Misanthropic businessman Peter Jay Novins (Bruce Willis), currently out drinking, accidentally dials his home phone number on the bar's payphone. Peter is later shocked when his call is answered by a man who claims to be Peter himself. While he inititally thinks that this man is some lowlife trying to steal his identity, the man reveals that he's in fact Peter's alter-ego, who has grown sick and tired of how much of a horrid person Peter is. To this end, the doppelganger goes to work fixing Peter's mistakes and making him into a better person, while the real Peter slowly becomes an echo of his former self.
- 555: Peter's home phone number is Klondike 5-6189.
- Adaptation Name Change: Peter's alter-ego doesn't have any other name to distinguish him from the original Peter. In the short story by Harlan Ellison, the original Peter decides to call him "Jay."
- Astral Projection: Discussed. The alter ego claims that he is the real Peter while the other one is only a piece of him that wandered off while he was sleeping, thanks to astral projection.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Peter's alter-ego reminds him that he took the account of the Cumberland company at his PR firm, knowing full well that they intend to strip-mine a county.
- Doppelgänger: Peter accidentally dials his home number and ends up talking to his alter ego, who gradually takes over his life while the original Peter vanishes into nothing.
- For Want Of A Nail: Peter is subsumed and replaced by a doppelganger he didn't even know existed, solely because he dialed his home phone number out of instinct.
- Graceful Loser: Seeing that he's going to die while the doppelganger assumes his identity, Peter takes his loss gracefully, especially because the doppelganger is the nicer of the two, and will continue to make amends in his life he never got to make.
- Heel Realization: Peter gradually comes to realize that between the two of them, his doppelganger is a better person than he ever was.
- Hypocrite: In a single conversation, Peter's doppelganger calls the real Peter out on this three times:
- For one thing, Peter claims that everybody deserves a chance to live, but the doppelganger happens to know that Peter is a misanthrope who couldn't give a single care about anyone other than himself.
- Second, there's the fact that Peter claims to loathe hypocrisy, despite his being involved with the heavily corrupt Cumberland company indicating he's also a hypocrite.
- Lastly, Peter advertisedCumberland to the public, despite knowing very well that they'll milk the county for all their money and get away with it.
- It's All About Me: One of Peter's flaws is his selfishness. In particular, instead of recognizing that his ailing mother deserves to be cared for, he only sees her as dead weight.
- Jerkass: Peter is rebuked by his alter-ego as a very unpleasant person. While visiting his extremely sick mother in Miami, Peter told her that he had to return to New York City earlier than he actually had to just because he couldn't stand being around her any longer. He also convinced a woman named Patty to leave her husband, set her and her son up in an apartment, and then abandoned her as soon as he got bored with her. He also mistreated his current girlfriend Jamie, but it's not specified how. He also works for a PR firm and took the Cumberland account, knowing full well that the company's unsafe environmental practices would destroy a small town. His alter ego, who describes him as having the ethics of a weasel, is a far better person who sets about making amends for everything the original Peter has done.
- Never the Selves Shall Meet: Discussed. When Peter threatens to go to his apartment and fight his alter ego head on, the alter ego speculates that this would be a very bad idea, as each of them could be destroyed in the process. He cites the scientific theory that only one of each object can exist in one place at the same time. This proves not to be the case when the two of them come face to face in the final scene, though it's implied that the alter ego knew this already.
- Pun-Based Title: Each of the days listed throughout the episode are puns on normal days of the week: Someday, Moanday, Duesday, Woundsday, Thornsday, Freeday, and Shatterday.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The alter-ego spends the entire episode giving Peter the mother of all such speeches.
- The Remake: The story is essentially a sucessor to the classic episode, "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room."
- Something Only They Would Say: Peter tests his alter ego's claim to be him by asking him what his childhood friend Skip Fisher's father did for a living. The alter ego correctly answers that he was a fireman, until he quit his job to work at a Studebaker dealership.
- Talking to Themself: Peter spends the whole episode talking to a mysterious Doppelgänger who aims to repair his life choices.
A Little Peace and Quiet
Penny (Melinda Dillon) is a wife and mother who is clinging to her sanity by a thread, thanks to the nonstop ride of hecticness that is her home life. Her husband Russel (Greg Mullavey) is a hapless dimwit who always asks for her help with the simplest tasks, and her four children are no better, as eldest daughters Janet and Suzie are always fighting, only son Russel Jr. has a penchant for pulling pranks, and youngest daughter Bertie is always making a mess. One afternoon, while tending to her garden and having to deal with her neighbor doing some disruptive yard work of his own, Penny digs up a wooden box housing a gold pendant in the shape of a sundial. With Russell not having had bought anything for her in several years, Penny puts the pendant around her neck.
