A&E’s Dec. 6th “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” the second of eight parts, deals with the concept of “fair game” in the Church of Scientology. As the docuseries explains, fair game is a policy within the Church that any enemies of the religion “may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” The policy’s officially cancellation in 1968 was strictly a PR move, it seems, and the practice has continued to the modern day.
But Remini’s show itself is playing its own fair game against Scientology. In a continued effort to highlight the horrors of the organization by shining a spotlight on individuals affected by it, this week the light falls on Mike Rinder, a former international spokesperson for the church who left in 2007 — after 46 years. After remaining silent for two years to protect his ailing mother from the stress of a familial fallout, as she’d remained, he finally spoke out publicly about his experiences in 2009.
Rinder discusses some of those experiences this week, the most interesting of which are perhaps his accounts of repeated beatings by church leader David Miscavige during his time in the organization. Rinder also reflects on his life after breaking from the church, including the time he discovered his garbage man was being paid by a private investigator to steal his trash. On another occasion, he discovered a hidden camera in his neighbor’s birdhouse that was being used to watch him. These revelations are, in a way, a “fair game” tactic of his own — if the church can launch a search-and-destroy mission against Rinder, it’s only fair Rinder fire back, albeit in a more truthful and damning way.
What’s particularly striking, though, is that the episode — and series as a whole — makes an effort to ensure a fair game for the church. While it would be convenient to present Remini’s story and mission by itself, the show also includes official responses to its information by the Church of Scientology, padding the show with official statements from the organization for a more balanced perspective.
While this tactic does help avoid any legal issues that a notoriously litigious group is likely to raise, it’s clear that the program is interested in more than just covering its bases. In fact, the show begins with Remini reading a statement from the Church of Scientology about the show itself, and the excerpted statements from the church that bump in and out of commercials also include a link to where the full documents can be read on A&E’s website. Including these earns the series a sense of trust with viewers, which in turn helps Remini get her point across — and gives the viewer a “Serial” frisson of being somehow involved, as well.
The biggest disclosure comes from Rinder himself, who admits that his time with the church found him spearheading the very same kinds of “fair game” operations that now plague him and his family: “Part of my job was to discredit and destroy critics who spoke out against the church,” he says, explaining the tactics he oversaw, which included following church “enemies” 24/7, digging up dirt on their personal life, and vilifying them on the internet.
Rather than hurt Rinder’s case against Scientology, these confessions actually strengthen it. Rinder’s candor promotes not only trust, but sympathy as well. With what we’ve learned so far about the power and opportunistic allure of the church, we get the sense these actions were the result of a man who was helplessly dominated by an ideology and church he’d known all his life.
Consequently, the episode is more reminiscent of “Intervention” than “Dr. Phil” — honest stories of wrongdoing, made understandable by extreme circumstance and unsound mind. Rinder certainly feels remorse, and that feeling extends beyond his actions on the job and into his personal life: “My biggest regret,” he explains, “Is that I caused two children to be born into and raised in Scientology. I effectively lost them because I brought them into the world and raised them as Scientologists.”
All in all, Remini & Rinder played very fair this week — and as more victims of the church are introduced, one thing in particular sets “Scientology and the Aftermath” apart from the religion it’s rallying against: Nobody’s trying to trick you here.
The eight-part “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on A&E.