Goin’ out of my mind / Don’t even know my own name half the time / How’d I get so blind that I couldn’t see what was right in front of me? / Wish I was wrong I wish that you were right here lyin’ in my arms / Deep down inside I got to face the truth that you’re not comin’ home / This love is over / This love is over —Ray LaMontagne, “This Love Is Over”
From the beginning, The Leftovers embraced the darkness. Sometimes, the show even reveled in it to a morbid degree, especially during season 1. But one of the developments that gave its audience hope was the spark between Kevin Garvey and Nora Durst, two extremely damaged people who fell in love and seemed to be making the best of very effed up circumstances. Together, as a couple, they had a chance — and perhaps as a result, so did humanity.
Well, ha. Because from the two previous episodes of season 3, it’s clear that all is not well in their relationship. Nora returned baby Lily to her birth mother and is shutting Kevin out, just as Kevin’s battling renewed symptoms of mental demons. When he suggested the two of them having their own child, she literally laughed in his face, and even their day-to-day niceties have been forced and feel like they’re just going though the motions. We’ve been teased with a possible future where Australian bird-woman Nora coldly denies knowing Kevin, and in “G’Day Melbourne,” the couple gets on a plane to head Down Under, ostensibly so that Nora can meet the Swiss scientists who say they can reunite her with her Departed children. The song is “This Love Is Over,” and if that didn’t spell it out, Nora’s silence at the airport when the security screener asks if she and Kevin are together speaks volumes. Yes, she needs to go through Global Entry special access alone because she’s got $20,000 duct-taped to her torso, but she practically sprints away from Kevin after saying, “I’ll just see you on the other side.”
Kevin is complete baggage. Nora never considered including him in her plan — splitting the money so as not to violate any travel restrictions — because she’s totally committed to going through with the Linn-Baker procedure. Mentally, she’s already left Kevin, and the steamy bathroom sex is what they do to distract themselves from the inevitable. (Recall that Nora recently hijacked a post-birthday party bedroom conversation about Noah/Lily with sex, too.)
On the plane, Kevin says the scientists will suspect Nora’s intentions because they won’t believe her willingness to go through with the procedure based on their committed relationship. She explains that she’ll fib and say, “We’re in a toxic co-dependent relationship and we’ve both come to realize that we’re better off apart than together.” He stares at her: That came out of her mouth way too easily. Whatever awaits in Australia, it’s not a honeymoon — and the worst-case scenario might have something to do with the crazy airport passenger who tries to board with a HAZMAT suit and raves of an imminent nuclear explosion.
If losing Lily is the splinter in Nora’s heart, the Book of Kevin is the annoying hangnail in the relationship. Once on the ground, she continues to mock Matt’s gospel, reading aloud the passages where Kevin pushes Young Patti down the well. Kevin is rescued by the ringing phone, and Nora drops everything to confirm her appointment with the scientists. She tells Kevin not to follow her to the bus stop, leaving him to watch lame hotel TV and read the gospel to himself.
The Melbourne morning show gets his attention, with mentions of two missing Kevins: One is the nasty police chief sacrificed by Grace and her three riders; the other is Kevin Garvey Sr. But what Kevin really can’t believe on his TV is the fan in the background, a Muslim woman holding the placard reading “Surah 81” — an apocalyptic reading from the Qur’an full of end-times imagery. (“And when the pages are published/ And when the sky is stripped off/ And when the hell is made ravenous/ And when the paradise is brought near/ Then A soul knows what it has brought forth.”) It’s Evie Murphy, and she’s staring right into the camera, directly into Kevin’s eyes. “Can you hear me?” he asks, just before the screen goes black.
After a frustrating exchange with the hotel desk — Nora made the reservation and hence the receptionist calls Kevin “Mr. Durst” — he hurries outside to catch a cab and rush to the sidewalks outside the G’Day Melbourne studio in the hopes of spotting Evie. He pushes his way to the window, creeping into the background of the live broadcast. Somewhere else in Australia, near a pond with a seesaw, Chief is probably screaming at his own TV to see if his son can hear him.
