The barbarians are at the gate
The Leftovers (Season 2, Episode 20)
Credit: Van Redin
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The fuse was lit. Evie and her two girlfirends weren’t Departed or missing — they were with Meg and her more virulent strain of the Guilty Remnant. There were missing explosives and visions of a potentially dangerous Airstream trailer positioned on the bridge into Jarden. Meg is a warped zealot, intent to “corrupt [the town’s] exceptional qualities.” Tommy didn’t seem too bothered by his proximity to evil — no girlfriend is perfect, amirite?

The season 2 finale turned back the clock to the season premiere, revisiting the awkward birthday barbecue where the Garveys first met the Murphys. But now we know that Evie and the girls aren’t young innocents who disappear into the night. Evie gives her adoring father his wrapped birthday gift with the instruction not to open it until she returns. She piles into her friend’s car with the radio jamming. But as soon as they’re out of sight of her parents, the mood inside the car turns somber. We’d seen them flip the switch before, teasingly flirting with Dr. Goodheart at the reservoir and then driving back home in silence earlier that day. Evie shuts off the radio, and the driver sheds a tear and muffles a sob. They’re nearing the point of no return. Evie wipes the girl’s tear away and corrects her in formal handwritten GR-ese: “Don’t.”

What kind of person does it take to be so boldly and convincingly two-faced — to fake being a loving member of a family, to sing like an angel in the chorus, to feign enthusiasm for pitching the softball with dear ol’ dad the same day you plan to vanish? The word psychopath comes to mind.

When the girls arrive at the reservoir, they find they’re not alone. Kevin has already claimed one end to play Marco Polo with a cinder block. They watch him take the plunge and then go about their business setting up the non-crime crime scene and prepping for their all-nude cross-country championships.

The timing of their awkward late-night encounter seems slightly confusing. After all, Kevin and Nora were not even home yet when the girls took off from the Murphys’. Kevin still had to go home, fall asleep in a brand new house, wake up, sleepwalk to Virgil’s place, get the whole “most powerful adversary” speech, pick up the cinder block and rope, stagger into the unknown wilderness, and find the reservoir he’s never been to before. The earthquake, according to what John says in the premiere, occurred sometime after 3 a.m. To be fair, for all we know, the girls drove from the Murphys’ to a friend’s house and then chilled in the basement for six-plus hours.

The bubbling water of the quake-shaken reservoir cuts to Kevin’s resurrection, digging his way out of the shallow grave Michael buried him in. He’s been dead for eight hours, and he’s very, very thirsty. Patti is truly gone. Virgil was correct, and his superstitious hocus-pocus worked. He helped Kevin win, and all he had to do to complete his atonement was blow his head off. Perhaps that’s what he truly deserved…at least in this life.

Michael wonders if Kevin saw Evie at the Hotel Limbo, and his question triggers another memory. Prying Patti out of his life has suddenly enabled him to recall his sleepwalks, and he remembers seeing the girls that night at the reservoir.

Back at Michael’s house, John is getting an early start on Oct. 14, the fourth anniversary of the Departure. His morning brew is more Irish than coffee — he’s drinking again. Erika urges him to finally open Evie’s present, and when he resists, she just grabs it and tears it open… It’s a dead cricket. What a great gift for the dad who has everything — that annoying cricket that drove him nuts in the premiere. But recall that the premiere ended with Erika sitting alone in the dark at her dining room table, waiting for John and Michael to return with good news about Evie…and a cricket got the last word.

Erika remembers. She crushes John’s delight in the gift by explaining why Evie had to have found another cricket to put in the box, a suggestion that John doesn’t appreciate. “Why would she do that?” he says. “Because you wouldn’t let it go,” Erika answers.

