The Big Door Prize S1E8: Izzy

We open where the previous episode ended, with a bat-wielding Izzy about to smash the Morpho machine, and Jacob intercepting her. But Jacob has his own issues with the machine. At work late to avoid going home to his dad, he tried the machine again out of boredom. But when he mistyped his Social Security number, he got the same card. “Hero.” When he mistyped a different number, same card. When he used his elbows instead of fingerprints, same card. We didn’t know how the Morpho machine works, but now we know even less.

So Izzy tries all zeroes, puts her face on the handprint spot, and gets the same card she got before, but it’s not “Dancer,” as she’s been telling everyone. It’s “Ghost.”

She talks Jacob out of telling anyone about this new Morpho development. Anyone who’s suspicious of the machine will just get more suspicious, and anyone who’s a true believer will just become suspicious of Jacob.

But however Morpho works, it seems to know the exact word that will most gnaw at the recipient’s soul. Izzy was a dancer, and it’s been painfully obvious that she misses her time in the spotlight. Even with her constant demands to be the center of attention, she still feels like a ghost, drifting through life and mourning a time when she felt truly alive.

She doesn’t get much time to reflect on this, because Cass storms into her shop to call her out for some of her toxic behavior — bad-mouthing Cass’ fundraising gala, and lying to her for years to make her feel responsible for Izzy’s breakup with her ex, Martha. Izzy tells her side of the story — she left New York and her dancing career for Deerfield, where both she and Cass were bored. But as is typical for Izzy, she tries to elicit sympathy, without actually apologizing or even explaining why she told Cass she was the reason for her breakup. 

But she does fess up about her card. And her fears that if the town finds out she’s been lying about it, no one will ever trust her as mayor (or re-elect her.) So Cass sends Trina to get another blank card from Jacob. After some cute awkwardness, they both admit they regret breaking up

Meanwhile Trina confront’s Dusty, about Giorgio’s obvious attempts to hit on Cass. She riles him up and convinces him to do something about it, so he storms over to Giorgio’s house, which has the same Italian villa-with-neon-and-hockey-sticks decor as the restaurant. But his anger cools when he finds Giorgio passed out on the floor, in his underwear, sans hairpiece. “I never wanted you to see me like this. I never wanted you to look at me with anything less than unadulterated awe.”

Giorgio immediately breaks down at the thought of Cass’ rejection, and Dusty quickly goes from anger to trying to comfort him. He’s at a loss to list more than a few of Giorgio’s good qualities, and isn’t about to make the case that Cass shouldn’t have rejected him. But he does at least offer to help get back some of the sports memorabilia he impulsively sold off to impress Cass last week.

That leads them to Urie, who bought a hockey mask for protection, after getting a card reading “Sole Survivor.” He’s been hiding out in a shed next to his house, terrified the card is predicting some impending disaster. Dusty opens up about his own fears — of losing Cass — and realizes he’s been so preoccupied with trying to anticipate her needs he neglects his own. Which is what the show does best — taking an absurd situation and then landing on something deeply grounded in the characters’ emotions.

It pulls the same trick again as the characters come together to see Mr. Johnson put on a magic show as The Great Morphini. He’s endearingly inept, but when he brings Dusty up on stage to be hypnotized, Dusty gets lost in a memory. He’s at the ski resort where he worked while Cass was in Italy. It was the last time he was apart from her for any length of time. He’s flying uncontrollably down a mountain, and it’s terrifying, but he feels alive. And as if that wasn’t enough of a metaphor, the ski resort was called Whistler. When Mr. Johnson asks what his card was, he forgets about the magic trick and reflexively responds with his Morpho card. Teacher/Whistler.

But it’s Izzy’s episode, and after all she can’t not be the center of attention. So she takes the stage, and announces she’s stepping down as mayor. For just a moment, it seems like she’s going to show genuine contrition. But instead she does what she does best, cause chaos. She lashes out at everyone, spills secrets, and sets the stage for any number of things to come to a head in next week’s season finale.

She also gets to the heart of another of the show’s central themes. Can people change? Or is their destiny permanently engraved on a little blue card? Izzy’s as toxic as ever and will likely remain so, but for our other characters, it remains to be seen whether they can change course, or keep speeding uncontrollably down the same mountain.

Stray potential:
• “Are you high right now?” “Of course. Of course I am.”

• We talked last week about how, while Giorgio’s backstory invites some sympathy, he’s still difficult to like. But as awful and unsympathetic as Izzy is, Crystal R. Fox plays her toxic narcissism so well that she’s never less than compelling.

• Dusty’s actually getting pretty good on the theremin. However, he impulsively chucks it in the trash when he goes to confront Giorgio, and Jacob’s stoner friend picks it up. We’ll likely follow up on that next week as well.