Based on a true story (Season 1) Recap & Ending Explained: “Based On A True Story” is a tempting Peacock original series that delves into the lives of Ava Bartlett (Kaley Cuoco), a successful realtor, and her husband, Nathan Bartlett (Chris Messina), a former tennis star. Their lives take an unexpected turn when they meet Matt Pierce (Tom Bateman), a plumber who seizes a unique opportunity to capitalize on America’s hunger for true crime.

Created by Craig Rosenberg, this eight-episode comedy-thriller showcases a fresh and unique approach to crime thrillers. The series provides an entertaining commentary on people’s fascination with murder investigations and the psychology of criminals or crime suspects. By ingeniously incorporating elements such as podcasts and true crime thrillers, “Based On A True Story” sheds light on the millions of dedicated true crime enthusiasts who tirelessly investigate everyday crimes.

As Ava and Nathan enter the next phase of their lives, including the arrival of their baby, the series explores the transformative effect this has on their dynamic. It captures their struggles both in their personal and professional lives, showing the tensions and changes that arise within relationships when individuals embark on new chapters in their lives.

With witty writing, brilliant performances, and intriguing plotlines, “Based On A True Story” effortlessly captures your attention and becomes your must-watch weekend binge. The Peacock original is a clever satire, serving as a gentle prod to those engrossed in murder investigations and true crime stories, encouraging viewers to reflect on the extent to which they immerse themselves in these narratives and the impact they may have on their own lives.

Based on a true story (Season 1) Recap:

Episode 1: The Great American art form

The episode begins with the gruesome murder of a young girl, played by Natalie Dyer. The action then shifts to a middle-aged couple, the heavily pregnant Ava, a real estate agent, and her husband Nathan, a former tennis champion who now heads a tennis club. They both seem to be going through a midlife crisis, and their marriage is facing some roadblocks. When Nathan gets fired from his job of 17 years, they find themselves struggling to decide how to move forward with their lives, especially with limited finances. To make matters worse, Ava’s sister Tory, who lives with them, accidentally clogs the toilet, leading them to purchase a new one.

The plumber they hire to fix the toilet turns out to be a tennis fan, which leads to them offering him a proposition: a few tennis lessons in exchange for his plumbing services. The plumber, named Matt, agrees and starts hanging out with Nathan. Meanwhile, Ava, an avid listener of murder podcasts, becomes engrossed in the story of the Westside Ripper, a serial killer who has been targeting young girls in Los Angeles. She often discusses the latest developments in the case with her group of middle-aged women friends. One day, while using Nathan’s laptop, Ava stumbles upon news of the murder of a young woman, the same victim from the opening scene. Realizing that Nathan had been in close proximity to this woman the night before, Ava becomes suspicious. After finding some new evidence, she becomes convinced that Matt, their plumber, might be the serial killer responsible for the murders.

Instead of going to the police, Ava proposes to Nathan that they turn this discovery into a podcast. She believes that they can make it go viral and attract a large audience. She suggests that Nathan should approach Matt and invite him to be a part of the podcast, making it a unique and captivating show.

The episode concludes with Nathan confronting Matt and posing the question in front of him, leaving the audience eagerly awaiting his response.

Episode 2 – BDE

The second episode opens with a flashback of Matt at a grocery store with his son. As he buys cereal, his eyes fall on the girl who was killed in the previous episode. A brief montage shows us how he observes her movements before eventually killing her. The episode then transitions to the moment Nathan proposes the podcast idea to him on the beach, where they plan to surf.

Matt doesn’t admit to being the killer and remains silent in response to Nathan’s proposal, leaving both their ideas of a podcast hanging in the air. Feeling unsettled by the lack of a proper answer, Nathan hastily rushes out of the water. In his usual self-deprecating manner, he pities himself for not even completing the small tasks his wife asked him to do. Meanwhile, Ava remains composed and encourages him to focus his energy on his daily activities. She receives a phone call related to work, and their day continues as if everything is okay. However, Nathan struggles to concentrate at work, and just before he can take any action, two detectives from the LAPD visit him. 

They question him about his whereabouts and inquire about his connection to the murdered girl. Panicked, Nathan lies to them, but when they show him a photo of the girl with him, he claims to have briefly interacted with her. They also ask him about Matt, whom they cannot identify at that moment. In a state of panic, he decides to come clean and tells them that Matt is his friend, and they often hang out at the bar for drinks.

