The Dec. 20th episode of A&E’s “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” brought us three new stories of people formerly involved with the Church of Scientology, each offering compelling stories of life inside and outside of the organization. Among them were Tom DeVocht, a former member of Church leader David Miscavige’s senior team, and Ron Miscavige, David’s own estranged father. But it was an unassuming remark from Leah herself that proved the most quietly powerful moment of the week.
Leah’s first interview was with Jeff Hawkins, a former Sea Org member who worked alongside Miscavige and created Scientology’s popular TV ad campaigns during the 1980s. While he offers a gripping look at his experience in the organization, the most interesting thing the interview accomplishes might be putting Leah’s own story into perspective.
Hawkins explains that after leaving the Church, he was driven to find out as much as he could about it: “I was obsessed with finding out what the heck went on… I had so many questions, because you’re not allowed to ask those questions in the church. I think everybody goes through that.”
Remini’s response bordered on revelatory: “I’m still going through that. I am constantly on the internet looking at these stories, and they’re getting me to a point where I think I’m already going insane…”
With that answer, the context of the entire show shifts on its axis a bit. Its purpose is still the same — illustrating individuals’ experiences inside and outside of Scientology — but it’s also Leah’s journey, and we’ve just learned more about where she is in that journey, and what’s driving her to make this show.
We’ve known that Leah really cares about combating Scientology, and this series has always been her genuine attempt to do just that — but it’s also clear now that the series itself is one of Leah’s own coping mechanisms; a side-effect of her own disengagement from the Church. This doesn’t undermine or contradict her honest intentions in making the show — in fact, it clarifies and underlines it, if Leah herself is still reeling from her time inside.
Just as Jeff Hawkins did everything he could to question the Church, Leah is doing everything she can — using her platform and access to tell stories. It’s a journey that might seem foreign to outsiders, but is common among Church survivors — Leah’s celebrity status just allowed her the opportunity to have hers televised.
Over the course of the series so far, Leah has been a dependent and relatable host, and a sympathetic interviewer — but make no mistake: She’s as much of a victim as those she shines the spotlight on. As much as Leah is the host of this show, she’s also its most compelling subject.
The eight-part “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on A&E.