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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 3 E 95 Hocus Pocus And Frisby

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Rod Serling: The reluctant gentleman with the sizable mouth is Mr. Frisby. He has all the drive of a broken camshaft and the aggressive vinegar of a corpse. As you've no doubt gathered, his big stock in trade is the tall tale. Now, what he doesn't know is that the visitors out front are a very special breed, destined to change his life beyond anything even his fertile imagination could manufacture. The place is Pitchville Flats, the time is the present. But Mr. Frisby's on the first leg of a rather fanciful journey into the place we call the Twilight Zone.

Somerset Frisby, owner of the local general store and gas station in Pitchville Flats, is up to his favorite hobby—spinning elaborate yarns about his many accomplishments over the years while accompanying himself on the harmonica. Frisby has a story for every possible topic—he claims to have been a prime mover in politics and industry, a genius inventor, a decorated war hero, and an overall naturally brilliant person at whatever he attempts to do. The townspeople treat Frisby's wild tales as just that—tales—and generally take his words with a laugh and a smile. However, a few mysterious men standing outside in the gas station are not smiling, and in fact seem to be up to some kind of nefarious purpose.

The mysterious men enter the general store at closing time and insist that Frisby come with them. After a few unsuccessful bluffs, he reluctantly agrees...and discovers that the "men" have a gigantic spacecraft hidden away in the woods. They happily reveal themselves as aliens who collect ideal specimens from across planets. The extraterrestrials explain that they've been observing Earth for a while to choose someone for their zoo, and have settled on Frisby—after all, according to his stories, he's the most accomplished, talented, and intelligent person on the whole globe. Frisby confesses that all of the things he has said are nothing but great big lies, but runs into a snag—these aliens have no concept of "lies", instead simply believing that whatever someone says must be true. They assume that Frisby is simply being modest about his accomplishments and ignore his pleas. A frustrated Frisby rears back and punches one of the creatures-whose human disguise cracks in two, revealing an unsettling face beneath a mask. Frisby is so terrified that he faints dead away.

When Frisby comes to, he finds himself in a small room on the spaceship, which will be taking off in five minutes. He again begs to be let go, but the aliens refuse. Resigned to his fate, Frisby asks if he might have some music during the journey. When the extraterrestrials say no, he reaches into his pocket and produces his harmonica to calm himself down. To his shock, the sound from the instrument causes the aliens immense pain, and he quickly improvises a longer tune to overpower them. Frisby rushes out of the ship and back to the general store, where all of his friends have gathered to throw him a surprise birthday party. When they ask what he's been up to, he begins to describe his adventure...only for the group to declare it the best story he's ever told. The episode ends with Frisby frantically claiming that this time, he really is telling the truth, much to the amusement of his buddies.

Hocus Pocus and Tropes:

  • Alien Abduction: The aliens plan to bring Frisby back to their own planet as the most impressive specimen that humanity has to offer.
  • "Be Quiet!" Nudge: When the two aliens are talking to Frisby outside his store, one of them starts to ask Frisby a question and the alien in charge nudges him to shut him up. He incorrectly considers Frisby to be highly intelligent and doesn't want to take the risk of alerting him to their nefarious intentions.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Frisby is captured by aliens on his 63rd birthday.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Frisby loves this trope, claiming that he's advised presidents and fought in wars throughout his long life.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The aliens have a Venusian specimen who can sing at eight different pitches simultaneously and accompanies himself with his tail.
  • Brown Note: The sound of harmonica music paralyzes the aliens with extreme pain.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: The aliens mistake Frisby's tall tales about his own past for an incredible variety of impressive accomplishments because they have no idea what lying is.
  • Catchphrase: Frisby has a tendency to say some famous/important person gave him a nickname befitting whatever accomplishment he's bragging about this time along the lines of "old _____ Frisby".
  • Chekhov's Gun: Near the beginning of the episode, Frisby is playing his harmonica, and someone asks him to stop because of its poor sound. Near the end of the episode he plays it while he's being held prisoner by aliens, and the music acts as a "death sound" on them.
  • Chromosome Casting: This episode has an all-male cast.
  • Consummate Liar: A rare "positive" version. Somerset Frisby's ludicrous tall tales are packed with lies of all kinds. It's clear, though, that none of his friends or customers believe any of it; they're firmly aware that he's a liar and, since he's not hurting anyone, happily indulge him because the stories are so good.
  • Cowardly Lion: Frisby may not be as brave as his stories suggest, but he does try to punch out the aliens abducting him and, upon discovering their weakness to his harmonica music, actively fights them with it.
  • Crazy Memory: The episode concerns Somerset Frisby, who tells outrageous lies to his friends about his past. It comes back to bite him when he's abducted by aliens who have no concept of lying. Fortunately, the one thing he's really good at - playing the harmonica - turns out to give them excruciating pain.
  • Crying Wolf: Somerset Frisby constantly tells made-up tales of great things he's done. He gets abducted by aliens who've mistaken his lies for truth. After they let him go he tells his friends about the experience, and of course they don't believe him.
  • Faint in Shock: When Frisby punches one of the aliens in the face, the alien's human head is revealed to be a mask covering his true alien head. When he sees this, Frisby suffers an Emotional Faint and collapses. He wakes up five minutes before the aliens are scheduled to leave.
  • Flying Saucer: The aliens arrive on Earth in a flying saucer.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Like "Mr. Bevis" and especially "Cavender is Coming," this episode of The Twilight Zone is largely a lighthearted comic romp. It helps that Frisby is played by Andy Devine, a gifted comedian and character actor.
  • Improvised Weapon User: Once Frisby realizes that his harmonica playing can overpower the aliens, he immediately starts using it in a more aggressive manner.
  • Latex Perfection: The aliens use masks which perfectly hide their true appearance. Frisby shatters their leader's mask when he punches him in the face.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Frisby builds himself up as an incredibly brave hero who takes on danger with ease. When he's put into a genuinely dangerous situation, though, he shows his cowardly colors and begs to be set free.
  • The Storyteller: Frisby may own a general store, but his real industry is telling tall tales. His friends and other townspeople come from miles around just to listen to him spin his yarns. As it happens, some otherworldly visitors also came quite a long way to hear them, too.
  • Tall Tale: Frisby is a man who continually tells tall tales; Rod Serling even calls them his most common commodity. During the episode he's abducted by aliens (ironically, because they believe all his stories) and escapes, but when he tells his friends, they believe he is just Crying Wolf. (Of course, the whole episode could be a tall tale... from Rod Serling's point of view.)
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: A "That Reminds Me of a Story" variant. Frisby can turn any comment or question into a tale about himself and his imagined exploits, and it's clear that the townspeople get a kick of seeing how he'll connect what they've just said to one of his boasts.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes: The aliens' leader tells Frisby that they will be taking off in "fourteen minutes, by your measure of time."
  • You Have to Believe Me!: The ending of the episode has Frisby saying that, even though he's been a liar before, this time, his story about the aliens and his harmonica saving him is the real deal. Naturally, his friends don't buy it for a second.

Rod Serling: Mr. Somerset Frisby, who might have profited by reading an Aesop fable about a boy who cried wolf. Tonight's tall tale from the timberlands of the Twilight Zone.