Why have I departed from exclusively recapping Suits to recap Ten Days in the Valley? Because Ten Days is a suspenseful story about a showrunner in L.A., as is my novel The Showrunner, coming out in June, 2018, thanks so much for asking. Also because Ten Days is a twisty mystery that will resolve by the end of the ten episode run. And we’re shown at the end of the first two episodes that the missing daughter is alive and well, hidden away somewhere, so I’m pretty certain there will be no grisly child murder or abuse scenes to fast forward through. For all that, I’ll put up with the handheld camera shots, of which there are not tons, at least. But if I’m going to recap the show, it had better not be cancelled before the run ends. (I’m looking at you, ratings.)
Ten days, ten episodes, one day per episode, I like the neatness of the structure. Not too keen though on the blurry flashbacks in Episode 1, the ones that establish that Jane Sadler, our showrunner anti-hero, did not have the greatest childhood. Her parents were irresponsible partiers who apparently had little regard for Jane and her younger sister, whose name is Ali. In the present, Ali has become the sensible one. She’s married, she’s Jane’s business manager, she’s a straight shooter, she’s all about calling the cops when Lake goes missing. She’s also undergoing fertility treatments, which allows her to bond with John Bird, the world-weary, slow-talking but sharp police detective who is assigned to the case. He helps Ali with her hormone injections because he knows all about them from the time when his second wife tried to get pregnant. She didn’t, though, and is now his ex, we gather, from the look of his lonely cop apartment.
Jane, on the other hand, may be a talented filmmaker – we hear early and often about her award-winning documentary that exposed police corruption – but she’s also a work-obsessed, substance-abusing (Ambien, cocaine, Adderall, whole bottles of wine – and that’s just in the first episode), distracted if loving mother of Lake, age 7 or so. Lake is a sensitive child, bright and fun (see her and Jane do hip-hop dancing together!) who says creepy things like, “When I’m away with Dad, I miss you so much I think I want to go to heaven.”
A sleeping Lake is taken from Jane’s bed on a rainy night sometime between 1-4 am, while Jane was in the backyard shed rewriting a scene to be shot the next morning for the fictional – or is it? – cop show that she now produces. The sliding glass doors at the back of the house were open, and Jane had a baby monitor with her, on which she heard nothing but static.
Jane freaks out big-time when she discovers that Lake is missing, but she’s also a big fat liar who lies: about the film student/drug dealer/Korean BBQ delivery guy who dropped off some cocaine to her in the shed in the middle of the night, about her love life, about how much the TV show is based on the dirty truths she learned about police practices while researching that documentary.
Jane is recently separated from her husband Pete, a skeevy music producer with an Aussie accent. He’s a heroin addict (currently clean, he claims), he’s fucking Jane’s young skinny assistant Casey on the down-low, and he claims to adore his daughter, while hating Jane for making him adhere to the terms of their custody arrangement. He’s portrayed as a nasty, manipulative jerk who cares more about slagging Jane than about finding his daughter. His alibi (that he was with Casey) is fake; he receives a text that says “where is my money?” And his car, or one like it, was seen outside Jane’s house on the night in question. Jane is so convinced that Pete arranged the abduction to punish her and cast aspersions about her parenting skills that he can’t be the culprit, can he?
The other suspects/shady characters introduced in episodes 1 and 2:
- Bea, the Salvadorean nanny. She’s poor, has an ex-con gardener boyfriend who has stolen valuable stuff (like leftover fancy bathroom floor tiles, go figure) from Jane, and she never told Jane about the 16-year-old daughter she is trying to bring to the US, an effort that will cost money she doesn’t have.
- Matt, the head writer on the cop show. Described on the show website as being Jane’s right-hand man, he seems to question Jane’s judgment and challenge her ideas more than he backs her up. As if he were trying to take over the show. Sidenote: is it just me, or does the writers’ room seem a little understaffed?
- Tom, Ali’s husband, who is friends with nasty Pete, AND a recently laid-off journalist who can’t afford to pay for the next round of IVF for Ali.
- Commander Gomez, a police big wig who gets his hands on leaked scripts of Jane’s cop show in advance of each episode because he apparently fears exposure of evil doings, though whether those doings are his own or his department’s is yet to be revealed.
- Gus, an undercover narcotics cop who meets Jane secretly to chide her for not sufficiently disguising in her scripts the source material he has given her. According to the previews for next week, Gus is also Jane’s lover. About whom Jane, of course, lied.
- Possibly Sheldon, the Korean BBQ taco chef/drug kingpin who runs a successful food truck business (shades of Roy Choi or what) while dispensing the hard stuff, including to trendy glamourpusses at his ultra-cool loft. That’s where Jane stupidly snorts some Special K to prove she’s not a cop, and spends the the night high, naked and passed out in the loft’s bathroom, after taking a shower during which the mascara on her false eyelashes does an excellent job of being waterproof.
Who isn’t a suspect? Maybe not Commander Gomez’s comely female assistant/underling, who is sleeping with a woman writer on the show to get access to the scripts. And probably not Detective John Bird and his underlings Buddy and Nicole, though why are 12 cops from the Robbery and Homicide department working around the clock on what looks at first to be a child custody dispute?
Next week: more revelations, and a more timely recap from me, I pledge.
Kim Moritsugu is a Toronto novelist and sometime TV show recapper. Her most recent book is a suburban comedy of manners called The Oakdale Dinner Club. Coming in 2018: The Showrunner, a darkly humourous, suspenseful Hollywood-noir novel about female ambition inside the TV biz.