One of the great things about character based dramas is that they often have the opportunity to take a step back from the overall story being told and focus purely on one character and their specific journey. Not all series have the luxury to do this, or would even want to try to, but already this season The Leftovers has given us two character-centric episodes in 'Two Boats and a Helicopter', which followed preacher Matt, and this week's episode, 'Guest', and these episodes are becoming a highlight of the series.



'Guest'' followed Nora Durst, who we've learnt enough about prior to this episode to make us feel extremely sympathetic towards her, having lost both her husband and two daughters in the departure on October 14th. She's such a fascinating character to follow because the series' focus is the differing human response in the wake of the events that occurred on October 14th, and out of all the characters on the The Leftovers, Nora's life has probably been the one that's changed the most since then. Her family are gone, and she works for the U.S. Department of Sudden Departure, a branch obviously created by the government in the wake of the tragedy, where she assess' claims of those who have also lost love ones with an extensive questionnaire about the departed.

The episode opened with Nora divorcing her departed husband, but seemingly only as a result of her brother Matt revealing that he was cheating or her with her children's pre-school teacher. Perhaps even if he were to come back she wouldn't want to stay with him, but it was obvious from some of her more heartbreaking and disturbing past-times, like getting hookers to shoot her, buying groceries for her family as though they were still there, and stalking the aforementioned preschool teacher, that she has been having extreme difficulty dealing with her loss.

To take her mind off things she suggested an impromptu trip to Miami with Kevin, who was conveniently also filing his own divorce papers at the courthouse, but things do tend to go sour when you tell someone to 'fuck your daughter' and go on a roadtrip with them (I agree with Nora though, who cares about Jill? She's the worst). No trip to Miami meant that Nora had to attend a work function in New York in which she was a panelist.



Upon arriving Nora received a name badge titled 'Guest', someone having already picked up her welcoming bag, and what followed was an almost terrifying glimpse at how paranoid and delusional the people that live in the world of The Leftovers have become in the wake of October 14th. The metaphors regarding 9/11 were blatant, there were conspiracy theorists abound, over-the-top security measures, and even those willing to make a profit off of the world's loss. Nora's identity being stolen seemed a far-fetched and nonsensical story while it was occurring, and it's result was underwhelming as it turned out it was just one of those conspiracy theorists trying to hijack a conference and let everyone know 'the truth'. In retrospect, though, Nora's whirlwind weekend in New York highlighted some of The Leftovers most thought-provoking ideas, even if they did clash a little and get lost among each other.

Having such a weekend Nora decided that, against the craziness she encountered at the conference, and the grief she's been holding onto, that she didn't want to feel that way anymore, and found herself meeting Wayne, the man with the ability to heal people's pain, and she let him heal her's. The episode left us with a Nora that had moved on after her encounter with him. There was no more family shopping and there was no more staking the preschool teacher. She seemed generally happy, and in return the universe seemed to thank her with a visit from Kevin who wanted to do tea sometime. He warned her that he was a little crazy, and it's interesting to think that Nora's character may have been completely altered, even wiped clean, by the events of this episode and that we may never see her like that again. I liked the cynical and slightly-unhinged Nora, but I think The Leftovers is telling us that she was just a guest, and that Wayne has restored her to her former self. The person she was before the departure.



THE GUILTY REMNANT NOTEPAD SCRIBBLES:

- Would you buy a human replica of your departed loved one?

- What are everyone's thoughts on Wayne? Is he a fraud? Does he have magical powers? Is he God?

- What would your answer to Question 121 be? Do you think the departed are in a better place? Why/ why not?
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If this show has a second season I'd like most episodes to be like this. Focus on one character at a time and tell their story. This and Matt's episodes have been the best by far.

And to answer your questions...
- No, I wouldn't buy a replica. I don't understand the need for rituals after someone dies. If I'm not going to see a loved one alive again, I'd prefer not seeing them dead either. Making a surrogate corpse is the creepiest thing.
- I don't think Wayne has magical powers, but he's very good at reading people, like most sect leaders. He's an opportunist, but looks like he's still a fundamentally good person. So far.
- I don't think I could answer that question. My scientific mind would probably force me to say I don't know, but if pressed I'd go towards no, as inexistence & existence.
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I like the mix the series seems to be putting between its plot-driven episodes and its character-centric episodes. While this and 'Two Boats and a Helicopter' have been standouts, I think I would become restless if every single episode focused on an individual character. I like the balance they've got at this stage.

