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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 1 E 26 Execution

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Air date: April 1, 1960

On November 14, 1880, outlaw Joe Caswell's body disappears from the hangman's noose. He wakes up in the modern day, where a scientist has used his time machine to pluck him from his time.

Rod Serling: Commonplace—if somewhat grim—unsocial event known as a necktie party, the guest of dishonor a cowboy named Joe Caswell, just a moment away from a rope, a short dance several feet off the ground, and then the dark eternity of all evil men. Mr. Joe Caswell, who, when the good Lord passed out a conscience, a heart, a feeling for fellow men, must have been out for a beer and missed out. Mr. Joe Caswell, in the last, quiet moment of a violent life.
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Tropes:

  • Book-Ends: The story begins and ends with an execution. The twist is, a different criminal hangs in the outlaw's place, one from the future.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: The temporally displaced Joe Caswell mistakes a scene from a TV Western for reality. When the TV cowboy pulls his gun, Caswell shoots the television.
  • Evil Is Petty: Both Joe Caswell and Paul Johnson share this, killing for petty reasons.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Somewhat reconstructed, as a poetic Fate Worse than Death for Caswell.
  • Foreshadowing: During his first moments watching the future world from the comfort of the scientist's lab, he quietly complains that there's so much noise out there. If he thinks this is unbearable, then you know he hasn't stepped out into the real world yet.
  • The Future Is Shocking: Caswell managed to dodge his execution, but the modern day is no better than purgatory. He's overwhelmed by the noises and confused by the technology. Later, he runs back to Professor Manion's , begging he return to his time, even though it means his execution.
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  • Jerkass Has a Point: Caswell may be a cruel man and a murderer, but when Professor Manion brings up the topic of "right and wrong" and "justice," a bitter Caswell tells him those concepts aren't so easy to bear in mind when one is poverty-stricken.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Two of them. Caswell finds to his horror that he doesn't know how to get home to his time, not without the time traveler who he's killed. Not long after, he encounters a petty thief named Paul Johnson who strangles him to death. When Paul scouts out the premise for anything to steal, he stumbles into the time machine and ends up hanged in Caswell's place.
  • Time-Travel Episode: Professor Manion transports Joe Caswell, who is about to be hanged on November 14, 1880, forward in time to 1960 using his experimental Time Machine.

Rod Serling: This is November 1880, the aftermath of a necktie party. The victim's name—Paul Johnson, a minor-league criminal and the taker of another human life. No comment on his death save this: justice can span years. Retribution is not subject to a calendar. Tonight's case in point in The Twilight Zone.
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