The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 3 – Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room

Jackie Rhoades is a small-time racketeer who lives in a cheap motel room in New York City waiting for his mob boss George to tell him his crime assignment for the night.  Jackie is afraid of everything but most of all George.  He’s biting his fingernails and sweating like a pig.

When George shows up, he mocks Jackie for being a coward and tells him that he’s going to graduate to murder.  He has to shoot an old bar keeper who won’t pay George protection money.  Jackie begs George not to make him commit murder but George tells him if he doesn’t shoot the old man then his own life is over.

After George leaves, Jackie agonizes into the mirror about his predicament and even as he insists that he’ll be caught doing it he decides to kill the old man.  But as he’s getting ready to leave, his reflection in the mirror starts talking to him.  It’s a more assertive, more confident version of Jackie.  He tells Jackie that he’s the better side of Jackie’s personality and he’s been submerged all these years while Jackie has sabotaged their life with criminal activities and knuckling under to racketeers and gangsters.

Scared Jackie tells his alter ego that he has to kill the old man and nothing will stop him.  His alter ego tells him this is his last chance.  If he kills the old man he’ll be caught and their life will be over.  Scared Jackie lashes out at the mirror and spins it around but now he sees the mirror image growing and coming at him.

In the next scene George shows up in Jackie’s room and finds Jackie sitting in a chair with his hands over his face.  George confronts Jackie and tells him he’s gonna skin him alive.  But now Jackie tells George he quits and when George gets angry, Jackie punches George in the face and throws him out.  As the episode ends Jackie, now called John is leaving the flophouse for good to get a job and start his new life and Jackie in the mirror is trying to understand what’s happening to him.

In the comments on an earlier episode I expressed the opinion that having a discussion with someone is a lot better than a soliloquy.  Now granted that technically it’s really just one person but without a doubt dialog beats monologue.  The technique was effective and the episode benefited by it.  It wasn’t Shakespeare but it was good.  B.