Who needs a hug?
Tom Garvey needs a huge hug. He’s had a rough stretch, going all the way back to season 1. He dropped out of college after the Departure, and he’s a searcher, someone looking for meaning and something to believe in. He found it briefly — or thought he found it — in Holy Wayne. But that only led him on a cross-country jaunt with the pregnant Christine, who abandoned Tom and her baby as soon as she realized that she wasn’t truly chosen by Wayne in the way she had hoped. Tom arranged for the orphan baby to be discovered at his dad’s house, and though he checked in with Jill in episode 2, the last we really saw of him was reuniting with his mother, Laurie, after the Guilty Remnant fire.
Tom is still looking for answers, and his first scenes in “Off Ramp” were mildly discomforting because they place him in the white uniforms of the Guilty Remnant. The GR may have been driven out of Mapleton, N.Y., but they are still doing their work. But Tom hasn’t drank the Kool-Aid (yet). He targets a GR named Susan who seems uncertain about her new life in white and lures her off campus to a group-therapy meeting — run by Laurie.
Recall that Laurie was a therapist in her former life, and now she and Tom are pairing up to undermine the GR from the inside-out. He recruits wavering GRs, and she counsels them to return to their families and previous lives. “If you let me, I will help you come back [to society],” she promises Susan.
But the strain on Tom is showing. Even Laurie recognizes it and suggests he take some time off from his latest undercover work to get back to his normal self. She knows first-hand that the cult can mess with one’s mind, but she might not realize just how susceptible her son is. He’s drinking heavily in his few idle hours and watching video of Holy Wayne’s hugging spiel. “Do you ever miss it…?” he asks his mother. “The quiet.”
Laurie is putting her life back together the only way she knows how. But she didn’t walk away from the GR fire unscathed. The episode opens with her washing her car and a Whiplash-like jazz-drum score. She’s talking again, and counseling her small recovery group of former GRs. But her motives aren’t entirely altruistic, even if her intentions are good. She’s writing a highly critical book about her cult experience, and it almost seems like she’s driven by revenge. When Susan, the newest ex-GR in her support group, suggests that Laurie is angry, she quickly denies it and tries to laugh it off. Hmm. Know thyself, Laurie.
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The GR traces Susan to Laurie’s office — where she and others are living illegally — and they arrive to investigate and possibly retrieve her. Susan is clearly frightened, but Laurie stands up to them, crumpling the mute leader’s notebook message before he can share it with the room. They leave, but Susan’s eye lingers on the crumpled note, and she clearly is perturbed. Before the interruption, one of the other group members discussed her own struggle to re-acclimate to normalcy, engaging with loved ones who have moved on with their lives after the Departure. “Stuff they care about, feels so stupid sometimes…,” she says. “While I’m talking [with my husband at dinner], I’m thinking this is so fake: You’re in someone else’s movie, and you’re just saying lines.”
Her confession generates nods from the sharing circle. The gravitational pull of the GR and their logic has a hold that is hard to shake. Just ask Tom. He’s back in white, working a different GR location, but he’s running on fumes. When he retrieves a new patient for Laurie, Howard the Guy Who Misses His Nice Watch, there’s a dull haze to Tom’s eyes. Laurie had warned him that he was pressing his luck, especially since the GR now knew for sure that Laurie was behind Susan’s disappearance. Tom laughed off the threat of being recognized by the GR at his next assignment, but there’s also the strong possibility that he simply needs to be there, that he’s buying into what they’re selling. As he says later after disaster strikes, “They make sense. They know something.”
Howard’s arrival accompanies a TV news report that a man near Perth, Australia, had emerged from a cave days after dying: a miracle resurrection. Australia certainly is becoming popular on The Leftovers. Last week, Kevin’s dad announced he was heading Down Under to start the world over again, and in the premiere, the wild-haired man living atop the Miracle, Texas, pillar sent a letter to a man in Sydney. Any chance we already know the resurrected man in Australia? Could it be Holy Wayne?
NEXT: Meg has an unusual way of saying hello