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The Twilight Zone (Episode #147): “Sounds and Silences” (airdate 4/3/64)
The Plot: A large, loud man in love with volume finds himself in an audio nightmare.
The Goods: Roswell G. Flemington is the captain of a model ship building office where he treats his employees to rants and insults as well as classical music blasting from the speakers. He likes it loud, and he expects everyone else does too. They don’t of course, and neither does his wife who has grown sick of playing second fiddle to a grand orchestral cacophony of other noises. Roswell couldn’t care less about any of them though, but the tables turn one day when every single noise becomes a thundering boom between his ears.
“This is Roswell G. Flemington. 220lbs of gristle, lung tissue and sound decibels.”
Doors closing, shoes squeaking, and even air bubbles in a water bottle begin to echo loudly in Roswell’s head, and the constant clamor begins to drive him nuts. His visit to his doctor results in a referral for a psychiatrist, but this same doctor sees nothing wrong with clipping his finger nails right there in the office so who knows if he should really be trusted. Roswell visits a shrink anyway because he has no other options, and it actually helps.
Talking with the head doctor reveals some sad truths about Roswell’s childhood including the fact that he was raised by parents who expected silence. Cookies were forbidden because they were too crunchy. His messed up home life contributed to his becoming a complete tool, and once he acknowledges it the excessively loud noises cease.
Until he goes home and realizes that the bombastic yet melodic sounds he loves on the phonograph now can’t be heard at all. As Rod Serling says, it’s “a case of poetic justice.” Bland, predictable, poetic justice.
Just about everyone in this episode is a dick of some sort. Everyone but Roswell’s long suffering wife anyway, but she acknowledges that he’s been a loud blowhard since the early days so she’s an idiot for getting with the guy in the first place. His four employees have a crappy boss, no doubt, but if they’re so unhappy as to actually cheer his possible death they should probably be looking for another job.
Disagreeable personalities aside the episode is played mostly for laughs. The ending of course is the punishment and comeuppance that viewers expect from the show, but until that point the main goal seems to be a focus on laughs. It never earns them of course, but that doesn’t stop it from trying.
The best moment is neither a gag nor part of the well deserved (but ultimately unrewarding) finale. Instead it comes when Roswell’s wife decides to leave him and storms off into her room. Roswell pounds on and kicks her door repeatedly, the noise booming to his delight, until she opens it and reveals it was never locked. It’s as telling about his personality as the rest of the scenes combined.
What do you think?
The Trivia: Richard Donner directed six episodes of The Twilight Zone, but people only seem to remember his first… “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet.”
On the Next Episode: “An unsuccessful ventriloquist starts to commit robberies on the advice of his dummy.”
Catch-Up: Episodes covered by Twitch / Episodes covered by FSR
We’re running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes over the next several weeks, and we won’t be doing it alone! Our friends at Twitch will be entering the Zone as well on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at Twitch and feel free to also follow along on our Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.