Welcome to our review of the fourth episode of the third and final season of The Leftovers, “G’Day Melbourne.” At its heart, the episode is an exploration of the very thin line that sometimes separates faith from delusion. We also witness the end of a central relationship (the world is not the only thing ending!), an old character returns (or does she?), Nora continues her personal investigation of the LADR scientists, and I will also discuss the reference to a National Geographic magazine that keeps popping up throughout the show, and that has sent many of The Leftovers fans down the rabbit hole of interpretation.
The opening credits’ song, Ray LaMontagne’s “This Love is Over,” perfectly sets the tone for an episode in which we see Kevin seemingly losing his mind (is he having visions again, or is he going crazy?), and in which we witness the end of the relationship between Kevin and Nora:
“Goin’ out of my mind / Don’t even know my own name half the time / How’d I / get so blind that I couldn’t see / What was right in front of me? /Wish I was wrong / I wish that you were right here lyin’ in my arms / Deep down inside I got to face the truth / That you’re not comin’ home / This love is over / This love is over.“
“You Two Together?” We are going to find out…
The episode begins with Nora and Kevin at the airport catching their flight to Australia. The TSA officer asks them “you two together?” which sets the question that the episode is going to answer. Nora surprises Kevin by requesting the TSA officer to go through the pre-checked line, since she has Global Entry. After they both go through security separately, Kevin confronts her and Nora acknowledges that she is carrying $20,000, which is the amount of money that the LADR (Low-Amplitude Denzinger Radiation )scientists asked her to bring if she wants to “see her children again.” While Kevin helps Nora remove the money from her body (she has it taped to her chest), they both have sex in the bathroom. The scene is basically showing the breakdown in communication between the two. They are both broken people who found each other, but have not been able to communicate with each other. Even their sex, in the bathroom, lacks intimacy. Nora even acknowledges so much by saying to Kevin in the plane that if the scientists ask her why is he traveling to Australia with her, she will say that he only came to see her go, since he realized that “we are in a toxic co-dependent relationship, and we both come to realize that we are better both apart than together.” How is that for foreshadowing…
You Brought Your Book
After landing in Melbourne, Nora and Kevin get into their hotel and, while they unpack, Nora sees that Kevin has brought “his book” (The Book of Kevin). She starts reading it, while making fun of it (and of Kevin). Here we keep exploring their disconnect. Kevin brings the book because, at some level, he is starting to accept that there may be something to the narrative that Matt has constructed around him. Nora, on the other hand, makes fun of him because in her worldview, none of this makes sense. While they are talking, Nora gets a phone call from the LADR scientists giving her instructions about how to meet up with them. Nora tells Kevin to stay in the hotel.
Getting Messages from Morning TV and the Power of Faith
After Nora leaves, Kevin tries to turn off the TV, which was in the hotel channel, and cannot do it. While trying, he can only change it to a local station showing G’Day Melbourne, a Good Morning America type show. The theme of stubborn electronics, not doing what we want them to do because, in fact, there may be sending us some sort of message, it is something that we have seen before in the show. In episode 2, “Don’t Be Ridiculous,” Nora was not able to tap on the touch screen at the airport the option of traveling without children, as if the universe was trying to tell her that she should not fly. And in the same episode, when she is trying to input directions in the GPS to go see Lily, the GPS would not let her do it, as if she was being told by a higher power that it was a bad idea. On the other hand, in episode 3, Kevin Sr. reads everything he encounters (the random guy outside of the Sydney Opera who tells him if he wants to talk to God, the chicken Toni pecking on his tape player, etc.) as signs by God to give him purpose. Nora ignores or fights those signs while Kevin Sr. embraces them no matter how crazy or dangerous it may be. One embraces reason while the other follows faith, although the end result is not necessarily happy for neither of them.
While waiting for someone to help him with the TV, Kevin sits down and starts reading Matt’s book narrating Kevin’s life post-departure. The book forces him to confront the reality of his extraordinary experiences: the period of time when he was able to see and talk to Patti (“He feared He had lost His mind,”), the night he decided to drink the poison that would kill him and allow him to go to ‘the other place’ in which he ended up killing Patti (“to drink the poison was insanity. Or it was faith.”). If he rejects the story as told in the book, that would make him, to put it plainly, crazy. But if he accepts the narrative of the Book of Kevin, he needs to be open to the spiritual and religious world embraced by Matt. Either embrace faith, or accept delusion seem to be his choices, but something needs to give.
