How last night’s ‘Leftovers’ accidentally became a ‘Mr. Robot’ tribute

Time once again for a bonus passage from my long “The Leftovers” interview with Damon Lindelof, this time with spoilers for both last night’s episode (here’s my review) and the first season of USA’s “Mr. Robot,” as we get into episode 2’s use of a familiar piece of music, coming up just as soon as I tell you what’s in the back of my truck…

I know that you were a fan of “Mr. Robot,” and when they did the episode where they revealed what the true nature of Mr. Robot was, they ended with an instrumental version of “Where Is My Mind?,” the Pixies’ song from “Fight Club.” You use the actual song in episode 2. When you saw the “Mr. Robot” episode, did that give you any pause about your usage, or did you just think, “I”m doing this kind of story, and I have to do this as a little hat tip to Fincher”?

Damon Lindelof: Well, a couple of things happened. We had basically locked our first three episodes by the time that episode of “Mr. Robot,” aired, and we actually used the piano version of “Where Is My Mind?” in episode three as well for a montage with Laurie. And it worked perfectly. It was super emotional and amazing and it resonated between Kevin and Laurie in this weird way, etc. So when we saw the episode of “Mr. Robot,” it was like, “God damn it.” The initial Pixies song, it was a nod to “Fight Club,” and it was like, “Oh God, this is so interesting that Sam (Esmail) is doing the same nod to ‘Fight Club’ at the same time that we are. This is in the zeitgeist.” At the same time yes, Andy Greenwald, who doesn”t need any more reasons to shit on “The Leftovers,” is going to have a field day on that. And you know what? Andy Greenwald is going to have a field day on “The Leftovers,” anyway.

But I did track down Sam to email him and basically say, “I just wanted you to know we”re using ‘Where is My Mind?’ We were using it before we saw ‘Mr. Robot’ and if people perceive it as a tip of the cap to ‘Mr. Robot,’ that”s just fine with me as your show is brilliant.” And I think that he was perfectly content with that email. So you know what? It”s out there, and ultimately in the here and now of watching “The Leftovers” when that episode airs, I”m sure that there”s a lot of overlap in “Mr. Robot” viewership and “Leftovers” viewership where people will perceive it as, “Oh god, they”re ripping off ‘Mr. Robot,'” and I”m fine with that. But ultimately, the show is going to live many, many months and many years from now, I hope, and so the correspondence musically, no one will have any real sense of. We cut the entire sequence of Kevin digging up Patti and all that stuff to the Pixies, so there was no going back.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at