R29 Binge Club: American Vandal Episodes 1-8

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Turns out, the novelty of American Vandal can sustain another season. The Netflix show was an unexpected breakout hit last year, mocking the true crime documentaries we still can't stop watching with a little mystery of its own. The first season asked: Who drew the dicks? Now, high schoolers Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) are back on the hunt for another culprit, and it's just as embarrassing to say out loud. This time, they're searching for The Turd Burglar.
This anonymous assailant has been fecally pranking the students and faculty of St. Bernardine Catholic School for weeks, leading to what one student believes is the false accusation of her friend, Kevin McClain. A false accusation? Happening in a school? Involving stuff that comes out of your butt? This has American Vandal written all over it.
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Even if you're someone who doesn't like poop jokes, I urge you to stay the course through this season. Once again, the show's real humor lies in its ability to skewer the true crime genre with subject matter so ridiculous it...may just be downright genius.
Watch along with us as we recap American Vandal season 2!
Episode 1: "The Brownout"
It’s November 6, 2017, and the students of St. Bernardine Catholic School in Bellevue, Washington can’t stop pooping. Detective Carla Dickey and officer Joseph Crowder are on the case, and here’s what they know: Everyone who’s currently clutching their butts drank the lemonade in the cafeteria for lunch that day. One by one, photos of the chaos make their way to Instagram — but not just any Instagram. The instagram of one “Turd Burglar,” who is tagging each and every victim in the threatening posts.
The Turd Burglar has claimed responsibility for the poop-ocalypse, but won’t reveal their name or why they did it. Worse? They’ve threatened to strike again.
Student Chloe Lyman knew it was time to bring in the big guns. Fresh off their newfound Netflix fame, Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund are feilding thousands of requests for new cases, but Chloe’s stands out. She says a student, Kevin McClain, has been falsely accused of being the Turd Burglar, and she needs their help to exonerate him. This is apparently just one of many secrets the school is hiding, and Peter and Sam can’t resist. They get approval for the Turd Burglar to be their senior project, and move into Chloe’s house ASAP.
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So what happened that led the school to accuse a student Chloe adamantly believes didn’t do it? It all started with Kevin’s best friend, Tanner Bassett. On November 20, Tanner tells the police that his longtime friend (they were even in a band together) has been bullied for years, and his behavior that day during lunch was abnormal. For instance, Kevin accidentally spilled Brother Buckley’s lemonade, and replace it with horchata — which is much more expensive. He also chose a different lunch table, sitting across from Nick Sondergoth, the person directly responsible for Kevin’s years of being bullied, coining the name “Shit Stain McClain” after spotting a dirt stain on Kevin’s shorts in the fourth grade. Tanner thinks Kevin poisoned the lemonade, replaced Brother Buckley’s drink to spare him, and sat across from Nick to get a front-row seat to his humiliation. He also was spotted buying mysterious supplies from the supermarket the night before.
When the police present this to Kevin the next day, he denies it. It’s not until later that he confesses to the whole thing, but his grandmother (his current guardian) won’t accept it. She points out the undeniable flaw: If Kevin poisoned the lemonade, then why would he poop his own pants? It’s time for this investigation to get rolling.
Best Poop Gag: The absolutely stomach-churning poop-acolypse scene in the halls of St. Bernardine.
Best True Crime Gag: Peter Maldonado and Sam Ecklund appearing on The Daily Show.
Photo: Scott Patrick Green / Netflix.
Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Episode 2: "#2"
For one second, episode 2 makes you forget you’re watching American Vandal.
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“Between 1989-2015, new DNA testing technology led to the reversal of 1,532 homicide convictions,” reads the text on the screen. “25% of those exonerated had previously confessed to their crimes. For those under 18 years old, 38% had confessed.”
So, back to poop. After confessing to the crime, Kevin was expelled and placed on house arrest. However, Kevin now says his confession was forced. He has an explanation for all the sticking points the police were zero-ing in on. For instance, he says he went to go talk to a classmate about an AP Bio assignment when he bumped into Brother Buckley. He felt so bad that he wanted to replace his drink with something better, hence the horchata.
In the interrogation room, he was kept well past the bell, with Carla Dickey and Joseph Crowder pushing him to exhaustion. In fact, it was only Mrs. Wexler, the Dean of Students, who took pity on him, pulling him out of questioning so he could take a break. She allowed him to get tea from his locker (this boy loves tea, don’t forget), and took him to the teachers’ lounge to eat some mozzarella sticks. By the time he was back in questioning, he had totally changed his tune and confessed — so what happened in the teachers’ lounge with Mrs. Wexler?
