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The Leftovers recap: Ten Thirteen

All roads lead to Miracle. Get ready for an explosive finale.

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The Leftovers

TV Show
Drama, Fantasy, Mystery
run date:
Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston
Current Status:
In Season

“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

For you.” 

— “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