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Last night's episode would have been far more disappointing if it didn't feel like the show was inevitably due for a step backwards after last week's excellent single-storyline gem "Two Boats and a Helicopter." Sure, I was ready to get back to the Garveys and their goings-on, but something about "B.J. and the A.C." seemed loaded with the kind of weakly-written filler a series doesn't see until it's several seasons in. Not to be overly negative, though, the episode was punctuated with some more than worthwhile moments. So let's start with the good first.
For one, we're treated to one of the most emotionally heavy scenes of the series thus far when Laurie serves divorce papers to Kevin with Meg as the letter-reading mediator. Breaking up the tension of Kevin insisting his wife say it's over herself, Jill interrupts by handing a Christmas present to her mother. After leaving and unwrapping the gift to find it's a lighter engraved with the words "Don't forget about me." The inscription is a little ham-fisted (as is most of the episode), but the lighter is a clever gift from Jill, as if to say, "do you, Mom." Even if that means running off to her chain-smoking cult.
"You should keep that...I won't tell anyone," Meg says to Laurie about the lighter. But Laurie tosses it down the gutter on the side of the street. The question is, did she throw it away out of devotion to the Guilty Remnant's rule of not having any items that will remind them of their old families? Or was it just for show as Meg's mentor, knowing that she would go back later to try and retrieve it. Either way, Patti would not be happy to know one of her own has not yet been fully indoctrinated.
Perhaps the best moment of the episode came from Kevin and Nora Durst's flirtatious interaction at the town's Christmas celebration. Them getting together would seemingly tie together all the character threads in The Leftovers, and it would make sense, as they both are dealing with the sudden vanishing of their significant others, albeit in very different ways.
We've also got some particularly juicy details to chew on until next Sunday. Tommy's father is someone other than Kevin, and Kevin once cheated on Laurie.
Then there's Christine, Wayne's girl, who we learn is three months pregnant with his baby. Wayne stressed how important she was to Tommy, but could it just be because she's carry his child? There's something peculiar about Christine, and suspicion was only added when the strange half-nude clairvoyant British man saw her future in his dream before attacking her. It all seems allegorical to the story of Mary and Joseph, which would make sense given the running baby Jesus theme of the episode. Christine is Mary, Tommy is Joseph, and Wayne is God. Is the baby the antichrist? Is that what the A.C. in "B.J. and the A.C." stands for? Is that why the strange half-nude clairvoyant British man attacked her? We'll have to wait and see.
Luckily, all this information is enough to keep us sated until the next installment, because the rest of the episode felt nothing short of tedious.
Why is Tommy now questioning his devotion to Wayne? Has six weeks in Christine's "friend zone" driven him to the edge?
Is the Guilty Remnant's stealing everyone in Mapleton's family photos really a worthwhile endeavor, or more just them flexing their muscles? Do they think raising their profile by alarming everyone is going to help them better spread their word? They seem less like an organization that has goals and a message and more like trolls looking to give the police more excuses to hit them with batons and zip-cuff them.
We're beaten over the head with the baby Jesus storyline. In the first third of the episode, we wonder, "why is everyone so worked up over a plastic doll?" In the second third, we wonder, "why is Kevin so worked up about a plastic doll?" And by the end, we realize both Kevin and the town cared as little about the plastic doll as we did. Between bagels and toy dolls, things keep disappearing on Kevin and we have to watch him panic over them until he can feel like a complete, valid person again.
And then there's Jill. Her character is perfectly tolerable until she starts to party. Like the premiere episode, we get this view of how an angst-filled teenager behaves that makes if you wonder if Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta were ever in fact once teenagers themselves. Delivering a Nerf gun viking funeral to a lawn ornament seems like a good portrayal of a pyro-obsessed, always up to no good pre-teen boy, not a late-teens high school girl who's angry at her absent parents.
The last shot of the episode is Kevin tossing the doll from his car window, which makes him a surrogate for the audience. We'll be happy to never see it again if it means we can just keep moving along.
image courtesy of: Kristin Callahan/ACE/INFphoto.com