The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 14 – Five Characters in Search of an Exit

A disheveled army major wakes up on the floor of a circular enclosure without a roof.  The wall towers thirty or forty feet above him and looking up he can see a dark sky and a round bright object that could be light or even the moon.  He starts walking around the inside circumference of the enclosure and confronts a clown lying on the floor.  The clown is irreverent and mocking and bickers with the major on trivial points of discussion.  The major cannot remember exactly who he himself is or how he came to be in this enclosure.  The clown says that there is no answer and it’s not worth trying to figure it out.  Then we meet the other three captives.  There is a ballerina, a hobo and a Scottish bagpiper.  None of them can recall who they are or how they got in their prison.  But they all seem relatively resigned to their fate, except the major.  He is adamant that they must find a way out.  He becomes agitated and tries yelling and pounding on the wall with his shoe.  He even tries breaking through the wall with his sword but the blade snaps off in the attempt.  Every once in a while, a very loud bell sounds.

Eventually he is able to rouse even the clown from his mockery to attempt to escape by forming a human ladder and allowing the ballerina to scale to the top of the wall.  She is mere inches from the top when the thunderous bell tolls so loudly that their ladder is shaken down and they all tumble down.  The ballerina is the most shook up by her great fall.

Undaunted the major convinces them to try again but instead of the ballerina he will climb the human tower and use his sword hilt tied to a rope made from their belts and other clothing to snag the lip of the prison wall and pull himself out.  And after several attempts his jury-rigged grappling hook catches and he painfully scales the short distance to the top and straddles it.

As he steadies himself at the top, the remaining prisoners ask him what he sees.  But just then he loses his balance and falls outside into a pile of snow.  Inside the prison the inmates worry about his fate and the clown says he’ll be back because they really are in hell.

Now the scene shifts and we see a winter scene where a Salvation Army worker is standing next to a doll collection barrel and ringing her bell.  A little girl picks up a doll of a soldier in the snow and tells the woman someone must have missed the barrel with this doll.  She throws the doll back in the barrel and of course now we see the five characters as dolls.  Last of all the ballerina moves her hand onto the major’s hand where he lies from the girl’s toss.  And finally, we see a tear fall down the ballerina’s cheek.


We’re about halfway through the season and the entire series too.  At this point those who have read most of my reviews know that I have a couple of pain points.  The first is I have no sympathy for a character screaming incoherently to no one.  The other is I do not find it interesting if robots or mannequins or any other human facsimiles find out at the end of an episode that they are in fact not humans.

Unfortunately, this episode possesses both those unfortunate diseases.  Someone might say that since this is a Christmas episode, I should make allowances.  Someone would be mistaken.

Those who have read these reviews also know that sometimes I allow myself to mitigate my judgement if a favorite character actor is present in the offending episode.  Well, in this case, the major is played by William Windom.  This is the man who gained immortality as Commodore Matt Decker, Commander of the USS Constellation whose crew was eaten by the planet killer in the Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine.”  How much more extenuating can circumstances be?  But no, it cannot sway me.  I must award this episode the gold standard of bad Twilight Zone episodes.  The pure F.