Kevin's dad escapes the loony bin and Tom discovers a painful truth.

By Jeff Labrecque
August 11, 2014 at 03:03 AM EDT
Paul Schiraldi/HBO
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“You should know, though… I’m a f—in’ mess.” —Kevin

Last week, on what must qualify as a feel-good episode of The Leftovers, Nora and Kevin had a spark. Though they live in the same small town and Kevin is close family friends with her brother, the minister, they somehow never crossed paths until recently. Both now divorced—she to her cheating Departured husband, he to Guilty Remnant member, Laurie—they agreed to a promising dinner date. But as Kevin reminded viewers with the above p.s., he hasn’t exactly turned the page on his own demons, and the episode “Solace for Tired Feet” dragged us back into his disturbed psyche, which struggles to differentiate between what is real and imagined. As always, Kevin’s father—the former chief of police—has an aggravating effect on Kevin’s mental well-being.

It’s a shame because things are looking up for Kevin. After five solid dates with Nora, she invites him to her place for some intimate adult time, a plan disrupted by Meg and another GR who are staking out her house. While Kevin barks at them, Nora drenches them with her garden hose. Fun, but it kills the mood. Rain check, they decide.

Kevin might feel as giddy as a teenager, but his own kids are in real trouble. At that very moment, Jill and her friend Aimee are in the woods with the Ping-Pong twins and other assorted oddballs, playing a macabre game of chicken that honors the departure of a bullied teen, who had been stuffed in a discarded old refrigerator when the inexplicable vanishing event occurred. Daring teens now re-enact his plight by seeing who can stay inside the fridge the longest before air runs out, and Jill, who’s demonstrated a reckless streak, is intent on breaking the record. But any pride in her achievement quickly turns to panic when the fridge’s rusty handle snaps off before her friends can let her out. Gasping for air and on the brink of losing consciousness, she’s rescued by a guardian angel—her grandpa. This being The Leftovers, I thought for an instant that the vision of Scott Glenn pulling her out of the fridge was part of her hallucination after she’d passed out. But as he fled through the woods in his robe after telling Jill, “Don’t tell your dad you saw me,” and her friends reacted, it became more likely that the old police chief really had really escaped his mental institution.

Elsewhere, on the road to Nazareth—or wherever Tom and an eight-months pregnant Christine are heading with the unborn chosen child she refers to as “the bridge”—the yellow, happy-faced phone finally rings when Tom is at the pharmacy picking up medicine for a feverish Christine. It’s a confidence-shaking conversation, as a shaky Holy Wayne doesn’t even seem to know whom he dialed. (More on that later.) While crudely accusing Tom of taking Christine as a lover, Wayne demands that Tom give up half of his quickly depleting $6,000. “Naked I came from thy mother’s womb and naked I will depart,” justifies Wayne, quoting the Book of Job. (Long-suffering Job is practically the patron saint of The Leftovers, and the next line of Scripture is even more instructive: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.”)

Wayne gives specific instruction to leave the three grand taped under a mailbox at the intersection of Harper and 15th Street. I suppose we shouldn’t think too hard about the problematic vagueness of that detail since both Tom and Wayne are in different cities, presumably, and neither knows where the other currently is. Apparently, there’s a Harper and 15th close to Tom, and it’s exactly the intersection Wayne had in mind. (Maybe it’s the one in Erie, Pa.? Or the one in Augusta, Ga.? Turns out the police cars are from Indiana…) It’s across from that chicken place, which apparently clears things up. “It won’t be long now [before the momentous event will occur],” Wayne tells Tom, before hanging up and falling back into the fetal position in his dank hiding place.