Kevin is so focused on his task that he completely misses Nora waiting at the bus stop, as instructed. Almost on cue, a desperate woman holding a baby approaches Nora right before the scheduled arrival time. “Excuse me, miss. Are you a mother?” The panicked mother asks Nora to hold her baby while she goes to a nearby job interview. It feels like a test. Nora reluctantly agrees, but when the bus arrives, she hurriedly returns the child to the woman and chases down the bus. Did Nora pass or fail?
Wandering away from the TV studio, Kevin spots Evie. He chases her down a graffiti’d alley and confronts her. It’s definitely Evie. “Just tell me what you f—ing want,” he screams at her. “Did Patti send you?” This is one of those moments where you have to decide just how far The Leftovers is willing to go. It can’t be Evie. We saw Evie die. Her mother Erika buried her remains, even if she’d been mostly vaporized by the drone missile. But her father John clings to the hope that she might have survived somehow — and he planted that seed in Kevin’s mind. Is it possible?
Kevin is a scary dude right now, and a concerned bloke interrupts to make sure Evie’s okay. Kevin is surprised to discover that other people can see Evie — as opposed to the way Patti was his own private tormentor. When Evie protests that she doesn’t know Kevin, he snaps a quick photo of her on his phone before the bloke head-butts him and kicks his ass.
Kevin calls Laurie and explains the situation: Evie is alive in Australia. Why are you in Australia, Laurie wants to know. Kevin forwards her the phone photo of Evie, and though we can’t see it, Laurie’s reaction is more professional than WTF disbelief. She confirms that it’s Evie but urges Kevin not to approach her again. Too late. Laurie has already profiled Evie’s alias, Danish Moabizzi, and lets slip to Kevin that she works at the library.
Nora arrives at a vacant industrial park and surprises two female doctors, one playing A-Ha’s “Take On Me” on a piano in a casual game of Name That Tune. If you lived through the 1980s, you’ll recall the video starred a singing hero who reaches across a hand-drawn dimension, through the looking glass, to connect with the pretty girl. You may have forgotten the song’s lyric: “I’ll be gone in a day or two…”
Dr. Aden is polite and welcoming; Dr. Becker is dismissive of Nora and repeatedly speaks to Aden in another language so as not to include Nora. They bring her to Bernard, who conducts a routine medical exam in what appears to be an old dry-cleaner. (The hanging clothes, wrapped in plastic, made me think of Kevin’s dry-cleaning episodes.)
Nora gets over any fears, and she scores well, it seems. But Bernard seems to already have all her medical information, noting her IUD birth control implant. “It’s in your medical records,” he says, when she expresses surprise at the extent of his knowledge. Now, this rogue operation might have incredible WikiLeaks-like reach to poke into the private information of anyone. But another organization that could conceivably have Nora’s medical records would be her employer, the DSD. Recall that in episode 2, when she called her colleague George Brevity to request permission to meet Mark Linn-Baker in St. Louis, he hung up the phone and said simply to his office colleague, “She’s going” — almost as if she’d taken the bait. Is the DSD behind this operation? And if so, why?
Kevin storms into the local library looking for Evie/Danish. He looks like a crazy person and doesn’t do himself any more favors by asking for a nonexistent book titled Assassins. But before security can escort him out, Evie stands up and volunteers to speak with him in private. Yes, she tells him, she’s Evie Murphy. But please don’t tell anyone, even her family, because she just wants to start a new life. Kevin is erratic and borderline threatening, and when he gets too close, Evie starts praying, presumably in Arabic. She’s terrified. And she explains: Laurie recently called her and told her to pretend that she’s Evie. Because as viewers have been told before, and as Laurie tells Kevin when he calls her in the midst of his fit: “You never tell someone in the midst of psychotic break that they are in the midst of psychotic break, remember? You have to indulge that person’s delusion and find common ground. Otherwise, it’s very likely that they’ll hurt themselves. I don’t want you to hurt yourself, Kevin.”
Kevin tries to take all this in, and when he looks back at the photo of Evie on his phone, he’s disappointed to see it’s really Danish. What’s the lyric from “This Love Is Over”? “How’d I get so blind that I couldn’t see what was right in front of me…”
Laurie, who’s taking a break from her date with John to talk Kevin off the ledge, puts him on the shrink’s couch from nearly 9,000 miles away. “It is less than a week away from the seventh anniversary, and you just ran away without telling anybody,” she says, as gently as possible. “Kevin, are you and Nora okay?” The insight feels like an accusation to Kevin, and he hangs up the phone only after spitting, “Ask John about the f—in’ book he wrote about me.”
