Room 104 Samuel

(Each week, we’ll kick off discussion about Room 104 by answering one simple question: what’s the strangest thing in Room 104?)

If there’s one lesson to be learned from this week’s Room 104, it’s this: never go with a cult priest to a second location. In “The Knockandoo,” a fragile woman is hoping to leave this world for a higher plane of existence – and she’s paid a questionable “practitioner” to help get her there. Things don’t go exactly according to plan, thanks to a surprise appearance by the titular Knockandoo.

Room 104 John Knockandoo drawing

What’s the Strangest Thing in Room 104? John Knockandoo

“Knockandoo” is a weird word, the kind that feels like it can’t possibly belong to a person. A children’s game, a mythical forest creature, a Scottish distillery, sure. But not an actual human being. When Debbie (Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris) first hears the term, it’s from her classmate Herman. He says it’s a bird that coifs its feathers into a top hat, one that lives in a mysterious shack in the woods. Debbie soon finds out that isn’t true. Herman just wanted to show her his dick. “Knockandoo, knockandoo,” he chants as he waves his penis through a hole in the shack. “Give it a tickle.”

But the Knockandoo is actually a man. After Debbie reflexively smashes Herman’s dick with a rock (tough but fair) and runs away, she feels guilty. So she asks Herman the next day in school if he’s okay. Herman says he was all fixed up – improved, even! – by the pink doctor. She has to go see this doctor in the shack, or he’s going to tell Debbie’s mom everything. When Debbie returns, she finds a man in a white coat. He’s a magician named John Knockandoo, and he can float in the air. The encounter is so formative for preteen Debbie that she gets her first period instantly on the way home.

She hasn’t thought about the incident in years. But all it takes is a hokey “cleansing” routine to drudge John Knockandoo back up. He’s a nasty sight for sore eyes, and he inspires Debbie to return to her schoolyard sense of justice.

Room 104 tapes

Home Movies

This new Knockandoo encounter could’ve been avoided, if it weren’t for Samuel (Orlando Jones). Samuel is a cult priest who’s been chatting with Debbie online. He claims he can save her soul and help her transcend to a higher existence – all for a large cash fee, of course. Samuel’s process for transcendence mainly includes wearing non-synthetic robes and watching a series of “tapes” (DVDs) featuring the cult’s dear leader, a man known only as “Father.” Father clearly blew the church budget on a new Cadillac, because these tapes look like they were produced circa 1985. Each one features a bright bubble background ripped directly from a mall studio, and Father frequently employs props like a Casio keyboard and a rabbit that may or may not be dead.

These tapes are meant to be comically absurd, and it’s here where “The Knockandoo” walks an even finer line between comedy and horror than last week’s “Pizza Boy.” On the surface, there’s nothing remotely scary about “Father” or his tapes. He’s there purely for levity, but his instructions do take Debbie to some dark places. In the episode’s final sequence, Samuel persuades Debbie to undergo a cleansing practice that looks suspiciously like a lobotomy, so he can remove the “incomplete” person (John Knockandoo) blocking her path to transcendence. While Samuel works, she sees flashes of Father’s tapes mixed in with images of John Knockandoo, herself as a child, and a whole bunch of penises. Seriously. In many ways, this montage feels like it was produced by Adult Swim, and it reflects the incredibly bizarre tone of “The Knockandoo.” From a plot angle, the tapes and this final mash-up get the story to a darkly comic and perversely satisfying conclusion. But they’re a lot. “The Knockandoo” is far and away the most experimental episode yet in this anthology series, and it’s bound to be the most divisive. At least for now.

Room 104 Debbie and Samuel

Grifters, Voyeurs, and Babysitters

Now that we’re three episodes in, it’s worth examining what type of person enters Room 104. There’s a sense that they all, on some level, know what they’re getting themselves into. Meg the babysitter was technically tricked into staying in the room, but she knows she shouldn’t agree to this shady gig. (She has, presumably, seen a horror movie.) Scott and Jen willingly sign up for their twisted erotica, and so does the “pizza boy” voyeur who paid for it. Debbie has been talking to Samuel for what sounds like months, saving up a large envelope of cash so she can be in this room with him. Even when his process freaks her out, she doesn’t run – and I’d suspect it has nothing to do with Samuel’s fearmongering about her soul. She came all this way, gave him the money, and knocked back a few Cherry 7 Up and vodkas just for this very moment. She has no right to question it or turn back now. As Samuel says, “What did you think this would entail?”

What’s interesting about “The Knockandoo” is that it features our most complete character yet. Meg, Scott, and Jen all came with absolutely no background details. The pizza boy was also a mystery, as was the kid in Meg’s care, Ralph, since we can’t exactly trust his stories. But it’s much easier to understand Debbie. She’s a woman who’s felt isolated and neglected her entire life. Her tough mother abused her, her middle school friends excluded her. She’s been waiting for something better and different for a very long time. Unlike so many previous characters, she has no dual identity (that honor goes to the “Knockandoo”). She’s just Debbie, and she wants to be much more.

Room 104 bathroom

A Brief Word on the Bathroom

We finally see it! Well, part of it. Room 104 is still being cagey about how much of this mysterious space we’re allowed to see. The shot of Debbie inside reveals little more than a mirror, shower curtain, and Samuel’s garment bag. But we’re steadily gaining new information. Hopefully, there are no dead bodies floating in the tub.

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