The problem with faith is, as most atheists would point out, that we do not have evidence for what its ultimate object is (which in a religious context is God, Gods, or some form of higher power ). In the Bible, for example, we are told that “faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1), but neither ‘confidence’ or ‘assurance’ are evidence. The famous 5th century Christian theologian St. Augustine, who tried to reconcile faith and reason, argued that “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe” (Augustine of Hippo, Sermones 4.1.1.), which seems a type of circular argument, and the 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard famously talked about the need of a “leap of faith,” in order to fully understand and accept God.
In this scene, Kevin seems to embrace faith, since it is the only possibility for meaning. Only accepting the reality of what happened to him will, to put it in Christian language, “set him free.” In fact, it is precisely the moment when he reads the word faith, that the TV seems to start talking to him with a news flash about not one, but two different Kevins who have disappeared in the area. One is his father, Kevin Sr., the other is the Australian chief of police who was killed by Grace and her three other friends in episode 2, when they thought they had the “real” Kevin (Justin Theroux).
Are you talking to me?
When he gets close to the TV, he also sees a familiar face: Evie, the daughter of John and Erika Murphy who abandoned her family to join the Guilty Remnant in season 2. Evie is part of the street audience watching the show from the outside of the studio, and is holding a sign with a reference to Surah 81 (Sūrat at-Takwīr) of the Quran, which describes the signs for the Day of Judgment : When the sun is turned into a sphere (wrapped up) / And when the stars lose their light / And when the mountains are blown […]” There is also an interesting reference to a girl killed which may also connect this Surah with the death of Evie: “And when the girl buried alive is asked / For what sin was she killed.”
As soon as Kevin sees Evie, he confronts her (through the TV), but the TV turns off.
Excuse me Miss, Are you a Mother?
We turn to Nora, who is outside the hotel waiting for a bus who will take her to where she will be able to meet the LADR scientists. While she is waiting, a young mother with a baby asks her is she is a mother, and if she would please take her baby for a few minutes while she is doing an interview for a job. She says yes (to both, being a mother, and holding the baby), which points out to the defining aspect of Nora: she is a mother without children, she is a childless mother. She decides to hold the baby while the mother runs for her interview, but when the bus comes, she runs into the restaurant where the interview is taking place and give her back the baby. She is giving the baby back so she can return to her own children.
Did Patti Send You?
Kevin runs to the studio where G’Day Melbourne is recorded and confronts Evie, who he thinks is another spirit-type like Patti. He asks her what she wants, why is she here, and if Patti sent her. In a way, it seems that Kevin thinks that his shamanic/prophetic abilities ended with the symbolic killing of Patti in the well that we witnessed in the episode from season 3 “International Assassin.” He has not been able to see or hear messages from ‘the other place’ since then. Now, with the appearance of Evie, it comes all back. But is she real? The person looks like Evie, but she does not sound like her. She seems to be an immigrant Muslim woman whose name is Daniah Moabizzi. The question of her reality is answered when a witness to their interaction asks her if Kevin is bothering her. At that moment, Kevin realizes that she is, indeed, real, but he also gets beaten up by the stranger, who thinks Kevin is harassing the woman. Before she runs away, Kevin takes a picture of her with his phone. So is she Evie or not? Did not she die in the drone attack that killed the Guilty Remnant in Jarden? If she is not, why does Kevin meet an Evie doppelgänger? What’s going on!!
The A-Ha Moment
Nora takes the bus to its final stop and finally meets the LADR scientists. When she first meets them, they are both playing the piano and singing the A-Ha’s song “Take On Me” which, besides of reminding me that I grew up in the 80s actually liking this type of music, it is also hinting at the possibility that Nora is not really there to bust what she considers a perverse scam, but that she is actually going to go through with it. Here are some of the lyrics:
Take on me, (take on me)
Take me on, (take on me)
I’ll be gone
In a day or two
Laurie, Kevin, and the Thin Line Between Faith and Delusion
Kevin calls Laurie and tells her that Evie is alive and that he needs her help finding her location using the online sleuth skills she has developed in her spiritual scam with John. He tells her that she goes by a different name, and also sends her the picture that he took of Evie to prove to Laurie that he is not crazy. Laurie finds out that a Daniah Moabizzi works at the Melbourne public library where Kevin goes to confront her again.
