The Big Door Prize: The Big Door Prize, all episodes   Show Only 
March 29, 2023 7:30 AM - Season 1 (Full Season) - Subscribe

Apple TV Plus show in which a mysterious "Morpho" machine, for the low price of 8 quarters, your SSN and fingerprints, will tell you your potential. AV Club review.

Since three shows were dumped in at once and I don't know if this is gonna be popular, I guess I'm stuck doing an "all episodes" thread.

Overall: people don't know how the machine showed up at Johnson's General Store, Googling for "Morpho" just gets butterflies, and everyone's pretty intrigued. The principal gets "biker" and immediately buys herself a hog. One kid gets "meteorologist " and doesn't even know what that is. One unidentified person got "Liar" and threw it in the trash, HMMMMM. The show profiles one person per episode.

Dusty is a high school history teacher, just turned 40, and he's pretty happy and content with his life and doesn't get everyone's going crazy over this thing. His happily married parents are divorcing so his doctor mother (who got "healer," Dusty points out she already does this, but she doesn't wanna) can travel and his dad can male model. His mother-in-law the mayor is all "I got dancer, I already was a dancer, everyone knows that one." Dusty finally caves in and gets his...and it says "Teacher/Whistler," which he already does. What do you do with THAT information?! Also, Dusty is....manifesting blue dots on his arse, which he goes to the town priest about and the town priest is all "Shouldn't you be going to a doctor about that?"

Cass is Dusty's wife, you get the impression they're supposed to be high school sweethearts but the ages for that? Cass gets "Royalty," which baffles everyone. This leads Cass to daydream of the months she did foreign exchange, and get a little ticky with her mother and pulling the stuff she sells out of her mom's shop, and getting herself a "Royalty" sweatshirt.

Other dramas going on are that a kid died before the start of the show, and said kid was Dusty and Cass's daughter's boyfriend. The dead kid had a twin, Jacob, who gets "HERO" on his card, which seems to freak him out after he discovers the principal/motorcyclist has had an accident. I'll write up more about Jacob later.
posted by jenfullmoon (41 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I really enjoyed those first three and I'm excited about where this might be going. The AV Club review gives spoilers for episode 4 at least, and I haven't watched that episode so I stopped reading mid-word. Just giving others that heads up. It looked like they had access to at least 8 episodes so you may want to save that review if you want to fall totally under the story's spell.
posted by Stanczyk at 1:00 PM on March 29, 2023

I read the whole AV club article and it didn't really spoil episode 4 beyond saying who it's about. It was very vague.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:15 PM on March 29, 2023

So is it.. a broader/more optimistic Machine of Death?
posted by curious nu at 4:17 PM on March 29, 2023

Huge fan of Chris O'Dowd from 'Get Shorty' and loving him here.

Interesting premise, especially the skipped disclaimers, FAQs, and probably a click-through-contract. I also appreciate that it's not grim-dark/ pOrTeNtOuS. Yet.

I have a conflict with the ideas/ definitions of 'potential.' But what about exceeding "potential" ?
posted by porpoise at 8:13 PM on March 29, 2023 [1 favorite]

Watching Jacob now: in which Jacob is forced to do a dramatic dunk in public when that's not his thing..

I'm so annoyed that I didn't get to read those signs!
God, that skeezy guy obviously coming onto Cass even though she's been with Dusty for 23 years. Ughhhhhh.
"But noooo, you like spicy food and tattooed men." What's next, meth?
"Hey, at least we got $1000 for the library! Books! Books! Books! Books! Books....nobody cares about books."

Father gets his card, which says....Father. He breaks down in an absolute sobbing fit over this.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:41 PM on March 29, 2023

Can we post speculation here? Because 3 episodes in, I've got spoiler thoughts about a couple characters. (I knew this was based on a book, but I don't think I'm recalling twists from reading it.)

The basic question at this point: Is this really some sci-fi device that "knows things"? Or is this about human behavior and reactions to unsubstantiated information.

Not sure what it says about me, but I'd get a charge out of card that said Royalty.

Dusty googling blue dots on his ass was amusingly relatable. The scene with Dusty's dad walking the runway while his son whistled also cracked me up.

But both Dusty and Cass don't seem to be focusing on their daughter enough, WRT a recent tragedy. And yes, yuck, why do they even hang out with creepy, over the top Giorgio?

Speaking of over the top, ditto the doctor that the kid visited. And was she supposed to be a primary doc? If so, what about Dusty saying his mom was the only doc in town.
posted by NorthernLite at 2:19 PM on April 1, 2023

Speaking of over the top, ditto the doctor that the kid visited. And was she supposed to be a primary doc? If so, what about Dusty saying his mom was the only doc in town.

