Culture of Pop

‘The Leftovers’ Recap, Episode 4: B.J. and the A.C.

Maybe we’re all supposed to stay broken.

“Christmas time is here,” as Charlie Brown and his friends famously sang; however, there isn’t much happiness and cheer to be found in the town of Mapleton. Nor in Amarillo, Texas, where Tommy Garvey is still hiding out with Wayne’s girlfriend. Chief Kevin is once again at odds with Patti and her Guilty Remnant cronies, the baby Jesus doll was stolen out of the town’s crèche (does Jill know anything about it?), and Laurie presents an important envelope to Kevin. So let’s tear right in to see the gifts that the Garveys brought us in this week’s The Leftovers recap!

First off, the baby doll used in the town’s manger scene has gone missing. A quick time lapse shows the presence of Guilty Remnant smokers, a wild dog, and a harried looking Santa Claus all crossing the path of the manger, and soon enough Chief Garvey has Patti sitting in his office while he unsuccessfully tries to evoke some sort of confession out of her. Defeated, he asks that she at least plays nicely in the coming days, seeing how it’s Christmas and people in the town want to relax and try to enjoy being around their families. Patti furiously scrawls “THERE IS NO FAMILY” and before she leaves, she drops one of the photo printouts from the Chief’s wall onto his desk. It’s a picture of Laurie and Kathy Geiss (well, the actress who played 30 Rock’s Kathy Geiss). The maneuver comes off as a Guilty Remnant equivalent of dropping the mic, you know, had they the need to use a microphone.

Kevin then tries to reach Tommy on his cell phone, and is met with an automated disconnected message. All the better for us to segue over to Amarillo, Texas, where, it’s been six weeks now, and Tommy and Christine are still waiting for a call from Wayne. While sitting in some sort of waiting room, they’re confronted by a pants-less man (yes, we see full dangle), who demands to know why Christine is in his dreams. As he grows louder and rowdier, he screams that “I know what’s inside you!” and “You walk over the dead!” until he gets close enough and loud enough that Tommy jumps in the middle of the situation and starts punching the heck out of the guy, and when other onlookers decide to intervene, he and Christine turn tail out of the place.

Back at the Garvey residence, Jill is complaining about the baby Jesus being stolen, and how her father and his officers aren’t doing anything to try and find it. Actually, as a typical teenager will do, she complains about everything (for example, the Christmas tree ornaments her dad found to hang on the tree aren’t even theirs, they are the grandfather’s). Kevin asks her point blank if she had anything to do with the disappearance, which she thinks is a sick idea. Speaking of the baby Jesus, on the eve of the Holiday Gala at the high school, the mayor has decided that Kevin needs a win, and therefore he needs to head down to the store and pick up a new baby doll. (This scenario really made no sense to me, seeing how the mayor had an assistant right there by her side, who could have easily gone and bought a new doll. Or how about any other mayorial aides? How about the lady who initially swaddled the baby doll in a religious cloth, where’d she go? How about Reverend Matt? He hasn’t got a church to look after anymore, so surely he’d be psyched to be a security guard for the manger scene, right? This seems like a gross misappropriation of police responsibilities.)

In the midst of buying the new baby doll at the store, Kevin has a change of heart and puts it back on the shelf. Driving back home, his car starts to freak out, accelerating uncontrollably, and he’s unable to apply the brakes. Hmm, maybe he should have taken the abduction of baby Jesus more seriously and purchased that doll after all? Soon after, the Chief tailgates the Frost twins, pulling them over and giving them the ultimatum that if the baby doll is returned to the crèche then no questions will be asked and everything will be forgotten. There’s apparently some nearby security camera footage of the possible miscreants, and one of the brothers already seems to fit the bill.

Back in Texas, Tommy and Christine are in a new waiting room. This one clearly seems like an ER, and Tommy is grilling Christine about what the nutty half-naked man was talking about. Did she have any conversations with him? Did she talk to him about the ranch? What did he know about her? Apparently that wacky dude was on to something, as Christine is pregnant with Wayne’s child. Cue Dramatic Prarie Dog!

Since Christine got roughed up during the earlier fight, she has an ultrasound at the hospital. Everything looks fine, but the doctor is skeptical of how Christine’s abdomen became bruised. She gives Tommy the once over, and then notices his bloody knuckles. The doctor now assumes that Tommy roughed up Christine, and when she asks them to stay put for more testing, heads out to the nurse’s station and is seen talking on the phone. Tommy senses that he is going to be blamed for Christine’s bruises, so he yells at her to grab her stuff and get ready to run. Christine doesn’t comply this time, and Tommy, growing increasingly anxious, scrambles through the hospital and onto the street. Later that night he sits in a nearby bus shelter, where he is approached by two members of the Guilty Remnant (they’re everywhere! Which is weird, because how do you start a grassroots movement without using any form of speech?), who hand him a pamphlet to try and recruit him. He laughs it off, and starts cursing the phone for not ringing. A watched phone never rings, right? Wrong! A minute later the phone rings. Halleluiah! It must be Holy Wayne!

Wrong. It’s a robo-dial message for people who have lost their loved ones. Oh, the irony.

