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 Kretchmer
We’re back with another episode of The Zone Who Twilighted Me as our journey through the least popular reboot of this series continues to mildly amusing and mostly bewildering! Of course the last episode was mostly the latter in the sense that it had no idea what it wanted to do, but hey! That’s what you get when you try to make a show as experimental as this; or at least trying to live up to a much BETTER experimental show. Does this episode get things back on track to Fun-ville, or are we stuck at Tedious Junction for the foreseeable future? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins like a mediocre porno with cheesy synth music and piano jams as we fade in on a couple in bed. What ISN’T like a mediocre porn film (and not in the sense of an IMPROVEMENT) is that the couple in question do NOT have sex; rather the guy wants a bit of morning fun but is rebuffed by his fiancé who reminds him that they agreed not to have sex until the wedding which is SIX MONTHS AWAY! Okay, so… I have thoughts. Probably not great thoughts, but thoughts nonetheless. Is it any of my business what they want to do (or not do) in the bedroom? No. What DOES seem a bit concerning here is just how out of sync the two are in regards to this as the guy Ben (Greg Germann) seems to only be doing it because his fiancé Samantha (Tiffany Lyndall-Knight) is making him, and while I get the frustration of him making moves on her in the morning after making this arrangement, she leaps straight to questioning his commitment to marriage because of it. I mean it’s STILL not really my business, but I think this is a plan that IS working, just not in the way she anticipated. If this kind of arrangement is her barrier for commitment then more power to her, but it seems clear even in the first three minutes of knowing these two that he’s not gonna clear it by a country mile and that even if he’s putting up a brave face now it’ll only last for so long before he finds a… creative solution to what he perceives to be a problem. Case in point, Ben goes to work with balls bluer than Dr. Manhattan and since he’s a photo editor working at what I assume is a modeling magazine, he ends up running into a bunch of beautiful women just standing around the lobby which causes his tongue to hang out like a thirsty dog. Are we sure she doesn’t just want to break up with him and is looking for the most roundabout way to do it?
Anyway he walks into his office where his best bud Garrett the IT Guy (Fred Ewanuick) is getting paid to run Avast scans once a week and also lets Ben know that he has this nifty new program for his circa 2002 Oculus Rift (the Oculus Fracture?) called Sensuous Cindy that he wants him to try as a way to release his sexual frustrations and which I can only assume is inspired by the Lula series of games that had started a few years prior. Don’t ask me why I know that. And in case I failed to properly articulate exactly what’s going on, this dude goes into work on like a Tuesday or something, just an average day in the life of Ben, and immediately spends his morning playing virtual porn games with his VR headset. I mean come on; the dude doesn’t check his e-mail first? He doesn’t have a meeting to get to or a client to meet? He just punches the clock and immediately goes on an extended lunch break! Well… extended might be a bit generous as we’re not sure exactly how long it takes for him to… get a feel for it as well as Cindy herself who is played by Jamie Pressly. Yes, that Jamie Pressly. Now I’m not gonna harp on the way this is presented as even today we don’t have anything approaching realistic detail in VR spaces and he’s not wearing any sort of haptic feedback device to make this more than just an elaborate PornHub video. It’s not supposed to be literal and it’s a heck of a lot easier to get an audience on board with a story line like this if they DON’T try to recreate it as an actual video game. Heck, one of the reasons I like The Lawnmower Man so much is BECAUSE the uncanniness of the bizarre CG cut scenes creates a very unsettling atmosphere which I’m guessing this series didn’t want for their PG network remake; as amazing as the prospect ultimately sounds.
I WILL harp on the technology for something very soon, but for now let’s take stock as to what’s going on here. Ben has found a way to release his sexual frustrations in a way that TECHNICALLY doesn’t break any rules laid out by his fiancé, but could be a violation in spirit. It’s one thing to spend a few minutes at your computer watching blowjob compilation videos; it’s another to enter a virtual world with the same sights, touches, smells, and cuddling as you’d get from an actual real world partner. This could be a pretty interesting examination of what sexuality even means when technology breaks down more and more barriers and how that affects relationships. IT’S TOO BAD WE SKIP PAST ALL OF THAT BECAUSE SOMEONE SAW 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY AND THOUGHT WE SHOULD JUST RIP THAT OFF!! Instead of doing anything particularly interesting here, Cindy just ends up becoming clingy and jealous which leads her to start doing things to try and attract as well as harm Ben in the real world. Because apparently this professionally made software can not only go rouge; it can access any computer system and electronic device it wants! I was willing to go along with the space age VR tech, but I’ll be darned if I’m about to go along with THIS crap!
