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‘The Leftovers’ Longest Running Joke: A Timeline of Every Reference to Justin Theroux’s Penis

As "The Leftovers" approaches its series finale, Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta reflect on all the times they embarrassed their star.

The Leftovers Season 3 Episode 7 Justin Theroux

Ben King/HBO

August 29, 2014 –  The Second Jogging Scene

Without getting overly explicit, it’s safe to say the two-pairs strategy outlined above helped control the “flopping,” but the second jogging scene showcasing the gray sweatsuit — seen in Season 1, Episode 9, “The Garveys at Their Best” — did little to distract fans from the first.

What’s up for debate is whether or not the second jogging scene constitutes the first conscious reference to Theroux’s burgeoning reputation by “The Leftovers” writers.  Yes, the writers were aware of the sweatsuit’s reputation, but the scene is an absolute necessity to the plot. They had to shoot it. He had to run, and he had to wear what he wore the first time.

That being said, Theroux’s recollection of the production, outlined on “Conan,” indicates they were willing to change one thing, if possible. (It wasn’t.)

November 22, 2015 – “Congratulations”

The Leftovers - Congratulations gif Justin Theroux

The next reference didn’t arrive until late in Season 2, and it came during an episode that had already required Theroux to slide out of a bathtub fully nude. “International Assassin” was a Kevin-centric hour of television, and one of the very best TV episodes of all time.

It also featured a very sly, oft-forgot, dick joke.

Kevin, who drank poison at the end of the episode prior, woke up in a hotel room and was sent on a mission to assassinate a United States Senator. Before he could meet with her, he had to be patted down by a security guard, who, when he reached Kevin’s crotch, stopped, looked up, and said, “Congratulations.”

This was the dick joke Lindelof referenced above; the dick joke that they had to find a way to top in Season 3. And, boy, did they ever.

May 28, 2017 – The Gray Sweatpants Return

Leftovers Sweatpants S3

In the sequel to “International Assassin,” Kevin again wakes up naked, but this time he’s in the ocean instead of a bathtub. Once he makes his way to a tiny beach hut, he’s asked to put on clothes, and, via a subtle bit of foreshadowing, Kevin throws on a pair of gray sweatpants. There’s no jogging, nor is there a crotch shot. But you know what’s coming: dick jokes.

May 28, 2017 – “The Dick Shelf”

The Leftovers - Dick Shelf

Anyone who’s watched Episode 7, “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother),” knows what scene we’re talking about when you say the words “dick shelf,” but when I was asking Mr. Lindelof and Mr. Perrotta about the scene, I didn’t want to be overly blunt. Here’s how it went down, with absolutely zero embellishment.

IndieWire: In Episode 7, when you go back to the other side, and you’ve got the two different types of identification for the president…

Perrotta: [begins giggling uncontrollably]

IW: …the facial scan, and then the… non-facial check–

Lindelof: The dick shelf!

Perrotta laughed to himself throughout the rest of this talk, pausing only to confirm that “it had all been set up in the pilot with the running scene,” and Lindelof replied to every question with a knowing smile creeping up the corner of his mouth. These were two proud pranksters.

May 29, 2017 – The Aftermath

The day after the episode aired, Theroux and Lindelof both commented (in their own way) on the culmination of “The Leftovers'” longest running joke.

“Yeah, he’s just f–king with me,” Theroux said in an interview with THR. “Absolutely. [laughs.] He knows it makes me deeply uncomfortable, so I can’t help but think he was chuckling as he was pecking at his keys, going, ‘Wait until Justin gets these pages.'”

Considering Perrotta’s laughter during our interview, Theroux’s description is pretty accurate.

It’s important to note that because the episode revolves around twins, both of whom are trying to gain access to the underground bunker, Theroux had two scenes that used the dick shelf. so he unzipped twice, and twice the audience heard what can only be described as a deafening thud when the scanner was put to use.

In the THR interview, Theroux described the sound as follows: “It’s like, are they putting lunch meat on this thing? Is that a ham?”

Lindelof took to Instagram on Monday with an answer of his own:

This sound effect was achieved by dropping a live adult ferret onto a homemade quilt. #FunFoleyFact

A post shared by Damon (@damonlindelof) on

“This sound effect was achieved by dropping a live adult ferret onto a homemade quilt,” Lindelof wrote, over a video clip of the moment.

Post-Script: One Final Dick Joke

The Leftovers - Penis Length

During our discussion, Lindelof also recited the speech explaining why Kevin had to scan his penis to access the bunker from memory.

“When Secret Service Agent Yarborough says, ‘Facial reconstruction is easy. Anybody could do it. But your penis, sir, no one could go to that length,’ we laughed so hard in the room, we just said, ‘We’re doing that. And if it doesn’t work, we’ll edit it out, but we at least have to make that guy say it,'” Lindelof said.

“What Damon is saying is, ‘We’re playing the long game,'” Perrotta added, laughing.

“And that’s why you’re the author!” Lindelof said.

The Leftovers - Eye Roll Justin Theroux Season 3

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