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Dirty John - Marriage Encounter & More to It Than Fun - Double Review

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Welcome back to another episode of The Broderick’s! Today, behind Door Number One, we have an episode completely devoted to watching Dan cheat on Betty! Behind Door Number Two, we have Betty abandoning her kids outside of Dan’s house for hours on end, and finally, behind Door Number Three, we have Betty smearing Boston Creme Pie over Dan’s entire bedroom. Oh, sorry, did you think one of these was going to be a good option? Nope, these two episodes of Dirty John made it very clear that when we’re discussing the Broderick’s, there are absolutely no good options.

First, we need to talk about the opening scene of Marriage Encounter. My. Goodness. The camera work was incredible, with subtle pans to Betty and Dan whenever a small line was said that was referenced later on, or when something, unbeknownst to everyone else at the table, directly related back to Betty and Dan themselves. The way you could see Dan mentally taking notes drove me insane, but it made me love the scene all the more.

I especially loved when one of Dan’s friends said, “get them into therapy,” regarding the kids, right before a divorce, and Dan’s eyebrow lifted. You could think back to the first episode when we found out that Dan put the kids into therapy without even telling Betty. Of course, we realize most likely why it is that she didn’t know in episode four. More on that later, though.

I also want to talk about something that’s been bugging me since I watched episode three -- Marriage Encounter. In this episode, there’s a scene where Betty is helping Dan type up his legal briefs, and while I don’t expect her to retain any knowledge of what she’s typing, there’s still something in the back of my brain that says, “how did she not know about the court date?!”

As you’ll remember, back in episode one, Dan tells Betty verbally that the hearing for their legal divorce is postponed, and without a letter — or a formal seal from a lawyer or anything — she takes his word for it. As a result, she doesn’t show up to the court date, and she loses custody of all four of her children in one fell swoop.

Now, here’s my dilemma: did she really not know you needed a formal letter, an actual letter from an actual lawyer or judge that stated their court date has been postponed and rescheduled or was she just so deep in denial that this was actually happening that she convinced herself whatever Dan said was correct? Or, countering both of these points, had she just been gaslit by Dan for so long that she was just willing to believe anything he told her, including something that could so drastically impact her life? I’m still undecided. What do you guys think?

We discover my very favorite thing about Linda Kolkena in episode three: she can’t type. This is expanded upon more in episode four when she eventually learns to type. She stays late at the office specifically to learn, which blossoms her relationship with Dan, and she’s hired as a paralegal assistant without any prior typing experience. She was a flight attendant turned receptionist turned… paralegal assistant. Betty is rightfully upset and confused when Dan tells her he’s hired Linda to be his assistant -- especially when Betty tells him to fire Linda within a month and he doesn’t. Not in the month deadline she gives him, nor in the period of time between her hiring and Dan and Linda’s marriage.

Episode four is where you-know-what really starts to hit the fan. Remember when I talked about how I was hoping to make it through without screaming at my TV every week? I didn’t even make it through five minutes this week. When Linda complimented the design of the office and Dan just smiled and thanked her, I felt insane. It would’ve been so easy for him to have said, “Thank you so much, Linda, my wife Betty designed it. I’ll let her know you loved it.” But, you know, he’s a man. More than that, he’s Dan Broderick III, MDA, so that was clearly asking for way too much.

Then, we get the scene I’ve been waiting for. After they didn’t add the bit where Betty had an ax in the seat next to her when she rammed into Dan’s house (if you missed that -- check out my review from last week) I was a bit worried they’d skip past this, but thankfully, they didn’t. After Betty finds out that Linda took Dan out for his birthday, when Betty had wanted to surprise him, she goes home and takes all of his clothes out of the closet, brings them to the backyard, and promptly lights them on fire. Of course, when he gets home he talks his way out of it, gaslights her into oblivion, and it’s a tragic scene all over again that makes me hate Dan even more than I already did, but for a second you’re happy that Betty seems to get some gratification.

Except then I’m reminded that, oh, right, Betty pretty much sucks too. After the court psychologist (Jeff Perry - Scandal) spends all episode pretty much framing Betty’s actions around his words, he finally says this:

“The longer that the marriage goes on, the more stake in it in terms of children, stability, its essential fabric, everything is called into question. The victim’s self-esteem, their ability to trust themselves, as far as whether they even were a good parent; a good person, or, whether they can be.”
There’s a scene where Betty and Dan discuss having more children but, ultimately, after coming home one day, Betty and the kids find their home infested with rats. When Dan won’t leave work to help them, Betty leaves all four of the kids outside of the house Dan has been living in and flies back East for a family party. She doesn’t call Dan beforehand, doesn’t make sure he’s home, nothing. She just drops them off and leaves.

I haven’t mentioned the actual Marriage Encounter retreat because it honestly feels like a moot point. It was strange to me that they gave it so much time in the first place. We knew whatever Betty said in her letter was going to be sickeningly sweet and whatever Dan said would end up being not true. We know how this ends, so to make us watch them make these promises to each other that are so out of reach wasn’t even funny - eh. It felt like a waste of our time and a waste of their time, but I understand why it had to happen. They wanted us to see that they tried to salvage the marriage, as dead as it already was when they did decide to go to the Encounter.

