The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 24 – What’s in the Box

Joe Britt (played by the irascible William Demarest) is a New York City cab driver.  He and his wife Phyllis (played by the always entertaining Joan Blondell) are thoroughly sick and tired of being married to each other.  She is always accusing him of running around on her behind her back and he constantly complains about her cooking and bad attitude.

On the night in question, Joe has just finished his dinner that he said tasted like corrugated plastic and Phyllis tells him it was that way because he was so late coming home from running around with some floozy.  Meanwhile the television repairman (played by the always loopy Sterling Holloway) is busy in the living room plying his trade.  Joe comes in and accuses him of padding the bill and in general being a crook.  The repairman smiles and tells him that the tv is now fixed and that there won’t be any charge.

Joe starts watching the wrestling match but suddenly the picture changes to a recent scene in Joe’s life where he is talking to some woman, he’s having an affair with.  Joe is shocked and tells Phyllis there’s something wrong with the tv and she has to call the repairman back to fix it.  While she is back in the kitchen Joe turns the set on again and this time, he sees the earlier scene between himself and Phyllis where he complained about the dinner.  As Joe continues to complain about the television set Phyllis begins to think that Joe is seriously ill and she calls a doctor.

When Joe looks at the tv again he sees a scene where he and Phyllis have physical brawl with him pushing her down and her smashing a ceramic sculpture over his head.  Finally, after more blows are exchanged Joe punches Phyllis in the face and she flies backward and out the window to the pavement several floors below.  Joe collapses in stunned disbelief and Phyllis helps him to bed.

The doctor attends to Joe and afterward tells Phyllis that Joe is hallucinating and she should get him to a psychiatrist.  When he leaves Joe calls Phyllis to his bedside and begins to tell her about his affair and declares his love for Phyllis.  She flies into a rage and berates him and packs her clothes to leave.  While this is happening, Joe sees another scene on the tv.  He sees himself in a law court being sentenced to death for killing Phyllis.  When he sees this, he once again collapses to the floor but instead of pitying him Phyllis mocks him over and over, laughing hysterically that it must be his floozy he sees on the screen.

Joe snaps.  He punches his hand through the tv picture tube and with bleeding knuckles he recreates his assault on Phyllis that we saw earlier on the tv.  And sure enough, she ends up falling out the window to her death.  In the final scene the police and neighbors crowd into his apartment and Joe is arrested and hauled away.  As he is leaving the tv repairman shows up and asks Joe to recommend his service to others.

I love this episode.  It’s wonderfully absurd and contains marvelously over the top overacting by some real old pros.  The War of the Sexes at its level best.  A-.

 

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