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Room 104 - Star Time - Review

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WARNING: Please don't read if you haven't seen Room 104 4x02 Star Time yet!  SPOILERS AHEAD!

According to HBO's rather vague synopsis, this very special Room 104, "An unlikely source spurs Sam to confront her history of addiction." Sam is played by Brittany Runs a Marathon star Jillian Bell. We are introduced to her in our beloved titular room eating some chips. A giant stuffed Hamster (Jon Bass) appears before her and asks if she is ready. She seems to not know what he is talking about. He says she will do it because it is what she wants to do. Suddenly, POOF, they are dancing on the bed with electronic stars dancing around with them, superimposed on the screen. Oh, and there is a metaphoric mosquito that appears twice. The first time, Sam swats it. The second time, she presses the muscle around her forearm and prepares herself by closing her eyes.

 Yes, it is not too hard to figure out what is really going on in this episode before the final twist is revealed. Is it a drug-related suicide? Is it an accidental overdose? That is never completely answered, but Sam didn't come to Room 104 for a business convention. Despite the interior content here, I feel Sam really is hurting herself in the literal motel room where no one will bother her except her subconscious. What does the hamster represent? He appears first between the appearances of the mosquito. It is a representation of her conscious disguised as a childhood friend? Possibly. Does "star time" refer to self-medication? Does Sam need to get high to feel anything? When Sam steps on the bed, she hesitates as if she is about to sing for a sold out crowd? Why does the Hamster always seem to stand in Sam's way? There are flashbacks, but they are not literal flashbacks. We see a young Sam bring medicine to a class where the Hamster is the teacher, her running on a treadmill where the Hamster gets in her way. Hamster even beats her up at one point, When she tries to meditate, she is disturbed by a collision where they are in different cars. And, of course, Hamster performs cunnilingus on Sam as she masturbates.

How many real people does Hamster represent? He is a bad ex-boyfriend? A pedophile teacher? A drunk driver? Her father? It is never answered. Another interesting scene is where Sam celebrates Christmas with her real neighbor, Justin (Bernard Jones David), in the Room (complete with gorgeous holiday decorations) and his hand becomes Hamster. He gives her serenity, she gives pain. Perhaps Sam is really a toxic person and feels she is unworthy of love? Star time is definitely a heightened drug state, but they claim they gave each other the same gift even though the emotion is different. So, star time can be activated regardless of the specific emotion. I thought the drug was only literal at first, but perhaps it is an emotional state where dopamine is heightened? Perhaps the Hamster is shame. Why would young Sam bring drugs to her class? Did she get lost in a thought and get herself in a car accident? Perhaps it is not the fault of the other person. The Hamster wants to talk about something, but Sam does not. Perhaps it is shame that is holding Sam back. Why is it a hamster we see?

A hamster brings to mind either a childhood pet or an animal you would see in a science class. Hamsters hide during the day and have poor eyesight, yet they are adventurous. Sam is all of these things. She seems emotionally underdeveloped and unaware of how other perceive her. Yet, she wants adventure and excitement, even if it brings harm to herself. She is hiding in Room 104 like a hamster hides from the sun. So, it wouldn't be a stretch to class the Hamster a "spirit animal" she sees during a meditation (yes, that is a real ritual). Perhaps the real drug Sam is experimenting with is shame itself. Sam maybe has never really gotten in touch with herself to confront shameful feelings she has about many aspects of her life thus far. The "star time" is where she is pushing herself to feel this new emotional she has been repressing. She feels pleasure at first since it is new to her, which is why she dances on the bed and pleasures herself. But, like all drugs, the emptiness overwhelms her and devours its host, leading her to suicidal limits. She feels shame she cannot quit her addiction as well, but she needs the euphoria the star time brings constantly. The Hamster cannot stop her from doing drugs, but his presence shows she wants to be better. She knows she deserves good health, even is it isn't as fun as star time.

This episode walks a delicate balance. It shows an addict who cannot get better, but clearly knows better anyway. She is not saved, she only gives in to her urges. It cannot glamorize drugs or addiction since it is, at the end of the day, a broadcast TV episode in a very PC era, but also cannot deny its existence. It just is what it is. Addiction is an everyday occurrence. American consumerism contributes to it. Advertising constantly pushes us to chase yet another high, to recreate ourselves as rock or porn stars always living an unattainable dream we have for ourselves; to reach "star time." To be Star Children. Some are better at dealing with the reality of that than others. Sam is obviously not one of those people. However, millions of those people exist everyday all over the world. We have the need for emotional connection and filling the insatiable holes in our own existences, but the more we desire, the more we will inevitably destroy our physical selves. Perhaps the only acceptable pleasure is of the smaller things, like smelling roses. We are told to want more, but is that really what we need to be happy?

Is this episode advocating a specific spiritual state? Is it the HBO equivalent of a Christian anti-drug propaganda film? Would Nancy Reagan approve? Perhaps only Mark Duplass, who wrote the episode, really knows what he was going for. His hired director (actor Karan Soni from Safety Not Guaranteed, Betas, Other Space, the Deadpool films, among many others)
and actors seem game to play along. I'll leave you, the confused viewer, alone with your own shameful thoughts to figure what this one means in your own lives.


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