The Leftovers recap: 'Cairo'
“You’re just going to have to batten down the hatches and finish what you started here, my friend.” —Patti, to Kevin
After seven careful to the point of being tedious Leftovers episodes alienated some of the show’s audience for a stubborn dearth of answers, “Cairo”—pronounced KAY-row—was an avalanche of information. More clues from the 1972 cover of National Geographic? Check. Gladys’ murder? Solved. Kevin’s missing white police shirts? Found. Aimee’s uncomfortably close relationship with Kevin? Addressed, though not necessarily resolved. Plus, crucial members of the Guilty Remnant just couldn’t keep their mouths shut for once, giving us insight into the big plans they have for Mapleton on Memorial Day.
Kevin and Patti were destined to collide, judging by the opening sequence, which captures them both preparing for a special event. Kevin is peacefully cooking a chicken dinner for Nora and the girls, slicing the vegetables, setting the table just so; Patti is meticulously laying out outfits on the floor of the church while cradling a thick binder, titled M.D.—Memorial Day, most likely. The spiritual “I’ve Been ‘Buked and I’ve Been Scorned” binds their tasks together, with the haunting final lyric, “There is trouble all over this world.”
Kevin and Nora are in love. Did you see his look of bliss as he got the kitchen ready to host the closest thing he’s had to a family dinner since Laurie bolted? Nora is walking on a similar cloud. She doesn’t even seem to mind the staking outside of her home by the GRs, the same ladies she previously hosed down and who now are carefully recording her daily comings and goings. But the actual dinner deflates some of their joy. It’s a tense table, though Aimee wasn’t the primary troublemaker. If she is having a stealth relationship with Blackout Kevin, she did a great job of hiding any petty feelings of jealousy. Part of me just assumed that she had lost a family member or two in the Departure—forcing her to crash with the Garveys—but her question about Nora’s job with the government agency implied that she couldn’t quite relate to that questionnaire experience. So, what exactly is Aimee’s deal at home?
Instead, it’s Jill who clearly isn’t comfortable with her father and Nora’s coziness, as they giggle about dogs’ names. Her idea of dinner conversation is asking about Nora’s gun—the one she and Aimee know she carries in her purse. Nora says she doesn’t need it anymore and proves it by letting Jill search her bag.
So, no, the ladies didn’t quite hit it off right away. Outside afterward, a calm Nora brushes it off and reassures Kevin, “It’ll get better.” “How?” he asks, before they kiss. “I don’t know, but it will.” Well, sure, if you can afford $1,000 hugs from Holy Wayne.
Previously, Kevin and the TV audience were both in the dark about his mysterious blackouts, leaving us all to speculate about those dead dogs, his bite wound, and whatever happened to his kitchen. Finally, we got to see what really happens when he closes his eyes: basically, we have a Tyler Durden situation. This time, Kevin goes to sleep in his own bed, but wakes up in the front seat of his truck in the woods. Dean the dog-killer is along for their latest mission, and taped to a chair inside the dilapidated cabin is a battered and bloodied Patti, the head GR.
What a marvelous performance from Justin Theroux as the ground shifts beneath his feet, his eyes going all terrified school-boy like Edward Norton at his eureka moment in Fight Club. He has no recollection of any of this. Dean is incredulous at Kevin’s claims of ignorance—assaulting and kidnapping Patti was Blackout Kevin’s idea after she gave him a dirty look as the two drunken men drove home from the bar. Last time they had such a crazy night together, Kevin brought home that barking dog to win a bet, says Dean. If Kevin can rehabilitate the pooch, Dean will stop shooting man’s former best friends, but if he fails, Dean wins $1. (It’s a Duke & Duke special.) That was the same night that Kevin “dreamed” about the wild dog in the mailbox, the pile of GR corpses with plastic bags over their heads, and the police scanner that—as one observant recap reader pointed out—crackled “Cairo” right before he opened the front door. This time, they knocked Patti unconscious and brought her to Cairo, New York—the Garveys’ old retreat—to treat her like a wild dog. Cairo is crucial—for reasons yet to be clearly explained—because it’s also mentioned on the cover of the National Geographic that Kevin’s father is obsessed with giving him.
