“You have to believe we are magic
Nothin’ can stand in our way
You have to believe we are magic
Don’t let your aim ever stray
And if all your hopes survive
Destiny will arrive
I’ll bring all your dreams alive
— “Magic,” Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu
You have to love a show that combines John Milton’s Paradise Lost with the 1980 Olivia Newton-John musical, Xanadu.
“Ten Thirteen,” the penultimate episode of season 2, was a master stroke of storytelling jiu-jitsu — specifically because it followed “International Assassin.” Last week, we were believers. Kevin Garvey died and was resurrected after battling his most powerful adversary, Patti. He seemed to emerge victorious from the surreal shadowlands that exist between the living and the dead, digging himself out of a shallow grave. It was a miracle. It was magic. It was proof of the show’s commitment to some spiritual and/or supernatural explanation for the unexplainable. And it totally set us up for “Ten Thirteen”’s suckerpunch cliffhanger.
We knew Meg would be back. Last week’s teaser for the final two episodes showed her and Tommy together in possibly friendlier circumstances — driving through the night and engaging in a non-rapey way. But the show initially turned back the clock to before the Departure: Meg is snorting some blow in the bathroom while Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” documents her every sniff. She tells herself to smile. She’s having lunch with Mom, who just wants to talk about the wedding. It’s Oct. 13 — “Ten Thirteen” — the day before the shocking disappearance of millions. Mom wants to pay for the wedding; Meg wants her to pay, too, but she really wants to put up a fight so that Mom will have to insist. “You’re the most relentless person I’ve ever known,” says Mom. “When you have a cause, there’s no stopping you.” Translation: You’re a pill, and thank goodness you’re getting married and will have babies because if you ever fell in with the wrong crowd or, heaven forbid, a cult, you would be seriously dangerous to mankind.
Mom has another Mom story to tell, but Meg needs another bump to endure it. Hold that thought, Mom, back in a jiff. But when Meg returns from powdering her nose, she finds her mother on the floor and a waitress conducting CPR. Dead. What was Mom going to tell her? Meg will never know, and the guilt could warp her psychologically.
Cut to: Meg and her fiancé on a bus — a Miracle tourist bus. I was slightly disoriented, and I’d forgotten what her fiancé (Bill Heck) looked like. Was this a post-Mapleton fire Meg, trying normalcy one more time after her Guilty Remnant stint? Of course not. This is another flashback, with a slight time-jump forward. Meg, it turns out, visited Miracle long before Matt and Nora and Kevin moved south. She’s dragging her empathetic fiancé to Miracle because she’s looking for answers: There’s a psychic there who might be able to ease her pain.
The park ranger is slightly more friendly than the guards who run the show later, but he playfully warns the tourists that he’ll hunt them down if they overstay their welcome. Okay now, folks, go and have some fun. You bet your ass Meg wants to take the audio tour, if only to cloak her real reasons for visiting. So we learn all about Jarden and Miracle, which is “the national park that surrounds and protects the town from those who would corrupt its exceptional qualities.” There’s Cecilia at stop No. 13, the bride-to-be who wears her dress a few hours every day. And that preserved fracture in the road at No. 7 — remember Michael cycled past it in the season premiere? — that was from a gas explosion on Oct. 14. OR. WAS. IT?
The town is a scam. But Meg has hope that Isaac the palm reader can help her. (His house hasn’t burned down yet.) Palm prints are for reading the future, so he has her chew on some mysterious chaw and spit it in his hand. He grinds it in his palms and asks, “What do you want to know?” Meg wants to know what her mother intended to tell her. Isaac warns her that the untold story isn’t necessarily final-words worthy and that knowing won’t fix her real problem. Meg lashes out and accuses Isaac of being a fraud. But he knows about Meg’s mom’s last meal, about the unwanted walnuts on her salad: Dude is legit.
So…what was the story? Apparently, it was so insignificant or disappointing that we don’t need to know it. Meg leaves Isaac’s house, her face ashen. But then she puts on the mask for her fiancé. Smile — just like she told herself in the restaurant’s bathroom mirror. “He wasn’t the real deal,” she tells him.
Not long after, she sits alone in the Jarden town square, crying into her dead mother’s blue sweater. “Want a baby carrot?” It’s Evie. Turns out you can’t eat baby carrots and cry at the same time (which I will test the next time I see Creed). I don’t think Evie hangs out looking for sad people to give carrots. But somehow, she and Meg share a bond. Deep down, perhaps they’re both hiding a deep disillusionment about their places in the world post-Rapture beneath a mask of contentment. Meg tells a joke to lighten the mood: It’s the same existential broken-pencil knock-knock joke that Evie told her father in the season premiere while they were playing softball. (So that’s a huge clue. But it’s also a clue that requires that Evie heard that joke and then waited months or years later to tell her father on the day before she disappeared. Oookay.)
