The Leftovers recap: Orange Sticker
“Wherever you go, there you are.”
That’s what Damon Lindelof told EW in his season 2 preview. And that’s what Jill tells Nora after Kevin’s recent sleepwalking jaunt coincides with an earthquake and the disappearance of three girls, including new neighbor Evie. In “Orange Sticker,” which refers to the government sticker that confirms that Miracle’s homes did not lose a soul during the Departure, the Mapleton crew’s hopes for a fresh start in Texas are dashed by tragedy and some old demons. And no one seems more lost, more dumbfounded, than Kevin, who woke up in an empty lake bed with a cinder block tied to his ankle.
Nora’s emotions, on the other hand, are more anger than delirium. When the earthquake wakes her up in the middle of the night and she finds Kevin missing, her immediate fear is that he’s departed, just like her family was. The baby Lily, though, is calm, almost like she knows something, but Nora panics, especially after she sees a familiar-looking dog roaming through the neighborhood. Kevin is off the leash! “Did it happen again?” she asks the 911 operator. “Are the people gone?”
Kevin makes it home in one piece, but Nora curtails their embrace and silently takes Lily upstairs. “Looks like you have some explaining to do, sport,” says Patti, who is now officially Kevin’s nightmare version of Clarence Odbody from It’s a Wonderful Life. She won’t even leave him alone to take a shower.
He does explain, though, telling Nora and Jill what happened — everything except the part about Patti and the cinder block. He can’t find his cell phone either, and when he’s told Evie is missing, Kevin contemplates going to the cops — which is a stupid idea, Nora tells him. Nora is not playing around. Later that day, when the couple helps out police and the community search for the missing girls, Nora gives the Hardy Boy former cop some words of wisdom: “You should get down there [in the empty lake bed],” she says. “If someone else finds your phone, you could say you just lost it today.”
Nora is tough, and her brain might operate on a different level. (John would appreciate it.) Way back when, after the Departure, she worked for the government investigating Departure fraud claims, and she’s seen it all. She’s not cursed with naivety.
One of the cops gives Kevin a hard time near the crime scene. Still rattled, he can barely remember his new address, so he’s about to get tossed when John vouches for him as his new neighbor. Wow, how the officer changed tunes at the mere presence of the Miracle Fire Chief. But if John’s endorsement helps Kevin out of one problem, he’s got another, and no amount of neighborly influence can bail him out of it: His muddy palm print is clearly stamped on the car’s driver-side window from the night of the earthquake.
WANT MORE? Keep up with all the latest from last night’s television by subscribing to our newsletter. Head here for more details.
Back at home, Jill asks Michael for some help with the kitchen faucet, which sprung a leak after the earthquake. He puts his Bible down long enough to help, and there’s some romantic chemistry between them. She wonders why he’s not out searching for Evie with everyone else, and rather than the expected answer of, “Well, someone has to be home if she calls or shows up,” he says, “My sister isn’t here anymore.” I wonder if her disappearance, whatever its cause, took something of him with her because they’re twins. Does he feel different — incomplete in some way — because of what she experienced?
At the end of the day’s search, Kevin still hasn’t found his phone. Oh well, he tells Nora, with a shrug. Nora makes it clear that he’s not coming home until he finds it, damn it. “Love you,” he says to her, though it’s more a request than a statement of fact. “I love you too, Kevin,” she answers formally as she drives away.
It’s dark and everyone’s left when Kevin descends back down into the lake bed. Patti comes along to lend a hand. “I know exactly where your phone is. I can tell you what happened to those girls, too. All you have to do is ask,” she says. Kevin is still refusing to engage with her, in the hopes that she’ll go away. But she’s never going to give him up, she taunts, in the immortal words of Rick Astley. And she does have answers for him. She helps him find the phone in a puddle of sludge. And she warns him not to get in the vehicle that’s approaching.
John is back, and he eyes Kevin suspiciously. Did the police already identify that muddy palm print? Does John know that Kevin was there the night before? He insists that Kevin hop in with him rather than wait for Nora. John pops open a beer while he races through Miracle and warns Kevin that he came to Texas for all the wrong reasons. “What you’re looking for is to feel safe,” he says. “[But you’re no] safer here than anywhere else. Of that, I am sure. There are no miracles in Miracle.”
When John drives past their street, Kevin’s worst fears rise. But he can rest easily — for now, at least. John isn’t interested in the muddy palm print’s forensics, because to him, its careful placement is a message. Days earlier, he burned down the house of an old friend, Isaac, who was running a palm-reading business out of his home. Now, John is sure that Isaac — who predicted misfortune for John — is behind Evie’s disappearance and his hand print is an intentional taunt. “Looks like you framed someone without even trying,” Patti tells Kevin.
