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‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini’s Emmy-winning A&E series

 
Even after winning two Emmy awards for excellence, we’re still stunned that Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath happened at all. Three full seasons of revelations about Scientology, never shying away from telling things in detail, and trusting viewers to absorb Scientology’s most arcane and most sickening aspects.

Here’s an episode by episode guide to this amazing feat pulled off by Leah Remini, Mike Rinder, and the A&E network.

 
SEASON 1

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Season 1, regular episode 1, “Disconnection”
First aired: November 29, 2016

Leah’s episode about Amy Scobee and Mat Pesch was especially emotional because she had managed to film Amy’s mother, Bonny Elliott, just before Bonny died of cancer. Bonny’s explanation of how Scientology had forced her to choose between Amy and her husband, Mark, was a powerful way to introduce Scientology’s toxic policy of disconnection. Amy also described being raped as a 14-year-old Scientology mission staff member by an older male coworker, something the church covered up. We followed up with Amy, and then interviewed Mark, who had been left out of the episode. Scientology retaliated against the episode with an attack website that included a video about Leah. She explained to us, however, that the video actually had a fascinating connection to Katie Holmes. And this episode caused another rather stunning response from the church: Scientology attorney Gary Soter warned A&E about airing the episode, claiming that in her rape, Amy had been the “sexual aggressor.” We’re still shocked that more media hasn’t picked up on this story.

 

 
Season 1, regular episode 2, “Fair Game”
First aired: December 6, 2016

This episode focused on Leah’s sidekick, former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, as well as Mike’s wife, Christie Collbran. They live not very far from Scientology’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida, and they’ve been the subject of some intense surveillance by Scientology operatives in recent years. Mike shared video showing him catching private investigators paying sanitation workers for his garbage bags, for example, and he also found a camera aimed at his house that was hidden down the street in a birdhouse. The day the episode aired we provided a number of links to other past stories about the ways Rinder has been harassed and followed by Scientology private eyes. In the version of the episode we saw, Christie Collbran also got to tell heartbreaking story about being disconnected from her own parents once she left Scientology’s Sea Org. But that portion didn’t get broadcast when the episode was edited down and aired. But you can now see Christie’s portion at A&E’s website and we highly recommend it.

 

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Season 1, regular episode 3, “The Bridge”
First aired: December 13, 2016

Leah and Mike explained the basics of the “Bridge to Total Freedom” to series executive producer Alex Weresow. Then they heard the story of Mary Kahn, who had joined Scientology in the 1970s and had loyally moved up that Bridge into the expensive upper levels before she started to have doubts. And that’s when things got ugly. Scientology pressured her husband David to divorce her, and she also knew that if she continued to pull away from the church she might lose contact with her younger son, Sammy. She described the nightmare she went through subjecting herself to intense Scientology interrogations only so she could hold her family together before finally she had to walk away entirely, and her son then walked out of her life. We interviewed Mary and David, and we also spoke to their older son, Michael, who had not appeared in the episode. When the episode aired, Scientology added a vile attack on Mary Kahn to its smear website, and it included a video of Sammy, Mary’s son, doing his best impression of a North Korean P.O.W.

 

 
Season 1, special episode 1, “Ask Me Anything”
First aired: December 19, 2016

By this time, the series had turned out to be such a hit, A&E was scrambling to find ways to seize the moment. It had begun showing “sneak peeks” of episodes on Monday nights, and on Monday Dec. 19 it broadcast an entire special episode that had been quickly put together only the week before. It featured Leah and Mike answering viewer questions from the Reddit website. But Leah also took advantage of the situation to have on several special guests. Our readers are very familiar with journalist Paulette Cooper, who was the subject of our book The Unbreakable Miss Lovely. We thought Paulette did a great job rapidly laying out the basics of her very complex story — in 1971, she became one of the first people to publish a book about Scientology, and she nearly paid for it with her life. By bringing her on, Mike and Leah were paying homage to the people who had come before them to expose Scientology’s abuses. Leah and Mike also spoke to former Sea Org member Chris Shelton, whose videos show up regularly here at the Bunker. Karen de la Carriere was once married to the president of the Church of Scientology, and she described what it was like when her son died after he had disconnected from her, and the church wouldn’t even let her see his body. Her current husband, Jeffrey Augustine, talked about his blog, where he focuses on Scientology’s underlying documents and contracts.

