[For The Leftovers‘ “Off Ramp” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Off Ramp Laurie and Tom’s work to rescue lost souls takes a toll on them; Tom infiltrates the cult.
The episode opens hyped up at a car wash with a beating drum solo right out of the movie Whiplash as Laurie (Amy Brenneman) cleans a car, finally returning to The Leftovers. Then she types angrily on a laptop in a cafe, purchases infinite packs of nicorette, pours them into a jar, and vacuums a big empty conference room. Offset scenes show Tom all in white at the Guilty Remnant eyeing new recruits, especially one named Susan whom he takes to the big empty room where Laurie and some others await in a circle of chairs. After their therapeutic group Laurie gives Susan a cellphone and tells her she’s the only number programmed in it and the phone doesn’t text so, Susan will “have to talk.” Laurie promises she can help Susan come back and says that she did it herself. Then back at their hotel room Laurie watches a youtube video of Holy Wayne when he was a prophet – alive, and preaching to the people. In the video Holy Wayne asks, “Who wants a hug?” and holds out his arms to the crowd. Meanwhile Tom’s getting drunk on the couch. He asks Laurie if she ever misses the quiet of the cult and she says “no,” without hesitation.
Susan wakes up and starts talking. She asks Laurie what she’s writing and Laurie tells her a book about the Guilty Remnants. Viktor, the guy renting Laurie the office space and conference room, busts her for overuse citing that he knows people are sleeping and pooping there at night. Not only is she late paying him but he’s gotta charge her $200 more for using it nights. She finagles more time at the same price, promising payment soon. Then at a Laurie’s next group therapy session two Guilty Remnants barge in and give Susan the hairy eyeball before Laurie puffs out her chest at them and tells them to go mama bear-style. Susan is definitely shaken by it.
Tom goes back to Remnant HQ where a lady holds up a note to tell him your pain doesn’t matter. Then he’s peeling potatoes and sees that same lady confiscate a watch of another member – his next rescue, Howard. Meanwhile Laurie takes Susan to see her husband and son at their home. Susan crosses the yard and her son rushes to her arms. She’s a person again and starts wearing colors in the very next scene. Susan then talks in a group session about not believing her son wants her back home again even though he asked her to come home. She says he must be angry. Laurie says maybe he just wants you home. Susan says he has to be angry, “Like you,” to which Laurie retorts that she’s not angry. But we all know that’s a lie… and we’ll be even more convinced later. Then Tom breaks in with a new member from the Guilty Remnant, Howard.
That night Laurie asks if she can drive Tom to see Jill and can she write a letter to her? Tom says Jill’s not ready but she does it anyway. Then Tom’s coming out of the diner and getting in the car with Laurie. He tells her Jill’s happy then lies and said she took Laurie’s letter too. When they get back to the conference room and office space Viktor has thrown all their group’s stuff onto the sidewalk. Presumably Laurie never paid that late money she owes him for renting the space. They are without a space. But worse than that, Viktor took her laptop and (dummy that she is) Laurie didn’t even email her book to herself. The only copy is on the laptop. She confronts Viktor and he claims not to have it. She says, “Keep it, just give me the one file with my book on it,” to which the non-dummy Viktor replies, “Then I’d be admitting I have the laptop.”
Next we see Laurie skulker-extraordinaire slipping into Viktor’s house late at night, climbing the stairs while his wife chitchats in Russian on the kitchen phone, and then running back down the stairs as a child shrieks after her. She’s got the laptop. Driving away from crime scene number one Laurie runs down two Guilty Remnants in the street with her car, possibly killing them. Then she’s at the carwash cleaning off whatever remnants of Remnants might remain from crime scene number two. The next day Laurie confers with Susan and her husband, comforting him that Susan’s going to stay with him and that it’s not his fault she left, it’s the cult’s. Her certainty in this scene parallels the certainty Nora and Kevin had in their adoption interview. No breaking up on the horizon. No way.
Speaking of the cult, Guilty Remnants take Tom to a shed where they hang him by his wrists and then Meg enters in a white nightie (Liv Tyler) to immediately take off his pants. She removes her white lace undies and straddles him seductively then has her way on his lap for a bit. He’s loving the feeling and it’s going great until two buff Guilty Remnants come in and ruin the lapdance party. They douse Tom in gas, drag him outside, and throw him in the gravel. Meg then threatens to light Tom up with her zippo but instead just lights a smoke. She says, “Tell your mom Meg says ‘hello’.” Talk about the ultimate buzzkill.
Next Laurie buys a handbag she can’t afford and returns home to a crazed Tom who’s freaking out about Meg – telling her she’s forgotten how effed up it is in the Guilty Remnants. They make sense! They know something! She tells him he doesn’t have to go back to the cult to get rescues anymore, that what they’re doing is working, that her book will be published, and it will all be over soon. Nobody’s convinced by her words – not even Laurie.
Then we find Susan at a boring dinner with her boring husband. Susan sleepwalks through her boring day. She fondles a note from the Guilty Remnant with longing then nearly drives the car with her husband and child into oncoming traffic, she’s in such a daze. Meanwhile Laurie’s at the publisher when she gets a phone call. Sounds like Susan got into a car accident BIG TIME. But then the receptionist tells her “They love your book,” and it’s exciting but the phone call makes Laurie want to leave until the publisher comes out to greet her and starts wheeling and dealing right away. Throughout the meeting her phone keeps ringing and she puts it on silent. They tell her Laurie needs to explain the cult’s smoking and reveal their the rulebook, the story behind the Guilty Remnants. “We know what the Guilty Remnant does but what do they believe?” Laurie says they believe the world ended. They seem unsatisfied with this answer.
The publisher relates the story of the fire, bringing us back there with visual remembrance but then says that from her telling of the story he doesn’t know how she feels about it. Laurie loses her shit and attacks the publisher, flying across the room reaching for his throat like a vampire in flight. Remember how Susan said Laurie was angry before and she denied it? Looks like Susan might have had a point. In the next scene Tom bails a contrite Laurie out of jail. Another publishing deal bites the dust.
Tom and Laurie discuss how Susan’s car wreck represents a failure to their process of trying to heal the ex Guilty Remnants. Why isn’t it working? They decide they need to replace the cult with something, give these people something to hold onto and believe in. Then we’re back in a group session and Laurie tells the story of the fire and how Jill will probably never speak to her again. She has Tom tell his story of Holy Wayne. Tom explains how Wayne healed people with hugs, took their pain away, and taught Tom not to be afraid anymore. He implies that he’s been holding back the same ability – that Holy Wayne passed it on to him- and he can restrain the power no longer. Tom’s a giver. He stands up, asks who wants a hug, and opens his arms to the group.
Mysterious Incident List:
What’s up with Meg? Blue balls and then threatening to light a guy on fire are pretty harsh for someone she’s never met before. Looks like Laurie’s not the only pissed person in town.
When Laurie’s convincing Tom her book will be published soon she says it will all be over soon. This implies that Laurie thinks her book will end the Guilty Remnant. What’s in the book? The publisher made it sound like it had gaps.
Can Tom pull off the Holy act? Seems like he was just so damn sick of being a fake Guilty Remnant he’d do whatever he had to not to have to go back there.
This was the best episode yet for season two and had surprisingly few mysteries, especially given that it was focused on the Guilty Remnant – one of the most enigmatic of phenomenon in the show. The scene with Meg was astonishing and powerful. She’s a force and probably the new leader of the Guilty Remnant given her strength and confidence. Her cruelty and coldness really brought Patty to mind – a ghost in every episode it seems – even the ones where she’s never appears onscreen.