I recently wrote about Leah Remini’s riveting new docu-series on A&E, Scientology and The Aftermath. If you’re not watching it, you should be. Remini takes on the behemoth cult with a tenacity that hasn’t been seen publicly before. With former Scientology executive Mike Rinder by her side, the King of Queens actress takes the viewer through all the individual aspects of the church and how it affects it’s members.
Last week, the third episode in the series aired. “The Bridge” covers the mechanics of Scientology, the materials, the pricing structure and the requirements of “moving up the Bridge.” Christmas preparations and a nasty tooth extraction kept me from watching the third episode when it aired, but as I caught up last night I knew I had to write about it.
“The Bridge” is probably the most emotional episode to date, and it deserves to be noticed.
I have been obsessed with the cult of Scientology since I was a young girl reading L.Ron Hubbard stories in science fiction magazines. I’ve watched every available piece of footage on the organization and I’ve probably watched HBO’s Going Clear about six times already. I have never heard anyone explain Scientology the way Remini does.
“The Bridge” begins with Remini taking the crew through her home, to a “library” where she has stored all her Scientology material over the years. Hundreds and hundreds of books, binder, DVD’s, and cassettes. She estimates she spent tens of thousands of dollars on materials over the years…materials that every Scientologist is required to buy. Imagine you’re not a Hollywood star on a hit sitcom and being required to invest that much money in order to become a better person. It’s an overwhelming thought.
Of course, the materials are always changing and being updated and members are required to purchase each new revised series. Some book sets could cost as much as $4,000.
Ms. Remini explains it is all nothing more than a scheme to extract as much money from the members as possible. She admits to paying millions of dollars herself, and estimates that even the poorest parishioners fork out at least $250,000 over their lifetimes.
“Scientology is a business.”
Perhaps the most moving part of the episode comes when Remini and Rinder travel to meet Mary Kahn, an ex-Scientologist who had once reached OT 8, the highest possible level of “The Bridge.” Without spoiling too much, Mary becomes extremely emotional as she talks about her journey as a Scientologist and how she stayed longer than she wanted to for fear of losing her sons to the cult’s “disconnection” policy.
As the middle-aged mother began to weep for what she’d lost, Rinder – sturdy, stoic Mike Rinder who has also been forcibly disconnected from his Scientologist children – began to weep as well, at which point Remini demands the crew stop filming so everyone can grieve for a bit. It wasn’t staged or forced. The viewers are faced with the raw reality of what this organization does to people, to families, to sanity. It is real and it is devastating.
Remini takes pains to reminds us that these are real people, good people with good intentions. Yes, the “church” is insane but the reason they can corral all these people into doing such insane things is that they really believe they’re doing good. They sacrifice their money and their time and even their families because they absolutely believe they are changing the world for the better. Scientology exploits their need to do good.
Remini has a knack for explaining the bizarre nature of Scientology in a way that is deeply personally and shockingly transparent. In all of my hours of viewing and reading about the church, I have never heard anyone explain it all quite like she does. The mind games, the tricks to extract more money, the mindset of a person who would agree to all of it in the first place – it is dramatic and illuminating.
As I said in my initial review, if you are not watching this show you should be. You may be watching the end of a cult right before your eyes.
Episode four airs tonight on A&E at 10 EST.