Rachel Keller’s character of Samantha is explored, peeling back the layers of her past as a Mormon missionary in Tokyo during the late 90s.
Tokyo Vice dives deep into Samantha’s backstory as a Mormon missionary in Japan and what led her to her current dilemma. Rachel Keller plays Samantha Porter in Tokyo Vice‘s cast, an expatriate working as a hostess for an exclusive nightclub when audiences first meet her. Samantha is presented as a strong-willed, determined, and professional woman working in Tokyo, but there’s much more going on with her, as the character’s ties to the past return to haunt her present.
Tokyo Vice is a loose adaptation of the memoir by Jake Adelstein, tracking his life as a reporter in Tokyo during the late 90s as he worked the crime beat, particularly covering the Yakuza, where he encountered all manner of individuals within that circle—including hostesses like Keller’s Samantha. Keller has been a steady presence in TV in recent years, with a number of high-profile roles in shows like Legion, Fargo, and Dirty John. She’s set to appear in a number of upcoming feature projects as well, including Butcher’s Crossing with Nicolas Cage and A Man Called Otto with Tom Hanks.
Early in Tokyo Vice it’s revealed that Samantha has a stockpile of money hidden in her apartment, which she’s been saving to start her own club. It is revealed that she had initially stolen $40,000 dollars from the missionary fund in order to stay in Japan when her mission was over. This theft was not left unanswered, as Samantha’s father paid a man to find her and presumably have her answer for her crimes. However, the man hired to find her has other ideas, blackmailing Samantha by demanding sex in exchange for not turning her over to the authorities.
Mormon Missionaries In Japan Explained (And How Accurate Samantha’s Story Is To Them)
Mormon missions, which are led by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) aka Mormons, typically last for two years for men and eighteen months for women (which is how long Samantha served). Missionaries are traditionally in their late teens to early twenties (Samantha is 21 when she arrives) and they are typically assigned a same-sex companion (which Samantha also has), both for support and accountability. The mission can be focused on proselytizing or on teaching English as a means to proselytize. For Samantha in Tokyo Vice, teaching English is their focus, as they hand out fliers and eventually recruit men, women, and children to lessons. Mormon missionaries have a strict daily schedule while on their mission, which involves morning prayer and study, before venturing out to proselytize until the late evening. They are forbidden from watching TV and movies, listening to secular music, or using the Internet, and are expected to remain focused on the mission from start to finish, following the strict guidelines of their Missionary Handbook.
In Tokyo Vice season 1, episode 5 “Everyone Pays”, Samantha is seen arriving in Japan in 1994, dressed in traditional Mormon clothing and looking far more plain than she does when she’s first seen in the show as a hostess. She is traveling with her female companion and they are later seen in a montage, wearing name tags and soliciting locals on the streets and door-to-door for English lessons, traveling by bike or on foot, and living together in a small apartment, as is common. Samantha reveals she’s from Utah, which is where The Missionary Training Center is located (and where Samantha would’ve learned Japanese prior to her trip), specifically in Provo, Utah. Later in the episode, Samantha goes through her backpack from those days, revealing a copy of The Book of Mormon and her journals, which also includes a photograph of her Mormon family back home in Utah, showing that she also has siblings. Keeping a personal journal is also something that’s encouraged on mission trips, although not required.
What Does Samantha’s CTR Ring Actually Mean?
Samantha also has a ring with the initials “CTR” which in the Mormon religion means “Choose the right”. This is a commonly used motto in the Mormon religion, which is derived from an LDS hymn, and is meant to be a reminder for church members to make the right choice or the most righteous choice in their daily lives. For Samantha, the ring appears to have many meanings, particularly as she tries to navigate her difficult situation of being blackmailed for sex, in lieu of being turned over to authorities, while attempting to start her own club that may or may not push her deeper into the grasp of Tokyo Vice‘s Yakuza. However the situation resolves, it appears that Samantha’s ties to Utah, the LDS Church, and her mission in Japan will all play a role in her developing story throughout Tokyo Vice.
Next: Tokyo Vice True Story Explained (And What The TV Show Changes)
New episodes of Tokyo Vice release Thursdays on HBO Max.
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