The Garveys when they were happy. (Paul Schiraldi/HBO)

Laurie speaks!

Well, in a flashback. Producer Damon Lindelof finally put his “Lost” prowess to good use and let “The Leftovers” go back in time three years to see exactly what happened leading up to the dreaded day, Oct. 14, when two percent of the world’s population disappeared without explanation. As a result, we finally get to hear Amy Brenneman’s speaking voice, as she’s been stuck in the silent world of the Guilty Remnant all season.

Anyway, even though we know that the world is about to come crashing down and ruin all their lives, it’s actually great to see that all of the miserable characters were somewhat functional at one point. Happy? Not so much, but definitely better off than they are post-Sudden Departure.

For example, the Garveys. At first, everything looks great. Kevin comes  home on October 13 after a nice long run — he smoked a cigarette from a pack that he taped under a mailbox, but whatever, who hasn’t done that? His wife, Laurie, is chatting on the phone and offers to make him breakfast. His daughter, Jill, is a bubbly, happy teenager belting out pop songs as she listens to her headphones. Sure, Kevin looks like he’s battling some demons, but he’s hiding it well.

They’re all in the middle of planning a party for Kevin’s father, still the police chief at that point, as he won some sort of Mapleton Man of the Year award. Kevin mopes around before he goes to work, and while he’s out, he hears screams from the nearby elementary school. He races over to save the day and finds that a deer ran through the school, shattering glass and terrifying everyone. Hmm, looks like Kevin’s been battling deer for awhile now.

No time to dwell on that animal symbolism, because it’s over to Laurie Garvey’s office — she’s a psychologist. Her first patient? Patti, the future Guilty Remnant leader. In her past life, she’s apparently a scorned wife (?) who has dire predictions about the future. “I think something terrible’s about to happen,” she confides. Laurie says Patti’s personal problems might be influencing her negative view. Patti is pretty convincing, though, which maybe explains why Laurie winds up becoming her devoted cult member later on.

Something else is going on with Laurie as she gets a mysterious call from the doctors office — she tries to cancel her appointment, but the doctor insists she come in on Oct. 14. Laurie looks upset by this, so decides to channel her nervous energy into possibly adopting a puppy. The woman running the puppy adoption is Gladys (RIP, Gladys) and very sweet as she urges Laurie to take home the cutest dog. But Laurie refrains, saying she needs to ask her husband.

Back to her husband: Kevin is sullenly sitting in a meeting at work — run by his father, Kevin Sr., the police chief — when everyone starts talking about the deer problem. Kevin Sr. advises to shoot it on sight if anyone sees it again, but Kevin Jr. doesn’t like that idea. Everyone starts making fun of Kevin’s attachment to the deer. What’s with this town and animal cruelty?

Kevin doesn’t have much time to dwell, because he gets a phone call that his son, Tom, is in trouble. Tom’s supposed to be in college, but he got drunk and went to visit his birth father, a guy named Michael. There was some sort of altercation and Michael — not too happy to hear from his estranged son — pushed him. When Kevin hears this, he flips out. He shows up at Michael’s house and beats him up, letting him know what will happen if he ever lays a hand on Tom again.

We don’t hear all the details about Michael, but it seems like something terrible happened between him and Laurie. Tom says he wishes that Kevin and Laurie never told him about his birth father. “Your mother thought it would be lying if we didn’t,” Kevin replies. That doesn’t sit well with Tom, who is angry that Michael gets to pretend he doesn’t exist.

They agree not to tell Laurie what happened. Kevin and Tom arrive home just in time to see Laurie and Jill in a very adorable mother-daughter moment, as Jill tells Laurie that she’s the best mom ever. It only makes it more depressing that Laurie will soon abandon her entire family. Anyway! Tom walks in and Laurie is thrilled — now the whole family is here to celebrate Kevin Sr.’s Man of the Year party.

Later, the party is in full swing at the Garvey house. Kevin Sr. gamely shows up, even though he hates parties. Even Reverend Matt gives a very nice toast, talking about how much Kevin Sr. has done for the town. Kevin Jr. also gives a speech, but it’s much more awkward; as people pop champagne and celebrate, he can’t help but look miserable.

Later, it’s time for some father-son bonding. “I think something’s wrong with me,” Kevin confesses to his father. “Why isn’t it enough?” Apparently, “it” means his perfect life: He’s got a wife, two kids and a great job, but it still doesn’t fulfill him. Kevin’s dad has an answer to why he feels so unhappy: “Because every man rebels against the idea that this is [expletive] it.” He says every man is in search of a greater purpose — but they just have to realize that there is no greater purpose.

That doesn’t exactly calm Kevin’s nerves. Later, he and Laurie get in a giant fight. She’s angry because she found out that Tom went to see Michael, and Kevin lied about it; he’s mad because he’s just frustrated with life in general. It’s one of those couple fights that escalates until it is horrible, and eventually Kevin gets an emergency call that someone else has a deer trapped in their house. He’s off to go rescue it, but not before tossing some choice expletives at his wife.

