In the gripping final episode of ‘Dirty John’ we learn what happens to Debra’s conman husband who has been stalking his terrified estranged wife and her kids.
Bravo’s chilling true crime mini-series Dirty John comes to a brutal end in this finale and someone ends up dead. Let’s face it – even if you didn’t listen to the podcast beforehand – it’s been fairly obvious from the get-go that someone’s going to die. The question has always been who, though. In the Jan. 13 episode we find out.
It begins with Debra telling her attorney that she plans to live her life, even though John – who stole her car and set it on fire – is lingering in the background. Sitting in her lawyer’s office while wearing a brown wig in disguise, she says she’s not “gonna wait around for the next crazy thing that he’s going to do,” even if that includes burning her other car with her in it! She’s planning a weekend business trip to Los Angeles while, in a separate scene, John’s in the desert, digging what looks like a grave.
John hasn’t given up his campaign of terror on the Newell family. He lurks around Debra’s office and follows her employee who heads over to his stepdaughter Veronica’s condo. While Debra and her daughters sit inside, drinking coffee, he’s outside scoping the entrance and the underground parking lot. He’s clearly up to something.
Ronnie catches John red-handed when she returns home from a night out. Her Uber driver pulls up to her apartment and she spots John, across the street, waiting in his car. “Oh my God,” she screams, as he speeds away. Veronica begs her driver to follow him. Miraculously, the terrified man does just that. As John recklessly weaves through traffic and blows red lights, Veronica screams at her driver, “You’re gonna lose him!” She’s right. John gives them the slip and Veronica asks the driver to take her to her sister Terra’s apartment. If John’s stalking her, maybe he’ll target Terra next. Veronica doesn’t want to wake her sister so, once she determines that her sibling is at home sleeping, she convinces the driver to keep watch with her outside, all night. “I don’t want to wake up Terra and freak her out if John isn’t here,” Veronica says. “She’s way more fragile than I am.”
The following morning Veronica warns Terra to be on the lookout because John’s on the prowl. But she incorrectly describes his car. Veronica says it’s a “black four-door sedan with broken brake lights.” But the car’s actually blue and the brake lights aren’t broken. John just turned them off.
Terra convinces her sister that she’ll be OK. She plans to go away with a friend for the weekend so she won’t be around anyway. But John is determined and, when Terra pops home after work to pick up her overnight bag, he accosts her in the parking lot. “Hey, do you remember me?” he asks as he grabs her. What happens next is breathtaking. Terra – this meek, mild, gentle soul – fights for her life with every fiber of her being. She has help. While her dog Cash pulls at John’s pants leg, she bites his hand. John whips out a knife and tries to stab Terra, who uses her backpack to defend herself. He slashes her arm. She tumbles to the ground. He gets down and comes after her, but she blocks him, kicking ferociously with her feet. He drops the knife. They both reach for it, but Terra snatches it. And then she starts stabbing him, everywhere. His arms, his back, his head, his face and eventually, straight in his left eye. Only then does he stop fighting and collapses on top of her.
Shocked and covered in his blood, Terra crawls from under him as a woman rushes to her aid, armed with a towel to clean her up. Terra calls Debra and stammers. “Mom…” she says, “I think I killed your husband. I’m sorry.” A shocked Debra leaves the interior decorating store where she’s shopping, to race to her daughter.
Terra waits for her mom while she’s laid up in a hospital bed with Cash at her feet. A detective questions her about John and the attack. How did she know what to do? Terra tells the detective that a shot or stab to the head is how you “kill the zombie.” The Walking Dead fan explains, “I’ve had dreams of this moment but I never thought that it would happen. I just thought that if there were ever a zombie apocalypse I’d know what to do.” Obviously, she knows that John is not a zombie, but she recognized immediately that she was in a fight for her life. It was, as she tells the detective, “Kill or be killed.”
By now Debra’s at the hospital but another detective pulls her aside to visit John before taking her into see Terra. He’s still alive, barely. John lies in bed, hooked up to machines, bandaged, his head half shaved, tubes everywhere. Debra stares at her once handsome husband as a doctor tells her he’s brain dead and is unable to cough, swallow or breathe on his own. “So, if I say to unplug the machines, he won’t be able to breathe. He’d stop breathing?” Debra asks. Right then and there, as his next of kin, she has the power to end the life of the man who tried to kill her daughter, with just the flick of a switch. Instead she coldly says, “This responsibility for him, I don’t want it. You’ll have to find someone else.” She then rushes to find Terra and, crying, hugs her child.
It’s not quite the end yet. Denise, John’s sister, arrives and decides to pull the plug on John, ending his life. She meets Debra and tells a grief-stricken Terra not to feel guilty for killing her brother. “I think it says a lot that, after everything you’ve been through, this is what you’re thinking about…” Denise tells her. She adds, “I’m just really grateful that you’re alive so that I can tell you that.”
No one, it seems, is sad that John is dead. Even the district attorney refuses to press charges against Terra. Naturally, though, Debra feels incredibly guilty. At a family gathering at her mom Arlane’s house, she says, “I don’t know how this happened… I don’t know how I didn’t see it.” Arlane tries to comfort Debra by saying, “Debbie, you were in love. You have to forgive yourself… Terra has.”
The show ends with Debra returning the call of Los Angeles Times reporter Chris Goffard who, amidst all this, left a voicemail message on her phone. He wants to speak to her and she’s ready to share her story. Her goal? To “help some women [know] what to look for and how to avoid this happening to them.” What came out of that, as we now all know, is the hit podcast series Dirty John, and a generation of women who are now hyper alert when it comes to online dating!
For those of you who struggle to believe that this incredible story actually really did happen check out Oxygen’s two-hour documentary, Dirty John, The Dirty Truth on Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. Believe us, the reality is even more terrifying than the fact-based drama!