She was the school nurse.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:45 PM on April 1, 2023

I would avoid Giorgio, for sure. Fucking icky, that guy. I think he owns that restaurant and that's why he was around?

As I was about to say before getting distracted on posting, that chick Jacob saw worked at the school.

I wonder how recent that kid's death was.

Royalty would make me curious, indeed. How the heck do you do "royalty" in the US? Enter beauty pageants? I know one lady who does Mrs. Whatever married-lady beauty pageants...

What throws me off is that we're told Rusty is 40 and it seems implied that he and Cass are childhood sweethearts/around the same age, but she looks way younger than 40 and he looks um, older than that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:03 PM on April 1, 2023

I wonder how recent that kid's death was.

I think either Cass or Rusty said two months when they were discussing Trina dropping classes.
posted by ellieBOA at 5:00 AM on April 2, 2023

It feels like it's mostly riding on the strength of (44 year old) Chris O'Dowd? I mean, everybody else is fine, but I'm not sure it would hold up for me without Chris as the skeptic. It's good and I'm mildly curious about the puzzle box aspect of Morpho, I just worry that it'll devolve into an anthology of people chasing their dreams in small down middle America which ... eh, is not the worst thing for TV, I guess?

Given that this is an all-season post and it's based on a book, do we want to have the mods add a books included or a show only tag to the post?
posted by Kyol at 5:39 PM on April 3, 2023

Show only would be a good idea, jenfullmoon what do you think?
posted by ellieBOA at 5:18 AM on April 4, 2023

I know nothing about the book whatsoever. I leave the choice up to others.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:51 AM on April 4, 2023

Episode 4, Father Reuben. "You don't know what people will do when they feel like they've been given a sign." (So true, Father.) "....Why you gotta do me like this, God? That was my wedding song." The Father was once happily married, lost his wife, took up alcoholism, thought, "People do not come back from this," saw a sign that said "Your Life Potential...." and he actually got a card that said Priest, AT SOME OTHER MORPHO MACHINE, apparently. "The card wasn't meant for me. People think Father means one thing. Only I know if it meant priest, it was supposed to say priest....All this time, I've been on the wrong path." He slow dances with a cynical waitress.

In other news, Dusty gets an "I Love PU" tattoo (he pained out before it continued), Cass tells him she's over the puffin thing, AWKWARDNESS ENSUES. Principal Biker has decided to get quickie-married to a guy who had "Lover" on his Morpho card.

"I can optimistically say it was the most heartwarming, machine-inspired union between two people who have known each other for less than 8 days I have ever seen."

The Mayor gives the gift of dance, to "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover," writhing on the floor in a formal dress, repeatedly. "I need another drink immediately. My mother's vagina is on display."

"Oh, you guys are newish to town, so you probably find it strange that a woman who wasn't actually invited to the wedding is currently stealing focus from the bride and groom by doing an improvised, overtly sexual, dance solo. But I'd like to reassure you, that it's MUCH more fucked up than it seems." The high kicks are directed at her ex....Cass stops it all by dancing with the flower girl. Dusty continues the scene-stealing by dancing to "Faith."
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:44 PM on April 5, 2023

Oh yeah, and I saw somewhere the show has been renewed for season 2 already.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:47 PM on April 5, 2023

Mod note: Okay, changed this to "show only".
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 3:19 AM on April 6, 2023

That was it for Ep4? Everybody dances, and then a "big reveal" I'd already kind of guessed?

I just want to see if my theory about a bigger twist is correct.
posted by NorthernLite at 9:35 PM on April 6, 2023

And yeah, still the most worthwhile bit of this E4 was O'Dowd's 90s dancing ramble at the bar with Hana and Father Rueben. The rest of it is nice and all, and some funny bits here and there, but mostly just OK I guess. I think everybody pretty much guessed some variation of Rueben's secret (I figured it was more of a "tried to be a parent but couldn't" or "should be a parent but is prevented from being one due to career" sort of thing, but it all sort of comes out one way or another), and the emotional re-establishment between Dusty and Cass was nice that it didn't turn into an 8 episode "why are you two still together, then?" sort of slog.
posted by Kyol at 9:21 PM on April 8, 2023

Episode 5, Trina, in which Trina takes a baseball bat to a sign, changing "Giorgio's" to "Orgio's." "As in orgy."
"Well, if I'm not gonna get that, nobody's gonna get that."

Dusty and Cass go to a hotel room for the weekend, run by Cass's mom's ex, who broke up with her because she didn't want kids. Cass just...happens to be the kid in that scenario. AWKWARD!

