American Nightmare – Season 1 Episode 2 Recap & Review

Part Two: Gone Girl

American Nightmare Episode 2 begins with Denise being interviewed. She explains what happened when she was kidnapped. She reveals she was told to put swimming goggles on and was drugged. She tried not to panic but feared she would be raped and tortured as she was taken away in a car. 

It was broad daylight. But where were they? She could smell pine trees, and it was quiet. It appeared to be remote land in the woods. The attacker grabbed her feet and dragged her inside somewhere. He told her this was meant for Aaron’s ex Andrea and claimed to be part of a black market company that kidnaps people for money. He told her of plans to release her in 48 hours, and she passed out. 

Denise says she could hear French pop music playing in the background as she woke up. The attacker told her he struggled with insomnia and had PTSD from being in the military. And he then said they have a problem because he hasn’t got any collateral to ensure she won’t speak to the police when she is released. He says one of the group is going to have sex with her, and it’ll be recorded and they could release it on the internet if she talks. Denise is then raped. Afterward, he took her into the bathroom and she was allowed to take the goggles (she was forced to wear) off when he was not in the room. She says she felt detached and took a shower. 

The next morning – 28 hours after being kidnapped – he came into Denise’s room and said he’s lost contact with Aaron, and claimed his associates were on their way, but warned her not to engage with them. A car then pulled up. 

He said they needed to record a proof of life message and told her to say her name. This is the recording we heard in episode 1. He then said he needed to record them having sex again, and it needed to appear to be consensual, like they were having an affair. He taped her eyes shut and raped her again. 

40 hours after Denise was kidnapped – French music is playing again. He knocked on her door in the middle of the night and told Denise he wanted to show her something. He showed her a video of her father talking to the media. She finally broke down, and he commented that it must feel real now. 

It’s time to go home, he announced. He said he couldn’t drop her off in the Bay Area, and would instead take her to Huntington Beach. 

He made 2 demands of her – She can’t mention he was in the military and she can’t say they had sex. He said ‘we will always be watching you.’ He then threatened to kill her family if she talked. He told Denise to count to 10 when she heard the car drive off after letting her go. Denise saw a sign for a street called Utica. It was a familiar street to her as she grew up around here. She was flooded with memories of childhood and became emotional. She was also relieved to be released from captivity. 

Denise went to her father’s house. However, he wasn’t not home. The neighbour asked if she was ok and then took her in. Police officers arrived to speak to Denise. She was overwhelmed by the sound of helicopters and the media camped outside. The police told her they were offering her a proffer agreement, which is immunity. ‘Immunity from what?’ she asked. She says she was totally lost and confused and hired a lawyer to help her out with everything. 

Doug Rappaport is the lawyer who steps in and he tells her to not give the police anymore statements, as Vallejo police have essentially thrown her under the bus. 

25 hours after Denise’s release – she speaks to Vallejo police in an interrogation room with her lawyer present. An FBI agent by the name of David Sesma enters alongside Detective Mat Mustard. This interview takes place after they have accused her of lying in their shocking press conference. 

She tells them about her attacker, but they look at her like she’s a criminal. However, Denise and Aaron’s stories both match up with each other. Lawyers for Aaron and Denise advise them not to talk to each other until their interrogations are over. 

Detective Mat Mustard then makes a shocking statement by saying ‘Haven’t you seen the movie Gone Girl?’ and implies this case is similar to the plot of the movie. In his interview, Rappaport states that this is something called confirmation bias. Police claim Denise could face 1 year to 18 months for lying. She faces a lifetime of not being believed and thinks her life is destroyed. 

Denise and Aaron eventually meet up and try to come to terms with what has happened to them and work on the problems in their relationship. Elsewhere, police aren’t looking for the kidnappers and have total tunnel vision, convinced Aaron and Denise are lying. 

Journalist Henry Lee gets an email from the attackers claiming responsibility for Denise’s kidnapping. They say the police need to believe her. Lee sends the email correspondence to Vallejo police but he reveals he never heard back from them. Lee keeps on getting emails from the kidnappers until 1 final email arrives saying the police have 24 hours to issue an apology to Aaron and Denise or they’ll do it again. 

The episode ends with a title card saying June 5, 2015 – Dublin, California (40 miles from Vallejo). There’s a home invasion. A couple’s daughter is getting kidnapped, and the husband is fighting with the attackers. 


The Episode Review

Episode 1 set up Denise’s story perfectly, and most of episode 2 focuses on her story in her own words, and it is harrowing. She paints an accurate picture of the ordeal she faced, and there are reconstructions to represent the hell she went through.

The episode then catches up with the events of her release that were teased in the previous episode. It’s a very clever technique to bring the story up to speed, and the revelation at the end of the episode of more attacks ups the ante once again, making the viewer want to carry on with this superb documentary series. 

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You can look forward to a full season review when this show ends!

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