'Truth Be Told' recap: Apple TV+ drama uncovers a massive conspiracy

Truth Be Told uncovers a conspiracy that goes straight to the top [Apple TV+ recap]


Octavia Spencer plays podcaster Poppy in Apple TV+ drama ★★★★☆
The search for a missing girl intensifies this week on Truth Be Told.
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ ReviewWe’ve got a fugitive on our hands on this week’s Truth Be Told, the Apple TV+ series about a true crime podcaster and her little corner of Oakland, California.

Trini is missing and Poppy’s solutions all involve a lot of risk. Markus and Zarina are sweating and at each other’s throats while searching for their daughter. Eva learns something about her lover and runs into an old acquaintance. And Leander tries hard to stay on Poppy’s good side.

The episode, entitled “Never Take Your Eyes Off Her,” serves up another gripping 45 minutes of television from this crew.

Truth Be Told recap: ‘Never Take Your Eyes Off Her’

Season 3, episode 4: After Markus (played by Mekhi Phifer) and Zarina (Merle Dandridge) discover that their daughter Trini (Mychala Lee) has been sleeping with her boyfriend Aubrey (Donald Dash) — who is connected to local pimp Trey (Isaiah Jarel) — the young lovers flee. Markus and Zarina don’t want to believe the worst about their daughter, but that’s all Poppy (Octavia Spencer) can think about.

After all, she’s done research into the death of Drea Spivey (Nia Sondaya), Trey’s last victim. It does not seem farfetched to her anymore to think Trey and Aubrey are grooming Trini for the same life (and death) as Drea.

Our worst suspicions are confirmed when Markus and Zarina find designer shoes hidden in Trini’s closet, and Poppy, Aames (David Lyons), and Eva (Gabrielle Union) break into Trini’s locker and find expensive jewelry. Then we see Trini taking drugs Aubrey gives her after he gifts her nail extensions and clothes.

Worse still, they find polaroids of Trini in all this expensive finery hidden in a shoebox. Poppy heads to Leander’s (Ron Cephas Jones) bar and has him enlist his motorcycle club the Capstones for the search effort, along with her sisters Desiree (Tracie Thoms) and Cydie (Haneefah Wood).

Leander tries to talk to Poppy about the recent revelation that she’s not his biological daughter, but she’s not ready to. She puts her whole heart into the search effort instead, keeping her dad at arm’s length in the meantime.

Is this case ready for Poppy’s podcast?

Poppy asks Zarina and Markus if she can talk about Trini’s disappearance on her podcast, but that scares the hell out of them. What if word gets out that she was in the hands of sex traffickers? Could she ever live a normal life? College, jobs? Her checkered past would always be a talking point. Poppy talks around the names and particulars, then goes live with Zarina’s permission.

Zarina and Markus have it out about their different approaches to parenting and how they both shoulder the blame for this situation. All the stress threatens to disrupt Zarina’s pregnancy. Poppy comes over and talks it over with her, but she’s still terrified. Even if Trini comes back, what then? What happens to their family?

The squeeze is being felt elsewhere, too. Poppy’s new podcast parent company tells her not so subtly that if she’s got information about Markus Killebrew’s family, it would behoove her to make good podcast airtime out of it. Markus is a controversial figure, after all. He sued the police department and got shot at by other cops for his trouble. She knows she has only a matter of hours to solve this, or the company will insist she use her personal connections as fodder for her show. She doesn’t wanna do that, not least because she promised Zarina she wouldn’t.

A sinister operation discovered!

Eva (played by Gabrielle Union) in a scene from Apple TV+ crime drama "Truth Be Told."
Eva (played by Gabrielle Union) reaches a breaking point this week on Truth Be Told.
Photo: Apple TV+

Poppy and Eva track down an old classmate of Trey’s named Cooper (Spence Moore II), who spills everything he knows. He was one of Trey’s guys and the game plan was to make high school girls fall for them so they could pimp them out. When Cooper wanted out, Trey beat him so badly he that he needs a hearing aid in one ear and lost his equilibrium.

Meanwhile, Aames and Markus track down some of the chains bought by Trey and given to the girls. It turns out they were purchased by someone named Alicia Rodriguez … the very same Alicia Rodriguez (Ana Ayora) that Eva’s been hooking up with. Eva hears this and flees the scene.

Leander pulls a fast one

Feeling like he needs to make a big gesture to keep Poppy close to him, Leander heads to a political fundraiser being hosted by Lee Hackman (Xander Berkeley) for candidate Andrew Finney (Peter Gallagher). Leander tries to wait for a moment to get a word with Lee, but it never materializes. So instead, he takes the podium and holds the fundraiser hostage for a minute. He says that only someone as good-natured as Lee would use his software (the thing that made him a millionaire) to put out an APB for Trini. Lee knows when he’s been beaten, so he agrees to do it. After all, he couldn’t, with cameras rolling, promise to help find a young woman and then back out. That wouldn’t be good for the brand.

Eva texts Alicia about the golden chains she bought, and she tells her it was for Finney. Eva has heard enough, and confesses to Poppy that Finney was the guy who tried to turn her into a sex worker back in the day. He’s still pulling the same stuff. Now he’s just using the high school girls as campaign favors for donors. It goes all the way to the top.

A break in the case

Just then, as everyone suspected would happen, Aubrey stops playing Mr. Nice Guy. With Trey watching, Aubrey demands that Trini go with him somewhere. He demands that if he loves her, she’ll do this for him. If not, Trey’s going to release the sex tape and hurt them.

Lee Hackman’s call for information yields a sighting of Aubrey at a gas station, so Poppy heads out that way. At the same time, Aames follows a lead to a cabin in the woods, thinking he’ll find the man who kidnapped Emily Mills (Jane Widdop). However, when Poppy and Markus tell him they found where Trini is, he abandons ship and heads there.

They converge on a recording studio. Markus breaks in when he sees Trini’s backpack inside, while Poppy flattens the front tire of the car outside. Trey runs when he sees them coming, but another cop stops him and shoots Trey dead. The other cop (Tim Chiou) says Trey pulled a gun … but it seems very likely that he killed him to keep Finney safe.

Shots fired on Truth Be Told

Markus (played by Mekhi Phifer) in a scene from Apple TV+ true crime drama "Truth Be Told."
You do not want to mess with Markus (played by Mekhi Phifer) when he’s in angry dad mode.
Photo: Apple TV+

Truth Be Told delivers good stuff across the board this week. Ron Cephas Jones’ frailty and shakiness in the face of a quick bout of memory loss proves powerful. And so does the way he tries to assert himself as a way to stay big man on campus (and also show Poppy he really is her father, even if they aren’t blood-related). It’s all very touching.

Mekhi Phifer in angry dad mode is great because we see at every step the war that this man, a cop and alpha male protector, wages with himself about how much to let his rage come out. He doesn’t want to be the violent guy he knows he can be. But he isn’t at all in the mood to be anybody else right now. All he knows is his little girl is out there.

The tightening of the pace as we veer toward the conclusion worked wonderfully. You know that every piece on the chessboard needs to advance, but you’re really not sure who’s going to make it out OK.

This show has not yet proved it cares about any character so much that it won’t kill them for dramatic effect (and in my eyes, it wouldn’t be playing dirty to do so). As a result, every little cul-de-sac and detour makes you hold your breath. The heat is still on and I want to get to the next episode of Truth Be Told as quickly as possible.


Watch Truth Be Told on Apple TV+

New episodes of Truth Be Told season three arrive each Friday on Apple TV+.

Rated: TV-MA

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.


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