The Big Door Prize S1E4: Father Reuben

At last episode’s end, we see Father Reuben’s emotional breakdown seeing his potential, as Morpho shows the one thing that, as a priest, Father Reuben can never be: a father.

The show made a note of Reuben not drinking last week, but we open on him turning to Hana, the local bartender, for vodka and some counsel. Hana’s been in the background of a few episodes, but we get a clearer picture of her here: outspoken, cynical, and the kind of person who would start the Twilight series with the last book because someone left it behind at the bar, and then be surprised at “characters coming out of nowhere.”

She’s unimpressed when Father Reuben reflexively offers another book recommendation: “Oh right. The original fantasy book.” And Tri isn’t terribly impressed either when he shows up to offer counsel over the loss of her boyfriend, killed in a car accident a few months earlier. She’s in an empty art classroom, trying without much enthusiasm or success to follow through on her potential, potter. 

Dusty tries to take a small step outside of his comfort zone by eating hot wings, which he immediately regrets. He also got a tattoo, which was supposed to read “I Love Puff,” his nickname for Cass, but instead reads “I Love PU,” because “it turns out the human ribs are an extraordinarily painful place to get a tattoo.”

She’s barely able to conceal her lack of enthusiasm. “Puff” comes from Puffin, and as we established in Cass’ episode, she mentioned liking puffins once, 20 years ago, and has suffered a barrage of puffin-related gifts ever since. Dusty is giving her what he thinks she wants — something spontaneous and romantic and outside his comfort zone — without actually making an effort to understand what she actually wants.

Dusty doesn’t take that well. The puffin comment happened on their first date, and even if it doesn’t mean much to her, it does to him. And in his defense, it took her twenty years to even casually mention she wasn’t really that into puffins, and that twenty years of what Dusty thought were sweet romantic gestures were actually annoying.

He’s also frustrated as always that Morpho is upending his placid life, and everyone else’s. Cut to Principal Pat, still in a neck brace from her Morpho-inspired motorcycle accident, and now marrying Farid, who she’d known for years but never considered until a week earlier when he got a card reading “Lover.” (Unsurprisingly Cass thinks the whole thing is sweet, and Dusty is cynical.)

Which brings us back to Father Reuben. Presiding over the wedding, he can barely stomach the words, “The Morpho machine, like the Lord, works in mysterious ways.” He wonders out loud whether there’s some grand plan at work, or if the world works at random, and it’s not clear whether he’s frustrated with Morpho or God, but it’s likely both.

Cass’ passive-aggressive mom Izzy, a frustrated former dancer, is also on hand to give the bride and groom “the gift of movement,” hijacking the ceremony for a spontaneous dance number. And while she doesn’t embarrass herself dance-wise, she does on several other levels, which Dusty is more than happy to elucidate. She wasn’t actually invited to the wedding, but shows up to steal the spotlight from the happy couple for a few minutes, and do an inappropriately sexy dance in front of Martha, the ex-wife she never got over, and Martha’s new wife. And when Cass joins in to dance cutely with the flower girl, Izzy explodes at her.

Cass is fed up and ready to leave, when Dusty uncharacteristically grabs the spotlight. He dances to George Michael’s “Faith,” and is goofy and charming, and gets her and the rest of the room up and dancing. After four episodes of seeing the cracks in their marriage widen, you can see the man Cass fell in love with coming out from behind the curmudgeon who’s been grumbling about puffins and Morpho.

And then we end where we started, with Hana counseling Father Reuben. She’s skeptical of both religion and Morpho, but the latter’s heavier on Reuben’s mind than the former. So they drink and talk, and he opens up about why his card really hit him so hard emotionally. It’s a terrific scene by Damon Gupton, and this is what the show has done consistently well — shine a light on a background character and remind us that there are no background characters. Everyone’s questioning their choices, everyone’s worried about whether they’re on the right path. As Hana observed, characters keep coming out of nowhere.

Stray potential:
• The upscale Italian restaurant-slash-laser tag emporium hosts the wedding, and the show is confident enough to put details like tables mounted on gondolas floating by in the background, without calling undue attention to them.

• “This is your playlist? So much Coldplay!” “Yeah, well, you like the Bible.”

• Dusty backs up an offhand comment, “who wasn’t a professional dancer in the ’90s?”, with an elaborate story about being a founding member of “Riverprance,” which pushed back against the stifling culture of Irish dance, and the more ridiculous the story gets, the more beautifully straight Chris O’Dowd plays it.

• The show does a good job of giving the core cast small moments even when they’re not heavily involved in the episode. Jacob’s on hand to DJ the wedding, largely so we can get a follow-up on last week’s reveal: he and Trina are seeing each other in secret, but don’t want anyone to know as they’re still both mourning his brother. We get deeper into their relationship when Trina gets her own episode next week, although as we already know her potential is “potter,” this is the first episode that doesn’t end with someone receiving a card from Morpho.