Purpose. It’s the word that’s becoming important to the characters of “The Leftovers.” In last week’s “Solace For Tired Feet,” Kevin Garvey’s (Justin Theroux) father tried desperately to lift the veil from his son’s eyes, to get him to see the true reality of what’s going on around them. But due to his old man’s unhinged manner, Kevin either refused or simply couldn’t see what his father tried to put in front of him. And in this week’s “Cairo,” he’s once again brought to the edge of understanding, with that word “purpose” reappearing, almost like a weapon, before the situation spins out of control, with even more left for Kevin to puzzle over.
As usual, Mapleton’s police chief isn’t sleeping well, but even though he’s gone off his meds, his lapses in memory are getting much worse. And nothing thus far can prepare him to what he wakes up to in this episode. Jumping out of bed, he finds himself in the middle of the woods with Dean (Michael Gaston), the dog hunting mystery man, who curiously (significantly?) refers to himself as a guardian angel. Inside the cabin in the woods, Patti (Ann Dowd) is tied to a chair, beaten and unconscious, with Dean explaining that the previous night, Kevin tied one on, snatched her off the street, and brought her out to this location. Why did Dean come along? Because, as he explains mordantly, he’s Kevin’s friend. But there’s more going on here besides what looks like an amnesia/sleepwalking driven kidnapping and assault, and even Dean bails out, leaving Kevin to deal with the consequences.
In the episode’s cold open, Patti spends a lot of time carefully laying out sets of clothes in a large empty room, and later back at the Guilty Remnant compound, she writes down a simple question for Laurie (Amy Brenneman): “Ready?” A larger plan is being unveiled, but even Laurie can’t guess that ultimately Patti has a death wish. She uses the opportunity she has with Kevin to learn why his wife left him, and it’s not because of his philandering. “She came to me because I could offer her something that you could not —purpose. That’s all any of us wants, every single one of us. Not answers, not love, just a reason to exist, something to live for, something to die for,” Patti says. And when Kevin brings up Gladys, asking if she died for a purpose, Patti counters that now “she’ll never be forgotten,” and then suggests she set up the killing. And Patti takes things one step further, trying to push Kevin’s buttons by hinting that Laurie will be next. Kevin rightfully figures out that Patti wants to push him to the point of murder, but he’s not taking the bait. He cuts Patti free, but her insistence on becoming a martyr won’t be thwarted —she picks up a shard of glass from the floor, and slits her throat, bleeding out in Kevin’s arms.
But little does Kevin know that Patti’s purpose is arguably fulfilled, though she won’t see the fruits of her labor. Laurie takes charge of the GR in Patti’s absence, and in roundabout way, it looks like the group might make some kind of amends for all the provocation they’ve subjected Mapleton to. Right at the top of the list was the Christmas break in, when the group stole personal photographs from the homes of people in town, but again, nothing is without a reason. It’s slowly revealed that the GR ordered Loved Ones bodies, in all shapes and sizes, which will be dressed with the clothes presumably purchased to match what they saw in the photographs. Will it be a mass burial? Something honorable? It’s not clear, but something is planned for Memorial Day and we’ll have to wait and see what it turns out to be. But as far as being Living Reminders of those departed, the GR seem to be groping toward finally realizing that mission statement. But their intentions are always approached at such an odd angle, it’ll be interesting to see what this actually builds up to.
Meanwhile, one of the show’s least satisfying subplots finds Jill (Margaret Qualley) spending most of the season slumped with a disaffected air, or playing risky teenage games with friends. This time around, she needles Nora (Carrie Coon) about her gun when she comes over for dinner. Nora claims that she once carried a gun, but now she’s feeling better, so she doesn’t need it anymore. Jill doesn’t believe her, even after searching the bag that Nora offers up for inspection. So she does the next logical thing, breaking into Nora’s house with the twin Prius driving dudes. The pair discovers Nora’s bullet proof vest, but it’s Jill who finds the gun, hidden in the box of the game Trouble (on the nose much, writers?) which prompts her to sit down and weep. And it’s just one indication of Jill’s troubled state, as she also winds up in a fight with Aimee (Emily Meade). Their friendship dissolves over Jill’s permanently sour attitude, her belief that everyone (including Nora) is still hurting and her question/accusation that Aimee slept with her father (though in Jill’s defense, it’s been pretty clear her friend has a thing for her Dad). But Aimee is hurt that Jill would even think she would do something like that, and she leaves the Garvey home, and though she lingers long enough to give Jill an opportunity to apologize, she doesn’t get one. And maybe that’s because Jill has other things on her mind. As the episode ends, she arrives on the doorstep of the GR. It’s a pretty great twist, and finally adds weight to what thus far has been little more than an “angsty teen” plot thread with little reward.
Lastly, the GR have finally met their match in Matt (Christopher Eccleston). His new crusade to save members of the group is ringing all the right alarms, with his latest flyer about Meg (Liv Tyler), whose mother died one day before October 14th, prompting her to break her vow of silence, physically attacking the preacher and generally calling for much stronger action from the GR. It’s somewhat ironic given that it was just a couple episodes ago that Meg was level-headed following Gladys’ death, saying that some repercussions had to be expected following the Christmas theft. But when the tables are turned, she can’t handle it. However, Laurie has some rules: no violence. Why? It’s weak. So Meg returns to see Matt with Laurie, writing “I’m sorry” on a pad. But Nora happens to be there too and she sends a parting shot to Laurie saying that perhaps she owes something similar to her daughter.
And so: purpose. Matt, Laurie, Nora and possibly even Jill are all striving towards something, but the only one still lost is Kevin. The world that he inhabits post-October 14th still makes little sense and can be surreal, confusing and scary for him. Part of it is the mental collapse he faces, but part of it is perhaps his belief that he’s okay. That he has moved on. But Kevin hasn’t and each day he can’t admit it to himself seems to be driving his hold on reality further and further adrift.