‘The Leftovers’ Recap 1×8: ‘American, Beauty’

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Patti is a creep. (HBO/The Leftovers

…AND WE’RE BACK! Just so everyone knows, I am leaving this Wednesday for my wedding and won’t be back until September 9th. So we’ll be hearing from a roster of other talented writers for the next several weeks. For now! You get my finale (thank god) recap on The Leftovers. At least until  next season, barring unforeseen, apocalyptic events that may or may not occur when Lindelof finally gets his daddy issues hugged out of him. If last night’s episode was any indication, I’m going to enjoy my time off.

This week’s confrontation between Patti and Kevin and Dean, the cranky ghost without a driver’s license or gun permit, was terribly foreshadowed in the opening sequence.  We are treated to a back and forth montage between Patti, the leader of the Guilty Remnants and Kevin Crazy Bagels…doing homeowner-y stuff in a very disconcerting yet boring way. (#LeftoversMetaphor) For instance, Patti is laying out children clothes, but like a room’s worth, and they are just all propped up in Reverend Matt’s former church, looking like deflated dolls. Kevin is setting out a fancy dinner while staring angrily at the sunflower centerpiece and OCD-arranging the silverware. JUST ANOTHER DAY IN SUBURBAN ANGST AMERICA.

This episode, like every episode besides the Matt and Laurie ones, focuses its gaze in the completely wrong direction. Why would the showrunners think the most interesting part of this despotic world–where two percent of the population has disappeared–was the Cheever-like navel-gazing angst of the town’s sheriff, a figure who, if anything, is the definition of Power and Institution. At times, I’m almost ready to believe Lindelof is doing his version of the David Chase/Bad Men phenomena made popular by The Sopranos. Other times I think The Leftovers is his parody/response to the prodigality–especially on HBO!–of such squinty, constipated protagonists. Nora, in contrast, is so much more interesting in her grief (or lack thereof), her brother Matt, the fallen Rev, is more sympathetic. Patti is more opaque, Laurie and Meg are…well, at least they’re women, and ones who aren’t allowed to carry guns or shoot dogs (seriously are we supposed to feel BAD for Kevin and his insane father issues?)…even the annoyingly Daria-like daughter Jill is a better character study than Sheriff Crazy Bagels, who, even in his insanity visions is completely uninteresting.

Back to reality: Patti is doing her staring contest thing with Laurie, handing her a bunch of money and writing “Ready?” Ready for what? I am hoping it’s the ice bucket challenge.

More GRs stand outside Nora’s house, including Liv Tyler. They look a little perplexed when Nora offers them a treat, and it makes me think: are they more or less likely to pursue Nora with their stalking now that she’s been purified of her grief by Wayne? It’s never really been clear what their agenda is–several times it’s been alluded to that the smoking and stalking is so people “don’t forget,” but then GR members also rob houses of other people’s mementos and Laurie’s whole thing is about forgetting her former life, so…I don’t know? Also they seem to prey on people who are miserable about the 2 percent-calypse (like Meg, although she might have just had a terrible case of the pre-wedding jitters, it’s not like this show gives it’s characters a substantial backstory), which you’d think would be redundant for a cult designed to make people feel miserable about the missing.

Meanwhile Kevin’s dog is FUCKING BANANAS. It’s a totally rabid monster, which only makes things more awkward when it’s barking its head off during this awkward threesome date between Kevin and Nora and Kevin’s daughter Jill. “Why do you carry a gun?” Jill cross-examines her dad’s date. (Prioritiez.)

“Jill, enough, Nora is a guest in our house!” snaps her dad, the sheriff, who is definitely the correct amount of worried about table manners vs concealed weapons.

Kevin flips around in bed, staring angrily at god know’s what, and then it’s a jump cut to the next day, when he’s awoken in his car by Dog the Bounty Hunter, or whatever that guy’s name is. (Dean. I just remembered.) He leads Kevin out to his weird little shack, where he has Patti tied up and knocked out. Oh no! But wait, is this *definitely* one of the sheriff’s crazy dreams? Persnaps.

Jill wakes up and her BFF has slept over like the weird replacement mother she’s become, and informs her that daddy spent the night out. When did Amy show up, even? Why doesn’t she go home? She’s like the depressing Kimmy Gibbler meets Mena Suvari.

Megan is freaking out on Reverend Matt for making signs about her mother. She is screaming, which is a big no-no in the mute cult, so I guess good job Matt for cracking her? But she’s really beaten the shit out of him. She tells the GR that Matt has fliers on everyone’s families. Assuming these are the same fliers he used  in the pilot, which list the sins of the disappeared, to disprove it was the rapture–TP’ing the stalker cults house with a billion of these like a fittingly dick move. Laurie gets Megan to agree, via minimal hand gesturing, to wait for Patti’s opinion on the matter, but little do they know she’s TIED UP at the moment. Haha!

Kevin forgets that he is the sheriff of this town and breathes heavily, helpless to do anything but stare as the crazy hermit taunts his bound victim. Then we see, through a variety of *intense flashbacks*, that Kevin may have been involved in Patti’s kidnapping. Conveniently and like always, he’s not really sure, and Dean looks baffled by his request to “tell him everything that happened last night.” Uh, you know when the crazy guy who’s been shooting all the dogs and is holding a woman prisoner in his log cabin shoots you the stink eye that maybe YOU’RE the problem, right Kev?

Dean recounts that Kevin showed up at the bar and insisted on giving him a ride home, then passing Patti, jumped out of his own car (I guess they were stopped at a traffic light?) and beat the shit out of her. The biggest flaw in Dean’s story is that I don’t believe he’d let Kevin give him a ride anywhere, as the sheriff is a major drunk and Dean loves his gun-filled truck. Dean also reveals that Kevin only took in his new pet because he made some sort of Pygmalion/She’s All That bet that he could train the dog to not want to eat his face off.

