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Recap / The Twilight Zone 1985 S 1 E 8 Act Break The Burning Man Dealers Choice

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Act Break

A playwright (James Coco) gains an artifact that will grant one wish per user.

The Burning Man

A woman (Piper Laurie) and her nephew pick up a hitchhiker who claims the ultimate evil is upon them!

Dealer's Choice

A group of friends' (Morgan Freeman, Garrett Morris, Barney Martin, and M. Emmet Walsh) poker game is joined by the Devil (Dan Hedaya).

This episode contains the following tropes:

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    Act Break 
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: An unsuccessful playwright wishes for a better writing partner than the one he currently has. He finds himself sent back in time, where he meets William Shakespeare. He ends up with every line that Shakespeare ever wrote stuck in his memory, and is forced to become Shakespeare's ghost writer, without getting any of the credit or accolades.
  • Chromosome Casting: This episode features no speaking roles for women.
  • Destination Defenestration: Discussed. Maury Winkler and Harry are writing a play in which an English aristocrat named Roger kills a woman named Ethel but they can't decide how he should do it. Harry suggests throwing her out the window. When Maury says that people don't die from being thrown out of first story windows, Harry thinks that she should fall into a swimming pool that is being renovated. They eventually agree that Roger should strangle Ethel.
  • Historical Domain Character: William Shakespeare shows up.
  • Lighter and Softer: This episode is very silly compared to the much darker "The Burning Man"
  • Stable Time Loop: Maury Winkler uses Harry's amulet to wish for a better writing partner instead of wishing for Harry to come back to life. He is transported to Elizabethan England and immediately meets William Shakespeare. Taking the amulet from Maury, Shakespeare wishes for Maury to work with him. Maury's mind is then filled with every line from all of Shakespeare's plays. It turns out that Shakespeare's greatest works were written by Maury using his knowledge of the future.
  • Three Wishes: Discussed. After Harry has a heart attack, he gives the amulet that he received from monks in Burma to his partner Maury Winkler and tells him that everyone gets one wish. He asks Murray to use his wish to bring him back to life. Maury laments that he doesn't get three wishes, which is the standard deal. Instead of saving Harry's life, he wishes to work with the greatest playwright in the world and is transported back in time to William Shakespeare's house in Elizabethan England.
  • Time-Travel Episode: Maury Winkler is sent back in time to the Elizabethan era and becomes the uncredited writing partner of William Shakespeare.
  • Writers Suck: Maury Winkler and Harry are a pair of middle-aged writers who have written 17 unsuccessful plays in 22 years. Each one took six months to a year to write but most of them closed after only one night and none of them got anywhere near Broadway. They are two months behind on the rent for their filthy, cramped office and the landlord is threatening to throw them out.

    The Burning Man 
  • Cassandra Truth: Doug and Aunt Neva pick up a dirty, disheveled man while driving through Kansas. He immediately begins ranting and raving about people who are born evil, telling Doug and Aunt Neva that they should be wary of genetic evil. He compares such people to seventeen year locusts and warns that they eat people "fried, cooked, boiled and parboiled." Aunt Neva has finally had enough of his wild stories and throws him out of her car. That night, the two of them pick up a strange boy in a white suit who claims to have been left behind after a town picnic. After making the car stop, the boy asks Doug and Aunt Neva, "Have you ever wondered if there was such a thing as genetic evil in the world?" The headlights of the car then go out, implying that he is going to kill Doug and Aunt Neva.
  • Creepy Child: Doug and Aunt Neva pick up a strange boy in a white suit while driving through Kansas. They soon discover that he is the genetic evil whom their earlier passenger, a seemingly crazed, disheveled man, warned them about. It is implied that the boy kills them.
  • Deadly Closing Credits: Implied. In the final scene, the lights of Doug and Aunt Neva's car go out after the strange boy in the white suit asks them if they had ever wondered if there was such a thing as genetic evil.
  • Heat Wave: Kansas is experiencing its hottest July in 16 or 17 years in 1936.
  • No Name Given: Neither the disheveled man who rants about evil nor the strange boy in the white suit are named.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: The strange boy whom Doug and Aunt Neva pick up is wearing a very expensive looking white suit.

    Dealer's Choice 
  • Bottle Episode: This episode takes place entirely in Pete's living room and kitchen.
  • Chess with Death: Pete, Jake and Tony correctly deduce that Nick, who has taken Norman's place at their regular poker game, is the Devil and that he is here for one of them. Nick suggests that they make a game of it: whoever picks the highest card "wins" and gets to go with him. Tony picks an eight, Jake picks a seven and the unfortunate Pete picks a jack. Tony suggests that Pete and Nick play a game of one-on-one, all or nothing. Nick agrees and tries to put up $18 (three sixes) but instead puts up $19 at Pete's insistence. As it is dealer's choice, Pete chooses a game of lowball, where the lower hand wins and players don't want matching cards. Being the Devil, Nick has been getting three sixes in every hand. Pete gets four fives and Nick gets three sixes, meaning that Pete loses. However, Marty, who is too innocent for the Devil to trick, reveals that Nick's Tarot death card is in fact a fourth six. After been caught out, Nick leaves empty handed, though not before filling Pete's empty kitchen with food and beer.
  • Chromosome Casting: No women appear in this episode.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The extremely innocent and not very bright Marty describes A Streetcar Named Desire (which he incorrectly calls Streetcar Called Desire) as a great movie all about poker.
  • I Gave My Word: Nick - who's actually the Devil - explains that he's come to claim one of the men's souls during their poker night. After they draw cards to determine who he'll take, he offers Pete, the loser, a chance to win back his soul with one last hand of poker. When Pete wins with some help from his friend Marty, the Devil, rather than lamenting or pulling some kind of trick, accepts the loss, leaves without a fight, and even rewards the men by conjuring up a massive feast (complete with a fridge packed with all kinds of beer) for them.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: How Nick is ultimately defeated: Marty, the Nice Guy of the friend group, touches the Tarot "Death" card that the Devil pulled during the fatal poker hand with Pete. Turns out that Marty's innocence and faith are anathema to evil, and the spell on the card is broken, making Pete the winner.
  • Louis Cypher: A group of friends find themselves playing poker with a stranger named "Nick", who keeps getting three sixes in every hand he is dealt...
  • Meaningful Name: The Devil uses the name "Nick" when he plays poker with Pete, Jake, Tony and Marty. Old Nick is a common nickname for the Devil.
  • Number of the Beast: Pete, Jake and Tony find it odd that Nick, who is filling in for their regular player Norman, always gets three sixes in every hand of poker. They come to the conclusion that he is the Devil. Later when Nick agrees to play one hand for Pete's immortal soul, he puts up $18, which Jake points out is 6 + 6 + 6. Peter insists that he instead put up $19.
  • Place Worse Than Death: This episode makes jokes about New Jersey being like Hell.
  • Stealth Pun: Pete plays a game of one-on-one with Nick, who is in actuality the Devil, for his immortal soul. In the closing narration, it is pointed out that he did not heed the old saying "Never deal with the Devil."
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Nick is actually a friendly, pleasant fellow who doesn't revel in taking souls—it's just his job as Satan. Similarly, when he loses the enchanted poker game he set up, he accepts defeat gracefully and bows out, leaving the other players the parting gift of a giant pile of snack food and beer.
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