The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 22 – Long Distance Call

Grandma Bayles lives with her son Chris and his family, his wife Sylvia and their six-year old son Billy.  Grandma is very old and very sick and she knows she hasn’t long to live but she says to anyone who’ll listen that having Billy around has given her the only joy she has in life.  On his birthday she gives Billy a toy telephone and tells him that wherever she goes he can always talk to her using the toy phone.  The parents take this as a harmless game between an old lady and her very young grandson.  But almost immediately after the party Grandma is at death’s door and the family is assembled at her bed.  While trying to console her she reveals that she no longer considers any of them family except Billy and that she wishes he could go with her to the other side.

After she dies Billy’s parents notice him talking into the toy phone whenever they happen upon him in his room but he always stops talking as soon as he sees them.  When they ask him who he’s talking to he says Grandma.  Finally, one day his Mother sneaks up on him and grabs the phone away from him unexpectedly and she tells her husband afterward that she could hear breathing in the receiver.  Phil tells her that she must have been imagining it.  The phone after all is just a toy.

One day when Sylvia returns from the store the baby-sitter is in a panic and a man is sitting in the living room in an agitated state.  He tells her that he was driving down their street when completely out of nowhere Billy dashed directly in front of his wheel.  He said if he hadn’t been completely alert and swerved the boy would have been killed.  But most disturbingly when he asked Billy why he had run into the street he told him that someone told him to do it.  And of course, the baby-sitter swore she would never such a crazy thing but that Billy had been talking on his phone just before the incident.

Now the parents are convinced that Billy has been influenced in a terrible way by the phone and his grandmother’s feelings about having him join her.  They tell Billy that they are taking the phone away from him to prevent the problem from recurring.  Billy runs away distraught and a few moments later we found out that he threw himself into the ornamental fish pond and wasn’t breathing.

A rescue team of firemen work feverishly with oxygen and respiration gear on Billy but one of them says to the parents that it didn’t look good.

Now Phil Bayles takes his son’s toy phone in his hands and starts making an impassioned plea to his dead mother to let Billy go and let him live to grow up.  He says it’s not fair to take away all the good things in life that growing child gets to enjoy.  As her son and Billy’s father he pleads with her with a sob in his voice.

And as he finishes, we hear from the emergency crew the news that miraculously Billy has revived and seems to have escaped the risk of permanent damage from his scrape with death.

This episode has always made me very angry.  Unless that phone was a line to Hell, what kind of Heaven would allow in a grandmother who was capable of telling six-year-old grandson to run into traffic or drown himself in a pond.  Either way I have such contempt for her that I can’t enjoy the happy conclusion.  But I do recognize that it is a story with powerful imagery and Billy Mumy is a very convincing little boy actor, as usual.

Let’s say A-.

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2 years ago

I think my reaction to this episode when I first saw it was “What a nasty, selfish (female dog)”.
I hadn’t even thought of the heaven / hell aspect, but you make a good point.