After an outing at the supermarket where the kids are on their absolute worst behavior, and things get just as chaotic around dinner time, Penny, at the end of her rope, yells the words "SHUT UP!" All at once, everyone and everything around Penny is frozen in place. Once she realizes what's going on, she hesitantly says "Start talking." This causes everything to start moving again, as well as resuming the chaos running amok throughout the house. After a few more utterances of "Shut up" and "Start talking", Penny realizes that her pendant has the ability to stop time at her command. Realizing that she wields the cure to an inevitable nervous breakdown, Penny frequently uses the pendant so she can relax, regain her composure, and stave off migraines.
Over the next several days, she uses her power to enjoy a peaceful breakfast with her family and shop at the grocery store without being bothered by customers. Late one afternoon while trying to cook dinner and nurse another migraine, she gets a knock on the door. A pair of young college students are at the door, having grown alarmed at the news of a complete collapse of U.S./Soviet relations and both sides have been making ominous threats that they will attack with minimal provocation, and are trying to rally support for an emergency meeting to make one last attempt to stave off nuclear war. Penny looks at her pendant, and decides that this is a good time to tell the activists to "shut up." But instead of re-starting time immediately after dragging their bodies into the yard, she leaves them there and then says "start talking." Upon realizing their predicament, the students nervously conclude that this woman is simply not interested and decide to try to continue their rallying efforts elsewhere.
That night, Penny is enjoying a peaceful bath, while Russell Sr. monitors the constant news bulletins throughout the evening over the U.S.-Soviet situation, which report that attacks are now all but assured. Just then, an air raid siren begins sounding, and Russell screams for Penny to come in. Penny hastily dries herself off and puts on a bathrobe, and then they listen to the radio, where the news announcer -– losing his efforts to keep his composure -– reveals that the Soviets have made the first nuclear strike of World War III. A terrified Penny tries to make sense of the situation as Russell decides they'll gather the kids find an emergency shelter. Russel Jr., meanwhile, has been awakened by the sirens and the chaos outside, frightened and wondering what’s going on. As ICBM missiles enter U.S. airspace, Russell and his son begin to embrace and cry, and just seconds after an explosion is heard in the distance, Penny finally stops time by screaming "SHUT UP!"
After hugging her frozen husband and son one last time, Penny, clad only in her robe, walks through town and sees a frozen scene of panicked residents trying to find shelter. After taking note of the marquee on a local movie theater, she sees a Soviet missile frozen a few hundred feet in the air, nose down and moments from impact. The episode ends with Penny facing an unwinnable dilemma: live eternally alone in a safe but silent world, or unfreeze time and have the world be annihilated by nuclear war. More than likely, she's also brought upon herself an eternity to think about misusing a gift that could have been used to bring about world peace, but instead was used for selfishness.
- And I Must Scream: Penny freezes time for the final time during the Soviet's nuclear attack on the United States, the exact second a Soviet missile explodes nearby. As she glimpses an inbound missile frozen over her own town, she's stuck with the choice of either living forever frozen in time, or unfreezing time and dying instantly.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Penny just wants a way to make the world stop bothering her so she can regain her sanity. The pendant allows her to freeze time at her command and escape her responsibilities, until her increasingly impulsive use of it during a horrific disaster leaves her stuck in a situation where the only way out would result in certain death.
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: Penny's family fits this to a T: Her husband, Russell Sr., is an imbecile who henpecks her to help him with minor tasks; their two pre-teen daughters, Janet and Susan, are always fighting with one another; youngest daughter Bertie is very clumsy and always making a mess; and only son Russell Jr. has a habit of playing pranks on his parents. Their antics are just too much for Penny to bear, and she believes that the magic pendant she discovers is simply a way to control her family and regain control of her sanity.
- Big "SHUT UP!": How Penny is able to freeze time, and she later says "Start talking." to let it start again.
- Bystander Syndrome: Harried housewife Penny refuses to note the fact that the Soviet Union and United States are on the brink of war, and that she just might be wearing the thing that can bring world peace. Instead, she uses the pendant selfishly and the United States pays a dear price in the end.
- "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
- It's implied that if Penny used the pendant to mend the relations of the US and the Soviet Union, World War III wouldn't have happened.