It was late. Kevin was tired, and he was also scared. According to Kevin, Mrs. Wexler said that if he just told the officers what they wanted to hear, this could all be over. She’d ensure the school wouldn’t press charges, he’d just face a two-week suspension. Jail versus suspension? The choice was clear — especially for Mrs. Wexler who, as the Dean of Students, had been fielding press and angry phone calls for the past 15 days as they tried desperately to find the culprit. Kevin’s confession would help both of them. So, he confessed.
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But what exactly did he confess to? Sure, there was the incident with the lemonade, but the Turd Burglar struck two more times before Kevin was brought in for questioning. There was the Poop Pinata in Mrs. Montgomery’s class (it’s what it sounds like...a piñata filled with poop). Then there was the shit-launcher at the pep rally, which blasted cat poop into the audience.
Carla Dickey and Joseph Crowder knew exactly how theses crimes were carried out. Kevin, however, did not. So convinced they found their guy, the detective and the officer clearly steer Kevin’s confession, putting words into his mouth and getting exactly what they need to shut the case.
But Peter and Sam have one unanswered question: What mysterious thing did Kevin buy at the supermarket the night before the lemonade poisoning? He says he can’t remember, but had he committed the crime, then that would be where he would have picked up the poison.
According to the report, the key ingredient that caused the shit-storm was maltitol — but the supermarket doesn’t have any laxatives with maltitol. Check mate?
Best Poop Gag: “I, Kevin McClain, also shit my pants...Shat? Shit? Shat my pants? Shit. It’s shit.”
Best True Crime Gag: The only item in the supermarket with maltitol was a packet of sugar-free gummy bears. Let me direct your attention to the reviews of this Amazon product. Enjoy.
Photo: Scott Patrick Green / Netflix.
Episode 3: "Leaving A Mark"
It’s time to start looking at other suspects, and Peter thinks he has one: DeMarcus Tillman, AKA Mr. Untouchable. He’s the best basketball player at the school, and St. Bernardine values their basketball players above all else.
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Chloe says she spotted a “Turd Burglar” card in DeMarcus’s wallet. However, Trevor Gonzalez says he also saw it, and it was actually just a frozen yogurt punch card. These two conflicting memories lead Peter and Sam nowhere, so they have to go straight to the source.
In interviews with DeMarcus, he stresses that there aren’t any class systems at St. Bernadine, but he’s clearly on another level. He has free reign of the school, including the teachers’ lounge, and has turned all the teachers to putty in his hands. He could get away with anything. Could he get away with this?
Let’s think about why: DeMarcus’s idol, Perry Coleman, pulled off an epic prank during his time at St. Bernadine. He stole their mascot and waged a long-winded online harassment campaign against Paige Burton with it (an example of the way athletes are given a slap on the wrist, while Grayson Wentz was expelled for hacking someone's Twitter). DeMarcus would comment on these Instagrams egging him on, and Perry has been seen commenting on posts by the Turd Burglar. Plus, Peter and Sam realize, maybe the motive doesn’t have to be anything more than what’s in front of us: poop is funny.
Peter confronts DeMarcus with this accusation, and DeMarcus ends the interview. He says he didn’t do it, walking away with the confidence of someone who could.
Best Poop Gag: Poop's unsettling similarity to frozen yogurt.
Best True Crime Gag: The intense examination of Chloe and Trevor’s conflicting memories.
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Photo: Scott Green / Netflix.
Episode 4: "Sh*t Talk"
Peter and Sam have made contact — figuratively and literally, but we’ll get to the latter in a moment. The Turd Burglar has discovered they’re on the hunt, and reached out to Peter over Instagram DM. In fact, this whole episode is a lot about the linguistics of Instagram, which is for sure something only teen investigators could discern properly. After Peter gets pranked into following the Turd Burglar’s coordinates and digging through poop for no reason.
So instead, they take things digital. There are some things about the Turd Burglar’s Instagram that stand out. First, there are two posts that went up after Kevin was put on house arrest that warned of a fourth attack that never actually happened. But the most damning...is the "glitch."
You’ll know the glitch if you had it, when certain updated iPhones started replacing the “I” with the letter “a” and a weird symbol. It made texting hell, and it made Instagram hell, too. It’s important to note that the Turd Burglar had the glitch, so it stands to reason that the real culprit would have the glitch as well — this rules out both DeMarcus and Kevin, whose Instagram captions during the same time period had no such issues.
It’s time to turn to the tip line set up by the student government. In what Sam is calling “Just The Tip Day,” the boys went through all the people the student body submitted as possible suspects and rounded up all the repeat names. Of those who also had the glitch? “Diapey” Drew Pankratz, Jenna Hawthorne, and Paul Schnorrenberg.
