‘The Leftovers’ Recap 1×4: ‘Baby Jesuses’

Sweet baby Jesus. (HBO)

Sweet baby Jesus. (HBO)

We follow the birth of a baby doll, from its conception in a warehouse- a piece of melted plastic inseminated by two marbles to serve as eyes–all the way through the laborious shipping process, the moment when it’s new owner first lays eyes on it, and it’s new home: lying center in a basket, the star of a Christmas nativity scene.

All is not well for long in Mapleton (for that’s indeed where we are), and one night later we dolly closer to the tableau of the birth of Christ, we realize that the doll has ABSCONDED, the cradle now empty of its savior. If you’ve been watching this show at all you’ll know that this missing plastic baby Jesus will be the focus of a very seriously-taken investigation that might involve some tears and/or dashboard pounding. (Big reveal: everyone in town is secretly a baby with a very active imagination!) Because the baby is this week’s metaphor for losing faith after the none-ocolypse, it’s absence is given more weight than any other problem that might require the town’s police force, like a large scale mass robbery of everyone in upstate in New York.

You’d expect Sheriff Crazy Bagels to be all over this one (see also: bagels), but he’s too busy hosting Patti, the leader of the Guilty Remnants, in his office. “Can I get you something to drink? Water? Coffee? Drano?” Haha, he is such a kidder.

Then the Sheriff asks if Patti could do him a favor, and at first you’re like “I bet it’s to drop dead. #Burn!” But no, he’s actually asking for a real favor. Come on, he’s already offered her the tasty, tasty Drano! What’s a guy got to do!

Sheriff CB wants the GR to lay off protesting the town’s holiday dance fundraiser for the new library. (What happened to the OLD LIBRARY? Another open case!) He warns Patti and the GR to stay away, because he won’t protect them. It’s the holidays, and people want to relax and blow off steam and be with their families. All of which, by the way, sounds like a terrible combination. But Patti picks up her pen to put a finer point on her argument:

“THERE IS NO FAMILY.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” asks Sheriff Crazy Bagels, not without some justification. Patti goes over to the sheriff’s vision board and takes down a picture of his wife. Oh, now he gets it. Or, wait. No. AGH! So frustrating!

Anyway, Patti leaves and the sheriff reveals his plot to his deputy: goaded, the GR will show up at the school dance and the police will be there to arrest them on-site for criminal trespassing.

Hopefully no one plans on spiking the punch with Drano like a fucking psychopath.

Meanwhile, in, uh, somewhere–Tom and Christine are still hiding out, waiting for further instructions from Wayne. Possibly a mental institution, because it’s all of two seconds before a man Porky Pigging it super-hard accuses Christine of being in his dreams and tries to choke her to death, claiming that she can “walk over the dead.” There’s a scuffle.

Back in the sheriff’s home, the holidays are a time when he can go an unwind about a billion miles of knotted tree lights while deflecting questions from Jill and Aimee about the missing Jesus. (JESUS, this place.) “That might be a misuse of our resources,”  says a for-once rationale Sheriff. The girls won’t let it go, calling it sacred and arousing CB’s suspicions that they might have taken it themselves. Whatever mind games these ladies are playing, they need to go play them outside with the Ping Pong Twins and leave the poor Sheriff to the more important cases, like whether he’s developed the kind of schizophrenia where you kill a bunch of dogs and don’t remember, or where he left the Drano. Jill leaves in a huff, and unable to place his rage anywhere else, the Sheriff turns on Aimee. “Enjoying eating my sandwich?” he sneers. She shrugs, and he throws down the lights and leaves the room. He’s going to poison her later, he promises himself probably.
Getting ready for the dance and possible GR protest, the mean mayor lady is all over this baby Jesus thing. She tells Crazy Bagels to pick up another doll from the toy store, cover it with dirt and mark it up, and then pretend he “found” it. Why? “Because he needs a win.” And because if you find baby Jesus you might find regular Jesus and he’ll help you find the Missing, who know the location of all the bagels and possibly some Lexapro or sonething. Maybe even my sanity NO PROMISES.

But of course, looking at the doll in the box at the toy store sends Sheriff Crazy Bagels into some sort of sadness meltdown, so instead he decides the better plan is to find the original doll. Now look who wants to be a detective! Even his deputy is like “Are you sure this is a top priority?” No, the dance is, but the sheriff would like to stop dealing with the “Goddamn baby fuckin’ Jesus!” The sheriff’s car immediately stops working in the middle of the road. Oh no! Baby Doll Jesus exists and is angry! #Gamechanger

Let’s do a quick check-in with this reality: So Baby Jesus might be real, and even though his corporeal doll form is missing, he (or some power) still has the magical ability to control electronics and smite his enemies. (Like that vampire in The Strain!) Sounds very Old Testament-meets-New Tech. I am more interested in learning about this doll, and why everyone seems to know why it’s so important. Aside from the obvious symbolic and religious implications, I mean. (“Obvious Symbolic and Religious Implications” is actually the name of my Leftovers-themed cover band. We only play Danzig and choir hymns. Find us on MySpace.)

