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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 2 E 60 The Rip Van Winkle Caper

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Rod Serling: "Introducing, four experts in the questionable art of crime: Mr. Farwell, expert on noxious gases, former professor, with a doctorate in both chemistry and physics; Mr. Erbie, expert in mechanical engineering; Mr. Brooks, expert in the use of firearms and other weaponry; and Mr. De Cruz, expert in demolition and various forms of destruction. The time is now, and the place is a mountain cave in Death Valley, U.S.A. In just a moment, these four men will utilize the services of a truck placed in cosmoline, loaded with a hot heist cooled off by a century of sleep, and then take a drive into the Twilight Zone."

Air date: April 21, 1961

A group of four thieves have successfully pulled off a massive heist, stealing one million dollars worth of gold from a train on its way from Fort Knox. They hatch a crazy plan: they'll place themselves into suspended animation for one hundred years, when the memory of their heist is long forgotten, then they'll be able to sell it without suspicion.

The Rip Van Winkle Tropes:

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Farwell pleads with the motorist George that he'll give him all his gold for water.
  • After the End: After they fail to see any cars on the road, Farwell wonders if maybe they Slept Through the Apocalypse and they're the only people left. A passing airplane, however, disproves that theory.
  • All for Nothing: Turns out gold is virtually worthless in 2061. Not that any of the criminals lived to know that.
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  • Chemistry Can Do Anything: Such as allowing you to remain in suspended animation for a century.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Farwell could have patented the suspended animation gas, gained world-wide fame and the Nobel Prize in medicine, and licensed the gas to industry for millions of dollars. Every penny he received would have been completely legal, making his participation in the gold robbery unnecessary and avoiding any risk from breaking the law.
  • Didn't Think This Through: De Cruz deliberately crashes the truck. They're in the middle of the desert with nobody for miles around, and he destroys their mode of transportation, forcing him and Farwell to walk. The entire plot could be considered this. While the central idea isn't bad, Farwell doesn't seem to have considered all the variables involved or that the world they'd wake up would be radically different in ways they couldn't foresee.
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  • Dwindling Party: Erbie is long dead by 2061, Brooks is killed by De Cruz hitting him with the getaway car, and Farwell kills De Cruz with a gold bar before eventually dying of dehydration himself.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The gang has been in the middle of a desert cave for about 100 years. When one of them, Erbie, is found dead because his container broke, the rest still take time to bury his body, even though no one would have known or not.
  • Evil Genius: Farwell is an expert in chemistry and is the one who creates the gas that keeps everyone in suspended animation.
  • Evil Will Fail: The men are all done in entirely by their own stupidity and greed.
  • Gasoline Lasts Forever: A truck that has been sitting in a desert for 100 years starts up and runs.
  • Gold Fever: De Cruz, even after he arrives in the future, can only think about how they can profit off the gold. Later, he kills Brooks and extorts Farwell's share in exchange for water.
  • Greed: Did them in.
  • Hollywood Density: Downplayed. The bags full of gold are certainly lighter than they would be in real life but are still portrayed as extremely heavy and the men struggle noticeably with them.
  • Human Popsicle: Farwell, De Cruz, Brooks and Erbie place themselves in suspended animation for 100 years so that can evade the authorities and spend the gold when they awaken. It doesn't go according to plan.
  • Irony: Farwell wonders what kind of world it is in the year 2061. But never thought it would be a world where gold is rendered useless. According to the motorists, people found a way to manufacture gold about "100 years or so" ago, apparently not that long after the heist.
  • Karmic Death: Farwell beats De Cruz to death with a bar of gold.
  • Laughing Mad: After murdering De Cruz, Farwell starts chuckling before his laughing quickly turns to sobbing.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: De Cruz starts backstabbing his partners once they wake up. First by running over Brooks in the getaway car and destroying it, then extorting Farwell for gold in exchange for water. Farwell ends up murdering him with a bar of gold and taking all the loot for himself.
  • The Quiet One: Erbie. Especially since he's long dead by the time they wake up.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: They were right about the gold no longer being hot by 2061 because a method to manufacture it was found decades prior.
  • Rip Van Winkle: Where the episode's title comes from and referenced by De Cruz several times. In his closing narration, Rod Serling refers to the criminals as "four Rip Van Winkles."
  • Stripped to the Bone: Erbie is reduced to this after a rock fell on his suspended animation chamber during their hibernation, causing it to crack and allowing the gases preserving his body to escape. It's also an indicator that the survivors are in the future.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Most of the episode takes place in 2061, though we don't really see anything futuristic. At least until Farwell meets a couple in a futuristic-looking car and we find out a method to manufacture gold now exists.
  • Villain Ball: The episode is one giant ball, and all of the characters take turns in grabbing it.
  • Villain Protagonist: All four of the protagonists are criminals.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Farwell, to the point where he doesn't care about gold anymore.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Gold is valueless in 2061.
  • Zeerust: The car used by the traveling couple in 2061 looks hilariously dated even by late 20th century standards. It's a re-vamped version of the car that appears in the film Forbidden Planet (1956).

Rod Serling: "The last of four Rip Van Winkles, who all died precisely the way they lived, chasing an idol across the sand to wind up bleached dry in the hot sun as so much desert flotsam, worthless as the gold bullion they built a shrine to. Tonight's lesson - in the Twilight Zone."

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