I’d love to tell you I understand the whole cricket in a box. The only thing I can piece together is how Erika’s comment hinted that this wasn’t the first time that John let himself get distracted to his detriment by something that he just wouldn’t let go. Could it have something to do with the crime that sent him to jail for six-plus years? Did his feud with Virgil start out with something as insignificant as a cricket, and Evie just hoped to convince him of its demise to stop him from getting carried away? That doesn’t seem contemptuous enough for Evie, so I’m not convinced. Perhaps Evie was just being cruel so that every time her father heard a cricket for the rest of his life, he would feel the pain of losing her all over again. She’s sweet, isn’t she?

But crickets are known for being good luck, and moments after his harsh words with Erika, John opens his door to learn that the palm print on the car matches up with the new guy next door. He grabs his gun and bangs on the Garveys’ door. Laurie answers, and Jill joins her to explain that Kevin isn’t around. (Notice how Jill shrugs Laurie’s motherly arm off her back and then holds her shoulder like the mere touch left a burn?)

“Print matched,” says Kevin, who walks up behind John and the park rangers, along with Michael. John is fired up, but Kevin is calm and reasonable. He tells the ladies that things are fine and they should stay put while he’s driven away for a chat. John can’t believe that Michael is hanging with this dude, but Michael urges his dad to listen to what Kevin has to say.

Michael walks home without saying a word to Jill. Erika greets him at the door, and he explains he was with her father. We’ve known that Virgil was persona non grata and that Michael wasn’t supposed to spend time with him, but it’s been unclear, at least to me, whether Virgil was Erika’s father or John’s. And what does this confirmed relationship mean, exactly, for when Virgil talked about the terrible things he did related to “that foul machinery below the waists which transgressed the laws of man”?

Nora is not having a good day. Lily is crying, and Mary needs to be fed. Maybe some music will help soothe Lily, she thinks, so she switches on Matt’s stereo, which has the Bellamy Brothers cued up from his failed efforts to awaken Mary. But it’s not Nora’s pace, so she switches to talk radio, where a preacher-like guru tells a caller that a new baby can’t fix the hole in his wife’s heart after the Departure— only Jesus can. Nora seems to disagree, and she slams the boombox onto the floor: “Fix that, Jesus.”

And with that, the earth shakes again, and when things settle…Mary speaks: “Nora, what are you doing here? Where’s Matt?”

Cue the godly church music! A miracle in Miracle! And…more importantly, Matt Jamison is not a sick bastard who raped his comatose wife. Never doubted you for a sec, Reverend.

NEXT: What’s in the trailer?

Nora rolls Mary to Camp Cuckoo to reunite with Matt, who can’t believe it. It’s a very sweet scene that left me hoping Janel Moloney’s agent didn’t negotiate her Leftovers contract based on lines of dialogue. Matt’s joy is interrupted by his fear that the baby is in danger as long as it’s outside of Jarden, and that’s how Mary learns that she’s expecting. “Of course I remember [having sex],” she tells Matt. Yes, I also thought Matt should quickly record her on someone’s smartphone, just in case, you know, she lapsed back into a vegetative state. Just saying.

Nora promises to take Mary back to Jarden after a few minutes, and while she gives the two lovebirds some private time, she draws the attention of three other residents in the tent city. A weird-looking lady dangling a baby doll by its leg sees Nora holding Lily and says, “Hey, where’d you steal her from? That’s not your baby. That’s NOT your baby!”

Tommy sees her, also. He might only sorta recognize Nora, but he must know Lily. Meg sidles up to Tommy, and she recognizes Nora as well: “She sprayed me with a hose once.”

It’s interesting that Tommy has made it this far. Apparently, Meg has some use for him — why else would she keep him around and bring him to the site of her most devious and intricate plot? In last week’s episode, her group stoned an unlucky hiker who’d wandered upon the barn that held the trailer. Tommy literally broke into the trailer and saw what was inside, but he’s received a free pass. It’s curious that the cult trusts him in any manner, especially after all his work in hurting the GR when he was still working with his mother.