The exchange between Kevin and Laurie is an interesting one since, in the episode, it represents the confrontation between Faith and Reason. Laurie is a psychotherapist, and she is trying to analyze the situation with an analytical mind. Even when she is scamming people with the help of John by telling them that they can contact their loved ones who have passed away, she does it to bring comfort, justifying the means by the worthiness of the ends. John and Laurie, in fact, do not even really take money from their clients, since they shred it after every visit. Kevin here has fully embrace his own experience of reality even if, to a rational mind, it does not make any sense. He sees Evie just like before hew saw Patti. He does not have an explanation for it, but he cannot deny his own experience anymore. I know that the portrait of Laurie is more complex since, in the first season she joined the Guilty Remnant, but I’ll talk more about Laurie and its complex personality when we get to episode 6, which is devoted to her.
A Symbolic Death
As part of Nora’s medical tests, they place her in a box that looks very much like a coffin in order to test her ability to stay for long amounts of time in a confine space, since the chamber of the LADR device is a small and claustrophobic. The scene seems to signal a ritual death for Nora, a point of no return in her decision to “join” her children. She is dying to the world so she can be reborn in a new (LADR) one.
Kevin Confronts His Own Delusion
Kevin goes to the public library and finds Evie again, or Daniah, or whoever she is. This time, she tells Kevin that she is, in fact, Evie, but that she has started a new life and that he should respect that. After Kevin insists for an explanation though, she ends up telling him that she feels bad for him because he is sick. She also tells him that Laurie had called her to tell her that he was coming and that the best thing to do was to simply go along with his delusion: “you never tell someone in the midst of a psychotic break that they are having a psychotic break, you have to indulge their delusion so they don’t hurt themselves” says Laurie. In the presence of Evie/Daniah Kevin and Laurie talk again on the phone and Laurie tells him that he is having a psychotic break: he is leaving reality, that’s why he is in Australia, that’s why he is seeing Evie (she abandoned her family, just like he is doing with his by being in Australia). Here, Laurie is channeling traditional psychological views of religion, most famously, Freud’s definition of religion as an illusion:
“Religion is a system of wishful illusions together with a disavowal of reality, such as we find nowhere else but in a state of blissful hallucinatory confusion. Religion’s eleventh commandment is “Thou shalt not question.”
In more recent times, one of the biggest advocates of this idea is the famous biologist and avowed atheist Richard Dawkins who, in his book The God Delusion argues that:
“when one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion.”
Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
The episode does, in fact, confirm that Kevin may be having a psychotic break, since Laurie asks Kevin to look at the picture he sent her of Evie, and also look at the person in front of her again. At that moment Kevin realizes that the person is not Evie, but a different woman who doesn’t even look like Evie. What is happening to him? Is Laurie right? Is he going crazy? Does this mean that all of his previous experiences were also delusions?
I have to say that this plot was a little surprising since, to my recollection, one of the main arguments of the show was not to question the reality of those inexplicable events (the Sudden Departure, the healing qualities of Holy Wayne, Kevin’s shamanic abilities), but to struggle with making sense of them. Here, the show seems to undermine this line of thought by actually showing that Kevin is in fact seeing things that are not there, that are not real… any thoughts?
Do You Nod?
After the LADR scientists get Nora from the box that simulates the actual chamber of the machine, she asks them why, if they are so sure that their machine works, haven’t they used it themselves. One of them answers:
“All we know for certain is that we are sending people to the same destination people went 7 years ago, the odds that this destination has a sustainable environment with a breathable atmosphere and ample food supply are very very low, so it is more likely that there are 140 million corpses floating out there in space, somewhere.”
So, in theory, she will be reunited with her sons, but maybe not in the way she was expecting. By the way, we also find out that Mark Lynn-Baker “went through,” so he is completely LADR!
