The Leftovers recap: 'Certified'
Prophecies have been the engine of The Leftovers from the beginning, but as the show nears its final climax, the greatest dangers might be self-fulfilling prophecies. A deranged sailor thinks an apocalyptic beast that will annihilate humanity is about to hatch in a South Pacific volcano, so he launches a nuclear bomb to destroy it, dramatically raising the existential threat to mankind. “That’s ridiculous,” sniffs Matt, when Nora tells him that story behind the explosion. “[The Book of] Revelations is not supposed to be taken literally. Seven-headed monster — it’s a metaphor.”
A metaphor. About a seven-headed monster that threatens to destroy the world. While Kevin Senior and Matt envision narratives that place them at the center of some redemptive Biblical odyssey, it’s perhaps worth noting who’s in Australia for the seventh anniversary of the Great Departure: Kevin Senior, Kevin Junior, Nora, Matt, John, Michael, and Laurie. There are seven of them. A seven-headed monster, if you will. And each of them is bubbling with self-fulfilling prophecies, either on a personal or doomsday level. What if one of them destroys the world in his effort to save it?
In “Certified,” Laurie faces a reckoning. She’s built a new life for herself with John, but the cracks caused by the Departure never healed. She lost her unborn child while staring at the ultrasound on Oct. 14, and two years later, while counseling the bereaved woman who lost her infant son in the Laundromat parking lot that same day (the opening scene of the series premiere), she has a breakdown. Laurie downs a handfuls of pills and pens a suicide note. But at the last minute, she loses her nerve and makes herself sick so she throws up all the poison. Instead, she goes home, puts on some comfy white clothes, and walks outside to join the two members of the Guilty Remnant assigned to shadow her. She parrots the same line her hurting patient said to her: “Tell me what to do.” Cue up Gravediggaz’s track “1-800 Suicide.”
Flash to present-day Australia, where Laurie drives a VW van out to Grace Playford’s ranch on Pigeon Run Road. (Pigeon Run? Like the pigeons Nora/Sarah delivers in the near-future?). Kevin Senior (henceforth Chief) greets her in the driveway, notices Laurie’s black eye, but it’s not exactly a warm reunion. Her arrival presents an unexpected obstacle to Chief’s plan, which is, not surprisingly: “We asked [Kevin] to die. Again.” It’s clear Laurie and Chief once had a sweet relationship, but as events unfold in the episode, it’s also clear that Chief would smack Laurie in the side of her head with a shovel if she stands in his way. Instead, Laurie carefully plays along. “Whatever is happening here,” she says, “I want to be a part of it.” That’s the shrink in Laurie talking (“You never tell someone who is experiencing a delusion of that magnitude that they are delusional”), and it gets her through the front door. She comes bearing gifts too: Kevin’s half-burnt gospel (rescued by Nora apparently) and an apology from Matt that Chief didn’t play a bigger role in his script.
Once inside, Kevin’s self-anointed apostles break down their mission. Grace explains her horrible misunderstanding that led to the drowning of the Australian police chief named Kevin. She insists (again) she intends to take responsibility for her mistake, but as we’ve seen, she doesn’t seem inclined to follow through with anything more than expressing her regret. Kevin is out horseback riding, contemplating his role in what is to come: Chief needs him to drown, locate Christopher Sunday in the Hotel Otherworld, learn the final piece of the songline, bring it back to the land of living so that Chief can sing it in time to save the world from a Biblical flood. And while he’s there, he needs to ask Grace’s dead children what happened to their shoes and tell Evie that she was loved. “Wow, so everybody wants something: a brain, a heart, courage,” Laurie jokes. “Kevin’s in the Emerald City. He’s the one that’s going to give it to you.”
“All right, Dorothy, let’s have it,” Chief responds, testing her. “Tell us we’re lunatics.”
“Yeah, it sounds crazy,” she says, buying time. “But these are crazy times, huh.”
Before venturing out to the ranch alone, Laurie was with Matt and Nora, playing Scooby-Doo in the Mystery Machine. After the ferry ride, Laurie, Matt, John, and Michael found Nora in Melbourne. The team split up, and Matt and Laurie joined Nora in her pursuit of the two physicists who’d rejected her application for making the Linn-Baker Leap to reconnect with her Departed children. Laurie spies on the women at home with her cell phone before she’s chased away by a fierce dog, and Nora watches the video and confirms that it’s Dr. Becker and Dr. Eden. Later that night, as they stake out the doctors’ home, Nora brings Laurie up to speed on her obsession. “It sure seems like an elegant way to kill yourself,” Laurie notes. No, no, Nora answers, making like she’s given every such option plenty of consideration. “If I was going to kill myself, I’d just go scuba diving,” she says, listing all the things that can go wrong underwater that can easily be made to look like an accident. Food for thought, thinks Laurie, who’s scuba certified, by the way. “I know suicidal when I see it.” she says.
Matt’s nose is still bleeding, so it looks like lion-snack David Burton didn’t cure the reverend’s cancer. Nora is feisty and frazzled, in total honey badger mode. She challenges Laurie with questions about the fraudulent medium enterprise she runs with John, and when Laurie resists putting Nora’s Departed children through the process, Nora hits her hard for the GR’s stunt that placed life-sized dolls in Nora’s kitchen. Laurie only makes it worse when she mentions Lily, so when Nora borrows Laurie’s “Don’t Forget Me” lighter, the one her daughter Jill gave her during her GR stint, Nora pockets it and refuses to return it “Like I did with Lily?” A scuffle ensues that results in Laurie’s black eye, but they freeze when the doctors pull out of their driveway, and soon they’re in hot pursuit.
