There’s a moment toward the end of the Dec. 13th episode of A&E’s “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” where Leah finds herself frustrated with her progress toward affecting change.
She has just heard former Scientologist Mary Kahn reflect on how she remained in the religion and climbed its ranks despite not believing in it for a long time, simply because she knew that leaving the Church would force her son to disconnect from her. Over time, Kahn realized the Church’s injustices and decided to separate after all — only to lose the son that she fought so hard to keep in her life. Recounting that story drove Kahn, Remini, and others to tears, and Remini carried the weight of the story with her after the interview.
“This is not something fun. This is not a fun project,” she explains. “If I’m not actually doing it, I’m thinking about it; trying to find other stories… There’s all these sacrifices [making the show]… and you at least want the payoff. Like, something. But we’re getting nothing.”
Fellow ex-Scientologist Mike Rinder assures Remini that the lack of results isn’t necessarily bad: “It doesn’t mean that it’s never going to happen because it hasn’t happened yet,” he tells her. “That’s kind of what battles against abuse like this are always like. It doesn’t change overnight.“
But while Rinder is correct, Remini’s progress report on the show is somewhat misplaced. It may seem from a distance like they’re getting nothing, but they’re really moving steadily forward, inch-by-inch, with every story they tell.
Will the series end in some sort of takedown of the Church, or a sit-down with someone in charge? No, probably not. But Remini’s show was never about a “payoff” — it’s about informing people, in the hopes of preventing others from joining or staying with the Church.
The real change that Remini is affecting is a subtle one that occurs every time a voice is given to the victims: Someone who was once forced into silence is now standing up and speaking out. As much as Mary Kahn’s interview was about getting through to her now-estranged son, its real purpose was to get through to the general public.
One of the Scientology terms introduced in the episode is “declared.” When a person is labeled by the Church as an enemy or suppressive person, they’ve been “declared.” It’s a fitting term for “Scientology and the Aftermath,” because it’s exactly what everyone involved is doing: Declaring their stories. Putting their foot down. Planting their flag.
Every victim who tells their story is doing exactly what the Church of Scientology did to them when they left: They’re declaring themselves enemies of the Church — and when the victims are the ones doing that, it’s an empowering thing.
There’s your payoff.
The eight-part “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on A&E.