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The Twilight Zone (Episode #150): “Stopover In a Quiet Town” (airdate 4/24/64)
The Plot: A couple wake up after a night of heavy drinking and quickly realize they’re not in their own bed. Or home. Or town. Or…
The Goods: Bob and Milly Frazier (Barry Nelson and Nancy Malone) awaken fully clothed and with a hazy memory of the night before. There was a party and a drive home, but then nothing. A shadow over the car perhaps, but nothing more. They find the strange house they’re in to be empty and head outside to an equally deserted stretch of suburbia. Trees, grass and telephones are little more than props, the illusion of life is attempted with a stuffed squirrel and a mannequin, and a child’s laughter can occasionally be heard nearby.
It appears the Wolf Pack has found the premise of The Hangover Part Three.
“The moral of what you’ve just seen is clear. If you drink, don’t drive. And if your wife has had a couple she shouldn’t drive either.”
Bob recalls having quite a bit to drink which necessitated Milly driving them home, and he immediately suspects she got them into an accident. Of course, they think, we were in a crash and the other driver has brought them home to sleep it off. Makes perfect sense. At least until they wander downstairs to find prop drawers, cabinets and food. They head outside to the sound of a little girl laughing, but she’s nowhere to be found. The streets are empty, as are nearby houses and a church, and there’s a not a single bird to be heard.
At this point viewers will be wondering just as ferociously as Bob and Milly as to what the devil is happening, and the options run the gamut from mundane to insane. Are they dead and stuck in purgatory or hell? Bob does have a clear disdain for the suburbs. Are they dolls in a dollhouse? The Twilight Zone touched upon a similar idea in “Five Characters In Search Of an Exit.” Are they mannequins come to life in a nuclear testing ground? Nah, that’s a bit too similar to “The After Hours.” Perhaps they’ve mistakenly wandered onto the set of HGTV’s House Hunters International during the secretive staging process? Dammit man no, HGTV is still decades away from existence. What the hell is happening here?
Bob and Milly hop aboard a train they expect will bring them to civilization, but instead it simply loops around and returns them back to the same station. Scared, angry and still suffering the effects of a hangover, the couple set out on foot with the intention of walking their way home. Until a giant shadow swoops over their head and the answers to all of their questions are made apparent. Well, maybe not all of their questions.
This is one of the better season five episodes for a few reasons, but my favorite is Rod Serling’s wrap up featuring the quote on the story’s moral above. It’s just so direct and hilariously absurd after what’s transpired. The ending itself is also a fun surprise, as the episode allows for plenty of possible solutions along the way. Many of the show’s “twist/surprise ending” stories are actually fairly predictable, but this one is far more difficult to pin down even if the child’s laughter leads you in the general direction.
Third act touches aside, the best part of the episode is actually the couple themselves. Both the performances from Nelson and Malone and Earl Hamner Jr.’s script work to make them two of the most believable and well fleshed out characters in the series’ history. They bicker and flirt, touch each other nonchalantly like real couples do, and work together well in unison. We believe they’re a couple, and we believe they have more in their heads than simply the next line of dialogue or piece of stage direction. Characters on most of the other episodes, both great ones and the dregs, are far flatter and more limited in their personality. That’s fine, but it leaves all the heavy lifting to the story itself.
But here, it’s the quality of the couple that gives the “ah ha!” ending an additional, albeit small, amount of emotional weight.
What do you think?
The Trivia: Writer Earl Hamner Jr. was also the narrator on The Waltons.
On the Next Episode: “A World War II veteran and a young Japanese man have a fateful encounter with a sword that is determined to avenge its master.”
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.