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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 3 E 72 The Grave

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"Deep down we know the dead can't really hurt nobody..."

Air date: October 27, 1961

In an old dusty western town, notorious outlaw Pinto Sykes emerges from a building in broad daylight. Unbeknownst to him, he has been set up for an ambush by the locals. The townfolk gun Sykes down in the middle of the street and take him to the town jail, where he finally dies. An elderly onlooker proudly claims the whole ordeal to be over...

Rod Serling: "Normally the old man would be correct. This would be the end of the story. We've had the traditional shootout on the street and the bad man will soon be dead, but some men of legend and folktale have been known to continue having their way even after death. The outlaw and killer Pinto Sykes was such a person, and shortly we'll see how he introduces a town and a man named Conny Miller in particular to the Twilight Zone."

Pinto Sykes' nemesis, hired gunman Conny Miller (Lee Marvin) later arrives in town to find out his rival has been shot and killed by the townsfolk. When his courage to face Sykes is called into question, Miller accepts a $20 bet to visit Pinto Sykes' grave on the hill. Sounds simple right? Well not really. Before he died, Pinto Sykes swore revenge on Miller, and threatened to reach out and kill him if he ever came near his grave. Miller is challenged to visit the grave, despite Sykes' ominous warning.

As proof of his visit, Miller is to stick a knife into the grave. Miller does it quickly and simply, only to mysteriously fall over, as if something pulled him...

The following morning, the townsfolk find that Miller hasn't returned and thought he had given up on the bet. That notion is debunked right away as they also find his horse and gear are still in front of the bar. They go up to the graveyard only to find Miller lying dead near Pinto Sykes' grave, his coattail pinned by the knife he has driven into the dirt.


The townsfolk figure that Miller had died of a heart attack. Not noticing his loose jacket in the darkness, he inadvertently stabbed his knife through it and pinned himself in place. He tried to get up, but mistook the pull from his jacket as Sykes grabbing him from the afterlife and died of fright.

Pinto's sister Ione steps forward and asks the group how Conny's jacket got loose enough for it to fall over Pinto's grave. They suggest that the jacket was unbuttoned and the wind blew it over the grave. Ione then asks which direction the wind was blowing the night before. The wind was blowing in the same direction as it is now. Ione stands up in the same spot Conny was standing and challenges the onlookers to see if her cloak is blowing over the grave.

It isn't. Ione laughs chillingly as the episode ends.

Spooky Tropes:

