Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer TV Rewind: Wonderfalls 1.04: "Wound-Up Penguin"

“Yes, but maybe she’s just a lazy whore. That happens, right? They can’t all have hearts of gold and good work ethics!”

“Wound-up Penguin” was a sort of filler episode that was added in the later stages of “Wonderfalls” development to give more meat to the Eric/Jaye relationship before the big moment in “Lovesick Ass.” That being said, it had a lot of elements that viewers can now recognize as vintage Bryan Fuller. There’s Fuller’s interest in Catholicism and cheese at play. There’s also a performance from Carrie Preston (wife of “Lost’s” Michael Emerson, best known in her own right for playing waitress Arlene on “True Blood”) that is highly reminiscent of a performance by Riki Lindhome (best known as half of the comedy band Garfunkel and Oates) in Fuller’s more recent TV series, Pushing Daisies. Overall, it was an entertaining enough adventure that mostly served its purpose of showing us more of what Jaye and Eric are like together. It also introduced the fuller extent of Eric’s issues surrounding his failed marriage and started to ask what Jaye’s voices mean from a religious sense. This episode really served as a nice lynchpin for all the elements that would eventually tie the season, and the series, together.

This episode opens with Jaye once again being rather tortured by the Muses. There’s a rousing chorus of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” happening in her trailer, and as a result, Jaye can’t get any sleep. She’s doing her usual scream at the muses thing when one word of the song finally sinks into her brain. Beer. She arrives at the Barrel Bar just as Eric is shooing out the final customers at last call. He makes an exception for Jay, of course, and lets her in, and they share some beers as Eric shows Jaye his little living area in the back of the bar. Jaye makes the mistake of calling it his home, and Eric says that he doesn’t really know where home is right now. All of a sudden, they hear a noise from the main room of the bar. At first they worry it’s a rat, but it turns out that it’s a woman hiding in the barrel in the middle of the room. As soon as she sees Jaye and Eric peering in at her, she tips the barrel over and runs away.

The mysterious woman left her personal effects in the barrel, so when the Muses start telling Jaye to “bring her back to him,” Jaye interprets this to mean that it’s time to find the woman and figure out where she belongs. Eric is kind of surprised at this considering Jaye was about to say they should let it go before the Muses started their thing. Because he’s Eric and smitten with Jaye, though, he rolls with it. Once of the items left in the barrel is a train ticket stub, so a stop on the investigation in the local train station. This gives Eric a bit of a panic attack, because it reminds him of how he was supposed to take the train back to New Jersey after his Niagara honeymoon. The ticket taker is kind of worthless, but Jaye and Eric get good intel from a rather creepy janitor. He says that he saw the woman they are looking for earlier in the week with a woman who looked kind of like Johnny Cash dressed all in black.

This doesn’t seem to be much of a lead at first, but then said Johnny Cash-ish dude walks right into Wonderfalls while Jaye is at work. He saw that Wonderfalls puts up community posters, and he wants to put up a poster for the missing woman Jaye and Eric saw at the Barrel. Jaye doesn’t say anything to the man, but she does take the flyer to Eric. Eric figures out that the phone number on the flyer is for a nearby shady motel, and he arranges to rent the room next door to the mysterious man’s. Eric is rather thrilled by the run-down motel room, applauding it as an homage to transient life. Jaye kind of wishes he wouldn’t be so happy about the idea of transience. Anyway, Jaye and Eric both try to listen through the wall into the room next door, and just as they are about to kiss, they hear a scream. Eric and Jaye burst into the room to find both the mysterious man and the woman from the Barrel. Eric immediately tries to attack the man, figuring that he must be trying to hurt the woman. It turns out, however, that the man is a priest, Father Joe, and the woman is a nun, Sister Katrina, who has run away from the convent.

Eric, who is projecting a bit, want to just let Sister Katrina be. She’s made a choice to start a new life, and he thinks they should respect that. Jaye, however, is concerned about the Muses (although she doesn’t tell Eric that, of course). She’s thinking that “bring her back to him” is actually “bring her back to Him,” as in bring Sister Katrina back to God. This is where the series really starts to explore the potential religious undertones of what’s going on with Jaye. Jaye makes it her mission to try and bring Sister Katrina back to the convent. She finds out from Sister Katrina that she left because she started to have doubts in the existence of God (and she might have loved cheese a bit too much). Jaye bets Father Joe that she can get Katrina to return, and when Katrina says she’s disappointed God has never spoken to her, Jaye thinks she has her in.

Jaye sets about trying to convince Katrina that God speaks to her. She starts talking about the Muses, and Katrina’s not buying it. One of the muses then tells Jaye to break a car’s taillight, and Jaye tells Katrina about this. When the car (Jaye really needs to get a new parking break) rolls into another car and breaks a taillight, Katrina once again believes. She’s convinced that Jaye is possessed, though, and she and Jaye go to Aaron for information on exorcism. When Jaye later returns to her trailer, Katrina is there waiting for her, intending to do a surprise exorcism. Jaye is understandably scared when she finds herself tied to the bed. Jaye is saved by the police stopping by the trailer to arrest her for leaving the scene of an accident.

What happens at the police station is what ultimately brings Sister Katrina back to the Church. She and Jaye run into Father Joe. The car with the broken taillight was his, and he got pulled over by a cop because of it. When the cop ran his information, he discovered that Father Joe was wanted for failure to pay child support. Father Joe was a bit of a wild child before joining the priesthood, and he didn’t realize he had fathered a daughter. The baby mama, for lack of a better term, didn’t really have animosity against Father Joe, but she didn’t know how to find him. Father Joe, for his part, is rather thrilled to find out he has a daughter, and he takes a leave of absence to deal with his newly discovered family issues. Sister Katrina goes back to the convent, and Jaye and Eric are happy with a job well done.

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