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ROOM 104: “The Missionaries” & “Phoenix”

By Jef Dinsmore on Oct 24, 2017 to Room 104

Room104_Door-150x150

We now peek inside the rented room to see who inhabits it in episodes 7 & 8 of ROOM 104.

— “The Missionaries”

This is the story of Noah & Joseph, two young Mormon missionaries who decide to test the boundaries of their faith. The question is, how far will they go? Now, you should really kind of see, in my opinion, where this episode is heading, but it is how it gets there that matters. But, the unfortunate part of this story is that you can’t tell it all in thirty minutes. We really don’t get to know these young men at all. Much of their personalities and lives aren’t revealed to us; there is just no time for it. But, what direction their lives might take after their stay over in Room 104 is opened to us.

Room104-MissonariesJosephNoah-300x169This is the story of Noah & Joseph, two young Mormon missionaries who decide to test the boundaries of their faith. The question is, how far will they go? Now, you should really kind of see, in my opinion, where this episode is heading, but it is how it gets there that matters. But, the unfortunate part of this story is that you can’t tell it all in thirty minutes. We really don’t get to know these young men at all. Much of their personalities and lives aren’t revealed to us; there is just no time for it. But, what direction their lives might take after their stay over in Room 104 is opened to us.

We meet the two as they return to the motel from a day out doing God’s work. They are not odd cult followers like the characters in “The Knockadoo” episode but are from the well-established Mormon Church. They are recognized as being from that faith because of their clothes, name tags, practices and behaviors. They were out that day, and every day they’ve been, there canvassing door-to-door as part of their mission work as they do. Each night they come back to Room 104 for downtime & sleep. There is Joseph (Nat Wolff of The Fault In Our Stars) and Noah (Adam Foster, this is only his third role) each with their own opinions and ideas. Noah’s ideas at the onset are ones of doubt after a frustrating day at their task. He questions whether it would not be better giving their money to orphanages then paying for motel rooms and wasting valuable time going door-to-door. The quick response is prayer. In doing so they ask for a sign from God. That is a common enough approach for the faithful – prayer and direction. However, the sign they receive is the TV kicking on and blaring out a hardcore adult flick. And that gets the ball rolling for sure.

Noah is totally conflicted by the ‘sign’ they were given, but Joseph dismisses it because he accidentally sat down on the TV remote. Noah is intrigued by the images he saw and the urges he felt and even confides that he sampled a hard stimulant once – coffee! I guess you have to understand their belief that imbibing even in that drink is not acceptable. The result is that the seed of doubt is strongly planted. Noah’s behavior, however, has an effect on Joseph – he, in turn, wishes to explore his urges also.Room104-Missonaries01-300x169

In the middle of the night, Joseph had slipped out of the room and we see him return with a six-pack of beer. He wakes up Noah and they muster the courage to try it under the pretext that if they sample sinning and understand its meaning and affectations it can only make them stronger in their faith. So they down three beers each and having bodies never subjected to alcohol they get drunk quite easily. That sin down and inhibitions dropped they turn the porn back on and, while on separate beds and under their pillows, they masturbate to it. Another sin down and what next?

Joseph wants to take the exploration further but Noah has had enough. It is a role reversal from how the episode started. Joseph has one more urge to play out. You may have guessed from the simple episode description or the trailer where this might lead, but in watching the episode you certainly know what thought is on Joseph’s mind. In an unexpected moment, Noah pushes Joseph away only to have Joseph’s head glance off the nightstand and knocking him out. Noah tries to revive him thinking he is dead then we cut to black. Is this the end of the episode?

No, it isn’t. Joseph comes around after Noah’s ardent prayers are answered. Is this another sign? Has this terrifying incident bonded these young men? Have they learned a lesson? Have they compromised their faith? You won’t get all the answers here, you need to see the episode for that, but I will answer that last question. Their faith has been strengthened by their experience & conversation in Room 104 and it took no paranormal weirdness to make it so. But still, you can’t help but wonder if there is a power that happens between those four walls.

 

— “Phoenix”

Now I don’t know about you but anytime I see the word ‘phoenix’ I think either of the state of Arizona or the mythological thunderbird that rises from the ashes. Couple that with the one sentence description and let’s see what we come up with even before we see one frame of footage. The description reads -In 1969, the sole survivor of a plane crash is faced with a decision: go back to the life she had or seize the opportunity to start anew.

Okay, did the plane go down over Arizona? Is the life she led back in the capital city of the Grand Canyon State? Or is her chance to ‘start anew’ like the rebirth of the mythic bird? Well, I think the answer to all Room104_Phoenix-300x169that is quite obvious, right? However, we need to watch the episode to see just what path she chooses.

First, a quick shout out for taking Room 104 back to 1969. It just was a nice look that changed up an episode. Secondly, it is a no-brainer that the episode ties to the mythical icon, but with the quirky twists, this series gives us it could have been about the state thus, my pondering of the title. Anyway, to the nitty-gritty. Joan, played by Amy Landecker is our plane crash survivor. Somehow, fresh from the crash she had ended up in the motel room. She is shell-shocked, achy, sore, distraught yet alive. She spends time staring at the TV, turning away housekeeping and trying to sleep. Finally, she reaches out, but it is not to her husband & children, but to her extra-marital lover (voiced by Spencer Garrett). He and everyone thought her dead because according to the news there were no survivors. Not handling that conversation well she hung up.  

Some time passes before another presence comes to the door. After an intense talk through the door, Joan lets Liza (Mae Whitman) in. She claims to be there to help Joan. Joan ultimately wants help so lets her in. Liza knows details about Joan so Joan thinks she is a reporter. However, Liza does not push Joan for details on who she is or how she came to be the sole survivor of the crash. Instead, she goads Joan to make a crucial decision about where she goes from here. We think what is being asked of her is to choose between her marriage & family or starting anew with her lover. But, those choices only serve as metaphors for the real decision in front of her. Now, I ‘m doing you a favor here if you haven’t seen the episode yet or are confused by it. You need to watch the small moments of this episode.

The little details and background moments are HUGE – OBSERVE THEM. Notice when it rains, when the light shines, notice whether the TV talks about the weather or when it talks about the plane crash. Pay attention to Joan rubbing the back of her head and even notice the housefly trapped in the room. It all adds up to what the real decision is before her – is Joan dead or alive? Is Room 104 some kind of purgatory? Is she going to Heaven or Hell? What does she choose? Watch and see because I can’t give it away.

ROOM 104, what fun!    

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