[For The Leftovers‘ “No Room at the Inn” or any other recaps on Fetchland, assume the presence of possible spoilers.]
No Room at the Inn Reverend Matt Jamison takes his wife outside Miracle to seek answers about her condition.
The Reverend Matt has constructed his very own version of Groundhog Day which we get to see play out for the first fifteen minutes of episode 5 – locked in the spectre of his persistent frustration. He’s replaying everything precisely as it happened on the day his wife Mary woke out of her coma. Matt hopes that a variable; the song playing on the radio, the burrito he microwaved for lunch, etc. will bring that day back and she’ll wake up again. Then he drives her out of Miracle for biannual medical tests to check on her condition. While there Matt finds out she’s pregnant – essentially a miracle because they’d tried and couldn’t have children before her comatose state. The administrator who tells Matt about her condition doesn’t believe him when he says she got pregnant the one night she came out of her vegetative state.
He mentions “consent” to remind Matt that she couldn’t have given consent for the sex anymore than she can give consent for medical tests. The administrator also explains that she’s got a 90% chance of miscarrying. But Matt’s too busy being happy about the pregnancy to care. He’s blissful and believes this must have been the reason for her awakening that night – it was the one time she could get pregnant. This is a man who lives with “meant to be” and “everything happens for a reason” faith to the max. A man of God, that Matt.
On the way back to Miracle he stops to help a broken down car at the roadside but it’s a conman who takes their wristbands and knocks Matt out in the process. He wakes out of unconsciousness as Mary “tells him” their baby boy won’t survive unless he gets them back into Miracle pronto. So, Matt pulls the wheelchair out of the back and wheels her toward town, abandoning the car. When he finally reaches Miracle a guard directs Matt to the Visitor Center where he attacks a man who pesters him in line. The guards then put Matt in a holding area where he’s kept until Kevin and his new neighbor buddy John Murphy come to collect him. John asks how Mary is doing, given that Matt had taken her out for tests.
Matt says there was no change in her condition but then John confronts him about her pregnancy – he’s got the test results in his hand, apparently they “fell out of” Mary’s bag. Then John relays Matt’s story of how Mary awakened and they “made love” and that’s what got her pregnant – right? John says Matt tells this story because the miracle within the town of Miracle is the only tale to explain her pregnancy where Matt isn’t a rapist – given her condition. It’s the only story he can tell. Except there are no miracles in Miracle, John insists. He says Matt’s going to have to change his story and say he was just very sad, lonely and confused and that he’s sorry. John makes Matt agree to this and even has him say, “She never woke up.” As John’s about to take the docile Matt out and get him new wristbands Matt asks him why he’s so angry at this place. It goes beyond his daughter being missing. What happened to him? John doesn’t answer and instead says he can’t get Matt those wristbands after all. John leaves in a huff. Kevin’s like WTF, Matt? So, then Matt asks Kevin how much money he has. He’s going to need it to get back into Miracle, Matt explains and takes $500 from the flummoxed Kevin before leaving him to return to the campground.
Matt wheels Mary into camp and promises her he’s going to get her back in. Then he locates a guy who says he can help him get into Miracle for $1000. On a mission to get the rest of the money, Matt walks around the campground. He sees a naked man in a pillory like they used to have in town squares during the 1800s. A woman asks if he wants to free the prisoner and he says yes. She tells him the only way to free the man is to take his place. Then Matt sees a big wooden cross. He tells the owner of the cross, Sandy, his sad story and begs for her help. Matt tells her he needs $500 and she tests him to determine if he really is a “man of God.” Matt easily passes her test so then Sandy brings a guy out of her trailer and tells Matt he’s got to hit this guy with a wooden oar and say, “Brian,” then he’ll get his money. He’s got to hit him as hard as he can, like he means it. Matt hits but not that hard and she says he’s holding back. A mob collects and everyone, even the guy he’s hitting, yells that Matt’s got to hit harder and say, “Brian,” so he finally whacks the guy with all his might and screams “BRIAN!” The oar breaks. Matt gets the money and the guy with the way back to Miracle brings him to a large tunnel made of a corrugated metal pipe.
It starts raining and Matt wheels Mary through the tunnel until the wheelchair gets stuck and he can’t dislodge it. Then Matt screams and they both fly back to camp on a giant gush of water. Now Mary has no wheelchair and Matt’s back at the campground carrying his comatose wife – both of them soaking wet. Suddenly we hear Nora calling for him. She’s there with Kevin to save them. He climbs into the trunk of Nora’s car with Mary so they won’t be seen and can drive safely across the bridge to Miracle. In the reddish glow of the inner trunk Matt quotes Yeats to Mary as if we needed further evidence that he’s the best and most perfect husband on the planet. Then the trunk opens and Nora says there was an accident. They all try to help but the driver was killed and it turns out to be the conman that stole Matt’s wristband. The conman’s son hides nearby in a patch of bushes and, when he’s discovered, hands Matt back his wristband. Mary’s got the one from the dead conman on her wrist now. But then Matt shifts gears completely. He asks Nora if she’ll look out for Mary awhile. Matt says, “I shouldn’t have to hide.” Nora, who already has a baby and teenager, isn’t thrilled about taking on a vegetative sister-in-law.
John Murphy then stops his truck driving home in the dark night because Matt stands blocking the middle of the street. Matt, holding the conman son’s hand, tells John he’s not going to lie about what happened with Mary and he doesn’t want John’s wristband. He holds up the one the little boy gave him to John he’s already got a wristband. Matt says he’ll be back when Mary wakes up again, an inevitability. Then he passes the boy on to John and says, “This boy needs help. His father is dead.” Matt turns then and walks back to the camp. Once there, he says he wants to free the man from the pillory. The woman who handles these matters asks him why and he says, “It’s my turn,” so she puts him in there and the last shot of the episode shows Matt in the pillory.
The True Believer, Matt and His Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. is all about the stories we tell ourselves in order to find meaning in a world gone mad. On this front, Matt is the ultimate storyteller. He’s also a hardcore martyr, willing to do anything to prove his particular story is true. It’s clear he is 100% certain Mary woke up that night and it’s clear how much he loves her. This is a man with unrelenting integrity. But the episode never shows Mary actually waking up that night so it’s possible she didn’t. The question then becomes, does it matter? “No Room at the Inn” builds a frame around this idea. Everyone in it has a powerful story they’re playing out with hope of somehow “saving themselves.” At the camp there’s Sandy’s Brian with the oar breaking across his back and on the roadside there’s the conman with his son. Does it matter that these characters actually don’t accomplish anything? What about Matt? Is he better off in the pillory than taking care of Mary at this point? He certainly believes so. Fact is, these characters all believe in the power of their particular story and that experience is everything to them. In the world of The Leftovers the actual facts of the matter often take a backseat and, to his chagrin, there’s not a whole lot John Murphy can do about that.