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Recap / The Twilight Zone 2019 S 1 E 4 A Traveler

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"You're throwing a party. I'm dressed for the best party."

Jordan Peele: Meet Sergeant Yuka Mongoyak, a woman with a knack for detecting the most subtle of mistruths. On this night, a night of the most powerful of myths, that skill will be tested like never before. She's about to learn that the truth can take many different forms, depending on how you look at it. Because tonight, Sergeant Yuka's vantage point is at the very heart of The Twilight Zone.

It's Christmas Eve in a small Alaskan police station, and a person named "A. Traveler" (Steven Yeun) mysteriously appears in a jail cell. The only one to question the man's sudden appearance is Sergeant Yuka Mongoyak (Marika Sila) but Captain Pendleton (Greg Kinnear) is amicable to the visitor. However, A. Traveler starts to reveal secrets he knows about the area and the people within.

Tropes for this episode include:

  • Achilles' Heel: The one thing that could thwart the invaders is the Air Force's early-warning system; the aliens' plan is to get Captain Pendleton to lead them to its power source so they can remove it.
  • Affably Evil: A. Traveler is a ridiculously charming guy and unfailingly polite to everyone he meets. He's also a deceitful alien working for a massive invasion fleet taking over Earth. He never harms any of the other characters and even offers Yuka her wish to become Iglaak's new police captain. Though one does get the sense that he enjoys the chaos he creates in the name of the alien force he serves under.
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  • Aliens in Cardiff: The aliens begin their invasion in a small Alaskan town. The town does have a significant military installation near it however.
  • Allegory: A. Traveler can be seen as one for "fake news", with Yuka being the self-assured "skeptic" who is still quick to believe him when the lies fit their own views.
    "Who is this Traveler? He’s a walking, talking, grinning, singing embodiment of a politically charged, wildly inaccurate Facebook post. He's a living meme, made to be 'liked.'" —A.V. Club review
  • Apathetic Citizens: Yuka's brother, Jack, who is fine with befriending alien invaders as long as he gets a slice of pie.
  • Apple of Discord: One of the main weapons of A. Traveler. He sows distrust between the citizens of Iglaak in order to manipulate them and have them turn on each other, thereby making it much easier for the other aliens to invade and take over.
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  • Arc Number: The passcode that leads to the jail cells is 1510.
  • Attack of the Town Festival: Variant. It's the police station's "traditional" Christmas Eve party.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Yuka in Inuktikut means "Bright Star" and Iglaak means "Traveler/Stranger".
  • Bad Boss: Yuka sees Captain Pendleton as such, though the only bad behavior he shows is being an Innocently Insensitive bombastic Glory Seeker.
    Jack: "How can you stand working for that lying sack of shit every day?"
    Yuka: "Ah, it's tough, Jack. Just the sound of his voice makes me want to punch something."
  • Bait-and-Switch: At the end of the episode, Jack is freed from his cell and grabs a kitchen knife, seemingly with the intent to kill. He ends up using it to give himself a slice of pie along with the alien form of A. Traveler.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Played with, as A. Traveler promises to give Yuka what she really wants for Christmas.
  • Category Traitor: Jack briefly criticizes Yuka for this, saying she betrays their Inuit heritage by working for the qallunaats and listening to Christmas carols.
  • Christmas Episode: The episode takes place on holiday and is the basis for the tradition of pardoning a person in the jail cell on the holiday.
  • Chummy Commies: Even after A. Traveler tells everyone he flew in from Russia, the Iglaak Sheriff's Department doesn't hesitate to invite him to join their festivities without suspicion.
  • Confirmation Bias: In-Universe. The characters only listen to A. Traveler when the information he provides fits their preconceived narratives about their fellow townsfolk.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A. Traveler arrives and continually gives false information about himself, his motives, and the people of the town. The result is that the people at the station start to turn against themselves rather than A. Traveler. The information that is accepted by the people at the station is ultimately self-serving to pre-conceived notions. Yuka is the only one who tries to investigate the sources that A. Traveler got his information from. This is very reminiscent of the effects of misinformation so intrinsic to real-life propaganda techniques.
  • Downer Ending: Earth gets invaded by aliens while the fates of Yuka, Pendleton and Jack are left unknown.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Yuka is the responsible to Jack's foolish. Yuka is the straight-laced police officer and it is mentioned that it is not the first time Jack has been held on a drunk and disorderly charge.
  • Foreshadowing: Plenty regarding A. Traveler's true nature as an alien heralding an invasion fleet:
    • Yuka and Jack notice an unusually bright point of light in the sky above the Iglaak Police Station. As they brush it off and head inside, the light begins to move before the camera cuts to the next scene.
    • Yuka sets her hat and gloves down on a filing cabinet next to a metallic alien figurine.
    • A. Traveler mentions that he passed by the North Pole on his flight to Iglaak. What he was flying in is never said...
    • A. Traveler also describes himself as an "extreme traveler" — in other words, an E.T.
  • Glory Seeker: Captain Pendleton is quick to believe A. Traveler's tales of being a famous video blogger and how Pendleton's small-town holiday party tradition is (somehow) a major must-do accomplishment for extreme tourists everywhere.
