Gilbert: Michael’s response, “Holy shit,” seems fair (also apt, given that Kevin just crawled out of earth that apparently has miraculous properties). Like you, I was rapt during this episode, although I think I’m more veering toward the conclusion that it was some kind of purgatorial experience rather than a hallucination (not that it couldn’t be both, of course). For one thing, the location. If Kevin were fantasizing a life-after-death experience, I just don’t buy him as the kind of guy to make it happen in a soulless (pun intended), high-end hotel. For another, there were people there who Kevin had nothing to do with—the weeping priest in the elevator, the nurse speaking in a foreign language in the parking garage, the hooded prisoner in the cop’s uniform. The episode was told very much from Kevin’s perspective, but I got the feeling it wasn’t just his experience.
But what an experience it was! It was, in many ways, the prototypical hero’s journey. Here’s Joseph Campbell’s monomyth theory:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
Only time will tell what boons Kevin has to bestow, if any (with John Murphy on his case, he’s going to need them), but wherever he was, he decisively confronted not only Patti, but also his own existential crisis following the Departure. There we were, thinking Kevin was sneaking cigs like a normal married father-of-two, and all the while he was participating in a minor act of nihilistic protest, using cigarettes to remember that “the world ended.”
It would take a year to unpick all the symbolism in the episode—Gladys using glass cleaner on Kevin’s eyes, the bird in the lobby, the fire alarms, the Epictetus quote in the wardrobe (“First know who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly”). Epictetus’s philosophy was kind of a first-century version of the serenity prayer: Manage the things you have power over wisely, but have the serenity to accept that fate is external and cannot be controlled. Good advice for the post-Departure world, but not so much for Kevin wrestling his demons in some kind of celestial Westin. Essentially, when Kevin picked out his outfit, he was choosing his own adventure, adopting the persona of Jason Bourne over cop or holy man. Why? No idea.
But as much as this was Kevin’s hero’s journey, it was also Patti’s origin story. For the past two seasons Patti’s been a fearless, sassy provocateur and a thorn in Kevin’s side, significantly more so after her death, when she appeared to become a manifestation of his conscience and his doubts. But in the flashback episode from season one, we saw Patti before the Departure, a shadow of herself, riddled with insecurity and anxiety that something terrible was about to happen. Now, having met Patti’s worm of a husband and her much younger self, it seems that she was abused all her life in one way or another: thrown down stairs, told she was fat, stupid, that she talked too much. The Guilty Remnant’s enforced silence apparently comes from Patti’s experience on Jeopardy!, when her fellow contestant impressed her in the green room by refusing to talk to her before the taping, showing her the power of not saying a single word.