A little girl is missing and people are sort of, kind of worried about it
At the time her daughter is abducted, Jane Sadler has consumed quite a bit of red wine; she’s taken Ambien, snorted cocaine, and has spent nearly six hours in an entirely different building than her sleeping child, at times also falling asleep herself. Jane Sadler is not a flawed female protagonist — Jane Sadler is a stone-cold wreck.
She’s also super high.
Now, that’s not to say it’s Jane’s fault that her daughter was kidnapped. That would be the fault of whoever did the kidnapping, and as an audience, we’re supposed to care both about who that kidnapper might be and how Jane’s unpredictable lifestyle might have made her daughter a target. There’s the ex-husband freshly out of rehab who isn’t thrilled with the current custody agreement for their daughter, Lake. There’s the entire San Diego police department, which Jane exposed for police corruption in an Oscar-winning documentary. There’s Jane’s chipper assistant, who’s secretly sleeping with (and lying for) her husband. And there’s the policeman she keeps pilfering story lines from for the scripted cop show she created.
Jane has a lot of balls in the air, and a lot of people in her life who might want to pop them. It’s not the show’s job to make us like her, but it is the show’s responsibility to make us care about her unfortunate situation, a task greatly aided by an expert portrayer of complicated women, Kyra Sedgwick. Complication is, indeed, the name of the game when it comes to Jane’s life, so let’s comb this premiere for clues and see if we can’t establish a little work/life/TV balance.
(Let me just quickly light my writing candle for ambiance, pour my writing wine to settle my nerves, and power on this completely useless walkie-talkie — all right, here we go!)
The premiere opens with Jane trying and failing to meditate, only to come out of her mental vacation remembering that she needs to buy paper towels. Even in a show that largely focuses on the double standards against ambitious working women, this felt like the most relatable moment of the premiere.
Pete (Kick Gurry), the husband Jane is separated from, brings their daughter Lake (Abigail Pniowsky) back after spending the weekend together, and asks Jane if it would be okay for him to take Lake to their cabin in Ojai tomorrow. Jane says no because children typically go to school on Mondays and because it’s not one of his court-appointed days. Pete yells that he pees in cups for Jane and drinks tons of tea instead of snorting tons of powder now, so why can’t he illegally take his daughter out of school?! Let’s be clear: Pete sucks.
Cute li’l Lake does not suck and is perhaps the hippest 8-year-old since Punky Brewster, dancing along to Anderson .Paak’s “Come Down” while her mom works and her nanny tries to change the song before it says, “Gucci pants on, let me take these bitches off.” During bedtime reading, Lake asks her mom if they can tell secrets and confesses that sometimes when she’s with her dad, she misses Jane so much she “wants to go to heaven.” Jane assures her everything will be fine…
And everything is fine! Everything is totally fine until Jane promises Lake that she won’t leave if Lake falls asleep in her bed. When Jane makes a promise — look alive. She is not going to keep it. And when a TV show’s main character starts singing a slow a capella version of “Amazing Grace” to their precious child — look alive. Because that baby is about to get kidnapped.
Jane pops an Ambien, then then wakes up to the director of her cop show calling to tell her that she has to rewrite the pivotal love scene in the episode they’re currently filming, and she needs to do it by 4 a.m. So Jane takes a baby monitor with her, leaving Lake sleeping in her bed and the sliding door cracked open, and heads out to the shed in the backyard where she writes. As she will insist up and down later, she’s 10 feet from her daughter…who is asleep…in an unlocked house…and an 8-year-old child.
Also, Jane starts drinking wine as soon as she sits down at her computer around 10 p.m., and when that just makes her fall asleep, she calls her drug dealer PJ for a special bike delivery of Adderall. When PJ only has cocaine, she snorts said cocaine and stashes the rest in a broken guitar in her office. And, boy, does it do the trick! With a little writing advice from her friendly local drug dealer, Jane knocks out the scene by 3:30 a.m. and heads back to the house…where she finds the door she left open closed and locked. After finding all the other doors locked, Jane smashes the glass and unlocks the door from the inside, races to her bedroom, and finds that her daughter is no longer sleeping there. She’s gone.
Jane brushes her teeth and pulls herself together in time for three detectives to arrive, led by Detective John Bird (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). She tells Detective Bird the pertinent details: her (sucky) husband probably took Lake, she was in the shed for an hour (plus five other hours) when Lake went missing, and that “everyone has a key to this house — my nanny, my sister, the gardener probably.” Not great, Jane! But Ali still seems to be the only one appropriately worried about the child who is currently missing from the house that may as well not have locks. When Jane’s assistant arrives to pick her up, Jane says she lost five days of work the last time Pete pulled a stunt like this, and she’s not doing that again.
On set of the show Jane writes and produces, her writers’ room is excited about the new scene she’s written, and one writer, Matt (played by a very welcome Malcolm-Jamal Warner), seems like he would be excited to take over her job should she become sidetracked by something like her missing child. But right now, Jane mostly seems sidetracked by a contact called “G T” that she keeps red-buttoning.
The contact turns out to belong to a cop named Gus (Francois Battiste), who’s angry with Jane because he told her a bunch of cop stuff (a term I feel certain will be frequently necessary during the 10-episode run of Ten Days in the Valley) off the record, and she put it all in her show almost word for word. Jane insists that she’s protected him every step of the way and that there’s no way any of this will come back to him. You guys — she promises. “Gus, we’re making something scary here, something true. It’s important.”
