The Twilight Zone and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Warner Bros Television and based on the series created by Rod Serling
Episode directed by John T Kretchmer
We’re back with another episode of that Twilight Zone series that’ll become even MORE irrelevant once Jordan Peele’s series finally comes out! Today’s episode asks the very important question of how closely a TV show can rip off a movie; a question I sadly won’t be able to answer because I haven’t SEEN Memento yet, but even then I can tell that this episode (which only came out a year after the movie) is trying to make the TV friendly version of it. Still, does it manage to be a fun knock off instead of the boring and halfhearted kind? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Zack and Maria (Ethan Embry and Alexandra Barreto) who are playfully talking about the former’s forthcoming bachelor party and doing so while wheeling a guy who got shot in the head to his hospital room. Hey, there’s no harm in having fun at your job, and it’s not like the guy’s family is there any way! Just some dude in a suit that seems VERY keen to know when this guy wakes up but no matter! BACHELOR PARTY, WHOO!! Anyway, Zack’s shift is over which means he can finally go home and…
He wakes up and finds himself in a hotel room hundreds of miles away (he’s in Portland but lives and works in Phoenix) and there’s a gun in his suitcase. Well dang! Just throw us right into the deep end, why don’t you!?
Actually, there’s still quite a bit of mystery here as neither him nor the audience has any idea why this is happening so he decides to call his fiancée to let her know what has happened to have been two days straight of blacking out. Oddly enough, despite being a nurse, she doesn’t believe that someone could lose two days of time; preferring to assume he just doesn’t want to get married. Yeah, this marriage is off to a great start already. I mean what the heck is he supposed to do? Given the circumstances he’s making some reasonable decisions here! Sure, he should probably see a doctor BEFORE getting back on the road, but he ditches the gun at least and makes a bee line back to Phoenix which is what I’d do! I’m don’t have the time to investigating stuff and uncovering conspiracies! Screw that, I’m just gonna go home watch TV!
He wakes up driving the car which is what he was planning to do, but instead of going south he’s headed to Seattle and on top of that he even has the gun back! Oh, so it’s gonna be like THAT, huh!? Well Zack isn’t about to take this nonsense lying down! He just grabs the hunk of junk and flings it into the woods; never to be seen again! Good riddance!
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the best idea as Zack wakes up to find himself with a gun to his head and a mob boss impatiently waiting for him to do the one thing that won’t get him shot in the face. I can barely find my phone when I wake up, let alone wing it at a high stakes negotiation! Props to Zack for immediately realizing the situation he’s in and not losing his cool!
So it turns out that while Zack was out of it (we’ll call this Blackout Zack) he went and set up a deal to get a new and butter gun using Zack’s honeymoon fund, the bastard! Said gun by the way is made out of ceramic and plastic which means it’ll get past metal detectors and is a pretty good indication that he’s not gonna use it for self-defense or sport. Now so far this has all been awesome! It’s a great setup for a play on a Mistaken Identity or Wrong Place Wrong Time story, and there’s genuine intrigue as each blackout escalates the situation Zack finds himself in. However, things start to go a bit off the rails in the second half as Zack’s actions become more and more confusing. First, he sees a few cops right after the gun deal who are eyeing him suspiciously, and granted going up to a couple of cops with a SUPER illegal weapon and claiming you’re not in control of your own faculties is perhaps not the BEST approach, but honestly at this point he’s much better off spending a few days in a cell or better yet getting some immediate medical attention! He decides not to and just pretends everything is okay which granted is not the most outlandish response to such a ridiculous situation, but I get the impression he regrets it almost immediately because…
HE wakes up again only this time naked and wet. It turns out Blackout Zack booked yet another hotel room (this time in Seattle) and was mid shower when… I don’t know, Zack took back over? The exact mechanics of this are still a mystery, but we’ve at least got a bit more insight into Blackout Zack’s plan which disconcertingly now includes a giant map of the hotel he’s staying at taped to a wall with schematics, timeframes, and a not so subtly placed article about the president’s daughter who’s going to be at this hotel later today; not to mention an ominous note for the real Zack.
