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 Vern Gillum
We’re back with another episode of The Knockoff Zone which is apropos considering this is another episode of the show that JUST SO HAPPENED to be a heck of a lot like a movie that came around the same time! So what are we “paying homage” to today? Well it’s not QUITE an exact fit, but there’s a lot of The Family Man in this episode which if you don’t recall is the Nicolas Cage movie where he’s an obscenely rich dude who is confronted with the life he didn’t choose to live. You may also remember it as the movie where he goes TA-DAAAA for no reason, but sadly I doubt we’ll get to see something like that in this episode. OR WILL WE!? I guess there’s only way to find out! Let’s get started!!
The episode begins with some dude name Sean (Brian Austin Green) driving to work and he barely has time to lock his car and straighten his tie before Forest Whitaker is on hand to tell us what this episode is about! I mean I’m not about to go check, but twenty seconds into an episode sounds like a record for ANY Twilight Zone series to start its monologue, right? Anyway, what’s ACTUALLY important is that Sean is a rich business guy who has more than anyone else could DREAM of, but seems to be deeply unhappy for some reason and is about to be interviewed by a journalist (Moira Kelly). No, before you ask, I didn’t accidentally pop in a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. Although…
The journalist by the way does a very helpful job of giving us Sean’s backstory in exhausting detail so that all of us are nice and caught up! Sean idolizes Gordon Gekko of all people which should tell you everything you need to know, but on top of that he basically invented Starbucks and started the company by selling a family heirloom when he was a teenager. The venture ended up paying off big time, but it’s clear that his relationship to his family is nonexistent now and he has trouble connecting with anyone. Most of this is standard stuff that Sean has had thrown at him his entire career, but the reporter somehow knowing about the heirloom throws him off and the interview is cut short. While moping at his desk, he opens a draw to find an aspirin and instead finds the heirloom he sold all those years ago; a baseball signed by the 1927 New York Yankees. Oh, so THIS is where Scotty Smalls from the Sandlot ended up! I guess that whole “baseball announcer” thing didn’t work out. Sean is understandably peeved considering that this reporter JUST SO HAPPENED to ask about the baseball and it all of sudden turns up in his desk, but I guess he’s not concerned enough to run after her himself or call her editor and we cut to later that evening where he’s chillaxing in a fancy apartment with a bottle of Champagne and all the lights turned off. Heck, that’s how I’d spend my evenings if I could get away with it! Probably the best part of this episode is that they do a darn good job of characterizing Sean through his actions throughout the episode. True we got that unsubtle exposition dump in the first five minutes, but everything we see about the guy tells us a little bit more about him. He’s clearly not at peace with what he did if he got so spooked by the ball, he spends his nights either alone drinking or with prostitutes so he doesn’t have to form emotional attachments, and we’ll see even more sides of him as the episode goes along. The writing on the actual characters in this show has been pretty lacking with a lot of them feeling like blank slates for the story to happen around, but the point of this episode is that its al l very personal to him. However, if there’s one flaw to counterbalance its good character writing, it’s the magical TWILIGHT ZONE writing that is completely all over the place in story where less weirdness would have actually helped it along. On top of the baseball showing up in his drawer, he also finds his high school letterman jacket in his closet which he threw away years ago. It’s got a letter inside of it from his ex-girlfriend that I’m guessing wasn’t in there when he threw it away. The reporter who interviewed him doesn’t work for the magazine she claimed to, and OH YEAH SHE’S ALSO A GHOST! Not just any ghost though! That ex-girlfriend he had in high school? IT’S HER GHOST!! TWILIGHT SHOCK!!
She’s not even playing it subtle! She’s doing an ethereal accent and is speaking in vague aphorisms which can only mean one of two things. One, she was like that when she was alive which is actually pretty hilarious to think about (especially with Sean having dated her) or two, becoming a ghost makes weird and hard to talk to. It’s also strange that he didn’t recognize her during the interview considering how raw his memories from that time are, but I guess that supports the latter argument as I guess having a spooky voice makes it hard to connect the dots. Anyway, he kind of just accepts that she came back from the dead to give him the baseball which is an… interesting take, but he rolls with it and takes the baseball back to his mother (Marilyn Norry). He would have taken it back to his father but he’s dead at this point and apparently died mad about it, which in turn means she’s still mad. I… have thoughts on this. I understand that what stung the most was the betrayal and I understand that Sean doesn’t seem to have done anything to heal the rift that formed between them, but seriously. IT’S A BASEBALL!! His parents basically cut off all ties with their son over a freaking baseball that they’re STILL mad about! Whatever sentimental value was in that ball, I can’t imagine it was more than the sentimental value you had in YOUR OWN SON! On top of that, even as far as “bad sons” go, he’s not THAT bad in the grand scheme of things! Okay, we don’t know how he made his millions exactly and how well his company treats its employees, but he didn’t kill anyone, did he!? I mean fine, I don’t know the full history and maybe there’s more to the familial breakup than one visit to the pawn shop and a decade of radio silence, but at least my read on the situation is not nearly as one sided as I think the episode wants me to believe it is!
So the great family reunion fails to make much of a difference which means we have to leave it to MAGIC to solve everything. Sean goes back to his day job where he’s got this VERY IMPORTANT BUSINESS MEETING to go to along with a video presentation, and it turns out that someone switched it out for a home movie. A home movie that everyone in the board room just sits there and watches; including Sean who is just mesmerized by it. Sure, I get that all these reminders of his past are hitting him a lot harder than even eh would expect, but NO ONE thought to turn it off? Everyone was there expecting a presentation and instead have to watch the CEO hang out with his high school sweetheart? Well anyway this turns out to be the last straw for Sean who goes back home (again) and is standing just outside his childhood home. His ghost buddy shows up one more time to encourage him to take a second chance which he does by walking thorugh the door… and he’s now a teenager again. He’s there on the day he took the ball and decides not to; choosing a less wealthy life for one that is truly richer! What do you have to say about this, Mr. Whitaker?
“They say you can’t go home again, but say that to Sean Moore who traded his fortune for the most precious gift of all. A chance to wipe the slate clean, and start life anew.”
Ugh… gag me with a spoon. I will say though that even for how absurdly saccharin this is I think it does work pretty well all things considered. Plus, the dude gets to relive his twenties AND he knows what’ll happen in the future! Seriously, I bet even HE could afford Apple and Google stock at this point in time!
This is one of those episodes that I remembered but no particularly fondly. Certain key scenes stuck with me which is more than I can say for a lot of other episodes, but I definitely remember feeling nonplussed by it. Rewatching it, I think I get why I felt that way, but I appreciate it SO much more now even with all its faults. Yeah, things get kind of convoluted with the magical realism and it feels like Sean is being dragged by the nose rather than there being any real inciting incident for this journey, but Brian Austin Green does a fantastic job of not just being a smarmy jerk but being one who changes throughout the episode. His vulnerabilities seep in as the episode goes along and it’s a really convincing transformation even if the story inevitably feels a bit truncated. I get why the story ended up where it did, but the judgmental tone of the whole thing that places EVERYTHING on Sean’s shoulders felt a bit trite and probably why I didn’t fondly remember this episode as much as I kind of do now. It’s yet another blatant rip off that’s not as good as its clear inspiration, but it gets the job done a lot better than many episodes of the series and it does so without attempting to be flashy or edgy. Maybe a bit forced when it comes to the weirdness, but overall solid it’s a solid if unassuming little trip… TO THE TWILIGHT ZONE. See, Forest Whitaker? THAT’S HOW YOU DO IT!!
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