From the small scene we see, Jane is making her two main cop characters have steamy office sex, which she cannot see to completion because she gets a call from Detective Bird: Lake isn’t with her father, and he has an alibi for the timeframe when Jane was out of the house, confirmed by a friend that he was with until 4 a.m. On her way to meet Bird back at the house, Jane goes back through the writers’ room telling them she has to leave. They shout a bunch of ideas at her on the way out, most notably Matt — who suggests they might create a daughter for one of the characters so they can have that daughter be kidnapped to show that another character is a monster.
Jane vomits in a trash can. Her assistant Casey drives her home and tries to tell Jane that she loves Lake and is worried about her, but Jane completely shuts her down. Then she repeats that she would have heard Lake if she called out to her while being kidnapped, and Casey says, “Not if you were in the shed — three in the morning, big glass of wine, cranking out yet another scene.” Yes, girl! Finally. I don’t like this assistant because I’m not supposed to like her, but someone needed to tell Jane that, like, writing on her laptop in her bed next to her sleeping child is an option, and choosing instead to open all the doors in her house and head outside for six hours was not A-plus parenting.
And now people are lining up around the block to tell her exactly that.
Pete is waiting for Jane at her house, where he does some more complaining about how annoying it is that he has to be sober, which leads to asking Jane if she’s ready to admit that she’s drowning in her own life. She is not, so he goes on the attack, saying, “Let me guess, you’re in the back shed, the baby monitor’s on, you got a big glass of wine, real mother-of-the-year kind of stuff.” Jane never said she was mother of the year, which seems to make him even angrier, and he gets physical with her, screaming about his baby girl before the detectives come outside and get him off of her.
I feel sad for Lake.
Jane doesn’t want them to arrest Pete, but she needs to be worried about herself because Detective Bird tells her she needs to come down to the station right as she notices the broken guitar that used to house her cocaine is now empty.
At the police station, Bird tells her that they didn’t find anything in Ojai, there are no prints at the house, and they’re investigating within the 2:30 to 3:30 one-hour timeline she gave them. “And then there’s this,” he says, pulling out the baggie of cocaine. But there’s no time to ask Jane exactly how many substances she was using the night her daughter was taken because another detective comes in the room and tells them she found something — and that something is a captured image from one of the neighbor’s security cameras, starring none other than Jane’s friendly local drug dealer, PJ. Jane looks at the picture, looks at Detective Bird, and says she’s never seen that kid before in her life.
Because everyone is a liar. Which brings us to Pete drinking his damn tea on his balcony when a young woman walks into his apartment, worried sick about him. And that young woman is, of course, Jane’s assistant Casey, who plants a big kiss on her boss’ not-yet-ex-husband. She tells Pete that she told the police what he instructed her to tell them: that she was at his apartment until 4 a.m. even though she actually left at 1:30 a.m. Pete tells her that things will be fine; they just need to stick together. Casey tells him she doesn’t know what “sticking together” means in this context. “It means you left at 4,” he seethes with that signature Pete charm.
At the police station, staring at the photo of PJ, Jane makes the first good decision she’s made all episode, telling Detective Bird they need to open up the timeline: “I lied to you. I went in the shed at 10.”
THE LOOSE ENDS
Those last five minutes — they’re good. They drop bombs, they give hints, they reveal new layers, and they got me invested in the mystery of who took Lake Sadler-Greene. But they also made me realize that I wasn’t particularly concerned with Lake’s safety because no one else seems to be. Jane is upset, but she seems equally upset about her job and her general mess of a life as she is about the fact that her only daughter was very clearly abducted from her house. Pete mostly seems concerned with lying and making his wife feel like s— for making him feel like s—. Why are people not more worried about Lake…
Lake, who is being read to in an unfamiliar bed by an unfamiliar male voice off screen. She asks why her mom would have packed such a babyish book, and the voice tells her Jane must have just forgotten to pack her normal books. Lake seems annoyed by the situation, but not scared as she rolls over to go to sleep.
I, however, am very scared. So what are the loose ends that might return Lake safely to her empty, unlocked home?
- There is a brief scene where Lake’s nanny calls her husband and asks him if he found the key, but he says he threw the key out when she asked him to. She tells him he has to find it now and he knows why.
- PJ casually mentions two important things to one of his drug dealer friends: (1) He’s about to retire from dealing to pursue his writing passion, hopefully with the help of one of his clients, and (2) he used to deal to that client’s husband before he started dealing to her. So, Jane may have told Bird she didn’t know the kid in the photo, but Lake has another parent who might admit to knowing him.
- When Jane goes into the police station, we see her secret informant Gus there, glaring at her while having a conversation with his fellow cops.
- Was it just me or did the recording of Gus and Jane talking that we briefly hear in the shed sound a little flirtatious at points?
- Flashbacks throughout the episode reveal that Jane’s life has long been complicated, and that past will surely play a role in the show’s future.
- Detective Bird knows about Jane’s cop show and her cop documentary, and as a cop, he stays suspiciously neutral in his cop comments about her cop-related work.
- Thanks for reading, and please add any and all other stray sleuthing observations in the comments!