 

 
Season 1, regular episode 4, “A Leader Emerges”

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First aired: December 20, 2016

Tom DeVocht, Jefferson Hawkins, and Ron Miscavige helped Leah and Mike develop a picture of how David Miscavige took over Scientology after the death of L. Ron Hubbard in 1986. They caught up with DeVocht in Seattle, where he moved a couple of years ago and is raising his young daughter Ellie. DeVocht revealed that one of the things which began his disillusion with Scientology after so many years in its Sea Org was hearing David Miscavige talk about having to gin up “OT 9” from random papers left behind by Hubbard. Hawkins told Leah about what it was like to get pummeled by Miscavige, who would jump on his lieutenants, fists flying, even though he is not a very large man. Ron Miscavige and his wife Becky Bigelow described escaping from Scientology’s Int Base in March 2012. Ron later learned that his son was paying private investigators to watch his every move, paying them $10,000 a week. But that’s not what motivated him to write his memoir, Ruthless, which came out last May. Ron explained it was when he realized that his daughters had disconnected from him on David’s orders that the became determined to write his book. We wrote much more detail about the crisis in the Miscavige family last year, and revealed that a surprising figure involved in it was none other than Lisa Marie Presley, who encouraged Ron to write his book.

 

 
Season 1, regular episode 5, “Golden Era”
First aired: December 27, 2016

Marc and Claire Headley have been favorites of ours since we interviewed Marc about his 2009 book Blown for Good. Both raised in Scientology, they were a married couple at Gold Base, also known as Int Base, the 500-acre international management compound near Hemet, California. Both of them witnessed all kinds of amazing Scientology history there — Claire supervised the auditing of Tom Cruise, for example, and watched the church spying on him. In the episode, Marc explained to Leah and Mike how for years he had helped put on large Scientology events, and so he knew that the numbers David Miscavige cites at these events are exaggerated. Then Marc and Claire told their harrowing escape story, and Claire described being forced to have an abortion in the Sea Org. Claire previously appeared in a terrific film about Scientology’s forced abortion policy put together by the Tampa Bay Times. Also in this episode, we see Leah and Mike dealing with private investigators stalking them on their trip to Denver to see the Headleys. Before the episode had aired, Leah told us about one private eye they had managed to identify, former disgraced cop Daril Cinquanta, and we managed to get him on the phone.

 

 
Season 1, regular episode 6, “Auditing”
First aired: January 3, 2017

We were familiar with the story of Aaron Smith-Levin; we had interviewed his mother, Gayle Smith, for a lengthy story, and Aaron had become a regular contributor of videos to the Underground Bunker. But we really weren’t prepared for how well Aaron would tell his story and how much Leah and Mike managed to cram into this hour of television. The story of Aaron’s twin brother, Collin, is not a simple one. But Aaron managed to tell it quickly and clearly, helping viewers to understand how young Scientologists get caught up in the pursuit of “technical perfection” as auditors, and then can become disillusioned and drop out, with the result of families being ripped apart. Of all the emotional moments of a very emotional series, Aaron describing what it was like to learn that the brother he had been separated from by Scientology had died in a car accident was the one that has stayed with us the most. The night the episode aired, Scientology predictably posted a website attacking Aaron, but he fired back, explaining to us how the page was full of distortions and exaggerations. It was one of the most effective dismantling of a Scientology attack we’ve ever seen.

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Season 1, regular episode 7, “Enemies of the Church”
First aired: January 10, 2017

We have pointed out numerous times that Scientology should not be going near anyone with a history of mental illness. And the Reisdorf family story sure proved that all over again. Brandon Reisdorf had an undiagnosed bipolar condition, but his family were Scientologists and so it the last thing they would consider doing was get him help from psychiatry, which Scientology hates with a white-hot fury. Instead, they subjected him to Scientology’s quack cure, the “Instrospection Rundown,” which meant locking him up in a room 24-hours a day and denying him any sensory input. It only made him worse, of course. Then, when his parents were declared enemies of the church, Brandon and his brother Craig had difficult choices to make. Brandon stuck by his parents, but his brother chose to stay with the church and disconnected from the family. In a manic episode, Brandon reacted by driving from San Diego to Los Angeles to throw a hammer through the window of Scientology’s L.A. org. As his father Gary pointed out, any other church might actually try to get Brandon some help. But Scientology pushed for Brandon to be charged with a hate crime — vandalism of a “place of worship,” which was a felony. Leah and Mike’s interview of Brandon was a real highlight of the series. The night the episode aired, Scientology posted an attack page on the Reisdorfs that included video of Craig, Brandon’s brother, and we found it to be one of the strangest P.O.W.-style “attacks” yet. Leah and Mike also talked to three journalists about what they’ve been through trying to report on Scientology — the BBC’s John Sweeney, videographer Mark Bunker, and the proprietor of this very website.

