Driving 12 hours is usually not a super exciting experience, so when my friend suggested that we listen to a new podcast she found, I was immediately interested. “Dirty John” was produced by Wondery and the Los Angeles Times and came out in October. It came out in segments totaling six episodes along with an intro that tells a chilling story which takes place Orange County, Calif. By the time that I listened to it, all the episodes had been released and I listened to them straight through, becoming more and more intrigued with each episode.
The description given on wondery.com reads, “A true story about seduction, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival.” This just grazes the surface of what the podcast is truly about. It starts with Debra, a middle-aged woman who is a successful interior designer and has her own business. She’s also been married multiple times when we meet her. Bring in John, known to many of his friends and acquaintances as Dirty John. He seems like the perfect man, a handsome anesthesiologist who makes her feel like she is the only person in the world.
Although the first date doesn’t go perfectly, Debra decides to give him a second chance which leads to a quickly escalating relationship. It seems like the perfect relationship, but there is something that Debra’s children don’t like about him. They don’t think he can be trusted and according to one of her daughters, he looked homeless.
As the podcast continues, more and more things don’t match up. John begins to live up to his nickname, but Debra hides a lot of this from her children and continues seeing him. As the events continue to unfold, the story takes a dark twist, with the listener never knowing where it will go next and who will escape unharmed.
The narrator of the podcast is Christopher Goffard, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times who has a voice that is meant for this type of podcast. It has a mysterious, yet serious tone, that adds a slightly spooky feel to it. This podcast that is based on true events is a mix of Goffard telling the story and interviews with the people involved, providing a first-hand account of the events as they unfolded.
“Who you marry might be the most important decision of your life, but it can also be the least rational. Maybe loneliness plays a role, maybe lust, maybe forces we don’t grasp at all. It’s guesswork and blind intuition,” Goffard says in the intro.
While this may seem unrelated in the first couple of episodes, as the podcast moves along and Debra and John become more involved, it becomes a major theme as well as an issue of conflict between Debra and her children.
Similar to the podcast “S-Town,” which made its debut earlier this year, it follows a real-life story, based on events that began in October 2014. Unlike “S-Town,” at the end of “Dirty John” you have most of the answers you’re looking for, leaving few questions unanswered.
The one thing that was strange about “Dirty John” was at times it seemed as though Goffard was repeating things that he had already said. As it went along, the details that he repeated were important to the story, but for the listener who is paying close attention to his words, it can be frustrating.
If you want a podcast that will keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next, while the story of John’s interactions with Debra and her family unfolds, than “Dirty John” is a must-listen.
“Dirty John” can be found on Wonderly or wherever you find your podcasts.