In Episode 2 of Bravo’s true crime drama, John’s murky past is coming back to haunt his new wife Debra and her troubled family. But will she ignore the red flags?
The Dec. 2 episode of Dirty John begins with Debra Newell and John Meehan in newlywedded bliss. Debra’s new hubby ticks all the boxes and seems to be the charming, gentleman that she fell in love with. He brings smoothies to her bed every morning, runs her shower for her (making sure that the temperature is just right). He even puts toothpaste on her toothbrush! (Is he a butler or a husband?!) In the beginning John agrees to do everything that Debra asks of him – even keeping their marriage a secret from her family by not wearing his wedding ring.
But slowly John’s mask begins to slip and he trips up more than once. After an early morning church service that left him in tears, he praises the pastor, telling Debra and her mom, “I expected him to be good, just I didn’t expect him to be that good.” When Debra’s mom Arlane (played by Jean Smart) points out that he’d told her daughter that he’d been to that church before, he tries to cover his tracks, saying, “Just not with that priest.” Obviously, they’re not in a Catholic church, so Arlane reminds him, “You mean pastor, not priest.” Whoops! After the service Arlane spots her ex-son-in-law and gives him a hug. Debra looks visibly uncomfortable and makes John leave. (More on that later.)
They come home to find a strange woman in their house, who confronts a terrified Debra. John grabs the woman by the scruff of her neck, subdues her and the cops are called. Debra refuses to press charges but days later John convinces her to install an extensive security system in their home and her business. And by extensive, he means security cameras in every room. Once they’re installed you can tell Debra feels like she’s being watched, especially when her employee tells her that she can now spy on her home, using her cell phone, when she’s away from her house.
In the meantime, Debra’s family begins to get more and more suspicious of the increasingly possessive John. Veronica puts a tracking device on her mom’s Maserti (which John drives around town) to trace his movements, and she hires a private detective to dig into his past. Meanwhile, Debra’s nephew Toby (Kevin Zegers) meets his aunt’s man for the first time over dinner, days before Christmas. He gives John the benefit of the doubt and, at first, he takes to his aunt’s new beau. Toby even thinks it’s peculiar that Debra’s daughter Terra erupts into a crying fit because her nieces and nephews flock to John on Christmas Day when he enters Arlane’s house wearing a Santa hat and carrying sacks of presents. (In an earlier therapy session, Debra and Terra agreed that John would not play with the kids.)
But even Toby starts to worry when, during a post-Christmas visit at Debra’s house, John makes a chilling remark about stopping Veronica from giving him a hard time. “I could take her out with a Winchester .30-06 and a 1,000 yard head shot,” John says. Toby’s face drops. “Is that a joke?” he says, before turning to his aunt and adding, “I mean, you told him what happened, right?” [SPOILER ALERT: We find out later that Debra’s ex-brother-in-law, Toby’s father, killed her sister by shooting her in the head.]
Toby later joins Veronica on a trip to Cathedral City, California. The private detective found an old address where John used to live in 2016. They’re both stunned to find out that it’s a trailer park and John’s former neighbor says he wasn’t in Iraq during that time frame. When Toby tells this to his aunt later she refuses to believe him and storms out of the Newport Beach Yacht Club where they were supposed to have lunch. “John is not a perfect person,” she says. But she loves him because “he’s a good man.”
When Toby goes to his aunt’s house to talk to her, she’s not there, but he confronts John about his lies. That’s when John drops a bombshell – he and Debra are married. He calls Toby a “loser” and spits out, “You should be glad your dad killed your mom, so she didn’t have to be around to see this.”
Finally, when she returns home that night, Debra begins to see John’s true colors when he rips a letter from her hand. It was sent to him from an inmate at the Orange County Jail. John apologizes for his behavior, but the next day, she returns home after he leaves the house and, hugging the wall of her home office so the security camera doesn’t pick her up, she digs through the drawer where John keeps his personal papers. What she finds is chilling – a stack of court documents, restraining orders, police reports showing that John has stalked other women, extorted and threatened them. He even printed out the bad reviews he got on a website called “Busted Beaus,” which includes warnings from other women that he is a “greedy…scam artist” and an “infectious parasite.” Is Debra finally beginning to see the real John?