Episode one of USA Network’s Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story ended with Betty (Amanda Peet) seemingly surprised over the fact it only took one bullet to kill her ex-husband, Dan Broderick (Christian Slater). Episode two, “The Turtle and the Alligator,” picks up with a San Diego Police Department Homicide Detective on the witness stand. He explains he was called to Dan Broderick’s residence in Hillcrest on the morning of November 5, 1989.
A flashback to Eastchester, New York in 1963 shows schoolgirls firing at targets with rifles. One of the girls is Elisabeth Anne Bisceglia, and a priest interrupts her practice and instructs her to return home immediately. Her mom demands to know what she did wrong and only then does Betty realize she’s experiencing her first period and has bled all over her white shorts.
Her mother appears to lack human emotions and very briefly describes how to wear a sanitary napkin, tossing it at the confused young girl. Her mom’s complete lack of empathy is shameful.
Flash forward a few years and Betty’s mom presents a teenage Betty (played by Tiera Dyck-Skovbye) with a new spoon. (Apparently giving your daughter pieces of a serving set spread out over years until it’s complete is a thing. I’ve never heard of this tradition.) The civil discussion of spoons immediately sours when a boy calls on the phone. Her parents accuse her of being a slut, but she has no idea why they’d think that of her.
The story moves forward to South Bend, Indiana in 1965. Betty’s thrilled to be out overnight with friends and without her parents. Although there are chaperones nearby, a young Dan Broderick (Chris Mason) makes his move and introduces himself to Betty by writing his name – Daniel T. Broderick III MDA – on the tablecloth. She questions what MDA stands for and Dan jokes, “Medical doctor, almost.”
Dan’s about to start Cornell Medical School and Betty reveals she’s from New York and will soon be going to Mount St. Vincent. They flirt a little and Dan seems happy she’ll be close to Cornell.
Back to the trial where the detective discusses what happened in his first few minutes at the crime scene. Next, a friend of Betty’s takes the stand and recalls what Betty told her about killing Dan. She says Betty wasn’t sure she actually hurt Dan because he was able to sit up and say, “You shot me. I’m dead.”
The scene takes a jump to San Diego in 1977 as Dan’s being schmoozed while shown around a law firm that’s courting him. Dan’s introduced around as a doctor who went to Harvard Law School. Meanwhile, Betty is invited out for drinks with one of the wives.
The happy couple celebrate with a huge hug and kiss.
Another flashback to the ’60s finds Dan showing up super late for a date. Even though Betty was just about to leave, she quickly gets over her anger. It becomes obvious Dan consistently left Betty waiting and she consistently patiently waited for him to show up.
Days – and romantic dates – go by and Dan and Betty appear to be the perfect young couple. She’s gorgeous, he’s ambitious, and both have bright futures ahead of them. Dan repeatedly asks for her hand and Betty tells him no each time, wanting to finish college first.
And now we learn why this episode’s titled “The Turtle and the Alligator.” Apparently, when Dan wants to make Betty smile, he falls on his back and acts like a turtle. And, yes, he also acts like an alligator. Riddle solved.
Betty finally officially says yes to Dan’s proposal and the big day arrives. The couple wed in Westchester, New York on April 12, 1969. Betty looks stunning in her wedding gown but her mother’s upset about Dan’s attire. He promised to wear the formal morning dress and he’s not. Although her mom believes Dan will “ruin it all,” Betty doesn’t seem either shocked or angry about Dan’s clothing choice.
Her mom tries her best to destroy Betty’s big day but Betty doesn’t let it happen.
We see the happy family that now includes four children removing the “Sold” sign from the front yard of their Coral Reef home. More coverage of the trial follows that heartwarming scene as a friend describes Betty crying as she admitted she fired a gun at Dan’s house. The friend didn’t call the police because she didn’t believe Betty actually shot anyone.
A flashback shows Betty upset that her supervisors at the school have discovered she’s pregnant. She knows she’ll lose her teaching job and they need that to cover food and rent. Dan volunteers to pick up another shift at the lab but Betty thinks she can make up her lost income by selling Tupperware.
Although she’s had a full day teaching, Betty’s off to work at her second job. Dan, who’s driving a taxi to help with the bills, drives her to job #2.
Months pass and Betty’s given birth. Dan watches the baby while studying until Betty gets home from her waitressing job. She loses their second child early into her pregnancy.
While Betty’s mom sends them second-hand clothes for the baby, Dan orders a custom-made coat to wear during rounds. He’s all about looking successful and he wants to order more coats so that Betty doesn’t have to stay up late and spot clean one. (Dan has a pattern of assuming Betty will do all the domestic work, even suggesting she should make up the hotel room bed during their honeymoon.) Betty attempts to explain they don’t have the money for more coats, but Dan is unconcerned. He claims the coats will last for years.
Years later, Betty and Dan host a BBQ for Dan’s coworkers from the law firm. The women praise Betty’s decorating skills and her ability to impress on just an associate’s salary. Betty’s super charming and praises Dan’s friends as she receives the compliments.
