A uniformed Army major wakes up to find himself trapped inside in a large metal cylinder, where he meets a clown, who introduces him to the others, a hobo, ballet dancer, and a bagpiper. None of them has any memory of who they are or how they became trapped. The major, being the newest arrival, is the most determined to escape. He is told there is no way out except the ceiling, which is too high to reach but nonetheless he investigates and perseveres. The major's questioning reveals that the characters have no need for food or water and indeed feel nothing in general.
The characters question where, what and who they are, with the ballerina informing the major, "We are in the darkness; nameless things with no memory no knowledge of what went before, no understanding of what is now, no knowledge of what will be." Guesses are made about the nature of where they have been placed: the Ballet Dancer speculates that theyre on another planet or a spaceship; the clown believes theyre in a dream; the bagpiper that they don't really exist, the hobo that they are all dead and in limbo, while the major believes that they are in Hell.
Eventually the ballet dancer suggests a plan to escape: forming a tower of people, each person on the other's shoulders. The plan almost works, but a loud sound shakes the cylinder and sends the five tumbling to the ground. Now even more determined, the Major fashions a grappling hook out of loose bits of clothing and his sword. By reforming the tower, he manages to grapple onto the edge of the container. As he turns to survey the area surrounding the cylinder, he tumbles to the ground outside. The other characters talk about him, and the Clown says the Major will return but not to rescue them. That he may be right, and they may be in Hell.
The scene cuts to a little girl picking up a doll from the snow - a doll in the dress of an Army major. A kindly woman tells her to "Put it back in the barrel with the rest of them." It is revealed that the cylinder is a Christmas toy collection bin for a girls' orphanage, and that all five characters are nothing more than dolls. The loud noise was the shaking of a hand held bell which the woman used to attract donations.
The final shot is of the five characters, now seen as dolls with painted faces and glass eyes. The ballet dancer moves to hold the hand of the major and her eyes fill with tears.
Five Tropes in Search of an Exit:
- Alien Abduction. Discussed. The ballet dancer believes that they have been abducted by aliens and are either on another planet or on a ship on the way to one.
- Bottle Episode: A majority of the episode is inside a small room, and one street corner.
- Children Are Innocent: As noted by the final narration.
- Christmas Episode: One of the surprises of the episode.
- Dream People: Discussed. The bagpiper speculates that they are nothing more than characters in someone else's dream.
- Dutch Angle: Dutch angles are used when the characters form a Human Ladder to climb out of the strange room. to make it look like actors lying on a floor are vertical. The effect is particularly obvious with the bagpiper, whose kilt is clearly hanging down to lie on the "wall."
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Since they don't remember their names, their costumes are all they have to go on.
- Human Ladder: The group tries this twice to attempt an escape.
- The first time it fails, injuring the ballerina.
- The second time the Major escapes.
- Living Toys: The major (pardon the pun) surprise of the episode.
- Manly Tears: The major begins to cry after his numerous attempts to escape the strange room fail. He is also no closer to figuring out what is going on. The ballet dancer comforts him.
- Mood-Swinger: The Clown switches between funny and serious.
- Nameless Narrative: None of the characters, human or doll, have any proper name given.
- Non-Ironic Clown: Also a bit of a Sad Clown.
- Ontological Mystery: Five people are trapped in a room with no exit or memory of where they came from or who they are. Only a hole above them.
- Purgatory and Limbo: Discussed. The hobo speculates that they are trapped in Limbo.
- Ray of Hope Ending: Our five mismatched heroes are trapped and isolated for now, but they'll be toys for an orphanage and Serling suggests they'll be loved unconditionally by the children there.
- Snowclone Title: To Six Characters in Search of an Author.
- Tears from a Stone: In the final scene, having been revealed to be dolls, the ballet dancer cries as she moves her hand towards the major.
- Tomato in the Mirror: The characters realize they're toys.
- Uncanny Valley: Invoked. The clown hits it hard in places- such as doing silly moves while discussing the serious predicament they seem to be in.
- Wild Mass Guessing: In-universe among the characters.
- You Wake Up in a Room: Dressed as a major, surrounded by a clown, a hobo, a bag piper, and a ballerina.