We are down to the final two episodes of the third season of this crazy thing. We have certainly had a myriad of styles and tones to explore and episodes # 11 & # 12 fall right into place in that same vein.
–Episode # 11 – “Crossroads”
A young woman sells her soul to live a life of earthly pleasures and is forced to reckon with her decision decades later.
With the nature of ROOM 104 being what it is, a number of characters in this series have come to a crossroads in their time. This episode sets up to be the ultimate example of that for it is the title of the piece. With the trailer and description of this piece spelling that all out for us the intrigue of the episode then is not the reveal that a person is at a life altering crossroads, but the reveal of the nitty-gritty facts behind it all. It seems that the woman involved here has already stepped into the crossroad and made her decision to “sell her soul” and to pay the consequences later. Well, it is later, so now what? Could she have arrived at yet another crossroads unawares to her and the viewer? Let’s explore the situation.
It begins with one named Louis (Paul F. Tompkins), dressed in a simple suit, stepping out of the bathroom and into the room that is decades into the past by the looks of the décor & devices. He is in a bit of downtime cut short by a knock at the door. In walks a young lady in her late teens or early twenties named June (Aislinn Paul). Louis, we learn, is a businessman as her produces a briefcase and a legal contract from it. He is an agent of the Devil, but don’t call him a demon.
The young June wants a life of fame & fortune no matter what and knows that Louis can arrange it. He tries to spell out for her the terms of the contract and she pays it no mind because she does not believe in the dogma that talks of ‘hell’ and ‘soul’ and the like. And so, the deal is done without a glance – her soul has been sold. It is crossroads moment #1 and she didn’t even skip a beat.
Next, we find Louis once again appearing from the bathroom but the room now reflects that it is a good seventy years later. June appears at the door this time played by the great June Squibb. She is taking this quick little meeting on her way to St. Barts. Her life has been everything she wanted it to be. But Louis explains to her that the contract is u and it is time for him to collect. He now wants her soul and wants to place it in Hell for eternity. She scoffs at that like she did in her youth until Louis opens the bathroom door to reveal a portal straight to Hell. She balks, threatens to sue, fumbles for a loophole to no avail.
Louis sets her down and explains that this is how it always goes. But she is out to strike a deal, one he doesn’t see coming. She is willing to trade places with him! She is willing to take the role of Devil’s Agent and set Louis free. June explains to him that she has the right flair for the job as she reveals that she has evil tendencies. Sher relates crossroads moment # 2. She caused anguish to a meaningless lover and forgot to turn the evil off after she discarded him. She tells it a heck of a lot better than I can.
Crossroads moment #3 is a surprise as Louis now stands at one. Does he take her offer and slip unnoticed into the mortal world once again? We never thought that he could face the titular keyword in the episode. He needs convinced and June does so by summoning her aide Dustin (Jon Bass) to the room. She pulls one wickedly evil deed to convince Louis and the job is suddenly hers. And the job quickly becomes hers as a young lady, Beth (Lily Mae Harrington) appears as the next client to the door. Louis stands back to watch June take over the deal and isn’t sure he likes her brusque approach to it all. She is asking for some clueless lass to sell her soul here; take the time to take the right approach.
At the episode’s end we are faced with crossroads moment # 4, but who is standing at it? Is it June committing to do the job her way, Louis hesitant on leaving her to it or does Beth slip away with soul intact? Hah, watch to find out!
With one more episode to go, I can say this is my favorite of season 3, so far.
–Episode # 12 – “The Specimen Collector”
While on a layover from collecting a rare botanical specimen, a scientist wakes to find herself inside a lush, rapidly growing jungle.
It’s a jungle in there, literally! Over the years we have learned that the room can become anything. It can be an artist’s haven, a martial arts ring, a place where you can expect voices in the walls and surprises in the bathroom, besides just being a place for people of all walks of life to hole up in. This time around it becomes a lush jungle overnight and it does so to prove a point.
Okay, here is a bit on how the jungle got there and what it means. Cobie Smulders plays Merian a scientist, a botanist we are led to believe, and she is just back from the field and laid over in the infamous room for a night. A title card tells us it is a Friday. Merian just took a hot shower and she is chatting with her co-worker back home explaining the delay. After that is established, she cracks open the window to let the breezes in and gets ready for bed. Then we are led into a little secret that a stiff breeze dislodges a pollen spore from the cuff of her coat and it drifts a bit before landing on the floor.
A title card saying Saturday gives way to Merian being awakened from slumber by a large, lush leaf brushing against her skin. She arises to see the room completely taken over by a lush tropical jungle almost crowding her out of the room. She is awestruck and quickly takes to investigating all that she sees. She is interrupted by the front desk’s wakeup call and to see if she is ready to check out as a Ren Faire booking as swamping the motel in the next few days. She barters for an extended stay as her scientific perspective does not allow her to give up on a thorough documentation of the new findings.
Next, we know it is Tuesday and Merian has spent all that time analyzing every nook and cranny including a plant infested bathroom. Not only is every piece of flora explained in her journal but pictures of everything is cataloged and sent off to his co-worker back home. Fauna even starts to appear; nothing major just insects of all varieties. Joe is able to relate back to her that she is monitoring a primordial biome of species that no longer exist today.
She is interrupted by housekeeping at one point (I think we’re up to Thursday) but she rushes them away; she is in a fever pitch to explore the bion=me and defend it against contamination. At one point I thought the piece with her just becoming a part of the room, being reabsorbed by the teeming life around her but then the room has to be a clean slate at some point for new occupants, right? Joe, worried for Merian’s safety in the matter calls for the government to step in and the manager too also manages to peek his head in at one point In her fervid defense of the precious biome Marian becomes a radical warrior for her cause and since it is exposed that invasive, alien organisms now abound, thus labeling her an eco-terrorist. Some semblance of cooperation seems to happen when Eugene Hill (Aasif Mandvi, pictured) another scientist, gains her trust and his admittance. He offers her water and it turns out it is drugged and she is subdued as the hazmat team rushes in. By the time Saturday rolls around the room is back to its original state as the ren Fair occupants arrive.
It is an interesting episode that packs a lot of discussion in the half-hour and the set full of flora & fauna of great detail really transforms the room. But the purpose of it all? In my view, it is simply a political piece taking the global issue of habitat loss & ravaged ecosystems and bringing it down to a basic example set within the walls of room 104. It is an illustration of the clash between the scientific community, the public and the government about the significance and importance of the environment. And another point is spelled out in the very end. Now, during this whole review of ROOM 104, I have never revealed the ending, but in this final episode, I shall. Even though at the very end when the government has eradicated what it couldn’t understand and even as the new occupants to the room arrive a blue butterfly, the same one it seems that Merian examined up close, flits through the room unnoticed. Why? Because it illustrates that last point – you can’t completely cease nature and evolution and adaptation from happening. It finds a way to survive and that is a great message to end the episode. And a great way to end the third season of ROOM 104.
A fourth season of the show is a certainty. What has not been made clear is when it appears on the schedule. We will be there when it does and knock on the door and dare to go inside once again whenever that may be.