[For The Leftovers‘ “Orange Sticker” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
Orange Sticker The Murphys are left reeling after Evie’s disappearance; Kevin returns home with no memory.
Episode four, “Orange Sticker” shifts perspective yet again on the earthquake, this time from Nora’s point of view. She wakes up and life’s a wreck. Kevin’s disappeared, a dog/wolf runs down the street portending the chaos from whence they came, and the neighbor’s kid is missing. It’s a lot to digest and Nora passes out on the hardwood floor. Once conscious she tries to turn on a TV but they have no cable yet. She opens the computer but they have no Internet yet. She places a call to 911 but they think Nora’s a nut. Then Kevin comes in the front door, sweaty, dirty, and hot as hell. She hugs him and gasps with relief but then turns her back to pick up baby Lily and return to bed. The ghost of Patty leans on the doorjamb to tell Kevin he’s got some explaining to do.
The next morning Kevin can’t find his cigarettes or phone and says they must be at the waterfall – he woke up there without memories from the earthquake. It’s all blank for Kevin between falling asleep and waking at the river in the exact spot where the teen girls went missing the night before. A park ranger knocks on his door and asks him bring his truck and winch to help at the crime scene. So, Kevin and Nora drive there to help with the rescue/ search effort. Nora tells him he should look for his phone and if he doesn’t find it just say he dropped it today while helping out. She can think on her feet, that Nora.
Meanwhile Jill’s home with baby Lily and the broken faucet prompts her to approach Michael Murphy, the source of obvious sexual tension she’d felt at the bbq birthday party the night before. He fixes her leaking sink and then Jill asks why he’s not helping look for his sister, Evie. Michael says Jill won’t understand his ease because of her lack of belief in God… but he knows Evie has departed. Instead of getting weirded out by Michael’s odd certainty about this and his shirt buttoned all the way to the tippity top, Jill seems turned on and gets all doe-eyed. She thanks him for “saving her” even though all he really did was fix a leaky faucet.
Then Nora shops at a Stop n’Shop type place for Wild Turkey and smokes for Kevin. While there she sees the old guy Michael visited and prayed with. His name’s Virgil and he tells Nora, sight unseen, that he’s sorry for her loss. She’s a little freaked by it and the shopkeeper tells Virgil he can’t come in there and do this shit – apparently it’s not his first time creeping out a stranger at the store. So, Virgil apologizes sincerely and leaves.
In the next scene Kevin keeps looking for his phone in the now dark night of the crime scene while Patty bugs him the whole time. She knows where the phone is, which is frightening whether she’s real or in his head. Then Kevin’s just leaving the scene when John Murphy drives up and offers him a ride home. On the dashboard is the unopened gift from Evie. Kevin asks about it and then John, who didn’t drink just the night before, downs a beer and drives right past their homes toward the edge of town where the campground is. Kevin says,”Thought you didn’t drink,” and John says his daughter’s missing now. Guess it’s understandable – loss changes things, especially drinking habits.
John tells Kevin he obviously bought that broken down house for three million because he wanted to feel safe but, “there are no miracles in Miracle.” Then John rushes out of the truck at the campground to throw some angry accusations at peeps and then speed off, tires squealing. He pulls the truck up to the prophet Isaac’s place, grabs a baseball bat and starts heading for a house, fury personified. Kevin senses something wicked this way comin’ and stops John. I used to be a cop. If I talk to him I’ll know what’s up, etc. Kevin convinces him that he can talk to Isaac and find out if Isaac has John’s daughter. Then Kevin knocks on a door saying “Security” but out of the corner of his eye sees John losing his shit and flailing that baseball bat at the nearby house. Unfortunately, THAT’s the house where Isaac is. Plus it turns out Isaac, no dummy, has a gun and shoots John in the gut. Blessing them with a poetic goodbye, Isaac then says “there’s nothing more dangerous than a man who don’t believe in nothing.” Kevin drives John to Erika, his doctor wife, for some gut fixing.
