I think that what I love most about The Leftovers is that it manages to take an ostensibly normal plot point and quickly escalate it to new levels of crazy. Case in point: this week’s episode.
We start off with Kevin and Nora checking in at the airport, and it looks like Nora’s technology-related curse has been lifted for now: as soon as her watch comes off, she passes the metal detector without setting it off, which is a bigger relief than we suspected.
I can’t tell if Kevin was annoyed or just baffled by her decision to take advantage of her ‘global entry’ privileges and leave him behind for a few minutes, but his “what are you smuggling” line was funny, as was his simple solution to her duct-taping 20 k around her waist: why not just give him half? See, Nora, if only you bothered to talk to your significant other about stuff.
Trust issues aside, the two seem to still be going pretty hot and heavy – well, not hot enough for the mile high club, but certainly hot enough for the airport bathroom. Apparently a little duct-tape removal action gets them in the mood? Joking aside, I like the juxtaposition of Nora’s explanation about her giant microwave device plan over the sex scene visual: it’s actually the first time in a while that we’ve seen any real intimacy between them that isn’t strictly physical.
They arrive at the hotel, and sadly it looks nothing like the International Assassin location, but surely something bizarre will happen here too, right? Nora is quite matter-of-fact about her intention to bust this group of scientists and prove it is all a scam, but do we actually believe her? After all, she didn’t exactly secure DSD approval before flying to Australia.
And now it’s her turn to deliver a great line: when asked why she brought her boyfriend along (is it weird that the term boyfriend bothers me a little bit? Surely they’re more than that by now), she’ll just tell them they’re in a toxic co-dependent relationship and would be better off staying away from eachother. How prophetic – and here I thought Kevin was the one with the quasi-religious status.
Speaking of, it looks like he finally read the book – on the plane, no less. Makes sense, it’s a long-ass flight to Oz. Nora continues to make fun of her brother’s text (“he capitalizes your h’s!”) and reads a passage out loud – which just happens to be one of the most disturbing parts of Kevin’s story: pushing little Patti down the well – and marvels at the “shit Matt comes up with“. So Kevin never told her what happened? It becomes clear later in the episode, but it makes you wonder if she’d react to the book any differently if she knew none of it is made up.
Her phone rings and the way she desperately scrambles for it is yet another sign that this trip’s sole purpose isn’t to just “bust” whoever these guys are. Off she goes, asks Kevin not to follow her, and it’s his turn to have a little trouble with technology: he can’t turn off the TV, which is, of course, an excellent callback to his International Assassin adventure. (By the way, I know I reference that episode way too often, but it really is one of the best hours of television I have ever watched.)
Kevin decides to read the book some more, and I love the hymn that plays every time they do a close up on the leather-bound tome. All that’s missing is a beam of light coming up whenever someone opens the manuscript.
The television is still droning on in the background, and apparently G’Day Melbourne is the type of morning show that will effortlessly switch between missing people reports (who’s the second missing Kevin?) and pancake preparation. Just before the reception clerk switches the TV off remotely, Kevin sees a familiar face among the crowd behind the show hosts. WHOA.
Is that really Evie? How did she not get incinerated in the drone attack?
Meanwhile, Nora is doing as she’s told, waiting at the bus stop, when a lady carrying a baby approaches her and asks if she’s a mother. I loved Coon’s performance here, the slight hesitation before replying that yes, she is. Do people actually do that, by the way? Approach perfect strangers on the street and hand them their babies for a few minutes? Jeez. It doesn’t really matter though. If Nora was rushing to answer her phone at the hotel, she’s close to panicking at the thought of missing the bus. Luckily, the driver was kinder than most bus drivers I’ve encountered and actually waits for her.
No less panicky than Nora, Kevin takes a cab to whatever location the morning show is filmed at and looks for Evie in the crowd, getting himself some airtime in the process. He follows her through some very cool looking graffiti-riddled alleyways and tries to talk to her, but she speaks with an accent, goes by a different name and doesn’t seem to recognize him, which aggravates him even further. Luckily, he manages to snap a photo of her just before he gets clocked on the eye by a good samaritan who witnesses what can only be described as a crazed man harassing a young woman. (Why do do-gooders never show up when you actually need them, by the way?)
Nora arrives at a creepy building that is completely empty save for a grand piano, where two women speak in a foreign tongue and play A-Ha’s Take On Me, which is rather fitting, yet quite jarring, given the circumstances. The entire set up doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in their process but hell, Nora is a desperate woman. They give Nora a perfunctory medical exam and inform her that the last test she needs to pass is that of “confinement”. Literally: they put her in a freaking crate, filled with packing peanuts, no less, to see how she’ll react to being confined in the actual device. You’d think a bunch of scientists would have come up with a more professional type of simulator to gauge claustrophobia, but, again, Nora is pretty desperate.
While Nora seems perfectly at ease being locked up in a big box, Kevin is seriously freaking out. Back in Texas, Laurie and John are still running their scam but draw the line at trying to communicate with the Departed. Still keeping up the Holy Wayne hugging shtick though! Kevin tells Laurie about his encounter with Evie, sends her the photo he took of her and, surprisingly, Laurie confirms that it is indeed the missing Murphy girl in that picture. However, her too calm reaction gives something away, and she also lets it slip that “Daniyah” works at the library. Also, why does Kevin need Laurie to look up the girl’s alias? It’s not a magic trick, dude, just google her. Sheesh.