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They all had motive — Drew was bullied after pics of him wearing a diaper leaked, Jenna was humiliated when people found out she was lying about being Kendall Jenner’s friend, Paul was extremely religious and thought the rest of the school was filled with sinners — but they also all had alibis during the key moments for each attack.
It’s not until an interview with Mrs. Montgomery that the boys make progress. As she steps into the teachers’ lounge, Sam spots an advent calendar. It’s the exact same calendar that appears in the final Instagram posted by the Turd Burglar. Finally, it clicks. What if the two posts that came after Kevin’s house arrest weren’t of a failed attempt, but a successful attempt that was covered up because the school wanted to pretend they found their guy? What really happened with the bird advent calendar in the teachers’ lounge?
Best Poop Gag: Peter digging through poop with chopsticks for no reason.
Best True Crime Gag: The glitch. I can’t get over 1) how genius it is to remember that that even happened in the exact time period this took place and 2) how effective it actually is in solving crime.
Photo: Scott Patrick Green / Netflix.
Episode 5: "Wiped Clean"
The advent calendar is the smoking gun, and the boys present it to Chloe and Tanner, who are still both set in their suspicions. This means the investigation has widened to whomever would have access to the teachers lounge, and there’s only one person who would know if a poop attack went down: Hot Janitor.
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Hot Janitor mysteriously disappeared immediately after the hypothetical crime. He has no social media and his phone number is disconnected. It’s David “Lil K” Kaczmarowski who finally leads them to him, since the Hot Janitor would deal mushrooms to his older brother. Turns out, he’s an hour away from St. Bernardine, living off the grid after being transferred to St. Marys. However, he remembers his last day clearly.
Two people threw up in the teachers’ lounge that day, and Hot Janitor discovered a half-eaten chocolate on the ground. Or, "chocolate." It was actually chocolate-covered cat poop that someone pulled out of the advent calendar. Mrs. Wexler had him bleach the whole thing. This was almost certainly a fourth attack.
Somehow, the fourth attack stayed in the confines of the lounge, so Peter and Sam look at schedules to figure out which five teachers had free period during that time: Sister Ruth, Mrs. Wallace, Mr. Fernandez, Mr Gesualdi, and Mr. Bernstein. However, Mrs. Wallace and Mr. Bernstein were off campus that day, and the remaining three say nothing out of the ordinary happened that day. It wasn’t until a student casually dropped that Mr. Fernandez had a sub for his class that afternoon that the boys had a lead. When approached with this information, Mr. Fernandez snaps, sending Peter and Sam out of his classroom.
Mr. Fernandez won’t talk, but why? Peter and Sam suspect the school bought his silence by allowing him to be head chaperone on the "Gifts Of The Lamb" Costa Rica volunteer trip. The students who regularly attend all admit it’s mostly partying and relaxing in a nice hotel with a bit of volunteer work sprinkled in. Mrs. Wexler is in charge of picking which teachers go on the trip, and Mr. Fernandez was added last minute. VERY SUSPECT.
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However, they need proof. They mic up Chloe and have her visit Mrs. Wexler’s office under the guise of asking about school, but instead she throws a curveball and inquires about what happened in the teachers’ lounge that day. Wexler, wiley as ever, won’t confirm that a fourth attack went down, but said that if it did, it was probably one of Kevin’s friends...maybe even Chloe herself.
“Is that a threat?” Chloe asks. It sure sounds like it.
When Kevin listens back to the recording he tells Chloe to call off her dogs. He doesn’t want her getting in trouble for him, and doesn’t know why she’s pretending to care all of a sudden when they haven’t spent time together in months. Chloe storms out, and Kevin realizes he hasn’t been the most grateful for all the work everyone has been doing to save him. He decides to give back by giving Peter and Sam his locker information, which is directly across from the teachers’ lounge. If they set up a camera inside, they might be able to catch any students who have access — and they do. DeMarcus’s friend is seen leaving the lounge in the middle of the day. It’s time for a new suspect.
Best Poop Gag: The sympathy vomit after Mr. Fernandez bites into cat poop.
Best True Grime Gag: Hot Janitor living off the grid by growing mushrooms.
Photo: Scott Patrick Green / Netflix.
Episode 6: "All Backed Up"
Turning the microscope on Lou reveals pretty quickly that his relationship with DeMarcus is more than what it seems. More than just teammates, they're client and manager. Lou takes care of everything DeMarcus needs, like heating up his special meals in the teachers’ lounge (hence the footage) to literally micromanaging his friendships to keep him on the right rack. At least, that’s what was happening on Skip Day.
