The Leftovers recap: A Most Powerful Adversary
Ever have one of those mornings when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Or more precisely, you wake up handcuffed to the bed and your lover has left you, taking your baby with her, and the imaginary woman in your head just won’t shut up about it?
“Gonna be a hard day, buddy,” Patti tells Kevin after he reads Nora’s Dear John letter. (“Mary and the baby are with me. Don’t call.”)
Patti had warned Kevin not to tell Nora about her, but Nora didn’t seem like the type to abandon him at the drop of a hat. After all, she has her own skeletons, paying prostitutes to shoot her in the chest. And she also had gone so far as to handcuff herself to Kevin at night so as to prevent his sleepwalking jaunts. Clearly, Kevin’s confession about his imaginary fiend doubled down on Nora’s disturbing conversation with Erika, so perhaps she was in her own precarious emotional state when she made the decision to pick up in the middle of the night and leave. Nora has demonstrated a streak of impulsiveness, but she didn’t seem like a quitter on something that really matters.
Jill doesn’t respond well to her father’s latest relationship muck-up. She runs to Michael at his church, and it’s clear that their relationship has accelerated off camera. Yes, we’ve seen them flirt over plumbing repair and exchange caresses in the front yard, but theirs is a full-fledged physical and emotional relationship. She rants about her father’s sleepwalking and new imaginary friend, peppering the pews with profanity. Michael calmly explains that he, too, talks to someone who may or may not be there — and he’s not referring to the Holy Trinity that Jill crudely blames for keeping them from having sex.
Jill has the right to flake out every now and then. In addition to the traumatic events of Oct. 14, her mother joined a cult, her brother disappeared, and her grandfather and father are hearing voices. Michael has quickly become her rock, a sanctuary of relative serenity. So it has to hurt when he tells her, in his calm tone of reason, that they haven’t consummated their relationship because he’s not sure he loves her yet. She’s flummoxed by his maturity and turns tail, “Thanks for the talk, reverend.”
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Kevin’s got two things on his To Do List. One, get in touch with Nora. Two, get the handcuffs off. He clipped the chain to detach himself from the bed, but he’s still walking around town with a suspicious-looking steel bracelet on his left wrist. He tries the hardware store, but when he screams at pesky Patti in the presence of the store manager and a little boy, he’s quickly asked to leave.
He’s nearing a breaking point — a breakdown — and when he’s back in the truck, he pleads with Patti to leave him alone, or at least tell him what she wants him to do. Glad you finally asked, says Patti. “In Cairo, Egypt, there is an ancient artifact…
Yes! Cairo, Egypt! It’s the May 1972 National Geographic Rosetta Stone from season 1! All the answers to The Leftovers are contained in the issue with the standing bear! Kevin listens intently. I’m on the edge of my seat. Go on, Patti…
“…It’s in a museum now. They found it in the tomb of Amenhotep. Scholars call it the Wishing Cup. You need to acquire this cup. It’s more of a chalice actually. It’s going to be heavily guarded, but you need to get it any way you can because once you do…”
Yes, I’m listening… Tell me, tell me…
“…you need to fill it with your come, Kevin, and then you need to drink it down — every last drop…”
“Jesus, Kevin! I have no f—ing idea what you’re supposed to do,” she says with a laugh. “I’m just as f—ing lost as you are.”
Screw you, Patti Levin. Screw you, Damon Lindelof and co-writer Patrick Somerville. That was just cruel on so many levels.
Actually, Patti, the Wishing Cup was discovered in King Tut’s tomb, but thanks for making me Google that.
Patti goes silent after berating Kevin, and he turns to find Michael staring at him. His mild-mannered neighbor tosses his bike in the back of the truck and jumps into the passenger seat uninvited. Kevin is in no mood to chit-chat, but when Michael tells him that he knows all about Patti, that Kevin visited his grandfather one night and confessed his demons, he agrees to drive to the old man’s trailer on the outskirts of town. When Michael first mentioned Patti’s name, the possibility flickered that he saw and heard her, as well. After all, he did hint to Jill that he talks to someone who’s not there. Who’s his invisible companion? Was he referring to the Lord? It seems like someone less heavenly.
NEXT: Yea, though Kevin walks through the valley of the shadow of death…
Michael’s grandfather, Virgil, knows Kevin’s story. Because Kevin already visited him once — that first night when he woke up in the lake bed tied to a cinder block. Virgil says to rid Kevin of Patti, he has to confront her on her turf — that he has to die. He explained all this once before, but Kevin had been sleepwalking. That earthquake was the only thing that saved him from drowning, “Which means you either got someone looking out for you or you’ve got yourself a most powerful adversary.”
