On Becoming a God in Central Florida Recap: “Manifest Destinee”

On Becoming a God Kirsten Dunst in "On Becoming a God in Central Florida" (Showtime)

Things get weird, Krystal meets a new adversary, and a partnership take a heated turn.

We’re almost at the halfway point with On Becoming a God in Central Florida, and while it’s still one of the most compelling, darkly funny TV shows of 2019 so far, I worry that, like a pyramid scheme, it’s making promises it ultimately won’t deliver on. “Manifest Destinee” in particular seems to be setting up the notion that Obie Garbeau II is not just running a marketing scam, but an actual cult. Maybe not one that involves Flavor-Ade and political assassinations, but one that ruins lives all the same, while cruelly convincing its victims that they brought it on themselves simply because they’re “stinker thinkers.” What started out as a revenge comedy with a quirky twist seems to be turning into something else, and I hope it sticks the landing.

But, hey, I shouldn’t be a stinker thinker either, right? Let’s get to “Manifest Destinee”: Krystal’s (Kirsten Dunst) “splashercize” classes are a hit at the water park, until they’re interrupted by the bare-footed man who blew up Judd Waltrip’s house in last week’s episode. He’s Roger Penland (a perfectly cast Kevin J. O’Connor, looking more pallidly menacing than ever before), Obie Garbeau II’s head of security, who proclaims the splashercize classes to be a “perversion of the Garbeau System” and shuts them down. Back to square one, she’s forced to not just lean harder on Ernie (Mel Rodriguez) to recruit more salespersons for FAM, but follow up on some of Travis’s old leads, all while caring for baby Destinee, stricken with parvovirus.

Cody (Theodore Pellerin), of course, immediately throws Krystal under the bus, even though she was bringing in money with the classes. An attempt to mail a letter prostrating himself for forgiveness to Obie is thwarted by his upline, Carol’s husband (Eric Allan Kramer), who’s also, according to IMDB credits, named Carroll (and you bet they wear matching tracksuits). Carroll insists that it’s Cody’s job to keep Krystal, his “downline” under his control, to “break her like a wild horse.” Cody’s used car salesman grin suggests he’s ready to put his foot down with Krystal, but we can see it in his eyes that that’s not going to go how he wants it to.

Meanwhile, Ernie finds recruitment as fruitless a task as Travis did. He’s running into a common problem with real life MLMs and pyramid schemes: what do you do when everyone’s already heard your spiel, sometimes more than once? An opportunity arises through his church, however, allowing Ernie access to a previously untapped by FAM market: Hispanic parishioners, all of whom immediately buy into his promises of wealth and success. One hopes that Ernie simply doesn’t realize he’s taking advantage of these people, and genuinely believes that they’ll succeed, but the lure of pet peacocks for wife Bets (Beth Ditto) and more quality time with his son is powerful, and potentially destructive.

Cody’s used car salesman grin suggests he’s ready to put his foot down with Krystal, but we can see it in his eyes that that’s not going to go how he wants it to.

After blowing off a brief encounter with Judd (John Earl Jelks), who tries to warn her of the dangers of FAM, Krystal, sick with parvovirus herself, unsuccessfully tries to close some of Travis’s leads, stumbling around on foot in a fever-ridden daze and encountering some “eco-warriors,” a nail gun-happy teenager, and a kiddie pool full of brassieres. Too sick to go on, she’s picked up by Roger, of all people, who’s been tailing her and demands to know “What makes you think you know what Obie Garbeau II wants?” “Because I’m good at that,” Krystal replies. Something seems to click into place then — Roger (and presumably Obie) initially see her as someone who’s merely refusing to stay in her lane, but perhaps she really just hasn’t reached her full potential for what she can bring to FAM.

Cody’s attempt to “break” Krystal go hilariously awry, so much so that by the end of “Manifest Destinee” he’s literally on his knees orally servicing her, after she demands that they work as a team. I’m not sure how I feel about this turn of events. For one thing, Cody is repugnant in every possible way. Second, it’s questionable that the mere promise of sex would be enough to compel Cody to risk his chance to move up in the FAM ranks. But, as what seems to be the primary message of On Becoming a God in Central Florida, and what’s one of the great truths in life, everybody has a price.

Random Thoughts:

  • Note the overlapping scenes of Ernie praying in church, and Cody writing the letter to Obie Garbeau II professing to “live by your word, and I’ll die by your word.” How dark do we think this show might get? Pretty dark, I’m thinking.
  • We welcome back Rhonda the Repo Lady (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), who isn’t around very long but does get the best line in the episode: “Reverse psychology works. When we take stuff away from people at work, they really want it back.”
  • Of course precious Ernie plays in a bell ringing group at his church. Of course he does.
  • It was nice to see The Cosby Show‘s Geoffrey Owens playing Ernie’s pastor. Owens, you may recall, was shamed in tabloids and on Fox News last year for making an honest living between acting roles by working at a New Jersey Trader Joe’s.
  • Speaking of casting, hopefully Beth Ditto will get a little more to do in future episodes than just standing around being sweet and kind.
  • I refuse to believe that Cody would even know how to perform oral sex, let alone be good at it.
  • I’ve been informed by my editor that up until “Manifest Destinee” I was one week behind in my recaps, so please accept this as my mea culpa. This is what happens when you stream everything and lose track of when things actually air.
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