ROOM 104 Review: “The Knockandoo”

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This week, the Duplass Brothers’ new HBO series ROOM 104 kicks things off on a dark and stormy night. A tense woman in a long white pull-over cardigan pours herself a glass of Cherry 7-Up mixed with Smirnoff vodka. This is Deborah (Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris).

She opens the door to welcome Samuel — played by Orlando Jones, the “Make 7-Up Yours” guy — in from the rain. Is it a coincidence that the beverage ties in with the man? I think not.

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Deborah, a devout fan of Samuel, explains to him that she’s watched all 11 of his cult’s evangelical DVD’s (and has re-watched the tenth disc many times over). Samuel in turn explains that he has a new set of DVD’s they need to experience on this night, and expresses cartoonish frustration when he discovers that the room does not come armed with a DVD player of its own. As he changes into his ceremonial white robes, he requests that Deborah call up to get a DVD player from the motel’s front desk. She complies. When the motel attendee knocks on the front door, Samuel hides, confiding in Deborah that he cannot be seen in his ceremonial robes.

Samuel, it turns out, is just in town for Deborah, to help Deborah achieve a higher plane of consciousness with this brand-new set of DVD’s. If he lingers too long, he claims, he’ll be recognized.

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Armed now with that previously elusive DVD player, Deborah and Samuel watch the beginning of the video, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the hypnotic “Salome” sketch from Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! on Comedy Central. The video announcer, in front of a Casio electronic keyboard, spews instructive nonsense, peppered with random associative images (“Friends. Family. Strawberry ice cream”).

Here, Samuel pauses and requests a one-time fee that will give Deborah unfettered “life-time access all the transcendence centers across the country.” Samuel faux-angrily confides that he “hates money,” but that it is necessary to fund his proselytizing. Deborah understands, and hands over a mid-sized package envelope containing what must be a thick bundle of catch.

As Deborah sits, utterly entranced, in front of the TV monitor, Samuel hops around — across the two motel beds, by the table adjacent to the door, changing the overhead light to adjust the ambience. Deborah, now in a pseudo-trance, reviews a childhood sense memory, an instance of abuse at home at the hands of her mother. Deborah’s mom is angry for Deborah’s messy dish-washing, and hits her in the back of the head for “getting water all over the place.”

Deborah’s other childhood memories bore Samuel. He instructs Deborah to try “different windows,” as he seeks supernatural past recollections that involve a “ghost or a boogeyman or something.”

Deborah switches gears, and now recalls a bizarre after-school encounter with her friend Herman. In the story, recalled verbally by Deborah, Herman implored her to follow him into the woods, looking for a “knockandoo bird.” Its feathers, Herman insisted, fold over its head like a top hat. Deborah doubted the truth of this claim, so Herman led her deep into the woods, to a small hut over a rickety old bridge. The sides of the hut were littered with holes, which Herman attributed to the knockandoo (he stated, ominously that “those are knockandoo holes”).

Here, past-Deborah harbored second thoughts. Herman pressured her into letting him show her one of the birds in the hut. Herman stuck his own member through the hut, and Deborah instinctively smashed it with a rock. At school the next day, Herman insisted that his penis was fixed — improved, even — by the “pink doctor,” but that the doctor was so mad at Deborah, he insisted that Deborah visit him in the woods again, lest the doctor tattle to her mother (whom young Deborah lived in mortal terror of). She did as instructed, returning to the small cabin. A man in a white doctor’s coat greeted her there. He wasn’t a doctor, he insisted, but a “magician,” named John Knockandoo. He elevated her five or six inches off the ground as a demonstration of his “tricks.” That day, on her way home, she experienced her period for the first time.

Back in the present day, on this dark and stormy night, Samuel tells Deborah that there is some “blockage” in her struggle to achieve transcendence. He shows Deborah a series of illustrations, of ferocious demons, that “Father” (the speaker in the video series) has to deal with on occasions. He ascribes her blockage to these demonic entities. We return to the video, as Samuel’s explanations cannot alleviate Deborah’s general confusion. “Father” insists on a “painless procedure” to remove the demon blockage deep in Deborah’s nasal package.

Deborah offers Samuel some emphatic resistance at the concept of the blockage removal tool (which resembles a screw driver with a particularly long steel shaft). Samuel puts his pedal on the gas, insisting that she go through with the procedure, lest she experience some permanent damage to her soul.

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A series of terrifying images flashes through Deborah’s mind amidst the procedure, and we are supposed to realize for the first time that Samuel, the assumed quack, isn’t a quack at all, but a legitimate agent of good against subterranean subconscious forces of evil. We see flashes of strange images — the terrifying magician in the woods, raising young Deborah off the ground; a series of penises; the “Father” on the tap — all floating in front of the cult DVD series’s creepy yellow composite background. Deborah flips out, swats the removal device away, and screams bloody murder at Samuel, who proceeds to choke.

