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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 3 E 98 The Dummy

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Rod Serling: You're watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet 'Willie.' In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

The episode opens with ventriloquist Jerry Etherson and his dummy Willie in the middle of one of his acts, somewhere in New York City. After the act, Jerry goes back to his dressing room and begins to drink from a liquor bottle he'd hidden in a drawer. His agent, Frank, comes in and is upset that Jerry has resumed drinking. Jerry tells Frank that Willie is alive and frequently talks to him. When Jerry tells the agent that he is at the mercy of the dummy, Frank does not believe Jerry and thinks he might need psychiatric help.

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Jerry decides that he is going to perform with a different dummy, "Goofy Goggles", for his next act (and all future acts) and locks Willie in a trunk. After the second act, which is not as successful as the ones with Willie, his agent tells him that he is quitting, but Jerry says he is leaving to go to Kansas City and try to get away from Willie. Frank tells him that it doesn't matter where he goes; he'll still have this delusion if he doesn't deal with it here and now. While he's standing outside the back door to the theater, he hears faint whispers of Willie's voice. Jerry sees the dummy's shadow and continues to hear his voice until a coworker from the theater walks up and asks if anything is wrong. Jerry invites her to get a drink, but does it nervously and eccentrically, thereby causing the woman to become frightened and run away.

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As soon as she leaves, Jerry hears Willie's voice again and runs back into the theater. He goes into the dark dressing room, opens the trunk and throws the dummy on the floor, brutally smashing it. But when he turns on the light, he realizes that he destroyed the Goofy Goggles dummy that he was going to use in his future acts. He can't understand how he could have been mistaken. He sees Willie sitting on the couch, talking to him and laughing at him. Jerry asks how he can be real when he's made of wood, and Willie tells him that it was he, Jerry, who made him alive. Realizing the truth, Jerry lowers his head as Willie cackles crazily.

The scene cuts to a stage in Kansas City announcing that the next act will be "Jerry & Willie", and we see the beginning of the act from the back of the man who walked out. As the camera rotates to the front, it is revealed that the man is actually Willie, and he is holding a dummy that looks just like Jerry.

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Rod Serling: What's known in the parlance of the times as the old switcheroo, from boss to blockhead in a few uneasy lessons. And if you're given to nightclubbing on occasion, check this act. It's called Willie & Jerry and they generally are booked into some of the clubs along the 'Gray Night Way' known as the Twilight Zone.

Tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Jerry began drinking heavily after he became convinced that Willie was alive. As a result of his drinking, he missed 110 performances and his agent Frank had to cover for him. Jerry tells Frank that he drinks in order to cope with his nightmares about Willie.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: If the final shot is anything to go by, Willie succeeds in his plan to take over the act. Willie is the ventriloquist performer, and Jerry is now the dummy.
  • Cassandra Truth: Jerry desperately tries to convince his agent Frank that Willie really is alive. At Frank's insistence, he has gone to see numerous psychiatrists and tried to convince them of the same thing but they all diagnosed this belief as a symptom of schizophrenia.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Jerry asks Willie how can he really be alive when he's a dummy made of wood. Willie tells him that it was him, Jerry, who made him what he is.
  • Creepy Doll: The titular dummy, Willie.
  • Demonic Dummy: Willie is fed up being the dummy and wants to take over the act.
  • The Doll Episode: Jerry is haunted by his dummy Willie, whom he is convinced is alive and is trying to take over the act.
  • Dutch Angle: They are used extensively after Jerry starts hearing Willie and seeing his shadow while leaving the theater.
  • Equivalent Exchange: In the final scene, Jerry and Willie have switched places so that Jerry has become the dummy and Willie the ventriloquist. In his closing narration, Rod Serling says that he has gone from "boss to blockhead."
  • Foreshadowing: During his first act, Jerry had Willie pretend to be the ventriloquist and him be the puppet. Their roles are actually reversed at the end.
  • Laugh Track: One is used for the scenes where Jerry is performing his act.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Inverted. Willie is Jerry's not-so-imaginary enemy.
  • People Puppets: Quite literally by the end as Jerry has been transformed into a ventriloquist's dummy.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Willie explains to Jerry that it was him who made him alive.
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