It's Kolton's birthday and everyone doesn't know how to treat Trina, like a widow or something? She knows more about the accident than she lets on. She goes over to Jacob's house for watching of Kolton's favorite movie...which according to Trina and Jacob, is really My Best Friend's Wedding rather than The Magnificent Seven. Clever!

"Oh, no. Please talk shit." Izzy's ex says having kids wasn't the breakup issue, said that she was told Cass didn't want a relationship with her. NOT TRUE, as Cass says.

"Marriage is tough." "You've been married for eight minutes."

Dad calls Trina "teapot."

"What could be more spicy than finding out you were a member of an all-boys dance troupe?"

"All the fun of a cruise ship with none of the travel." THIS IS A VERY ORIGINAL IDEA, I MUST SAY, especially in the 2020's. It's a compromise between being a homebody and wanting to go on a cruise but being afraid of the ocean.

"The number one nautical-based hotel in Deerfield!"

"When did my dad do this? He looks like a stripper on a houseboat."

"It is one of our more...authentic rooms."

"I'm apparently too brave or too morbid to be at parties."

Trina gives Jacob a card saying he survived his 17th birthday and she's glad he's still alive. "A little dark, under the circumstances." "I like, made it with my mom's craft shit." He gives her a blank Morpho card. I note they are officially (to them) secret boyfriend and girlfriend, which makes sense.

"I love tree bark. It's nature's scabs." "Magical!"

Meet Hawaii: "I got Explorer. Which obviously means sexual explorer."

Cass doesn't know what to do with "Royalty" and neither do I (other than "beauty pageant?").

Hawaii points out that she didn't go buy a giant sailing ship as an Explorer...and then the fake boat floor starts moving.

"We fucked in a tree!"

Then Hawaii parks herself in Dusty and Cass's bunk-bed room, wanting a threesome so she can cross off an older couple off her list. This is the most stalling sexy I've seen since Ivanova's "sex scene" on Babylon 5. Then Dusty manages to sprain his ankle and grew two more dots on his butt. This has just gotten so weird.

Trina's card is "Liar." She cheated on Kolton. Dad (Beau) throws her out, says "It's just you and me now," to Jacob, then chainsaws his table.

I don't know what to make of this show.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:13 PM on April 12, 2023 [2 favorites]

I don't know what to make of this show.

Yeah it’s not getting better every week.
posted by ellieBOA at 5:30 AM on April 13, 2023

Episode 6, Beau. Beau drives a Zamboni, as redneck as he can get about it. I note that his Morpho card says "Sheriff."

"I do think a robot could do what you do."
"There's a problem with authority in this town when people start looking down on the Zamboni driver."
"I'm going to be the frontbone. So you know what? I quit!"

So what did Beau do with that table, that his son uses for homework?
"I think somebody might have stolen our dining room table."
"I just didn't want to know what you were doing."
"Every sheriff needs a saloon, so I started there!" Shouldn't a sheriff have a jail? Yeah, but I though the neighbors would think it was weird if we had a jail in our garage!

Now that the basketball coach has been booted for cheating, Principal Pat has called in Dusty...and possibly Giorgio...and Beau have also showed up to coach?!?! "Better to have three coaches than one who's a cheater."

"Just take off the hat and be normal."

Cass's new business is Morpho shirts. "You can get your potential printed on a bumper sticker!"

Mr. Johnson isn't making any money off the machine. "An alarm goes off if you try to open it, and I can't get the quarters out."

People are now either rejecting people for their potential ("Secretary"...hey, she could be Secretary of State!) or hooking up with them ("Famous"). Meanwhile, Giorgio isn't even Italian!

OH NO. THIS WHOLE "BASKETBALL COACH" HOME SALOON THING IS TO FIGURE OUT WHO TRINA CHEATED WITH. OH NOOOOOOOO. Poor Tucker is picked out as "dude most likely to get laid" and is Beau's top suspect.

The teen boys note that all their dads are projecting their midlife crises onto them. One dad only wants to take pictures of trees and hang out with his girlfriend Hawaii....

In the end, Beau figures out the cheater was his OTHER son, and Trina breaks up with him because they can never have a normal relationship. Beau can't do much after he figures that out.

