REVIEW: The Leftovers – “Don’t Be Ridiculous”

The following is a review and recap of the second episode of the third season of The Leftovers (HBO). Expect Full Story Spoilers.

In the second episode of the third season – Don’t Be Ridiculous – Nora Durst (played by Carrie Coon) travels to St. Louis to meet a cast-member from the ABC sitcom Perfect Strangers, the ‘Pillar Man’ (played by Turk Pipkin) dies, and four Australian women on horseback look for a police chief named Kevin.

“It’s my life and my dream. Nothing’s gonna stop me now.”

Okay, the first thing we have to talk about is the new and updated title sequence. Now, the sequence is the same from season two, but we got a new title sequence theme and there was a reference to the Wu-Tang name generator during it (“Written by Tha Lonely Donkey Kong & Specialist Contagious”).

The new theme is the theme for Perfect Strangers, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be the permanent theme for season three. I wonder if they’ll use a new song during the title sequence each week now, since this title song was directly related to the appearance of Mark Linn-Baker in this episode.

“I think it was an elaborate coping mechanism.”

And we start with the infamous Pillar Man who fell off the pillar and dropped dead. Yet, for some reason, Nora Durst has to investigate his ‘departure.’ The Pillar Man’s wife and, apparently also, Matt are trying to make his ‘ordinary’ death look like a departure, seemingly, to fit their own narrative.

Of course, Nora wasn’t going to let that happen without her getting involved. As we see towards the end of the episode, Nora wanted to prove once and for all that his death is not a departure. Come to think of it, it is an awful lie for Matt to tell his sister (even though he admits that the Pillar Man didn’t disappear) considering her own history with the ‘Sudden Departure.’

Perhaps his own newfound success and appreciation as the Reverend of Jarden has gone to his head. One thing certainly has had an impact on him — Mary is already gone. I didn’t think she would’ve already skedaddled by the second episode of the third season. They’re not wasting time this season. Not at all.

“If we can’t have a sense of humor about you being the messiah, we’re going to have a problem.”

Nora is, unsurprisingly, sarcastic and stand-offish when it comes to discussing religion in this episode. She jokes about having read through the ‘Book of Kevin’ when she was in the bathroom, and she lords her knowledge over ‘what really happened’ to the Pillar Man over the religious people gathered around his pillar.

While her brother and his followers seem to hold her partner – Kevin – in high regard as someone worthy to be written about in religious texts, Nora still views religion as little more than a coping mechanism thus she is still very much at odds with Matt’s followers in the ‘miraculous’ town she currently resides in.

“Try not to walk on too much water while I’m gone, okay?”

Eventually, though, Nora has to test one of the odd calls she has been getting for years. This time Mark Linn-Baker from Perfect Strangers has invited her to St. Louis to discuss the possibility of maybe, possibly, seeing her children again, and this is the one call that she’s willing to check out.

Nora doesn’t really explain to Kevin what is going on. It’s her little secret, for now. What is really interesting about Nora and Kevin’s interactions thus far this season – and especially during this episode – is how they seem to slightly disagree about the value of religion and Matt’s gospel. To Nora it is ‘ridiculous,’ and, although Kevin pleases her by agreeing, they definitely aren’t on the same page here.

“Would you like to see your children again?”

But Mark Linn-Baker definitely seems to have been as emotionally drained by the ‘Sudden Departure’ as Nora was. Their conversation at the Crown Central hotel is stunning and Linn-Baker is terrific in this scene.

But before either of them get to shine, Linn-Baker informs us about what this third party group has been doing. They’re essentially blasting people with radiation to make them go ‘through’ to ‘the other side’ where the 2% are supposed to be.

Now, obviously Nora isn’t going to just accept that, but Linn-Baker knows what she doubts. As he hands her a ‘digital record’ of the people who ‘went through,’ he informs Nora that these are highly intelligent people. For Nora, this should represent a group of people more trustworthy, capable, or normal than the religious people of Jarden, Texas.

