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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 3 E 94 Four O Clock

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Oliver's Evil Laugh unnerves Mrs. Lucas.

Rod Serling: That's Oliver Crangle, a dealer in petulance and poison. He's rather arbitrarily chosen four o'clock as his personal Götterdämmerung and we are about to watch the metamorphosis of a twisted fanatic, poisoned by the gangrene of prejudice, to the status of avenging angel, upright and omniscient, dedicated and fearsome. Whatever your clocks say, it's four o'clock — and wherever you are, it happens to be the Twilight Zone.
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Oliver Crangle (Theodore Bikel) is a fanatic who maintains records of people he deems evil, calling and writing their employers to alert them of their evil acts, demand their immediate firing and threaten to involve higher authorities if they don't comply. Unsatisfied with the results of his anonymous threats, he searches for a more effective way to eliminate all evil from the world. When Mrs. Lucas (Phyllis Love), the wife of one of his victimsnote , futilely pleads with him to leave her husband alone, Oliver is inspired when he makes a chance remark about evil people being "little bugs" and "bacteria"; he settles on the idea of shrinking the "evil" people to two feet tall. He cackles at the idea of that plan. Mrs. Lucas realizes she can't reason with him and leaves.

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Oliver calls various government agencies to warn them, and FBI Agent Hall (Linden Chiles) is sent to investigate. Crangle tells him that he has finally devised a plan to shrink every "evil" person down to two feet tall at 4:00 that afternoon through sheer force of will. Hall dismisses him as a crank, recommends psychiatric help and leaves. Before departing, Crangle warns that Hall will be two feet tall, but is ignored.

When 4:00 rolls around, Crangle's plan apparently works! However, Oliver is in no mood to celebrate, because he himself has been shrunk to two feet tall. His parrot, Pete, calls him a "nut" for his actions.

Rod Serling: At four o'clock, an evil man made his bed and lay in it, a pot called a kettle black, a stone-thrower broke the windows of his glass house. You look for this one under 'F' for fanatic and 'J' for justice in The Twilight Zone.
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Tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Serling's script is based on a short story by Price Day. A very short story—it's basically a vignette where Mr. Crangle (who originally had no first name) explains his plan to his parrot (originally a female called "Pet"), then suffers the Karmic Twist Ending. Serling added three new characters (Mrs. Lucas, Agent Hall and Oliver's landlady Mrs. Williams [Moyna MacGill]) just so Oliver would have other humans to interact with.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: There's something seriously off about Oliver. The visiting FBI agent even asks if he has ever sought psychiatric treatment.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For/Hoist by His Own Petard: Bet you weren't expecting the "two feet tall" thing to backfire on you, eh, Oliver?
  • Brick Joke: Pete the parrot repeatedly calls out to be fed with the word, "nut." At the end, "nut" applies to Oliver.
  • Casting Gag: The Commie-hunting Crangle is played by Theodore Bikel, a liberal activist in Real Life.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Oliver is an unfriendly variation of this. He confides in his parrot like its a real human, has absurd grudges against various people, and believes against all logic every evil person will shrink just because he wills it. He's right about the last one.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Oliver calls the government to alert them that all the evil people are going to shrink...
    Oliver: ...although that call probably won't even go through. It's my understanding that the Reds are in complete control in Washington now. They've probably taken over the switchboard too.... It's a complete conspiracy, you know.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Oliver was right! At least one evil person did shrink at 4:00—himself.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Oliver's view of people was allegedly based off the Red Scare and McCarthyism.
  • Eureka Moment: An evil variation, as Oliver suddenly comes up with the shrinking idea.
  • Even Mr. Krangle has Loved Ones: At least, in the form of his pet parrot Pete. When he's not trying to "destroy evil", he dotes on his "good boy" Pete like it were a toddler son. It does little to balance out his overall unpleasant personality, however.
  • Evil Laugh: Oliver lets one out when he comes up with the shrinking idea. Overlaps with Laughing Mad.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Oliver wears Opaque Nerd Glasses on and off throughout the episode.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The Aesop of the story. Oliver is so obsessed with other peoples' evil that he doesn't recognize his own until it's too late.
  • Hypocrite: Oliver Crangle scolds Mrs. Williams in the beginning of the episode for being invasive and not minding her own business, completely unaware that he spends his days invading others' lives and judging them as evil.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Oliver wants to do this to all the evil people in the world. If you've read this far, you know how things turn out for him.
  • Jerkass: Oliver. In addition to devoting himself to ruining people's lives, he's generally unpleasant, abrasive and condescending as seen by his interaction with his land lady.
  • Karmic Twist Ending: Oliver wants all the evil people to shrink to two feet tall. In the end, the only one who shrinks (as far as we know) is Oliver himself.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Oliver, who lives alone in a small apartment with a parrot, is a crazy man who dedicates himself to ruining the lives of those he deems "evil."
  • Minimalist Cast: Although not quite as minimalist as the original story.
  • Troll: Oliver Crangle. He devotes himself to ruining his victims' lives, and boasts to Agent Hall that he calls them in the middle of the night and reads them the charges against them.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The episode ends with the now-tiny Oliver Crangle on his knees doing a Skyward Scream.
  • Villain Protagonist: Oliver Crangle.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: How Oliver sees himself. Hey, all he wants to do is destroy evil!
  • World Limited to the Plot: The only settings are Oliver's apartment and the hallway and stairway leading to it.

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