    A. Traveler: "Any aggro traveler anywhere in the world knows about Captain Lane Pendleton's Christmas Eve pardons, that to be here in Iglaak on Christmas Eve sits high on any extreme tourist bucket list." [...]
    Pendleton: "I did not realize. I could see it, though — I could!"
  • The Greys: A. Traveler's true form is apparently a seven-foot-tall Grey with an elongated neck.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Aliens come to Earth on Christmas Eve. Possibly justified, if they needed atmospheric activity (in the form of the northern lights) to disguise their movements.
  • Human Aliens: The first alien appearance in this series. His human appearance is just a facade to his other self.
  • Innocently Insensitive: At the Christmas party, Captain Pendleton idly dismisses the historical natives who were living in the area before American settlers arrived, even as the Inuit Yuka is standing within earshot.
    Pendleton: "...I envision those those Three Wise Men just looking up at that Star of Bethlehem. Same stars that my ancestors looked at when they first arrived to tame and make this the great 49th State of Alaska. Before that, what was there out here? Bunch of bears and Eskimos? That's about it."
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The ventriloquist dummy from "The Dummy" and "Caesar and Me" appears on wrapping paper of a present.
    • The gremlin doll from "Nightmare at 30,000 Feet" and Talky Tina from "Living Doll" appear in the Christmas tree.
    • The story is basically a modernized take on "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street", with alien invaders only needing to give humans a tiny push so they'll turn on each other and be ripe for conquest.
    • One of the state troopers is named Ida Lupino, after the director of "The Masks" and the star of "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine".
    • Mayor Matheson is named after Richard Matheson, who wrote sixteen episodes of the original series. He's seen arguing with a man named "Colchak," who shares a name with one of Matheson's creations. His actor, Erick Keenlyside, played a bartender in the 1989 episode "Love is Blind".
    • June B. Wilde, a state trooper, appeared in the 2002 series episodes "Future Trade" and "Eye of the Beholder".
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We never get a good full look at A. Traveler's alien form.
  • Not So Above It All: Sgt. Yuka is quick to denounce A. Traveler and his manipulations throughout the episode, but is perfectly willing to buy his claim that Pendleton is selling secrets to the Russians, even though it's heavily implied that that's just as untrustworthy as everything else he's said and done all throughout the episode. The lesson clearly being that no one is immune to the lure of seductive misinformation, especially if it confirms their prejudices and preconceptions about the world and those around them or will enable them to profit.
    A. Traveller: "I did nothing but lie to you. Only, once I said something that might benefit you, you chose to ignore it."
  • Only Sane Employee: Yuka is literally the only police officer who instantly finds it weird that a well-dressed stranger showed up out of nowhere with nobody having any idea how he got there.
  • Polite Villains, Rude Heroes: A. Traveler points out that while he has been nothing but civil toward the other characters, they have over the episode treated him with disdain and hostility (albeit with good reason).
  • Punny Name: A. Traveler claims his name is short for Aggro Traveler - the name of his YouTube channel - and had it legally changed to such. Turns out he is indeed a traveler, though where he's from is a lot farther than one might imagine.
  • Properly Paranoid: Played with; while everyone else says she's overreacting, Yuka does not buy A. Traveler's flimsy story for a second... until it suits her.
  • Snow Means Death: Played with. Nobody actually dies but it does go to hell very quickly with a lot of ominous snow around.
  • Spiritual Successor: A strange thing appears in the sky as power outages occur, along with the unraveling of a tight knit community is very reminiscent of "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street".
  • The Starscream: A. Traveler guesses that Yuka has ambitions of taking over Captain Pendleton's job as Sheriff and offers her that very position in the new world order, on the condition she arrest Captain Pendleton. A. Traveler says Captain Pendleton has been trading classified information with the Russians. Up until this point she has not believed a single one of A's lies, but when presented with an opportunity that benefits her and allows Yuka to usurp her (admittedly loutish) commanding officer's position she takes it and buys into that lie.
  • Troll:
    • A. Traveler might like Christmas parties and karaoke, but what he really enjoys is stirring up trouble.
    • He also mentions several times that he came to Iglaak from Russia...
  • Twisted Christmas: There are a lot of references to the meaning of Christmas as charity and generosity, but nobody fulfills them in the end.
  • Token Minority: Yuka is the only police officer of Inuit descent.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: A. Traveler. Justified due to his charismatic persona and because he appeared on Christmas Eve during the time when people are inclined to be more friendly and lenient. From the moment he arrives, everyone (except Yuka) instantly welcomes and trusts this complete stranger. That is, until he starts spilling everyone's secrets...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The last scene shows Jack, who looks around the empty barren sheriff's office, takes two pieces of Pumpkin pie and shares one with A. Traveler, now in his alien form. What happens to him after is anyone's guess.
    • The fates of Yuka and Pendleton are also left in the air.

Jordan Peele: The most dangerous lies come in the form of beautifully wrapped gifts. On this evening, Sergeant Yuka discovered that there's no difference between myth and mistruth. She unwrapped her fateful present far too late on this dark and silent night in The Twilight Zone.