‘The Leftovers’ Recap ‘Don’t Be Ridiculous’: Perfect Strangers

In ‘The Leftovers’ recap, Nora searches for answers after receiving a strange call that ends with a promise she can see her children again…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

If there was a central theme to the latest episode of ‘The Leftovers’ it had to be coping mechanisms.

The episode started with the man who sat atop the pillar in Jarden, Texas for the past five years waiting for the Lord to take him but instead his heart gave out and he came tumbling face first down to the bottom of the street below. Of course the true believers including his wife couldn’t let all his hard work go to waste so they invented the story that he didn’t just have a heart attack and die but instead he departed just like the other two-percent of the population did on that fateful day seven years ago on October 14.

When Nora Durst — representative of the Department of Sudden Departures — comes to investigate, it takes her about two minutes to sniff out the hoax while speculating that the man sat on top of the pillar for five years not because he was trying to reach out to God. Instead, she believes it was all a coping mechanism that he was using after two-percent of the population just disappeared without any trace much less a reason behind it.

Now his wife, his followers and even her brother Matt are coping with his loss by making up a story about how he actually disappeared and went to live on the other side with the rest of the people who vanished seven years ago. Except for one problem — he didn’t just disappear.

The man sitting on top of that pillar died of a heart attack and as sad as that may be, that’s the truth and Nora Durst is committed to the truth — or at least she’s committed to it when she sees right through a ruse like the one being played on her with that particular death.

The rest of the episode focuses on Nora’s own search for answers — whether she truly believes them or not — and this is her own coping mechanism for the loss of her two children that she’s never really gotten over and it clearly still haunts her to this day.

With that said, let’s recap the latest episode of ‘The Leftovers’ titled ‘Don’t Be Ridiculous’…

Cousin Larry Appleton

The intro to ‘The Leftovers’ this week was a throwback to the classic 1980’s sitcom ‘Perfect Strangers’ and it played into the episode in a big way. If you remember back to the first season of the show, several celebrities disappeared during the Sudden Departure including the entire cast of the show ‘Perfect Strangers’.

Unfortunately, Mark Linn-Baker — who played cousin Larry Appleton — didn’t actually vanish but instead went into hiding after the other three main cast members from the show really did disappear as part of the departure. His own sadness that he was left behind forced him to run away but eventually he turned up alive and well while being branded for the hoax he pulled.

Fast forward to our current time line and Nora gets a call from Mark Linn-Baker with a promise that if she comes to visit him in St. Louis, he can provide her with the ability to see her children again. Of course, Nora is highly skeptical about the call but she’s also been quietly lamenting about her kids lately and so this offer hits her directly in the heart.

Thankfully, Nora also works for the department in charge of investigating these matters so she gets permission to travel to St. Louis to root out this scheme while she’s secretly curious about what he has to say. Before leaving she breaks Kevin’s balls about the book that Matt has secretly written about him. The two of them are having a good laugh about it, but something tells me that the book will become important before the season is over.

Nora heads to the airport where she’s confronted with a faulty machine that won’t allow her to print a boarding pass as she attempts to select ‘no’ to the question ‘are you traveling with an infant on your lap?’. This also hits Nora directly in the heart because she’s still missing Lilly — the baby Tommy delivered to her at the end of season one who has been mysteriously missing, although we find out later what happened to her.

Finally, Nora boards the flight and heads off to St.Louis for her rendezvous with a perfect stranger.

Perfect Strangers

Nora sits down with Mark Linn-Baker, who proceeds to explain to her about an experiment that was discovered by some theoretical physicists. According to cousin Larry, these scientists discovered trace amounts of neutron radiation — a very rare form of radiation — around sites where departures took place. Now typically, neutron radiation only appears near structures such particle accelerators or reactors. But somehow this rare form of radiation was found near numerous sites where departures happened.

So these scientists took this information and built a machine that could bombard a person with neutron radiation and they believe this transports someone to the other side or wherever the rest of the two-percent of the population disappeared to seven years ago.

With a healthy dose of skepticism, Nora calls bullshit on this methodology and believes that these scientists, who ask for a percentage of a person’s total wealth to put them into this machine, are actually incinerating their clients while promising travel to another dimension.

Of course, Mark Linn-Baker disagrees while also denying that he’s somehow suicidal because the rest of his cast mates were taken and yet he’s still here on this planet. This is his coping mechanism. He counters by telling Nora that he doesn’t want to die, he just wants to take back control — the feeling that was pulled away from him and everybody else on Earth who lost somebody during the Sudden Departure.

Before she leaves, Mark Linn-Baker hands her a phone that will ring at some point in the near future with instructions on how she can travel to the site where the machine will reunite her with her children. Nora exits but she takes the phone with her so as much as she doesn’t buy this scam, she hasn’t traveled all the way down the rabbit hole just yet.

Nora Cursed

On the road in St. Louis following her meeting with the last remaining cast member from ‘Perfect Strangers’, Nora gets into a rental car bound for Kentucky. Unfortunately for her, the GPS system has the same non-response to her touch as she tries to punch in her navigation directions.

Nevertheless, Nora makes it to Kentucky where she’s reunited with Lilly at a playground. She watches from afar for a moment before seeing another child steal Lilly’s shovel and she quickly bursts into action to rectify the situation. Nora sits with the child for a moment — the little girl clearly doesn’t recognize her — before her mother arrives.

