‘The Leftovers’ Recap ‘The Garveys at Their Best’: We Have to Go Back

The latest episode of ‘The Leftovers’ travels back three years and one day before the sudden departure as we soon find out tragedy struck some already conflicted people around Mapleton, New York…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

Tragedy is something that affects everyone in different ways, but typically speaking those types of events are usually confined to an individual or a family like when a loved one passes away. ‘The Leftovers’ thus far has focused on the small town of Mapleton, New York three years after the sudden departure happened where 140 million people were blinked out in an instant without any reason why and no explanation what happened to those who disappeared. Throughout the first eight weeks of the show, we’ve met the people in town who were so afflicted by this extinction level event and through the course of the series there have been a few explanations on why they felt the way they felt.

Nora Durst lost her husband and two children. Matt Jamison’s wife was rendered in a catatonic state after a car being driven by someone who disappeared, slammed into his car and injured her beyond repair. But still there were so many questions about many of the main characters, particularly those in the Garvey family, who have been the centerpieces of the series. Not until Sunday night’s episode titled ‘The Garveys at The Best’ did we truly start to understand how this single, tragic event not only blasted this town like a manhole cover bursting like a gas explosion from under the street, but also a deeper explanation at the way so many of the people in town were blindsided by this event in ways not understood by just saying their loved ones disappeared.

The story kicks off three years and one day ago, just 24 hours out from the biggest event in human history. Right away the scene is much different than the one that greets us in 2014. The Garvey family lives in a huge sprawling mansion paid for primarily by Laurie Garvey’s exorbitant salary as the city’s best psychiatrist. She treats Patti — the now dead leader of the Guilty Remnant — who has an overwhelming feeling of dread living inside her that the world is about to end (seems she was somewhat right) as Laurie tries to help her get past a relationship with a guy named Neil. She implores Patti to just put all that shit in a bag and go give it back to him. Travel back a few weeks to the scene in the restaurant where Patti was chatting up a storm and Laurie sat silent over breakfast before the cult leader bagged up some shit, marked it Neil, and the pair headed out to steal a bunch of pictures all over town.

Laurie is also searching for a new family dog where she runs into Gladys (the stoned to death member of the Guilty Remnant) who is a local breeder. She goes to this task solo because her husband Kevin couldn’t make it. He was offer rescuing Tommy from a police officer who arrested him after he got drunk and disorderly at a residence near by. It seems Tommy was going to confront his birth father Michael (the ‘do you like apples’ guy from ‘Good Will Hunting‘), who did something heinous to him and Laurie years earlier. Now he’s hold up in a cushy suburban home with a new family, and when Tommy comes calling Michael can only throw him out on his ass and club him over the head for his troubles.

When Kevin arrives to pick up his wayward stepson, he goes back and gives Michael a shot to the gut for putting his hands on his son. Tommy knows Kevin is the only father he ever needed or had, but there’s something inherent in his heart that makes him reach out to the man responsible for him being on this Earth. While Tommy is home from college and harassing his birth dad, his sister Jill is the happiest teenager in the world while also being Mapleton’s version of Sheldon Cooper as she puts the finishing touches on a science project for school. She bounces around the house listening to ‘Young Blood’ by The Naked & Famous without a care in the world.

Kevin on the other hand runs every morning to the same song playing on a loop — “The Girl from King Marie” by Jody Reynolds — while sneaking a smoke. See, Kevin quit smoking by his own choice but now he’s quitting the whole quitting thing and puffing away while working on his conditioning in the mornings. His daughter smells it on him and his wife does as well before finally calling him on his lies.

It seems Kevin’s been lying to a lot of people lately. Mostly, he’s been lying to himself as he quietly plods through life while acting like pending doom is hanging overhead. He’s sullen to his wife and kids, and at work the only contribution he can make while his father the police chief is handing out directives is to argue that a deer who has recently ransacked an elementary school shouldn’t be killed, but instead tranquilized and put back out into the woods. The deer has been a recurring theme in the series first seen early on by Kevin and again this episode as he spots the animal while he’s out running before the school incident and then again at a local residence where he tries to put it down without killing it. Instead, the deer runs right past him out onto the road where it gets run into by an SUV carrying a driver who is only there because she got off the wrong exit looking for her hotel.

The night before Kevin and his family are giving a party for his father, Kevin Sr., who has just been voted Mapleton Man of the Year. Reverend Matt gives a stirring toast ending with ‘hail to the chief!’ before Kevin rises and gives his own speech quoting his father from a story he was told as a kid.

A man said to the universe
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

The poem is from Stephen Crane titled ‘A Man Said to the Universe’ — the meaning of the poem is basically a man’s search for recognition, which the universe replies more or less ‘you do exist, but I don’t care’. In a way he gets the answer he was looking for while also realizing that he’s insignificant in the grander scheme of things. This seems to play perfectly into Kevin’s discontent as a husband, father and cop lately. His dad gets it better than anybody else and he appears to be a real balancing force in his son’s life. Kevin Sr. tells him that his recent funk is something all men get at some point in their lives when they realize this is fucking it. Kevin Sr. tells his son to snap out of it because ‘it’ isn’t all that bad.

