While Leah Remini has largely remained a step removed from the subjects of her A&E docuseries, this week's episode of Scientology and the Aftermath had her getting personal with old friends from her childhood in the Church of Scientology.
"I was guilty of disconnecting from my own friends because of Scientologist policy and it's not really something I've come to terms with," Leah said at the top of the episode. "I have a lot of emotions and guilt."
In an emotional reunion, Remini and her co-host Mike Rinder met with Sherry Ollins and Chantal Dodson, childhood friends of Remini who collectively spent almost 40 years as Scientologists before leaving the church.
Both Ollins and Dodson came to be in Scientology's Sea Org, or fraternal organization of the most dedicated members, as a young teen, after years being forced to work in the church's nursery or as a maid.
"I knew in my heart this is not right," Ollins said. "I just remember it being a very hard existence."
The Church of Scientology has disputed the claims Remini and her docuseries have put forth.
Ollins remembers meeting Remini for the first time in New York at a Scientology event and then again in Clearwater, Florida when Remini became part of the Sea Org.
The two friends remembered spending their early teen years in filthy Scientology dorms filled with roaches, trying to catch a moment to dance or act like the kids they were away from those who would report them for that.
“It was the first relationship where I could really share with another human being what I was feeling and not get a report written on me or get in trouble," Ollins said.
After leaving the Sea Org in their mid-teens, Remini and Ollins moved to Los Angeles, where they joined up with a crowd of other ex-Sea Org teens living without parental guidance.
“All these kids were just trying to make it, trying to eat," Remini said.
"We parented each other. We looked out for each other. We would not have survived without each other," Ollins added.
One of those kids was Dodson, who left the Sea Org at 16 to live on Ollins' couch. But two years later, she rejoined the organization with her new husband.
“Honestly, (it was) because it was all I knew and it was really, really hard being out," Dodson said. "You have no purpose, no education, no money."
She stayed in the Sea Org again until she was 23, when she left because the church decreed Sea Org members couldn't have children. At 31, she left Scientology altogether.
But while these friends had spent so much of their childhood as each other's rock, church policies tried to force them apart, especially when Ollins tried to go public with some of her problems with Scientology and Remini ended their friendship.
"Looking back on it now, she was doing what I'm doing now...with this show," Remini said. "I just didn't look."
Wiping away tears, Remini said she still has a hard time recognizing how she walked away from one of her best friends.
"I failed everything I supposedly represent in that moment," she said. "I didn't stand by my friend."
Photo Credit: Getty / Neilson Barnard