Then we cut to black, because heaven forbid we get an actual explanation for what was actually going on within Deborah’s subconscious. Was there really a demon-entity blockage? Did Deborah, by halting the blockage mid-stream, unleash the demonic force upon Samuel? Those were the conclusions I at least drew by the end of the episode. If it had been three minutes longer and provided a wrap-up instead of an abrupt and confounding non-resolution, this would have been the crown jewel of Room 104‘s young season. Instead, it has fallen into a frustrating pattern, wherein it offers juicy set-ups and refuses to explain exactly what has transpired. Last week’s episode, “Pizza Boy,” made a solid effort to more or less explain things without being wholly overt, and maybe that kind of route is the most we can hope for moving forward. This show’s obvious spiritual grandfather, The Twilight Zone, was so great precisely because it effectively, expediently resolved its twisted and similarly mysterious set-ups. Room 104 feels like it’s going out of its way to avoid anything so concrete, which is fairly frustrating. “The Knockandoo” was consistently intriguing all the way through, only relenting when the credits rolled. And yet, I can’t say I left satisfied.

Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
Room 104 airs Fridays at 1130PM on HBO

Read all of our reviews of Room 104 here. 
Read our reviews of more of your favorite shows here.


Alex scribbles about movies, TV and basketball all across the web. He is the curator of Filmcore.


Follow Alex on Twitter: @kirschhoops
Keep up with all of Alex’s reviews here.

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8 Responses to ROOM 104 Review: “The Knockandoo”

  1. he’s not choking, she’s ripping off his D lmao

  2. I thought (it was very quick) that she kicked him in the groin, the same way she kicked the ‘knockandoo’ in the past. All I could think was that his ‘invasive procedure’ – sticking the rod up her nose) was too close to the earlier iphallic behaviour. Not that thats was a satisfactory explanation at all. A poor conclusion that seemed to lead us in different directions, non eof which providede propper closure. I hope this was the weakest of the series.

  3. I thought it was supposed to be a parallel between what happened her in the woods and in the room. Herman/Samuel. The doctor/father. Being tricked/convinced into doing something she knew wasn’t right but not being strong or assertive enough to say no.

  4. Personally I am sick and tired of HBO’s double standard of always showing penises , sometimes in close ups and sometimes with erections, but refuses to show equal amounts of female frontal nudity. Every series on HBO that has nudity has male genitals in it. However, only three have had any female frontal nudity worth mentioning. Since this is suppose to be the times when everything is equal , then why aren’t writers like you Alex stepping up to demand equally nudity for males ? I am tired of being treated like crap by movies and cable TV. It is time for female frontal nudity, including close ups of labia, to make equal appearances on HBO and in films !!!!!!

  5. Every show with nudity shows male frontal nudity, but not female nudity? Are you kidding? All we see is female nudity. Maybe it’s not worth mentioning because it’s so pervasive with HBO. Yes, there’s a double standard there, but it’s not too much male frontal nudity. You’d be the only pension saying that. And they don’t show erect penises because that’s pornographic.

  6. Weirdo……..your comments seem like the typical sexist response. You make statements like that and have absolutely no proof to support your claim. I know you can’t be watching HBO with your eyes open. Remember I said frontal nudity. So, here is the challenge. Other than “True Blood,” “Girls,” and “Game of Thrones” name five HBO shows which have female frontal nudity and no male genitals in them.

  7. The Knockcandoo episode was such a disappointment. It was odd, and ended leaving so many questions, not in a good way. It was honestly the worst, with Voyeurs episode in a close second. I had such high hopes for this show, and despite these two blunders, I still do. But some answers, any answers concerning the Knockandoo episode would be gratefully appreciate!

    • The Knockandoo episode while terrible, could have redeemed it by answering questions. I know some director’s feel this is creative. Believe me, it’s not. We leave the show feeling not satisfied. And bored. Questions like, was Samuel really who he claimed to be? Or was he a freaky scammer? Was there really a way to transcend? Was Deborah raped by the “pink doctor”? I’ve watched it a few times, and still each time more questions come up. If this show continues with Knockcandoo, and Voyeurs type episodes, I promise I won’t be watching…… I was so excited for it, hopeful for a Twilight Zone feel which i am a huge fan of, even the newer one that was canceled. I loved Beyond Belief as well, and really hope the shows stays within the creepy, scary, twist filled feel rather than something odd and completely not understandable!

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