“I don’t have amnesia!” Kevin screams.

“Then what the fuck do you got?” Dean asks. They got a Patti! Then Kevin goes and tells Patti that basically it’s her fault that he beat the shit out of her, saying “you kept pushing” but then generously offering her a “let bygones be bygones” deal, which definitely exists. Patti, who’s been awfully chatty lately, says that if they decide to let her go, she’ll report them to “the actual authority” and take away Kevin’s kid. Haha, but OOH BOY, what world does Patti live in, giving them basically no choice but to kill her? See, if Kevin was anything less than THE MAN in this scenario, maybe we’d be sweating this ride along with him, but as he’s the police chief with a gun, I’m not feeling too much sympathy. “Will the rage-crazy sheriff choose to murder the lady threatening to expose him and then cover it up with complicit partners or turn himself in?” Wonders no one, ever.

Laurie and Meg write-fight at each other and then write-fight with Reverend Matt, who reveals that Meg’s mom didn’t disappear, but died a day before. “Her grief was hijacked, she has a right to be angry,” he explains to a testy Laurie before accepting Meg’s written apology. So I guess Matt’s got enough printer paper to write leaflets on everyone, not just the Departed? Nora tells Laurie that if she’s handing out apologies she could stop by her former house and give one to Jill. #ShotsSilentlyFired.

Somehow things have gotten very tense between Jill and Amy, and while smoking weed with the Ping Pong twins, Jill asks her BFF if she’s fucked her father. Amy answers in the affirmative and talks about how hard Jill’s dad was and how they fucked on a pile of guns. And we’re like “we get it, the dream of the 90s and Lester Burnham is still alive in this alternate future,” which might be the most dystopian element in the entire Leftovers premise.

Kevin tries to play like he’s there to grill Patti about the GR, but even she’s like “you tied me up to ask me about my organization?” Patti reveals that she’s done research on Dean and basically? He doesn’t exist. Like, no driver’s license, which makes it curious that during the whole cat and mouse game he played with Garvey, the sheriff didn’t *once* ask for his ID. Didn’t he put out an APB for this guy?

Then Dean, Kevin and Patti debate the existence of Dean. AMAZING, this show. Like a very boring Beckett play! Dean is like “let me talk to the other Kevin! Go back to sleeeeep!”

In an effort to prove herself vindicated to absolutely no one, Jill breaks into Nora’s house in search of her gun. LOL-bad. The Ping Pong twins find Nora’s bulletproof vest that she wore while demanding a hooker shoot her point blank. God, you guys remember that episode? That episode was so much better than this one. The whole Garvey family just makes everything awful, as evidenced when Jill finds Nora’s gun in a game of a Trouble and starts sobbing. Way to make it all about you, Jill. Not even clear why she’s so sad!

Still in the woods, Garvey finds all his shirts–remember that episode??–in the woods and has an inappropriate freak out reaction, crying and punching his unlaundered garments before starting in on a Hannah Horvath-y mantra about how okay he is.

Kevin comes back to find Patti with a bag over her head, courtesy of the Deanster. Things got ratcheted up a notch real quickly over in the log cabin! Dean and Kevin have a big struggle and it ends with the bag being ripped and Dean walking out in disgust.

We see that Laurie, now the de facto head of the GR, buying a truck of those Loved Ones bereavement RealDolls–remember that episode?? This is all coming together, right?–and taking the body bags into the church, where Patti laid out the clothes in the beginning. One is just a very tiny little body bag and fuuuuuck this show. Either it’s being unnecessarily vague or it’s being inappropriately graphic. Like over super sad, American Beauty piano music, Jill takes a giant knife out and goes out to the doll. But instead of killing it, she sets it free. Unfortuantely it doesn’t  eat her face.

We see Laurie take out Nora’s file and we can tell that she’s planning something particularly nasty for her, but then Jill shows up and the music goes EVEN MORE CRAZY and then cuts out all dramatically as we snap to Patti taunting Kevin into killing her again. And again. “It doesn’t matter what happened, the difference between you and me is that while you ignore it, we strip away anything that distracts us from it, any of the colorful diversions that distract us from it. Hatred and love…until we are erased. Until we are Living Reminders.” So after all that, they don’t CARE what happened? They’re just around so you don’t forget that thing that NO ONE forgets?? As a religion, they have all these tenants they’re not able to explain. It’s like that new Joshua Ferris book where there’s this cult that act like Orthodox Jews except they are atheists and just like performing their rituals as a link to their ancestors. Like, the acts are meaningless as divine, but in doing them we remember those who came before us. Or something, I didn’t get that book either.

“Now I know why you don’ fucking talk,” says Kevin, earning my first and only LOL of the episode.

Then Patti kind of says that she married Gladys and says that she’ll kill Laurie too. Uh-oh, Kevin realizes that Patti kind of wants him to kill her.

Patti wants him to say that he understands what’s happening, but the point of the GR is that they don’t care what happened? Who cares I don’t.

“The horses of disaster plunge through the heavy clay,” says Patti. Take that, Rust Cohle! You can tell this shit sounded way better in the book.

“No Patti, I don’t understand” says Kevin, right before freeing her against her wishes in the manner of Jill. But then she slices her own neck open and dies in her arms. “You do understand me,” Patti says before dying of her own knifey suicide.

If there’s anything we learned this episode, it’s that even the GR aren’t really clear on what they’re supposed to be doing. Smoking and blaming the community for their own murders? Possibly? Someone should get the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms Explosive and CULTS on the line while Kevin just sits in the corner and has another freakout about his missing hair product. And then arrest him for sleeping with Amy, a minor. COME ON, guys!