Meanwhile, Ava is with her three friends, who are gathered for a get-together with their husbands. Fashionably late to the gathering, Nathan informs Ava about the detectives visiting him. Trying to calm Nathan down, Ava advises him that talking to the police will jeopardize their podcast idea and put Matt in a vulnerable situation, potentially causing harm to them all. 

While all of them are having drinks, Ava reveals that Nathan quit his job, but Nathan interrupts and admits that he was actually fired. Their friends attempt to be supportive, praising Nathan’s confidence – his ‘big dick energy’ if you must, but it only intensifies his discomfort with himself. Nathan overhears one of Ava’s friends boasting about her husband’s wealth and intelligence, further fueling his insecurities. 

The next day, he meets Matt at a local diner after not taking his calls earlier. They engage in a heated discussion about Nathan’s proposal, and a clever Harry Potter reference is dropped in. Initially, Matt adamantly advises Nathan to drop the podcast idea and move on with his life, warning him about the unknown dangers involved. However, seeing Nathan’s determination, Matt ultimately decides to be a part of the podcast.

Ava, who has had a rough day due to her boss taking away mansion deals from her and telling her to focus on selling apartments, is ecstatic to see Nathan committed to doing the podcast and being able to bring Matt on board. Finally, they have some excitement and spice in their marriage, and both of them are equally thrilled – leading them to have sex in Ava’s office space.

Ava later rents a warehouse for six months, the place where they will record their podcast, and sets everything up. However, just before they go on air, Matt shows up at their doorstep and asks Ava if he can have a chat with her.

A still from Based on a True Story (Season 1).
A still from Based on a True Story (Season 1).

Episode 3: Who’s next?

Episode 3 takes a slightly different turn, focusing on creative differences during creation. The episode opens with Matt at Nathan and Ava’s doorstep, pretending to be there to fix an emergency leak that Nathan had asked him to address. Feeling apprehensive about the situation, Ava remains silent and allows him to proceed with the repairs. However, soon enough, Matt raises the question that forces Ava to confess about the podcast idea and the evidence she found, revealing that it was all Ava’s doing because she and Matt share similar perspectives and ways of thinking. Meanwhile, Nathan waits at the warehouse for Matt’s arrival, becoming increasingly anxious as time passes until both Ava and Matt finally reach the location together.

The three of them sit down to discuss how to move forward, but the conversation becomes more one-sided, with one person dominating while the others vulnerably agree to everything. Matt suggests finding a better recording location, pointing out that the current one has unwanted background noise and is not secure enough to avoid detection by SWAT teams. 

The show starts to revolve around the process of creating something, with Matt dropping cheeky references to turn the podcast – which he proposes to call “Based on a True Story” into its own universe. He claims that their podcast could eventually become something that leads to a legacy sequel, similar to “Top Gun: Maverick.”

As the meticulous planning takes time, Ava overhears that one of their competitors plans to discuss the West Side Ripper case in their upcoming episode, which infuriates her. However, Matt reassures her that anyone covering the same case would lack the authenticity they possess. With better equipment and a new location arranged, the three of them record the episode.

However, Matt is not entirely satisfied with Ava and Nathan’s cut of the podcast. He insists that they need to refine certain elements to make it feel more original. He randomly shows up at Nathan’s club and tells him that he has come up with an alternative cut that he wants them to consider. While Ava and Nathan initially show little interest in his suggestions, they eventually find them to be an improvement and meet up with Matt the following day with a few notes of their own. 

The diner scene, one of the funniest in the show, depicts the absurdity of a serial killer giving artistic advice about a project centered around him. While the podcast was initially Ava and Nathan’s idea, it seems like Matt has completely taken control and wants everything to go his way.

His vision clashes with theirs; he claims that he doesn’t want to turn the podcast into something typical and mundane, and having those elements in it is important for him. However, Ava notes that having the question “Who’s next?” at the episode’s ending was one of the main points that she was against. She reminds him that they made a promise to only continue with the podcast if he stops killing. To counter her argument, Matt claims that nobody would want to listen to a retired serial killer, and ending the podcast at that moment would be a thrilling cliffhanger.

Matt also reveals to Nathan that the LAPD detectives visited him and asked about his alibi. He informs them that he told the detectives he went to Nathan’s place after drinking at the bar and saw the film Face/Off. The following day at the club, Nathan wrestles with second thoughts about their collaboration with a serial killer, contemplating how he will face his future child and explain their involvement. The club manager checks in on him, mentioning that her daughter and Matt’s son are going to have a play date, potentially leading to something more for herself and Matt too.

