'Room 104' Review: 'Boris' Is An Immigrant Story...With A Pantless Santa Claus

(Each week, we'll kick off discussion about Room 104 by answering one simple question: what's the strangest thing in Room 104?)Room 104 has hosted ghosts, voyeurs, and Mormons. But until this week, no celebrities. Enter Boris, an internationally famous tennis star who's having an erratic evening. Through his unlikely friendship with a housekeeper, Boris faces some long buried trauma. But not before he dons an unusual costume.

What’s the Strangest Thing in Room 104? Pantless Santa Claus

"Boris" immediately builds up its titular character with swelling patriotic music and text that relays the legend of tennis prodigy Boris Karlovy (Konstantin Lavysh). At the age of six, he moved from Croatia to Russia to turn pro. By the time he was 17, he had clinched #14 on the USTA Rankings. John McEnroe had some very nice things to say about him. But this grand image is instantly shattered when Boris busts open the door of Room 104, dropping his tennis gear and guzzling a bottle of vodka.Boris is having a rough night — the kind with imaginary conversations and lots of drunken stumbling. Boris repeatedly slips into Russian to address a strict "boss" who isn't there, but who clearly left a mark on him. He also keeps watching old clips of himself on an iPad. Then he finds a Santa suit in the room, and things truly get weird.Boris loves the Santa suit. He quickly puts on the top and starts talking to nonexistent children. (He does not pull on the pants.) Next, he injects himself with steroids. But that's all monotony compared to his depraved final act: constructing a lady out of pillows, a visor, and a pair of panties so he can have sex with "her," while wearing the Santa coat. A knock at the door interrupts this twisted holiday tableau.It's a housekeeper, warning him to stop smoking or risk a fine. Boris doesn't care about the extra charge, but he desperately wants company. After promising $300 and to put on some pants, he manages to convince Rose (Veronica Falcon) to stay for one drink.Rose apologizes for leaving the previous guest's Santa suit in the room; a call from her son distracted her while she was cleaning. She offers to remove it but Boris doesn't mind one bit. He just wants to chat with his new pal. He asks Rose about herself, and she asks him what he does. Unfortunately, that's the wrong icebreaker. Boris has to explain that he lost a tournament today, on the first round. "I lose all the time," he says. "I let everybody down." He spirals into a freakout, alternately screaming and sobbing. He pauses only to run to the bathroom to puke, passing out in the middle of traumatic flashbacks to his war-torn homeland.When Boris wakes up, it's the next morning. He's sitting in the bathtub, and Rose is dabbing his forehead. She asks him about what he kept yelling last night, which forces Boris to share a dark secret about his past. Rose proves to be just the sympathetic ear Boris needed all these years. But their heart-to-heart is cut short by a knock on the door. It's the man who left the Santa suit. Before he takes it back, Rose asks if Boris can buy it from him. The suit is apparently not for sale, but the gesture touches Boris. He insists Rose take his tennis bag and gear for her son and then lies down, sinking into a peaceful sleep.Boris and Rose

Immigrant Stories

Both Rose and Boris left their homes to build new identities in new countries. Rose never explains why she left Mexico, but all she wants is to secure a green card so she can live in America without fear of deportation. Rose is a (seemingly single) mom, so her anxiety is especially heightened. "If I get it, I'll feel safe," she tells Boris. "I'm a Mexican living in the U.S., I'm a slave. They can take me away from my son any time."When Boris hears this, he's furious on her behalf, hinting at a similarly scary immigrant experience. As his confession the next morning reveals, Boris left Croatia over horrific circumstances. When Boris was six, the Serbs invaded his neighborhood, bombing the area to bits. They also rounded up his parents and cousins, killing them all. He only survived because he was in an empty pool at the time, practicing his backswing with his uncle. Overwhelmed with guilt, he threw himself into tennis, hoping to justify his existence. But he could not repay the debt he owed his uncle, the "boss" he references. Rose tells him she's sorry about what happened to his family. "No one's ever said that," he says. "We don't talk about them."Boris has been carrying an enormous pain he couldn't share, but so is Rose. In Room 104, they find a safe space to break the silence.nightstand

Mind the Nightstand

Early into his drunken evening, Boris stumbles and whacks his head against the nightstand. Although he laughs it off, this is not a gentle fall. It echoes the dramatic final act of "Missionaries," when Joseph nearly dies from a similar head injury. I don't know if all Room 104 visitors are this clumsy, but please people: watch out for sharp corners.