I couldn't agree more about death rituals, I hate funerals for this very reason. I know it may sound harsh, but if someone we love dies I don't think it necessary to spend so much time focusing on someone who is gone from our lives, it stops us from living our own. I think that's one of the reasons why the series is so compelling. Who knows if I would think the same way if some of my loved ones were departed, mainly because there's no definite way of knowing what happened to them. Not knowing whether or not they're dead, or their fate (ambiguous loss), would make it that much harder to move on, which is what we're seeing in the show.
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Since I'm an atheist, I personally would think aliens stole a selection of the population to experiment on them. So, no, not a better place. The people on the Leftovers do too much moping, IMHO. People move on from grief way faster than that, IMHO, and if only approximately one in 250 was taken, the majority of people would be pretty darn unaffected, whereas everyone you meet is mopey and sad and depressed, pretty much. The show is engaging, but pretty much a big downer. I hope there's a silver lining of SOME kind soon (or one, just one, character who isn't a parade of misery?), or I'm probably not going to watch any more. Re: Wayne...I think the show is setting him up as a seeming huckster with real "magical" powers who is about to die in a very violent fashion, as clearly hope is not allowed on this show.
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I think it's important to remember that The Leftovers is specifically focusing on those characters whose lives were most affected by the departure. Characters like Kevin, Nora, and Matt have a reason to be moping around. Perhaps you're right, and the series should highlight how not everyone in Mapleton is in an entire stage of grief. But at the moment The Guilty Remnant are sort of the antagonists of the series in that sense - they refuse to let the citizens forget about October 14th, and even if you weren't deeply affected by the events of the departure, their presence in your town would undoubtedly be unsettling, especially if they were stalking you, breaking into your house etc.

As you can probably tell, I don't find the series all that depressing, I just view it as dramatic, but I do see how people like yourself can feel this way.
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Eh, I really it is only Nora that has been effected by the departure. (So she says) Matt, maybe since his wife was injured when someone departed from their car and hit them. But Kevin wasn't effected. He is effected by his family. And he is effecting the whole town. He and the Mayor are protecting the GR. He is protecting his wife and thusly the GR, he could have easily arrested them for the breaking and entering and he could have solved everyone's problem with them had he asked the ATF to come and take them out. Him not doing so is allowing the GR to do all that they do, thus making him and the Mayor the antagonists. Their stupidity is having an affect on the whole town. Hopefully someone realizes them and somehow deposes them so that they can get the GR out and go about their lives. I doubt it, because the writers are sloppily using them to protect the GR and allowing them to stay around. It would be better if the GR had some guile or skill at walking the fine line between law abiding and law breaking. Pushing up to the line just enough to bug people but not over the line like the break in, stalking and vandalism which alone, without the ATF would lead to convictions that would remove all of them from the town. That is probably one of my bigger issues with the show and the story. The GR is sloppily written and even more sloppily written to have an effect and to stay in town.

I don't find this depressing either. I find it would probably be pretty accurate. It shows the weakness of our present society, we are no longer the tough people that we used to be when things like the Plague and the 1918 flu wiped out a larger percentage of the population. People would regress back to stuff like this. The only difference is that things like the GR would probably be squashed fairly quickly.
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It's all a much of a muchness, I guess? My view of it would be that the departure effected Laurie enough to join The Guilty Remnant, which in turn effected Kevin etc. And you're not wrong, his actions (or lack there of) are effecting the citizens of Mapleton. The events of October 14th really are the catalyst for the series, and I doubt will ever see those events forgotten (as much sense as it would make for people to move on like you were suggesting @amberf222).

I understand Kevin's protection of The Guilty Remnant though, but I'm not a fan of Lucy because, like you with your thoughts on The Guilty Remnant, I find her sloppily written. What are her motivations? Isn't she meant to be doing what's best for the town? Why is she such a bitch to Kevin all of the time?
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Well, in regards to the GR and their recruiting tactics. Presumably with the profiles that they have, they have keyed in on certain personality traits that would allow people that are predisposed to a cult mentality to joint up. Laurie, potentially could have gone the same path with any tragedy, tragic plane, train or automobile accident, terminal sickness in the family etc.

As for Lucy, who knows. It could be any number of things, she could be transferring frustrations with his dad on to him. She could be overcompensating in authority because she thinks he views her as his dads girlfriend. She could be frightened that she would lose her position if people outside of the town found out that she is inept. So very many things.

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The thing is, it's been three YEARS since the people vanished. I just think some of their current behavior is not in-keeping with reality, as far as grief goes. I'm not saying you'd ever forget about your loved ones or even be the same person you were before, but you'd have at least come to grips with the situation after three years.
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OK, back. So to answer your questions....
1) I have a reason for a yes and a reason for a no. My yes is if I found out that my departed loved one was a big fat jerk and cheated on me before, I would order one. Then would shoot it or do some sort of revenge on it and then burn it. In terms of having a body to bury for closure it would be a no. I guess if I buried something it would be shutting the door on the possibility of that love one returning. I probably would need a hug from Wayne as well....
2) I'm not sure if Wayne is magical in any way. I think people believe in power when they want to. Kind of like a placebo pill. That is probably how Wayne works. What gets me about him is that he was kind of a jerk when Nora first walked in and then when he figured that she lost "someones" he was all into her and "took" her guilt away. Does the more guilt of number of departed help him somehow? Nora seemed better after the hug but what if it was just because she was finally so worked up that she could "give her guilt" away. I know I feel better after a big emotional release. Have we seen what happens to Wayne after a hug? I know I haven't seen anything like Green Mile shoot out of his mouth so....? I think I would like a little more background and time spent with Wayne before I can really make a guess.
3) I'm with @Mate on this one. I would want a don't know option or maybe. However I would answer no. I think that if I'm not with my loved one (especially a child) I would have to believe that they are in a place waiting for me and that place wouldn't be good until I was there or until they found their way back.
Now I want to know is why people were answering Nora yes and then she gets hugged and then the lady answered no. Hmmm?
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In the beginning the episode, Noras boss suggested that her story and the guilt she carries around influences peoples' answer to that particular question. Like, they felt bad for her because she lost her whole family so they answered yes to give her hope about her situation. But now that shes finally stopped hanging on to the past, its evident in her demeanor and , thus, provided a more objective environment for the woman to answer truthfully.
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And sorry for thehorrible grammar. Im half asleep right now.
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Haha, Jen! I imagine that it would be very therapeutic to exact revenge on a dummy replica of someone that betrayed you. I understand why someone would pay for that.

