Dirty John: Season 1/ Episode 2 “Red Flags and Parades” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

As Veronica digs deeper and deeper into John’s past, Debra tries to maintain blissful ignorance as long as she can.

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As Veronica digs deeper and deeper into John’s past, Debra tries to maintain blissful ignorance as long as she can.

Director(s) Jeffrey Reiner
Writer(s) Evan Wright
Air Date 12/2/2018
Introduced This Episode
Toby Kevin Zegers
Arlene Jean Smart
Private Investigator Judy Reyes

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Rose Colored Glasses: Veronica, Arlene, Debra, Private Investigator, John

With 4 marriages under her belt, and now a secret 5th one, Debra just wants this one to last. Which, with smoothies every morning, him getting the shower ready, doing real husband things, John seems like the one. However, Veronica calls BS. Yet, seeing that her mom is drinking the Kool-Aid with a big and dopey smile on her face, she decides to work with a private investigator. For if her mom won’t trust her own intuition, and ignore her daughters’ as well, then Veronica needs hard evidence. Especially since John has charmed Arlene, Debra’s mom, as well. Though, depending on who you ask, that may not be so hard a task.


John explaining his erratic behavior.
John: […] sometimes, I go off before I know what’s going on.

You gotta feel bad for Debra and call her a dummy at the same time. She has been married 4 times and jumped into her 5th with barely knowing the man. Not only that, he snaps on her, is secretive, some random woman shows up, and she decides to write off these things. Which surprises me since it seems half the reason her daughters go to therapy with her is because of these exes. Not just because they come and go but possibly because of others things they did around them, to them, or to Debra.

Yet, look at Arlene. Debra side-eyes her mother’s romantic choices yet look what she does. Hell, she even goes to her mom to validate her choice to date John. Someone who won over Arlene by crying in church and then stumbled when talking about him going to that very church before. Making you wonder, how messed up was Debra’s upbringing that she, again, after 4 marriages, can’t pick up on warning signs?

He’s Tearing This Family Apart: Terra, Toby, Veronica, Debra, John

Terra, as you could understand, isn’t happy about John. He made it so she couldn’t participate in Thanksgiving and really doesn’t want him at Christmas. In Debra’s mind, it is because she is selfish and is trying to alienate John. However, for Terra, it is because she doesn’t want her nieces and nephews getting used to someone, like she did, only for them to disappear and wonder if it was their fault. A valid reason but you see how Debra is. She probably put whoever she married before her kids until she had no choice to believe them.

Hence Veronica deciding to put a tracker on the Maserati, that John likes to drive, and working with her cousin Toby. Another family member who meets John and, before he arrives, John flips out since the way Debra texts Toby makes him think she is seeing another man. But, being that it is Debra, it is a red flag ignored. However, upon getting to know John, he isn’t as able to ignore John’s faults. Be it dancing around what happened to his mom or talking about killing Veronica – in jest.


Life lesson: Nearly all jokes are to make light of a personal feeling or memory. So when John talks about, in very exact details, how he would kill Veronica – shouldn’t be taken lightly. Nope. Not at all. Especially considering he is going with this military expertise backstory which means he probably knows how to kill her and discard of the evidence. Heck, considering Veronica is just an itty bitty thing, he may not even need a gun.

But, we’re dealing with Debra and no matter what Toby does or could say, one ear and out the other. Luckily, Veronica might be annoying, but she does love her mother and is willing to use hers, or her mom’s, money to get the evidence she needs to wake up. Though, with Debra starting to get a little curious herself, it seems Veronica may just be adding the final things Debra needs.

Word of Mouth, Documentation, and Good Old Fashion Intuition: Veronica, Toby, Debra, John, Private Investigator

From what it seems, Veronica, as prissy as she may seem, is the type of girl who rather do most of the dirty work herself. In terms of the private investigator, their purpose is to just gather information Veronica doesn’t know how. Take John formerly living in a trailer park. Veronica follows up on that, with Toby, talks to a woman who claims John lived there but never went to Iraq and, later on, she puts the tracker on the car.

However, Veronica isn’t the only one working on surveillance. John, taking advantage of Debra’s tech ignorance, convinces her to install cameras at home and at her workplace, Madeira. This comes about after a mysterious woman pops up and gives John the perfect excuse to put cameras where he can watch Debra’s movements, the house, all from the convenience of his phone. But, two can play that game and one of Debra’s friends sets up her phone so she can do the same. Leading to her, later on, after all, but her mom and son, being against John, her snooping a bit.

I should note though, John being secretive with the mail was the final straw for her and what led her to go into a draw where he keeps all his papers. In that, she finds restraining orders, among various other reported crimes. Leading her to realize she is a damn fool.


Various charges John has.

I feel the need to question how did Debra’s marriages usually end? Where did she find those men? What did they do to and around her daughters? Because, wanting all their mom’s attention could make sense to a point, since she is a business owner and works a lot. However, going so far as to hire private investigators, being so determined they want to physically meet people and not just go by that P.I.’s word, and seemingly going to therapy purely because of their mom’s relationship woes? Much less, how her past relationships affected her relationships with her daughters? There seems much more to unpack beyond whatever John is hiding.

In my mind, John’s issues are but the tip of the iceberg and what may really be interesting here is Debra’s past, Arlene’s part in it, and the actions which made her daughters like they are. Also, it would be interesting to hear how her son feels about all this. Yes, he is grown, and thus separated from the situation, but his opinion on Debra could be interesting.


  1. Veronica continues to be a polarizing character who you find yourself clamoring more for. Especially since she shows, despite the way she acts and talks, she is quite intelligent. Between knowing about trackers, and how they work, researching P.I.s and trying to negotiate pricing, as well as showing, with Terra, her ability to multi-task, she isn’t one to be underestimated.
  2. John, with how he talked to Toby about his dad killing his mom, really made himself someone who can be seen as a villain. Before, he was just a parasite, a con man taking advantage of a simple-minded Now? Oh, he comes off as dangerous in ways that raise a serious red flag.

On The Fence

  1. Toby seems like a character who won’t inspire much interest. At best, he might be Veronica’s sidekick and, at worse, an annoying character you hope gets far away from the events of the series.

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