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Skip Day is another contentested moment in St. Bernadine’s timeline. The all-day party was ended early after it was believed Kevin called the cops on his classmates as another way of ruining their day. However, Perry knows otherwise.
Perry says Lou doesn’t like his friendship with DeMarcus because he’s worried he’s going to steer DeMarcus away from his basketball future in Oregon and over to Perry in UCLA. The two were both on their way to the Skip Day party when Lou told them not to bother, that the cops had arrived….a full six minutes before they actually did. Snapchat footage further corroborates this, capturing Lou making a phone call shortly before the cops’ arrival. It also captures Chloe making out with Tanner — remember that.
Anyways, Peter posits that perhaps the Turd Burglar is a joint prank between Lou and DeMarcus as a way of solidifying their friendship, but Perry says fuck no. As his unnofficial manager, Lou would never jeopardize DeMarcus’s basketball prospects.
Perry may have shot down one theory, but he proved helpful in other ways. Perry was the wedge Peter could force between Lou and DeMarcus to get to the bottom of some unanswered questions. He interviews them together, showing the footage of Lou calling the police, prompting Lou to storm off.
This footage is a catalyst for a lot of things. When shown to Tanner, he realizes Kevin was falsely accused of calling the police, casting doubt on his own bombshell accusation. When shown to Kevin, he spots Chloe and Tanner making out, upsetting him so much that he bites into a scalding Hot Pocket.
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Tanner, for his part, apologizes to Kevin for blaming him, and Trevor Gonzalez also has some things to get off his chest. In a new interview with Peter, he’s sporting a black eye, and says that he actually did see a Turd Burglar card in DeMarcus’s wallet — not a frozen yogurt card. He reported it to the team day, and things only got more damning when Lou and DeMarcus skipped the pep rally walk-through and showed up late. However, when suspicions started swirling, team captain Tyler Ramsden sent an all-caps email instructing the rest of the team to essentially lie. If anyone asks, Lou and DeMarcus were at the walk-through. Lou punched Trevor because he believed he wasn't sticking to the email by talking to Peter and Sam.
Peter texts the Turd Burglar this new information, and TB responds by suggesting that Kevin was also in on it, that he took the fall for the team. He promises the truth, but then just sends a poop GIF. This sounds like another dead-end, but the episode concludes with some intriguing security footage. On the night of January 22, DeMarcus and Lou approach Kevin outside the 24Stop and threaten him. About what?
Best Poop Gag: Sam insisting they should have been sending poop puns this whole time.
Best True Crime Gag: The text message timeline.
Photo: Scott Patrick Green / Netflix.
Episode 7: "Shit Storm"
It’s no coincidence that Lou and DeMarcus were captured threatening Kevin the night before Kevin texts Peter to drop out of the documentary. He changes his story (again) and confesses (again) and Peter (again) doesn’t believe him. This time is different though, because Kevin goes off the grid. He blocked Peter and Sam’s numbers, as well as their social media. They can’t get in touch with him even when they go to his house, and when they try to wait for him outside the 24Stop, the store manager drops a bomb: He banned Kevin last night.
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That’s when Sam and Peter see the footage. Lou and DeMarcus threaten Kevin, and then Kevin runs in and starts stealing and eating ice cream in a panic, making a mess on the floor. Peter and Sam show the footage to Chloe, who says it’s time to go to the cops, but Peter holds off. He wants to confront Lou and DeMarcus with this evidence and see if it changes their story.
When Lou is presented with the video, he finally comes clean — but not as the Turd Burglar. Instead, he starts from the beginning, saying the reason he and DeMarcus skipped the walk-through was because DeMarcus had hurt his ankle. They were at physical therapy with a receipt to prove it. Then they were late to the pep rally because they got into a fender bender with Jenna Hawthorne, and they have the Venmo charge to prove that as well. As for the Lou punching Trevor and threatening Kevin, he just wanted to them to stop spreading Turd Burglar rumors, yet another thing that would ruin DeMarcus’s reputation.
Chleo doesn’t buy it, and now Sam also wants to go to the cops, but Peter has one last message to send. However, when he goes to text the Turd Burglar, he notices something that changes everything: The last time they talked was at the exact time Lou and DeMarcus were seen threatening Kevin. All three of them did not have their phones with them in the footage, therefore they’re all innocent.
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While showing this to Lou and DeMarcus, Peter says he has another lead. If they had gotten into a fender-bender with Jenna Hawthorne, then that busts her alibi. She had told Peter and Sam that she was at her internship at her parents’ company during the pep rally — her parents’ company that just so happens to produce maltitol, the poison in the lemonade.