 

 
Season 1, special episode 2, “Ask Me Anything Special, Part 2”
First aired: January 17, 2017

Leah and Mike answered more questions from viewers, including whether celebrities are treated differently in the church, and how Scientology views homosexuality. And once again, Leah took the opportunity to bring on more special guests. Author Lawrence Wright did a beautiful job taking apart Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s “stolen valor,” showing that Scientology had produced fraudulent records trying to convince him that Hubbard had been awarded combat medals that his actual war record proved he never received. Attorney Ray Jeffrey talked about what it was like to face the legal onslaught of Scientology’s unprincipled attorneys when he handled the defense for Debbie Cook in 2012. We ran through some of his other cases when we previewed his appearance on the show. Cult expert Steve Hassan broke down when he told Mike Rinder how much it meant to him that Rinder, who was once such a fearsome operative for the church, was now doing what he could to make up for those years running Scientology’s “Office of Special Affairs.” And Leah broke down too, thinking about how far they had come this season, and how much the huge support of fans had meant to her.

 

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Season 1, special episode 3, “Merchants of Fear”
First aired: May 29, 2017

What really impressed us about this special, which aired several months after the previous episodes, was the opening segment when Leah and Mike once again took the time to educate viewers about Scientology concepts, in this case the iron-clad L. Ron Hubbard policies that have produced such a toxic, unrelenting organization that tries to hunt down and destroy its critics. Then, they brought on some great examples of those critical voices, with journalists Bryan Seymour, Mark Ebner, and Janet Reitman, attorney Ford Greene, professor Stephen Kent, and former Scientologist Len Zinberg.

 
SEASON 2

 

 
Season 2, regular episode 1, “Thetans in young bodies”
First aired: August 15, 2017

Leah starts out the second season with an explosive look at child abuse and its cover-up with the stories of Mirriam Francis and Saina Kamula. We followed up with them and found that despite Leah’s efforts to get the LAPD involved, their cases appear to be going nowhere.

 

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Season 2, regular episode 2, “The ultimate failure of Scientology”
First aired: August 22, 2017

The second season doubled down on emotion with the stories of Aaron Poulin and Tayler Tweed, two young Scientologists who ended their lives in violent ways. To tell their stories, Leah talks to Aaron’s widow, Marie Bilheimer, and Tayler’s friend, Lauren Haggis, who also happens to be daughter to director and former Scientologist Paul Haggis. And once again, we’ll encourage you to read more about Marie’s larger story about how her family was twisted and torn apart by Scientology.

 

 
Season 2, regular episode 3, “The perfect Scientology family”
First aired: August 29, 2017

Philip Gale was a child prodigy, and part of a four-generation Scientology family that seemed to be the epitome of success. But Philip’s sister, Liz Gale, explains to Leah how horribly wrong everything went, from her brother’s suicide on L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday in 1998 to her own estrangement from her mother, who chose Scientology over family.

 

 
Season 2, special episode 1, “The Bridge to Total Freedom”

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First aired: September 5, 2017

During the first season, Leah was vocal that she only wanted to focus on Scientology’s alleged abuses and not talk about its beliefs. But thankfully she changed her mind, because this show, the first of the round-table “special” episodes of season two, was shockingly effective for such a deceptively simple setup. With the help of former auditor Bruce Hines and her own mother, Vicki Marshall, Leah took apart Scientology’s secret upper-level teachings in devastating manner, and with lots of needed humor.

 

 
Season 2, regular episode 4, “The rise of David Miscavige”
First aired: September 12, 2017

Today, Scientology is run by a ruthless dictator named David Miscavige. But how did he get there? Leah and Mike talk to John Brousseau in his first ever television interview. JB was once L. Ron Hubbard’s personal driver, he was David Miscavige’s brother-in-law for 16 years, and he also did work for Tom Cruise. This is a guy who was up close and personal as Miscavige was taking over. And they also talk to Gary Morehead, who from 1990 to 1997 was chief of security at Int Base, and not only witnessed some of the most abusive policies Scientology dishes out, but also carried them out. This was one powerful night of insider dope.

