'Dirty John': Why Debra needs to understand that men like John aren't like lunches - they can't be fixed
John stole her money, gaslit her family and lied about everything - who he was, what he wanted from Debra and everything else in between. So what made Debra go back to him?
'Dirty John's latest episode has to be the best episode so far in the series - it reflects such a deep understanding of manipulation and the perception of abuse that it is terrifying to think that John Meehan and Debra Newell's relationship was real.
'Shrapnel' picks up from where the last episode left us. John is at the hospital after passing out and Debra, not knowing what to do decides to pay him a visit. To John, this is just an opportunity to fool her one more time - he attempts to explain the restraining orders, the fake professional qualification, his lies about working in Iraq and the rest of the story. It looks like an attempt to stop Debra from digging deeper. She falls for it - but, why she does, is so interesting.
John stole her money, gaslit her family and lied about everything - who he was, what he wanted from Debra and everything else in between. So what made Debra go back to him? Simply put, it is because she still believed that he loved her - but if only it was that simple. Debra is clearly terrified of not having a solid love life. Irrespective of a flourishing career, a beautiful family and being fiercely independent, Debra only notices one thing in her life - a gawking hole in the place a man should be. She's almost certain that if she doesn't have love, she's a failure in life - since she's had multiple marriages none of which made it through. Her mother never forgets to remind her of it and neither does Veronica, who is most certainly a huge support in her life. It is almost as though Debra refuses to believe she can be loved - and keeps looking for excuses to tell herself that John's lying, cheating and manipulation is somehow her fault.
Why wouldn't someone like Debra not blame themselves - when everyone conditions women to believe that they cannot be complete without a partner? In fact, John even uses it to justify his actions. He tells her that he lied about being a doctor simply because he was insecure - because somehow him being a con artist has to do with her success.
'Shrapnel' takes a hard look at why mothers mustn’t force their beliefs on their daughters. The ripple effect is real.
Getting a little confused by tonight's episode of "Dirty John". It's heavy in flashbacks and takes place in about four time frames. And the only clue you have for figuring out the year is the length and color of Jean Smart's hair. #SilverThreads #DirtyWater #CrystalBernard pic.twitter.com/4xnrpgtCtq— dahilt (@dahilt) December 17, 2018
Arlene Hart's stoic belief in forgiving people, simply because it gave her peace is what taught Debra to do the same. She's such a believer that both Bob and John loved her daughters that she refuses to see how much they've ruined them. She believed Bob loved Debra's sister Cindy even after he murdered her in cold blood. It's almost as though she wanted them to be with these men, simply because she liked them and there's everything wrong with a mother like that. The scary thing is - it's all too relatable.
To keep things calm, to not regret and to just pretend that everything is okay, it almost feels like Arlene voluntarily manipulates herself into believing what she wants to believe. Bob didn't do the right thing because he wasn't in his right mind, she tells the court. She says she forgives him because she wants to and that a person isn't what they do. Clearly, it is a defense mechanism for her as is for most people - forgiveness is a tool to help them move on. Unfortunately, while it helped her heal - it taught her daughter life lessons and as they say, history repeats itself. Debra wants to believe in John's lies so much that to her, a con becomes a confession.
These two women reflect the train of thought of someone in an abusive relationship quite perfectly - you think you can change them - like you can somehow stick back the rotten pieces. It is as though if they pretend it's not there or push it away - it won't be true.
In no way is this Debra's fault - it's what she knows. She does try to distance herself from what her mother had done - she tries to look for the truth. However, sometimes the truth doesn’t set you free simply because it’s not the truth - it’s just what we want to see. Thankfully, Veronica doesn't take after these two.
'Dirty John' airs every Sunday at 10 pm on Bravo.