Inspired by true historical events, Netflix’s Dutch series, “Dirty Lines,” follows two brothers, Frank and Ramon Stigter, whose story is narrated by an undergraduate psychology student, Marly Salomon. Frank and Ramon established the first adult phone line service, or “fairy tales for adults,” as Ramon calls it, and turned it into a profitable business known as “Teledutch.” The series, set in Amsterdam during the final years of the Cold War, tries to delve into history but majorly focuses on the personal and professional relationships of the prominent characters whose lives are suddenly altered by the overnight success of their business.
Created by Pieter Bart Korthuis, “Dirty Lines” Season 1, in 6 episodes, narratively charts the conflict that Frank, Ramon, and Marly face in establishing Teledutch as a profitable business and thus facing the repercussions of the success that is threatened by some extremely reckless decisions. Will they be able to keep Teledutch afloat while protecting their personal relationships and family? Let’s find out.
‘Dirty Lines’ Season 1: Plot Summary
The screen opens with Frank Stigter sitting in his new Ferrari Testarossa that he bought after his company, Teledutch, turned into a multi-million venture. Frank founded Teledutch with his brother Ramon, which became the first adult phone line service in the Netherlands where the callers would listen to recorded intimate voices for their entertainment. As the narrator, Marly Salomon, moves the story forward, she introduces an unrevealed conflict in Frank’s life because of which he drives his Ferrari into the water after an emotional outburst, and thus to understand his plight, Marly starts the story from the beginning of the affairs, or from her entry into the Teledutch empire.
In 1986–87, Marly Salomon, a prude psychology student, lived a really preserved life with her parents in the suburbs of Amsterdam. She only has two friends, including her best friend, Janna, and a classmate named Rachel. Marly has been struggling to move out of her parents’ house, but due to her conservative parents and lack of a job, she has failed to move out. Janna suggests Marly record a tape for the Teledutch to earn extra bucks, but Marly terribly fails her recording test. However, at the same moment, a television reporter interviewing Frank Stigter on his newfound success, records Marly in one of the recording rooms, and the footage finds its way on national television, which is seen by almost everyone, including Marly’s parents, who ask her to leave the house after her disgraceful act (in their eyes).
As Marly struggles to find a job to pay her rent and deposit, Frank and Ramon face a new crisis in the business after PTT cuts off all their lines due to an overload that happened soon after the broadcast of his interview. On the same night, a submarine caught fire in the Port of Rotterdam that turned into a violent inferno because the emergency numbers couldn’t be reached due to the traffic overload. As a result, PTT took down all Teledutch phone lines immediately.
After the cut-off, neither Frank, Ramon, nor their investing partner, Johnny Santini, tries to contact PTT. Their ignorance leads to confusion that is later resolved by the PTT commercial management team, who conveys to them that they take sole responsibility for the overload and want to expand Teledutch capacity from 30 phone lines to 300. From there, Frank and Ramon have the whole city to conquer, and soon Marly joins their team to finally become an integral part of the Teledutch empire.
The business booms and brings in new challenges and cutthroat competition, while Frank, Ramon, and Marly struggle with their personal lives. Frank is married to a woman named Anouk, and the couple struggle to conceive a baby, but Frank is always emotionally unavailable and enjoys his impulsive bachelor life more than being a family man, which further creates tension in his married life. On the other hand, Ramon, who is intimately attracted to men, hides his orientation from his wife, Natasja, and lives a sheltered life behind closed doors while living an unhappy family life with two kids. He struggles with his identity throughout the series and fails to convey his true feelings to Natasja, while Natasja, who was Frank’s first love, still has feelings for him. That leads to a complex affair between them till the end of “Dirty Lines” Season 1.
Meanwhile, Marly finds it impossible to find a decent man in her life and starts a secret affair with her new professor, Leon DeWolff, who is married and has twin kids. Marly cannot figure out what she wants in her life, and thus her personal and professional confusion clouds her judgment throughout the series, which brings in a few twists and turns that evidently become repetitive after a point of time. However, what’s interesting in all these affairs is the innovations they bring to Teledutch to make it a big success.
What Was The Chatterbox? How Did It Make Teledutch A Huge Success?
Teledutch made 50 cents per minute on phone calls, and had been running around 300 lines 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The callers would hear a recorded experience that was previously written by Johnny Santini, but later, Marly brought her own psychological expertise to these stories that were cherished both by the owners and the callers. However, due to the booming success of the business, competitors entered into the trade to harness the profits, after which Teledutch’s revenue dropped by some 30 percent in the past few months.
The cutthroat competition demanded new innovations and themes, and thus the team started a personalized real-time phone line service for the callers. But one person handling one caller became a tedious job, and therefore they introduced “The Chatter Box.”
In layman’s terms, it was a group telephone conversation that allowed ten people from any part of the city or country to talk to each other while their conversation was monitored by a Teledutch employee who acted as a host. The machine was invented by Aiden Kennedy, a Brit who had also sold his invention to a Teledutch competitor in Rotterdam, and thus Frank, Ramon, and Johnny tried their best to drug Aiden so that he wouldn’t be able to leave Amsterdam and supply the machine to their competitors, not unless they captured the entire market. Nevertheless, in an age devoid of any dating apps or mobile phones, The Chatter Box became a massive success among individuals who used the services to meet new people with simply a phone connection.
