'The Leftovers' Recap: Heroes Day

HBO’s newest drama series, “The Leftovers,” based on the book by Tom Perrotta, debuted on Sunday night.

From Executive Producers Damon Lindelof (“Lost”) and Perrotta, the series opened by introducing a large cast of interconnected characters still trying to make sense of things three years after the disappearance of two percent of the world’s population.

The premiere episode followed Mapleton Police Chief Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and the people of his town as they held the inaugural Heroes Day, a new day set up to remember and pay respect to departed loved ones, friends and neighbors. Viewers also met the Guilty Remnant, a cult-like group (including Amy Brenneman’s Laurie character) who wore white, chain smoked, and caused controversy with their silent actions. And outside of Mapleton, a storyline involved college dropout Tom (Chris Zylka), who has been working for some time, serving a “prophet” named Holy Wayne.

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Here’s how the episode unfolded:

October 14, Three Years Ago

A mom in Mapleton, NY, is having a bad day at the Laundromat. Her baby won’t stop crying, the machine won’t take her crumpled bill and the service person on the phone isn’t being particularly helpful. While on another call a short while later, the stressed mom puts the crying infant in the backseat of her car (next to a partially rolled down window). The baby looks up and seems to see something, but keeps crying. A moment later, while reaching down to grab an item from the passenger seat floor, the mother notices her son has stopped crying, prompting her to turn around. The car seat is empty.

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“Daddy,” yells a young boy nearby as a shopping cart rolls into the back of a parked car. “Where’s my dad?” the child asks frantically. The mom from the Laundromat can’t spare a moment to help. Her baby is missing. “Where are you? Sam?” she screams.

911 recordings reveal Sam and the boy’s dad aren’t the only ones gone. Millions — two percent of the world’s population — disappeared.

Three Years Later, October 13

Kevin: Jogging down the street in gray sweats (with the sleeves trimmed to his biceps) and a fannypack, Kevin (Justin Theroux) runs past trees with blue ribbons tied around their trunks. Spotting a dirty dog in the path, Kevin crouches down and calls it over. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he says. A bullet whizzes by, startling Kevin, and killing the dog. Turning around, Kevin sees a man with a large wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth (Michael Gaston) climb back into an unmarked truck and drive off.

Laurie: A number of people – all dressed in white – are sleeping on the floor. The snoring of someone nearby wakes Laurie (Amy Brenneman) up, so she lights a smoke.

Jill: A guidance counsellor on the loud speaker is offering her team’s services to anyone who needs to “talk it out” now that the Denziger Commission has presented their findings about that fateful October 14. Students don’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, but some get on their knees for the optional prayer for mercy, forgiveness, and “the return of those who left us.” Cool boy in school Nick (Jake Robinson) looks over at Jill (Margaret Qualley) and mimes killing himself with a gun. Jill smiles and mimes hanging herself in response. Nick turns away, unimpressed.

Tom: Sitting in a van on the side of the highway, Tom (Chris Zylka) is listening to some Patsy Cline when Congressman Witten (Brad Leland) climbs inside his vehicle. The politician hands over his cell phone (which he’ll get back after he talks to a mysterious “him”) and a large wad of cash. Tom hands Witten a blindfold and they drive off.

Kevin: Freshly showered after his run, Kevin (in a towel), watches (on TV) the hearings on the Denzinger Commission’s findings. A Senator is grilling the scientific group for coming up with no answers as to why 140 million people across the world disappeared three years ago.

Laurie: Brushing her teeth in a mirrorless bathroom, Laurie stares at lettering on the wall that reads, “We Are Living Reminders.” She finishes and heads to the kitchen for some grub, walking past another sign: “We Don’t Smoke For Enjoyment; We Smoke To Proclaim Our Faith.” Back in the main room, a man hangs up a clipboard revealing who from this white-clad wearing group will attend an event called “Heroes Day.” Laurie’s name is not on the list, so she takes it up with a supervisor type, Patti (Ann Dowd). “Why aren’t I on the list?” Laurie writes on paper. Patti tells her — also by writing on a notepad — that she can go.

