In his basement, Truman unlocks a trunk that contains various toys and souvenirs from his childhood. He looks through old photographs of his father. Meryl comes downstairs and Truman claims to be fixing the lawnmower. Truman tells Meryl that he saw his father on the street, but Meryl isn't surprised, because, she claims, Truman's mother called with the news. She brushes off the incident, keeping up her 'happy housewife' veneer. After Meryl is gone, Truman goes back to his trunk, his paranoia growing increasingly apparent. He removes a red sweater from a plastic bag and holds it tenderly. Cut to two diner waitresses who are watching this scene on a television screen surrounded by Truman memorabilia. These women are clearly invested in Truman's life, and one of them comments that "they got rid of her, but they couldn't erase the memory."
To explain, the TV show dissolves into a flashback of young Truman in a high school band uniform, watching a pretty girl, Lauren. He clearly has a crush on her, and they exchange smiles. Suddenly, Meryl appears, wearing a cheerleading uniform, and falls on Truman. She introduces herself and flirts, but Truman, distracted by the pretty girl, is ambivalent to Meryl's advances. The montage continues with a clip of Truman and Meryl dancing together at a school event next to Marlon and his date. They are all having a great time until Truman spots Lauren and starts watching her instead of Meryl. A few men in suits surround Lauren and hustle her away.
In the school library, Meryl and Marlon try to convince Truman to hang out with them, but he has to study. After they leave, Truman notices Lauren's hand resting on the opposite study carrel. He approaches her and they finally meet. Lauren says she is not allowed to talk to him, but assures him that this is not her decision. He admires her pin, which reads "How is it Going to End?" Truman asks her to go out for pizza later in the week and she tells him that they have to go now or it won't happen. The vignetted frame tries to keep up with Truman and Lauren as they run to the beach, laughing. While they are standing near the waves, Lauren tells him that they don't have much time, and Truman kisses her.
Suddenly a sedan barrels onto the beach. Lauren, suddenly panicked, tells Truman that everyone knows everything he does and they are all pretending. He doesn't understand. She tells him that her real name is Sylvia. A man gets out of the car and tells Truman that he is Lauren's father, while Lauren keeps insisting that everything is fake. The older man tells Truman that Lauren has schizophrenia and that she "brings all her boyfriends" to the beach while shoving her into his car. As they drive away, "Lauren's Dad" tells Truman that they are moving to Fiji, while Lauren/Sylvia screams protests out the window, telling Truman to come find her. Truman watches them leave, dumbstruck and heartbroken. He notices that Lauren has left her red sweater behind and keeps it.
Back in the diner, which we now see is called "Truman Bar," one waitress explains to the other that Truman did not follow Lauren to Fiji because his mother got sick and he's so kind that he could not leave her behind. Cut back to Truman, present day, as he buries his face in Lauren's sweater. He flips up the lapel, which still bears the "How's it going to End" button. He picks up a framed photo of Meryl and opens it up - on the back of Meryl's photo is a collage of different facial features ripped out of women's magazines - Truman's attempt to recreate an image of Lauren. He hasn't been able to get the eyes right, but now, he finally has a match. Cut to the real Lauren/Sylvia, deeply touched while watching this private moment on television.
The next day, Truman is driving his car to work, shot from the same camera angle as always - indicating a hidden camera behind the car stereo. The radio suddenly gives way to voices on a walkie-talkie, instructing the extras to stand by, and indicating Truman's exact position. As soon as Truman realizes this, he swerves, and the voice panics and demands a change of frequency. Truman realizes that he has just heard something he shouldn't have heard, even as the radio announcer attributes the interference to a police scanner.
Truman is about to enter his office, but suddenly decides not to go inside. He takes in his surroundings through a new lens of paranoia, slowly retreating from his morning routine. Later, Truman sits on a bench and observes the people of Seahaven. At one point, he is almost hit by a bus, but it stops just short of him. Truman puts out his hand, and an approaching car stops at his command, as well. He breaks into a run and barrels into a nearby building, saying he has an appointment at Gable Enterprises. The Security Guards scramble to keep him away from the elevators, but he manages to glimpse a craft service table and some waiting extras behind one of the elevator doors. The security guards drag Truman outside despite his protests.
Truman runs to the market where Marlon works and finds his friend stocking a vending machine. Truman insists that he is on to "something BIG" and tries to explain what's happening, but Marlon laughs it off. Later, Marlon and Truman watch a spectacular sunset from the beach. Truman asks Marlon how far he has ventured off the island, and Marlon says he has gone all over, but there's no place like home. Truman tells Marlon in confidence that he's going away for a while.