 

 
Season2, regular episode 5, “Scientology and celebrity: The betrayal of Paul Haggis”
First aired: September 19, 2017

Scientology is a tiny organization that gets much more press than it probably deserves. Why? Because of its glittering celebrities. So this episode was long overdue as Leah and Mike spoke to a former Scientology celebrity recruiter, Karen Pressley, and to two-time Oscar winning director and screenwriter Paul Haggis, who spent more than 30 years in the church. If you saw the HBO movie Going Clear and think you already knew Paul’s story, you really weren’t prepared for how aggressively he puts his former fellow Scientology celebs on this spot in this terrific episode.

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Season 2, regular episode 6, “The ranches”
First aired: October 10, 2017

After taking home an Emmy award for its first season, the show took a well-deserved brief break and moved to a new time slot. Then it came back with a vengeance. In this episode, Tara Reile and Nathan Rich detailed their terrifying experiences at a series of ranches operated by Scientologists so that busy Scientology parents could get rid of their problematic children. Treated like human garbage, Tara and Nathan spoke for many other “ranch kids” who are coming forward now to name and shame people like Wally Hanks, a ranch operative who happened to die while the season was airing.

 

 
Season 2, regular episode 7, “The greatest good”
First aired: October 17, 2017

Let’s face it. In this country, Scientology is a very white and middle- to upper middle-class phenomenon. But Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta reality star Mimi Faust demonstrated in this show that Scientology is just as capable of ripping apart black working-class families as well. Christi Gordon also appears and describes yet another family destroyed by an organization that teaches that children are just ancient beings in small packages.

 

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Season 2, special episode 2, “The business of religion”
First aired: October 24, 2017

Mat Pesch worked in finance at Scientology’s Flag Land Base where the highest “technology” in the church — the processes for separating suckers from their money — is a high art. In this second round-table discussion, Mat outlined how the vulture “registrars” target church members, and Jeffrey Augustine shows how that fleecing is then wrapped in ironclad and draconian contracts so that Scientology has control of its victims coming and going.

 

 
Season 2, regular episode 8, “Lifetime of healing”
First aired: October 31, 2017

In this episode, Leah weaved her own personal story with the harrowing adventures of her two close friends, Chantal Dodson and Sherry Ollins. All three of them, to one extent or another, suffered at the hands of parents who put more of themselves into Scientology than into caring about their own kids. And although Sherry has been out of Scientology for more than a decade, Chantal’s defection was much more recent, and set up the surprising result in the following episode.

 

 
Season 2, regular episode 9, “Aftermath of the aftermath”

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First aired: November 7, 2017

This emotional episode reflected what we’d been seeing for nearly a year now — a huge result from Leah Remini’s efforts. There’s just almost no comparison to a year ago, when it comes to the number of people affected by Scientology who are now coming forward and speaking out. Sure, some of them are still taking precautions and not revealing their identities in public, but the results we’ve experienced here at the Underground Bunker are nearly overwhelming (and we can only imagine how much Leah and Mike are hearing behind the scenes). And here was a perfect exclamation point to illustrate the new reality: Chantal Dodson’s mother, Ramina Nunnelee, after watching HBO’s Going Clear and then Mirriam Francis’s story in episode one of this season, decided to leave the church and reunite with her daughter. What a way to make the point that Scientology really is in serious trouble.

 

 
Season 2, special episode 3, “Propaganda arms”
First aired: November 12, 2017

Your proprietor was fortunate enough to join Quailynn McDaniel and Fred Oxaal in a round-table discussion with Mike and Leah about Scientology’s various front groups, including Narconon and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. Fred helped Scientology put on a positive face for the public with its “The Way to Happiness” booklet, and Quailynn served with the “Volunteer Ministers” to bring Scientology propaganda to disaster sites. Mike is particularly good in this episode as he explains that Scientology’s “good works” are really all about deceiving church members and getting more of their money.

 

Season 2, special episode 4, “The Life and lies of L. Ron Hubbard”
First aired: November 14, 2017

With the help of Hana Whitfield — who was once “deputy Commodore” — and biographer Russell Miller, Leah and Mike use their final round-table discussion to puncture the myths of Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, which have been used for so long to convince credulous believers that there really is something to Scientology. We especially appreciated that the episode not only tore apart Hubbard’s lies about himself, but also took the time to go through the facts about his wives and children, facts which the church has tried to hard to erase.

