is an excellent method of storytelling for this adaptation. “Shrapnel” is next.