Truth Be Told turns post-trauma reality into high-stakes drama [Apple TV+ recap]


David Lyons and Mekhi Phifer face off in a scene from crime drama ★★★★
Detective Aames (played by David Lyons, left) and Markus (Mekhi Phifer) face off over crime and lack of punishment.
Photo: Apple TV+

TV+ ReviewApple TV+ crime drama Truth Be Told takes a hard look at sexual assault in this week’s episode, entitled “From My Hand the Poisoned Apple.”

True crime podcaster Poppy (played by Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer) must bear witness to the aftermath of her friends Markus and Zarina’s awful ordeal. Their daughter was kidnapped and assaulted by millionaires who might not be held accountable for their actions.

Elsewhere, Desiree and Eva face their own crises in the wake of the police raid on the mansion. And Detective Aames finds himself caught in the middle of everything. It’s a grueling watch, to be sure, but solidly constructed.

Truth Be Told recap: ‘From My Hand the Poisoned Apple’

Season 3, episode 6: Trini (Mychala Lee) is out of the frying pan and into the fire. She’s been rescued from the mansion where Andrew Finney’s (Peter Gallagher) donors were taking turns sexually assaulting underage girls, after being placed there by now-dead pimp Trey (Isaiah Jarel) and her terrified boyfriend Aubrey (Donald Dash).

However, Trini’s ordeal is far from over. First comes the long and excruciating medical check-up, then hours of interviews with different branches of the Oakland Police Department (and social workers to boot). Did she recognize any of her assailants? Can she remember anything she heard while she was there? Does she know what drugs she was given? And then it’s off to a county home until they can prove her parents didn’t cause her situation. It’s all a lot to endure after the last 48 hours.

Markus (Mekhi Phifer) and his wife Zarina (Merle Dandridge) are also enduring their own nightmare. Social workers are investigating their home life to make sure they didn’t take part in Trini’s exploitation. That scrutiny ends after a few hours, but when Trini comes home, she’s not in any mood to come clean — least of all to her dad, whose anger with her helped contribute to her decision to run away.

Recovery is going to be a long road for everyone. Trini has a panic attack her first night back when Aubrey doesn’t answer her text messages. Markus tries talking to her, but it takes a little while before his loving words start to sink in.

After the raid, things don’t look pretty

Poppy (Octavia Spencer) is also experiencing fallout from the raid on Finney’s place. To get the cops there, she had to lie and say missing white girl Emily Mills (Jane Widdop) was in the mansion. As a result, Poppy’s contact at the Oakland PD, Detective Aames (David Lyons) had to explain to Emily’s parents that the girl still hadn’t been located.

Aames is furious with Poppy for her lie. And she gets even worse news a few minutes later, when it’s revealed that the police had to let go of most of the rapists, who are all rich and have high-powered lawyers. Because the police are frustrated by being dragged into such a high-profile scene, they blame Poppy’s father Leander (Ron Cephas Jones) and his motorcycle club, The Capstones, who had been conducting their own investigation into Trini’s disappearance.

Markus, feeling angry and impotent, takes his frustration out on Aames, who can’t do anything about the bail set for all the attackers. Poppy, feeling hopeless, tries to find an alternative way to put the hurt on the men responsible for these crimes. She asks Trini’s principal, Eva (Gabrielle Union), to go on her podcast and talk about her own assault at the hands of Finney way back when.

Eva’s reluctant, naturally, but she meets up with the school’s guidance counselor (Ricardo Chavira), an old friend who helped her get free of her past trauma, and starts brainstorming. The school superintendent (Rif Hutton) puts a further kink in the plan by giving Eva an ultimatum: Put some distance between her and Poppy or lose her job as principal. She’s heartbroken to tell Poppy, but she’s not exactly sorry she doesn’t have to admit all the sordid things in her past.

A new beginning for one victim

After finding out that she isn’t pregnant after a few days without her period, Poppy’s sister Desiree (Tracie Thoms) gets another little chance at motherhood. Melanie (Makena May), one of the girls rescued from the mansion, has been missing for a long time. When her parents don’t show up to get her, Desiree offers to let Melanie stay in her house while they wait.

Desiree confides in Cydie (Haneefah Wood) that she’s maybe taking this temporary assignment a little personally. Just then, a man walks up to Melanie and offers to pay her for sex. So maybe Desiree should be taking her responsibility a little more seriously. Melanie sneaks out that night to go find her mom in their old house. However, she finds it boarded up and abandoned. Now Desiree and Cydie look like her only hope.

… and a couple of crucial clues

Eva and Poppy talk to Melanie to see if she can spill any details about the guys involved in her kidnapping and grooming, and all she has to go on is that the guy who held her captive most of the time was nicknamed CUBO, which is cop-speak for “conduct unbecoming of an officer. And he lived by a train station.

So, wouldn’t you know it, the next time Aames is back on the street with his partner (Tim Chiou) — the guy who shot and killed Trey before he could turn state’s evidence — he confesses to Aames that he lives by a train station. You don’t say?

A smart move takes Truth Be Told beyond the usual

Octavia Spencer and Gabrielle Union discuss Poppy's podcast on Apple TV+ crime drama "Truth Be Told."
Yes, Truth Be Told is about Poppy (played by Octavia Spencer, left) and her podcast. But in a broader and more fulfilling sense, it’s about community.
Photo: Apple TV+

This week’s episode of Truth Be Told is all about the agonizing seconds after trauma. The show utilizes a strong strategy by placing the big set-piece chase stuff, the closing of the mansion, in the middle of the season instead of the end. That effectively demonstrates that the more important work is all in the shadow of the trauma.

Truth Be Told is a show about a lot of things, but it’s best as a show about community and the everyday business of maintaining one. Poppy’s fame as a podcaster isn’t so much the point of her job or the show. She’s really a bell-ringer, a town crier, a protector (when she can be) of the people and places that mean a lot to her.

Poppy sees herself in the reflection of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most troubled and easily targeted residents because she herself is a survivor, just like everyone she knows.

Here’s what’s really important

So now we will see five episodes about trying to make sense of your life after the worst thing that has ever happened to you, and what happens to a community when its most vulnerable members are targeted. The authorities are going to make life very difficult for the victims (as always seems to happen in reality). And now everyone must fight extra-hard to come back to their new version of normalcy and to make sure things don’t get any worse.

Entertainment doesn’t (shouldn’t?) have a standard moral function, but I’m grateful to see the people behind Truth Be Told trying to tell stories that don’t necessarily have neat endings like your typical season of TV does. Things are hard, they get harder, and then maybe they get easier. Maybe.


Watch Truth Be Told on Apple TV+

New episodes of Truth Be Told season three arrive each Friday.

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 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


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