NEXT: Grandpa wants Kevin to subscribe to National Geographic

Communication between the Mapleton police department and local mental-health facilities housing violent offenders isn’t what it used to be because Kevin doesn’t find out that his dad is on the loose until Jill mentions it to him that night. Once again, Aimee is there playing the role of mother more than best friend: “Just ask him,” she counsels Jill, who asks her father what her grandpa did to get locked up. Yes, he hurt people, Kevin says. Turns out he burned down the library. (The churlish cop who blabbed that detail…? I was hoping his name was Neil, making him Patti’s estranged husband and the recipient of her post-meal doggy-bag surprise. Alas, IMDb.com lists him as Det. Louis Vitello.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2yoeOIe22s

Grandpa is still obsessed with libraries, apparently, because he assaults a cop while breaking into the town’s new one. The Spanish-speaking library custodian tells Kevin that his father requested $200 and was using the computer to try to purchase something online for his son. Grandpa’s girlfriend, the mayor, isn’t any help in the manhunt. She tells Kevin she broke it off with him months ago due to his crazy ramblings, but warns Kevin, “He’s coming for you.” Kevin is on edge, so he drifts off to sleep that night with the police radio humming, his gun and taser at the ready.

What follows is a sequence right out of the season’s delirious first two episodes. Kevin is awakened by a howling dog scratching at the door, but Dean the dog-killer is waiting outside, saying he’s got a pooch trapped in the mailbox. (Mailboxes and being trapped in dark boxes qualify as themes in this episode.) While the angry canine shakes the mailbox, a teary-eyed Kevin takes aim with a rifle. Tommy appears in the doorway, slamming the front door on Kevin. A pile of GR corpses with bullet wounds are piled in Dean’s flatbed, including Laurie. “I don’t want to shoot them,” whispers Kevin and he lowers his gun.

Kevin wakes up the next morning on the floor of his bedroom, with a dog-bite on his left hand. A feral dog is tied up outside, and Aimee is there to remind him and tell Jill what really happened the night before. Kevin doesn’t remember a thing, but Aimee says he has a plan to rehabilitate the dog and that she tenderly bandaged his bite injury. Aimee eyes him suspiciously, and later, when Kevin comes home to find her making herself at home, sans Jill, she says, “You don’t remember, do you? Last night… getting the dog?” Is she asking about just the dog? Or are there other things that Kevin can’t recall from the previous night—and perhaps other nights as well. Is he having a physical relationship with Aimee in his haze of tranquilizers? She seemed slightly bothered by Kevin’s subsequent admission to the girls that he’d spent the night “with a friend.”

(Did you notice that Aimee was killing time watching Perfect Strangers, the same 1980’s sitcom that was playing at the mental hospital? According to Grandpa, the three main cast members all were Raptured, apparently giving the show a post-Departure renaissance in syndication. Bronson Pinchot’s surviving family members must be doing the Dance of Joy.)

Grandpa is coming for Kevin, like the mayor suspected, but first he needs some money. Unfortunately, the buried stash in his backyard is now the purview of the vicious dog. Jill lends a hand by giving her grandpa some food and a sweatshirt. She doesn’t believe him when he claims to have just stumbled upon her and her friends in the woods. Did the voices in his head tell him where to go in order to save here? Can you hear the voices right now, she asks. Yes, he nods. “They’re saying that you look like Snow White.” She does resemble the fairy-tale princess, truthfully, and the fridge could pass for the glass coffin Snow White slept in after being cursed by her wicked stepmother. The Ping-Pong twins are kind of Dopey, and Aimee… sorry to dwell on this, but she has the potential to be the wicked stepmother, if not in title than in spirit. I’m dreading/anticipating Aimee’s behavior when she and Nora are in the same room with Kevin.

Jill was savvy enough to call the cops before letting Grandpa in the house, so Kevin arrives and handcuffs his father. But he promptly escapes in traffic when Kevin brakes to avoid a GR demonstration. Later, after stumbling across the stash of cash in his backyard, Kevin surmises that his father is hiding out with Matt. One roll of cash was still in the buried peanut-butter jar; Rev. Matt apparently had borrowed only one (of two) for his successful—but ultimately futile—gambling spree. Calling Matt, Kevin demands that he give his father up, and Matt arranges a meeting at a local restaurant. Kevin’s father arrives, still handcuffed but bearing a gift: the May 1972 issue of National Geographic magazine. Are there clues in the yellow-framed cover that features Yellowstone tourists photographing an upright black bear? (“Nine Yellowstone visitors were mauled last year,” reads the fine print.) Other stories from that issue: “Cairo: Troubled Capital of the Arab World,” “Living in a Japanese Village,” “The Spider That Lives Underwater,” and “Have Excavations on the Island of Thera Solved the Riddle of the Minoans?” [Note: As astute commenter Matt points out, when Christine is half-awake and suffering from a fever, her first words to Tom are, “Spiders underwater.”]