Christine, pregnant with Wayne’s child, fights with Tom in a hospital about the man that attacked her because she KNEW she wasn’t supposed to talk to crazy people in their dreams anymore. Tom is forced to quickly vacate the premises when the OBGYN starts suspecting it was Tom who gave her the bruises, due to his tendency towards victim-blaming and astral slut-shaming.

Jill stole the Baby Jesus, no d’uh, and brings him to some park party, where the Ping Pong Twins and Aimee try to convince her to give the hostage back to her dad. Instead, she sets it out on some sort of body of water (wait, WHERE are these guys?), douses a Nerf gun in gasoline and lights it on fire. Her face shows anguish as she aims the foam arrows towards Baby Jesus, and the moment is potent with meaning. Or just as likely,  the absolute lack of meaning. At the very least, she’s definitely going to get grounded, and eventually decides that burning an effigy of the son of God is probably pushing it, even for a teenage god-hater like herself.

The Guilty Remnants find Tom, who is sitting outside the hospital. (Also, where is he? Are those GRs from his neighborhoods?) Tom is done with this game of taking care of Christine, who Wayne told him he will eventually be sacrificed for. Since Wayne’s sort of like God with his magic hugs, Tom yells at his phone for some sort of sign, but all he gets is a robocall from an organization called Loved Ones. Wayne works in mysterious ways.

Because it’s still Christmas, dammit, and Christmas means involving the weak and gullible into your family affairs, Sheriff Crazy Bagels’ estranged wife Laurie enlists Meg to sit down with the two of them and have her read Laurie’s prepared speech out loud about what a good husband he’s been, etc., etc., (Good narrative device, letting Meg still go through the initiation, so at least someone’s talking.) For Christmas, Laurie is giving the sheriff divorce papers. Then Jill comes home and gives her mom a lighter that says “Don’t Forget Me.” Laurie promptly leaves and throws the lighter down the drain.  All things considered, I’ve definitely had worse family holiday gatherings.

Tom’s now on some weird new religion kick where he’s not wearing shoes and drawing colorful circles on his and Christine’s face so “the creator can see them.”

The Ping Pong Twins deliver Baby Jesus to Sheriff Crazy Bagel’s house. “I’ve found him,” the dad shrugs to daughter. A moment ago, she asked him to call her when things ” get simple.” Does the return of the savior fall into that category? Eh, my theology is a little rusty, but I feel like it could go either way.

Christine and Tom–who might not even be in the same cult as Wayne anymore, they’re just starting their new thing, maybe?–are not wearing their shoes on a bus going somewhere when a screeching halt interrupts Christine’s introduction of Tom to a soldier, also named Tom. Maybe a coincidence, or maybe guys named Tom are the new Baby Jesuses.

Out of the bus, they see the cause of the accident on the highway: a truck jack-knifed on the highway and overturned, strewing corpses in white body bags all over the asphalt. They were being shipped by Loved Ones, the company that had robo-called Tom earlier. “They’re all in white, just like in the dream!” says Christine, walking over the bodies (ALSO LIKE THE DREAM!). But, I mean, who hasn’t HAD this dream? So: that’s what the Loved Ones do, ship dead bodies to be buried. One mystery down!

The sheriff arrives the conquering hero at the Christmas dance with the Baby Jesus, but everyone is weirded out by the sight of an unhinged public servant proudly producing a half-burnt, dirty doll at a party like he’s Detective Santa Claus. #PartyFoul, bro. At least Nora, moping by the lockers, understands. Her husband, who departed with the rest of her family, was cheating on her. The sheriff cheated on his wife, too. Okay, good talk.

Despite the GR standing beyond the allotted space from the HS to hold their protest, Sheriff Crazy Bagels is enraged by the news of his impending divorce and starts arresting everyone. “Looks like they were on school property to me!” his deputy gleefully exclaims, ready to get some heads cracking. This is why C. Bagels shouldn’t be in charge! It’s like the blind leading the guys who want to misuse power for power’s sake! But while they are locking up Patti and some of the GRs, Bagels realizes that there are still a shitload unaccounted for. The dance was a decoy! Now the GRs are into home evasion, entering properties and stealing the personal mementos and keepsakes from people who refuse to forget. Kind of an awesome short-con.

Sheriff Bagels goes to return the Jesus Baby, but the Reverend is already there, with a much nicer, hand-crafted (or at least less shittily mass-produced) cherub. “I had a spare!” he says, his attitude much more jaunty than last week’s excursions.

So now there are two Baby Jesuses working their magic in the town, which just cannot stand. Sheriff C-Bags drops the plastic one by the side of the road. Because this week we learned that Baby Jesus (original) was a false idol of consumer-culture? And real Baby Jesus can stop a car if he hears you cursing? And new Baby Jesus loves you, unlike your bitch of an ex-wife or daughter?

At least this week’s mystery was solved, and Bagels can get a head’s start on solving next week’s disappearance of everyone’s stuff.