NEXT: Jill asks Aimee the big DILF question
With Patti MIA, the remaining GR are moving ahead with their plans for a Memorial Day eff-you to the town. The only annoying obstacle is Rev. Matt, who is handing out leaflets, urging GRs to return to the land of the speaking. Megan clearly isn’t familiar with the phrase “the pot-calling-the-kettle-black” because when she sees Matt’s come-home handouts for her that include a photo of her late mother, she loses it, screaming and bloodying Matt’s face. “You don’t know me! You’re everywhere! Leave us alone,” she screams at him, before later complaining to her group, “He has [a leaflet] of everyone, on all of us. He can’t do that. He can’t just f—ing come here and do that.”
She makes some fair points—though she seems to be overlooking the fact that Matt is just running plays directly from the GR handbook. At least he didn’t break into her house and steal something that she holds dear—like, her cigarettes. But her loss of composure is more than just a momentary slip. Megan seems unhinged, and not necessarily the most devoted GR at the present time. Did she commit to the cult too soon, while still recovering from the emotional trauma of losing her mother the day before the Departure? Though she rallies by apologizing to Matt in person, via pencil and paper, she keeps violating silence protocol with Laurie, and flips on TV news—”the mass grave was empty” says a reporter on the story titled, “Miraculous Resurrection Claim”—while she waits for Patti to return.
The empty graves will require further confirmation, but there are signs of a miraculous resurrection closer to home. After Matt accepts Megan’s apology, Nora—there to help with Matt’s vegetable wife, Mary—snidely remarks that Laurie’s next apology stop should be the Garvey house, where she owes her tragically neglected daughter at least a similar note. Laurie turns the other cheek—barely—but as the GRs exit, and before Matt or Nora can notice it, Mary begins to blink and flex her right hand as if she’s just waking from a nap. Makes some production sense: Did you really think HBO hired The West Wing’s Janel Moloney to stare vacantly through the entire first season?
At the park, near the town gazebo getting decorated for Memorial Day festivities, Jill and Aimee are sharing a blunt with the Ping-Pong twins. Jill is still angry about her awkward dinner confrontation with Nora, and a totally buzzed Aimee is having maybe too much fun recounting the evening. The first sign that Jill’s not having it is when Aimee mentions Nora “sitting in your mom’s chair”; Jill quickly corrected her, “It wasn’t my mom’s chair.” Was Aimee actually sitting in Laurie’s old chair, not Nora? The tension mushroomed, and after Aimee hands out one last piece of motherly advice about Jill and her dad, Jill provocatively asks the question: “Did you f— my dad?
Technically, Aimee answered yes, but instead of guilt, she seemed heart-broken that Jill contemplated such a betrayal, much less expressed it. (In Jill’s defense, we all thought it, yes?) Aimee was hurt by the question, knowing that once Jill voiced it, their friendship and her place at the Garveys’ table, was no more. So she wrapped her so-called admission in a crude, sarcastic taunt that no daughter would ever be able to forgive or forget. But did Aimee really sleep with Blackout Kevin? Aimee’s wounded reaction gave me doubts.
Jill is less bothered by the potentially irrevocable blowup because she’s obsessed with Nora’s sudden transformation into a well-adjusted human being. Jill is crumbling inside and out because her parents divorced and her mother is in a cult down the street. How could a mother who lost so much more—her husband and two young children—possibly be okay? She must be pretending, and Jill drags the stoned twins to Nora’s house to find the gun she claimed to no longer need. They break in, and Jill finds the revolver under one of her kid’s bed, in a box for the game of Trouble. Vindication? Disappointment? It’s difficult to tell what’s in Jill’s tears.
Back in Cairo, a panicked Kevin is completely losing his bag. And his shirts, apparently. While trying to get his mind right in the woods around the cabin, he stumbles upon the remnants of a campfire that features an aluminum bucket surrounded by a circle of dirty work-boots. Not far away are the white Mapleton P.D. dress shirts that Kevin was convinced were stolen by his joshin’ dry-cleaner. He’s clearly been coming to Cairo quite frequently lately, judging by the number of shirts he’s left hanging on the trees, and if those boots aren’t his, then Patti might not be the first victim that’s been tied up in the cabin. (By the way, did you notice the etching of the two deer on the cabin wall?)