One of the more memorable moments in this scene is, of course, when she’s able to tell him the odds of him being the only main cast-member not to have vanished. Nora can relate to that exact struggle with being the only one left of a family in the wake of the ‘Sudden Departure.’ Still, there’s no reason to believe that Nora believes that they actually went through. They may very well just have been incinerated when blasted with radiation.

“Who are you?”

Nora’s next stop has nothing to do with Linn-Baker, she just wants to get in touch with a child she gave up. She drives to Eminence, Kentucky to meet Lily. In what is probably the saddest moment at this point in the third season, Lily doesn’t recognize the woman who took care of her.

Nora, who has previously done her best not to forget her old family, has now been, essentially, forgotten by a member of her new family. Carrie Coon sells this moment tremendously well. Coon really is in a league of her own.

But before we get to truly take in the devastated expression on Nora’s face, Christine makes her return. Apparently, Nora gave Lily back to Christine and now Lily has a new name. We later find out that Nora had the names of her two children covered up by a Wu-Tang Clan tattoo on her forearm. Similarly, Nora’s relationship with Lily has been covered up. She has been forgotten. It’s over.

“I’m Nora Durst, ask me about my poor departed children.”

When Nora is faced with overwhelming guilt, she runs to one of the most reasonable women she knows. It’s a much welcomed, albeit brief, return for Regina King who was missing in the first episode of the season.

Erika, who had planned to leave her husband prior to the disappearance of Evie, is, of course, no longer with John Murphy. Instead she is by herself and, unlike John, she has realized that she lost her daughter for good.

The scene where Nora breaks down and tells Erika the story of how she got a Wu-Tang Clan tattoo is great, and what it really reminded me of was Erika and Nora’s discussion as they went over the ‘Sudden Departure’ questionnaire in the Lens episode.

This scene felt like the natural conclusion to Nora and Erika’s story together, even though I still hope Regina King gets to appear in more than just this episode. Nora always felt guilty about losing her family, and that same guilt reared its ugly head when she covered up the names of her children. In a gloriously odd scene, Erika and Nora jump on a trampoline to calm themselves down before Nora returns to Jarden.

“I tear it off every time. I just do it to feel… I don’t wanna die.”

In the most predictable scene of the season thus far, Nora, obviously, walks in on Kevin while he’s got a plastic bag over his head. She calms him down, and then rejects his idea of them having a baby together. The cruel Nora rears her head once again and laughs at that proposal.

What is her very next move? Well, she decides to go to Australia to meet with the people that set up her meeting with Mark Linn-Baker. As Nora and Kevin agree to go together, I started to worry that perhaps we were losing most of the characters we love in Jarden for good. I don’t think we’re quite done with Matt and Tommy yet, though, and I hope we see Jill at least once more before the series ends.

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

Just like the season premiere, Don’t Be Ridiculous ends with an epilogue set in Australia. This time around, we get to see an Australian police chief named Kevin being confused for our very own Kevin Garvey, Jr.. Remind me never to answer to my own name when four elderly women on horseback ask me who I am.

Now, at the very end of the epilogue we get to see Kevin Garvey, Sr. again, but the most interesting thing about this epilogue is that the four elderly women were seemingly quoting Matt’s gospel about Kevin. They were talking about his suicide attempt with the cinderblock.

Now, the only logical way for this to be possible without time travel (as the weather man on Australian television confirmed that this was still around the time of the seven year anniversary of the ‘Sudden Departure.’) is if Matt has lied again. Kevin and Nora’s copy of the gospel may be the only physical copy, but it looks like Matt, John, or Michael have made an online version of it.

Right now I’m thinking that this has to be time travel, though. How else would these four women both know of what happened in Jarden and know that Kevin, Jr. is on his way to Australia at this point in time?

Don’t Be Ridiculous was a terrific hour of television that was as supremely strange, weirdly funny, and deeply sad as we’ve all come to expect from The Leftovers. It was a strong Nora-centric episode that gave us some great performances from the show’s leading woman and Mark Linn-Baker himself, as well as what appears to be our final look at Erika Murphy.

A-

– Jeffrey Rex

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