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Wonderfalls: Wound-Up Penguin

Objects: Wind-Up Penguin, Wax Lion
Missions: “Bring her back to him” and “Break the taillight”

‘Wound-Up Penguin’ is another twisty installment that, in addition to being fall-down funny, is surprisingly heartwarming. The adventures kick off when Jaye and Eric---who are hanging out at Eric’s new “home” in the back room of the bar---discover a woman residing in the large decorative barrel in the bar’s main dining room. Per the direction of the titular penguin, Jaye and Eric embark on a quest to find the woman and help her, believing she’s a homeless prostitute trying to escape her pimp.

They soon discover she’s actually Sister Katrina, a nun who fled her convent after having a crisis of faith inspired by cheese. “It was the cheese. The cheese was my undoing.” The suspected pimp is actually a priest from the convent trying to bring the runaway Sister Katrina back home. Jaye becomes convinced that her mission is to help restore Katrina’s faith, and in the wackiness that follows she becomes the victim of an impromptu exorcism, Eric gets to explore his feelings of guilt for not returning home following his wife’s betrayal, and Katrina’s priest discovers and reunites with a daughter that he never knew he had. It is this last and completely unexpected twist that leads Sister Katrina to believe that Jaye’s “gift” is a miracle, restoring her faith in God, and convincing her to return to the convent.

I really liked the main story in ‘Wound-Up Penguin.’ It was funny and quite moving, especially the scene in which Father Scofield is reunited with his daughter and Sister Katrina’s faith is restored. Both Sister Katrina and Father Scofield were engaging characters, and I found myself really feeling invested in what happened to them, especially Katrina. How can you not be charmed by a woman whose profound spiritual crisis was brought on by cheese? “What if it’s just cheese? What if I’m just cheese? What if this sack of meat is just a bacterial flirtation, and my soul is only a co-mingling of friendly microorganisms?“ I so wanted her to find a reason to believe again, especially since she was clearly devastated by her doubts. When she’s moved to tears by the “miracle” that Jaye’s voices hath wrought, I actually teared up a bit myself. Great, great moment.

The whole episode was a pretty unique way to address the issue of what might be speaking to Jaye through the objects. They cover all the possibilities, from good to evil, and leave us feeling pretty firmly that the voices are a force of good. (Was there ever any doubt? They are coercing her into helping people, after all.) I had to laugh at Jaye initially accusing the animals of trying to make her kill herself, but then backtracking when she realized she couldn’t do their bidding if she were dead. Her later willingness to believe they were demons, if that meant she could cast them out, was also pretty hilarious. Of course, when faced with an actual exorcism, she has a quick change of heart. “The voices, the animals ... I was just mad at them. But they aren’t demonic. It just feels like that sometimes when they make me help people.” In the end, she still seems a bit on the fence about what might be speaking to her, preferring to believe the events of the episode were “maybe a happy coincidence” rather than a miracle orchestrated by God.

I really enjoyed getting to spend a lot more time with Eric in this episode, especially since he got to deal with some of his post-breakup issues. Poor guy. His whole world was completely shattered by his wife’s infidelity, but he always manages to be so mild-mannered and positive. Turns out his sweet, nice guy fa├žade is really covering up a pretty conflicted emotional state. He goes from light-hearted banter with Jaye, to casting sad little looks at happy couples and the Jersey-bound trains on the schedule board, to downright angry and defensive. “If the good sister wants to move on with her life, I suggest you stand aside and let her move on!” Sister Katrina’s loss of faith and desire to not return home really brought all of Eric’s resentment and guilt to the forefront. “I lost faith in that whole other life. And I don’t know if I want it back.” I’m glad he got the chance to talk things out a bit in the hilarious men’s room confessional. “While you’re figuring out whatever you’re figuring out, can you hand me some toilet paper, please?” I guess we’ll see where this takes him and Jaye, since he seems to have come to terms with his decision to stay. At least for the time being.

On that subject, it was a lot of fun seeing Jaye and Eric out and about, trying to help a wayward soul. The two of them listening at the motel room wall was especially fun, and I loved the way he put his arm around her as they left the train station at the end. The two of them work pretty well together. It cracks me up the way Jaye always manages to make his problems about herself, but he only sees her as altruistic. “You’re like a saint.”

Other Thoughts

I’m running out of creative ways to express how funny and enjoyable I find this show. I feel like I use “hilarious,” “hysterical,” “laugh-out-loud,” “riot,” and “too funny” in every other paragraph of every review. Sorry to be so repetitive!

I loved the initial confrontation with Sister Katrina and Father Scofield in the seedy motel room. From Eric assaulting the Father and then being mortified to learn he’d attacked a priest, to Sister Katrina thinking Jaye and Eric were there because she didn’t pay for a turkey club, to Jaye’s comments about how she and Eric were going to hell.

