Following last week’s narrowed focus on Christopher Eccleston’s tortured reverend, HBO’s The Leftovers returned to the tangled web of the Garvey family circus. Frustrations are running at an all-time high, thanks to a pronounced lack of communication between everyone involved, but Kevin once again steps up as the only person in Mapleton outwardly ready to give a shit. Let’s be clear though; even for an episode revolving around the “kidnapping” of a Baby Jesus baby doll, “B.J. and the A.C.” is almost a sitcom as compared to the dourness radiating off of the previous three episodes. There is levity to be found here.
Kevin and Patti
My favorite moment in the series thus far came at the beginning of “B.J. and the A.C.,” when Kevin offers Guilty Remnant leader Patti a choice of “water, coffee or Drano” to drink. It earns a smirk from Patti, which almost made me think these two might find something to agree on. Kevin requests the Remnant stay away from the town’s holiday dance – a public event that my social cynicism wouldn’t believe was real – but Patti isn’t interested in making things easier for Mapleton’s finest. Though the Remnant members are technically doing their silent protesting a few feet outside the school’s property, Kevin is irate by the lack of respect and he and his officers arrest everyone who’s there.
But it’s the white-clothed chain-smokers that aren’t there that really matter, for the other half of the non-cult were simultaneously skulking around the town, breaking into people’s houses and stealing all of the family photos. Picturing everyone waking up to those empty frames was probably the Depression Apex here, so it was nice that not a lot of time was spent on it. (Though I’m wondering how none of them got caught, since it wasn’t that late and the school dance wasn’t overly populated.) Sure, everyone probably has thousands of pictures on their phones, but Patti is clearly trying to push her “There is no family,” creed into everyone’s minds, and this non-violent (but still criminal) act is quite a divisive way to go about it.
Kevin and Laurie
I’d really like to hate Amy Brenneman’s Laurie for seemingly abandoning her family for her silent brethren, but the actress plays the role like an information-grasping newborn at times, and I just can’t stay angry. We know that she still has feelings for Kevin, but that all came to a hollering halt when she brought Meg over to the house to sugarcoat the presentation of divorce papers. Enraged, Kevin tries to make her audibly say that she wants to leave him, but Jill breaks things up by giving Laurie a Christmas present, which we later find is a Zippo lighter engraved with “Don’t Forget Me.”
It’s another surprisingly emotional moment, especially from Jill, but one ruined by Laurie tossing the gift into the sewer. Laurie is obviously in a mentally fractured place, as evidenced by her later returning to the sewer grate to try and retrieve the lighter when she’s alone. Does she not trust the Remnant and its members? Does she really want to divorce Kevin, and is she aware of the infidelity he confessed to Nora? Also, why didn’t she just toss the lighter in the bushes, where it could easily be found?
Kevin and Tommy
Another week of The Leftovers, another week of Kevin and Tommy unable to find communication over mobile phones. Tommy and his pregnant pet project Annie are out in the world without leader Wayne reaching out to advise them what to do next. Their tension isn’t exactly eased by a pantless man loudly asking Annie why she was in his dream before attacking her, saying she walks over the dead that are all in white. This makes for a hectic hospital visit, in which Tommy has to duck suspicions that he is the one that beat Annie up.
At this point, he thinks about leaving it all behind and heading back to his family in Mapleton. (From Laurie’s letter to Kevin, we discover that Tommy is actually her son from a previous relationship, which makes the Garvey family dynamic even stranger.) But he stays with her, and they eventually head out with a pack of cultish morons with targets painted on their foreheads, only to stumble upon a Loved Ones shipment of fake bodies…all dressed in white! So the guy with his dong out had a premonition of this event, though he took it far more seriously than he should have. Maybe he’s as bothered by I am at this Loved Ones surrogate burial business. This storyline isn't really working for me, since I don't know (or care) where it's going, but it's nice to see what life is like for people outside of Mapleton.
Kevin and Baby Jesus
As an audience, we’re barely getting to know The Leftovers, yet it already seems perfectly natural that this series’ “Christmas episode” would feature a scene where screaming teenagers set a Jesus baby doll floating in a puddle as the potential target for a flaming Nerf arrow. Nothing terrible ultimately befalls Baby Jesus, but it shows us once again that Jill’s friends obviously care about Kevin’s feelings more than Jill does. Sure, she is the one that avoids destroying the doll, but only because she’s persuaded to.
This storyline not only gave us another funny moment – Mayor Warburton’s “Of course the white one!” – but also humanized Kevin a little more, although choosing to spend his time finding a doll instead of replacing it did seem like a waste, especially when the episode ended on him just tossing it out again after the Reverend brought a more angelic doll to the manger. It’s moments like that where I feel as if I don’t understand anything about The Leftovers. Frustration is life, and life is frustration.
Will Kevin and Nora start up a relationship? Will Jill finally act like a human being for once? Will recorded telephone messages ever sound happy again? Find out, in next week’s “Gladys.”