Air date: Oct. 2, 1959
A man walks down a lonely road wearing a blue jumpsuit. He hears music coming out of a cafe up the road. He enters to find a jukebox playing but no one up front. He begins shouting to the back, expecting someone to be back there, but gets no answer. Frustrated, he goes in the back and finds it abandoned. He searches out back and finds nothing but trash. He goes back into the kitchen to find coffee still hot on the stove, along with some pies and sausage. He pours himself a cup and searches his pocket, finding some money. He shouts that he can pay for his meal, then notes the currency is American. He concludes he is American as well, and admits he doesn't know who he is. He continues to shout for someone, and eventually begins singing to himself to end the silence. Concluding no one is there, he pays for his meal and leaves, heading towards a town.
In the town the streets are empty, no people. He searches the buildings, again, empty. He eventually spots a car with a woman in it and yells for her. He explains that he doesn't know who he is, or even remembers waking up this morning, just that he suddenly found himself walking on the road. He asks the woman if she knows a doctor, but when he opens the car the woman turns out to be a mannequin. He laughs at this slightly until he hears a phone ring in a phone booth. He rushes to answer it, desperately yelling for an answer, but none comes. He calls the operator, but it is merely a recording. He still begs to it, demanding to know where he is. Frustrated, he hangs up. He checks the phone book but finds no clues. He tries exiting the booth, only to find it locked. He angrily beats at the door, demanding someone let him out, but no help comes. Eventually, he gets it open.
He searches the police station, once again finding no one. He starts to feel like he's being watched. He finds a still lit cigar burning in the ashtray, which only heightens his suspicions. He checks the prison cells and finds water still dripping in the sink, along with ready-to-go shaving supplies. He tells himself to wake up, and when the cell door begins to close, goes running through the neighborhood, screaming "Where is everybody?"
He continues to wander the town, still failing to find anyone. He eventually goes into a drugstore, where he decides to serve himself a sundae. He talks to himself in the mirror, believing himself to be dreaming. He even quotes A Christmas Carol, specifically Scrooge's denials to Jacob Marley. He searches the store and notes the detail, finding a shelf of books for sale, each titled "The Last Man On Earth". He once again rushes into the street, begging for someone to answer him.
Night falls, and the man, having amused himself by playing Tic-Tac-Toe in the dirt, is surprised when the city's lights come on. He notices a movie theatre playing a war movie, Battle Hymn. Investigating, he sees the movie's poster, and is suddenly struck with remembrance: he's in the Air Force. Happily, he runs inside, shouting this revelation, but finds no one. Sighing, he sits down, concluding that a bomb must have dropped, but quickly finds the flaws in his logic.
Suddenly the movie starts. He quickly goes up to the projection booth, shouting for someone, but finds it empty. He runs through the theatre, and ends up running into a mirror, knocking himself down. Now half-mad, he runs through the town, desperately looking for someone. Seeing an eye in a sign for an optometrist, he panics further, believing himself to be watched. He eventually collapses in front of a walk button, pressing it repeatedly and begging for help.
The scene then cuts to a group of men in uniform, hearing the man's pleas. They are watching him inside a small box, and he is really pressing a panic button. After a few moments, they clock him, and the leader orders his release. The colonel releases him with care. He then reports to his superior that he was in that box for 484 hours and six minutes. The press then arrives for a statement. The man was locked in a simulated flight to the moon, testing to see how a man would react to the isolation of the trip, which would take about three weeks. The town was a product of his sensory deprived mind. He then talks to the man, Mike Ferris, now lucid once more. As he is carried out on the stretcher, he looks at the moon and promises to be there soon.
- Rod Serling: Up there, up there in the vastness of space, in the void that is the sky, up there is an enemy known as isolation. It sits there in the stars waiting. Waiting with the patience of eons. Forever waiting...in the Twilight Zone.
Where is Everytropes?:
- All Just a Dream: The man's journey through the deserted town is just a hallucination caused by an experiment to see how an astronaut would deal with the three weeks' isolation required for a journey to the Moon.
- The Aloner: The man finds himself all alone...Doc: A very basic need - man's hunger for companionship. The barrier of loneliness.
- Bathos: Towards the end of the episode, the man begins to freak out in the movie theater, and at one point rushes towards the camera... and runs face first into the mirror that was reflecting this scene.
- Being Watched: What the man is feeling as he searches the empty town.
- Chromosome Casting: This episode has an all-male cast.
- Dutch Angle: Used throughout the final sequence in which the man flees in terror from the movie theater into the town square.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Does not have the iconic theme, and does not have Rod Serling strolling onto the screen to introduce the episode. Instead there's a different theme and Serling only provides voiceover narration. This would be true for the entire first season, with the famous theme and Serling's onscreen narration both introduced in Season 2.
- Everytown, America: The town, called Oakwood, Ferris finds himself in.
- Foreshadowing: When he finds himself in a diner, the man accidentally knocks over a clock and the glass breaks. Later, he breaks the clock inside the small box where he's confined.
- Ghost Town: Set in a town where there are no people.
- Go Mad from the Isolation: The Twist Ending was that the man had been shut in an isolation booth and was finally cracking.
- Hope Spot: Hearing the phone booth ring, and tried to talk to the operator but it turns out to be a recording.
- Oddball in the Series: One of only four episodes with no fantastic elements at all. (When Serling adapted this plot for a short story collection, he added an Or Was It a Dream? ending when the astronaut finds a ticket from the movie theater in his pocket as he's being carried out.)
- Ontological Mystery: It's all about the guy trying to figure out where everybody went until the end.
- Pinch Me: He believes he must be dreaming and tells himself to wake up."I'd like to wake up! I'd like to wake up now!"
- Quest for Identity: The man isn't sure himself of who he is for part of it. He does seem to vaguely recognize his own reflection. Though he eventually recalls being in the U.S. Air Force.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: In the book The Twilight Zone Companion, Serling is quoted as saying that the phone booth scene came from his real life. He was in an airport and couldn't open the door. After he started to panic, a guy just walked up, kicked the door open and walked away.
- Stopped Clock: Mike Ferris accidentally breaks a clock when he is in the diner's kitchen. While it is later revealed that this is a delusion being experienced by Ferris after more than two weeks of isolation, he broke a clock in the isolation chamber as part of his torment.
- Through the Eyes of Madness: Just temporary madness. It turns out that the whole episode is the hallucination of an astronaut who has "cracked" after being in an isolation chamber for nearly three weeks.
- Title Drop: The man shouts out the title of the episode in frustration when he can't find any people around.
- Unbuilt Trope: A bizarre mystery that turns out to have a semi-plausible, mundane answer with no supernatural or far-out explanation. It'd be a subversion of the show's usual format if it weren't the pilot episode.