They eventually track the doctors to a harbor pier, where a collection of 18-wheelers resemble a mobile science lab. But Nora isn’t calling in the DSD to arrest these frauds. She wants to go through, and staring at the scientists from a distance, she reminds Matt of the hard days after their parents died in the fire. She fondly recalls a childhood trip to a baseball game, where the fans took more joy out of the beach ball that was batted around the stands than the game on the field. Even young Matt got into the act, smiling and smacking the inflated sphere. But then the stadium usher grabbed the ball and squeezed the air out of it, drawing boos from the crowd and upsetting Nora. “He just ruined it for all of them,” she says, tears running down her face. “Why would he want to do that job? Why would anyone?”
Laurie’s deliberate response is, I think, more important than Nora’s story. She matter-of-factly answers that the usher acted because if he didn’t, the ball would go on the field and potentially cause chaos. In this much larger game that’s unfolding, Laurie is the usher, isn’t she?
Nora says goodbye, asking Laurie not to tell Kevin and the others what she intends to do. Matt opts to stay with her. The ferry-boat ride sapped him of his end-times passion, and he seemingly sends Laurie off with the understanding that he’ll never see her or the Garveys again.
Later at the ranch, even John is suspicious of Laurie’s presence there, since he knows she’s a skeptic. He doesn’t realize that Michael was the one who contacted her and gave her the address to find them. While they argue in the house, Chief topples a police officer with a shovel outside because Officer Koala Fart was getting too close to the dead body Grace hid under the church. Chief plans to drive the unconscious cop far enough away to give the plan time to work, leaving John and Laurie time to settle their own account. John can’t deny that he believes Evie is out there, alive somewhere. But he also volunteers to go home with Laurie, to shred those feelings and go on living with that pain — for Laurie. But she may have already decided that she’s not going home, and grants John what he needs most: “I think you got to see it through, John. You’re so close.”
The last supper before the anniversary is rich with symbolism that Chief relishes, assigning each character a Biblical role. “I will play the part of Peter,” he says proudly. Michael passes on his role — casting even more doubt on his conviction since he’s the one who also called Laurie in a panic and pleaded with her to get to the ranch quickly. But everyone else seems pleased to play along — even Laurie. “That would make me Mary Magdalene.” Chief corrects her, saying Nora is technically Magdalene in this scenario. Instead, he tabs her as Thomas, the disciple who doubted the resurrection until he saw Jesus, crucifixion wounds and all. “I’m not Thomas,” she answers. “I’m Judas. Doubting is easy because doubting costs you nothing. But Judas, he was surrounded by people going on and on about how special Jesus was. But he betrayed him anyway.”
Michael points out that Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and then hanged himself. “Did he leave a note?” Laurie says, kind of as a joke. And just like that, Chief falls face-first into his food. Grace had already gone to bed early, Michael quickly zonks out, and John, finally realizing Laurie’s treachery, stumbles in a heap. Laurie added the dog’s medication to Grace’s carrot stew recipe — “poison poppies,” if you will — and everyone will be unconscious when Kevin finally returns.
She’s waiting for him on the steps when he arrives on his horse. He has returned like the responsible husband/son/policeman that he is, just as Laurie predicted. It’s a very sweet scene, one that effectively depicts the unbreakable bonds of a married couple who have raised children — no matter if one later joined a cult and the other sees dead people. They smoke cigarettes, sharing the “Don’t Forget Me” lighter that she threw in and then fished out of the sewer. That prompts them to lob confessions at each other: Kevin killed the pet hamster, Laurie blew two grand at a spa, Kevin hated their house… Laurie was pregnant. “I was lying in the doctor’s office, staring at the ultrasound, looking right it, and then it was gone,” she says. They agree that neither wanted another baby, which somehow kills all the good vibes.
Kevin has made up his mind, and he’s going to sacrifice himself (or at least submit to the drowning). He’s not scared, and in fact, he almost seems excited by what awaits him. Not only that, but he believes it could work. He believes. It’s why he kept the Book of Kevin in the first place, even while Nora disparaged him about it. He believes this might actually work.
It’s unclear to me why Laurie felt the need to drug the dinner party if this final goodbye was her only intent. Perhaps she intended to help Kevin escape if he had doubts as the moment of truth neared. But once he expressed his faith in the plan and volunteered to submit, she concluded her tour of in-person goodbyes. She’s not going to be the killjoy usher who squeezes the air out of the ball.
Laurie leaves peacefully, gifting Kevin the lighter. At the end of their conversation, Kevin mentions Nora one last time. “Is Nora gone?” he asks, knowing for certain that she chased after the physicists. “We’re all gone,” Laurie responds, in what might be the show’s epitaph.
The next morning, Laurie cruises through the harbor as clouds threaten. She found a boat captain to race her out to scuba-diving depth before the big storm hits. Before she can dive in, Jill calls. She and Tom are having a silly sibling argument about some childhood obsession and they need her to set the record straight. (For the record, Today’s Special was a Nickelodeon show that featured a department store mannequin that came to life…) She doesn’t tell them where she is. She doesn’t tell them anything that might make them think they won’t see her next weekend, but it’s the kind of delightful conversation that might make a mother think twice before hurling herself to the bottom of the ocean. She sheds some quiet tears, says goodbye, and hangs up.
“Miss,” says the stern captain, “now or never.”
Certified Laurie gears up and disappears over the side. There’s no music as the episode concludes, just the sounds of the water against the boat. Even though we had 60 minutes to understand why Laurie takes her life, it would’ve been nice if she left a note. But Damon Lindelof isn’t one for such easy answers, I’m afraid. Laurie rests forever Down Under in Oz, as neither Dorothy nor the Wicked Witch.