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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 5 E 149 The Jeopardy Room

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Kuchenko gets the drop on Vasslioff.

Rod Serling: The cast of characters: a cat and a mouse. This is the latter, the intended victim who may or may not know that he is to die, be it by butchery or ballet. His name is Major Ivan Kuchenko. He has, if events go according to certain plans, perhaps three or four more hours of living. But an ignorance shared by both himself and his executioner is the fact that both of them have taken a first step into The Twilight Zone.
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Trying to defect, former KGB Major Ivan Kuchenko (Martin Landau) is trapped inside a hotel room. A hitman named Commissar Vassiloff (John van Dreelen) and his assistant Boris (Robert Kelljan) are watching him from a room across the street.

Vassiloff is an artistic killer who has tricked Kuchenko into drinking a sleeping potion in the hotel room after pretending to surrender to Kuchenko. Kuchenko awakens to learn that Vassiloff has planted a bomb in the room: Ivan must find it within three hours or he will be shot by Vassiloff and Boris, who have a gun trained on him at all times. Vassiloff has hidden the bomb in the room's telephone, where it will be triggered by picking up an incoming call.

Ivan manages to escape and avoid being shot. Later, Vassiloff and Boris enter the room and try to figure out what went wrong. The phone rings and Boris, without thinking, picks it up; Vassiloff, realizing what is happening, yells at Boris, but the telephone bomb quickly goes off. On the other end of the phone line is Ivan Kuchenko at the airport. When the operator notifies him of the bad connection, he reassures her that the message was indeed delivered. The loudspeaker then announces that his plane is about to take off and he walks off to his freedom. The scene then cuts to Vassiloff and Boris's charred corpses.

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Rod Serling: Major Ivan Kuchenko, on his way west, on his way to freedom—a freedom bought and paid for by a most stunning ingenuity. And exit one Commissar Vassiloff, who forgot that there are two sides to an argument and two parties on the line. This has been...The Twilight Zone.


Tropes:

  • Acquired Poison Immunity: Commissar Vassiloff tricks Major Kuchenko into drinking drugged wine by drinking first. Vassiloff built up an immunity to the drug by repeatedly taking increasing doses over time.
  • Affably Evil: Vassiloff.
  • A-Team Firing: When Kurchenko opens the door and runs out of the room, Boris (who had been earlier established as a crack shot) might as well have been firing with his eyes shut.
  • Big "NO!": Vassiloff says this when Boris absentmindedly answers the booby trapped phone.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Kuchenko is clearly at the mercy of Vassiloff and Boris, yet manages to escape.
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  • Character Filibuster: Vassiloff in the beginning indulges into the one about the bourgeois gulping their wine instead of sipping etc.
  • Death Trap: Vassiloff traps Kuchenko inside a hotel room with a hidden explosive booby trap. If Kuchenko finds the bomb within the time limit, he lives. If not, he dies. Kuchenko figures out the truth and brilliantly turns the tables.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The entirety of the ending is about Kuchenko single-handed tricking Boris into setting off the bomb and showing Vassiloff that people are not prey to toy with in his sadistic mind games.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: As Serling pointed out, Kuchenko truly earned his freedom.
  • Evil Laugh: Vassiloff does an epic one after he explains his "game" to Kuchenko.
  • Explosive Stupidity: The bad guys are killed in the end when Boris absentmindedly answers the phone that his boss Vassiloff turned into a bomb.
  • Expo Speak:
    • The first part of the conversation between Kuchenko and Vassiloff is exactly that. They both know the things about which they talk. The viewer does not.
    • Also, it is mentioned that Kuchenko spent twelve years in a camp to make him more sympathetic than an ordinary defector.
  • Good Morning, Crono: Kuchenko is waken up in a hotel room by the ringing of the phone.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: On the page describing the trope it is said that Male users of cigarette holders are always Evil. It is the case here too for Vassiloff.
  • Hell Hotel: The episode begins with Kuchenko waking to find himself trapped in a hotel room with a hidden bomb and a sniper outside the window.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Vassiloff's fate.
  • Mask of Sanity: Vassiloff presents himself as an Affably Evil gentleman, but his Evil Laugh on the tape recording, and his sadistic pleasure at watching Kuchenko squirm makes it clear there's something wrong with his head.
  • Mind Games: For Vassiloff with Kuchenko.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Averted for Vassiloff who enjoys murdering people in an artistic way.
  • Self-Poisoning Gambit: Vassiloff uses this to drug Kuchenko. The two share a drink, and it seems like it would be safe because Vassiloff is drinking the same thing, but the drink in question has a sleeping agent that Vassiloff has a tolerance for. Kuchenko, who doesn't have that tolerance, is quickly knocked out.
  • Something Completely Different: One of the very few Twilight Zone episodes to contain no sci-fi or fantastic elements whatsoever.
  • Too Dumb to Live: After Kuchenko escapes, Vassiloff enters a room that he knows still has a live bomb in it. The same goes for Boris who foolishly forgets about the phone bomb.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Boris outright suggests this, but Vassiloff would rather turn it into some kind of sadistic game. This comes back to bite them both.
  • Wicked Cultured: How Vassiloff presents himself: a refined gentleman, who converses amicably with his intended victim, smokes fine cigarettes, drinks well-aged wine, and treats murder like some kind of art form.
  • Worthy Opponent: Vassiloff tells Kuchenko that they are "worthy adversaries".

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