“There is no family,” Patti Levin (Ann Dowd) mysteriously and somewhat gravely writes on her notepad, and it’s a theme that will come to bear in “B.J. And The A.C.” Christmas has arrived in Mapleton, and all police chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) wants is a little bit of peace for the holiday. And so he has reached out to Patti and the GRs to ask for a simple favor. There is a Christmas dance coming up, a fundraiser for the new library, and he would appreciate it if the GRs kept their distance. But his request comes with a threat — if they do show up, and things turn ugly, he won’t step in to protect them like he has in the past. Levin’s enigmatic answer is the aforementioned quote, leaving Kevin to counter in exasperation, “What the fuck does that mean?” And the town will soon find out.
However, before Kevin can get too involved in trying to prevent whatever the GRs are planning before it happens, he gets caught up in something usually left to the lower ranks. The baby Jesus from the town’s nativity scene (which we see get manufactured in the episode’s pretty great cold open) has been stolen. And at first, Kevin doesn’t really care about the missing infant because it can be replaced. But after getting some surprising heat from his daughter Jill (Margaret Qualley), and being urged by the mayor (Amanda Walls) to make a public showing of finding the doll to help his currently tarnished reputation, Kevin reluctantly gets involved. At first, the plan is to buy a replacement and claim that he found it, but a odd crisis of conscience grips him and he decides to try and actually track down the original.
And this subplot takes up a significant portion of the running time and it’s largely thematically redundant. Essentially, it exists to underscore that many of the residents of Mapleton have lost their faith in God (hence not coming to church as we saw in last week’s “Two Boats And A Helicopter“) and that Jill continues to act out following the loss of her mother Laurie (Amy Brenneman) to the GRs. As far as for the former point goes, this is highlighted when Kevin arrives at the holiday dance to reveal to everyone he found the missing Jesus. The response? Barely any applause and almost dead silence from those in attendance. And perhaps it’s fitting given that Kevin didn’t technically find the Jesus doll. Video footage revealed someone wearing a hoodie took the doll, and Kevin strongly suspects it was Jill, even asking her directly (which she denies). Still not satisfied, Kevin heavily presses super dorks Adam and Scott (Max Carver and Charlie Carver) to share what they know or else face a criminal record when they apply to college. But they know it was Jill. If fact, the stolen Jesus is something of a guest of honor during an outdoor teenage party sequence, with Jill in particular giving it special attention. And she nearly even prepares it for a Viking funeral of sorts, setting it adrift on a nearby body of water, but bailing at the last moment when it comes to actually setting it on fire. However, Adam and Scott manage to recover it, and leave it on Kevin’s doorstep.
Again, none of this stuff is particularly necessary, or even well developed, but in the case of Jill it helps to provide counterbalance to a sequence in which we see a more tender side. Laurie and Meg (Liv Tyler) show up suddenly one evening at the Garvey home. Kevin is ever hopeful for something positive to come out of it, but bad news is brewing. Meg is there to read a statement by Laurie, which essentially says she wants a divorce, and papers are served, and Kevin is both furious and hurt. He’s been supportive, and even raised Tom as his own, as he was born to Laurie in another marriage, and Kevin refuses to sign the documents. Jill walks in on the tail end of what is clearly a heated moment between her parents, but simply walks to the Christmas tree, and gives her mother a present she bought. Laurie opens it outside — it’s a lighter, with a simple statement engraved on it: Don’t Forget Me. She considers it and coldly drops it into a sewer grate on the street.
Meanwhile, another member of the Garvey family is going through a bit of a crisis, with Tom (Chris Zylka) still on the run with Christine (Annie Q). Six weeks have passed and there is still no word from Wayne, and things are getting dangerous. Christine is putting herself in harm’s way by oversharing the information that she’s actually carrying Wayne’s baby. But there’s more. While Tom and Christine are in Texas staying at what looks to be a hostel or shelter, she’s attacked by a raving man she only spoke to briefly, who accuses her of being in his dreams. “You walk over the dead, they’re all in white!” he exclaims. Christine and Tom are once again on the move, but with this new information on the table about the impending arrival, they go to a hospital for a checkup. The baby is healthy, and the pregnancy is about twelve weeks old, but the doctor doesn’t like the bruises on Christine’s stomach. Tom fails in his explanation that it was by somebody else and is forced to flee, and even considers leaving Christine behind. But he comes to back for her, and soon they are both on a bus headed to a new location, so they can keep moving….when there’s a sudden accident ahead. A truck has overturned carrying Loved Ones, life size recreations of those that disappeared so their families can give them a proper funeral, all wrapped in white. It turns out the crazy man was right.
But the theme all comes back to family, and the GRs commit their most heinous act yet as the episode closes. With everyone at the dance, they send a decoy group of people to get arrested and keep the police tied up, while they enact their more sinister plan. All across town, the GRs are breaking into homes and systematically removing pictures from photo frames effectively erasing memories and histories of Mapleton’s residents and extended families. It’s cold and cruel, but perhaps also a reminder that photos usually only tell one specific and safe version of a story. Walking out of the holiday dance, Kevin runs into Nora (Carrie Coon) sitting by her old locker, and she shares with him the news she learned about Doug. And Kevin lets her know that he cheated on his wife too, something alluded to in the pilot episode of the series. It makes his fury to Laurie about the importance of vows somewhat ironic, and her written praises for how much he had done for her all the more tragic given it’s clear she never knew.
So what is “family” after the events of October 14th? That’s a question that has no easy answer, and while the agenda of GR is cult like in wanting their members to completely strip away their past, deep seated feelings and memories can’t be covered up with white clothing, silence and cigarettes. Following the mass break-and-enter across town, Laurie walks back to the compound alone and makes a quick detour to the sewer where she dropped the lighter. She reaches in as far as she can, desperate to get it back, and perhaps retain a connection, however small, to her daughter. But it remains elusively just out of reach, a heartbreaking parallel to everyone who has lost someone in Mapleton, forever grasping at trying to find a logical and comforting reason of what really happened.