High Desert follows Peggy Newman, an addict who decides to begin anew following the death of her mother and become a private investigator. The episodes are streaming on Apple TV+.
Episode 1 recap: Pain Management
Peggy Newman is having a family gathering at her lavish house with all of her family including her mother, brother, and sister when the house is raided by the DEA because she and her husband, Denny, were drug dealers.
10 years later, Peggy is on the road to recovery from drug addiction and working a dead-end job as an actor at Pioneertown, an old western re-enactment establishment.
Her siblings, Diane and Stewart visit her at work and tell her that they cannot support her anymore since their mother has passed away so she must get a real job or risk losing her house.
While ranting about her siblings to her close friend, Carol, Peggy sees an advertisement for a private investigator named Bruce Harvey on television and recognizes him as the man who took her colleague’s money but never did the job.
She visits his office and deduces that he hasn’t been doing any investigating in a while since he’s fallen on hard times. She suggests working for him and bringing in business because she’s good at this sort of thing.
Peggy tries to convince Diane and Stewart about the PI venture but they’re not too confident.
Meanwhile, another colleague of hers, Tammy, claims to be dating a famous person named Guru Bob and sends Peggy a video from his place to prove he’s legitimately rich after she questioned the authenticity of her diamond ring.
In the video, she spots a painting that has been missing for years and takes this discovery to Bruce. He takes her on as an unpaid associate after she deals with his pushy landlord for him.
She calls Diane to tell her that she got the job but sees her siblings ignoring her call and falls off the wagon, choosing to drop some acid. She visits Denny in prison with divorce papers and asks him to set her free but he refuses.
He eventually signs the documents but when she gets out, she notices that it’s a bogus signature and curses his name to the heavens.
Episode 2 recap: Two Knockers and No Boyfriend = A Felony
Peggy gets called into Pioneertown because some money has been robbed from the safe the owner accuses her of being the culprit. She establishes that the safe combination is the same as the alarm code so anyone could have stolen it and promises to find out who did.
Peggy tries to sell Bruce on the stolen painting case but he asks her to focus on getting to PI class and work toward getting her license instead so that he doesn’t go to jail for her.
She checks out the class but doesn’t want to spend the 50 hours learning from the archaic instructor who moves at a snail’s pace. She calls Carol to complain and Carol says she’ll attend the classes in her name since she didn’t reveal who she was to the instructor.
As she’s leaving the community college, Peggy notices someone who is the spitting image of her departed mother getting on the bus across the road. She wonders if she’s hallucinating but is convinced it was real.
Peggy sees Tammy at work crying because Guru Bob broke up with her but also notices that she’s had a breast enlargement. She immediately connects the dots and figures out that Tammy is the one that stole the money.
She gets Guru Bob’s address and confronts him at his place. She tells him that he must pay for the surgery or face trouble that he doesn’t want. She then goes on to snoop inside his house and finds some prescription medication in the name of a woman.
She takes it for herself and as she’s leaving, she sees Bob getting threatened by some dangerous-looking individuals but doesn’t bother helping him as they stuff Bob into their trunk.
Peggy gets high and visits a bingo hall to play some rounds just like she did with her mother. As she’s leaving, she gets a call from Bob but it’s a butt dial as he’s getting roughed up by those same people who claim that he owes them a lot of money.
In her intoxicated state, she backs her car out and straight into a trailer before passing out.
Episode 3 recap: I’m Getting Close to This Guru Bastard
Bob runs into a hospital covered in blood and his nipple in his hand before passing out. Peggy wakes up in her car which is a wreck at this point and manages to drive home, where Diane is showing their house to a realtor.
She asks Diane for some money to get a new car and assures her that she’s working on a big case that will solve her money problems. She later has the locks changed as she discusses what she found at Bob’s house with Carol.
Carol says that the woman whose name was on the medication was Bob’s wife who disappeared under mysterious circumstances and the family put out a reward for finding her.
Peggy tells Bruce about the reward but he says that he already knows about it. He insists that she has little chance of getting the reward because Bob’s wife intentionally disappeared after leaving a note and cleaning his bank account.
Carol is leaving the PI class when she sees the same woman who looks like Peggy’s mom and tells her to rush over there. They catch up to the bus that she’s on and Peggy gets on to sit down with the woman.
She learns that the woman’s name is Ginger and that she used to be an actress at one point. She gets her number before they split up and Peggy is picked up by Carol.
Carol shows her the video of Bob losing it on television back when he was a news anchor, the moment that gave him the “guru” tag. Peggy gets a call from the hospital informing her that Bob is in the hospital and they called her since her number was written on his arm.
She picks him up and drops him off at his home while continuing to pressure him about Tammy’s money. Bob is high on pain meds and Peggy uses this to find out where his checkbook is and makes him sign a check for 4000 dollars.
She also learns that the painting was acquired by Bob’s wife, Diane. Carol tells Peggy to write a play starring Ginger so that Peggy can work through her mommy issues for free.
Peggy gives the check to her boss, Owen, to cover the amount Tammy stole and then holds rehearsals for her play at Pioneertown, insisting to her boss that it will be a crowd-puller.
Owen is arrested for trying to cash in a stolen check and Peggy bails him out. She assures him that she’ll get the charges dropped and visits Bob. He tells her that they can discuss it over dinner because he’s also interested in her art dealer contact so that he make some money to pay off his debts.
She agrees to help him with a commission and has to step away when Diane calls. Diane says that Denny is out of prison and is trying to get into their house. Meanwhile, Bob’s debtors walk in and threaten him once more while taking his jeep as a form of payment.
Peggy returns home to find Dennis waiting for her in the kitchen.
- Patricia Arquette is the undoubted star of the first few episodes as she establishes what the show is about and goes about achieving that in an entertaining fashion. Her various moods are very convincing which is a credit to her talent.
- The sleuthing aspect of the series is building up at a fun pace as multiple mysteries are set up with intriguing hooks. The cast for this series includes some great professionals and they all have well-written characters to portray.
- The Substance abuse in the series is rampant and presumably going to be a central feature of the show which might not be for all audiences.
High Desert season 1 episodes 1, 2 and 3
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