Back at the Garvey household Nora shares a beer with seventeen-year-old Jill and discuss Kevin’s “sleepwalking.” Jill gets all deep and says it’s probably stress and wherever you go there you are. Then she tells Nora how Michael thinks his sister, Evie departed. Nora says there’s no way that’s what happened. This was her job, after all, when she did those Departed insurance claim investigations. She tells Jill the story of a man who pretended to depart so he could run off on his wife. There was only one Sudden Departure, she explains. Nora’s confident on this point – certain. Then Kevin pulls up to the back alley behind the clinic where Erika works and passes off John to his wife. He watches while Erika calmly fixes his wound, pulls Evie’s unopened gift out of John’s clutch to set it aside, and asks no questions.
Nora then visits her brother, Preacher Matt, at his church and asks if this town is real. She confronts him on his promises about Miracle and says it’s all been the same shit since they got there, missing teenagers and natural disasters, etc. Matt responds that his wife, Mary, came out of her catatonia the first night they were in Miracle. They’d talked all night just like old times. The next morning when they woke up she was back to her catatonic state but it was enough evidence for Matt that Miracle is the real deal.
Meanwhile, Jill visits Michael on his porch at night to return his wrench. They take note of the Department of Sudden Departure Verified orange sticker on his house front. There’s one on her house too, she says, what does it mean? He says before the park rangers took over Miracle the government went to each house to “check if it was true,” a perfect parallel to Nora’s visit with Matt. Everybody just wants to know it’s really true – that they’re safe here in Miracle. Then Jill and Michael each admit they’re alone. They look into each other’s lonely, sad eyes and hug.
At the hospital Erika tells Kevin that Miracle may not be a miracle but her daughter Evie certainly was. Though she and Michael are twins Evie was born two months earlier, a preemie who weighed only a bit more than a pound at birth. So, even though John says there are no miracles in Miracle Erika believes it’s an exceptional town. Just like Evie is an exceptional girl. Kevin leaves and Patty gives him a lecture series on his way home – all bitching and accusations, about why he tried to kill himself. Turns out that’s what he was doing during the earthquake. Patty says Kevin tied the cinder block to his ankle and jumped off the waterfall. She says he didn’t hesitate. He wanted to die. If it wasn’t for the providence of the earthquake, he’d be gone. People who love their families don’t do that. Kevin looks at her and says he doesn’t want to kill himself and she replies that he’s entitled to his opinion. Then she explains that the girls vanished. Poof. Just like that.
Once home Nora reassures Kevin that she trusts he had nothing to do with the disappearance of the girls but can’t wake up alone like that again. So, she takes out a pair of handcuffs from his cop days and they handcuff themselves together for a good night’s sleep. Symbolism, baby. Then we see Jill wake up and roll out of bed to look outside and across the yard where Michael is scraping the orange sticker off the front of his house.
The things that make us feel safe can be as simple as knowing where our phone is or having an “Orange Sticker” of verification from a government office. Safety can also be as complex and deeply resonant as having our lover beside us when we wake up or knowing where our children are. Details in the episode touch on these vulnerabilities and their opposite – the certainty of feeling safe. Nora runs into a stranger who seems to know all about her lost family, giving her a sense that she wears a neon sign to broadcast her deepest, raw wounds to the world – not exactly a safe feeling. Michael’s belief that his sister departed gives him certainty and peace while everyone around him loses their mind with worry. He feels safe in his faith and that’s why he doesn’t care if people think he’s crazy. Speaking of crazy, there’s Kevin and the ultimate feeling of being unsafe – is he losing his mind? Did he try to kill himself? What the hell is up with Patty? And now he’s gotta sleep handcuffed to his lady. Thus, “Orange Sticker” explores many facets of safety: from the biggies like trust, faith, certainty, sanity, and hope to the minis like where’s-my-effing-phone and if-I-don’t-open-the-gift-I-can’t-be-disappointed. One thing is for certain, this episode opens up numerous new questions but still, it’s artistry and emotion are a gift that doesn’t disappoint.