The Leftovers recap: 'The Garveys at Their Best'

A flashback to before the disappearances offers some explanations.
Ep. 09 | Aired Aug 24, 2014

"HAPPIER" TIMES Kevin and Laurie together in a flashback.

Paul Schiraldi/HBO

"It was a beautiful speech. I almost believed you meant it," the elder Garvey tells Kevin when he catches him sneaking a cigarette. Just like Patti senses impending doom but can’t identify it, Kevin’s unable to pinpoint the source of his unhappiness. "Why isn’t it enough?" he asks. His dad has some words of wisdom: "Because every man rebels against the idea that this is f---ing it… You have no greater purpose, because it is enough. So cut the s---, okay?"

If only it were that simple. As petulant as Kevin seems, Laurie has something going on inside her, too. When she gets a little too lighthearted during her session with Patti, Patti says, "I know whey you’re telling jokes: Because you can feel it to, can’t you? I know you can. Something’s wrong inside you." It’s a glimpse into the future power dynamic between the two of them and the first real indication of something going on with Laurie. We don’t know why she breaks down at the breeder’s. Or why she missed Jill’s presentation the previous year. But the problems in her marriage aren’t all on Kevin.

Over at Nora’s house, they do seem to be mostly on her husband, Doug. The episode shows he and Kevin forgetting to do something for their wives: Kevin forgot about the breeders; Doug forgot he was supposed to take the kids to school so Nora could go to her interview. Neither seems like a big deal when they happen; Doug takes the kids, and Kevin says he’ll be there (but misses it when he has to pick up Tommy after the kid has a run-in with his birth father). But then Doug rolls in late ("You said 6," says a defeated-sounding Nora), forgets that she had her interview, and looks completely uninterested when she reminds him about it. We don’t know if he’s already hooking up with the teacher at this point, but it’s safe to assume.

Then again, Nora is happy to make her family her No. 2 priority in order to get the job running Lucy’s campaign: "As far as you’re concerned," she tells the candidate, "for the next four weeks, I don’t have a family." She confesses she wants the job because she needs “something for myself.” Behold, the recipe for life-consuming guilt: Just before her family left her, presumably forever, she felt a little smothered. Then we see what was happening when they disappeared, and Nora’s sad old habits—not replacing the paper towels, buying the same groceries—make more sense. The guilt must have been unbearable. (Good thing Wayne hugged her.)

The orange juice still dripping off the kitchen table would be the most haunting image from the episode’s final moments, but Laurie’s face as she looked at the suddenly empty ultrasound screen trumps it. The moment we learned she was pregnant, the endgame of "The Garveys at Their Best" became obvious. Whatever was going wrong inside of Laurie had no chance to correct itself after that. And because she was the only person besides her doctor who knew she was pregnant, she had to carry that loss alone. Since The Leftovers debuted, the refrain has been "Don’t expect your questions to be answered"; but Damon Lindelof just made it clear how Laurie went from hard-working mother to cult member.

And while the press around The Leftovers has reiterated that explanations will be in short supply, "Cairo" and "The Garveys at Their Best" have connected a lot of dots. The slow build of the series to this point has picked up speed, nicely setting up what looks to be an engrossing season finale.

Other stuff:

• I can’t buy Kevin rocking an obscure oldies song during his runs. He seems like more of a Zeppelin kind of guy, no? Plugging Jody Reynolds into Spotify, it recommends Gene Vincent, Duane Eddy, Carl Perkins, Dale Hawkins, Sanford Clark, and Johnny Burette & the Rock ’N’ Roll Trio to round out that playlist.

• Jill was listening to "Young Bloods" by the Naked and Famous, a song you’ve undoubtedly heard before, maybe unknowingly. It has appeared in roughly 1 million commercials, TV shows, and movies.

• The perplexing quote on Laurie’s page-a-day calendar, "The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground" is frequently—and erroneously—attributed to Buddha. What does it mean? Well, I Am Sirius over at Yahoo Answers says, "The foot, untouched, would not 'be' unless it had an experience of itself, much as we 'are not' (except in our conditioned duality minds only) until we fulfill our divine agency as Source, fully aligned and 'conscious' of Its presence as us." And yes, I Am Sirius is the kind of person who signs his/her messages "I bow to All That Is. Namaste."

• The video making Jill giggle is known as Nyan Cat or Pop Tart Cat, a meme that became a thing around when this episode is set.

• Maybe we’ll never know the extent of what, exactly, Tommy’s birth father did to him and Laurie. I get the sense there’s more to it.

• Kevin thinks one deer is responsible for the mayhem in town, which could be rationally explained if it were rabid or something. Knowing what will happen to his kitchen, though, means we’re not dealing with a rogue deer.

• "Are you a good guy?" "What?" "Are you a good guy?" "No." "You wanna come in?"

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