Weird episode. Best thing about is Dusty being the Only Sane Man in the coaching situation, then getting drunk and losing it by the end. Okay, that last part is not so great. Weird show.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:41 PM on April 19, 2023

I did enjoy the reveal that 1. Giorgio isn’t Italian, and 2. he has a large bust of his head next to his ridiculous bath to store his wig, after he’d mocked Beau for being bald!!
posted by ellieBOA at 2:44 AM on April 20, 2023

Yeah, I'm kind of settling in to it being just a weird town of quirky characters? I guess? Maybe a modern Northern Exposure? Maybe?
posted by Kyol at 1:31 PM on April 20, 2023

I felt like Josh Segerra who plays Giorgio was really channeling his extremely pure character Lance from The Other Two so I didn’t read him as creepy as a lot of everyone else here seemed to, but I think the writing really doesn’t help. I thought the whole town was pretty clearly in an alternate-universe level of quirky.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 1:25 PM on April 22, 2023

Episode 7, Giorgio: Giorgio is putting on that event for Cass. In this town, he now has to inspect everyone's Morpho cards to see if they are something embarrassing.

"You got Gum? What does that even mean? You're back of house today, Gum!" Xander's opinion of this: "I'm 23 and I work at Giorgio's. I don't know what Gum means, but it can't be too far off." HIs music may be bad, but even Xander can figure out that Giorgio's gonna mack on Dusty's wife. Also, he's of course, a drug dealer. Xander is really standing out in this episode. Everyone ends up smoking pot instead and Dusty never goes to the party.

Trina has now turned up with (faked) "Gondolier" as a card. I guess that's a thing at this job because she gets to go in the canal.

"Don't jizz in the minestrone soup?"

Cass has a dress side so big she can barely get into the car.

Dusty's point in this show is to attempt to be the voice of reason, such as pointing out that he can't get ice if his car is being driven away to the far side of the lot.

"Maybe that's why they're called stepdads, right? Because they're the ones who stepped up?" Giorgio took his stepdad's last name and that's the guy who raised him, awwww.

Nobody really gets the concept of the Potential Fund. "Why isn't it a real fund?" Why don't you have a teen yet?

Priest has a crush on Hana the bartender, who hooks up with Giorgio periodically.

Somehow the fundraiser turns into Giorgio auctioning off his sports memorabilia. Giorgio then comes on to Cass until they're interrupted, and he calls her later to keep it up and she tells him to stop. She also kind of wants to tell Dusty off for bailing, but doesn't have the energy....but she does head to the general store, breaks in, and is about to smash Morpho with a baseball bat until Jacob stops her.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:42 PM on April 26, 2023

Actually it's Cass' mother, Izzy the mayor, who goes to the general store with the baseball bat (that she purchased from Giorgio's decor out of a sense of town duty, not to actually support her daughter's attempt to fundraise). I assume we'll be getting her story next. The card she got was "Dancer" and Cass made a cutting remark about her being third-rate and only got as far to be backup swing on a national tour (or something like that).

Idk what this show is doing (or what the blue dots are -- that's the real mystery, and I don't think they were mentioned in this episode?) but I'm willing to hang out in this kooky town until it all resolves.

(I'm also 100% convinced that Chris O'Dowd is just playing Chris O'Dowd and I am totally okay with that.)
posted by paisley sheep at 8:54 PM on April 26, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oh, whoops, totally missed that in the dark. I was trying to cram in the end of the show before having to go back to work again :P

...Yeah, I know nothing about Chris O'Dowd, but that sounds likely?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:34 PM on April 26, 2023

I mean, this was him on Travel Man a few years back, so - maybe?
posted by Kyol at 7:48 AM on April 27, 2023

I say they should buy $10,000 worth of gum.
posted by Marticus at 3:20 PM on April 27, 2023 [2 favorites]

I really don’t like how much Giorgio pretends to be Italian when he’s Puerto Rican! I speak Italian and the amount of Italian phrases he adds when he’s talking is really high (aside from the restaurant), I get that he loves and misses his stepfather but it makes me really uncomfortable.
posted by ellieBOA at 4:54 AM on April 28, 2023

Episode 8, Izzy: Jacob stops Izzy from destroying the machine, telling her tried all kinds of crazy ways to get a different card, and kept getting the same one. Izzy tries it and gets the same card she actually got: "Ghost." Because she's invisible these days." Jacob wouldn't mind it. Her: "You're invisible to me, dear." Him: "Oh, thanks, high praise."

Cass chews Izzy out for lying to her about Martha. Cass also made a sign that says, "Deerfield: Neither a field, nor a place with a deer."

Trina tells Dusty her mom's having an affair, and what is he going to do about it? Dusty stomps over to the house (Giorgio's house has to be seen to be believed. Muscled arm door knocker, giant G in the lawn) and finds Giorgio passed out bald on the floor in his undies. Giorgio demands Dusty find good things to say about him, this is a challenge.

Izzy said she gave up her career because Martha wanted a smaller life, and Izzy was bored AF and thus ran for office. Then they play Dance Dance Revolution.