  • A-Team Firing: Eight townspeople ambush Pinto Sykes and each of them fires one shot at him. Only one of those shots is a hit.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: The only people in town who are sorry about Pinto Sykes' death are his sister Ione, their father and Conny Miller, who wanted to kill him himself.
  • Bounty Hunter: The people of Pinto Sykes's hometown hire Conny Miller to track down and kill the outlaw so that he'll stop treating the town "like it was his personal property." After four months, Miller still hasn't found Sykes (some people suggest that he's too afraid to look very hard) and his clients form a Vigilante Militia to defeat Sykes themselves.
  • Creepy Cemetery: The Boot Hill cemetery in the final scene is windswept and quite spooky.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Ione comes into the saloon to buy a bottle shortly after her brother's death.
  • Dying Curse: Pinto Sykes cursed Conny Miller and swore revenge against him on his dying breath, vowing to reach out and kill him if he ever set foot near his grave.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Ione, Pinto's sister, has dark hair and enjoys bringing up her brother's threat to kill Conny Miller from beyond the grave if he ever came near his resting place.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite being a ruthless outlaw, Pinto Sykes seems to have had a soft spot for his family; on his deathbed, he apologized to his father for the way he turned out and requested to be buried near his mother. He also told Ione that he wished she would marry a good man and leave town.
  • Even Evil Can Be Loved: Despite Sykes' horrible reputation, his father and sister still cared about him very much and are the lone mourners in the town after he's gunned down by a posse.
  • Evil Laugh: Ione Sykes has one in the final scene.
  • Friend to All Children: Johnny-Rob says that all children and animals love him as they always follow him around.
  • The Gambler: Steinhart. When he joins Johnny Robb in betting that Conny won't visit the grave, he describes gambling as his business. He seems to be good at it, as Mothershed says that the reason he can't bet either way is because Steinhart won too much of his money in a card game before Conny arrived.
  • The Ghost:
    • The Vigilante Militia that kills Pinto Sykes forms after the local circuit judge gives the townspeople a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for relying on a gunman, but the judge is only mentioned and is never seen.
    • Pinto's father is repeatedly mentioned, and Johnny Robb is sent to fetch him in one scene, but he's never physically seen.
  • Ghost Story: What the episode boils down to with its themes of vengeance from beyond the grave, superstition, and a mysterious ending that is left up to the viewer.
  • Halloween Episode: The episode debuted on October 27, 1961, four days before Halloween.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Was Conny Miller's death a freak accident or was there something truly supernatural at work courtesy of the ghost of Pinto Sykes? The episode doesn't say and leaves it up the viewer to decide what happened. Whatever the case may be, something strange and unexplainable really did happen...
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Conny Miller doesn't return to the Saloon, Johnny-Rob starts to worry that something happened to him, and blames himself for it. When he sees the body the next morning, he's almost inconsolable.
    Johnny-Rob: I knowed it! I got a man killed!
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: Conny Miller quickly attacks Johnny-Rob, one of the townfolks who challenges his claim that he wasn't afraid of Pinto Sykes.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We see Conny Miller get jerked down by something but we never actually see what did it...
  • Riddle for the Ages: Aside from the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane nature of Miller's death, there's the question of whether he just had bad luck in his pursuit of Pinto Sykes or deliberately held back in the pursuit out of cowardice and/or to prolong the hunt and suck more money out of his clients. A dying Sykes claims that Miller knew he was in Albuquerque but didn't follow him there, while Miller claims that he did go to Albuquerque and Sykes had never been there. Miller could be lying to protect his reputation, but Sykes could also be lying as a Batman Gambit to make Miller visit his grave despite Sykes's Dying Curse.
  • Scare Dare: Visit the grave of your recently deceased nemesis at midnight? Who also swore revenge from beyond the grave? What could possibly go wrong? A lot apparently.
  • Skepticism Failure: Whether it is by supernatural causes or not, ultimately Pinto Sykes made good on his threat. Conny Miller visited his grave, and now is dead.
  • Taking You with Me: A Posthumous example. Pinto Sykes vowed to kill Conny Miller from beyond the grave, that is, if he ever set foot near it.
  • Tempting Fate: When Johnny-Rob is concerned that Conny hadn't returned from the cemetery. Mothershed tries to console him.
    Mothershed: Now it's full daylight, Johnny-Rob, and we can all think with a clear head. Deep down we know the dead can't really hurt nobody...
  • Vigilante Militia: The townspeople of Pinto Sykes's hometown initially send a Bounty Hunter after him, but ultimately decide to face him themselves. They spend a week making plans and when Sykes arrives, armed men are waiting to either kill or arrest him.
  • Villainous Legacy: In life, Pinto Sykes was a ruthless outlaw who terrorized the region. Being dead doesn't stop the townspeople from fearing him. If anything, Sykes is even more feared now that there really is nothing that can stop him from getting what he wants. Mothershed warns as much to Conny before the bet...
    Mothershed: We know you can draw your gun real fast, Conny. We've seen ya, but out there in that graveyard that gun ain't gonna be worth a copper cent.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Johnny-Rob makes a bet with Conny Miller that he won't go to Pinto Sykes' grave at midnight.

Rod Serling: Final comment. You take this a grain of salt or a shovelful of earth as shadow or substance. We leave it up to you. And for any further research check under 'G' for ghosts in the Twilight Zone.