High Desert (Season 1), Episodes 1, 2 & 3 Recap & Ending Explained: ‘High Desert’ is the new Apple TV+ series created by Jay Roach. The writer-director is known for making outrageous comedies early in his career to some serious dramas such as Bombshell and Trumbo. His new dark comedy series stars Patricia Arquette as Peggy, an addict who decides to make a fresh start after the death of her beloved mother. The title refers to the small desert town of Yucca Valley in California, where the drama unfolds.
Besides supremely talented Arquette, the series also stars Bernadette Peters, Brad Garrett, Weruche Opia, Matt Dillon, Christine Taylor, and Rupert Friend in the central roles. Let’s find out in detail what ‘High Desert’ is about.
High Desert (Season 1), Episodes 1, 2 & 3 Recap:
Episode 1: Pain Management
The series begins with a wildly chaotic moment. Peggy (Patricia Arquette) and her husband, Denny (Matt Dillon), greet their guests in a lavish bungalow while Peggy’s mother, Roselyn (Bernadette Peters), prepares some meals. The feds unexpectedly arrive at the door during this particularly eventful family gathering. Denny goes into panic mode and alerts everyone to hide in different places. While the family tries to get rid of incriminating evidence, the feds keep banging on their doors and windows.
Fast forward to ten years later, Peggy works for a studio show set in a medieval setting. She is one of the women who enact the scenes for tourists. After Denny’s arrest, she is down on luck and strapped for cash. So, this is her way to earn some quick buck. Her co-worker, Jeannie, struggles with domestic abuse. She hired a private investigator, Bruce Harvey (Brad Garrett), to get justice, but he is not picking up her calls.
On the other hand, another colleague named Tammy (Susan Park) is doing awfully well with her wealthy fiancée GB, aka Guru Bob (Orlando Bloom-lookalike Rupert Friend!). Tammy thinks he is a big-shot businessman. Peggy quickly figures he is a conman. While Tammy struggles with this money, her sister, Dianne (Christine Taylor), and Stewart (Keir O’Donnell) expect her to find a job, or they will take possession of their dead mother’s house from her.
The siblings want to sell the house, and Peggy does not want that. She is an addict and gets meds to let go of that habit. Right outside the hospital, a junkie finds her getting emotional and tries to sell her some drugs. She refuses to buy but ends up getting high right after. Her friend, Carol (Weruche Opia), calls, asking for help. She believes she is being followed by a federal agent for being a fugitive.
Peggy tries to return to her senses and meets stressed-out Carol. She assures the man following her is not fed with evidence. Carol is having difficulties with her adolescent daughter but chooses to ignore them. Meanwhile, Peggy notices an ad featuring Bruce Harvey on television, who ripped off her friend.
So, Peggy drives up to the man’s office building and barges into his cabin. None of her tricks to intimidate him work out, and makes him return Jeannie’s money. Instead, he ends up revealing his practice is not doing financially well. She offers to join his practice, and he begrudgingly accepts, only with the condition she finishes her P.I. course first.
Back at home, Peggy informs her siblings about her new vocation. They question whether she is worth that responsibility and doubt her judgment due to her history as an addict. The siblings are hellbent on making her not live a luxurious life without making the mortgage payments. Peggy, however, does not want to let go of her mother’s memories in the house.
While lying on a swimming pool float, Peggy sees Tammy’s video bragging about GB’s wealth. She notices a painting – Picasso’s Le Pigeon aux Petits Pois, on the wall and quickly realizes that it is stolen. She shows it to Bruce and offers it as a business opportunity to return it to its rightful owners. He finds that ridiculous.
Nevertheless, Peggy helps Bruce against the bookkeeper, who is tired of Bruce not paying him on time. She threatens to sue him instead, and her intimidation technique work on the man like magic. After doing this job for him, she asks to join him in the practice and get 50% of the share. She settles on ten and ends up getting a lucrative job.
While Peggy wants to share the joy of her new job with her siblings, they reject the call without a thought. So, due to its emotional pain, she gets high and drives up to the prison to meet Denny. He quickly recognizes that she is as high as a kite. She still tries to persuade her to sign the divorce papers – something she has been asking for a long time. He finally agrees, and she leaves with joy.
Only when Peggy goes back to her car, she realizes that he wrote some gibberish instead. Her colleague tells her that the cops think she stole money from her studio boss, Owen’s (Eric Peterson) safe. Already enraged, Peggy drives back to the studio.
Episode 2: Two Knockers and No Boyfriend = A Felony
While driving through the desert, Peggy goes through flashbacks of the time she spent with her mother at a drag bingo event. In the studio, she tries to get out of the accusation of stealing. While she claims to know the locker’s code, she figures it out soon after. It turns out to be Owen’s mother’s birth date. So, the blame ends up being on his silliness.
Later, at Bruce’s office, Peggy keeps talking about her plan of getting a reward for the painting that GB stole. She proposes getting the finder’s fee for vetting the painting. Bruce stays busy clearing the mess of his machine wires. He rejects spending time on this case and wants her to finish her education instead. In her school, she cringes at her introductory lecture by an elderly professor. So, she leaves the class for something valuable instead – to find details on GB’s robbery.
While Peggy informs Carol about it from her car, she notices a woman standing at the bus stop who looks almost identical to her mother. Carol finds it impossible since Roselyn is dead. Peggy starts doubting whether she is alive. It appears like she is not processing her grief too well.
In the studio, Roger (Jeffrey Vincent Parise) flirts with Peggy, and she does not reciprocate. She also diverts him to date other women instead. That’s when she notices Tammy with bigger breasts than usual. If the Guru dumped her, how could she fund that operation? Maybe she stole the money from the locker.
