Can we talk about Lost yet? Because this episode of The Leftovers, “No Room at the Inn,” feels more like a parallel to an episode of Lost than some actual Lost episodes. Matt Jamison might as well be screaming, “We have to go back to the island,” in his one-man mission to return back to Miracle with his wife, Mary.
It’s a breathless spectacle for Matt Jamison and his portrayer Christopher Eccleston because the show presents us with two direct ways to read it: either Matt’s fully delusional about his wife Mary’s one-night return or it’s absolutely true. But there are just a thousand other ways to read the little scenes, moments and snapshots in this remarkable episode.
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Miracle Campground, Here We Come
Matt and Mary’s new life in Jarden “Miracle,” Texas is quite simple. Mary just sits in the house all day while Matt does all the work. Just kidding, but Matt is Mary’s primary caretaker and he’s taken great caution to repeat the same steps as that fateful first day in Miracle with the added bonus of tapping the two sleeping at night.
It’s Homeland-level creepy, but I’d expect nothing less from Matt. After a routine brain activity visit to Austin, though, things change. No, Mary isn’t experiencing brain activity, but she is preggers! Apparently, that three-hour chat window was plenty of time to hit the sheets. But as the doctor and any normal person would point out, Mary’s effectively comatose. She can’t give consent — to medical procedures and certainly not to sex. Matt understands that this is a miracle — not unlike Sun and Jin (miss you guys!) on Lost — since they tried to conceive for years, but it looks like a sad, lonely violation.
Taking it as a miracle, Matt is determined to return to Miracle but stops along the way to a father and son who are stranded on the side of the road. Only, they are not stranded; they attack and grab their wristbands and destroy their car so they can’t get back into town.
Wheeling her five miles to town, Matt tries to explain the circumstances to the National Park rangers, who direct him to the visitor’s center. Since he’s there on religious exemption, it’s difficult to find the reverend or a sponsor to renew their wristbands until the Garveys are called. Waiting in cuffs with some fellow wrongdoers, one of them even summarizes the stakes: if you don’t get Mary and the baby in there, they will die. So Matt’s as determined as ever.
Kevin brings John Murphy for help and has Matt and Mary seen by medical. But remember how John really hates faith and spouts great lines like “There are no miracles in Miracle”? Yeah, well, he remembers that Matt came to Miracle to heal his wife and tried to say as much at church at once. And John being John, he also went through Mary’s purse to find proof of pregnancy.
Now, imagine how that looks to the world (re: Kevin and John): sad, confused, sick Matt raped his vegetable wife one day out of loneliness and now she’s pregnant. John tells Matt he must accept that reality, but Matt pushes back. “What happened to you?” Matt, probably rightfully/stupidly, points out that something was broken in John long before he came to Miracle and John says they won’t be needing the new wristbands after all and bu-bye. Basically, John Murphy is king of Jarden and when he says no, that means no.
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No One’s Laughing at God
So that puts Matt and Mary back into the weird world of the Miracle National Park campground, which feels a lot like an anarchist Burning Man where anything goes. There’s a half-naked woman walking on the backs of men in red high heels and drugs and fighting and bikers and hippies and more. There’s also a naked man strapped and locked into a stockade above them all, with the word ‘REPENT’ etched into it. How do you save the man? You must take his place.
But Matt’s got more important things to worry about, like how to get back into the campground. He meets a Swede who can get him and his wife across for about $1,000, but he’s short on cash. In the distance, he sees a cross and asks a Christian woman for some money and she tests him on his knowledge and expertise. His favorite book? Job, whose wife was unnamed and spoke only once (cough, not unlike Mary, cough).
So the woman, whose RV is decked out with picture frames of people on the exterior, grabs her ginger son out and asks Matt to hit him as hard as he can with an oar while calling out “Brian.” Remember: this show thrives on dream logic. Matt’s hesitant, even when he conjures a big crowd to watch him, but he finally releases the pent-up energy with full force and earns his money, breaking the oar.
Returning to the Swede, though 40 bucks short of the price tag, the man leads Matt and Nora to a tunnel they can cross into Miracle; but it begins to rain and the two are flushed out — better yet, flooded back to the campground, losing Mary’s wheelchair along the way.
As Matt carries Mary back for a place to rest, it’s Nora who is there to save the day and get her brother back in since her boyfriend lost him. Nora anonymously tipped a sighting of the missing girl in the campgrounds in order to get Matt and Mary by via their trucks. It works fine, except the foursome encounter an accident up ahead, where a man crashed into goats. That man? The one who stole Matt and Mary’s wristbands. Matt takes his wristband back and sees the man’s son, unscratched, in the forest.
Taking it as a sign from God, Matt asks Nora to take care of Mary for a little while before running into John and his cronies. He tells John he was wrong about him, he’ll be back once Mary wakes up and to take care of this boy, who he gives his wristband to.
Finally, Matt walks through the campground to find the REPENT crowd and offer to trade places with the man because it’s “his turn” now. So he disrobes, climbs a ladder and has a woman lock him into the stockade butt naked for his atonement.
What kind of atonement must he seek if he is innocent of raping his wife? Why would he do such a thing? To wage war with the totalitarians of Jarden? Who knows? Well, the show does and it will make sure we find out in the episodes to come.
- Confession time: I’m a born and raised agnostic with little religious affiliation or education, but I really enjoy The Leftovers‘ overtly symbolic religious imagery and themes the same way I did with Lost, even though that show took way more time to show its colors.
- I’m not going to mention too much of Lost in the recap portions of the show because I’m not a sadist. Some of you darling readers were fans of the show who were traumatized or just haven’t gotten around to it on your Netflix queue. But everyone should know — this show is thematically very, very similar.
- The choice to use Regina Spektor’s song to close the episode is a stroke of genius.
- John Murphy is such a strong character and he’s had very little screen time compared to others last season at this time. What I’m trying to say is that he’s my fav.
The Leftovers airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.
(Image courtesy of HBO)