The expectation that things were always going to come to a head between the Garveys and the Murphys was there from the moment the former bought their house in Jarden. While that will inevitably come down to a confrontation between Kevin and John—likely when the source of the handprint on the car Evie disappeared in is revealed—for tonight, it came down to an amazing and tense standoff between their partners.
Nora finds herself back in her former role of interrogator, after pilfering a new questionnaire about departures from an investigator (the always welcome Joel Murray), there to suss out whether the three missing teens were departures or not. Erika has been avoiding the discussion up until that point, but on this night—she has reached her breaking point. At a fundraiser earlier in the evening, she lashed out at the community for holding on to these rituals (the slaying of a goat, a woman who keeps wearing the wedding dress she tried on), thinking that they are keeping the town safe. Now that Evie and the other girls are gone, the miraculous feeling about the town is no more, at least in Erika’s mind.
As the two women work through the questionnaire, Erika reveals how tightly she’s holding on to her religious faith. She tells the story of how her grandmother claimed that God anointed Jarden His most special place, that included a strange folk tale that involves burying a live bird in a box for three days. Apparently, if you make a wish, it will come true if the creature is somehow still alive, This is what Erika was up to in the first episode, with the little sparrow inside surviving. Because her wish was to make sure that her daughter was okay after she left her husband, she’s convinced it was her hand that caused Evie to vanish.
For as much as I questioned Matt’s decision to prostrate himself in front of the bohemian masses outside of Jarden, seeking enlightenment through suffering, it’s a move that illustrates how inflexible people can be as they move through life. Like almost all the main characters in the show, he has a belief system that is hardwired into his system and nothing is going to shift it. Not even the miraculous awakening of his wife. It instead became a proof in his mind of his already strong faith. So, too, is Erika now firm in her feelings about God’s hand in sparing the people of Jarden during The Departure. Anyone that questions it is going to face her wrath. In this case, it was a rock sent through her neighbors’ window.
There is hope within the world of The Leftovers that one’s beliefs can be shaken up. And it seems right that that person would be Nora. For a brief while in the episode, she felt the ground shift underneath her belief that there was no rhyme or reason behind the disappearance of her family, through this theory about her being a possible “lens,” or someone whose energy is responsible for a departure. The disappearance of Evie right after her arrival in town further helped plant that seed of doubt in her mind. And for a short while, that was removed after she speaks with a woman on the phone who believes that Nora is a conduit for a demon named Azrael.
The night with Erika, however, leaves her reeling. As she tries to pop a pin in her neighbor’s belief that a wish came devastatingly true, she instead is faced with the cold slap of emotion regarding her children’s departure. Erika finds her weak spot and exploits it, drawing out wells of sadness that Nora hadn’t exhibited in some time. She’s done all this work to push the life of her kids out of her mind for her own emotional well-being, and in one conversation, the pain and heartbreak is back.
As if that weren’t enough, writers Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta throw even one more log on this fire at the episode’s end, with Kevin finally revealing to Nora that he’s being “haunted” by Patti. And it comes with the ominous warning from the unseen specter that he’s made a huge mistake by opening up about it. Cue the rock through the window, and cue a blackout, letting us all sit there slack-jawed and wishing the show were even longer.
That feeling is probably going to remain for a bit, as a random phone call from Kevin’s ex-wife brought news that Tommy has left her side. Lindelof and Perrotta, those sneaky devils, are undoubtedly going to shift the scene back to Mapleton next week, leaving us all twisting in the wind about how the story in Jarden is going to progress. It’s a fantastic move for building anticipation and hopefully return viewers in two weeks, but not so great for our peace of mind.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.