Meet Urie, the "sole survivor," who doesn't know what he's going to survive, so he's living in a shed to save his family. Giorgio and Dusty have tea with him and agree to go back to normal.

"You know what's not working? Not being together," Jacob says to Trina. She agrees.

Per Jacob's DIY cardmaking, Cass makes Izzy a new card.

There's a magic show, with "The Great Morphini" (Mr. Johnson) letting loose morpho butterflies into the audience. Love it. We find out that Dusty once went skiing in "Whistler."

Izzy turns the show into her quitting being mayor because she lied about her card and blabs that Jacob said the machine works without an SSN or fingerprints and he's got a blank stash of cards, and that Cass made her a fake card, and then continues to just make drama, really. She then stomps out and sees a deer in the street.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:59 PM on May 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

Episode 9: "Deerfest: Part 1"

Trina confesses to her parents that she's a liar, then later blabs it to the entire school on the PA, without Jacob knowing she was going to do that last one.

Cass is refunding people. Mayor Izzy will continue to be Mayor Izzy and put on Deerfest.

"I was in a really weird place-"
"Yeah, you were on a gondola trying to fuck my mom...."

Dusty accidentally admits in front of an entire classroom, his kid and the principal that he may have been involved in a threesome and smoked weed with a student, then lectures about the glory of making mistakes. Then he has a revelation that Trina had to be told she could be a liar in order to tell the truth, while dropping the f-bomb at one point.


That guy from the last episode tells Mayor Izzy a storm is forecasted tonight and the hay maze may go up in fire if there's a lightning strike.
"What qualifications do you have to make this assessment?"
"Well, I did get Sole Survivor from the Morpho machine."

Father Reuben doesn't want to be a priest anymore, and plants a kiss on the bartender.

Mr. Johnson tries to tamper with the machine, gets zapped by it, and then develops blue dots on his neck.

posted by jenfullmoon at 5:49 PM on May 10, 2023

I saw somewhere the show has been renewed for season 2 already.

I missed this earlier when it was renewed. I was sticking with this show as a quirky miniseries. It's not like I'm expecting answers at this point, but I was hopeful for a satisfying conclusion.
posted by Gary at 4:46 PM on May 11, 2023

This show got renewed? That early? I'm legitimately surprised. I feel like I'm the only one watching it and it's not being discussed anywhere.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:08 PM on May 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

Why does this get renewed and so many good lesbian shows get cancelled! I’m still watching, I just have nothing constructive to say every week.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:21 AM on May 12, 2023 [2 favorites]

I'm really enjoying this show, but I'm a sucker for (in no particular order) Chris O'Dowd, quirky, alternative-reality towns , the "snappy" lines that are often quoted here and, I guess, the larger story arc of what the machine is and what sort of denouement there will be. In the most recent episode, I didn't know what to make of Dusty's now-discarded Theremin having a Morpho butterfly inside and seemingly some sort of link to the primary Morpho machine, but I guess it will be revealed in time.
The parallel journey that viewers of the show are having along with the characters in the show (figuring out the central mystery of the Morpho machine and what the implications of its predictions are) is kind of fun and feels at least clever-ish.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 12:31 PM on May 12, 2023

After all this I actually enjoyed the final and want to see where it goes in season 2 😂
posted by ellieBOA at 11:21 AM on May 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm not saying this is the best show ever, but I enjoyed my ride with the characters as they learned more about themselves, even if we still know next-to-nothing about the Morpho machine. I'm happy to stick around for another season just to get an answer about the blue dots (and not just because of my tiny crush on Chris O'Dowd).
posted by paisley sheep at 12:10 PM on May 18, 2023

I’ve been watching this on and off, and I just - can’t take it seriously. It’s not the magical realism. The tone of the show just feels .. Lifetime-y? I don’t think that’s accurate but it’s the only thing I can come up with.

It’s enjoyable but I’m not getting invested.
posted by bunderful at 6:46 PM on May 22, 2023

Maybe a modern Northern Exposure? Maybe?
Episode 6 ended with Iris Dement's "Our Town", which was also played during the series finale for Northern Exposure.
posted by soelo at 10:35 PM on June 1, 2023 [2 favorites]

I felt like I got a little lost with the Hana and the Priest bit towards the end there that made me wonder if I'd accidentally nodded off during an earlier plot-critical moment, but otherwise ... eh, it's OK? I think the problem is that I'm sort of expecting _some_ kind of Morpho-related closure, and I'm pretty sure I'll never get any.
posted by Kyol at 7:10 AM on June 2, 2023 [2 favorites]

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