The Leftovers, S1E6 – Guest

Rejoice, my dearly beloveds, for this is a Nora Durst episode. And it is a good one, a very good one indeed. Ok, I confess: it’s my favourite episode so far.

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She conducts an interview, then parks across the road from a schoolyard. She goes shopping for kids’ food and replaces the old, still full boxes past their sell-by date with the new ones. Then she sits in the kitchen, hoping against hope for her family to return.

We only learn later that the teacher we see in the schoolyard is the woman her husband had an affair with. It gets worse: Nora calls a hooker, puts on a bulletproof vest, places a mattress on the floor and then hands the hooker her gun, telling her to shoot her in the chest. That’s slightly scarier to me than assisted suicide. It means that not feeling too much is the problem, but feeling too little.

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She meets Garvey at the courthouse, and you know what’s coming, don’t you? They’re both there for the same reason: divorce. That scene is weird, crude and sweet all at once.

Then Nora has to go to New York for a DROP conference (stands for Departure Related Occupations and Practices). There seem to be no GRs, but a lot of protesters who demand answers. There is that chilling scene where one guy hands her a hand grenade. Can you believe her reaction?

Her nametag is gone, and she has to make do with one that says “guest”. She wants to find out the thief and follows a woman into the ladies’ room only to find out something about herself. Still missing the tag and cajoled into a party by a young cocky bastard and other DROP people, she drinks and takes a pill and starts dancing on the sofa. That might lead her into trouble, but it’s way better than getting shot into her Kevlar-protected sternum. Turns out that the young cocky bastard is in the profitable business of building life-size imitations of the departed for 40’000 $ apiece. Business is good. He asks Nora for a kiss. She says yes, then kisses the guy’s imitation. I didn’t see that one coming. It looks very tender, but is veeeery creepy. I like that about this episode: most scenes mean two or three things at the same time.

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Bad news next morning. She gets thrown out of the hotel because “Nora Durst” has smashed the big mirror behind the bar. She insists it wasn’t her. Security won’t listen to her: “No offence, but who would want to be you?” (I was reminded of the Kevin Finnerty scenes from the Sopranos) Finally, they find the fake Nora Durst on a panel, raving about how the DROP is a smoke-screen to insinuate progress while the questionnaires are sent to incinerators. The benefit payments are supposed to shut people up. That woman is one of the more determined protesters, and maybe she has a point. It depends on what you, the viewer, think, but the doubt she spreads is hard to shake off.

Later, the real Nora Durst finds herself in the bar the fake Nora trashed and is pissed off at the author of a book that is everywhere at the conference. A tall creep called Casper, excellently played by Tom Noonan, asks her if she wants to go on forever feeling such rage and despair. She answers yes, but is intrigued. Casper leads her into a room where there is a curtained doorway which it costs 1’000 $ to go through in order to know what happened when the author was walking through it. Nora pays.

Hello, Wayne. Are you the real deal, going to take Nora’s pain away from her? Yes, you are. You already seem to guess that the gunshots bring Nora a similar kind of pain as when her family departed. And what is new is that you seem to guess that your own death is upon you soon.

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Either Nora has helped herself by visiting Wayne, or Wayne really has helped Nora. She goes about her life, and there is a change about her, in her face. I’m not a rom-com guy, but her asking Garvey out really put a decent end to a great episode. It will probably get messy soon enough, but for now, Nora Durst’s life is looking up.

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