In The Leftovers S03E04 "G'Day Melbourne", Nora Durst was asked a question by the physicists, Dr. Eden and Dr. Bekker to evaluate if Nora should be allowed to go into the LADR / Departure machine. Related dialogue:

Dr. Eden: Two infant twins are born. One of them will grow up to cure cancer, but only if the other one dies now. You don't have to kill the baby yourself, but you do have to nod to make it happen. Do you nod?
Nora: If I nod, how will the baby be killed? Will it suffer or is it gonna be quick and painless?
Dr. Bekker: Quick and painless.
Nora: Are they mine, the twins?
Dr. Bekker: Irrelevant.
Nora: It's relevant if you want me to answer your fucking question.
Dr. Eden: They're not yours.
Dr. Eden: Please just answer the question.
Nora: Kids die every day. What's one more?
And I get to cure cancer?
Of course I nod.

In the previous episode, S03E03 "Crazy Whitefella Thinking", Kevin Garvey Sr. encounters a man dousing his own car and then himself in flammable liquid and was about to light himself on fire. Related dialogue:

Kevin Sr: Man, what are you doing?
Man: They didn't take me.
Kevin Sr: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down, slow down. Let's just talk for a sec.
Man: They didn't take me.
Kevin Sr: Buddy, they didn't take most of us. You're not alone, trust me. But that was seven years ago.
Man: Would you kill a baby if it would cure cancer?
Kevin Sr: What?
Man: Would you kill a baby if it would cure cancer?
Kevin Sr: No.
Man: That is exactly what I said.

The man then burns himself to death. It seems that the man was also evaluated like Nora, if he should be allowed into the Departure machine and was rejected too.

Nora answered "yes" while the man Kevin Sr. met answered "no" and both were rejected. What's the purpose of the question if both possible answers are wrong anyway? What kind of answer or reaction are the physicists looking for?

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    I have seen none of this show, but (and I assume actual answers will clarify this point further) keep in mind that there's more than these two extreme ways to engage a question. – Napoleon Wilson Dec 3 '19 at 15:18
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    Isn't that just a version of trolley and people on tracks? Where the "proper" answer is the one that is not provided but you need to came with it by yourself. – SZCZERZO KŁY Dec 3 '19 at 16:05
  • Personality tests don't have binary right and wrong answers. They simply highlight character traits. What makes you think that there is a "correct" answer, or that this one particular answer is the sole decider of the outcome? – Flater Jun 4 '20 at 17:04
  • @Flater "What makes you think that there is a "correct" answer" I am not asking for the "correct" answer, but the purpose of asking the question. Was this a personality test like you mentioned, or something else? – galacticninja Jun 5 '20 at 7:00

Here's what Leftovers co-creator Damon Lindelof said in an interview with Alan Sepinwall, published shortly after the finale aired:

[Sepinwall] What answer did the scientists want about killing the baby? The guy in the VW who burns himself alive gives one answer. Nora gives the other. Both are rejected.

[Lindelof] I think that the question of “What did the scientists want?” is not the operative question. Here are two other more interesting questions to ask, potentially. Question number one is, what are they measuring when they ask this question, and as a codicil to that, is the actual verbal response relevant to whatever it is they’re measuring? I would just rephrase it that way. I’ll say, what they are measuring is attachment. Both of them gave answers that suggested to the questioners that they were still attached.

[Sepinwall] You finished shooting the season in September…

[Lindelof] You’re not going to ask me what Mark Linn-Baker said when he was asked the twin baby question? That pinata is just hanging there.

[Sepinwall] Fine. What did Mark Linn-Baker say when they asked him?

[Lindelof] I’m not telling.

[Sepinwall] (Expletive deleted)

So it seems that the co-creators are maintaining a level of studied ambiguity on what the "right" answer would have been. However, Lindelof indicates that the scientists were not just evaluating this answer on its content, but also on the emotional and psychological affect displayed in them.

Beyond that, it may remain a mystery; and as all we know from this show, we may have to let the mystery be.


I would need to rewatch it again for the full context, but I think the question presents a couple of things for the viewer to take away:

It at first is about Nora's and The Man's morality which is being questioned/contested and not necessarily because either did or didn't take a pro-choice and/or quality of life or 'the many over the few' approach to the problem, but most likley because neither didn't ask a lot of questions or hesitate in finding other solutions, or showed universal empathy.

And While Nora did ask questions about the nature of the Child's end, she also was strongly compelled by her bias when she asked if they were her twins and made a point of her own personal needs, but then once they said they were not hers, she was extremely dismissive, saying, "Kids die every day. What's one more." She ultimately showed a lack of empathy for children who are not hers...