It’s Christine — the former Holy Wayne follower, who abandoned the child at the rest stop a few years ago before Tommy handed the baby over to his father and Nora.

Christine quizzes Nora about her appearance to which she responds that she was here on work and decided to make a quick visit. Nora gets away in great haste before booking her flight home to Texas.

Arriving at the airport, Nora once again runs afoul of technology when the ticket machine at the parking garage refuses to take her ticket. Nora finally snaps and lifts up the gate herself before driving away to go visit a friend.

She arrives at Erika Murphy’s house — the estranged wife of John Murphy, who is now thriving outside of Jarden, Texas, far away from her ex-husband and the drama that surrounded that town.

It’s there where we finally learn how Nora broke her arm.

She explains that during a ‘bad day’, she visited a tattoo shop and got her kid’s names inked on her arm as a sign of remembrance. Just as she was nearly finished, Nora then realized that every time someone saw those tattoos, she’d be forced to explain how they departed and she’s been left behind without them. So quickly, Nora panicked and asked the tattoo artist to cover it up with the first thing she spotted on the wall.

It’s the symbol for that “Wu-Tang Band” as she calls it and the embarrassment over the entire incident led to Nora breaking her own arm in car door to help cover it up. She follows up this tale of woe by telling Erika that she also broke her leg the day after the Sudden Departure and the newspapers captured an image of her with the caption “Nora Cursed” as just another stab at her tremendous suffering through this entire ordeal.

The struggle to get past the loss of her kids has never gone well for Nora and she can’t quite understand how Erika has been able to grieve and recover following the death of her own daughter Evie. Erica explains the difference — she was able to bury her daughter and say goodbye.

Nora never got that opportunity.

While the pain of losing a child never truly goes away, Erika has found a new type of therapy in the form of a trampoline she bought and put in her backyard. So Erika and Nora proceed to jump on that trampoline like children all set to the soundtrack of “Protect Ya Neck” by the Wu-Tang Clan.

The moment of levity is short-lived, however, when Nora returns to town and she’s pulled over by a cop just as she crosses over the bridge into Jarden. The cop is Tommy, who heard all about her visit to Kentucky when Christine called in a panic, worried that she and her child are now somehow in danger.

Nora explains that she went to see the daughter she helped raise, who no longer recognizes her, and how Christine has nothing to worry about because she gave up custody without a fight. Christine’s sudden reappearance ended with no custody battle but instead Nora willingly handing over Lilly to her birth mother.

Somewhere deep inside, Nora still feels connected to Lilly, like she was some sort of do-over for the children she lost in the Sudden Departure. That’s when Tommy hits her with the awful truth — when he dropped off Lilly, he was giving her over to his own father and didn’t even know Nora existed at the time.

Nora sheds a few tears before returning home and finding Kevin upstairs with a plastic bag wrapped around his own head in a self-asphyxiation attempt. Kevin quickly rips off the bag and then explains how he does this so he can feel alive. Remember, Kevin has already died three separate times and returned to the land of the living but now this is the only way he can touch death before breathing again.

Nora doesn’t question his intentions but instead just comforts him. Of course she does laugh in his face when Kevin suggests having a child together. The touching scene is soon interrupted when Nora gets a call on the phone she was handed by Mark Linn-Baker back in St. Louis.

The person on the phone instructs Nora to get on a plane to Melbourne, Australia with $20,000 in cash so she can step inside the machine that will transport her to the other side where her children are waiting. Nora hangs up and tells Kevin that she has to travel to Australia and his response is asking if he can come along. Nora says yes and now the two of them are on their way down under.

Two Minutes of Your Time

The scene suddenly shifts to the outback of Australia where we meet a grumpy chief of police named Kevin, who runs over a kangaroo en route to taking the rest of the night off from work. This less than hospitable man returns home where he runs into four women sitting in his driveway, all of them mounted on horses.

He identifies himself as Kevin, which brings a smile to the face of the leader of the pack, before she recites a verse to him.

“And he looked at them and raised his hand but they did not waive in response. And so he touched the stone to his chest and jumped into the water”

The recitation is directly from the “Book of Kevin” — a scene from last season when Kevin Garvey encountered Evie and her friends at the pond where they faked their disappearance just before he tossed a cinderblock into the water in a failed suicide attempt. The water in the pond drained during a sudden earthquake — perhaps more evidence that Kevin really is the second coming of the messiah.

This police chief named Kevin has no clue what they’re talking about so they end up shooting him with a tranquilizer before tying him to a teeter-totter and explaining how his trial will be over in two minutes. They dunk him into the water and wait to see him miraculously come back to life, but instead this Kevin drowns in the pond.

The women are all shocked and soon realize that this isn’t the Kevin they’ve been searching for. A few moments later as they drag the body out of the water, a shadowy figure emerges from the house behind them. A man on crutches approaches before stepping into the light — it’s Kevin Garvey Sr. and he’s curious what these women are up to.

Were these women there to find him? Were they looking for his son? Is he the one who instructed them to find Kevin and put him through this trial? Whatever the case, ‘The Leftovers’ shifts to Australia with the third episode next Sunday night at 9pm ET on HBO.

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