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Literature / The Season to Be Wary

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The Season to Be Wary is a 1967 collection by Rod Serling comprising three short stories:

  • "The Escape Route": Joseph Strobe, once a Gruppenfuehrer in Nazi Germany and now a fugitive in Buenos Aires, is scared. Adolf Eichmann has just been captured and is en route to Israel to stand trial. Who's next? Him? His colleagues, Lanser and Gruber? Finding no help from either man, Strobe looks for an escape route of his own— and thinks he found it...
  • "Color Scheme": The civil rights movement comes to the backwater town of Chaseville, Mississippi, when the local blacks march in a peaceful protest. The offended white citizens of the town look to a man to reassure them: King Connacher, a populist racist speaker with a taste for inciting riots. But he's called up one riot too many.
  • "Eyes": Miss Claudia Menlo has never wanted for anything— except the eyesight she's been deprived of since birth. But she's certain everything— and everyone— has their price, and she's willing to pay whatever it takes to be able to see. Even for just a few hours.

"The Escape Route" and "Eyes" were eventually adapted into two segments of the Pilot Movie for Night Gallery.note 

WARNING: Since the stories rely heavily on twists and reveals, this page is a veritable minefield of spoilers. Be cautious.

All the stories provide examples of:

"The Escape Route" provides examples of:

  • And I Must Scream: Strobe is trapped in a depiction of concentration-camp torture as the victim. Forever.
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Strobe does manage to escape into a painting— just not the one he thought.
  • Best Served Cold: Twenty years after his experiences in the camps, Zamorski cuts the throat of the man who tortured him.
  • Gypsy Curse: A little of this and a little of The Cassandra— Strobe, during a sleepless night, recalls a gypsynote  who he had spent a while interrogating and finally just blinded with needles. The last thing he remembers the gypsy telling him was: "My pain is brief... but yours, Gruppenfuehrer— yours will last an eternity. I will that to you. I leave it to you as a legacy. Pain— eternal pain."
  • Lima Syndrome/Stockholm Syndrome: A really weird example with Lansing and Zamorski. Zamorski was one of Lansing's torture victims in the camps, and he escapes with him— because who would expect a Nazi to be traveling with one of the Jews he victimized? Lansing regards Zamorski as a kind of pet (or maybe a favorite toy that he played with), and Zamorski seems content to stay with Lansing. Though it turns out that Zamorski may have just been playing a really long game...
  • Portal Picture
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: More like "Yank the Son of a Bitch's Chain"; while hiding out in an art museum, Strobe has a vivid feeling of being in a painting of a fisherman on a lake, completely at peace and free of the fear of capture. Then someone in the gallery complains about a gruesome painting of a concentration camp and snaps him out of it.

"Color Scheme" provides examples of:

  • Bastardly Speech: Deconstructed. The speech we see Connacher give is hateful but ultimately rather simple-minded. It works, though.
  • Color Me Black: The Karmic Transformation of King Connacher.
  • Death of a Child: Connacher stirs up a mob that goes and sets the black minister's house on fire. One of his children— a four-year-old girl— doesn't get out alive.
  • Devil, but No God: More like "Hell But No God":
    "Mr. Connacher." The minister's voice seemed to follow him. "You drive careful now. There isn't nobody to protect you. Drive careful and don't die."
    Then— and only then— did Connacher see the smile.
    "You die and maybe you go to hell. And you never can tell— maybe in hell they make you black."
  • Good Is Impotent: Or at least, the white Unitarian minister who participates in the march is. Though he's there with the marchers at the beginning, the story never brings him up again— for all the reader knows, he cut and ran out of town before things got bad.
    So the white Unitarian minister, committed to Good Works, feels a fear of his own. He wants the comfort of an abstract commitment to decency. He doesn't want to walk into the muzzles of riot guns. He's not built for this.
  • Hourglass Plot: This kills one man and thoroughly breaks the other.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: After Connacher has turned black, he manages to run afoul of the local whites when he seeks help (in particular, he addresses his ex-groupie by her first name and tries to touch her). Later, a mob comes across the tracks to the black part of town where he's hiding out. Running from them, he meets the minister whose house burned down later— and the minister is now white. Said minister ends up using Connacher's earlier speech against him and throwing him back to the mob to die.
  • Sexual Karma: Connacher and a groupie he finds go and have a wild fuck on the outskirts of town. Both enjoy themselves, but the narration makes it clear that each treated the other as basically a sex toy that happened to be sentient.
  • This Was His True Form: Averted. Connacher's corpse— or what's left of it— stays black. The preacher does return to his black self, but doesn't have to die to do it.
  • What a Drag: The Karmic Death of King Connacher.

"Eyes" provides examples of:

  • Blackmail: though Miss Menlo seems to think of it as some variant of either Flaw Exploitation or Every Man Has His Price.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word:
    Miss Menlo: The term is a bit harsh— but the principle is quite accurate.
  • The Chain of Harm: Miss Menlo's higher-ranking victims find they usually have to pressure someone else into helping them.
  • Death by Irony: Since the blackout was at night, Miss Menlo only realizes the operation worked when the sun rises. Entranced and dazzled by its brilliance, she walks towards it— and misjudging, falls off her apartment balcony to her death.
  • False Rape Accusation: How Miss Menlo forces Charlie into signing over his eyes.
  • Irony: Cosmic: The eye transplant works... but when Miss Menlo takes the bandages off, it's during a citywide blackout, so she still can't see. The Night Gallery adaptation twists the knife a bit by having the blackout occur just after she takes the bandages off— so she sees for a moment.
  • Loan Shark: Why Petrozella is so willing to screw over Indian Charlie. When Charlie escapes the situation by suicide, Petrozella has no choice but to sell his own eyes— because the loan sharks might leave them, but would take so many other pieces....
  • My Greatest Failure: You better pray Miss Menlo never finds yours out, because she will use it as leverage.
  • Take That!: Perhaps unsurprising from the man who wrote Requiem for a Heavyweight:
    [Indian Charlie] had lost by embracing something men call a sport, which was no sport at all. If there was head room, boxing matches would be held in sewers.