Here we go with another peek into that innocent looking enough room. Ha, we know better, don’t we? The next two episodes offer us two different duos to the room. We already know something is not going to go right for the occupants but we just can’t imagine what until we get to the end. So, let’s take a look, starting with —
Episode Three – “Swipe Right”
A powerful Russian political technologist arranges an internet first date with a veterinary nurse who tries to figure out the truth behind his shifting identity.
Well, that was certainly loopy. Is that the right word? Yeah, loopy is just right. Our thick-accented Russian is played by Michael Shannon (BOARDWALK EMPIRE). He is a busy man as he is on his headset phone as the episode opens. He has rented room 104 for an arranged date he has made with the nurse played by Judy Greer (Ant-Man and the Wasp, ANIMALS.) They have had an ongoing online dialogue for quite a while and were mutually ready to meet. He goes by Nathan and her by Darla. Involved in this tale is a Russian band who serenade throughout the date. You’ve seen them in the trailer; the trio marches & play through the tiny room. There are also two bodyguards (Kiril Kulish & Armen Avetisov Way) and, for lack of a better word, Nathan’s drag queen confidant, played by Katya Zamolodchikova. They are all not loopy characters in themselves, but their presence and their purpose sure add up to an off-beat installment.
My approach to the episode was the tagline, so I was on the path to figuring out Nathan’s identity just like Darla. And I was way off on my two theories, though mine was certainly plausible within the confines of this room. I’ll share them quickly. Nathan seems quite uncomfortable with the date. He has a good enough plan, he has music, a nicely arranged table by the window, drinks and a four-course meal catered in. He wants to have a simple meal and finally encounter Darla face-to-face and she is quite receptive to it all at first.
Greer actually plays Darla spot on here as she goes from general admiration to confusion to hesitancy to frustration. As the date goes on, she is just not getting a heartfelt, in-depth conversation from Nathan; there is a lack of connection. Shannon rambles on in accent just making the whole situation so awkward. My first theory on his behavior was that he was conning her. Perhaps he made a habit of stringing single women along online with fabricated lives and he was getting confused with what narrative he had given her and he was searching for the right one in real time and failing. Or perhaps he was some automaton and not even real and was glitching and by episode’s end, we would learn that was the case.
But I was wrong and it took me until after the 30 minutes were up to lay claim to what it was all about. I won’t spoil for you to what degree Nathan went off the deep end but he was truly a social mess in front of this woman. What did it all mean? Well, the clue, for me actually was in the title of the piece. It was a technical term of a common motion we make on our devices. He is a computer guy, he was on the phone 3 times during the date and he established the relationship online. In person, in reality, he was a total social mess in handling Darla. But his online identity is proficient. And that’s the crux and that the lesson of the episode. Who you are online is not the same as who you really are in reality. We are shown that Nathan cannot really be real or connect with Darla in reality and she has one insufferable dinner date to prove it.
Both actors played it well, but when it ended it was like, “that’s it?” What it meant took far too long to figure out. As Soviets go I like Season One’s “Boris” better.
Episode Four: “Hungry”
Two strangers meet to fulfill an unusual mutual fantasy.
This episode starts just like the last one did; a table is being set for a special meal. Making the setting is Gene (Mark Proksch). He has placed a card table below the beds and set a complete table for two. He waits for his guest who eventually arrives and it is a man named Dan, (Kent Osborne) who is basically a stranger to Gene except they know they share a common interest. The show’s tagline states that they are in room 104 to “fulfill an unusual mutual fantasy.” Well, surely, they can’t just hunger for a wild homosexual union, right? I mean, in this day & age that doesn’t qualify as an “unusual” experience. So, just what is it? You know I won’t give it completely away.
Well, after they settle into their evening Gene opens a fanny pack to pull out a concoction of medications, a big bottle of various pills. So, then we are beginning to wonder if they have entered some kind of suicide pact. Is Gene going to assist Dan in ending his life on his terms? Well, that is not it either. But we do learn that some of the drugs that Dan downs are anti-coagulants. Where is this going? Well, it is going in a shocking direction as the reason for their meeting comes to light. They mutually agree and record a statement on Gene’s phone, that they are of sound mind & body in what they are about to carry out.
Shocker! What they do is an act of self-mutilation & cannibalism. Gene produces surgical gloves and drop and a sharp scalpel; he also fires up a hot plate and skillet. Yep, we are going there! The deed is done and the food is sampled when a knock comes to the door. It is an Officer Pankin (Michole White) and two follow-up cops listed as Burly Cop (Tom Clark) and Scrawny Cop (Fred Maske). They are requested to investigate the room on behalf of Dan’s wife. She feared for his safety and well she should have. Upon detailed questions and the reveal that Gene & Dan have recorded their consent for their actions, the police have no real grounds for arresting either of them, though it is suggested that Dan seek some medical attention. The police exit the scene leaving the men back to resume their special meal. The second course is yet to come provided by Gene and he hopes it is delicious. Yum!
What really makes this episode stand out beyond that startling plotline is a simple title card at the beginning of the episode. Because of its placement, you are apt to rush to Google or Wikipedia for more information because that title card states that this episode is “based on true events.”
Stay tuned for more ROOM 104.