- Earlier, she could've potentially saved herself the trouble by just sitting her family down and talking to them about how stressed they've been making her feel. Though judging by Russel Sr.'s low intellect and the kids' attitudes, they respectively wouldn't understand or care about her feelings.
- Cruel Twist Ending: Penny finds a pendant that can stop time, but instead of using it to help the USA and the USSR make last ditch efforts to stop nuclear war, she uses it to stop time for her own needs, doing so immediately before Soviet missiles destroy her town. This leaves her with the choice of either being permanently stuck in a frozen world, or starting time again only to be vaporized.
- Darker and Edgier: A much bleaker version of the classic episode "A Kind of a Stopwatch". Not only does this version end with time standing still, it ends with time standing still at the start of a nuclear apocalypse.
- Downer Ending: Mutually Assured Destruction disintegrates, resulting in the Soviets attacking the USA with nuclear weapons in a first strike. Penny stops time the second the nukes go off, then wanders through a street of frozen people desperately trying to escape certain doom, even seeing a missile frozen in mid-air. All she wanted was a reprieve from the stress of her home life and her dysfunctional family before she went insane, but using the pendant to regain control of her life cost the world the ultimate price.
- Emergency Broadcast: A live announcer, trembling through an EBS radio alert, is heard failing in his attempts to keep calm as nuclear war breaks out between the Soviet Union and the United States.
- Fantastic Time Management: Penny uses the pendant to literally make time for herself, enjoying a peaceful breakfast and leisurely shopping for groceries while time is stopped for everyone else.
- Foreshadowing: While on the phone with her friend Fran, Penny sarcastically says that "it's World War III" in her house, as her children are bickering and making tons of noise. Throughout the episode, various radio and television reports of steadily deteriorating arms talks between the United States and the Soviet Union. As a result, the actual World War III breaks out shortly before the episode ends.
- Just Before the End: The episode is set during the final days before a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. When the missiles start to fall, Penny manages to yell "Shut up!" just a split second before a nuclear missile incinerates her town and kills everyone (she freezes time just a moment after an explosion is heard in the distance).
- Just in Time: In the last fraction of a second before her neighborhood is swallowed up in a nuclear blast, Penny manages to freeze time once more. This leaves her forever stuck in a state of frozen time, living alone in the last instant before the explosion and resulting blast envelopes her hometown.
- Magical Accessory: The pendant that Penny discovers, which can stop and start time at her call and beck.
- Morton's Fork: Penny freezes time just before a Soviet nuclear missile can hit her hometown. She's faced with a horrible choice: keep everyone frozen forever, preventing their deaths but leaving herself the only conscious, active person in an unmoving world, or unfreeze time, killing the entire planet via mutually assured destruction.
- Rapid-Fire "Shut Up!": Penny can freeze time by saying "Shut up!" while wearing the pendant, and can reverse the effect by saying "Start talking." She misuses the amulet just so she can regain her sanity, until she realizes that it was perhaps a means to get world leaders to defuse the arms crisis. One night, while relaxing in a bubble bath, Penny learns that nuclear war has broken out, and the only way to stop it is by enforcing the trope. At the last possible instant, she shouts out a final "SHUT UP!", then says it again rapid-fire to make sure that time is surely frozen... and then realizes that she is trapped in the instant of time between the panic of the pouplace of Southern California and its destruction.
- Shout-Out: In the final scene, Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe are advertised as a double feature on the cinema marquee. A darkly humorous throwaway gag, considering that both films concern nuclear war.
- Time-Freeze Trolling Spree: While Penny originally freezes time to get some peace and quiet, she quickly becomes a prankster like her son Russel Jr., even very nearly resisting the temptation to pull down a passerby's shorts. Later, she is annoyed by the anti-nuclear activists who come to her house. After she freezes time again, she drags them over to her lawn and lays them down. When time is started again, they are too frightened to try talking to her again.
- Time Stands Still: The crux of the plot. Penny finds a pendant that pauses time when she says "Shut up", and unpauses it when she says "Start talking."
- Visual Pun: At one point, youngest child Bertie accidentally drops a carton of milk and literally cries over it.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Russell Jr. (the only boy among Russell Sr. and Penny's four children) is the only one seen in the final bedroom scene, where the world is under nuclear attack and they are seconds away from certain death.
- World War III: Nuclear war breaks out between the United States and the Soviet Union, thanks to deteriorating arms talks.