 Nathan avoids directly answering her, stating that he doesn’t know Matt well. His colleague also mentions that the LAPD detectives have been looking for him. Just then, Ava arrives at the club, and they sit down together to check the number of podcast downloads they have received. However, before they can check the number of downloads, the detectives show up again, causing Ava and Nathan to panic and hastily move to the terrace area. Fearing the consequences, Ava urges Nathan to not mess up and to stick to the alibi narrative. Somehow, Matt is able to handle the situation smoothly, allowing the detectives to leave without suspicion.

The episode concludes with Ava and Nathan finally checking the number of podcast downloads, and they gasp in amazement at the response.

Episode 4: The Survivor 

The episode opens with Nathan and Ava attending Crime-Con in Vegas. Their podcast hasn’t been as successful as they had hoped, with only 130 downloads in the past week. To gain insight into how most crime podcasts work, they decide to attend the Sisters of Crime Live podcast panel at Crime-Con. The podcast features Chloe’s mother, who was killed in the first episode, along with one of the survivors of the West Side Ripper.

Matt, who has also joined Nathan and Ava for the Crime-Con lessons, questions the survivor Dahlia’s story and calls it bullshit. Dahlia, who has written about her experience with the West Side Ripper in her book “Not Today,” claims to have faced the Ripper and kicked him in the balls. Matt believes her book is just a facade, even borrowing the title from Game of Thrones, and wants to confront her about her experience.

Meanwhile, Nathan and Ava, who have returned to Vegas after a long time, reminisce about their younger days when they were full of energy. Ava’s friend Ruby is also at Crime-Con with her boyfriend, whom she is having an affair with. Ruby assumes that Ava is also having an affair with Matt. We also see Ava fantasizing about Ryan while in the bathtub.

As Nathan and Ava enter the lift for dinner, Matt joins them as well. The lift stops on a floor, and Dahlia enters, making the atmosphere tense for everyone. Nathan and Ava are afraid that Dahlia might recognize Matt, which could ruin their plans. However, she doesn’t recognize him and leaves for her book signing. 

Matt follows her until she goes up to the top floor and has a solitary drink. This is where Matt confronts her about her trauma therapy, surviving the West Side Ripper, and how difficult it must have been for her to write all of that in her book. While he is initially appreciative, he soon becomes confrontational, presenting her with facts he knows. When he leaves her, we see that she is really upset, especially since he was questioning her about not having experienced the things she has written in her book. At this point, we’re unsure if Matt is genuinely confronting or gaslighting her.

The episode ends with Dahlia jumping from the top floor right into a poolside umbrella, killing herself.

Episode 5: Ted Bundy Bottle Opener

The fifth episode opens in Nathan and Ava’s hotel room, where they are freaking out about Matt killing Dahlia. Ava wants to leave immediately and go back to their normal lives because Matt has broken his promise of not killing anyone. However, Nathan tells her not to overreact and assures her that leaving right now would only raise suspicion and make things weird for them. Ava is anxious and insists on leaving anyway. But, before they can take the next step, Matt arrives in their room and warns them that leaving will only draw the attention of the police, who may suspect their involvement.

Matt tells them to stick to the plan and act like normal people enjoying Vegas. He explains that they have to stay for a while if they don’t want suspicion to fall on them. So Nathan and Ava decide to join Ruby and her boyfriend for a Vegas party.

At the pub, Ruby offers them an edible, which Nathan takes, and they all drink to their hearts’ content. Nathan and Ava have a heart-to-heart, enjoying each other’s company and having a mutual appreciation towards each other. 

Meanwhile, Matt meets a fellow true crime enthusiast who is deeply interested in the West Side Ripper and believes that Dahlia was lying and she wasn’t a victim of the Ripper. They bond over their shared interest in crime stories. The woman, who is a TV writer dealing with the Ripper’s stories, tells him about needing fresh, original content. Matt discovers something during their conversation and abruptly leaves the party.

The next day, while Nathan and Ava are enjoying the buffet, fans surround the Lipinski sisters of the Sisters in Crime podcast. Nathan and Ava, who are there to learn more about podcasts from the sisters, decide not to approach them. During their panel, news breaks that the West Side Ripper is doing a live podcast in one of the halls. 

Ruby, who is also attending the Sisters in Crime panel, leaves and calls Ava to inform her about it. Upon hearing this, Nathan and Ava quickly leave the buffet and rush to the panel that Matt has organized. When they arrive, they see a massive crowd gathering to listen to the podcast, which now claims that the West Side Ripper actually killed Dahlia. 

