What’s been compelling about past installments of A&E’s “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” is the personal and insightful stories it delivers — but the Dec. 27th episode kicks things into high gear, and a bizarre new direction: It marks the first time that we see the defense campaign of Scientology up-close and in real time, in the form of two private investigators trailing Leah Remini and Mike Rinder.
Remini and Rinder notice two SUVs following them on the road and, upon confronting one of the drivers, are told he’s with TMZ. As Rinder explains, the men likely checked his and Remini’s flight records to find out where they were. Rinder eventually confronts the men and, while they deny everything, a tracking of their license plates later confirm that the identities as private investigators, presumably working on behalf of the Church.
As we’ve consistently seen, the mission here is more to intimidate than anything — but Leah throws down a proclamation to her camera crew: A mission statement for the series, and a message of hope for ex-Scientologists everywhere:
“It doesn’t intimidate me — it makes me want to retaliate!”
While these sequences provide “Scientology and the Aftermath” with some exciting action, they’re also crucial in depicting how bluntly absurd Scientology’s tactics can be.
A conversation with former Scientologist Marc Headley — once a staff member at Scientology’s on-site film production company — later reinforces that absurdity. Recounting his escape from Scientology’s international headquarters on a motorcycle, Headley describes being followed by an SUV from the Church and run off the road, eventually escaping successfully after causing a scene that sparked police intervention.
Marc’s wife, however, paints a more somber depiction of the abject extremes the Church promotes: Claire Headley explains that having children while in Scientology’s Sea Org program is prohibited, so any woman who becomes pregnant is forced to have an abortion. Seeing her painfully recall being pressured into terminating her own pregnancy, we’re reminded that the Church of Scientology’s egregious behavior is not limited to the glaring scare tactics of its henchmen — it also encompasses a moral depravity of corrupt and unconscionable policies.
We can be thankful, at least, that such corruption inspires Remini to “retaliate” — rather than folding in on herself, as we’ve seen so many do — and hope this show does the same for others.
“Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on A&E. Next week’s episode is about auditing, and the finale is Jan. 10.