Ben Stiller and ‘Severance’ Creator Break Down That Trippy Waffle Party
SPOLER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “What’s for Dinner?,” the April 1 episode of “Severance.”
Heading into its Season 1 finale next week, Apple’s “Severance” has finally answered at least one very burning question for fans: What the heck is a Waffle Party? On Friday, viewers saw exactly what Lumon Industries’ severed workers get as part of that top-tier, end-of-quarter reward through the experience of MDR employee Dylan (Zach Cherry). Well, not all of it, because Dylan actually high-tails it out of the Waffle Party prematurely in order to flip the control room switch that will help his coworkers Mark (Adam Scott), Helly (Britt Lower) and Irving (John Turturro) in their plan to “wake up” as their Innie in the real world. By doing that, they hope to find someone who will believe them, and save them all from Lumon.
But we see enough of the Waffle Party, which takes place in Kier Eagan’s replica home in the Perpetuity Wing on Lumon’s severed floor, to know it doesn’t just include a delicious plate of waffles — though you do get one of those, too. The perk, which you receive for being No. 1 in your division for the quarter, is a sexual experience that requires you to don a mask in the likeness of Kier Eagan, and are given the opportunity to perform intimate acts with four mysterious people dressed up as the “Four Tempers” depicted in a Lumon painting revealed in Episode 2 of “Severance.” We don’t see Dylan go through with the sexual part of this particular Waffle Party, as he bails shortly after the erotic dancing portion, which is certainly not something Lumon manager Milchick (Tramell Tillman) was expecting to happen when he dropped Dylan off.
“Honestly, it kind of started as a joke in the writers’ room that then developed into something we thought was really interesting,” “Severance” creator Dan Erickson told Variety about the Waffle Party. “It all comes down to the commodification of sex and intimacy, and that this is a world where you’re not supposed to express any sexuality amongst your coworkers. And yet they have to give the employees that outlet, because they may be having sexual experiences on the outside, but not know. So it’s a way for Lumon to take that human need and turn it into a sort of pro-Lumon thing.”
Erickson added: “It’s like, you’re having sex, but you’re wearing a mask of the founder of the company and you’re sort of playing out this ‘Taming of the Four Tempers’ that you see in the second episode. So you can have sex, it’s not wrong, it’s not dirty — as long as it’s all about Lumon and it’s all about reverence for Kier Eagan. So I just thought it was a really, really strange, uncomfortable question that we wanted to look into. What would sex look like on this severed floor? And this is kind of the best we could figure it.”
Ben Stiller, who directed the majority of “Severance” episodes and executive produced the Apple TV Plus drama, and star Scott say they were “intrigued” by the concept of the Waffle Party from its first mention in the show’s second episode, and had a hard time understanding exactly what it would look like until Erickson and his team of writers illustrated it in the flesh-filled scene it turned into.
“It’s a reward, it made sense in the hierarchy of rewards,” Stiller said. “Like, what kind of rewards can they give them down there? And definitely tying it into the Eagan philosophy and the cult of it all. So a semi-religious, sort-of-sexual event that happens. And we felt like we could take it to a certain point, but story wise, I was really happy with the way it sort of coincided with Dylan’s mission. It’s a good question whether or not Mark has experienced a Waffle Party.”
Well, has he?
At this, Adam Scott jumped in: “I think Mark has experienced a Waffle Party. The question is, are all Waffle Parties the same? Do they all consist of the same ceremony? As you know, I was not in that scene, but I did come to set to watch. I had to watch the Waffle Party. Dan and Ben had tried to explain to me a couple of times what they were going to do, and I was like, what? I needed to see it. And boy, oh boy, was it an experience.”
Stiller notes that “Severance” had a “very talented sculptor” who made the Kier Eagan and Four Tempers masks for the Waffle Party scene in Episode 8, adding, “It was fun to visualize those things and get into that weirdness of Lumon.”
For fans watching “Severance” week to week, seeing the Waffle Party might bring to mind the in-universe news report that a severed employee claimed to have become pregnant at work without her Outie knowing about the experience that had led to it. This is yet another way in which “Severance” explores the complicated ethics and morals of the severed procedure, and how it takes away autonomy from an Innie and blocks out that part of their life for the Outie.
“All of that was stuff we thought about, because one of Lumon’s paramount priorities is to not affect the life of the Outie,” Erickson said. “And there are obviously times when they fail at that, like when Mark gets hit in the head and they have to give them the gift card. But the idea is, you’re promised as an Outie that nothing is going to come back to you, nothing is going to land back on you that happens at work. So when somebody does get injured or if they were to be gaining weight or anything like that, that’s something Lumon would want to avoid — with the pregnancy obviously being the extreme example of something that they wouldn’t want to happen.”