The scientists ask her a final question, a final test before they consider if she can use the machine: there are two twin babies and one will grow up to cure cancer if the other one dies. Would she kill the baby? She doesn’t have to kill the baby herself, she only has to nod. She actually says the she would nod, she would kill the baby. The scientists though, decide that she has not passed the test and that she should go home, to Nora’s desperation. It seems that, not even when Nora embraces the possibility of certain death, she can obtain what she really desires: she cannot be without her children, but she cannot be with them either, even if being with them means certain death.
Is this the End of Nora and Kevin?
After their respective misadventures that day, Kevin and Nora meet again in the hotel room. It has become pretty clear that their relationship, just like themselves, is broken. They let each other know how they really feel, and who they really are. Nora has been lying to him about the real intentions behind her pursuit of the LADR scientists, and Kevin has been hiding from her all of his experiences in “the other place.” As Kevin puts it “we don’t talk about fu$%#@ anything.” Nora accuses him of wanting to be “Jesuschrist fu*$%$% superstar because it makes you feel important,” and Kevin tells her that she gave up Lily easily because she wants people to feel sorry for her. Really ugly stuff that leads to Kevin walking out of the room and of the relationship. Is this really the end? It looked pretty definitive…
As the scene is unfolding, a song from La traviata (Act 2: “Dite alla giovine…non amarlo ditegli”) is playing, in which one of the main opera characters, Violetta, is expressing her desire to die, which is a pretty accurate description of how Nora feel in this episode.
Is There a Difference Between Reality and Delusion?
The episode ends with Kevin leaving the hotel and finding, surprise, surprise, his father, Kevin Sr., who saw him that same morning on G’Day Melbourne! The end is a nice reverse of Kevin’s situation, who thought that he had seen Evie in the TV and went to the studio where the show was filmed, only to be confronted with the fact that what he thought was a sign, was only a delusion. On a reverse situation, Kevin Sr. saw Kevin on TV, which he took as a sign, and allowed him to locate him, setting in motion the events for the rest of the season.
To be honest, I am still not completely sure what this final scene means. Is there a difference between reality and delusion? Is there a value judgment on the way each of the characters see the world, or the writers are just saying that we all cope differently with this ocean of confusion we call life? Is Lindelof telling us that Kevin’s delusion is part of a divine plan that allowed both Kevins to reunite again? Any thoughts are welcome…
About That National Geographic Issue…
Let me finish by briefly discussing the subtle but constant references to the May 1972 National Geographic Issue that keeps showing up in the show, and that is sparking lots of theories online about its possible meaning. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, Dustin Rowles has a nice piece on it here. As Rowles points out in his article, the magazine appeared for the first time in the first season, when Kevin Sr. gives it to his son insisting that the voices in his head had told him that it was very important.
Reddit has a thread here with a list of all of its appearances, as well as a discussion thread of its possible meaning. There is no doubt that Lindelof and the rest of the writers in The Leftovers have been sprinkling references from that issue throughout many episodes. I think that there are two ways of looking at it. The first one, is that Lindelof is simply having fun. He knows that, an important core of the show’s audience loves easter eggs, and spend an inordinate amount of times taking screenshots of scenes, discussing this an other issues in online forums and facebook groups (in case this was not obvious already, I am one of those people!), and Lindelof is just messing around with them. Lindelof’s shows are participatory, meaning is not created, is co-created, it requires your attention and your participation. As in Lost, involvement is half the fun.
Here is where I offer another possibility. Lindelof, as a writer and creator of the show, acts like the silent God of The Leftovers: litters the TV show with signs and symbols that feed our need to create meaning, to find purpose, even though meaning and purpose may not be there. I also think this is what makes a lot of his fans, even the most hardcore group of them, mad when Lindelof does not offer answers to those puzzles and those questions. Why would he put those things in the show, if he is never going to offer an answer? Lindelof may be, indeed, the cruel God of popular culture and he may be telling us that the way you feel about that Nat Geo issue is the same way many people feel about God…
And this is all for today. Let me know what you thought of the episode in the comment section. You can also read my recaps for The Book of Kevin (Ep 1), Don’t Be Ridiculous (Ep 2), and Crazy Whitefella Thinking (Ep 3).
You can also follow me on Twitter @relpopculture.
Next on The Leftovers… It’s a Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt World
“Convinced it is Kevin’s destiny to be in Miracle for the coming seventh anniversary of the Departure, Matt Jamison impulsively heads to Australia in an effort to bring Kevin home.”