DeMarcus says he saw Jenna sprinting from the pep rally into her car. She pulled out of her parking spot without looking and smashed into Lou. What’s more, Lou’s insurance photos show a stack of pep rally t-shirts in her car, the very same t-shirts from the t-shirt cannons.
Peter confronts Jenna with the evidence, and she admits to having helped with the shit-launcher. However, she says she was made to do it by a girl named Brooke Wheeler. Brooke lives an hour away, and the two connected on Instagram. They ended up falling in love, but as soon as Jenna sent Brooke sexual photos, Brooke turned. She used them as blackmail to force Jenna to carry out her poop demands. Her poopmands, if you will.
Brooke sent Jenna coordinates where a box of instructions and supplies for the pep rally prank were waiting for her. The moment Jenna completed the prank, she was ghosted.
However, there’s one more twist ahead of us in this episode. Using reverse-image searching, Peter and Sam track down Brooke...whose real name is Abby Samuels. Abby has no idea what’s going happening. All the videos and pictures sent to Jenna were actually things Abby says she originally sent to her boyfriend. A catfisher got ahold of them, and used them to manipulate Jenna. The Turd Burglar web just got a lot more complicated.
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Best Poop Gag: Written instructions of how to roll cat poop into a t-shirt cannon.
Best True Crime Gag: “Do your string thing man.”
Episode 8: “The Dump”
This is the closest they’ve ever been to the Turd Burglar’s indisputable identity, and it hinges of the whereabouts of Abby Samuels’s phone on August 6. That was the only time it was out of her possession that coincides with the first time the catfisher made contact. She had broken the screen while FaceTiming her boyfriend, and brought it to a kiosk at the mall — the very same kiosk where Grayson Wentz works.
We were introduced to Grayson Wentz in the beginning of the season as an example of how athletes get away with misdeeds the regular students don’t. Perry’s long-running harassment prank was brushed to the side while Grayson was expelled for a simple Twitter hack. It appears once Abby handed over her phone, he took all the pictures and videos from it and saved them for his master plan.
Peter and Sam had figured him out. Peter sent the Turd Burglar a simple message: “Hi, Grayson,” and he knew the jig was up. The boys were on their way to the police when the Turd Burglar posted his Hail Mary. He warned of a final, epic dump before his identity was revealed. But for once, this dump had nothing to do with poop. Instead, Grayson released all compromising photos, videos, and other information that he had gathered from catfishing a number of students — and one teacher — at the school.
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Through an elaborate scheme, Grayson (as Abby) had procured sexual photos and videos from four different victims that he then used as blackmail to get them to carry out each of the four attacks. Mr. Gesualdi, the teacher responsible for his expulsion, put the poop in the advent calendar. Jenna, we already know, did the pep rally. DeMarcus admitted to orchestrating the poop pinata, but Drew Pankratz, the final victim, told Sam and Peter he didn’t do the brownout. He refused, which is why his first photos of him dressed as a baby leaked. So if Drew didn’t poison the lemonade, why didn’t he leak the information of the person who did?
Because it wasn’t blackmail. As Kevin finally admits, for real this time, he was the one behind the Brownout. Yes, he had also been catfished by Brooke AKA the Turd Burglar AKA Grayson, but it was his choice to poison the lemonade. He had never felt this way about a girl, and when she suggested getting back at the school for the way they’ve bullied him, he was eager to impress her. She sent him the maltitol, and carried out the entire prank on purpose. That night, he was supposed to meet her at the hotel — which is why he bought a bunch of condoms at the supermarket the night before, not laxatives — but she never showed, obviously. Instead, he was sent one final text calling him fake, and he was blocked. And yes, this means he pooped his pants on purpose.
At the end of the episode, here’s where we’re at: Grayson serving is serving two years in prison;
Mr. Gesualdi had his teaching license revoked; Mrs. Wexler resigned after revelations of her cover up; DeMarcus Tillman and Jenna Hawthorne were sentenced to community service, and Kevin’s felony counts were reduced from three to one, keeping his sentence of 9 months of house arrest.
But there’s good news, too. In June 2018, Peter and Sam check back in on the key characters. DeMarcus has broken free of the people controlling his life, and has decided to attend Villanova. Over the summer, he’s teaching a basketball camp. Kevin has Tanner and Chloe back in his life after overcoming their misunderstanding. He hopes Peter and Sam can stay in his life, too. The episode ends with his band’s final performance. Tanner and Chloe perform on stage while Kevin Skypes in from home. It sounds horrible, just as it should.
Best Poop Gag: Finally being free from poop.
Best True Crime Gag: Catfishing. Can American Vandal do cults next?
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