Meanwhile, in Mapleton, Jill and her friends are partying by the river at night. Everyone’s drinking, smoking various things, and having fun around the bonfire. And who else is having fun by the fire? The baby Jesus, that’s who! Jill DID steal the doll after all. Bring back Dramatic Prarie Dog! And since nothing’s sacred after the whole possible rapture event (or for these teens maybe nothing ever was sacred), many of them take turns defiling the doll, ultimately placing it on a makeshift raft to set it afloat in the water and give it a sort of fiery Viking funeral. But Jill, bow and flaming arrow in hand, bails on her archery practice, and walks away from the gathering.

Kevin comes home to find Laurie and Meg on his doorstep. He invites them in, and Meg begins to read a letter to him on behalf of silent Laurie, who’s holding a manila envelope. From the letter we discover that Kevin isn’t Tommy’s birth father. Laurie feels like she’s been broken, even before the Departure, and despite Kevin’s best efforts, she feels like she’s maybe supposed to stay broken. Distracted by Meg’s incessant reading of the letter, Kevin yells and curses for her to stop and for Laurie to tell him directly what she wants to say. He demands to know what’s in the envelope; it turns out to be “Action for Divorce” legal papers.

In the midst of the yelling no one notices Jill standing in the kitchen doorway. When everyone realizes that she’s there, she hands her mom a small Christmas gift from under the tree and retreats from the room. On the walk back to the GR compound, Laurie opens the package to find a small silver lighter, “Don’t forget me” engraved on its side. Meg suggests that Laurie keep it – she won’t tell anyone back at the house – but Laurie simply drops the lighter down a sewer grate and keeps walking. Enjoy playing with fire, Pennywise!

bodiesIn Texas, Tommy returns to the hospital and this time Christine agrees to leave with him. They take a bus out of town, which gets into a minor highway accident the next day. Everyone on the bus gets out to inspect the crash further up the road. Dozens of bodies, wrapped in white, are strewn across the road, a container truck looks turned on its side. Christine, not-at-all-subtly yells to Tommy, “It’s just like the dream!” as she walks over the dead bodies, all in white. Where’s that half-naked dude when you need him to start a group slow-clap? The bodies are tagged with “Loved Ones” stickers, and are perhaps not real bodies, but instead, maybe the cadavers that have been advertised to help those who remain give their departed a proper funeral, burial, closure. Nonetheless, it’s a creepy scene on the highway.

HS speechAt the Holiday Gala taking place in the Mapleton high school, the Chief is summoned to the stage to say a few words, and he reveals the recovered baby Jesus, which the mindful Frost twins dutifully returned to the Chief’s doorstep earlier that morning. Exiting the dance, he passes Nora, who’s propped up against a row of lockers. The two make an awkward attempt at flirt-chat, and we find out that she and her husband attended school there, and she reveals to the Chief that her husband cheated on her. Kevin reveals the he cheated on his wife as well. Did I mention that this conversation was awkward?

Outside the school, Patti and a handful of GRs stand on the property line. The officers arrest them anyway, and Kevin antagonizes Patti for their efforts. Then he realizes that the amount of GRs in attendance is low and he asks her where everyone else is. Cut to: all of the other GRs breaking in to people’s homes! The rest of the group is on a mission to remove all of the pictures from their frames in every house while the townspeople are either asleep or out at the high school (which I personally thought had a low turn-out for a holiday event). It’s not exactly clear if they’ve targeted only the homes that had family members who’ve disappeared or if this is more of a general canvassing of the neighborhood, Grinch-style; regardless, it is a powerful scene.

Back at the manger, where the Chief goes to personally return the baby Jesus doll, he finds Reverend Matt (who’s probably been at Kinkos this whole episode, running off his flyers on their machines since the GR takeover of his church). The reverend offers one of his spare baby Jesus statues for the crèche, which is all very nice, but I wonder why they didn’t use this same statue in the first place?

After the break-ins, Laurie informs Meg that she’ll walk back to the house, alone, thankyouverymuch. She of course doesn’t head straight home; instead she returns to the sewer grate to try and retrieve the lighter. Broken people are so unpredictable that way.

Finally, on the road back home, Kevin drives with store-bought baby Jesus as his co-pilot in the front seat. That is until he pulls over and tosses the baby out the window to the side of the road.

Some parting thoughts:
Jill seems to constantly deal with inner turmoil surrounding her place in the world. Even though it’s been three years since the event, she still misses her mother; a loss made all the more unbearable when you see your mother hanging around town at rallies and generally loitering silently behind people. It would certainly be another hard blow to catch her mom lighting a cigarette in the street using a generic Bic lighter. Tommy’s bound for a big breakdown, having already killed a S.W.A.T. officer, and now waiting with frayed nerves for Wayne’s return, or at least a phone call with further instructions. Kevin is refusing to agree to a divorce; the guy has a conflict of some sort every time we see him! And Patti really delivered on her idea of “There is no family” by getting the GRs to remove all of the town’s family photos. Seeing how there were GRs approaching Tommy in Texas, I now wonder if Patti is the leader of this national (global?) organization, or just the head of the local NY chapter.

Let’s speculate on the meaning behind this week’s title. BJ could easily stand for “baby Jesus” (a main focus of this episode), but does that mean that AC stands for the anti-Christ? Is that what the half-naked man was prophesying about, in regards to Christine? Oh right. And her name is Christine. I’m sure that name wasn’t arbitrarily chosen for her character.

Broken people, indeed.

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