A Friend of the Family season 1, episode 1 recap – “Horseback Riding in American Falls”

By Eamon Hennedy
Published: October 6, 2022 (Last updated: December 30, 2023)
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A Friend of the Family season 1, episode 1 recap - “Horseback Riding in American Falls"


An engaging opening episode for Peacock’s true crime series that captures the hazy air of 70s innocence elegantly, but one that is frighteningly twisted by the nefarious manipulations of an all too real monstrous presence.

This recap of the Peacock series A Friend of the Family season 1, episode 1, “Horseback Riding in American Falls,” contains spoilers.

Beginning with a direct-to-camera introduction from Jan Broberg, A Friend of the Family is the latest true crime story to have been previously explored in documentary format to be turned into a prestige television series. On the basis of the first episode, directed by Never Rarely Sometimes Always‘ Eliza Hittman, there is a classier and intelligent handling of the material here in comparison to recent entries of the sub-genre such as Ryan Murphy’s recent production Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. As Broberg herself recounts in her opening comments, the 1970s were a very different time, and the opening episode of the series brilliantly captures the naive social air of the period on top of its more darker and incredibly disturbing true crime components.

A Friend of the Family season 1, episode 1 recap

Following Jan Broberg’s introduction to the series, A Friend of the Family opens with a 1970s-style NBC Peacock logo, setting the scene for an era where television shows such as The Brady Bunch and The Waltons dominate the cultural conversation, but which are a million miles away from the darker story that is about to be told. We are introduced to the Broberg family, made up of Bob, Mary Ann, and their three kids Jan, Karen, and Susan as they go to meet their recently arrived neighbors the Bercholds. The two families hit it off, but already it’s apparent that Berchold patriarch Robert, who they affectionately refer to as ‘B’, is showing an unhealthy interest in Jan.

Robert tries to worm his way into spending time with Jan after a piano lesson, claiming he wants to take her horse riding at a ranch, something about which her father expresses stern disapproval. Jan calls Robert over to the house anyway, and Robert manages to manipulate Mary Ann into letting him pick up Jan after her piano lesson, whispering something to her that we cannot hear. Upon returning home, Bob is upset his wishes weren’t taken into consideration, as Jan is shown becoming very sleepy in the drive with Robert, having been drugged by him after he picked her up.

Back at the house, Jan’s parents become increasingly concerned and reach out to Bob’s wife Gail who goes to their house in an attempt to reassure them. Bob is more than eager to call the police, but Gail talks him and Mary Ann out of it, telling them that Robert has issues with depression and that one time she followed him to a storage unit when he left the house only to find him working on a motor home. Bob suggests they go to see the motor home, but instead, Mary Ann suggests that she and Gail head there instead while Bob telephones Robert’s boss to see if he knows where the ranch might be. The call ends up leaving Bob rattled when Robert’s boss says that Robert once referred to Bob as someone always willing to “lend a hand”.

Gail and Mary Ann arrive at the storage unit, only for Gail to reveal she has no key to get inside. They head back to Mary Ann and Bob’s house, with Mary Ann now more than willing and eager to call the police. Gail once again breaks down and tells them a story about Robert becoming depressed after they failed to adopt a child from Mexico. Gail then tells Mary Ann if she calls the police Robert will never forgive her. Mary Ann calls the police anyway but simply asks if a car matching Robert’s has been reported in an accident and is relieved when the officer on the phone tells her that no car matching that description has been. Relieved, she believes they’ll be back soon.

The car itself is sitting in a secluded spot, far away from any open road, the driver’s side window smashed and with blood clearly visible.

The ending

Bob struggles to sleep and tells Mary Ann that he is more than willing to give Robert a piece of his mind he and Jan return. Mary Ann thinks back to her conversation with Robert earlier when he came to pick up Jan, a piece of dialogue that was indecipherable is revealed to be Robert telling Mary Ann that he wished he had met her earlier.

We then see Jan waking up, tied down to a bed with restraints, a small speaker beside her, and a voice coming from it repeatedly saying “female companion.” It is revealed that she is inside a motor home in a dark secluded area.

What did you think of A Friend of the Family season 1, episode 1? Comment below.

Additional Reading

Peacock, Streaming Service, TV, Weekly TV
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