Virgil claims to know of what he speaks. Once upon a time, he also had his own adversary that made him do terrible things…to his son, John, who eventually shot him multiple times, including in the “foul machinery below the waist.” Was he a pedophile, as Patti later claims? What did he do to hurt John when he was still a boy?
Virgil promises to guide Kevin through the death and resurrection that will free him from Patti’s grip. But rather than seize the moment, Kevin needs to consult with his closest advisor…Patti. Funny how he immediately goes looking for her to tell her how he’s going to get rid of her. He needs her, doesn’t he?
When he finally finds her in the woods, she ridicules the old man’s plan. She ridicules the entire notion of his role, scoffing, “The solution to all your problems was a magical black man sitting out on the edge of town? That’s borderline racist.”
But sure, let’s dance. “I am so desperate to do battle,” she says, tearing up. “Let’s go f—ing die.”
Does Patti have the most delightfully foul mouth on HBO since Al Swearengen?
Kevin’s phone rings but it’s not the wife he’s hoping for. Laurie is outside the town gates, looking for Tommy. (Meg has Tommy, doesn’t she?) The Rangers — trained to look at everyone’s wrists for residence bracelets — don’t even notice the handcuff on Kevin’s wrist, but whatever. It’s an ugly catching-up conversation through a chainlink fence that ends with Kevin barking at a retreating Laurie. The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” tinkles in the background and then goes full-blast into the next scene. That’s become Kevin’s theme song, which is appropriate, though perhaps a little too on the nose since it was Edward Norton’s anthem in Fight Club, another story about a man struggling with reality and invisible companions.
Patti’s bluff works, at least for now. Because rather than do battle on her turf, Kevin visits the fire station to ask John for some help in getting the handcuffs off. John raises on amused eyebrow at the request, only because he assumes it has something to do with kink. And since you’re here, Kevin, do you mind having your palm print taken? That muddy palm print is not going away, and Kevin practically hangs himself. Afterward, Patti can hardly believe his stupidity, marveling, “You went there to get free, and you got caught.”
With three episodes to go, I have a feeling that digitized palm print might cause Kevin some trouble. But maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Kevin visits Laurie, apologizes, and gets on the figurative couch for a therapy session. He tells her about Patti, and she diagnoses a psychotic breakdown, just like his father. But Laurie might be Kevin’s secret weapon; she can prove or at least reassure him that she’s not real, that she’s just a figment of his fractured imagination. So Kevin brings his wife home to Miracle. Maybe she can keep Patti at bay.
This is not going to go well. And it doesn’t. Jill freaks out when she sees Laurie in her house. Nora calls and weakens, hinting that she’ll think about coming home — though Kevin grumbles that Patti had hidden Nora’s sign about the key under the pillow.
And just like that, Kevin is racing back to Virgil’s trailer to die. Forget Laurie. Forget Jill. It’s go time, and Virgil has a cup of poison that will stop his heart and a syringe of meds that will revive him. Don’t worry, he’s done this before: Edward the guy on the pillar in the town square is a living, breathing, success story. Um, okay. But didn’t Edward also seem to witness Kevin’s conversation with Patti after dropping John off at the medical clinic that night? He doesn’t exactly seem cured.
Kevin’s arrival interrupts a visit from Michael, and the young man seems reluctant to go or upset by his conversation with his grandfather. “God be with you,” is all he says to Kevin on his way out the door. He knows something. Is there a plan?
Patti tries to stop Kevin from chugging the jar of poison, which slightly resembles the contents of the Wishing Cup she joked about. But she also dares him, and Kevin follows his father’s advice — listen to the voice in his head — and chugs. Before long, he’s twitching and foaming at the mouth, like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. But Virgil isn’t the guide he promised to be. He dumps the syringe’s contents, and shoots himself in the head. Ah, and you thought season 2 was a kinder, gentler Leftovers?
Michael returns, as if summoned, and his subdued reaction indicates that what just unfolded is playing out according to some warped plan. He winces but doesn’t seem shocked by the sight of his grandfather’s blown-out head, and instead, he dutifully drags Kevin’s limp body away.
So what does this mean? Did Kevin just die? Would The Leftovers really kill off its main character? (Um, sure.) On the plus side, if he did die, he’ll never have to face John about that guilty palm print? As Patti once told him, the only moment of happiness in her adult life was when she slashed her own throat because she finally felt the freedom of it finally being over.
Or, is Michael dragging Kevin to his mother’s clinic for treatment? And if he’s revived, did he successfully defeat Patti and exorcize her from his psyche? Did Patti die (again)?
The show now rests in the hands of Michael, who seems to have a lot to unpack in the final three episodes. What are his secrets? Does he have a most powerful adversary? After all, it runs in his family, too. Or is his hidden companion someone more benevolent, someone with a preternatural link to him…like Evie?