The Leftovers S03E06 Recap: 'Certified'

The gist of Amy Brenneman's character on The Leftovers is a simple question. How can a therapist help people if she can't help herself? For three seasons, Laurie Garvey has suffered mostly in silence. Literally in silence for the first season, where she played the part of a Guilty Remnant member who may or may not of been aware of that irony. In the second, mostly away from her loved ones as she learned how to be part of society once again. And now, in this third and final season, Laurie finds herself somewhat of a spectator to everyone's nonsense.

Kevin is off with his disciples writing a sequel to the bible, Norah is probably looking for an extravagant way to kill herself, and she's stuck in the attic of a house Googling people who need to make themselves feel better about their dead loved ones. Yet no one's ever asked Laurie why she suffers. We've known it for a while. She literally watched her unborn child depart in front of her very eyes, a complicated scenario exacerbated by a feeling that she didn't want another baby. So while her husband and father-in-law go crazy, she can't say anything, and then forces herself into silence about it all.

It's only at the end of this week's phenomenal episode, "Certified", that she finally reveals her secret to Kevin, a mere hours before he's going to attempt to kill himself in order to go to where the departed are learn a part of a song someone there knows so that his dad can stop a biblical flood from wiping out the other 98% of the population. This after she leaves Matt with Nora, who finally confirms that she doesn't want to take those physicists' clandestine radition machine down, but instead use it so she can finally get closure about what happened on October 14th.

Needless to say her problems, her hang-ups, however legitimate they may be, pale in comparison to everything else that's going on. But that only makes her struggle even more devastating, unable to tell people how she truly feels, what she truly thinks. And interestingly enough, despite our perception of what she was up to this entire season, she winds up attempting to stop neither Nora nor Kevin from going through with their insane actions. She merely seeks to confirm that they're doing what they want to do. Nora is 100% certain of herself, Kevin is not afraid to die. So who is she to stand in their way? Especially after everything she's done. So she sits and listens, and then, just like in the first scene of the episode, she presumably tries to kill herself.

Laurie is a unique character in that she recognizes her faults. She knows she's weak. Twice in this episode we see her take the advice of two titular certifiable people. First, a patient who lost a son and wonders if the Guilty Remnant is more capable of providing her with answers then her conflicted, speechless therapist. Then, Nora's, who shares an elaborate plan to kill herself if she were ever to do that, in which she would turn the wrong nozzle whilst scuba diving, easily passed off as an accident and sparing her family from any unneeded heartache (you can tell that Nora has thought about this a lot).

Of course, whether or not Laurie actually killed herself at the end of this episode remains unclear. I doubt we'll ever find out if she actually went through with it or not. And her phone call with Jill and Tommy is likely the last we'll ever hear of them as well. It's left open to interpretation, but at this point we should know that this is exactly the point of the show. It doesn't really matter. Laurie's wonderful, insane, whirlwind arc has come to an end. She's accomplished everything she needed to, and if we were to leave her on that moment, falling over the side of a boat with an impending storm, then that's beautiful and meaningful in its own way.

That's not the only reason "Certified" is brilliant. Laurie's final moment is preceded by a handful of brilliant scenes that could easily enter this show's pantheon. First up is Kevin Sr. explaining how disappointing their version of the last supper is, with not only several Apostles but also their Jessu missing in action, before falling into a discussion about what role everyone would play. Laurie jokes that she's obviously Mary Magdalene, but Senior says that's Nora, and that she's instead Thomas, so she labels herself as Judas, just as we find out that she's laced everyone's dish with dog tranquilizer, under the guise of a plan to ruin their plan to kill Kevin, when in fact she merely wanted to talk to him. And that scene delivers in every way, as they share stories of their marriage, before she finally reveals her aforementioned secret, says goodbye and takes her leave.

Sandwiched in between those is a devastating scene where she bids goodbye to Nora and Matt, as Nora describes an outing to a baseball game shortly after her and Matt's parents' death. She recounts an usher who deflated a beach ball to a chorus of boos from the crowd and wonders why anyone would want to do that job. Laurie slyly responds that if that person didn't deflate the ball, it would fall out onto the field and chaos would ensue. The obvious correlation being that Laurie had seemingly taken on the role of the ball deflater in this story, even though she winds up allowing everyone to have their chaos-causing ball of volleyball.

Laurie's character wasn't on this show very often, maybe to a criminal degree, considering Amy Brenneman's talents, but every time she popped up she caused an impact. "Certified" not only gives this character her due, but it also ties her into the main storyline somewhat perfectly. Interestingly enough, season 3 Laurie is still very much the plot device she mostly was in the first season, but this time she's a much more fully formed character, and the episode gives her her due. Much of the season has been about Nora and Kevin's struggles with potential suicide, but in "Certified", Laurie usurps those struggles for herself, in the same way she takes her patient's and Nora's suggestions.

"Certified" may be a high point in a season of The Leftovers which has so far taken place on the top of a mountain range, and that's why it gets 10 elegant ways to kill yourself out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • I don't have much to add to this thought, but this episode felt like the most "Lost-y" episode of The Leftovers yet, likely due to the storytelling structure with the flashbacks/flash-sideways, or whatever you want to call them. But I absolutely love that kind of storytelling, filling out the blanks as it went on.
  • We finally get an answer as to why that naked French naval officer set off a nuke. The Old Testament told him that there was an egg in a volcano would hatch onstensibly a Kaiju that would destroy the Earth. Matt dryly responds that the Old Testament isn't meant to be taken seriously and that the "seven-headed monster is a metaphor", which is of course hilariously ironic considering that, up until last week's episode, at the end of which his beliefs get a wake-up call upon seeing a man perpetrating himself to be God get eaten by a lion, he was aiding and abetting a plot to murder the second coming of Christ (for which he had written a gospel) in order to prevent a flood of biblical proportions. But Matt's sane and repenting now, so...
  • The episode begins with an excellent string quartet cover of Metallica's "Wherever I may Roam" by Apocalyptica, followed by Gravediggaz "1-800-Suicide" over the credits, continuing this season's incredible run with licensed music.
  • "Tell me what to do."
  • "If I was going to kill myself I would just go scuba diving."
  • "Tomorrow's a big day. We should all be with family."