Ben King/HBO

Matt comes face to face with God.

May 14, 2017 at 10:01 PM EDT

Matt’s plan to sneak in to Australia as a non-profit mission bearing supplies is rejected, and Arturo veers the plane to Tasmania, an island south of mainland Australia. Their only way to Melbourne now: an 11-hour ferry ride, if they can persuade the hedonistic cult that has privately booked the boat to let them aboard. The revelers in line look like they’re on their way to Mardi Gras, and not far away a caged lion is pushed aboard. When Matt gets to the front of the queue, the woman with the clipboard and a lion headdress immediately recognizes he doesn’t belong. “I’m 91 and I’m having a son,” she says, expecting a response from Matt that will indicate he’s part of their pride. It’s a secret code, one that Matt clearly doesn’t know. “I’m appealing to your sense of charity to let us onboard,” Matt says, which is a tactic he’s used before. Recall “No Room at the Inn,” when Matt approached Sandy in Miracle’s tent city, asking for money to get Mary back inside the city limits. In that case, he had to beat her son over the back with an oar. This time around, the price will be higher, beginning with the telling of a truly filthy joke. Matt rises to the occasion with a doozy about pimples and priests, and the lioness lets them aboard. There’s going to be a lot of debased and sinful sex on this cruise, she says, and the only rule is that “when midnight comes, let no man mention his name lest that man become him.” Whose name? Frasier the lion.

The legend of Frasier is true, apparently. That’s the brilliant Sarah Vaughan singing his praises as the Sensuous Lion, an ancient cat who was purchased from a Mexican circus in 1970 and expected to spend his final days wheezing around a California zoo, only to become an unlikely stud for a previously choosy harem of lionesses. They even made a film about him in 1973.

Once aboard, the four Texans try to ignore the ample flesh around them and focus on the mission ahead. Laurie insists that she take the lead once they confront Kevin, who she fears is suffering another mental breakdown. Even John is wavering, not in the belief that Kevin might be chosen in some way, but that the chances of getting him back to Miracle in time are slipping away. “Whatever’s going to happen, it’s going to happen here,” John says. Matt refuses to accept that, because Miracle, to him, is where God woke Mary and gave them Noah. It has to be in Miracle. John’s experiences in Miracle, however, have been heartbreaking: losing Evie and Erika. Laurie and John have found each other, and he’s a changed man, but he’s still the man who aggressively stomped on prophets and charlatans. It’s not hard for him to think of Miracle as just Jarden, a place with no godly connection. “It’s got nothing to do with where we live,” he says calmly. “We just got to let go and see what happens.”

Matt sees John’s reservations as just another roadblock from God, just like Mary leaving him was a test to see if he’d abandon his mission and follow her back to New York. As Matt gets himself worked up, his nose starts to gush again, and he excuses himself to clean up. One look at him at the bathroom sink, and one of the boat’s employees presumes that Matt got belted in the face by God. God? Red hat and a beard? Surly friend of the captain who likes the solitude of the top deck? “I’ve seen God smite many a man on this boat,” says the employee.

So, who is God? We’ve met him before. At least twice, actually. His name is David Burton, and before he is introduced as a former Olympic decathlete and sports announcer, we knew him as the Pillar Man’s pen pal. Or at least, Pillar Man gave Michael a letter addressed to Burton in the season 2 premiere, “Axis Mundi.” Then, in episode 3 of last season, “Off Ramp,” he was name-checked as the dead man who was resurrected in a cave near Perth. Once we see his face on the boat, viewers will remember him from “International Assassin”: he was the man on the bridge who assaulted and then counseled Kevin on his way to push Young Patti down the well. Then, in the season finale, he told dead-Kevin the only way to live again was to sing karaoke.

But is he really God? Well, he reads Louis L’Amour dime-store Westerns and has a calling card that affirms his almighty status and addresses some common FAQ. (“I asked Abraham to kill Isaac just to see if he’d do it. Yes, evolution is real but it doesn’t work how you think it does. I won the bronze medal for decathlon and the one you can’t remember is the hammer throw.”)

Matt is outraged by Burton’s audacity and arrogance — and that’s before he witnesses Burton toss a man into the seas from the top deck. Matt’s desperate pleas for help are ignored by the naked carousers, and he only draws anyone’s attention when he leaps overboard himself to try to rescue the other man. The captain doubts Matt’s story, and basically shrugs at Matt’s suggestion that he do anything about a passenger who may or may not be missing. So Matt takes matters into his own hands and walks into the lion’s den of flesh to confront the woman in charge. He has to walk through hell to find her, a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. Matt asks his host about a manifest list, but she’s otherwise occupied. “You don’t care that somebody’s been killed?” he barks at her. “No, not really,” she says, refocusing her attention on her partner. It’s a cruise of the damned. Matt yells, “All you care about is f—ing each other and Frasier!”

He spoke his name! The host blows her horn and others nearby point at Matt. They surround him, subduing him with a choker, and prepare him for a carnal ceremony with a fluffer and an interactive idol of a lioness in heat. Matt fights back so hard that the group eventually loses their interest in the fun, and when Matt sees Burton walking outside, he shakes himself free and sets out after him. When he catches up to Burton, Matt’s greeted with a punch in the gut that sends him to the deck. A sympathetic woman checks on Matt, to make sure he’s okay, and urges him to stay on the ferry when it docks in Melbourne: a plan is afoot.

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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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