Owen cries about changing the locker code taking a toll on his relationship with his mother. She offers to bring him back his money and/or the culprit within sixty hours. She goes back to the set and explains to Tammy how Two Knockers (two large breasts) and No Boyfriend = A Felony. Tammy confesses that she had to steal the money to get the edge over other women to get GB back.
Peggy feels bad that Tammy did it just to woo a pretentious man. So, she offers to find another way to cover up the crime. She drives up to GB’s house and stops him from selling some BS to a prospective, wealthy buyer. GB is angered since he failed her in the sale. She reveals she knows the money is stolen. She asks him for three grand, i.e., Owen’s stolen money, in exchange for jail time.
Peggy writes down her contact detail on GB’s arm. Then she walks into his bedroom and locks it from the inside. She finds some bottles of prescription drugs prescribed for someone named Donatella Scarborough. She sneaks out with that bottle and notices Guru with a knife to his neck and two people threatening to kill him if he does not return what he owes for a fake painting. Peggy notices GB’s struggle for life but still decides to drive away.
Later, Peggy calls Carol from outside a casino and asks her to find details about Donatella. She suddenly starts crying because of her fond memories of that casino with Roselyn. She then sells those prescription drugs to a woman that walks out. While still going through flashbacks, she gets a call from GB. He apparently butt-dialed while being beaten by the father and the daughter from before. They cut down one of his nipples, and he screams. Meanwhile, Peggy reverses her car too fast and ends up bumping it into a truck.
Episode 3: I’m Getting Close to This Guru Bastard
Guru Bob rushes to the hospital with his cut nipple in his hand. He faints right in the lobby. Meanwhile, Peggy sleeps in her damaged car through the night. A lady wakes her up and makes her realize what she did under the influence. She drives away to meet Dianne and Christ Cooley (A.J. Tannen). Peggy tells him to leave right away. Meanwhile, she keeps rejecting many of her calls.
Back in the house, Peggy asks for help with the down payment for a car and promises to return the money soon. Dianne finds it hard to trust her but still agrees to deposit some money in her account. However, she claims joint ownership of their mother’s house. Carol found some details on GB. His wife went missing some time ago. He claimed that she went to Mexico. But she believes the wife is dead. But since there is a $70,000 reward for getting the wife, Peggy decides to follow the lead.
Peggy drives up to Bruce’s house in her damaged car. He gets angry since he does not want to make a bad impression on his about-to-reach client. She still keeps proposing finding dirt on Guru Bob. He is angry that he gets no help from her and also because she does not attend her class. Turns out, he knew about the missing wife but emphasizes that there ‘was’ a reward and there isn’t anymore.
Peggy goes to a car market and gets inside one. Carol notices the woman that closely resembles Roselyn and calls Peggy. Hearing that, Peggy asks her to follow the bus and also sends the coordinates so that she can follow it. She stops the bus and gets inside to find Roselyn, lookalike/doppelganger. She soon learns that the woman is a renowned actress from the TV industry named Ginger.
Peggy gets down at a stop, and Carol reaches up to her. She thinks Peggy should make a play out of this strange scenario as a way to process her grief, like an Aristotle-style therapy. Peggy receives a call from the hospital. Since her number was written on his arm, they believed it to be his emergency number.
Peggy gets Bob in her car and offers a ride. He is still angry that she did not help him the night before. She says he will have to pay for the ride back home. Back at his home, she notices an award. He shares that it is a prestigious accolade in his career as a news anchor. He shares that his wife got the Picasso painting.
Since Bob lies on the bed under the influence of drugs, Peggy snoops around and finds a photo of Donatella. She lies that she has a buyer for his painting and leaves. Back at home, she tries to read Aristotle but gets bored by it in no time. The next day, in Pioneertown, she gives Owen a check from Bob’s account, $4,000. Since she helped him out without any hassle, she makes him accept her proposal of service from Bruce and her.
Peggy also starts off a play with Ginger. Ginger played Roselyn, and she played herself. Owen gets mad that she started this without his permission. She manages to convince him of the money Ginger will bring their side since she is popular. So, he gives the permission. Dianne drives there and notices a spitting image of her mother. She gets taken aback for a moment but then asks for the house keys from Peggy. She says that she does not have a spare.
High Desert (Season 1), Episodes 3 Ending Explained:
Carol researches on the internet about Donatella and finds some details before she disappeared. Guru Bob had lost his job because of a sudden breakdown while being live on Television. He says how death is coming for all of us, which turns him into the spiritual guru cash-grab opportunity.
Meanwhile, the police take Owen away for a stolen check, i.e., the one that Peggy got from Bob. While she bails him out of jail, he fires her the very next moment. She tries to stop her joblessness by offering to get his charges dropped. Eventually, he fails to fire her.
Peggy goes to Bob’s house to question why he got Owen arrested. He asks her to join him for dinner. Over there, he seeks her help with the art guy (Denny) she spoke about. He wants to sell a Cezanne painting from his collection. Since his buyer fell through, he wants her with the sale of this stolen painting. She asks for commission – a lofty sum and charges against Owen being dropped.
Suddenly, the woman that threatened to kill Bob before gets outside the diner. Dianne calls Peggy to inform her that Denny is out of jail and wants to get inside their mother’s house. While she walks away to talk, the angry buyers sit next to Bob and bash his face onto the table. She jokes about how his other nipple is still safe. Then, she returns home to find Denny in a bathroom, who got out of jail earlier than expected.