Truman, still raw and paranoid from his recent discoveries, looks through childhood photos with Meryl and his mother. Then, Meryl offers to drive her mother-in-law home so that Truman can watch his favorite show, "Golden Oldies." Truman flips through the photo album again wistfully, but is shocked to notice that in the photo of him and Meryl on their wedding day, her fingers are crossed. The next day, Truman tries to confront his wife, but she hurries out the door. She claims that she is needed in surgery because many people were injured in an elevator crash in the Gable Enterprises building.
Truman watches Meryl go and as soon as it's safe, gets on his bicycle, and rides off down the street after her. He arrives at the hospital and asks for his wife, but a doctor tells Truman that Meryl is in pre-op. Truman leaves a message for Meryl: he's going to Fiji and he'll call her when he gets there. Recognizing the shock on the doctor's face, Truman stealthily follows her through the halls of the hospital, dodging all the obstacles suddenly coming his way. Truman peers through the window at the operating theater, forcing Meryl and the "medical staff" to bungle their way through the fake "surgery."
In 1997, the year before The Truman Show came out, the Walt Disney Company created a New Urbanist Village called "Celebration" near Orlando. In theory, the town bore a close resemblance to Christof's design for Seahaven Island. Critic Douglas Cunningham compares Disney's philosophy behind Celebration to Seahaven: "It isn't fake, it's just controlled." Both these settings are based on a utopian ideal that comes from 1950s American idealism. Shows like "The Honeymooners," "Leave it to Beaver," "Lassie," and "My Three Sons" showed a vision of middle-class white suburbia. Later in the film, Christof calls "The Truman Show" a source of comfort for his viewers - he wraps Truman in a cocoon of nostalgia, "protecting" him from the diverse urban world outside Seahaven's walls.
Unlike the televised depictions of suburbia from the 1950s, though, Truman is trapped in Christof's version of utopia, which, in Cunningham's opinion, actually makes Seahaven a dystopia. This interpretation is compounded by Christof's totalitarian control over Truman's life. Ultimately, though, the drama from the show comes from the conflict between Christof's plans and Truman's natural desires. Even though the producers endeavored to keep Truman and Lauren/Sylvia apart, Truman's longing for his lost love has propelled one of the show's most beloved story lines.
The producers have gained from and celebrated Truman's heartbreak over Lauren/Sylvia, even though it was never meant to happen - but they also make sure to control it, only letting it go so far as to benefit the show. Earlier in the film, Truman makes a secret phone call from his office, trying to reach Lauren/Sylvia in Fiji. Soon thereafter, his coworker shows him a headline boasting that Seahaven is the best place in the world. Later, another coworker sends him on an assignment that involves his traveling on a ferry - reminding him how terrified he is of the water.
However, when Truman lifts Lauren's red sweater out of his trunk, the "Truman Show" feed cuts to a montage of their brief, illicit relationship. It becomes clear that Lauren/Sylvia was a distraction from Meryl, Truman's intended mate. When Truman asks Lauren out, she warns him that they have to go now or "it won't happen" - because the producers won't let it. As Lauren/Sylvia and Truman run out of the school, the cameras scramble to keep up with him. However, by the time they are alone on the beach, they are framed in a poetic over-the shoulder shot. They are allowed to have these stolen moments that make a deep impression on Truman's mind - but before he can actually comprehend what Lauren/Sylvia is telling him; she is whisked away.
To the producers, Truman's yearning for Lauren/Sylvia gives him a sense of purpose as an adult, fueling his wanderlust and his conflicts with Meryl about the future. For Truman, though, she represents unanswered questions - questions he might not yet even know to ask. The photograph of Meryl with the hidden image of Lauren/Sylvia on the back is indicative of the fact that even though Lauren/Sylvia is an actor, she made a real impact on Truman. Critic Maurice Yacowar writes, "The reversal of images shows the antithetical nature of the two women. Meryl is false, Sylvia is genuine; Meryl's image is whole but posed, while Sylvia's is made of pieces of other pictures, but represents the real woman Truman preserves in his mind."
Meanwhile, this section of the film marks Truman's growing awareness of a suspicious agenda, and he starts to get one step ahead of the show's architects. He starts behaving in a way that they cannot explain away with a radio announcement or a perfectly timed extra. Yacowar observes, "When Truman acts unpredictably, he forces actors to do what they were only pretending to do, like drive a bus or amputate the leg of a woman pretending to be anesthetized" (Yacowar). Truman is now pushing the limits of his show's artifice, and only the truth will stop him.