Another flashback (this episode really jumps around a lot) finds Dan confessing he doesn’t want to practice medicine even though he’s spent years (and lots of money) attending med school. He’s decided he wants to be a lawyer instead. He tries to sell the idea but Betty’s confused. Dan explains he’ll be one of the few – maybe the only – lawyers with an MD. He’ll use his knowledge to specialize in medical malpractice litigation.
Dan breaks the news he applied to and was accepted at Harvard. Betty congratulates him but is leery about moving to Boston with two babies (she’s pregnant again). He asks for her patience and promises it will all pay off in the end. The bad news: they’ll have to get a loan because his dad won’t subsidize another degree. The good news: they’ll make much more money in the long run.
“What’s better, Bets – rich or richer?” asks Dan.
The action switches back to Betty as the dutiful wife fulfilling her role among the spouses at the law firm. They genuinely appreciate her planning and organizing skills and place much of the work for an upcoming gala in her hands.
These women seem to believe she and Dan have always had money and have always felt comfortable as part of the gala circuit. Yet another flashback shows just how wrong they are. Betty arrives at their apartment with a toddler, a baby in her arms, and carrying groceries. They’re in Boston now and she complains about the cold while Dan complains about his fellow students. Betty wonders what they can do to make him stand out and he mentions running for student government. That would mean he wouldn’t have time to work, so Betty – ever the dutiful wife – volunteers to step it up since it will help their future.
Betty’s pregnant again and having a miserable time of it. She would like to abort the baby as she’s tossing her cookies and hemorrhaging so much, but Dan refuses to allow it even when she points out they can barely afford the two girls they have now.
She’s exhausted and doesn’t think she has anyone to help, and Dan swears to be there for her. He promises to be more present in their relationship and pitch in more at home. “I’ll take care of you the way you take care of me,” he says as he caresses her face while she cries.
Dan reiterates that they’ll get through this together. Their mantra: image, confidence, success.
Betty’s alone when she experiences tremendous pain. She calls 9-1-1 to get to the hospital and hours later when Dan arrives she learns her baby’s dead.
During the trial, Betty’s dad testifies that Betty told him Dan was driving her up the wall and she felt like committing suicide. Betty never told him where she was or that she had just shot Dan during their phone call. He remembers trying to calm her down but she hung up on him.
Back to happier days, Betty’s pregnant once again. She and Dan laugh as she gets stuck on her back like a turtle.
Once more to the gala timeframe and it’s just days prior to the big event. Betty and her friend discuss Dan’s employment at the firm and how her husband, Martin, enjoys the work. Betty’s shocked to hear her friend say everyone at the law firm eventually becomes greedy, restless, and selfish. If you don’t leave the company, it changes you forever.
Later that evening Dan shows up late after celebrating a win. Betty’s cradling their new baby in bed when Dan wanders in from a long night of drinking with his co-workers. He claims he was pretty much forced to hang out or else be seen as lessor by his fellow lawyers.
Dan and Betty look handsome in their finery at the gala. We aren’t treated to much of the action before the scene cuts to their return home. Betty believes Dan’s talents are being wasted at the firm and he’s being grossly underpaid. She also thinks they’re jealous of his talents and claims he doesn’t need them nearly as much as they need him.
Dan wonders if he should quit and Betty is all in with him opening his own practice.
A short while later they’ve secured a large line of credit ($500,000) and Dan opens his own law office. He’s scared about the jump they’ve just made but Betty is a voice of calm and reason. Dan thinks maybe they bit off too much and he should have set up office somewhere less expensive. Betty reminds him he has to look like a high-flyer before he can become one.
As they discuss how to decorate his office, Betty throws up. She’s pregnant again.
Betty continues to be extremely supportive, reminding her hubby he can do anything. Dan jokes that if he’s successful, not a doctor in San Diego will take them on as patients. He jokes that means they have to live forever.
It turns out he’s close to being correct. When Betty has a visit with the pediatrician, his reaction to the news that Dan Broderick is her husband is to declare she has to have delivery by Caesarian section because it’s the method that allows the doctor the most control over the birth.
Months later, Betty gives birth to their fourth son. While in the hospital she asks Dan if she can have her tubes tied so she doesn’t have to go through this again. It’s too painful and she’s too sick throughout her pregnancies. Dan falls asleep in a chair while she’s trying to express her thoughts. He wakes up enough to agree to whatever she wants.
Betty and her friend from Dan’s old firm have a heart-to-heart and the lady reveals her husband’s cheating on her. He claims it’s not serious and he’s only slept with her a few times, but she isn’t sure this woman is even Martin’s first affair. She doesn’t know who her husband is at this point.
Episode two ends with the detective on the stand revealing Betty fired five rounds. One hit the wall, one hit the nightstand, one was on the rug under Dan’s dead body, and one was under Linda’s dead body. The fifth bullet was located inside Linda’s body at the morgue.
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 1 Recap and Review
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 3 “Marriage Encounter” Recap
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 4 “More To It Than Fun” Recap
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 5 “Scream Therapy” Recap
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 6 “The Twelfth of Never” Recap
- Dirty John: The Betty Broderick Story Episode 7 “The Shillelagh” Recap