The final blow comes in the form of a court order that says that Betty can’t be on Dan’s property without Dan present. Yeah, that montage of Betty breaking into his house several times will do it. Betty demands to know if she was right and if Dan really was sleeping with Linda, and he tells her he was. She wasn’t imagining it. He’s in love with Linda, and, “You were right the whole time.” Betty laughs, which quickly turns from a laugh of triumphant disbelief - I did it! I just got my husband to admit I was right! - to outright horror - My god, I did it, I just got my husband to admit that he’s been cheating on me for two whole years. 

This show is truly amazing. I cannot get enough. Every time I think it can’t get better, it does, and every time I think I know everything about this case, I’m spending even more time researching, digging deeper into archived articles and podcasts from years ago. Betty is insanely good, and I cannot recommend the show enough. If you’re on the fence, watch it. If you’re tuning in for just one person, or event, or minuscule reason, watch it. It’s worth it, I promise you.

It’s time for Dirty John: Dirty or Clean? My section where I take events from the episode(s) and let you guys know whether they actually happened or whether they’re part of the functionalization!

Clean: In 1976, Betty and Dan Broderick attended a Catholic Marriage Encounter weekend in the hopes that it would strengthen their marriage.
Clean: Betty told Dan to get rid of Linda by October 1st, or get out. I’m going to mark Dan’s comment as clean here as well -- Betty says Dan said if anyone was going to move out, it would be her.
Clean: Dan Broderick and Linda Kolkena began sleeping together in 1983.
Clean: Dan bought a sports car after consistently belittling Betty for how much money she spent. Clean: Betty did go to his office for his birthday, and she did learn that Linda took him out, and she did indeed go home and set all of his clothes on fire in the backyard. Whew.
Clean: In 1984, Betty Broderick tried to have her tubes untied.
Wishy-Washy: A secretary at Dan Broderick’s office told defense investigators that Dan and Linda’s affair was widely known about in the office by late 1983. It’s unclear if anyone ever actually confronted Dan.
Wishy-Washy: While Betty did drop all of the kids off at Dan’s house at one point, it wasn’t all at once, but one at a time. It makes sense that they showed them all at once to shorten time, though. Clean(ish): Betty let herself into the house when she wasn’t supposed to one day and smeared Boston Creme Pie all over Dan’s closet and bedroom. She claims that her youngest daughter confirmed that Linda made it the night before.
Dirty: I’m not letting this one fly. I said in the beginning of reviewing this that I didn’t want Betty to be made out to be incredibly compliant, but it seems that’s what they’re doing, so I want to make it somewhat clear: while Betty Broderick was a victim of a lot of things, she wasn’t completely innocent. Betty broke into Dan’s Coral Reef home multiple times. First, before the Boston Creme Pie incident, she smashed his windows and spray-painted his walls, curtains, and fireplace black. Then came the pie incident. There were two more violations after that, which both resulted in shattered glass windows and eventually ended in criminal contempt charges.

I don’t have a favorite quote from Marriage Encounter, but it’s okay, because I have two from More to It Than Fun, so that can fill the void.

My first favorite quote from More to It Than Fun is when Betty is at dinner with Dan… Well, when Betty is supposed to be at dinner with Dan, but Dan is on the phone with Linda, so Betty does her own thing until Dan finds her back at the restaurant, and then he questions the garment sitting on his chair:
Dan: What’s that?
Betty: Oh, a dress… that I look amazing in.
Dan: I can’t wait to find out how much that means it costs.
Betty: I can’t wait for you to find out either… It was eight grand.
Then Dan scoffs because of course he does. Because how dare Betty buy a dress for eight grand that makes her feel good when her husband was just on the phone with a woman she knows he’s sleeping with. How dare Betty make an exuberant purchase when Dan just bought a red sports car -- the very typical “I’m a man having a mid-life crisis!” car. How dare she.

My second favorite quote is when Dan walks into the backyard as Betty is burning his clothes and she says “You want out? I moved you out.” I love this quote so much. She’s saying so many things in this quote. She doesn’t say, “you want to move out? I moved you out.” She says, “you want out?” And she means “you want out of this marriage? You want out of being a father, of being my husband, of holding loyalty to me, of sharing my bed, and our vows? You got it. You’re out. You move out of this house, you take all of that with you.” And he knows that. Which is why he doesn’t leave right that second. He stays, he hears her out, and he lets her explain herself because he knows if he walks out that door right now, he isn’t coming back.

There is still so much left to happen, and only four episodes to go. I’m excited to see what else they have in store for us, and what else Amanda Peet and Christian Slater have for us, because man, Christian Slater is scary when he really turns it on.

What did you guys think of the episodes? What were your favorite and least favorite parts? We’re obviously seeing more of the trial lately, are you excited to start getting more into that? And didn’t Amanda Peet as Betty look so cute in her little Christmas getup in episode four? Let me know in the comments below!

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