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Dirty John - Scream Therapy - Review

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Dirty John has finally done what I’ve been asking them to do! They’re showing Betty full-on losing her mind. As I’ve stated before, I was very worried that they weren’t going to include this, so I might’ve been too excited to see Betty Broderick attempting to ruin Christmas for Dan, Linda, and, oh yeah, her children.

Ah, Betty and her children. This episode did a great job focusing on Betty essentially turning on her children. She goes from fighting to get them back for herself, for them, to only wanting to get them back as a prize to be won from Dan. Sigh. Children are not a prize to be won in a game called divorce. They are humans who need to be taken care of in the formative years of their lives. Betty doesn’t recognize this, though. We’ll discuss this more, later.

I want to point out something very small that I’m not going to even try to put in Dirty or Clean, but when Dan walks into his office and hands his answering machine tape to his secretary -- she’s not the same woman we saw last week. She’s not the woman who came to him with her thoughts that Linda should keep their relationship under wraps. So Dan, presumably, fired his last secretary when she presented concerns about him and Linda and hired someone new who didn’t care. He is… a piece of work.

This week, we got to see Betty actually doing all of the actions I discussed in last week’s Dirty or Clean: smashing the windows of Dan’s house, spray painting walls black, and leaving shattered glass and broken items strewn across the house. This is my formal apology to the writers of Dirty John for thinking they weren’t going to showcase this. My bad, guys. I just wasn’t patient enough. (I know, I know, a TV watcher, impatient?! Shocker!)

We have to discuss the scene where Betty is served the papers that say she’s officially divorced. I say this every week and I’m going to say it again: Amanda Peet is phenomenal. Her facial expressions, her body tensing, the disconnect that you can see from her eyes to the rest of the world around her, my God, she is fantastic. It’s going to be a crime when she doesn’t get awards for this because I can already feel that this show will be grossly robbed this year.

Aaaanyway, at one point, Betty storms over to Dan’s house, and one of my favorite scenes takes place: Betty’s screaming at Dan, he slams the door in her face, and it transitions from a zoom-in of Betty’s hands banging on Dan’s door to Betty’s hands resting on her lap in handcuffs.

Let me explain why I loved this scene so much. This whole show has been talking about how much Dan stifles Betty, how much he has a hold on her, and how he holds her back, except, this time, Betty could’ve very well prevented the situation she’s in. If she had just stayed home, minded her own business, and shut her mouth, she could’ve avoided sitting in the local jail alone and she never would’ve ended up in handcuffs in the first place. I think this is the first time we, as viewers, must really acknowledge that Betty has her hands tied, she’s being stifled, being held back, because of her own doing. 

Then, she talks to her friends who are incredibly rational the entire time. Hi rational friends! I see you! I support you! I wish she would have listened to you and I’m sorry she didn’t! Finally, one of the friends sets her up with Hilary Clark (Mary B. McCann - Little Children) a no-nonsense lawyer who, frankly, I would like to be best friends with. Another problem I have with Betty is that the whole time I’m just sitting there like girl, get a job. She does say later that she tried to get a job in education, a profession she’s worked in before, but at that point? Trying to get your kids back, trying to make a life for them and for you? Work at a Bed Bath and Beyond if you have to. (Yes, those existed then, they were founded in 1971.)

Then, of course, Betty can’t pay her lawyer, and she won’t agree to Dan paying her lawyer, and so her lawyer decides to leave. Betty, you’re a beautiful, formerly rich, uppity housewife. Go work at a dang Bed Bath and Beyond! Work at Sears! Work at a grocery store if you have to, but if you’re putting some sort of effort into making it seem like you care about your kids, the courts may have a bit more empathy towards you.

Man, Easter was heartbreaking. Seeing Betty put on those bunny ears, seeing her hide the eggs and talk to the boys, so excited to see them, only to have Dan rip it from her… predictable, but actually heartbreaking. This is the moment Betty stops seeing her children as her children and she starts seeing them as bargaining tools. This is not the moment it all ends for her, that comes later in this episode, but this is the moment she realizes that if she doesn’t have her kids on her side, she has nothing.

So you know what she does? She takes it out on her son. She rants and she rants and she rants on this phone call with a child, her son, who is no older than 12, about his father, and his “wh*re”, and how Dan screwed both of them over. She uses less tasteful language, but I’ll let you watch the episode if you’d like to really know. Betty is a mess and she’s taking it out on her children and it’s truly awful. Her son is begging her to stop, to be normal, to be quiet, stop calling his dad and cursing him out and giving him ammo, but she’s just going on and on about how this call is being recorded. Which, yes, it is being recorded. But, Betty, did you really think it wouldn’t be, or are you mad that you got caught? 

They hang up, Dan gets to be the good parent and let the boy watch television, tell him about why Betty is a petulant child who kicks and screams when she’s wrong and upset, gets to be the knight in shining armor when his mom is the crazy, unhinged one, and, my God, I cannot stand him. How can Linda look at this man and be in love with him? How can she see what he’s doing to this woman, the mother of his children, and think it’s chill? Yes, Betty is clearly unhinged on another level, but Linda, why are you taking part too? It makes me wonder what Dan really tells Linda about Betty, and what Linda thinks she knows about their marriage.

