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Recap / The Twilight Zone 1985 S 1 E 2 Wordplay Dreams For Sale Chameleon

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A businessman (Robert Klein) hears everyone use words in a different way that what is usually meant.

Dreams for Sale

At a picnic, a woman (Meg Foster) finds events repeating themselves.


A group at NASA finds an alien that can absorb matter and change shape at will.

This episode contains the following tropes:

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  • Adult Fear: Bill Lowery is suffering from aphasia, and can't understand what anyone's saying — even when the life of his son Donnie is at stake.
  • Curse of Babel: Bill Lowery develops aphasia and gradually loses the ability to communicate with other people. The first indication of his condition is his wife Kathy telling him about a doctor named Bumper. He comments on his unusual name but thinks nothing more about it. When his neighbor Mr. Miller refers to his dog as an encyclopedia, Bill thinks that it is a practical joke. However, he becomes agitated when the mailroom attendant Robbie asks his advice on where to take Barbie for "dinosaur." Bill assumes that it is some sort of New Wave slang until he goes home and Kathy uses the same word. By the time that he goes to work the next morning, he cannot understand anyone and he is equally incomprehensible to everyone else. This presents problems when his young son Donnie has to be rushed to the emergency room. After Donnie is successfully treated, Bill has to learn the new language. He picks up one of his son's ABC books and sees that the new word for dog is "Wednesday." Other new words include "mayonnaise" for "experience," "trumpets" for "tricks," "throwrug" for "anniversary," "stepdad" for "seatbelt" and "elephant" for "emergency." Bill's own name is Hinge Thunder.
  • Language Barrier: Bill Lowery discovers that the English language has changed overnight when he starts hearing wrong words in other people's speech. The number of wrong words increases until all the man can hear is them. This episode ends with him starting to learn the "wrong word" version of English so he can understand everyone else.
  • Lighter and Softer: As Twilight Zone stories go, this is very light. Bill's condition is distressing and life-changing, especially because he has to face a family emergency while being unable to communicate. However, his life remains intact and he ends the story taking the first steps to adapt to his new reality.

    Dreams for Sale 
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: Jenny is having a lovely picnic in the country with her husband Paul and their twin daughters when she starts to notice unusual things happening. Paul opens the same bottle of champagne twice. After she takes a chicken out of the picnic basket, it suddenly reappears inside of it. Other events begin to repeat themselves such as Paul asking her if she is okay three times in the space of a few seconds. Jenny then wakes up to find herself connected to a Dreamatron, a fully interactive dream machine which had been running the "Country Picnic" simulation for her.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The workers in a future world are connected to a Dreamatron which creates a fully interactive dream for them, depicting idyllic or exciting worlds, when they are not on shift. Options include Country Picnic (experienced by Jenny), Jail Break and Caribbean Cruise.
  • Prefers the Illusion: Jenny decides to remain in the "Country Picnic" program created by the Dreamatron in which she is happily married to Paul and has two daughters instead of returning to her real life as a worker in a sterile future world. She tells Paul that she wants to stay with him forever. The Dreamatron burns out and she dies with a smile on her face, though her mind seemingly survives in the machine.
  • Spoiler Title: The title of this episode makes it obvious that the idyllic country picnic experienced by Jenny is not real.

  • Energy Being: An energy being hitches a ride on the space shuttle Discovery and is unknowingly brought back to Earth. It has the ability to absorb any object or person into itself and transform itself into either them or anything from their memories. For instance, after absorbing Crew Chief Brady Simmons, it imitates both him and his wife Kate. Later, it absorbs the weapons expert Dr. Vaughn Heilman and changes into a nuclear bomb in order to coerce the NASA scientists studying it into releasing it.
  • Klaatu Barada Nikto: Gerald Tyson quotes the line during a discussion about The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) with Crew Chief Brady Simmons.
  • Stock Footage: Footage of a NASA space shuttle in orbit, several astronauts on a spacewalk and the shuttle returning to Earth are used to represent the Discovery's mission.

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