It is interesting, quite ironic really, that all the people Nora interviewed before her hug with Wayne answered that their departed loved ones were in a better place, but then afterwards, she got her first no. We know that Nora said she believed they were in a better place all three times she had to take the test, and her boss implied that perhaps she said the question with some sort of infliction or conducted the interview in a certain way that guided the person to that answer, but who knows? I think once Wayne hugged her though that she was able to take no as an answer - I don't know if someone had answered no prior to this whether or not she would have been able to emotionally and mentally handle someone saying that about their departed loved ones. But having hugged Wayne, and being essentially at peace with her loss, she could accept that answer from an interviewee. Just an idea.
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Ugh. I really really wish they didn't try to explain the US Department of Sudden Departure, because that was the biggest pile of dung that I have ever seen trying to explain itself. So the world, (The writer of this dross), can't explain it with science so we are left with a first year Sociology project to try to explain it and find sociological links between people.(I hope the lady was right and they just burn the surveys because that would be better) No Genetic markers, nothing like that? No scientific investigation into the people that lost more than 1 person and how that is statistically improbable. Random isn't random, ask anyone that has taken more than a basic statistics class, they can tell you that. I get that science is hard, but don't try to explain it if you A. won't or more than likely can't. B. This show is supposed to be about not explaining the occurrence, otherwise it would be a much better show. But I don't expect that much from a show that in the first episode stated that our leaders consulted religious leaders before it consulted scientists. Why? Because morons. Sadly it would likely true because we, in the US, are lead by superstitious twits.

Nora isn't that compelling of a character, I am still not convinced that she actually lost her three family members. I still think she killed at least her husband. Although is she? I presume that was her husband on the answering machine and she saved it. Wayne for all of his idiocy at least nailed her. But then so could a psych undergrad.

This might have been the episode to get me to finally stop watching this crap.

?'s
No, they are gone, they are dead, I would treat them like that and move on with my life.

Wayne is a fraud. He is similar to exorcists or more closely to a "faith healer". Psychologically you get the person into an emotional fervor and then as the exorcist says magic words, or violently shakes the poor person or keeps them dehydrated for days etc, or the "faith healer" lays his hands on the sucker, Wayne hugs them and that allows the person to release their emotions, anger, confusion etc and gives them a psychological point where they can finally let go. He is a little better because their problems are simply psychological and the person with a mental problem is either dead or still having problems thanks to the exorcist and the cancer patient or terminally ill person is still terminally ill no thanks to the faith healer. (both should be in prison)

121? Well since there isn't a I don't know, I would go with No. To say that they would be in a better place would be to presume that there is a "better place" and that would have to assume that any one of the nonsensical religions that have afterlifes are true, which is not only impossible but scientifically silly to attempt to do so. So I would say no and then in the comments I would ask how this survey doesn't violate the establishment clause. And then maybe look into a lawsuit.
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Sorry you didn't enjoy it Mate! I think in regards to explaining the departed, the world in which The Leftovers is based is definitely at a loss in terms of trying to understand what happened, and I think this episode did a great job and showing people's various theories/ ways of dealing with it (religious, scientific, fanatical etc.)

I like Nora, but it would be interesting if she were lying about her family... But I'm fairly certain the man on the answering machine was the preacher, Matt, her brother.
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Ah that is right, I forgot that they are siblings. It is kind of interesting that the two focus episodes have been about them.

But as for the various people's theories. I find it lacking, I probably will always find it lacking. Probably because I am a scientist and it bugs the hell out of me when people and show don't bother trying to answer questions. Or the writers lack in researching skills to be able to explain it or even try to explain it. And if the show is going to be about not explaining it then then need to keep that consistent.

Anywho, I am not sure I am going to watch the next episode. But I might, who knows.
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Woo hoo! Thanks again for writing a great piece! I absolutely loved this episode and I agree that this and "Two Boats and Helicopter" are the standouts this season so far. I've got more to say so Ill get my thoughts together and be back! Thanks again! :)
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