The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 1 – In Praise of Pip

Jack Klugman plays Max Philips a small-time bookie who lives in a cheap rooming house and works for a small-time hood named Moran.  The episode opens up with Max’s son Pip being carried into a field hospital in Vietnam.  The young soldier has been shot in the stomach while on patrol and the medic is sending him up the line to a real hospital to attempt to save his life through surgery.  But his prognosis is bleak.

We meet Max in his apartment and even though he is a crook we see the human side of him talking to his old landlady, Mrs. Feeney, and asking if any mail has come from his son Pip.  Next we meet one of his “clients,” a young man named George who stole $300 from his job to bet on a horse that lost.  He tells Max that if he can’t give the money back, he’ll go to jail.  Max seems very cynical and unsympathetic about all this.

In the next scene we are at Moran’s apartment where Max hands over his profits to his boss.  But Moran says that Max has stiffed him the $300 George owed.  Apparently, Max let him off the hook.  But Moran heard about it and sent a thug to beat the money out of George.  Both of them enter the apartment.  Now Max gets a phone call from his landlady telling him a telegram has arrived for him.  Max asks her to read it to him over the phone.  The telegram is from the Army stating that Pip was critically wounded and not expected to live.

Now Max regrets his whole shabby life and all of the times he neglected Pip while he was living his life of crime and drunkenness.  He throws George the $300 and tells him to leave but the thug blocks the door and reaches into his jacket.  Max pulls a knife and warns Moran to call off his goon.  But the gunman fires his gun and Max knifes both him and his boss allowing George to escape.

Max staggers away from the building.  He’s been shot in the gut and he’s reeling from the news that his son is dying.  He pours out his regrets and then begs God for the chance to talk to Pip.

Now we jump to the hospital where Pip is being treated.  After his surgery the surgeon tells the nurse that if Pip can last the next hour he should survive.

Walking into the deserted amusement park Max sees Pip but as the ten-year-old boy (played by Bill Mumy) who idolized him as his best friend.  In this dream vision they relive all the fun they had together riding the rides and playing the carnival games.  But after an hour Pip suddenly looks bleakly at Max and runs away.  Max runs after him and follows him into the House of Mirrors.  After frantically chasing Pip, Max hears Pip telling him the hour’s up and he has to leave because he’s dying.

Max staggers out onto the now deserted midway and begs God for another favor.  He asks Him to take Max’s life and spare Pip.  And then Max crumples to the ground.

In the next scene Private Pip Philips in uniform and walking with a cane is accompanying Mrs. Feeney and a young female relative of hers into the amusement park.  From the conversation we learn that Max died a few months before.  And as Pip relives the amusement park of his youth, he demonstrates the fond memories he has of Max.

This episode is a shameless and transparent attack on the audience’s heartstrings.  The whole setup is meant to elicit an emotional response using several of the oldest tropes in Hollywood; the gangster with a heart of gold, the dying child and the appeal to God.  But it’s also very effective.  I alternate between condemning it for rank sentimentality and praising it for the effectiveness of the melodrama.  Also, Jack Klugman and Bill Mumy?  How can you go wrong with that?  I’ll call this an A-.