Why Did The IRS Pay A Visit To Frank Stigter? What Was The OSHO Connection?
Frank Stigter was an impulsive businessman who would buy a Ferrari and a Porsche on the same day because he couldn’t choose between the two sports cars. In short, Frank failed to manage the wealth that he earned overnight and used up all the VAT to fund his luxuries. Due to his impulsive expenses and ignorance, there were some irregularities in Teledutch tax returns, especially the VAT, as a result of which the company owed millions to the tax department, which they were liable to clear out immediately.
The huge debt created a rift between the brothers as Ramon, who managed the technical side of the business, never bothered to check the accounts book, and Frank was not bothered to check anything except booze, drugs, and women. After the fight, Natasja convinced Ramon that Frank would never be able to handle the crisis alone, and at this moment, he needs him the moment. And she was right. Frank reacted to the situation by driving his Ferrari into the water and having an emotional breakdown while listening to the first-ever tape-recorded by Natasja for Teledutch.
After the argument, Frank didn’t visit the office, and his absence gave Ramon some peace to check the accounts, who also brought Natasja to the office to help him. Natasja found out that Teledutch accountant uncle Jaap Das had been stealing money from the company’s account. Uncle Jaap Das had become a dedicated follower of the Osho Bhagwan cult group and had also joined his religious society in Amsterdam, called Zorba de Buddha. The club heavily imported and sold MDMA, which was later banned by the government in November 1988, after which the cult faced a budget deficit, which was later covered by his blind followers, or Sannyasin. Following the faith, Uncle Jaap changed his name to Shankar Putri and transferred millions from Teledutch to the Rajneesh movement, the money that he later used to buy luxuries.
When Ramon tried to question Uncle Jaap, he ran away from the office and disappeared. Hence, Ramon made Natasja in charge of the accounts, which also made her feel useful instead of sitting at home and watching television. From the beginning of the series, Natasja wanted to employ her skills to some use but couldn’t figure it out. Fortunately, by the end of “Dirty Lines” Season 1, she found something to keep her busy.
With Natasja unraveling Uncle Jaap’s fraud, Ramon reported him to the police and found out that he had fled to India. Natasja also negotiated with the IRS, and Ramon believed that in a year, they would be able to pay off all the debt after a bit of relief from the tax department. Hence, Natasja and Ramon not only saved Teledutch but were also looking forward to making it profitable again, while Frank decided to expand the business overseas to other European countries.
‘Dirty Lines’ Season 1: Ending, Explained – Was Natasja Pregnant with Frank’s Child? Did Marly Sleep With Frank?
The season took some sharp twists and turns during the final moments of the last episode, i.e., episode 6. Ramon was in love with a man named Alexander, an interior designer who co-owned the RoXY disco club with a DJ named Mischa, who dated Janna, for a while. After spending a night with Alexander, Ramon felt the spark that he had been missing from a long time and thus decided to reveal his true orientation to Natasja. However, before he could express his feelings for Alexander, Natasja revealed to Ramon that she was pregnant with their third child.
However, Natasja wasn’t sure if it was Ramon’s child or not because the couple hadn’t been sleeping together for a while. Natasja and Frank got carried away while both facing some troubles in their respective marriages and therefore rekindled their past feelings for a moment. In the scene, where Frank was about to drive his Ferrari into the water, while listening to the tape-recorded by her, he remembered making love to Natasja in the car. At the same moment, Natasja called Frank as soon as she found out about her pregnancy, but before Frank could pick up the call, his car was already on the verge of falling into the water. It could be surmised that Natasja wanted to tell Frank about her pregnancy and, probably after that, the two would have sparked their relationship again, but it was all bad timing that stopped the two lovers from coming together again.
Meanwhile, Marly realized that her relationship with Leon wasn’t working anymore, and so she took the brave decision to break it off with him. She even left her job at Teledutch and focused on her field of psychology to make some breakthrough discoveries and create a bit of history. However, after Ramon took charge of the company, he decided to make Marly the business director of Teledutch because, indeed, she was the brain behind its success. Frank shared this news with Marly on the night of December 31st, minutes after the beginning of a new decade. At that moment, both Marly and Janna had taken XTC while enjoying the new year’s party at the RoXY club, however, when the drugs wore off the next morning, she found herself in bed with Frank and Janna, committing one of the greatest regrets of her life.
‘Dirty Lines’ Season 2: Expectations
If “Dirty Lines” gets renewed for a second season, then we can expect a love triangle between Frank, Natasja, and Marly, while Ramon’s struggle will remain the same, to finally come out of the closet and reveal his true identity to the world. Natasja, on the other hand, may struggle to finally reveal to Ramon her intimate encounter with Frank while he was away sleeping with Alexander.
The future of Teledutch is in question, too, because as soon as the business expands into new territories, it will also bring in new challenges that the team will have to deal with.
Meanwhile, Marly may go through a professional crisis as she has to choose between psychology and Teledutch. As we all know, she isn’t exactly interested in making money and aspires to change the world, but greed may convince her otherwise. Only Season 2 will be able to further trace the transformation in her character and how she deals with internal and external conflicts. As the story will move forward, advancements in technology will bring new innovations, the most prominent being the internet, which will become the biggest rival to the telephone services. Will Teledutch survive in the end? Well, its doom is certain, but its downfall may be dramatic and enlightening.
“Dirty Lines” is a 2022 historical drama series created by Pieter Bart Korthuis.