I was going to mention this in my Dirty or Clean section, but I wanted to talk about my thoughts on it, so I thought it would be better to do it here. The deductions from Betty’s monthly support check each time she violated an order were unfortunately very real. How Dan described it was real, too. $100 for every obscene word she used, $250 for every time she was on his property, $500 for every entry into his house, and $1,000 for every time she took a child without his permission.

In retrospect, this is horrifying. We’re talking about a man telling a woman when and how she can act and what she can and cannot do, but in all reality, if the tables were turned, and she did this to him, how different would it be? Would this not be just as valid? If Betty came and got a child and just didn’t tell him about it and then he reported it to court instead of docking that thousand dollars -- that’d be kidnapping, not her new Burberry jacket for winter that she doesn’t need because they live in California.

I dislike Dan Broderick very much. He was controlling and manipulative and selfish and all-around weird. But this, to me, while maybe petty, is not the worst way he could’ve gone about this situation. Betty was clearly not backing down. He called the police on her. He got her arrested. He had her put in a straight jacket, for God’s sake, and she still wasn’t giving up on this revenge that she wanted to take against him and Linda, so honestly? This is tame when you think about what he, a rich, white, lawyer, could’ve done to a single, now childless mother in the ‘80s and gotten away with. Is it petty? Yes, 100%, and he gets called out for that as he should, by the judge. But it is not the worst thing he could’ve done.

And, my goodness, if Betty had just stopped, and listened, and thought about her children, she wouldn’t have even gone over her payment! Which is also true, by the way. She did go over his limit, at one point, and a month later, a judge increased her monthly allowance to $12,500, which was then later increased to $16,100. (Which is approximately $37,600 now, by the way. A month.) But, I’ve never been in this situation, so I can’t say how it feels to be Betty or Dan, so honestly, it’s a moot point for me to tell either of them to control their emotions.

Then, we reach the moment it all ends. Betty is speaking to the court-appointed therapist, Dr. Hayes (Patty McCormack - The Master), for a second time, which even she points out is unusual. Betty is talking about Linda, who she repeatedly refers to as the wh*re -- which, did anyone else know USA Network could get away with using that word that many times in one episode? I’m sure they had the clearance as soon as they got approval for the case, but I swear, it had to be no less than 15 times.

Dr. Hayes asks why Betty won’t refer to Linda as, well, Linda, and Betty loses it. She says Linda’s name, and then when Dr. Hayes asks why Betty is so upset that she had to say that, and about Linda as a whole, Betty becomes furious. The edges blur, you can see Betty falling apart at the seams, and before Betty exits the office she spits out, “if I’m not angry, I’m not gonna make it.”

Back in the courtroom, Betty is denied custody of her children, thanks to the therapist’s notes, uh, yeah, duh, and Betty is sentenced to a 25-day jail sentence. Well, hold that thought. Alright, Betty gets a lightened six-day sentence and she must apologize to the court. At first, I don’t think she’s going to do it. Even she hesitates. Then, though, she stands, she promises she’s going to do better, and you almost believe her.

Betty Broderick, alone, unable to get her affairs in order at home, is led out of the courtroom, and out of this episode, in handcuffs. The scene to lead us out of this episode as a whole is Dan Broderick, III, proposing to Linda Kolkena, in a bar full to the brim of their friends. This man is a monster.

Alright, y’all. 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 fictionalization!

Clean: As stated before, Betty Broderick indeed smashed windows, spray-painted Dan’s walls, and broke into the house several times, violating restraining orders and court orders time after time.
Clean: I’ve already said this, but Betty had upwards of five lawyers going into this (five year) divorce.
Clean: Dan Broderick started recording the messages Betty was leaving on his answering machine, and the conversation Betty has with her son is real. (The podcast Murder Dictionary plays part of the audio on their podcast episodes about Betty Broderick.)

I have two favorite quotes for this episode because I honestly couldn’t pick between the two. You’ll understand why.

The first is from the scene where Betty shows up outside of Dan’s door and when he opens the door she screams, “you’re like a slug with a fancy tie on!”
I screamed! Give Amanda Peet the Emmy just for this line, honestly.

My second favorite is when Betty is talking to her court-appointed therapist. I’m gonna type that again for you before you read this quote. Her court-appointed therapist.

Betty: I’m not gonna be a single parent of four kids. He’ll die first.
Dr. Hayes: Are you threatening him?
Betty: I threaten him all the time. 

GIRL. BETTY. This is the woman who decides whether or not you can have your children back! 

What did you guys think of the episode? Are Betty and Dan both being way too petty? Will these upcoming nuptials finally break Betty? What will Amanda Peet’s holiday look be next week? I personally loved the bunny ears. PS: Christian Slater is still scary as heck. Let me know what you thought in the comments!

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