Roomcap: No bed bugs, just psychological terror and skin lesions in episode 3 of ‘Room 104’

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Content warning: Suicide, graphic depictions of violence

Best line: “Before you do anything rash…” — Dr. Blake

Episode MVP: Craig (Arturo Castro)

This week on “Room 104,” the Duplass brothers let viewers know that, if nothing else, at least Room 104 doesn’t have bed bugs. 

Episode three, titled “Itchy,” starts with Craig (Arturo Castro) — a man suffering from a chronic skin ailment — having just stripped the bed sheets in Room 104 to ensure they don’t have any unsanctioned critters that could upset his illness. Despite the room being free of bugs, viewers are not safe from icky content. Disturbing skin lesions are the predominant, recurring image of this episode. 

The entirety of the episode is filmed in a handheld vlogging style, presented as footage Craig records as diary entries for his physician, Dr. Blake. Whereas “Room 104” is mostly shot with languid sweeps and slow pans onto carefully lit expressions, the cinematography in “Itchy” is curt and shaky — with a camera lens unreceptive to the harsh lighting beating down from the hotel lamps and overhead bathroom light. It’s disruptive, yet it matches the grotesque nature of Craig’s very visible disease and very vulnerable disposition. 

Craig is quick to offer some hearty exposition at the beginning of the episode. As he talks to the camera, he thanks Dr. Blake for his longtime support and tells him how grateful he is for such a caring doctor. This comes before he announces just exactly what he is doing in this room: 48 hours with no clothes, no bad food and no itching. 

As the episode progresses, the audience is drawn into Craig’s developing paranoia — and quickly so. By the next video entry, Craig is sitting in the bathtub telling Dr. Blake about his experiences with a psychiatrist who suggested that he had maybe suppressed emotional wounds from his youth. He goes on to say he is feeling depressed once again, and thinks it may be coming from his rash. 

After yet another video in which Craig shows his full body to the camera, he wakes up in the middle of the night to tell Dr. Blake of a dream he thinks will shed some light on the situation. In the harsh, pale glow of camera light, Craig explains how, in his dream, he came across a collective of ghostly beings in cave who desperately needed him. “Dr. Blake, something’s happening,” he says before he goes back to sleep to see if he can “learn more.” 

The next morning, Craig makes another video for Dr. Blake. He calls his mother to see if he experienced anything as a child that might have inspired his dream from the night before. As she begins to think, we realize two things: that Craig has been isolating himself for years, and that on a camping trip when he was younger, Craig disappeared into the woods. Upon hearing this, Craig becomes convinced that his skin ailment is the result of some sort of supernatural encounter he had that day. 

Here is where Castro excels in his performance. As the tension of the episode builds, Castro weaves expressions of fear and isolation with vocal breaks and nervous laughter that all reflect Craig’s emotional state. The skin lesions across Craig’s body are upsetting to look at, but they are the perfect props to promote Castro’s aching mannerisms and broken positivity. This is a man holding on for hope, but clearly reaching the thin end of an incredibly itchy rope. 

The emotional stress beautifully exhibited by Castro is furthered when, after thinking he solved his illness by discovering he had been “abducted by aliens,” Craig wakes up to realize his skin lesions have worsened and spread. He then decides to bleach his skin. The next shot shows him jumping into a bathtub filled with bleach, screaming and pouring more of it all over his body. The sounds he exudes are ear-curdling, but the sight of his skin bubbling as he whimpers hopelessly is even more horrifying. 

After saying “I think I’ve gone insane,” Craig looks at the camera and tells Dr. Blake: “Thank you for everything, but I’m done.” 

In the next video entry, Craig announces to Dr. Blake that he had just eaten his last meal and gone out to buy a rope to end his life, when he came back to discover that Dr. Blake had called with good news. He plays a voicemail of Dr. Blake (François Chau) saying that Craig’s blood work came back with an official diagnosis — and that his disease is completely curable. He explains that he is on his way to administer the first round of treatment and that he will likely be at Room 104 by the time Craig listens to the message.

Lo and behold, a knock at the door reveals Dr. Blake, who embraces Craig in a huge hug. Craig lays on the bed jittering with joy as Dr. Blake prepares his first shot — telling him that it may hurt at first but will feel better with time. But as he administers the shot, Craig begins to convulse and choke. Dr. Blake whispers in his ear, “Thank you for everything” and steps back as Craig’s stomach explodes and covers the walls in thick sheets of blood. 

Dr. Blake reaches into Craig’s stomach and pulls out two root-covered creatures that he reveals Craig had been housing since he was a child. He tells them to say “Bye bye, Daddy” before he whisks them out of the blood-soaked Room 104 — but not before he turns off Craig’s video camera. 

Maisy Menzies covers television. Contact her at [email protected].