The thing is that even if this plot turn wasn’t getting in the way of a much better premise, it’s execution on its own merits leaves a lot to be desired. I mentioned 2001 A Space Odyssey, but really it’s more of a Fatal Attraction knock off only minus the fantastic acting and taught pacing which leaves only the absurdly misogynistic undertones. Cindy is an artificial intelligence so I GUESS her motives being simplistic and broad makes a certain amount of sense here, but it still feels like it an appeal to obnoxious dudes who will look at this and say “WOMEN, AM I RIGHT?” as Cindy is thirsty for Ben, quick to anger when ignored, and easily manipulated at the drop of a hat. The only thing that softens the blow is that Ben is a TOTAL shmuck of a guy who frankly deserves what he gets and if he didn’t bone his hard drive he’d be after someone else. He ACTS like he cares about his girlfriend, but the ease with which he starts stacking lies upon lies is a red flag if I’ve ever seen one, and once again I pegged this relationship as on rocky ground by the two minute mark. So okay, Ben is trying to live his life but he’s getting calls from Cindy who wants to hook up again, she keeps popping up on his screen hoping to make out, and eventually she traps him in an elevator in an attempt to get his attention. Having had quite enough he gets his IT Buddy to run Windows Uninstaller (truly worth every penny this guy) but somehow that doesn’t manage to do the job right and Cindy has gone full on rouge. With no other choice than to quell the fury of this woman scorned (ugh…) Ben goes back into the virtual world to see if a night of sweaty passion will get her to realize what a chump he is. BUT WAIT! As soon as they start making out, she starts to… glitch I guess? Apparently Ben got his IT buddy to… make a virus for him that he would carry in his virtual mouth?
Again the mechanics are hardly an issue here and I’ll take a bit of poetic license when necessary, but it’s kind of an anti-climactic end all things considered; especially since Samantha never even found out and Ben didn’t have to suffer any consequences. BUT WAIT AGAIN!! Samantha calls Ben’s office to see when he’ll be home and he promises he’s on his way while also reaffirming his love for her. They hang up the phone and we see that Sam has one of those VR Headsets as well and jacks into the virtual world with none other than Sensuous Cindy waiting for her and share a tepid kiss before we close things out! TWILIGHT SHOCK… I guess?
A detail I intentionally omitted at the beginning of this recap is that Samantha works for the company that developed Sensuous Cindy which is a factoid dropped with all the subtlety of a baseball bat to the face, so it’s not like this comes as MUCH of a surprise, but even if was properly (if clumsily) set up in the narrative it still feels like a twist for the sake of it. It has no impact of Ben for one thing, at least as far as he’s aware of, and Samantha has been something of a non-entity throughout this entire episode (mostly serving as the symbol of true love over Cindy’s shallow gratification) that giving her this moment feels unearned. I mean is it supposed to be ironic that they both are cheating on each other with a virtual girlfriend? Is the moral of the story that they should communicate better? I don’t know, help us out Mr. Whitaker!
“Benjamin Baker narrowly escaped his fantasy while his fiancé explores her own sensual nature. A glimpse into the future of modern romance for better or for worse, courtesy… of The Twilight Zone.”
That’s kind of the problem though, isn’t it? There’s no substance here; it’s just a glimpse at a far more interesting topic. More specifically, it’s a show intentionally side stepping an interesting top to instead make another generic cyber thriller and the results are rather meh. I think there’s JUST enough self-awareness, especially with Ben’s character, to keep this episode from being a total dud, but it’s not one I’m too keen on revisiting simply because of how basic the premise ends up being and the perfunctory ending that feels rather tacked on. Now if we got to see the REST of the story after this revelation, THEN we might have something, though I’m guessing at that point you wouldn’t have been able to air on UPN.
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