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'The Leftovers' recap: Episode 8, 'Cairo'

"The Leftovers" closes out its season with a some more unanswered questions.

Patti consults the MD binder She sees you when you're disappearing.

Last week, HBO announced that it was renewing “The Leftovers” for a second season. But why?

It certainly wasn’t for last night’s “Cairo,” an episode that finally gives us some answers and yet remains frustratingly disjointed. It’s an episode that desperately wants to be saying something but, when given the chance, doesn’t tell us much beyond a generic “life is suffering” quasi-philosophical response. Pair that with its continued insistence on Kevin as a compelling lead and the result is the series’ usual half-baked hour.

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The episode begins by foreshadowing Patti and Kevin’s eventual confrontation through a series of corresponding scenes: Patti lays out clothes in the Mapleton church, Kevin lays out a tablecloth on the dining room table, etc. Both are preparing for big events, Patti’s having something to do with the GR’s plans for Memorial Day and Kevin’s with dinner that evening, which Nora attends. The dinner doesn’t turn out so well, though, because Jill’s not exactly happy that her father is seeing another woman.

Jill, simmering quietly across the table, asks Nora why she carries a gun. Kevin yells at her while Aimee looks smugly shocked (and why, again, is Aimee living with them?), but Nora takes the question in stride. “I used to,” she says, “but I don’t need one anymore.” After saying this, she takes her purse out and urges for Jill to look through it. No gun.

Meanwhile, the GR crowds around a fight that has broken out. It’s Meg, slapping Matt and screaming, “You don’t fucking know me.” Posters litter the ground around them. Laurie steps through the crowd and breaks it up.

Kevin’s back on screen now, startled after being woken up by Dean the dog man, who’s tapping on his car window. Is this a dream? The foreboding music that’s a near-constant in these forest scenes would suggest it, but no, this is really happening: Kevin, after an apparent blackout the night before, showed up at a local Mapleton bar, had a couple of drinks with Dean, and then decided to kidnap Patti, the local GR leader. It’s now morning and the three of them have ended up in Cairo, New York, where Patti’s now tied to a chair with dried blood all over her face and Kevin’s having trouble remembering any of this.

There’s been some chatter online comparing Kevin’s blackouts to “Fight Club”’s plot twist, and there is a similarity: while blacked out, Kevin apparently allows his id to run wild. More often than not, this ends up with him hurting women. Patti’s kidnapping is probably the worst of it, but the show keeps implying – and even outright asks this episode – if Kevin slept with Aimee. These are both inexcusable, predatory, and outright violent actions, and shrouding them in a character’s blackouts allows the show to have it both ways: Kevin as both likeable everyman and Kevin as dark anti-hero. The blackouts are a convenient excuse for this Jekyll and Hyde scenario, but they also absolve Kevin of any real moral consequence.

There’s a brief interlude at Matt’s home, where Laurie brings Meg to apologize. We learn that Meg’s mother died on October 13th and so, in the words of Matt, “Her grief was hijacked.” Nora is there, too, and takes this opportunity to tell Laurie to apologize to her daughter. It’s an ugly comment, but Laurie, obviously trying to prove a point to Meg, stays silent and leaves the house without reacting.

Speaking of Laurie’s daughter, Jill is hanging out in Mapleton’s charming town square, smoking a joint with Aimee and the twins and watching Memorial Day decorations go up. Aimee is rambling about their dinner with Nora until Jill picks a fight with her about sadness and her lack thereof. Apparently, Aimee didn’t lose anyone on October 14th, which really was the most plausible explanation as to why she’s been living with the Garveys. It devolves into a fight about Aimee’s weird relationship with Kevin, and Jill asks, angrily, “Did you fuck my dad?”

Aimee looks hurt and sarcastically replies that she not only slept with him, she also “fucked the shit out of him on a pile of guns.” Then she runs away. It feels like this is going to be a red herring, like we’re supposed to believe that Aimee definitely didn’t sleep with Kevin until, surprise, they do so in the final episode. So who knows what’s really going on.

The Game of Life

Jill, along with the Taylor Lautner-lookalike twins, decides to break into Nora’s house in order to find her gun. Once Jill wanders off, one of the twins asks his brother, “Do you think Aimee is really fucking Garvey’s dad?” “Probably,” the other responds. “Dude is ripped.” Hmm.

While the twins are goofing off with Nora’s bulletproof vest downstairs, Jill lurks inside one of the children’s bedrooms and pulls out the game Trouble from beneath a bed. Surprise, surprise: in a piece of on-the-nose writing, this is where the gun is located. Jill starts crying because she was looking for trouble and, well, she found it. Get the pun? (We get it.)

In the woods of Cairo, Kevin discovers where those white shirts of his went: nailed to a circle of trees. It’s a little Blair Witch-esque. After this, Kevin gets into a fight with Dean, who has placed a plastic bag on Patti’s head in an attempt to kill her. Kevin pulls the bag off and Dean leaves, but things aren’t exactly patched up between Kevin and Patti.

Back in Mapleton, Laurie becomes de facto leader of the GR following Patti’s absence, and pays for a delivery of what looks suspiciously like those uncanny valley fake corpses that salesman was peddling two episodes ago. The GR unpacks them and lays each one next to an outfit of clothing, the same outfits that Patti was unfolding at the episode’s beginning. This seems like it’s the explanation for why they stole all of those family photos of the disappeared around Christmas, and it stands to reason that these fake corpses having something to do with the impending Memorial Day celebrations.

Aimee is finally moving out of the Garvey household, and she and Jill have an awkward exchange of goodbyes. It’s disturbing that the show pins any and all consequences of the Kevin-Aimee question on the two teenage girls rather than the adult who should not be sleeping with or considering sleeping with teenage girls, regardless of legality. Jill, sensing that her life will only continue to unhappily shift, releases the stray dog in her backyard and runs off to the GR’s house, asking to stay. Laurie, sitting behind Patti’s desk investigating Nora’s file, locks eyes with her daughter.

Things are about to get both philosophical and bloody in Cairo. Patti and Kevin discuss the reasoning behind the GR and, in particular, Laurie’s motivations for joining it. Kevin, egocentric as always, thinks it’s because of his affair. Patti laughs at him, explaining that, following the events of October 14, Laurie, like the other GR members, was searching for something both to live for and to die for.

It turns out that Gladys willingly died at the hands of the GR. Martyrship seems to be the GR’s main focus, a way to destroy oneself so as to better serve as a reminder for the community that, yes, October 14 happened. This sort of makes sense. Ann Dowd as Patti really sells both this speech and the Yeats poem she later recites, though Kevin doesn’t seem convinced. The scene probably would have worked better without the dramatic music underscoring all of it – it’s a little too much.

Instead of giving her the satisfaction of killing her, Kevin lets Patti go, slicing the restraints and allowing her to run away. But Patti doesn’t want to run away – she wants to die. Quickly, she picks up a broken piece of glass and slits her throat. “Jesus!” Kevin yells, running over to hold her. They slump into a Pieta-esque pose, and the episode ends.

Grade: C+

 
 
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