When father and a self-doubting son once talked at the hospital about going crazy and the voices they hear in their heads, father cautioned son about about acting too publicly on his visions. But now, he’s giving the hard sell: “That whistle blew three years ago and you can’t ignore it any more,” lectures Grandpa. “Your services are being requested, eyes open, wide awake. This is your invitation. This is your purpose.”

Kevin doesn’t buy any of it, and accuses his father of trying to infect him with his b.s. “They’re not going to let you off the hook so easy, son,” whispers Grandpa, before he’s locked back up. Outside, a sinister-looking Rev. Matt starts to quote the story of Jacob’s blessed son, Joseph, from the Koran: “Said the father, my dear son, relate not thy vision to thy brothers, lest they concoct a plot against thee…” Kevin rudely tells him where to go before he can finish the rest of the line, “…for Satan is to man an avowed enemy.”

NEXT: Tom discovers Wayne’s betrayal

Concerned about Christine’s health and suspicious after Wayne’s erratic behavior, Tom makes the $3,000 drop but stakes out the mailbox’s intersection to follow the money. The bag-man goes back to a seedy motel, and Tom bursts through the door demanding to see Holy Wayne. But Wayne’s not there. Instead, there’s another pregnant Asian-American girl who has also been promised that her unborn child is “the bridge.” Horny Wayne hasn’t put all his eggs in one basket after all when it comes to the Chosen One—or the Antichrist. While the other surrogate father inhales some of Tom’s $3,000 in the form of lines of coke and expresses steadfast belief in Wayne’s master plan, the jealous pregnant girl pulls a gun and opens fire on Tom, wounding him. “Where is [Christine]?” she yells. “Where is that whore?”

Bleeding from the bullet that ripped into his left hand, Tom staggers back to Christine. Wayne calls on the happy phone, but Tom refuses to answer. He smashes the phone against the side of a building, cutting the cord once and for all. But Tom doesn’t have to tell Christine the bad news. In his absence, she’s given birth alone in a bathtub, and the baby isn’t the He that Wayne promised. “It’s a girl,” she says while stifling a sob.

Back in Mapleton, Kevin retreats to Nora’s, where he cashes in his rain check. But just as they’re literally on the brink of intercourse, with Nora on her back, Kevin hesitates—if only for an instant. Before he can find a reason to stop, she starts thrashing erotically against him, and the moment of doubt passes. But the demons remain. Even in their postcoital glow, his mind is churning, keeping him from peace. “I think I might be going crazy,” he says. “Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place,” Nora answers, with a smile that seems to fix everything.

Kevin and Nora might be more than two lost souls who’ve discovered the rare ray of hope in the Leftovers world. We can write off Grandpa’s ramblings as the ravings of a lunatic, but in a world where God invited 140 million souls back home and turned his back on the other 98 percent, I’m not opposed to believing that voices—or angels—might be speaking to or through a few lucky ones. And recall that Grandpa told Kevin that the voices were sending Kevin someone to help him. All this time, I presumed that was Dean the dog-killer, who seemed to live in the strange ether between reality and delirium. But what if Nora was the person they sent Kevin instead? What if she and their future of hope is his true purpose? Maybe their unborn child is “the bridge.” I don’t necessarily think so, but who knows. As Grandpa says at the restaurant, “Context is everything, son.”

Episode Recaps

A “rapture” drama from Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, whose book of the same name served as inspiration for the series.
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  • 06/29/14
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