Bravo’s Dirty John
Season 1, Episode 7: “Chivalry”
Directed by Jeffrey Reiner
Written by Alexandra Cunningham & Lex Edness
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “One Shoe” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 1 finale, “This Young Woman Fought Like Hell” – click here
We’re back 6 months ago. John Meehan (Eric Bana) is picking up his impounded RV after nearly a year and a half. He gives the cop there lip before managing to get the thing back, then he heads out to the California desert where he gets online to start manipulating women through dating sites. Mötley Crüe is the perfect soundtrack for a guy like John, who’s got his gun and his drugs kept in the freezer of his RV, who spins webs of lies from woman to woman like it’s second nature to breathing. Kiss works well for a sleazeball like him, too. This great montage with a bunch of old bands, going from song to song, is sort of the schizophrenic style to match Mr. Meehan’s psyche. He goes from sweet guy on a date to psychotic dude on the internet causing havoc. A bit of “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction is yet another perfect tune, fittingly ending the montage off, which closes as John walks into Debra Newell’s (Connie Britton) place— the latest woman to be fooled by his hideous disguise.
That night John went back to his RV, raging over being semi-rejected by Debra. He angrily dialled up another woman who’d already found out about some of his lies. She called “fifteen more hospitals” after the one he said he worked at told her nobody named John Meehan was doing any surgeries there. This left him to try to pick up the pieces with Deb, because there were no options left. He called her back, got himself another date, and then made sure to be the seemingly perfect man for Ms. Newell.
Jump back again, two years prior. John was in jail, looking to put a hit out on some cops that will testify against him. He then gave himself that scar he claimed was from a “rocket propelled grenade” by slicing into his chest and stomach with a makeshift shiv. We go back through various moments with Deb, seeing the even more manipulative side to John, as he worked Deb like any other mark. He acted perfect for her while also controlling her life secretly. He likewise fooled the people he went to group with, acting as if he was the model reformed addict when he was anything but, and not everybody was fooled. John even had sex with the man who ran his group in order to blackmail him for signed Narcotics Anonymous time sheets and clean piss. A truly despicable human. We go back to when John had that creepy young woman break into Deb’s place, so it looked like her new man was a protector, keeping her safe against the big, scary world.
John worked as much dark magic on Arlane (Jean Smart) as he did on her daughter. He started asking the mom about Bobby (Joe Tippett) and what happened to Deb’s sister. Arlane talked with John about the family history, unwittingly giving Dirty John the hurtful ammunition he’d later use on Toby (Kevin Zegers). This is the way he worked, in all aspects of his life, whether it was the personal con or a criminal drug con for money. He’d cull what he could from various sources, making money wherever possible. But he was burning bridges, both in terms of relationships and also in regards to his own health. He wound up in the hospital while Deb was trying to get away from him, though lucky for him she came back in spite of everything.
Then the married couple were back together, back in Deb’s house like before. “Well, welcome home,” she told him. Everything began again anew— even John’s criminality. He was keeping a stricter eye on his wife with video and audio surveillance while he was trying to rebuild himself physically, cutting corners as usual by taking steroids so he could bulk up fast. Problem for him was Deb is not a stupid woman. However, when he found out about her large withdrawal he became far scarier to her, prompting her to walk out for what would hopefully be the final time.
Now Deb’s trying to cover herself legally, telling her lawyer Michael O’Neill about Meehan’s various cruel threats, his claims about “family in the mob,” and all the other madness she’s had introduced to her life since knowing him. It all comes down to money. O’Neill hopes to paint a picture of John’s monstrosity for the court. In court, the con man shows up representing himself and limping on a cane, but the judge doesn’t want him playing lawyer, so the case is put off a while until he has representation. In the meantime, John calls his estranged wife endlessly, getting no answer. And so he starts doing worse, like sending a nude photo of Debra to people at her office and clients, as well as smearing her with bad reviews everywhere.
She breaks down and agrees to meet John for coffee. She begs to know what it’ll take to be left alone. He doesn’t just want half her money. He doesn’t even KNOW what he wants: “But it‘s something.” John has ultimately become lost in psychopathy. It isn’t even the money anymore, he simply wants to come out on top. This meeting puts Deb in a compromising legal situation. The court won’t see her as fearing for her life after she had coffee with her dangerous ex, and it sends O’Neill back to the drawing board for her.
While they worry, John stays on the offensive, setting fire to Deb’s car. He’s confronted by detectives about the incident. He denies everything, trying to sway the cops by claiming he has a “psycho bitch” ex-wife making his life hell and saying the car got stolen when he took it. Of course nothing goes well for Deb. Again, the law’s insufficiently capable of dealing with the likes of Dirty John. And it gives Mr. Meehan more time free to think up new, awful things to do. He’s got duct tape, some knives, a passport, and a whole kit ready.
“He’s playing 3D chess”
For those who know where this is already headed from the Goffard podcast, you’ll know what to expect. The finale’s next time. “This Young Woman Fought Like Hell” will finish Season 1, likely with a wild bang.