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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 2 E 39 Nervous Man In A Four Dollar Room

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Left to right: John Rhoades and Jackie Rhoades.

Rod Serling: This is Mr. Jackie Rhoades, age thirty-four, and where some men leave a mark of their lives as a record of their fragmentary existence on Earth, this man leaves a blot, a dirty, discolored blemish to document a cheap and undistinguished sojourn amongst his betters. What you're about to watch in this room is a strange, mortal combat between a man and himself, for in just a moment, Mr. Jackie Rhoades, whose life has been given over to fighting adversaries, will find his most formidable opponent in a cheap hotel room that is in reality the outskirts of The Twilight Zone.
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Jackie Rhoades (Joe Mantell), a cowardly, insecure gangster, waits in his hotel room for his boss George. George (William D. Gordon) enters. After mocking Jackie several times, George hands Jackie a gun and orders him to kill a bartender who won't pay George protection money. Jackie says he's never killed anybody in his life and he's scared, but George angrily tells him to do the job by 2:00 or else he will come back and kill him. George leaves.

Jackie nervously considers the gun, and eventually decides he has no choice. Suddenly, his reflection starts talking and moving on its own. The reflection mocks Jackie and says he's tired of him being a total loser. Jackie was an unassertive coward his whole life, which led to him joining a gang instead of graduating and getting a real job. The reflection then laments about how Jackie blew his chance to be with a girl named Janie Reardon. The reflection says if Jackie doesn't stand up and quit the gang, all he will ever be is a lackey, and he will eventually be killed.

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Jackie can't muster up the courage to quit, so the reflection says he is taking over. Terrified, Jackie rips the mirror off the wall and tries to escape, but finds more mirrors everywhere. The reflection gets larger and larger...

At 2:30, George comes back to the hotel room and yells at Jackie for not doing the job, then threatens him with a gun. George asks, "Whattaya gotta say for yourself, Crumb?" Jackie answers, "I resign! You can have your gun back plus the following." He casually knocks the gun out of George's hand, then beats him up and throws him out of the room. He calls the desk clerk and checks out, referring to himself as "John Rhoades". He looks into a mirror and it is revealed that Jackie and the reflection have switched places. John tells Jackie that he is going out into the world and finally making something out of their life.

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Rod Serling: Exit Mr. John Rhoades, formerly a reflection in a mirror, a fragment of someone else's conscience, a wishful thinker made out of glass, but now made out of flesh and on his way to join the company of men. Mr. John Rhoades, with one foot through the door and one foot out of the Twilight Zone.

This episode contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In the beginning, George ridicules that Jackie's going to get guts tonight if he's going to kill the bartender by 2 am. At the end of the episode, Jackie (or rather "John") has guts, just enough to stand up to George and send him running.
  • Bottle Episode: The entire episode takes place in Jackie's hotel room and the hallway.
  • Chromosome Casting: This episode does not feature any women.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Jackie tries to light one, only to find he has no matches. His reflection, on the other hand, does.
  • Cool Old Guy: While nameless and off-screen through the whole episode, the old bartender who stands up to George and his gang is essentially this. Heck, the whole reason George wants Jackie to kill him is solely because he suspects this old man could potentially inspire others to stand up for themselves.
  • Dare to Be Badass: The reflection calls out Jackie on his lackluster, lazy, criminal lifestyle, and tells him can be better than what he has been.
    Reflection: Jackie! Jackie, let me out! I wanna take over! I gotta take over! I want a decent job, some friends!
    Jackie: I got a job! I got friends! I got everything I want!
    Reflection: You got nothin'! You got nothin' but pain inside! You got no friends! You got nothin'! You ARE nothin! It's time to BE something!
  • Did Not Get the Girl: One of the unhappy results of Jackie's poor choices. There was a time when Jackie had a working relationship with Janie Reardon. But instead of settling down with her, he chose to continue working for street gangs and was sent to jail before long. By the time he was released, Janie had already moved away and married someone else.
  • Happy Ending: Rare for a Twilight Zone episode, Jackie..er John Rhoades takes the helm, stands up to George, and turns the corner into his new life.
  • The Lost Lenore: Janie Reardon is a not-dead variation of this. (See Did Not Get the Girl).
  • The Mafia: Jackie is a gangster who typically performs comparatively minor jobs such as breaking and entering and the occasional mugging for his boss George. As the police are well aware that Jackie does not do the big jobs, George tells him to kill the old bartender in order to throw them off the scent.
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: For the whole episode. At the end, he takes over.
  • Meaningful Rename: When the reflection takes over he starts calling himself "John" instead of Jackie, signifying that at this very late date Jackie/John is finally going to start taking responsibility for his own life.
  • Minimalist Cast: This episode only features two actors: Joe Mantell and William D. Gordon (who appears in two scenes).
  • Morton's Fork: Jackie thinks his situation is this — either he doesn't kill the bartender, and gets killed by George, or he does and gets killed by the police.
  • Never My Fault: Jackie laments how his life has been one long up-hill climb with nothing to show for it. First he was dared as a child by some boys to steal from a teacher, then was later sent to a reform school when he shoplifted, was sent to jail after disobeying his parole officer, then lost his girlfriend to another man when he got sent to prison again. His reflection is the first to point out that a great deal of this was a result of his own poor life choices.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: From reflection to reflector.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: A possible inversion — the reflection is annoyed with the man.
  • The Slacker: Jackie's reflection alleges that much of Jackie's trouble is his own fault.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: The reflection, aka "John", takes over and Jackie the weakling becomes the reflection in the mirror. It's a Happy Ending as "John" is a better, stronger person....and Jackie himself in the mirror is actually quite fine with it by the end.
  • Talking to Themself: Jackie Rhoades talking to himself in a mirror.
  • Take a Third Option: George gives Jackie an ultimatum — kill the bartender or be killed. John Rhoades exercises the third option of not killing the bartender and beating George up when he comes to take revenge.
  • That Man Is Dead: Jackie's name change was probably supposed to signify that he's no longer the same person.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Jackie — er, John — at the end of the episode. He goes from fearfully going along with everything George says to beating him in a fight and defying by resigning from the gang.

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