Kevin doesn’t miss a beat – he goes straight to the library, looking more manic than we’ve seen him since season 2. Evie steps in just in time to save him from getting thrown out by security, and calmly tells him she doesn’t want him to tell anyone he saw her. She has started a new life, “there is no family” and other vague crap that doesn’t answer the burning (pun intended) question: how did she survive the drone attack? Even more bizarrely, she doesn’t drop the accent, but instead starts reciting something in a foreign tongue, and tells Kevin she has compassion for him because he is ill, she wanted to help and “she” told her to tell him she was who he thought she was (and yes, that’s among the most confusing sentences I have ever typed. Sorry).
Huh. So it’s not Evie after all, just a lookalike? Nope, it’s not even a close match! When Kevin calls Laurie back and she explains that she was humoring his delusion because he was in the middle of a psychotic break, she asks him to pull up the picture on his phone again, and he sees a completely different person – both on the phone and in the room with him. Definitely not Evie, so I guess this means Kevin is losing it again. Laurie explains that he projected her onto a stranger, pointedly asks him if things are okay with Nora, and tells him that part of him wants to escape, because why else would he abandon his responsibilities at Jarden days before the departure anniversary to fly halfway across the world?
Even though the reveal wasn’t much of a shock, I have to admit I was a bit bummed that this wasn’t Evie, simply because it could tie in nicely with Nora’s new identity from the final scenes of the season premiere. Then again, I was never a big Evie fan, so I’m glad to see that plot line put to rest.
Back at the empty building that serves as the microwave scam’s preliminary testing facility, Nora is almost done with the weirdo doctors when they pose a final question. It’s the same question the burning man asked Kevin Sr last week: two infant babies; one will cure cancer if the other one dies. A nod from Nora will do it. Does she kill the other baby? She asks for clarifications and quickly decides that yep, so many babies die every day, what’s another one? “And I get to cure cancer? Sure, I nod”.
Apparently, that’s the wrong answer. The doctors tell her they won’t be proceeding any further and refuse to take her money, and Nora is LIVID.
Thing is, the man who set himself on fire last week gave the opposite answer (so did Kevin Sr, btw). “Do you nod?” “Of course not!”
So is it all a scam? If so, what the point of all the other tests? Why not take the 20 grand? Was Nora’s complete lack of any kind of reluctance the deciding factor? Will this plot point every be explained?
Back at the hotel, Nora is still pretty angry, desperate even, and understandably so. Not only can she not bust this operation, but she also just lost any hope she may have had that this might actually not be a scam. To cynical, pragmatist Nora, it seems impossible that she gave the wrong answer.
Kevin walks in to find her covering the smoke detector with some aluminum foil so she can smoke (would it kill her to just smoke outside? Or, I dunno, book a hotel room with a balcony or something?). She tells him she’s going to “fucking destroy them“, which I guess is a much better turn of events than actually going through the device and getting incinerated.
Nora notices Kevin’s injuries – I really liked the choice of language in this scene: she doesn’t ask him what happened to his face, but his head. And we all know his head isn’t exactly in the best shape right now. She asks him what’s wrong and says he can “tell her anything“. No, I can’t, he replies, and it so perfectly encapsulates their entire relationship. Last time he told her what was wrong with him, he woke up handcuffed to the bed and she was gone, so who can blame the guy for holding back?
Apparently Nora can: she’s incensed that he talked to Laurie instead of her, she accuses him of buying into the Messiah bullshit in Matt’s book, and Kevin quickly dismisses the idea by setting the book on fire. I don’t think a piece of foil over the smoke detector will do much good now. We don’t fucking talk about anything, he tells her, and FINALLY someone mentions the elephant in the room.
The argument that ensues feels so real. It seems like years of bottled up resentment were unleashed at last, and it’s as ugly as it gets. Both say pretty harsh things – Nora blames Kevin for not fighting to keep Lily, Kevin blames her for not even asking for his opinion when she made that decision. He wants her to stop acting like a victim and let it go, move past her kids’ departure. When she tells him she can’t because they’re not dead, they’re just gone, he delivers the final blow: go be with them.
Ouch. Not cool, Kevin. Then again, he probably guessed that “busting” the organization wasn’t her sole reason for traveling to Australia, so maybe his harsh words aren’t anything Nora hasn’t already thought of herself.
Kevin grabs his bag and walks out, while Nora continues to smoke her cigarette as the burning book fills the room with smoke and sets off the fire alarm. As he’s leaving the hotel, he runs into his dad, who saw him on TV and checked every hotel in the area until he found him. (What are the odds that everyone in Melbourne watches that dumb morning show?)
Kevin asks if this is real, which is a perfectly natural reaction to the crazy day he’s been having. Yep, it’s real all right. He hops into the car with Kev and his new ladyfriend Grace and they take off. Loved the Take On Me effect on the final shots, and the song is, once again, a perfect choice of soundtrack. I’ll be gone….in a day or two….