Meg condescendingly asks Tommy if he’s worried for his family, and he answers with what he thinks she wants to hear: “There is no family.” But she corrects him and leans in for an intimate peck on the cheek that may or may not be accompanied by an even more intimate grope below the waist. “Family is everything,” she says, perhaps reminding him of how she and he will be linked forever by the Damien that grows in her womb.

But evil-cuddling will have to wait because there’s a terrorist act to set off. Meg drives the trailer to the gate, sweetly tells the guard that she has 35 pounds of plastic explosives, breaks through the pathetic barrier, and drives halfway across the bridge.

The park’s security seems awfully insufficient. There are literally thousands of desperate people outside the gates, wailing to get into this oasis. If it’s as easy as driving a truck through the lightly manned gate, I suspect that the hordes would’ve tried it every other day.

The trailer doors open, and Evie and the girls walk out. The clock is set for 60 minutes, and the crowd starts to chant, “Blow it up.”

Meanwhile, John and Kevin are having their man-to-man at the dog pound. We already know that John doesn’t believe in miracles. More than that, he actively punishes those who perpetuate stories of miracles, so that doesn’t bode well for Kevin, who’s speaking from the heart. “I saw [Evie stage her disappearance],” he says, before explaining that his memory was triggered by Virgil’s death therapy. John ain’t buying it: “Prove it!”

“The old man told me what he did to you,” says Kevin. “I’m so sorry. No one should ever have to—

“That’s a lie. He didn’t do nothing to me. You don’t know s—.”

“I know you don’t think it can happen here, John, but it did.”

“You’re right, Kevin; that can’t happen here. But I need you to explain this. Evie loved her mother, she loved her brother, and she loved me, so why in God’s name would she do this to us?”

One interesting piece of the puzzle: Although Virgil told Kevin that he’d hurt John in some way, he’s adamant that the old man “didn’t do nothing to me.”

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Over at the church, Michael interrupts the service to confess something. That story that his mother loved to tell, about the 5-year-old twins flooding the house with water in the bathtub…? Well, it’s not as cute as we thought. “I’m the one who turned the water on,” Michael tells the congregation. “I turned it on all the way because Evie was crying so loud and she didn’t want you to hear. She was crying because we didn’t know why our father was gone or why he did what he did. She was crying so loud, so I turned the water on, and I drowned her out, until she could pretend she was okay. Nobody disappeared from here on Oct. 14 four years ago, but they did before…and after. We are the 9,261…but we are NOT spared.”

So around the time the twins were 5, John shot his father-in-law, Virgil, and went to prison for six years for attempted murder. Why? Had Virgil molested one or both of his grandchildren… Could it have been Evie? Or…could it have been Erika? Recall that Erika ended up being raised by her grandparents, not her father…

Kevin is dialed in for truth, so when John asks him why Evie would act this way if she loved them, he seals his fate: “Maybe she didn’t love you…“

BAM. John shoots Kevin in the chest and leaves him for dead. Only after does he discover that Evie has been found and that she’s currently wearing white and smoking a cigarette as the clock ticks down toward some disaster. Erika storms the bridge and tries to embrace her daughter. But Evie refuses to engage and won’t even make eye contact with her mother. Erika vows not to leave, vows to blow up with the trailer if Evie won’t budge. But the trailer is empty. There are no explosives after all. “Why are you doing this?” pleads Erika. “I don’t understand.” Evie scribbles back, “You understand.”

Had Virgil transgressed the laws of man with Evie? Or Erika? Is it conceivable that Virgil is the twins’ grandfather and father? If either is true, it helps explain both Evie and John’s behavior. The celebration of Miracle is an affront to their knowledge of the sins that occurred there. For Evie, that’s caused her to actively undermine its heralded Holy Land status. For John, it’s made him suspicious of anyone who insists the town has magic or supernatural qualities — because he knows that a truly miraculous place would not allow the dark deeds that he had to confront.

