The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 29 – The Jeopardy Room

Martin Landau plays Major Ivan Kuchenko a Soviet defector trying to leave a neutral country bordering the Soviet Union and fly to the United States.  He is staying in a cheap hotel room waiting for his flight the next morning.  The phone in his room rings and a voice calling himself “a friend” tells him to expect a visit.

Commissar Vasiloff and his hitman Boris are occupying a room in the next building over and Boris tells Vasiloff that from the window he has a clear head shot at Kuchenko.  Vasiloff explains to Boris that the difference between them is that when it comes to assassination, Boris is a butcher and Vasiloff is an artist.  Vasiloff intends to have Kuchenko killed before the next morning but he intends to do it creatively and with finesse.

Vasiloff arrives at Kuchenko’s apartment door bearing a bottle of wine (amontillado, he states).  He tells Kuchenko that he intends to stop him from escaping but tells him that they can begin with a friendly drink.  Kuchenko refuses but Vasiloff drinks some wine to show it’s not poisoned.  Satisfied as to the safety of the wine Kuchenko drinks some of it but finds himself drugged and losing consciousness.

When he awakens, he finds Vasiloff gone but in his place a tape recorder.  When he plays the tape it’s Vasiloff’s voice explaining the present situation.  Vasiloff drugged him with a compound that he himself had become immune to.  Kuchenko is under surveillance by a gunman across the way and can be shot at any time.  Vasiloff has booby trapped something in the room.  Kuchenko must locate and disarm the trap within 3 hours.  If he finds it and disarms it within 3 hours, he will be allowed to leave the room alive.  If:

  • he doesn’t find it within 3 hours he will be shot
  • he stops looking for the bomb he will be shot
  • he tries to turn out the light he will be shot.

Boris observes Kuchenko through binoculars and informs Vasiloff of his progress.  Finally, Boris begs Vasiloff to tell him where it is.  Vasiloff tells him it’s in the phone but it’s only triggered once an incoming call rings in.  After Kuchenko has been searching fruitlessly for hours he tries to cover the window with a blanket and Boris sprays the room with bullets.  Kuchenko becomes enraged and breaks out the windows and loudly demands that Vasiloff have him killed.  As the end of the three hours is close Vasiloff calls Kuchenko’s room on the phone.  Kuchenko is about to pick up the receiver when he realizes where the bomb is.  Vasiloff calls again and this time Kuchenko makes a mad dash for the door and escapes before a hail of bullets hit the wall behind him.

Next, Boris and Vasiloff are shown in Kuchenko’s room and Boris gloats that his simple way would have been best but Vasiloff claims that there is time for him to finish off Kuchenko before he can reach America.  But suddenly the phone rings and without thinking Boris reaches to answer it.  Vasiloff begins to warn him but before he can finish Boris lifts the receiver and the bomb explodes killing them both.

In the last scene we see Kuchenko in a phone booth and we hear the operator say that the line has gone dead.  Kuchenko tells her never mind, because he has gotten through to the party he was trying to reach.  He leaves the public phone smiling.

Martin Landau was well known on tv as a part of the cast of the spy series, Mission Impossible, that was later turned into a series of movies.

This episode has a very simple plot and really is more of a spy thriller than a Twilight Zone episode.  But, it’s very entertaining, I think.  All three actors do a good job with the plot and lines they are given.  A-.