Kevin: Getting out of his vehicle in front of a residence, Kevin is decked out in a Mapleton Police Department Uniform and Raybans. “I’m Chief Kevin Garvey,” he tells a woman who opens the door. “Garvey? I thought you went crazy?” she asks. “That was my dad,” he replies. Moving quickly on, Kevin lets the woman know he found her dog, Dudley, who is now dead. She is unfazed. The dog ran away three years ago and never came back. “He was my husband’s. He’s not coming back either,” she says. Walking back to the car, Kevin tosses the dog collar in the trunk atop Dudley’s remains. Speaking to an officer named Dennis over the phone, Kevin learns he is late for a meeting with the Mayor.

Tom: On the drive, Tom and the Congressman make small talk, the politician asking the young man why he’s not at college. A flashback reveals Tom saw two students commit suicide by jumping off a building, but Tom doesn’t tell that story. Changing the subject, Tom says Witten will feel unburdened after he meets someone named Wayne.

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Kevin: Kevin walks in as Mayor Lucy Warburton (Amanda Warren) is discussing the plans for the October 14th Heroes Day parade. A man questions the use of the word “heroes.” “They’re heroes because no one’s going to come to a parade on, ‘We Don’t Know What The F*** Happened Day,” the Mayor says. “We’re all gonna have a nice walk through town, have a good cry, and then move on. It’s time. Everybody’s ready to feel better,” she adds. “Not the Remnant,” Kevin points out. He thinks this group (also called the GR/Guilty Remant) are going to disrupt the parade. “They’re going to come tomorrow, and when they do, somebody’s gonna get hurt.”

Jill: Two folks in white (members of the GR) are watching as Jill elbows another player during field hockey. Coach tries to go soft on Jill – she knows it has been hard since the teen’s mom went away, but Jill can’t act like that. Jill promises to be good, as long as the other girl stays away from her.

Tom: Reaching their destination, Tom hands off Witten’s phone to a check point guard (cameo from episode director Peter Berg), and brings him up to the main house, where a woman leads Witten to Wayne (Paterson Joseph). Tom heads to the pool to give a sunbathing bikini-clad teen – Christine (Annie Q) — some gummy worms. As the two talk, Tom ignores a call that comes up on his phone from his dad, Kevin Garvey.

Laurie: The GR pass around folders containing intel on the residents in Mapleton, who they have been watching. Laurie spots a photo of a pretty young woman we’ll later learn is named Meg (Liv Tyler).

Jill: One more problem and the school will call her dad, Jill tells her friend, Aimee, as they sit outside smoking a joint. Aimee suggests they relax by partying later that night at the home of a kid name Dorfman. They’re given another option when Scott (Charlie Carver) pulls up in a Prius with his twin, Adam (Max Carver), but the girls decline the boys’ Ping-Pong and pot invitation. After a meat loaf dinner with her dad, Kevin, and Aimee, the girls head to the party in Kevin’s car.

Laurie: Laurie and a fellow GR member stand outside Meg’s house observing as Meg and her fiance get in a car and drive to dinner. They show up to watch at the restaurant too, unnerving the couple who are arguing about their impending wedding. Once more, after dinner, the GR women watch Meg and her fiance as they arrive home. A furious Meg storms over and slaps Laurie — hard — across the face. “Go away,” Meg screams.

Jill: At the party, Aimee and Jill are playing an iPhone app-style version of spin the bottle with racy options, including one suggesting people go off and get a room. It lands on Nick and Aimee, who says she won’t go (she knows Jill has a crush). Jill says it’s fine. Later, after losing interest in Dorfman’s party, Jill leaves alone, running into the twins, Scott and Adam, who are trying to find their car keys in the dark. “I think my dad might have some flares,” Jill tells them, opening her dad’s trunk. Surprised to see the dog’s remains there, they decide to bury Dudley. While they dig a grave, Scott shares some thoughts on a pack of stray dogs he’s heard about that live in the woods – dogs that saw people disappear. “They see something like that and they just snap,” Scott says. “They just go primal, man. Same thing’s going to happen to us. It’s just taking longer.”