Some of John’s firemen friends try to stop him, insisting that Isaac didn’t do anything wrong and questioning Kevin’s presence in the truck. This does seem like a fair question, since Kevin’s ride-along felt essential only as a tense storytelling ploy. Why would John bring along a neighbor he’s known for less than 24 hours on this type of dangerous assignment? And it’s not like he needs a wing man. In fact, he even has to throw Kevin off the scent when they arrive at Isaac’s new residence, a run-down motel.
NEXT: Kevin gets Rickrolled
While Kevin searches for what turns out to be the wrong apartment, Patti tells a story about her ex, Neil. He was cheating on her and fancied some extreme kink. When Patti caught him in the act, she saw a woman defecating on his chest. Viewers from season 1 will recall that Patti left a bag full of poo on Neil’s doorstep, and this at least explains what that was all about.
By the time Kevin realizes that John sent him on a wild-goose chase, John is pounding one of the other apartment’s doors with a baseball bat. Before he can break it down, a bullet comes through the door in the opposite direction. John brought a bat to a gun fight. That tends to happen when you burn a man’s house down and throw him through a glass window. Kevin arrives in time to stop Isaac from shooting John a second time, but Isaac sends them away with a line that perhaps applies to both interlopers: “Ain’t nothing more dangerous than a man who don’t believe in anything.”
Nora needs a drink, so she swings by the liquor store for some booze and cigarettes. When she realizes she left behind her wallet, a stranger offers to help. It’s the same man whom Michael visited to pray with in the season premiere, the same man that approached Kevin at the Visitors Center and offered to help. His name is Virgil, and he tells Nora, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Is he another healer, like Holy Wayne?
After a drink with Jill, in which Nora compares the Departure to the Biblical story of Noah — meaning she and other survivors had been left behind to drown in the flood — she takes her beef to Matt. During the day’s search, she’d seem him in a prayer circle, which she quickly disengaged with. Now, she blames him for bringing her here. He promised her something special, some place that was different, that was safe. But Matt insists he was not blowing smoke. On the first night he was in Miracle, Mary awoke and was her old self. They talked for hours and fell asleep in each other’s arms. But when morning came, she was back in her trance. But that night made Matt a believer. When he was first introduced at the church in the season premiere, he tried to share this miraculous story with the congregation. But the minister interrupted him so that he couldn’t. Perhaps that was a favor because the minister was clearly aware that John was in the pews and John doesn’t trust people who believe in miracles.
Kevin drops a wounded John off at Erika’s clinic, and after she removes the bullet, she warns him that the town is going to change. Miracle is what it is because the people believe it had been spared, that it had been chosen. But now, with Evie and the other two girls gone, Miracle is just Jarden, Tex. Its residents may see themselves and each other in a different light now.
Kevin drifts off into the empty town square. Patti, though, has not relented. She questions his relationship with Nora, calling it “damage control” instead of true love. She flicks his manhood over Nora’s decision to buy the house and challenges his love for his family. Finally…finally…he speaks to her…rudely. But he acknowledges her.
Laurie was Patti’s therapist, and in a way, Patti is now Kevin’s. Why are you trying to kill yourself if you love them so much, she asks. He protests that he’s not really suicidal. “Well, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion,” she says after describing his recent attempt. “I’m just glad we finally talked about it.”
After Patti tells Kevin that the missing girls went poof, Departure-style, Kevin’s momentary peace is broken by, “Hey, who’s your friend?” It’s the Pillar Man, who witnessed it all from his perch above. But the question is, did he only see a crazy man having a one-sided conversation? Or, is he someone who can see Patti?
In life, Patti was a devil — at least to Kevin and most of the people in Mapleton. But in death, she might be something else. And it’s worth considering that she and Kevin might be allies now, even if he’s slow to come around. After all, she knew exactly where his cell phone was, and she seems to know about the missing girls. It’s interesting that the last time Kevin saw his father, the old man said the key to his new serenity was not fighting the voices but just doing what they told him to do. Perhaps that’s the way forward for Kevin, also. Perhaps Patti — whether she be real or imagined — is the only path to sanity for Kevin and his family.
In the final scenes of the episode, Michael chips away the orange sticker from his family’s house. Nora suggests that she and Kevin sleep in handcuffs to prevent another dangerous nocturnal excursion. But there’s no doubting that Erika and Patti were correct: “Things are gonna change. Indeed… Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you…”