Ava becomes furious. She sends a text to Matt on her burner phone, asking him to meet them outside the panel hall. However, before they can go out and talk to him, she drops her phone, and Ruby finds it.

Ava and Nathan are angry at Matt for going ahead with his plan without informing them. They are also upset that he killed Dahlia. However, Matt explains that he made it up because the listeners are actually interested in sensational stories like that. He points to the large number of people who have come to hear the breaking news and suggests that this is the direction they should take now.

The episode ends with Ruby reading a text message on Ava’s phone, which reveals that Ava knows the West Side Ripper and is in contact with him for the Based on a True Story podcast. 

Episode 6: I Love You Buzzfeed

Nathan and Ava are on their way to Ruby’s house for an auction organized by her and Simon. They discuss the sudden success of their podcast, “Based on a True Story,” and how it has gained recognition across America. They read articles about the podcast’s positive reception and the million-dollar deal offered by Spotify. When they arrive at Ruby’s house, they are ecstatic about the opportunities the podcast has brought them.

While basking in their newfound success, they realize that Matt has also come to the party with Nathan’s work colleague Michelle. Now that they have some financial stability, they discuss the possibility of buying back the dog they had given to Simon. Nathan, who is unhappy with how his dog is being treated, suggests using the money they’re making to get the dog back.

Meanwhile, Ruby takes Ava into a different room, confronts her about the burner phone, and claims that Matt is the West Side Ripper. Ava, taken aback by this, explains that “Based on a True Story” is just a fictional podcast where Matt pretends to be the Ripper while she and Nathan produce it. Although Ruby is initially skeptical, she believes Ava’s lie, and they all come together for the auction dinner. Ruby has also invited Ava’s sister Tory, and as everyone sits at the dinner table, contrasting opinions about the podcast arise. While some consider it groundbreaking, others, including Tory, find it disgusting.

Just as the discussion becomes heated, Simon shifts the focus to the people behind “Based on a True Story” and accuses them of being motivated solely by money. He singles out Carlos, Ruby’s boyfriend, suggesting that he should establish a gym in New York and leave everything behind. Simon’s comment stems from jealousy over Carlos’ relationship with Ruby. Carlos takes the offer and his money, leaving Ruby devastated and in tears as she retreats to another room.

In a moment of impulse, Ruby expresses her desire to be a part of the podcast, claiming to know a lot about marketing. Ava bluntly tells her that it’s not a good idea and that they cannot include her in their podcast in any way. This further upsets Ruby, and she becomes angry, shouting at Simon upon returning to the dinner table. Meanwhile, Matt, Nathan, and Ava are in a state of panic as they see celebrities like Jessica Alba and others tweeting against their podcast, resulting in platforms like iTunes dropping their episodes.

The heated argument between Simon and Ruby escalates, leading him to shoot the dog in the other room. He then returns to the dinner table and points his gun at Nathan, who deeply loved the dog. Matt somehow manages to calm Simon down as Nathan rushes to see the wounded dog and cries in anguish. With the gun in his hand, Simon receives a message that Spotify has withdrawn their offer for “Based on a True Story.”

Episode 7: National Geographic

A still from Based on a True Story (Season 1) on Peacock

Episode 7 opens with Nathan reading about the cancellation of “Based on a True Story” from all major podcast streaming platforms. He fantasizes about a moment with Ruby, which sparks an idea in him: they should go independent and create a subscription-based audience. Matt is excited by Nathan’s idea and believes it can work, especially if they introduce new content. However, he also announces that he has been missing killing people and feels it’s time to get back into the game. This distresses Ava and Nathan, who strongly oppose his dangerous plans.

Meanwhile, Tory catches Ava masturbating in the bathroom after an argument with Nathan. Curious, Tory inquires about her secret fantasy, leading Ava to confess that she often fantasizes about a buyer named Ryan. Tory warns her that indulging in such fantasies and potentially pursuing them could have unintended consequences and disrupt her life.

Back at Nathan’s club, he realizes that Matt has ended his relationship with his colleague Michelle, hinting that she might be his next target. However, before Nathan can inform Ava about this, Matt abducts and takes him to their pub to play darts and talk things out. 

Matt confesses that being the center of the podcast and having fans eagerly anticipate the West Side Ripper’s words has been the most significant thing in his life. He manipulates and gaslights Nathan, making him feel angry and feeling responsible for the dog’s death, which leads Nathan to almost become aggressive with Matt.