So clearly the other consciousness is AWARE they’re a distinct entity from Zack otherwise they wouldn’t think to leave him a note, but considering what he has planned it doesn’t seem like a great idea to just give Zack a one sentence vague answer, or at the very least leave him so free to do what he wants when he wakes up. Blackout Zack should have PROBABLY left a longer note (they’re at a hotel! THERE’S GONNA BE STATIONARY!) or have taken measures to keep Zack from mucking up his plans, like say NOT LEAVING THE TELEPHONE THERE! Then again, maybe Blackout Zack knows nothing much would come from it considering the conversation we’re about to hear between Zack and Maria. This is the scene in the episode that has the most baffling dialogue because it feels like the writers are straining against not tipping their hand on the premise and working within the show’s budget which leads to some very odd word choice and actions. He calls her up and of course her reaction to him being unable to control his actions is to yell about their impending wedding instead of concern for his well being. Then, instead of trying to get help or have her freeze their bank accounts until he can get himself under control, he decides that NOW is the time to play detective and just out of the blue asks her if he’s ever mentioned the President’s daughter; also mentioning that he’s PROBABLY planning on killing her too! Yeah, that’s a great way to phrase it! Maria only seems mildly perturbed by this and suggests he talks to the Secret Service. Not the police or a doctor whom he can reach by dialing 911! No, start walking around the hotel and hope to see someone in a dark suit and start telling him he plans to kill the president’s daughter while at ANY point he can go all Blackout Zack in his search! I guess they couldn’t afford another hospital set or a police station, so the next best thing was a makeshift Secret Service interrogation room consisting of a single desk in a dark room.
Okay, so even if the transition was pretty awkward, we at least advanced the story a bit with Zack finally telling SOMEONE about his problem, and thankfully he does a better job of explaining it here; confirming that whatever is going on when he’s Blackout Zack is out of his control instead of saying something like “I THINK I’M PLANNING ON KILLING THE PRESIDENT’S DAUGHTER”. The man he’s talking to, Agent Taggart (Nathaniel DeVeaux), has his room checked while they’re talking and figures its best to detain him for the time being which frankly is the safest thing for everyone involved, when…
Zack wakes up with Taggart on the ground and a gun in his hand.
Zack is in the hotel lobby with his nice suit on, the gun STILL in his hand, and a timestamp written out on his other hand.
The President’s daughter is coming up the escalator and his gun is now in his waistband.
He’s in the crowd at the top of the escalator waiting for the President’s daughter to come up. Never mind that the Secret Service already knows that Zack is dangerous considering they already found what was in his room, but I guess this random Seattle appearance was just too darn important for the President’s daughter to miss!
The gun is in his hand, he’s aiming down the escalator, and shoots! NOT AT THE PRESIDENT’S DAUGTHER! OH DANG!! THERE WAS AN ASSASSIN WALKING UP THE ESCALATOR!! TWILIGHT SHOCK!!
And now we get to the twist of the episode! For the first time this episode, we actually get to see Blackout Zack who gets on his knees just as Taggart comes storming by with his gun (did he have two?) pointed right at him. Blackout Zack reveals that he is in fact… THE PATIENT FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE MOVIE!! That’s right, the guy Zack and Maria were attending to at the beginning of the movie was actually a CIA agent, and he got shot trying to track down this would be assassin! In… what I can only assume to be his all-consuming sense of duty, he somehow psychically reached out to Zack and started to take over his mind so he could stop the assassin. Sadly though, the episode ends with the patient waking up in the hospital, and it’s Zack who’s in that body with the implication being that the switch is now permanent. Hmm… maybe Forest Whitaker can explain this better.
“Two lives have been exchanged to save one young woman, making Zack Walker the most unlikely of heroes. Unfortunately, Zack will never know why it had to be this way because the answer only resides… in The Twilight Zone.”
What, THAT’S IT!? That’s all you’ve got!? Stuff just happens because it’s The Twilight Zone!? I mean yeah, that’s kinda the premise of a lot of episodes, but there’s usually some philosophical backing or a moral to the story; not just things can sometimes get weird around here! I don’t know, I do want to like this episode a lot for the first half, but things start to fall apart more and more as the story goes along (the Secret Service agent’s best plan was to get an illegal gun and shoot the assassin right before he pulled the trigger rather than telling the other agents there’s an assassination plot?) and it feels more like a movie pitch than a compelling narrative in its own right which is kind of a fitting end considering how much its taking from Memento. I’ve certainly seen worse from this series, but this is one of the more disappointing episodes so far considering what it had to work with and how strong it was in the first half. Actually what might have been a good episode would be the follow up to this one. Do Zack and the Secret Agent just switch places now? I mean it’s not like they don’t know the other is in their body. Wait… that would be a rip off of Face/Off wouldn’t it!? Now I’m REALLY disappointed we never got to see that!
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