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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 and recommends psychiatric help. Angered, Crangle warns Hall that he's one of the evil people who will become two feet tall, but Hall ignores him and leaves.

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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Trope O'Clock:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Aside from his parrot, no one seems to like Crangle due to his instability, as well as his Holier Than Thou attitude.
  • 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) just so Oliver would have other humans to interact with.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: There's something seriously off about Oliver. The visiting FBI agent Hall even asks if he has ever sought psychiatric treatment.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Did Oliver truly turn 2 feet tall or did he have some kind of hallucination at the end?
  • Ambiguously Human: Throughout most of the episode, Crandle seems to be nothing more than a madman Conspiracy Theorist with no power all all, yet he somehow IS able to turn himself two feet tall in the end. Unless the theory of him hallucinating as losing what's left of his sanity, then its unknown exactly what he is.
  • 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?
  • Berserk Button: Crangle is already unstable but totally loses it when Mrs. Lucas calls him a "crank". The communists or "Reds" as he calls them are another big one for him.
  • Break the Haughty: Throughout the episode, he looks down on people whom he deems as being lowly and evil, judging them, harrasing them and then plotting to shrink them in an effort to get rid of them. In the end, he is presumably the one one who shrinks and he loses it after that.
  • Brick Joke: Pete the parrot repeatedly calls out to be fed with the word "nut." At the end, "nut" applies to Oliver.
  • Canon Foreigner: Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Lucas and FBI Agent Hall do not appear in the short story.
  • 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 it's 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: FBI Agent Hall's response to Crangle's statement that "evil" people don't like to be woken up at night is to wonder "Who does?"
  • Death by Adaptation: At the end of the radio adaptation, the shrunken Crangle is killed and eaten by his parrot Pete, who has mistaken him for a nut.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Oliver's view of people was allegedly based on the Red Scare and McCarthyism.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Crangle's personality is demonstrated in the first scene: He anonymously calls various businesses, accusing the people in their employ of being immoral, calling them communists and other evil things. When asked who he is and how he knows this, he says "never mind" and demands that they been discharged.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: An evil variation, as Oliver suddenly comes up with the shrinking idea.
  • Even Evil 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 he 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.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The episode takes place over at most several hours one afternoon.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Oliver wears Opaque Nerd Glasses on and off throughout the episode.
  • Gender Flip: In the short story, Crangle's parrot Pet is female. In the television adaptation, the parrot is a male named Pete.
  • Harassing Phone Call: Crangle tells Agent Hall that he calls the supposedly evil people in the middle of night to accuse them of various crimes.
    • The FBI agent is quick to point out that no one likes being called in the middle of the night by some stranger who accuses them of things they might or might not have done.
  • Hate Sink: Despite his own beliefs, Crangle is not a good person and just gets worse and worse.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The Aesop of the story. Oliver is so obsessed with other people's 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 of the irony that he spends his days invading others' lives and judging them as evil.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: He tells others that it is his duty to punish "evil" people, despite the fact that he clearly doesn't have the mental stability to pass judgement on others, nor the authority to do so.
  • 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.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Crangle's delusions have convinced him that he is in the right to judge others, deeming them to be theifs, communists, harlots and other deplorable things with almost no evidence of their sins or even very flimsy evidence at best. To him, they are evil because he deems them to be evil.
  • Irony: Crangle wants to shrink all the evil people in the world. In the end, he himself shrinks.
  • It's All About Me: While Crangle claims that his actions are to punish all the evil people in the world, its obvious that he is doing it due to the fact that he is insane, but also his need to feel morally superior.
  • 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 landlady Mrs. Williams.
  • 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.
  • Named by the Adaptation: The television adaptation gives Crangle the first name Oliver.
  • Original Position Fallacy: Crangle resolves to shrink all the evil people in the world to two feet tall. He never considers that he might be considered an evil person and thus shrunk himself.
  • 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 the charges against them. It comes back to bite him hard.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The episode ends with the now-tiny Oliver Crangle on his knees doing a Skyward Scream.
  • Villain Protagonist: Oliver Crangle.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Downplayed as Mrs. Lucas doesn't attack Crangle physically, but she does rightfully call him out for harrassing her husband and slandering his name.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: How Oliver sees himself. Hey, all he wants to do is destroy evil! However, he's a Knight Templar at best.
  • World Limited to the Plot: The only settings are Oliver's apartment and the hallway and stairway leading to it.
  • You Are What You Hate: Crangle longs to punish all the evil people in the world... and he's also shown to be an insane, corrupt, narrowminded Jerkass who ruins other people's lives on a regular basis.

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