Rushing back to set things right and regain his sanity by setting Patti free, Kevin finds that Dean has taken matters into his own hands by suffocating Patti with a plastic bag, an image ripped directly out of Kevin’s nightmare. They wrestle as Kevin tries to save her, and he finally breaks free of Dean’s grip and rips open the plastic bag, allowing Patti to breath again. “You are on your own, Chief,” says a disappointed Dean, who just wants to drink beers, pack fatties, shoot dogs, and kill the occasional GR. Just as he exits, he spits out, “Oh, shut the f— up. I tried.” Like Kevin’s father, Dean the self-proclaimed guardian angel hears voices, too.
NEXT: The truth about Gladys
Kevin is still in a bind. Patti has no intention of letting bygones be bygones, and she lectures him like he’s a child who can’t possible understand her adult words and ideas. Every time he tries kindness, she throws it back in his face by needling him about Laurie or Jill. “Oh, it’s a pickle,” she teases. “Can’t let me go. Can’t let me die. Oh, what to do, Kevin? What to f—in’ do?”
Patti already knows the endgame, so she’s perfectly happy to indulge Kevin’s questions and lay out the GR’s entire raison d’être. “We strip away attachment fear and love and hatred and anger, until we are erased,” she confides. “Until we are a blank slate. We are living reminders of what you try so desperately to forget: that we are ready and we are waiting. Because it’s not going to be long now.”
Something is coming—soon. The GR think it. Kevin’s dad is convinced and wants his son to join the fight. And Holy Wayne is waiting for the blade to fall. (It’s not exactly my specialty, but some end-of-times believers claim that the anti-Christ will make his presence known three and half years after the initial Rapture. Mapleton’s Memorial Day falls very close to that timeline after Oct. 14, 2011.)
So what is the GR’s big plan for Memorial Day, the scheme that blabby Megan is relishing, wishing she could be there to see Nora’s reaction up close? Let’s piece together Patti laying out the clothes in the church, GR observers keeping close tabs on when Nora and other Mapleton residents are home, and the envelope of cash that Laurie handed over for a trailer packed with people-size packages. I’d wager those are Loved Ones phony corpses, specifically designed for each Mapleton Departure, and the GR is planning to break back in to neighborhood homes, leaving lifelike dressed dolls of their loved ones as a painful reminder of their loss. Think that would set off the town against the GR? Because that’s exactly what they want—a spark that blows up into a bigger conflict.
That’s what Gladys’ stoning was all about. It may have looked like a retaliatory crime, but Patti relishes telling Kevin that she ordered Gladys’ murder—with Gladys’ approval. “She was okay with it,” says Patti, who sees PR value in the false martyrdom. “And when Laurie’s time comes, she will be okay with it, too.”
Patti isn’t just talking the talk—she demands that Kevin kill her, quoting some Yeats to get him in the mood: “O vanity of sleep. Hope, dream, endless desire. The horses of disaster plunge through the heavy clay. Beloved, let your eyes have close and your heart beat over my heart. And your hair fall over my breast. Drowning love’s lonely hour in deep twilight of rest. And hiding their tossing manes and tumultuous feet.”
Kevin elects not to drink from that cup, but Patti already has everything she needs. At this point, after being kidnapped and brutally beaten by the police chief, who cares who actually thrusts the blade of glass into her neck. “You do understand,” she says to him before cutting her own jugular and dying in his arms with a smile on her face.
Can Kevin still do the “right thing” now? Or will he be forced to bury all the evidence somewhere in Cairo? He’s going to return home to a completely empty house and learn that his daughter is now living in the GR house with his ex-wife. If he wasn’t on the cusp on insanity before, this might send him over the edge. There is trouble all over this world. So many of Patti’s words could haunt him, but the ones that echo loudest tonight are, “It’s coming, so soon. And you are all ready. All you need is just a little push.” Like the wild dog that Jill cut loose, Kevin’s inner beast might be off the leash again.