‘The Leftovers’ Season 1 Episode 8 Recap: “Cairo”

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The Guilty Remnant remain the most intriguing group of people in The Leftovers, just slightly edging out the Garvey family (though Jill has a few heartbreaking moments) and definitely shooting above Holy Wayne and his increasingly boring storyline. The Guilty Remnant are fascinating because the dedication they have to their cause — a cause that no one is quite clear on — is so strong that it’s terrifying. They are dedicated to making the town feel loss (or, more accurately, to never stop feeling loss), they are dedicated to getting everyone on their side, and they are dedicated to do whatever it takes — even when it takes murder or suicide.

But first: Let’s talk about Jill. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, Jill is one of the better written characters on this show. She’s a teen girl with all the shitty baggage that comes along with being a teen girl and then she’s also still dealing with the aftermath of the Sudden Departure, the confusing friendship with Aimee, her father’s blackouts and his new girlfriend, her missing brother, and the knowledge that her mother has run away to another part of town but may as well be in another country.

Jill is wary of Nora, not just because she’s her dad’s new girlfriend who is now encroaching on family dinners (family dinners, it should be said, that also include Aimee) but also because she doesn’t understand how Nora is fine. She lost her husband and her two kids; she once kept a gun in her purse. But now she’s seemingly better — even letting Jill rummage through the purse to check for the firearm — and she’s happy with Kevin. She’s trying to make him happy, too, and reassures him that things are going to get better. This isn’t the Nora that we met early on but it’s the Nora she’s been since hugging Holy Wayne. She’s better but it’s worrisome.

I worry she could snap at any moment. I’m sure Jill worries about that, too. There is something so eerie about this drastic change, especially because I’m still not willing to buy Wayne’s claims. But maybe she’s just faking it until she makes it and maybe she’s desperate to force a change within herself. She still has the gun, though, hidden inside a box of the board game Trouble — another reminder of the children she once had. But more so than Nora, it makes me worry about Jill. She’s the one who discovered the gun after breaking into Nora’s house and it causes her to break down. She didn’t believe it but she wanted Nora to be better because then it means that there would be hope for her father or even for herself.

But The Leftovers doesn’t seem keen on being hopeful. This isn’t an uplifting show, but a troubling one about despair, depression, and loss. The optimistic scenes are jarring, as if they’re tossed in from a different show, and I know they’ll never last. Jill knows they won’t last, either and this — combined with her growing suspicion that Aimee is sleeping with her father — is too much. If her life is going to be full of despair then she’s going to embrace it. She shows up at the Guilty Remnant and asks if she can spend the night.

A bulk of the action in “Cairo” takes place in Cairo, New York with Kevin, Patti, and dog-killing Dean. During one of Kevin’s blackouts, he apparently attacked Patti and kidnapped her. He brings her to a cabin in the woods and ties her up. Dean follows all of his instructions. Dean also tries to kill Patti but Kevin stops him. Kevin isn’t sure what the hell to do: If he lets her go, she’ll tell the authorities (the actual authorities, as she puts it) but the only option is to murder her. He can’t do that — though I admit there was a point where I thought that he would; every scene in Cairo was filled with terror, causing my heart to beat a little faster.

Kevin does the good thing or, at least, the only acceptable thing to do after you have kidnapped a woman, and unties Patti, saying he’ll cop to everything that happened. That’s too easy for Patti, who has just freely admitted that she murdered Gladys — “She was OK with it” — and that she plans to do the same with Laurie with the time comes — she’ll be OK with it, too. Patti will do anything for this cause and Kevin gets in the way of that. She cuts her own throat open with a piece of glass and, though I saw it coming, I immediately had to temporarily shut off the episode. I’m not giving up on The Leftovers — I think the harrowing stuff is necessary — but I’m starting to understand why so many people are.