Danger is seeping into the edges of Dirty John. Some of the show’s characters, like Veronica (Juno Temple) and Terra (Julia Garner), sensed danger the moment they met John Meehan (Eric Bana), their mother’s new boyfriend. Other characters, like their mother Debra Newell (Connie Britton), were reluctant to acknowledge that John could be anything but a charming surgeon who worked for Doctors With Borders — and not, say, a dangerous con artist.
At the start of “Red Flags and Parades,” episode 2 of Dirty John, danger quite literally enters the lavish beachside house that Debra and John share. An intruder (Lindsey Kraft of Grace and Frankie) walks into the Balboa Island home through the back door, which looks out onto the pier. In another show, this water-soaked woman would absolutely be a mermaid coming on land to find prey. She stares at Debra hungrily with her hands clasped in a prayer position and calmly whispers, “Hi, friend.” Then, John swoops in to restrain the woman. He wrestles her onto the bed, and she’s taken away by police.
Following the intrusion, Debra is obviously flummoxed. “I’ve never heard of anything like that happening in this neighborhood,” Debra says. “That was really scary.” Debra’s disturbed that some kind of unpleasantness has pierced her happy bubble. Well, she better get used to it: This is to be the first of many uncomfortable disruptions — the next one obviously being that John is not, in fact, a good guy at all.
But who is this intruder? As the woman gets into the police car, she gives Debra and John a knowing glance — the kind of glance that says: “I know what you did last summer,” or, “I’ll be back.” As it turns out, she will be back. On her IMDB page, Kraft’s character, who goes unnamed this episode, is listed as Ruth. Ruth is set to appear in episodes 2 and 7 of Dirty John.
As with the rest of Dirty John, this intruder encounter is based in reality, if a bit altered from the actual events. In the podcast Dirty John, L.A. Times reporter Christopher Goffard recounts the story. Newell and Meehan walked into their home to find a strange woman in their living room.
“She had taken a shower, and she was wearing Debra’s clothes. She was facing the big window that looked out on the Newport Harbor, drinking a glass of Ovaltine. John pushed her head onto the countertop, pulled her arms behind her, and told Debra to leave and call the police,” Goffard narrates. According to Goffard, even then, Debra wondered if Meehan knew her.
After her brief appearance on episode 2 of the podcast, the intruder isn't mentioned again. However, the encounter has major repercussions on the story that unfolds in both the podcast and show. Meehan uses the intrusion as an excuse to install security cameras. "God forbid there's a next time and I didn't do everything I could now, I'd go crazy," John explains in the show.
From the moments the cameras are installed, Meehan can monitor Newell's movements, tightening his control on her – all while pretending he's on her side. This intruder scheme is proof of Meehan’s minister mastermind. The real Meehan may have hired a drifter to create the illusion of some danger lurking out of the house that he could protect Newell from. In reality, he was the danger — and he was sleeping next to Newell every night.
While the intruder’s identity remains open-ended in the Dirty John podcast, it’s likely she’ll be a sketched-out character in the show (after all, she has a name!). Many questions remain. How does she know John? Will her identity help sway the case Debra's daughters are building against him with the help of a a private investigator? Is she John's buddy from his homeless days?
We'll have to wait until episode 7 to find out.