“I’m sorry you didn’t find whatever you were looking for here,” says Evie, despondently. “Nobody ever does.”
Evie leaves; Meg and her fiancé head back to the bus. It’s not even close to being dark, but they are so done with this place. Before she climbs aboard, she takes one last look around and spits dismissively, getting the taste of Isaac’s chaw and his entire town out of her mouth. Whatever Isaac said — or didn’t say — it pointed her toward the next thing… the Guilty Remnant.
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Cut to: A bus is blocked by a herd of GRs. But this isn’t the Miracle tourist bus; it’s a school bus full of children. We’re almost back to present day. And these GRs aren’t standing there passively smoking. They wrestle the driver out of the bus and then Meg, wearing a regal white gown from her Arwen spring collection, enters, pulls the pin from a grenade, and rolls it down the bus aisle. The GRs barricade the panicked children in the bus, and Meg walks away with a smile. It’s not going to explode, is it? Is it?
Meg’s stunt gets her called before the GR’s elders. It turns out she didn’t explode that bus after all, but the elders disapprove of her tactics — terrifying children only hurts the GR’s cause. “Violence is weakness,” says GR No. 1. Ha, says Meg. And yes, Meg doesn’t have patience for this oath-of-silence crap any more. She always struggled with the constraints of discipline and being willingly mute, and now that she is evolving into something else, she doesn’t even bother with formalities. “You’re wrong, and I’m not the only one that feels that way,” says Meg. “Why do I have to just stand there, when I can put my cigarette in their f—ing eye?”
The elders suspect Meg is planning her own Oct. 14 disturbance. They suspect she’s stockpiling plastic explosives, and when accused, Meg’s mind flashes to a silver Airstream trailer on the entry bridge to Miracle. Meg denies, but her eyes admit everything. She almost wants them to know.
NEXT: Tommy is so f—ed
But first, she needs to take care of Tommy. The bad-cop/sexy-cop routine didn’t work on him, and he’s hugged 10 GRs out of the cult since his terrifying encounter with Meg. So she drops in on the American Legion, where he’s selling salvation to lost souls. She lines up for a hug, and in the middle of their embrace, she whispers, “I can do this for real.”
Game, set, and match. Tommy has always been a searcher, and his undercover work with the GR backfired — he’s totally buying what they’re selling. Now there’s this gorgeous succubus who sets his heart — and nearly his skin — on fire. So when Laurie arrives at the American Legion, complaining that he missed another hug-athon, he assails her with the most hurtful invective a son can muster: “Your book didn’t work out so you figured you would pimp out you’re own f—in’ son so that you wouldn’t have to run people over any more so that you didn’t have to feel bad about leaving your whole f—ing family.”
Pound for pound, word for word, syllable for syllable, that’s about the coldest thing you can say to someone who gave birth to you. It also happens to be true. Laurie lashes out in anger, and Tommy walks. After some public-park drunkenness, he returns to the GR franchise that ratted him out and belligerently demands to see Meg. He’s greeted with another pummeling, but Meg arrives. She mocks him, telling him to just hug himself if he wants to feel better. But Tommy pleads his case and says the magic word: Miracle. If we wanted to be with his family, he’d be in Miracle. Meg’s reaction is one of disbelief and then utter ecstasy. To her, this has to feel like divine intervention: her evil-genius plan for the Miracle bridge — which may or may not include plastic explosives — will have the added bonus of striking the family of her hated former mentor.
“You must be curious about what I’m going to do when I get to Texas,” she tells Tommy as they road-trip that night. “Because it’s pretty f—ing amazing what I’m going to do.”
Maybe Tommy is still a little drunk. Maybe he’s not too smart. But Texas is actually not the first thing on his mind. He just wants to know why Meg f—ed him, which is a nice term for what she actually did to him. You almost get the impression that Tommy asks the question with the hope she’ll say, “Because I really, really like you and I didn’t know how to get your attention!” He’s the kind of guy who might almost believe that.
Meg suggests a honky-tonk pit stop, and the two have a date. Note that Meg has shed her GR white and is now clad in black. (She is the looney-tunes Mockingjay!) Some solid first-date small talk about moms and stepdads, some shots, and some slow dancing. They kiss. She looks at him intently; he might confuse it for lust, but it’s more likely the look of a predator who sees the perfect cosmic Oswald — a patsy — in front of her. “To get you pregnant,” she finally says on the dance floor. “I wanted to get you pregnant. That’s why I f—ed you, Tom.”