Tom: Tom is fast asleep when Wayne (who previously helped the Congressman feel unburdened) comes in for a chat. “We need to talk about Christine,” Wayne says in his British accent. “She’s very important… and I need you to protect her,” Wayne adds, telling Tom to “keep her close, keep her safe, [and] keep your f***ing hands off her.” Before he goes, Wayne tells Tom he’s been dreaming about his son who disappeared, and his son told him in the dream that the time has come for something. “Grace period’s over, Tom. Time to go to work,” Holy Wayne adds, mysteriously.

October 14

Kevin: After a weird dream involving a deer, Kevin wakes up to the sound of his phone – he’s late for the Heroes Day parade. He gets ready and heads downstairs, shocked by the state of his kitchen, which looks to have been destroyed by an actual deer. With his car gone (Jill didn’t come home last night), Kevin has to walk to the parade, arriving just in time to butt heads with the mayor.

Heroes Day Parade

The parade kicks off without a hitch. There’s bands, a bagpiper, people holding signs of remembrance for their loved ones, and the mayor, waving from her seat on the back of a convertible. There’s one angry man preaching against the festivities – Matt (Christopher Eccleston) – who is handing out leaflets claiming that the fateful October 14 was no Rapture.

Eventually, the speeches begin, a statue is unveiled, children read the names of those who disappeared, and guest speaker, Nora Durst (Carrie Coon) – who lost her husband, son and daughter on October 14 – takes the podium. The crowd quiets to hear her happy memory about a nice day the family had at the beach, and another one where they were all sick at home. As she continues, the GR descends on the ceremony from the hillside. They stop and hold up signs reading, “Stop Wasting Your Breath!”

Just as Kevin predicted, the event takes a dark turn as parade goers drop their own memorial signs and quickly start attacking the GR members who do nothing to defend themselves. Kevin and his men try to pull back the crowd. “Hold the line,” he shouts when the officers get between the two groups.

October 14, After The Parade

Kevin: At a bar later that night, Kevin knocks back a beer while glancing at the TV news, which is showing the faces of the celebrities who disappeared during The Sudden Departure three years ago — Salman Rushdie, Condolezza Rice, Shaq, Jennifer Lopez, Anthony Bourdain, Gary Busey and Bonnie Raitt. The woman from the Laundromat (at the start of the episode) asks Kevin where he was when it happened. He lies and says he was cleaning out a gutter (his mind flashes back to a between-the-sheets moment with an unidentified woman). As the two begin to chat, Kevin spots a man with a lump of chewing tobacco in his lower lip, who plops a bottle down on the counter and exits the bar. Kevin runs after him, but the man drives off in his truck, leaving Kevin to scream, “You cannot kill our f***ing dogs!”

As Kevin looks around outside the bar, he spots two GR men and it sets him off even more. He jumps into his car, drives to a GR house and knocks on the door. “I’m looking for someone named Laurie. If you can tell me what house she’s in?” he asks. The man points and Kevin heads to the next home over, punching and knocking down a guy on the lawn trying to deter him from getting to Laurie.

“You okay?” Kevin asks Laurie, who has come outside. “You are not welcome here,” Patti writes on a note pad, which she shows to Kevin. “I’m trying to talk to my wife,” he says, looking at Laurie. “Please come home,” he pleads.

A large man hits Kevin and drags him back to his car. He looks up at Laurie (who doesn’t move), shakes his head and drives away, passing a taxi that pulls into the GR driveway containing Meg.

Meg: “I was wondering if I could stay here. Maybe for just a couple of nights?” Meg asks. Patti finally speaks, introducing her to Laurie, who will take care of her.

Kevin: Driving home, Kevin tries to reach his son, Tom, who is unable to take his call. A second later, Kevin spots the deer, slams on his brakes and gets out of his car. Approaching it cautiously, he asks the animal, “Were you in my house last night?” Silence is quickly broken by a pack of stray dogs, who appear out of nowhere to attack and tear the deer apart. Not far behind the dogs is the man in the truck. “They are not our dogs,” he says. “Not anymore.”

“Am I awake?” Kevin asks. “You are now, Chief,” the man replies, telling Kevin he should get his gun. The two men together start shooting the vicious pack.

“The Leftovers” airs Sundays at 10 PM ET/PT on HBO.

-- Jolie Lash

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