When the clock strikes zero, the GRs in the camp have changed into their white uniforms and are on the march toward the bridge — even Tommy. There are a lot of them. Matt may have been living among them for a long time during his otherwise recuperative exile. Matt sees an opportunity, though, and he gets Mary rolling toward the bridge. Nora is a little slow to follow, and the crazy baby-obsessed lady rips Lily from her arms and disappears into the crowd. A panicked Nora tries to catch up, but she can’t. But we hear Lily crying, and we see her abandoned on the walkway while the stampede is all around her. Nora dives to protect her and gets trampled herself. But Tommy rescues them both. Once again, he saves Wayne’s child, and he shelters them inside the trailer until the herd passes.

NEXT: Back at the Hotel California

Kevin wakes up in the hotel bathtub again, and he immediately knows he’s screwed. The “International Assassin” road music only confirms it. There’s no how-to TV message from dad this time, but at least he has the good sense to know who he is finally: the Mapleton chief of police. He puts on his old uniform, just as he’s called down to the lobby to quell a disturbance. But there’s nothing more than a karaoke session going on, and the emcee is the Australian man from the bridge who assaulted and then counseled Kevin on his way to ridding himself of Patti once and for all.

At the bar, Kevin pleads with the man for the way to go home, insisting that he deserves it more than the others stuck in this purgatory. “If you want to get out of here, all you have to do is sing,” the man tells Kevin, who seems to doubt him. “You pushed a little girl into a well; you don’t want to sing?”

So that’s how Kevin gets home, a warbly but earnest rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound,” with its direct lyrical references to cigarettes and magazine covers.

When he wakes up, he’s back at the pound. The bullet passed through his gut, but he’s bleeding profusely. Outside, the “Welcome to Jarden” sign is in flames, and the entire town is a hellish landscape. People are having sex in the street like dogs. The town square is a Mardi Gras of the Damned. The crowd hoists up a cross, and you’re not sure whether they intend to set it afire or actually crucify someone. Only Pillar Man is still standing. The GR has taken over the Visitors Center, and Meg asks Kevin what he’s doing here. “I live here now,” he answers.

Meg starts to sing the Miracle song, and Evie chimes in, mocking Kevin and celebrating their successful effort to trash its exceptional qualities.

Kevin’s barely upright by this point, due to the blood loss, and he’d probably expire if John doesn’t find him at his wife’s health clinic. “I killed you,” John says in disbelief.


Tears are shed. The Pixies song gets another callback. The men walk home arm in arm. “What if there’s nobody home?” asks John as they stand in front of their houses.

“Then you come over to my house,” answers Kevin.

A neighborly wave from the porch. Another earthquake (that I hope crushed the Visitors Center). And Kevin walks into his house to see everyone that he loves. Kevin was right: If anyone deserved this, it was him.

“You’re home,” says Nora.

I feel like the penultimate episode of the season did a lot of the heavy lifting, amping up the tension and offering up a bouquet of theories and possibilities. The finale was slightly less momentous, and it closes the door softly, not with a bang. The Leftovers still hasn’t been renewed by HBO for a third season, and you can see how “I Live Here Now” works as both a season finale and a series finale.

But there are still questions begging to be explored in a potential season 3, beginning with two pregnancies: Meg’s and Mary’s. Is Patti officially gone for good, and what does dying two times do to a man? What did the Australian bridge man whisper to Kevin that night before pushing Patti in the well, and what’s going on in Australia with Kevin’s father? Is that where the show is headed, or could a season 3 stay in Jarden for another year?

The Leftovers was the rare treat that got better in its second season. Justin Theroux and Christopher Eccleston both took my breath away with some of the most touching, most powerful performances I’ve seen on TV all year, and Ann Dowd’s Patti deserves to be resurrected somehow — maybe she and Virgil just walked out of a cave together in Perth.

Episode Recaps

The Leftovers
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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