 
SEASON 3

 

 
Season 3, special episode 1, “The Jehovah’s Witnesses”
First aired: November 13, 2018

A terrific special episode focusing on the ways Jehovah’s Witnesses find themselves subjected to practices that are a lot like the same controversies in Scientology.

 

 
Season 3, special episode 2, “Emotional aftermath”
First aired: November 18, 2018

From our preview — “Leah Remini and Mike Rinder sit down with members of their own families to talk about how leaving Scientology has taken a toll on all of them.” Featuring Christie Collbran, Vicki Marshall, and Leah’s sisters Nicole and Shannon.

 

 
Season 3, regular episode 1, “Star witness”
First aired: November 27, 2018

Season three’s regular episodes started with a bombshell, the story of Valerie Haney, who worked so closely with David Miscavige, she knew she’d never be allowed to leave Int Base. And so she escaped by hiding in the trunk of a car.

 

 
Season 3, regular episode 2, “Spies like us”
First aired: December 4, 2018

In this extraordinary episode, former Scientology spy Cierra Westerman describes what it was like to surveil the church’s ‘enemies,’ and one of those targeted, Robert Almblad, described how Scientology spies tried to destroy his business, for the sin of giving Mike Rinder some work.

 

 
Season 3, special episode 3, “Unlikely pairing”
First aired: December 11, 2018

Not only did this episode describe the bizarre relationship between Scientology and the Nation of Islam, but we also learned about the untimely death of someone we really admired, Tiponi Grey.

 

 
Season 3, regular episode 3, “Where is Shelly?”
First aired: December 18, 2018

Janis Gillham Grady and Tom DeVocht help Leah and Mike look for Shelly Miscavige, who vanished from Int Base in late summer 2005.

 

 
Season 3, regular episode 4, “Ideal Orgs”
First aired: January 1, 2018

Paul Burkhart and Bert Schippers explained how Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs’ program is a crazy ripoff of church members.

 

 
Season 3, special episode 4, “The collection agency”
First aired: January 8, 2019

Carol Nyburg, Heather Ruggeri, Mark and Stephanie Fladd, and Tyler Adams describe incredible cases of being ripped off, injured, and generally abused, whether they were brand new to Scientology or had been decades-long veterans.

 

 
Season 3, regular episode 5, “Gilman Springs Road”
First aired: January 15, 2019

Amy Scobee, Jefferson Hawkins, Marc & Claire Headley tell Leah and Mike about the bizarre realities of life at Int Base.

 

 
Season 3, regular episode 6, “Buying a town, part 1”
First aired: January 22, 2019

Guests Mark Bunker, lawyer Denis deVlaming, and former county magistrate Pinellas County assistant attorney Betsy Steg helped Leah and Mike tell the story of how Scientology took over Clearwater, Florida’s downtown in order to turn it into its “spiritual mecca.”

 

 
Season 3, regular episode 7, “Buying a town, part 2”
First aired, January 29, 2019

In part 2, Mark Bunker dramatically demonstrated how much Clearwater police jump to Scientology’s beck and call. Clearwater’s mayor denied that the town was subjugated, and Clearwater’s police chief took the unusual step of making a public statement.

 

 
Season 3, regular episode 8, “Church and state”
First aired: February 5, 2019

Guests Boston University professor Jay Wexler and Bay Area police Lt. Yulanda Williams. From our preview: “As a tax-exempt religious organization, granted by the IRS in 1993, Scientology not only avoids paying certain taxes, but it also has vast legal protections that tend to frighten off law enforcement and the courts from digging into allegations of abuse. But how did we get here? Does Boston University School of Law professor Jay Wexler think there’s a way to get the IRS to revisit that 1993 decision?”

 

 
Season 3, series finale, “Waiting for justice”
First aired: August 26, 2019

Wow, did Leah and Mike finish off their run at A&E with a dynamite special episode. We want to say it again: It seems like a miracle that Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath happened at all. Three full seasons of revelations about Scientology, never shying away from telling things in detail, and trusting viewers to absorb Scientology’s most arcane and most sickening aspects. And last night’s finale episode was no different, featuring Chrissie Carnell Bixler, Serge Gil, Victoria Locke, and Bobette Riales talking about their victimization by Scientology and how hard it is waiting for justice to come.

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