Tell Me Your Secrets season 1, episode 1 recap – the opening chapter explained

February 19, 2021
Daniel Hart 0
Amazon Prime, TV Recaps


The performances in “Once I Had Love” are a little hammy, but there’s promise in this intriguing story as the opening chapter platforms the integral characters.

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The performances in “Once I Had Love” are a little hammy, but there’s promise in this intriguing story as the opening chapter platforms the integral characters.

This recap of Amazon’s Tell Me Your Secrets season 1, episode 1, “Once I Had Love” contains spoilers.

The first episode begins in Texas in the past. Mary Barlow visits Karen Miller in prison and begs for the truth about her daughter Theresa. Karen bluntly says she is sorry for her loss. Mary then shows a photo of her daughter on CCTV, and then five minutes later a picture of the serial killer Kit Parker in the same location. Karen claims she didn’t know Parker during this time and walks away. As she walks away, Mary screams that she wants the truth. The series opens with an extremely desperate mother searching for the truth.

Karen has a new name

“Once I Had Love” then flits to Texas in the present day. Karen is now blonde; she strips down and touches a love heart tattoo on her arm — she has a tattoo removal service to remove her and Parker’s name. She’s leaving the prison but with a new name — Emma Hall — she’s under witness protection.

Emma has a new home

We then move to Louisiana in the present; Emma is on the road with her witness protection officer. He introduces her to a new house and says he will continue working with her and helping her retrieve memories she doesn’t recall. He warns her to stay away from attachments, and young women. The man asks her to write down three qualities of Emma Hall. She writes down “kind, brave and safe”. The man asks if she ever finished her letter to Kit Parker, which upsets Emma. She hands over the letter while in despair. She knows the letter she is sending will end her future with Parker indefinitely.

Mary is the optimist in the marriage

Tell Me Your Secrets season 1, episode 1 then reveals how “in the deep” Mary is when it comes to her missing daughter.

Mary and her family talk about their daughter Theresa — a family counselor believes they need to find closure. The separated husband Saul hopes one day they can grieve together. Mary insists that Theresa isn’t dead because she has a mother’s instinct — she feels she is the optimist in the marriage. Mary listens to tapes of serial killer Parker; she’s obsessed and determined. She’s about to visit him in prison and Jake wants to go with her. However, Mary tells him he isn’t joining her.

Emma saves a teen from getting bullied

As part of the witness protection program, you are meant to stay low, but Emma cannot help herself — she feels she has to protect people.

In a diner, Emma sees two teenage girls bully another teen girl named Jess. She sees the girls enter the bathroom and Emma cannot help herself. Emma goes into the cubicle as the girls keep on bullying Jess. They put chewing gum in her hair. Emma smashes one of the bullies into a mirror and they quickly flee. She tells Jess that it’s dangerous to be afraid. As Emma walks home, Jess follows her and asks why she helped her. She then reveals she’s in a group home for foster kids. Emma reveals she was in one too, and that it gets better afterward.

The letter from Emma

Parker receives Emma’s last letter and he reads it in prison. She tells him she’s starting again and that she has to forget him. She states that they both have to let each other go, even though it feels like “the stars have gone out”. Parker rages at the letter and trashes his prison cell.

Emma gets a job

Emma heads to a hairdresser and gives her many reasons to give her a job. She wants to rent one of the chairs. She wants to stay busy — this scene demonstrates how resourceful and think-on-her-feet Emma can be in desperate situations. When she returns home, the bullied girl Jess is on her porch. The pair hit the river on a boat. They hang out in a cabin nearby. Jess asks if she has dreams; Emma states that she wants to be happy with someone who she can’t have. Jess is grateful for Emma’s friendship and gives her a necklace.

John Tyler wants a role in Mary’s foundation

And then “Once I Had Love” introduces us to another character, who will also be integral to this Amazon series.

Mary interviews a man named John Tyler, an ex-convict who used to rape women. He’s an ex-predator who wants to volunteer at her foundation. John claims he can fill in the gaps of how sexual predators get to women. Jake tells John that this is a foundation for victims. Mary asks John why he raped women and his reasons for choosing them. John doesn’t want to give his personal view but Mary wants to know what makes him pick a woman. Mary states that this trust is for his daughter and other women. She wants insight and doesn’t believe John Tyler can give that. Mary walks away from the interview. You can feel the personal rage bubbling inside Mary in this scene, and understandably so.

Parker is dead

Mary heads to a high-security prison to see Parker, however as she waits for him, the alarms go off. She learns that Parker has killed himself and she collapses to the floor crying. She knows this was her last likely chance of finding Theresa.

And then, Emma’s witness protection officer visits Emma. He gives her the damning news that Parker is dead. Emma doesn’t want to believe it and starts crying — she goes outside, needing fresh air; flashbacks show Emma and Parker enjoying the rain together. In the present day, the officer tells her she cannot leave this place. In the middle of the night, Jess sobs and bangs on Emma’s house door. But Emma is too emotionally exhausted to answer.

Parker’s death draws parallels — two women emotionally devastated, with one man being the commonality for their issues.

Mary offers John a job

Mary visits John Tyler in the middle of the night. He invites her into his home. Mary asks John if people can change, and John believes they can — she wants to believe in him, which gets John emotional — he marks how she’s an inspiration. Mary wants John to find someone for him — Karen Miller. She calls her a terrible woman, but John isn’t sure he wants to do it — he’s uneasy about it. Mary gives him four weeks to find this person, and if he doesn’t, she will tell everyone who he is and how he is a danger to women. This is blackmail, and it gauges how far Mary is willing to go to find her daughter. John takes the file.

The ending

Late into the night, Emma tries to find Jess. She looks for her at the cabin near the river. She apologizes and knocks on the cabin door. When she enters, she sees Jess dead on the floor, blood soaked over her dress. It reminds her of the time she found another girl on the floor soaked in blood, and she sobs — two tragedies for her in one day. Suddenly, Emma hears someone near the cabin, so she escapes. She sees a hooded figure nearby and runs away.

As she runs, she fights off the hooded figure and makes it home. A flashback shows Emma working at a hairdresser after hours and Theresa comes in for a trim. Emma is drawn to her so agrees to do her hair even though they are closed.

The performances in Tell Me Your Secrets season 1, episode 1 are a little hammy, but there’s promise in this intriguing story as the opening chapter platforms the integral characters.

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