The Leftovers recap: 'Guest'

Nora takes a bullet and finds hope from Holy Wayne.
Ep. 06 | Aired Aug 3, 2014

NAMELESS Nori Durst is able to gain anonymity at the Departure Related Occupation and Practices conference.

Paul Schiraldi/HBO

Nora is awakened that night by hotel security, who kicks her to the curb for breaking a mirror in the hotel bar. She claims that her doppelgänger committed the crime, but who knows for sure after the night she's had. Last year, she got so upset by one of the attendees who implied a link between child Departures and sugary breakfast cereals that she called her a "heartless bitch." Forced to scramble, Nora sneaks back into the hotel for her panel, wearing a counterfeit badge. She's nabbed again by security and taken to the boss, who doesn't quite understand why someone would want to impersonate Nora. "There are a lot of sick people out there," she says. "Maybe somebody's doing it for attention. My husband and two children are departed, and that sort of thing, it gets a lot of sympathy."

It does get a lot of sympathy, as Nora well knows. It gets her a second chance, when the security chief agrees to take her to her panel to see if there really is an impostor. Were you half-surprised to find that the impostor was actually there, and that she had wackadoodle political motivations? As she is carted away, the impostor rants that the government has the technology to vaporize people from outer-space, but her other accusation that the questionnaires are dumped in an incinerator has a ring of truth, especially after we saw what the government is doing with actual bodies, like Gladys.

It does beg the question: Why is the government giving payouts in the first place? After 9/11, there was a similar compensation fund, but that was linked to the airlines and beneficiaries had to agree not to sue them. If millions of Americans inexplicably disappeared and the government has no clue what happened, why are they compensating the families? Between the militant actions of AFTEC and the DSD's foot-dragging, there's plenty of evidence of some conspiracy—if you really want to see it.

Back in the hotel's good graces, Nora is enjoying a free drink at the hotel bar when she encounters Patrick Johannson, the author of What's Next, a spiritual post-Departure survival guide. His over-eloquent small talk about "ambiguous loss" and his living daughter's ability to find happiness again rubs Nora the wrong way, and she erupts on him. "Nothing is next!" she barks at him, mocking his exaggerated loss compared to hers. "Nothing!"

Making a scene attracts the attention of an oddball, a man who asks her, "Do you want to feel this way?" He lures her to a shady walk-up apartment building with the promise of proving Johannson a fraud, and once there, he mentions that the knowledge will cost her $1,000. Seems a tad high, but then, this is a woman who spends $3,000 for people to shoot her. She has her misery money. Then, behind the curtain, she comes face to face with Holy Wayne, who proves to be both a charlatan and an intuitive healer. "You believe that you will always feel that pain," he says. "If it starts to slip away, you seek it out again, don't you?" He recites scripture, Ecclesiastes 9:4: "For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion." And then, telling her that she deserves the gift of hope, he offers to hug it out. "Will I forget them?" she asks. "Never," he says, before she succumbs and weeps in his arms. It's a $1,000 hug. At the very least, it seems better than a $3,000 bullet in the chest.

Back home, Nora isn't stalking the mistress at the playground anymore. She's smiling softly at the market cashier who asks for her rewards card. (There's a sense of hope in every rewards card.) She saves her brother's voicemail apology. And when the doorbell rings, it's Chief Garvey, who's tracked her down to invite her to dinner. There is hope.

In the final scene, Nora is back at work, conducting another awkward beneficiary interview. Question 121: Is the Departed in a better place? No, says the tearful woman, as Nora contemplates the ramifications. Perhaps Holy Wayne is right: "Surely a live dog is better than a dead lion."

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