After Nora seems to pass the isolation test, she gets grilled by Aden and Becker one last time. Becker is skeptical that Nora will go through with the process, though the doctors express little concern that her relationship with Kevin will be a cause of her cold feet. Perhaps the final question will settle the matter. You knew it was coming, right? Would you kill a baby if it would cure cancer? It was the nasty riddle uttered by the demoralized man in the desert right before he set himself on fire in front of Chief. That man had answered no, and he’d been turned down for the procedure. Nora seems to think she has this terrible dilemma gamed: Would she kill an infant if doing so would enable its twin to grow up and cure cancer? “Kids die every day,” she says coldly. “What’s one more… Of course I [kill the baby].”
Nora gave a different answer than Immolation Man — yet both seem to be wrong. The doctors tell Nora she can keep her money, and they quickly exit: “Go home Miss Durst. This isn’t for you.” Nora is distraught and incredulous. She was signed, sealed, and delivered to go through, and now the chance to see her children has been ripped from her at the last minute. Was her answer wrong? Is there a right answer? Is it possible that the correct answer relates to the initial test — Nora’s response to the panicked mother at the bus stop? I’m convinced that Nora was correct in believing that odd encounter was also a test, despite Dr. Aden’s claims of ignorance. Perhaps the right answer is simple honesty, and if she had accepted the child from the desperate mother, the corresponding correct answer needed to be that she would not kill the twin baby.
The rejection sends a spiraling Nora back to her hotel, where she lights up another cigarette, vows to catch and punish the scientists, and crashes into Kevin as he flails through an equally low moment. An argument ignites, with him saying that he can’t confide the disturbing things that are going on in his mind to her because the last time he did, she fled and left him handcuffed. She accuses him of basking in Matt’s messiah treatment and not caring enough to stop Nora from giving Lily away. She mocks his desire to get her pregnant, and after he angrily sets the gospel on fire to prove how much he resents being anointed Jesus Christ Superstar, he tells her why she refuses to move on: “You can’t have a kid, because then you’d have no excuse. You couldn’t be a victim anymore. You’d have to be okay. No one would feel sorry for you.”
Go be with your dead kids, he tells her, as rising flames consume the Book of Kevin pages in the sink. He grabs his bag and leaves, never looking back. A smoke alarm pulses throughout the hotel as Kevin descends and exits, reminiscent of the sirens from “International Assassin.” He passes fireman on his way outside to grab a cab, but the valet says there are no cars available, due to the explosion. What explosion? Did the fire Kevin set in the hotel room grow out of control? Is Nora all right?
As Kevin looks skyward, confused, he’s spotted by his father, who emerges from a truck driven by Grace. Ever since he spotted Kevin on G’Day Melbourne, he’s been calling the local hotels to locate him. (But would Chief have thought to ask for guests named Durst since that was the name of the reservation? Hmmm…) Chief tells Kevin that a trip back to the U.S. right now is out of the question because all flights are grounded. If there was an explosion, it must’ve been a lot bigger than a hotel fire.
Upstairs, Nora’s lip quivers as she sits on the bed and A-Ha gets the last laugh. She is alive but nowhere close to okay. And she certainly is now a woman who might someday deny knowing a man named Kevin.
So what was the explosion? Some possible clues: The raving loony at the airport planted the seed of a nuke; an atomic explosion would certainly be an incident that would ground flights; and at the 43-second mark of this recent preview teaser, you can see a Gattaca-handsome actor we haven’t met yet turn a key and press a button.
If there was a nuclear explosion, some other confusing scenes start to make sense. Nora/Sarah’s face had scars that I speculated were due to radiation exposure during the going-through process. But perhaps they are related to the nuclear fallout. Also, the carrier pigeons that Sarah/Nora cooped and transported could play a more vital role in a world where electronic communications may have ceased and the world had to resort to 19th-century modes of messaging (like the Millerites).
And if this catastrophe happened this way, how much did Kevin have to do with it? Did his anger set things off? Or did fate intervene again — like the earthquake that saved him from drowning — and send him to Australia specifically to keep him safe? The Leftovers writing room works in mysterious ways.