A simplified interpretation then might be that it was a question about "playing God". That perhaps in the preview of the scientists, they felt that candidates that are more honest in either "not knowing" what the solution to problem like that is or rejecting the solution outright, as the only possible solution, and/or showing empathy and consideration for all life makes sure that they wouldn't affect the other reality with preconceived notions of their own belief system or bias, as the the twins are probably a metaphor for the two realities or parallel universes. It was an ethical question to determine how one might react to what they find on the other side.

This also goes hand in hand with the season finale too, in terms of plots reflectively turning into metaphors,

as we don't really know what the truth is of Nora's experiences, nor does it matter, because Nora has always been this walking contradiction that just needed to be to accepted, because of what she feels, not necessarily because of what anyone knows or doesn't know of what she's done. And it's that faith in the unseen that could also be translated into a type of innate love that much humanity has been built of off.

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    "They didn't even ask about "how" the child would die" Actually, Nora did ask how the child will die. She asked "Will it suffer or is it gonna be quick and painless?" I'll try to edit more of the dialogue in my question. – galacticninja Dec 4 '19 at 2:21
  • Ah, I didn't remember that and relied on the dialogue and context you originally provided. I may have to delete my answer, unless I can find something more substantial from Damon Lindeloff. – Darth Locke Dec 4 '19 at 13:33
  • I've reworked it a bit. – Darth Locke Dec 4 '19 at 14:27
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    I might be wrong but I remember the answer itself was irrelevant, similar to the Voight-Kampff test in Blade Runner. – Luciano Dec 5 '19 at 13:56
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    @DarthLocke: Concerning "finding something from the EPs", I found an interview with Damon Lindelof where he (coyly) addresses this question. I've posted a separate answer with the quote. – Michael Seifert Mar 8 at 15:27

The "acceptable" answer is "my moral judgment, to a hypothetical question, has nothing to do with my ability to decide on where i want to be/go" there are quite a few ways to decline to answer and to elaborate - like "how do I know whether other baby has qualities greater then curing cancer?" or just "just how do i know which future line to pick?" ... either way, at least according to the screenplay, one needs to show that they know something either about moral, or about physics, or about "relativity" of both - asking "are the twins mine?" is so irrelevant (as Bekker puts it) that it shows an average or (for the purpose) too low IQ


It's drama, not reality. The scientific process is notoriously difficult to dramatise as the intellectual adventure is in the mind, and the practical achievements is not the stuff of which makes for great drama or film (which obviously has nothing to do with its actual importance in human society).

Thus dramatists and film-makers often invent 'dramatic' incidents such as this to add colour, incident and heft to their work.

It's comparable to Shakespeares witches in the opening scene of Macbeth or the ghost of Hamlets father at the beginning of Hamlet. Shakespeare here is not interested in the reality of witches or ghosts, they're there to add drama. Likewise, here.

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    This answer seems to be a bit generic. To clarify and relate this more to this particular TV show, are you saying that the purpose of the question is that it's a scientific process to gauge the potential participant's fitness to use the LADR machine? And that the purpose was specifically made unclear to make it more dramatic? – galacticninja Jun 5 '20 at 7:32
  • @galaticninja: I don't understand your question. It's not particularly clear what you are trying to say. And I don't think you have understood what I'm saying either. – Mozibur Ullah Jun 5 '20 at 9:32
  • @galacticninja: if you want to understand what I'm saying can you add a real-life incident where such a discussion, exactly as described in your post, has come up? – Mozibur Ullah Jun 5 '20 at 9:43
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    Yes, it is unclear to me how your answer relates to the TV show I asked about, and to the scenes I mentioned, in particular. Are you saying that Nora Durst's interview with the physicists has no significance and that it is just to add drama? As per adding a "real-life incident exactly as described in my post", I believe that is irrelevant as I am asking in the context of a work of fiction. Note: I am the asker of this question you posted an answer to. I am just seeking clarification on your answer. – galacticninja Jun 5 '20 at 10:32
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    Sorry but that just confuses me further. Why would I, the question asker, need to provide a real-life example to understand your answer? If you have examples in mind, make it clear, provide it in your answer yourself. I am interpreting your answer as (basically): "The question asked to Nora Durst (and its relevant scenes) are not significant. They are just there to add drama." If this is incorrect, I am requesting that you clarify. – galacticninja Jun 5 '20 at 10:58

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