Jaye: “Yeah, missionary man. Where do you get off beating a hooker? Jesus was nice to prostitutes.”
Father Scofield: “Sister Katrina isn’t a prostitute.”
Jaye: “Now I’m going to hell.”

The scene with the janitor at the train station was also very funny. Again, like the milk and cookies scene from ‘Pink Flamingos,’ it had exaggerated camera angles and sinister music to make it seem very cloak-and-dagger. The heightened realism just cracks me up.

Similarly, the scene in which Aaron tells Katrina how to cast out demons had me rolling. It’s even funnier when they hype up the sinister aspects and then close on a completely benign note. “They would chant the Lord’s prayer over and over and over. Until the demon knew the righteous were having none of him. And then he’d … you know, I guess … leave.”

Great little moment when Aaron shoves the cat salt shaker in Jaye’s face and makes it start talking, “It’s not always gonna be, ‘Hello, Jaye.’” “Stop that!”

Jaye’s parents staging a religious intervention was also pretty darn funny. Karen’s anxiety over Jaye possibly turning to the Catholic faith was very amusing, especially her nervous smile. I loved the way Darrin supported her: “Your mother and I are tickled to death that you’ve turned the Lord for guidance, sweetheart. We just think it should be our lord.”


Eric: “Yeah, but if Heidi had stuck with a hospitality basket, or a more traditional definition of the term room service, we’d both be back in New Jersey right now, starting our married life together.”

Eric: “Heidi wouldn’t allow it. She always said I shouldn’t open my mouth to strangers.”
Jaye: “Ironic. You know. Considering.”

Janitor: “Strange looking sort. Dressed in all black. I remember thinking, if Johnny Cash had been born an Irishman, his music would’ve been more lilting.”

Jaye: “What if we’re too late? What if he’s already beaten her to death with a bag of oranges for withholding trick money?”
Eric: “Well if she had any trick money, I don’t think she’d be living in a barrel. I know I wouldn’t be.”
Jaye: “Yes, but maybe she’s just a lazy whore. That happens, right? They can’t all have hearts of gold and good work ethics.”

Katrina: “It was just a turkey club, for the love of God. You don’t have to hunt a person down.”

Jaye: “Did you Agnes of God her? I bet he Agnes of God-ed all over her.”

Katrina: “This is the miracle of life melted over these chili fries. A bacterial flirtation with enzymes. The co-mingling of friendly microorganisms giving birth to curds and whey. ‘And from dust he created the universe.’”
Jaye: “The Dairy Board must love you.”

Karen: “Tupperware is not an eating vessel.”

Jaye: “I didn’t do anything wrong. I shouldn’t have to go to church.”

Jaye: “Katrina, untie me. Untie me now.”
Katrina: “I can’t. You’ll be flailing soon.”
Jaye: “I don’t wanna flail! I don’t want you to do whatever it is you’re gonna do that’s gonna make me flail!”

Final Analysis: I’m a big fan of nearly all the Wonderfalls episodes, but some I find particularly enjoyable, and ‘Wound-Up Penguin’ is one of those. It’s the first episode where the convoluted and hilarious story eventually led to a place that was truly heartwarming, and it really made me appreciate the show all the more. Plus, it was fun seeing Jaye and Eric take some more baby steps in their budding relationship.

Jess Lynde is a highly engaged television viewer. Probably a bit too engaged.


  1. For me, the best part of this episode was the attempted exorcism. There was something truly hilarious as well as strangely edgy about it. I was actually worried that something might happen to Jaye, even while I was laughing out loud.

  2. If anyone other than me didn't get the 'Agnes of God' reference but was curious, I found out it was a play/film about a young nun who is found to have given birth and committed infanticide. A psychiatrist investigates. While the mystery of the pregnancy and killing is not revealed, the only possible father is a priest. Interestingly, like the episode it seems to have themes around the existence of God and faith (is it a virgin birth and if so why would God allow a child to be born, only to be killed by its mother etc)

  3. I simply adored this episode. Whatever you choose to call it, I am convinced that there is something in the universe greater than we and I am fascinated by people's attempts to name it and to follow it. Watching Katrina's struggle with her faith was made all the better by her rediscovering it at the end.

    Hard not to call it a miracle. The tears were flowing as Father Scofield saw his child for the first time and realized that he is, indeed, a father. The fact that he stayed in Niagara, after trying to leave twice, while Katrina went back to the convent was just the icing on the cake.

    I am completely shipping Eric and Jaye and am loving watching this relationship develop. I had a huge grin on my face when he put his arm around her as they left the train station.


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