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THE LEFTOVERS Recap: Bagel, Bagel, Who’s Got the Bagel?

We always think we have all the answers — be it through personal experience, jumping to conclusions, or doing a little bit of research. But do we ever really know what the real truth is? Like, say, the meaning of life, the point of existence, or even where the bagels go when they’re missing or how cars end up in our driveways unannounced?

The answer is, of course, no: because absolutes — particularly in relation to this post-disappearance world of The Leftovers — are, in the grand scheme of things, of a minority existence and extremely rare. And as the days drag on in Mapleton with fewer answers as they go, we’re less sure of most any absolutes than we were to begin with. Oh Damon Lindelof you scamp, you!

You know why going through the motions sucks? Because leading a societally accepted life has always created an inherent tension in humanity, because it does nothing to advance our own understanding of ourselves and the world. All it really accomplishes is run-of-the-mill willful ignorance. Who decided that was the only way? Does it really serve a purpose other than to keep the nervous nellies quelled? To just say what feels most appropriate to be said, do what feels most appropriate to do in order to offend the least amount of people and keep the status quo is hardly a way to live. Why deny our naturally inquisitive nature?

Isn’t not asking questions — instead viewing it from the surface and reacting accordingly? — a surefire way to fall behind?

Particularly in the wake of this worldwide mystery, finding answers is on many a person’s mind. Like Nora Durst: that human embodiment of all that’s messed up about the mass disappearance, what with her whole family being taken up into the ether three years ago. Jill and Aimee, as we’re sure most folks in Mapleton, are fascinated by her existence. But unlike the rest of the town, they don’t pity her — which is exactly what sends them on their own quest for answers. Nora, probably dealing with her own internal turmoil, has taken up a sort of friendship and/or working familiarity with Matt — that semi-rapture-truther (played by Christopher Eccleston) that we saw in the pilot.

It feels as though the two are in cahoots when we see Nora asking seemingly random questions of the families of those who disappeared. She mentions a “departure benefit” check that we’re fairly certain she’s writing out of her own bank account. Because, y’know, sometimes you need money to get answers — one of life’s sad truths.

But it’s better than the alternative: assuming you have any sort of real understanding. We (people!) jump to the conclusions. Kevin faced this in spades in episode two. The mystery dog-shooting man has not been seen by anyone (well, save Jill) else thus far, and it’s causing a lot of trepidation amongst the department. Probably because, as we learned at the end of the episode, his father was the former chief …and apparently went crazy, forcing the job out of his hands. He’s hearing voices — but are they real or something entirely in his mind? Those voices that proclaimed they were sending something to Kevin? Does it mean nothing…or everything? And if it’s all just a figment of his father’s imagination, does that mean Kevin is destined to go insane, too?

The Garvey family seems to confound a lot of people, though: Wayne tells Tom he’s “the only motherfucker [he] can’t figure out,” and over in the Guilty Remnant, Laurie’s frustrating the leader Patti with her inability to get Meg Abbott on-board (as far as she knew).

“Do you even remember what it feels like to care about anything?”

Tom and Wayne’s relationship is a particularly fraught one. As the leader of this weirdo hugging cult, Wayne has tasked Tom with protecting very-important-puzzle-piece, Christine, and transporting her on behalf of the leader. But what’s interesting is not Tom’s feelings for Christine, but those for Wayne. Though a proven and loyal servant to the cause, he refuses to join in on its doings (i.e. getting a healing hug from Wayne). Why is he there? What does he get out of this? And why did he cal his dad only to hang up?

Could it be that, ultimately, in the face of life’s huge unknowns, everyone goes a little bit insane? But the only thing that separates us is how socially acceptable their handling of said nuttery proliferates itself? Or are some things — shocker of all shocks — beyond the measure of human comprehension? Is it our reality that’s a fallacy?

No doubt that last thought is the one that sends people reeling — is it possible we are not the smartest lifeforms in the universe? That there is something or someone at work that knows better and understands beyond what you and I can see? Hiding just beyond logical view that, if we all did a bit of internal digging, we might find? Sort of like Kevin’s bagel. I mean, not to diss Forrest Gump or anything, but if life is like anything, it’s certainly a bagel — particularly thanks to that big hole in the middle of every one, the missing piece that keeps it from being whole but gives it its existence — and separates it from the doughnuts — in the end.

What did you think of the episode? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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