Okay, so what does this mean? Option A: She raped him to get herself pregnant, and she just has a funny way of using pronouns. Option B: She raped him to impregnate his mind, to plant a metaphorical seed of recruitment that will prepare Tommy to deliver something for Meg later on. Option C: Meg is an evil goddess of some sort — like bizarro Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu — and she has major intimacy issues.
In Texas, Meg’s operation is headquartered at a well-armed ranch. But a hiker found his way onto the grounds and may have seen what’s hiding in the barn. (Note the roller skates in the closet where they have the poor guy imprisoned. Or don’t. I’m still stuck on the magic of Xanadu!) Technically, they could hold the interloper for another day and then release him after the Oct. 14 stunt, no harm done. “Or…,” Meg thinks, “We can just stone him.”
Tommy follows her out, looking for guidance. But Meg tells him, “Now we’re done,” and hands him a stone to make himself useful. But Meg still has plans for Tommy, no? Why bring him all the way to Texas if he has not become part of her devious plan?
That night, Meg drives to Miracle’s tent city of the damned to survey the bridge. There’s a celebratory atmosphere as the camp counts down the minutes until Oct. 14. The clock is literally ticking on the Milton High School football scoreboard. (Go Vipers, ha!) Meg slaloms through the smoke and trailers and then, there it is: the bridge to Jarden.
It’s Matt Jamison, looking the best he’s ever been in two seasons of The Leftovers. He looks fit for battle, but he’s happy to see a familiar face, especially now that Meg has escaped the GR…or so she says. He pours some tea and tells her all about Mary and the Garveys. Matt marvels at the coincidence of he and Meg meeting in Miracle, and only then, perhaps in her arrogance, does Meg slip. “I think we both came here for the same reason…because this place is safe,” she says. “Those people on the other side of that bridge, Matt, they were spared…they’re just not suffering like the rest of us are.”
The light bulb goes off, and Matt suddenly remembers that Oct. 13 is an even more important anniversary for Meg — the date of her mother’s death. Matt knows all about that because he once posted fliers all around Mapleton with Meg’s dead mother’s photo on them.
“I’d forgotten that,” Meg lies.
“Then I apologize for being…your living reminder,” Matt says, calling her bluff with the GR’s own words.
In a very different type of story, one of them would pull guns. Maybe both. Who’s going to shoot first? “What are you waiting for?” she taunts Matt, asking him why he and the rest of the disheveled masses sit there idly just outside the gates of a heavenly oasis. “You’re waiting for me.”
Meg and Matt are destined for combat, but they’re cut from the same cloth of overzealousness. Meg’s mother’s foreboding description of her daughter — “You’re the most relentless person I’ve ever known. When you have a cause, there’s no stopping you” — that’s Matt, too. There might be some truth, too, in that Matt needs Meg’s terrorist stunt to elevate him to be the type of leader that he has always aspired to be. Whatever happens tomorrow, Matt is positioned to fill the void.
Back at the ranch, Tommy is settling in for the night with the others. “[Meg] is going to change everything!” one GR writes to Tommy, and she practically vibrates with excitement. But after lights-out, he sneaks to the barn, which houses Meg’s huge secret plan. Despite high security that would likely only be heightened by the unlucky hitchhiker that snooped around, the barn door is wide open and unguarded. Inside is the silver trailer that Meg imagined. Newspapers line the windows. What’s inside? C-4 explosives?
Repeat…no one is guarding the barn or its contents on the eve of the attack.
Tommy grabs an ax and pries open the trailer door. A golden light reflects on his face when it opens. And there is Evie, dressed in white.
And the scales fell from our eyes.
“Who are you?” he asks.
She scribbles with her marker, while her other two missing friends look on in silence. “It doesn’t matter.”
And she slams the door in his face.
A huge answer, but so many questions. So Evie and the girls are part of the GR cult and fabricated their own disappearance. There was no second Departure in Jarden, no Biblical or supernatural hocus-pocus. Somehow, someway, she and Meg reunited after their baby carrots meet-cute and orchestrated this huge ruse/terrorist attack. (They also made the reservoir crack open and drain, apparently, to throw people off the scent and get them to believe…)
Are there explosives in the trailer, as well? Is Meg planning to return the girls and then sacrifice them on the bridge? And will Tommy be driving the truck — voluntarily or against his will? Why else would Meg bring him this far? Why else was the barn left so unguarded? I’m pregnant with anticipation.