Season 3, Episode 17 (#82 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4823
Ah, the ol’ practical joke: hand buzzer, disappearing ink, fake vomit…. It’s all cute, quick and effective, but admittedly a bit juvenile. Adult practical jokes, meanwhile, demand more forethought, more complexity, more… finesse. For example, if you really want to pull one over on your friends (or enemies), you might just stage a fake nuclear holocaust to scare the hell out of them. 50 years ago tonight on The Twilight Zone, somebody did just that.
“One More Pallbearer,” written by Rod Serling and directed by Lamont Johnson (sheesh, did any other directors work on the show this season?), stars Joseph Wiseman as Paul Radin, a multi-millionaire playboy who has constructed an impenetrable bomb shelter, three hundred feet beneath his own building in downtown New York City. Utilizing sound effects and video footage, he plans to play the above-described practical joke. On who, you ask? Well, his three worst enemies, of course! A former teacher, a reverend, and an army colonel, three figures from his past who wronged him in various ways, and he’s gonna make them beg for his forgiveness as an artificial Armageddon looms.
A dick move? Yeah, definitely, especially since it’s clear that Radin managed to achieve great wealth and success despite the perceived wrongs done to him. However, the three “victims” come off so harsh and cruel that it’s really hard to feel sorry for them. Wiseman injects Radin with such nuance and pathos that we end up identifying with him, which makes this more a tragedy than the comeuppance tale it tries to be. Or I dunno, maybe this was intentional on Serling’s part. Radin’s fate (which I won’t spoil here) seems somewhat undeserved, despite the mindfuck he attempts to inflict upon his guests. It feels a bit muddy, morally vague, as if Serling isn’t really sure which message he’s sending.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!
Despite the aforementioned muddiness of the episode's themes, the set design is one thing that shines with crystal clarity. This is by far the swankest bomb shelter ever built. My God, just look it at!
Rows of martini and highball glasses!
Highly cool retro furniture!
(okay, I guess it wasn’t retro 50 years ago)
A flat screen TV, several decades before they were invented!
Whatever that big hanging mobile thing is, I totally want one.
And those rocky walls in the outer hallway are a nice touch too, conveying the fact that we are deep, deep underground.
Man oh man, I wanna live in there. You have no idea. Truth be told, I do have a pretty swanky setup at home....
Submitted for your approval.... the den.
No, the Dalis aren't originals.
The TV (37" Panasonic plasma, 3D, 1080p).
IKEA should be thanking me for the free advertising.
I call this part of the den The Vinyl Lounge...
Records + liquor = Pure bliss.
And across from The Vinyl Lounge is my desk, where the blogging happens...
I'm not in this picture because I'm taking the picture. Wrap your head around that.
It probably looks like I'm showing off a bit. I guess I am. Hey, I've wanted a room like this my entire life.
LIFE'S A BITCH, AND SO IS SHE.
Radin’s former teacher demands special mention because she’s, well, a mean bitch. She’ll get her comeuppance in a way, when she (well, the actress playing her, Katherine Squire) meets the business end of a subway train in season four’s “In His Image.” Karma, man.
All in all, “One More Pallbearer” is a fine enough episode. Nothing transcendent, just… really good. Wiseman’s performance, along with that beautiful set, elevates it above the mundane. There is a bit of that “been there, done that” vibe (which will continue to plague the show until it dies a pitiful death at the end of its fifth season), probably due to the ending, which harkens back to “Time Enough at Last” (see for yourself; I’m not spoiling!). It should be mentioned that there’s really no supernatural element here, which should probably count against the episode. But Serling’s script does have some choice lines in it…. Okay, yeah, I’m kinda flip-flopping here. I like the episode quite a bit, but I don’t love it. There, good enough?
Next week: Hey, remember on Lost, when Jack was trying to get back to the island, and he needed his dead father’s shoes to do it? Um… okay, that has nothing whatsoever to do with next week’s episode, except it’s called “Dead Man’s Shoes.” Man, I’m fucking loopy this week.