When last we saw Kevin Garvey, he was twitching in poison-induced death spasms, shortly before Virgil, the man who pledged to revive him, shot himself in the head. But Virgil’s grandson, Michael, appeared to assist—and this week, Michael’s only line of dialogue sums up the episode rather well: “Holy shit.”
“International Assassin” is totally nuts. That’s not a spoiler, since this is The Leftovers we’re talking about. But spoilers do follow.
Kevin wakes up just as confused as we are, submerged in a bathtub. (One of The Leftover’s constant themes is water, and the strange powers it contains; it’s emphasized over and over again in this episode.) Once he flails himself back to breathing, he selects a suit from the array of clothes in the closet, which is festooned with a small plaque: “Know first who you are, then adorn yourself accordingly.” One might be tempted to wonder what parallel plots might’ve spun out from any of the other available outfits, but Kevin unwittingly or not adorns himself as an “international assassin”—and his target is presidential candidate Senator Patti Levin.
The entire episode unfolds with the logic of a really intense dream, as Kevin is one minute fighting off another assassin who bursts into his hotel room—the next, rescuing a small girl who seems to be drowning in the pool (water again). The hotel is also an off-kilter place, where fire alarms are constantly triggered and a bird—not unlike the birds Erika has been known to make wishes on—flutters wildly through the lobby.
Kevin is reeling in WTF vibes until he spots Virgil, who’s the hotel concierge. At first, Virgil acts like he doesn’t know Kevin, but slips him a note; at their subsequent secret meeting, Virgil—who’s there ostensibly as Kevin’s guide, but also for “atonement”—tells him how he’s going to kill candidate Patti. It’s a scheme involving guns taped in toilet tanks, a la The Godfather, but it seems simple enough. There are a few rules, including “don’t leave your room” and “do not hesitate,” because Patti will try to deceive him. There’s also this: “No matter what, don’t drink the water.”
Kevin, of course, blows the first one when he dutifully exits during a fire alarm. We think he’s toast when a group of white-clad Patti minions grabs him and handcuffs him (Kevin, never free of his cuffs) to a chair, but it’s apparently part of a very rough vetting process before he can meet her. We learn he’s donated $50,000 to the campaign, a number that will be important later in the episode, as part of his ruse to get close to his target. They are Guilty Remnant members, so one of their questions is, of course, “Do you smoke?” “I smoke to remember that the world ended,” he replies, confirming for us that even in this weird upside-down reality, the departure happened and is part of history. That’s all it takes to get him out of any more questions, though as he’s leaving, Patti’s lieutenant calls him “Mr. Garvey,” not using his hotel-world pseudonym, “Mr. Harvey.”
Later, that same underling, who keeps offering water to Kevin (“Thirsty?”) shakes his hand and apologizes for the interrogation. It’s “water under the bridge,” she says. Water again. Kevin isn’t able to get to his toilet gun before he meets with Patti, which makes their bizarre conversation even more nerve-wracking. He sums up her campaign thusly: “You want to destroy families.” By bringing Laurie into the Guilty Remnant, she destroyed Kevin’s first family. And she’s just about destroyed his second, by tormenting Kevin so much that Nora leaves him. She roars with approval at this family-destroying sentiment, reels off a ditty about a man who left his kid in her care (which she then turned over to the state), and tells him “On October 14, attachment and love became extinct.” We must transform, she explains.
Patti has transformed herself already, it seems, because when Kevin finally gets his weapon, the woman he’s been talking to claims to be Patti’s double (“They found me on Facebook!”) He kills her anyway, but he knows it wasn’t really Patti when nothing changes—except Virgil, who really doesn’t know him the next time they meet. Virgil admits he drank the water. He also kills the lobby bird. Virgil’s staying put in this reality, apparently. (That gunshot would be pretty hard to come back from.)
But Kevin eventually figures out what he needs to do to be free. The little girl he rescued from the pool? She’s the real Patti, and the loutish older man she’s traveling with is Neil, Patti’s poop-fetish-having husband. He becomes the final person that Kevin kills in a realm where everyone is already dead. (Where do those people end up?) And little Patti goes with him willingly. She knows he’s going to do exactly what his father—who broke through dimensions via a static-y television missive from Perth, Australia—told him to do: “Take her to the well.” The fact that a face-painted Kevin Sr. is sitting next to a blazing fire...not a body of water...must be significant. Right?
Anyway, the well is in Jarden, so they drive straight there. “It looks different,” Kevin remarks, as the car stops on the bridge into town. In this version, it’s lit with barrels of fire. More fire. And there’s a man on the bridge, who grabs Kevin, puts a noose around his neck, and tells him to “Cross or jump.” He warns Kevin that if he kills the girl, he’ll never be the same. “None of this is real,” Kevin protests. “This is more real than it’s ever been,” the man answers. He then leans in with a whisper that we’re not able to overhear.
This whole episode is kind of a whisper that we’re not able to overhear, no? The final scene, after Kevin tearfully shoves the kid into the well, is particularly cryptic. Though a small girl goes down, an adult Patti appears at the bottom. Kevin climbs/falls in to help/confront her, and Patti tells him a long story about how she went on Jeopardy! to win enough money to enable her to leave Neil. The amount she sought? $50,ooo, of course. But even though she succeeded, she says, she still didn’t leave him.
Kevin leans in close, whispers something, then drowns her. As she dies (again) a quake rumbles, and Kevin is able to claw his way through falling stones, which turn into dirt, and emerge in the woods—where Michael awaits. “Holy shit!” he exclaims. What did it all mean? Are we to assume that Michael dragged Kevin from the trailer, buried him alive, and just hung out waiting for him to stir? Is Virgil well and truly dead? How did Kevin overcome the poison? And is he free of Patti forever, finally?
We’ll be waiting on next week, the penultimate episode, to find out. The preview for next week also suggests John Murphy has gotten the results back on Kevin’s palm print, and there’s going to be hell to pay.
So, those “It’s a Boy!” balloons delivered to a walking, talking Mary Jamison, glimpsed only at a distance down a hotel hallway. (It was difficult to see if she was still pregnant or not.) Is Mary living in the purgatory world while she’s in her catatonic state?
The agitated, Spanish-speaking doctor carrying a cooler of organs that keeps appearing at the hotel ... huh? Someone, help me out with that one!
Did they plan it so “International Assassin” would run the night before the JFK anniversary? Or should I put my tin foil hat away?