Meanwhile, Ava shows Ryan one of the properties she can sell, and she confesses that she has been fantasizing about him. She wants to bring this issue to light for both of them to understand the situation. Ryan, however, reveals that he has not had any fantasies of that nature about her.

Angry and upset, Nathan returns home after leaving the pub. Ruby knocks at the door and somewhat blackmails and tempts him to give her a share of the experience of doing the Based on a True Story podcast. 

Later, when Ava arrives, Nathan blindfolds her and takes her away in his car. They arrive at a beautiful beachside house in Malibu that Nathan claims to have leased for them. Ava is surprised by this gesture and confronts him, emphasizing that they need to address their marital issues before making such a significant leap in their lives. She tells him that they haven’t been truly connecting with each other for a while and that buying a new house won’t fix that. In her anger, she tells him that he gave up on life after his tennis injury and became too closed off to care about anything else.

Just as they are about to leave the house, they both scream in shock upon discovering a dead body on the doorstep. The camera pans to the face of the deceased, revealing that it’s Ruby with a blue dart lodged in her neck, hinting at Matt’s next strike as the West Side Ripper. 

Episode 8: The Universe

The final episode of Season 1 of “Based on a True Story” opens with a panicked Ava and Nathan calling Matt, urging him to get rid of Ruby’s body. Matt, who is engaged in a Zoom call with fellow serial killers, is unsupportive of their request and insists that they deal with it themselves. He also informs them that he will be waiting for them at their house, which causes them to worry about what he might do to Tory since he has resumed his killing spree. 

Nathan drives as fast as he can from Malibu to their house. Upon their arrival, they are greeted with a surprise party celebration—it’s their 10th-anniversary party that Tory has organized along with Matt.

An angry Nathan and Ava pull Matt aside into another room and demand an explanation for why he killed Ruby. Mat reveals that Ruby was planning to go to the police, and he intervened to save their reputation. He also proposes various spin-off ideas for the podcast, including featuring disabled serial killers sharing their stories. 

Just then, Tory informs them that an uninvited guest is at the party. The party crasher turns out to be Simon, who is there to reconcile with Nathan. They step outside to discuss their issues, and Nathan expresses that he cannot forgive Simon for killing his dog and pointing a gun at him. While they are outside talking, Ruby’s phone, which is still in the trunk with her body, starts ringing. Nathan barely manages to divert Simon’s attention from the ringing phone and instructs him to go back inside.

Later, Nathan and Ava return to their car and check Ruby’s phone. In an attempt to verify Matt’s claim about killing Ruby to protect them, they search her phone and find a voice note from an LAPD officer. Upon their return to the party, Tory delivers a heartfelt speech about how Nathan and Ava rescued her from her stepmother’s clutches and took her in when she was just ten years old.

Based on a True Story (Season 1) Ending Explained: 

Why doesn’t Matt help Ava and Nathan dispose of Ruby’s body?

As the party comes to an end, Matt offers Ava and Nathan shoe covers, suggesting that they go ahead and dispose off Ruby’s body on their own. He doesn’t help them because he wants them to feel equally responsible for Ruby’s death.

The two of them transport the body to Nathan’s club, where they decide to place it in the ditch that the authorities had previously dug up in the middle of the tennis court. 

Nathan knows that the club will be empty at this hour and that the CCTV cameras are not functional, ensuring that they have the place to themselves. Since the club plan to cover the entire area with cement the next day, Nathan digs a shallow hole and buries the body there. The two of them also briefly discuss their nerves about having a baby before leaving the court and returning to clean the newly purchased Malibu house.

In the final moments of “Based on a True Story” Season 1, it is revealed that Matt and Tory have been secretly having an affair, and Nathan and Ava are completely unaware of it. 

Whether Tory knows that Matt is the serial killer remains uncertain, leaving things open-ended and leaving viewers eagerly anticipating future twists and sinister developments.

Additionally, when Ava and Nathan are bonding while cleaning the blood from the floor of their Malibu house, Simon unexpectedly appears at the doorstep, possibly having traced Ruby’s phone, and questions them about whose blood they are cleaning.

Read More: Has ‘Based on a True Story’ been renewed for Season 2? Here’s what we know!

Based on a True Story (Season 1) Trailer

Based on a True Story (Season 1) Show Links – IMDb, Wikipedia
Based on a True Story (Season 1) Show Cast – Kaley Cuoco, Chris Messina, Tom Bateman, Priscilla Quintana, Liana Liberto
Where to watch Based on a True Story

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