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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 1 E 17 The Fever

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Flora looks on as Franklin succumbs to the fever.

Rod Serling: Mr. Franklin Gibbs, on an all-expenses-paid trip to Vegas, won by virtue of Mrs. Gibbs' knack with a phrase. But there's an item in their package neither expected nor bargained for. In just a moment, one of them will fall victim to a most inoperable, deadly, life shattering affliction known as "the fever".
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Air date: Jan. 29, 1960

Cranky Franklin Gibbs is not at all happy about being dragged to Vegas on a trip won by his wife. He resents the effort on the casinos' party to get money out of his pocket and constantly denounces the gamblers around him. However, then a drunk gives him a coin and forces him to put it into a slot machine. Franklin wins. This unexpected success leads him to rationalize playing again (under the excuse of getting rid of his previous "dirty" winnings) and then to become addicted. But the Twilight Zone has a terrifying symbol of Franklin's problem — a living one-armed bandit that won't stop haunting him.


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This episode contains examples of the following tropes:

  • An Aesop: "Don't gamble", or, maybe, "if you gamble, don't become obsessed." Most of all, "Anyone can be instantly hooked to gambling, don't let your guard down just because you say you don't like gambling."
  • Caption Contest: Flora Gibbs enters a caption contest and wins an all expenses paid trip to Las Vegas.
  • Dutch Angle: Used for a shot of Franklin at the slot machine after he's become obsessed and screamed at his wife to leave him alone.
  • Haunted Technology: Zigzagged. A seemingly possessed slot machine follows Franklin around, calling his name. It's said to be all a hallucination created by Franklin's insomnia and addiction that drove him to suicide, but is ultimately subverted later, as it turns out there is a haunted slot machine.
  • The Gambling Addict: Franklin Gibbs, who abhors gambling, travels to Las Vegas with his wife (who won a contest) and is forced by a drunk to put a dollar token into a slot machine, and winds up winning some money. Despite his efforts to run away from the slots, he hears the slot machine literally calling his name, and winds up addicted to the point where he thinks it's alive, and he might be right.
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  • Insane Troll Logic: Franklin's excuse to go back to gambling. He says that the money he won before is tainted and immoral, and he can't keep it, in good conscience, so he's going to...go back to "feed it to the machine".
  • Jerkass: Franklin. He begins the episode as a condescending, self-righteous and unpleasant man and then changes into a selfish, desperate gambling addict.
  • Karmic Transformation: Of the non-physical kind. Franklin looks down on all the other casino patrons and thinks of himself as morally superior and ends up becoming a gambler far worse than any of Them.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The events of most of the episode could be explained by Mr. Gibbs becoming increasingly unhinged through obsession and lack of sleep or by the existence of a living slot machine, like he thinks. Subverted at the end when the slot machine moves after his death.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: In this case, a Not So Imaginary Enemy. Everyone thinks Franklin is hallucinating the slot machine. Then, at the end, it rolls up to him and spits out a coin, before disappearing back into the night...
  • The Scrooge: Franklin. He wouldn't even have taken the trip if it hadn't been a paid-for prize.
  • Sleeping Single: Well of course a married couple would be sleeping in two single beds.
  • Truth in Television: Franklin telling himself that the slot machine has got to pay off finally after he's been playing for such a long time might sound familiar to psychologists or veteran gamblers. (In fact, this line of thinking is actually called the Gambler's Fallacy.)

Rod Serling: Mr. Franklin Gibbs, visitor to Las Vegas, who lost his money, his reason, and finally his life to a creature described variously as a slot machine, a one-armed bandit, or, in Mr. Gibbs' words, "a monster with a will all its own." For our purposes, we'll stick with the last definition, because we're in the Twilight Zone.

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