Kevin doesn’t hear him and after yelling at Laurie for confronting him about smelling of cigarettes, he admits he’s been smoking again and doesn’t want that goddamn dog they’re about to buy. He leaves the house and after failing to save the deer ends up in bed with the girl who hit the animal with her SUV. She asks Kevin if he’s a good guy and when he replies no, he gets an invite to her room. Kevin is the picture of discontent and this seems like a good way to blow his entire world apart save for what happens next…

The Leftovers Solace for Tired Feet 3

The other threads of this episode are beautifully woven to give a sense of the gravity for each of the characters we’ve met this season. Nora Durst for instance is clearly in a similar situation as Kevin where she’s not satisfied with her life where she’s at currently. She has a husband and two kids, but she has nothing that just belongs to her. Her husband is distant and while he clearly loves the kids, his devotion to Nora is waning at best. He sits on his phone and talks business, but jumps at the chance to run the kids to school (no doubt to also run into the teacher he’s porking). But when Nora asks him to come home early so she can go to a job interview he not only shows up late, but acts completely oblivious to her excitement about the pending job.

Nora is applying to be the campaign manager for Lucy Warburton, who is currently running for mayor in town. Nora just wants out of the house for a few hours a day as the weight of the family life is crushing her soul currently. She even goes as far as telling Lucy that for the next month she won’t even have a family if she gets the job to help her win the upcoming election. Nora’s misery is compounded when she gets home and her family is sitting down for lunch and her husband ignores her, her kids do the same and she’s left to cook, clean and go back to the normal daily doldrums that drove her to this depression in the first place. Just then her phone rings and it’s Lucy calling about the job — unfortunately her daughter spills orange juice all over her phone and Nora snaps at the little girl for not holding onto her cup with two hands. A blink of an instant later, her husband and children are all gone and the only remnant of her family is the still dripping orange juice cascading down the table.

It was clear from the very beginning of the series why Nora was so profoundly sad. She lost her husband and children in the sudden departure. What we didn’t know until now is the fact that she was so out of sorts with her daily life that she wished her family away so that she could pursue a job that would be something all her own, not to mention the last thing she said to her daughter was berating her for not holding onto a cup that ended up spilling on her phone. Nora’s been clutching onto the missing memory of her family, but also at what I have to perceive was her own selfishness just seconds before everybody blinked out of existence.

For Matt Jamison, the day of the sudden departure was supposed to be one of joy. If you remember back to his story from earlier this season where he wished as a boy for his parents to pay attention to him the same way they did before his baby sister Nora was brought into this world. He prayed and begged God to give his parents back to him, and so months later he developed a tumor that grew into full blown cancer. Now years later, Matt still has to deal with splotches and patches showing up on x-rays except today, two years after his last scare, the good reverend is cancer free. To celebrate he wants to go get drunk so his wife Mary offers to drive. Thanks to Matt’s elation about the visit to the doctor, his wife was behind the wheel when that other car crashed into them and left her in a vegetative state.

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Also at the doctor’s office that day was Laurie Garvey. She had been putting off this appointment for some time now and after running into Matt and Mary, it seemed as if she was getting a cancer scare as well given the ominous looks she gave her phone when the physician called to make the appointment. Instead of misery, Laurie is greeted with what’s usually happy news — she’s pregnant. Her baby is healthy and doing well, but following a falling out with Kevin hours earlier she admits he still doesn’t know.

And then as the screams from outside are heard and Laurie looks back at her ultrasound video, the tumbling baby moving around in her womb has disappeared. A casualty of the sudden departure. 140 million and one gone. While this is happening, Kevin is in the throws of adultery just before the woman he was with also disappears into thin air.

Another outstanding episode of ‘The Leftovers’ with a real ‘Lost’ feel to it courtesy of co-writer for the episode Damon Lindelof. One of the staples of that series were the flashbacks that told the stories of the passengers of that fateful Oceanic flight before they got on board. As the seasons moved forward, the characters were fleshed out more and more with details abounding as to what eventually led them to the plane that crashed on the island that day. We already knew how the characters on ‘The Leftovers’ were connected — a shared tragedy that stole 140 million people from the world — but what we didn’t understand until ‘The Garveys at Their Best’ was the gravity of each individual situation. Guilt compounded with tragedy makes for a destructive soup and everybody showcased on Sunday night’s episode took a big heaping gulp.

Homework Assigments:

Laurie reads a quote at work that says “the foot feels the foot when it feels the ground”. What does it mean?

When Kevin is off smoking the day of the sudden departure, a car full of four women pull up and ask ‘are you ready?’ but they are mistaking him for someone else. He was wearing a white shirt and smoking — were these ladies the beginning of the Guilty Remnant?

How did Patti know something bad was coming and her warning that Laurie knew as well and it was living inside of her — was she a harbinger to this entire event?

The album the song Kevin was listening to is titled ‘Endless Sleep‘, which seems to be the case for the lead character. He’s never quite awake and he’s never all the way asleep but what does that all mean for him?

Why are the deer attacking homes just before the departure and now they are back doing the same thing? Is there another event looming overhead? Do they sense something is wrong and they are trying to warn us? Back in 2005, there were a rash of unexplained deer attacks in California where the animals were goring people who got too close. Are the people in Mapleton getting a little too close now as well? Close to what?

The season finale is upon us in two weeks time. Don’t miss it.

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One Response

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  1. Nico
    Aug 25, 2014 - 05:24 PM

    Why do you say Jill is listening Young Blood by TNAF? I really don’t think that’s the song, the lyrics are totally different, Jill says “….without you… without you I’m paralyzed….” and those words aren’t in Young Blood… nor in any other TNAF songs I believe.