That’s when things start to get really weird. Kevin goes to the house where the deer is trapped; he tries to shoot it with a tranquilizer dart, but can’t bring himself to do it, and the deer runs out of the house into the street. Kevin runs over and sees a woman standing outside of her car, horrified that she just hit the deer. She’s especially upset because she’s just in town for a conference, staying at a nearby hotel, and doesn’t really need this whole incident on a business trip.

Somehow, she and Kevin share a meaningful look as he ponders the demise of this mysterious deer. He offers to give the nameless woman a ride back to her hotel when her wrecked car is towed. Out of nowhere, the woman asks, “Are you a good guy?” Kevin ponders this and answers no. She doesn’t look upset, and then, randomly invites him up to her hotel room.

While that situation is happening, Jill is at school, ready to participate in a science fair, while Tom tags along since neither of their parents seem to care about school activities. But really, that’s because Laurie’s in the doctor’s office waiting for aforementioned appointment. In a tragic bit of plot, she bumps into Mary, Reverend Matt’s wife — the one who suffers a nearly fatal brain injury when in a car accident moments after the Sudden Departure.

Now, she’s in the waiting room while Matt has some tests done. She and Laurie chat, and Matt eventually comes into the room, announcing that everything is all clear — and jokes to Mary that he just wants to go get drunk. Mary happily offers to drive, which is awful because we all know what’s about to happen in just a few minutes when she’s behind the wheel.

Finally, we learn the reason for Laurie’s doctor’s appointment: She’s pregnant and considering whether to keep the baby. She hasn’t told Kevin about the baby, and is very offended when the nurse asks if it’s his. The nurse begins the ultrasound and says the baby looks perfectly healthy. And that’s when Laurie hears the screams.

So, here’s the status of the Garvey family when the Sudden Departure occurs:

* Jill and Tom are in a circle holding hands during the science fair for some experiment, when all of a sudden, one kid just disappears from the circle.

* Kevin is having sex in a hotel room with the random woman who hit the deer; she disappears into thin air.

* Laurie is having an ultrasound — and although it’s not confirmed, from the expression on her face, it looks like the baby vanishes from the screen.

That’s traumatizing all around, and everything about the misery of the Garvey family starts to make a bit more sense.

And what about Nora Durst? On Oct. 13 she’s sleeping in bed with her husband, Doug, when their two adorable kids, Erin and Jeremy, come crashing into their room. A dog even jumps on the bed and they all look so happy. Again, Nora has no idea when her husband actually offers to take the kids to school that it’s because he’s sleeping with their teacher — but in the meantime, all is well.

We also learn a bit more about Nora and that right before the Departure, she was interviewing for a job as Mayor Lucy’s campaign manager. Back then, Lucy was considered a long shot to beat her opponent. “Barring a miracle, I don’t think you stand a chance,” Nora tells her bluntly. (Well, we all know what miracle makes her victory happen.)

Lucy looks intrigued. “Why do you want to do this, Nora Durst?” she asks. “Because I want to use my brain for more than figuring out which juice box is certified organic,” Nora explains. “I need something for myself.” Lucy’s concerned that Nora’s family will still be a distraction. But Nora assures Lucy that if she gets the job, during the four weeks leading up to the election, it will be like she doesn’t even have a family. (Foreshadowing!)

Then who should burst in the door but Kevin Garvey Sr.? He’s still police chief at that point, and clearly has something illicit going on with Lucy, as she quickly clarifies to Nora that the two are “just friends.” Okay sure, but Nora didn’t even ask.

Nora heads home and eagerly waits for the phone to ring about the interview. Through it all, her kids are driving her crazy and her husband isn’t doing anything at all, coming home late because of “work” but really because he’s having an affair. The next day, the kids are being especially annoying and Erin spills a glass of orange juice on Nora’s cell phone just as it rings, possibly for news about the interview. Nora furiously takes the phone over to the sink and starts trying to save it — and when she turns around, her entire family has just disappeared.

So, that’s all quite chilling. Plus, the strangest moment of the episode: When Kevin was on a run sneaking his cigarettes, he was sitting on a curb wearing a white t-shirt as a car filled with older women drove by. One rolled down the window and asked him “Are you ready?” Kevin looked at her like she was crazy. “Sorry,” the woman said. “I thought you were someone else.”

Uh oh — are we supposed to believe that the Guilty Remnant existed before the Sudden Departure occurred? Or that certain cult members knew it was going to happen? All questions for next week’s season one finale — knowing Damon Lindelof, none are likely to be answered.


Episode 8: Kevin vs. The Guilty Remnant

Episode 7: Father’s Day

Episode 6: Nora’s day out

Episode 5: Nothing like a grisly murder to kick things off

Episode 4: Who had the most miserable Christmas?

Episode 3: The most interesting character? Not one of the main ones.

Episode 2: Only two breakdowns, and that’s impressive

Episode 1: After a Sudden Departure, things are grim