The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 5 – The Last Night of a Jockey

Mickey Rooney plays Michael Grady, a crooked jockey who has just been given a life long suspension by the Racing Commission.  Grady is an angry, bitter little man who feels he’s been given a bad deal by life and everyone he’s ever met.  Sitting in a cheap hotel room he rails against life, when suddenly he hears a voice laughing at him.  After bickering with the hidden voice, he finds out it’s his alter ego, his conscience talking to him from inside his head and, when he looks there, from inside any mirror in sight.  The reflection in the mirror is a more sophisticated, less disheveled version of Grady and he takes his more corporeal self to task for his shabby life of crime and dishonor.  But finally, when he’s through mocking him he asks Grady to tell him his greatest desire, his secret wish.  Grady tells him he wants to be big.  He wants to be tall.  He wants to be able to walk down the street without people looking down on him and laughing.

Grady goes to sleep and when he wakes up, he’s about eight feet tall.  Now he’s ecstatic and plans all the things he’s never been able to do and all the girls who won’t disrespect him for his short stature.  And he asks his conscience if he’s impressed with him now.  But the reflection tells him that he’s not impressed.  He thinks Grady’s dreams were tiny.  He said if he had asked to win the Kentucky Derby honestly or done some heroic deed then he would have been a big man but as things stand, he considers Grady a very small man indeed.

Then a phone call comes through from the Racing Commission telling Grady he’s been reinstated.  Grady is once again ecstatic and gloats to the mirror how everything is going his way.  But now the alter ego is hysterical with laughter and finally Grady realizes the joke.  He’s too big to ever ride as a jockey again.  And suddenly he grows even taller.  Now he must be twelve feet tall and he falls into a desperate rage and breaks up the furniture and smashes the windows begging his alter ego to make him small again.

This episode has a number of plot elements alike with an earlier episode, Season 2 Episode 3, “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room.”  In both episodes an alter ego carries on a dialog through a mirror with his flesh and blood self.  In both cases that self is a disreputable man in a fleabag hotel room who has let his life fall apart.  But the difference between the plots is that the earlier one has a happy ending and this one doesn’t.  Here the alter ego while much more powerful than the one in Nervous Man doesn’t take over control of his body and straighten things out.  Instead he punishes his weak, selfish other half by giving him what he says he wants but in spades.  He makes him a giant that will be just as miserably isolated from life as his short stature previously made him.

This is an odd episode to evaluate.  Standing on its own it is an interesting premise and Mickey Rooney does a good job of breathing life into the dual roles.  But knowing what was done with Nervous Man makes me dissatisfied with the ending.  It’s spiteful and somehow seems too extreme.  Maybe I’m too soft-hearted.  B-