The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 31 – The Encounter

Mr. Fenton is a WW II veteran of the Pacific Theater who is in his attic throwing away junk.  Taro (Arthur) Takamori is a young Japanese American who stopped by to ask if he could add Fenton’s yard to his lawn mowing route.  Fenton asks him to come up to the attic to help him clean up the junk and to share a beer.

During the conversation we discover that Fenton has a lot of hostility toward the Japanese from his time in the war.  He shows Arthur the samurai sword he took from a Japanese officer whom he says was trying to kill him with it.  Fenton claims he’s tried repeatedly to get rid of the sword by giving it away, selling it and throwing it in the trash but each time it’s been returned.

When Fenton leaves the attic to get a beer Arthur picks up the sword and says, “I’m going to kill him.”  Then he immediately asks himself “Why?”

Fenton continues to interlace insults with his conversation with Arthur and Arthur is clearly becoming angry.  Fenton becomes more and more agitated and begins describing just how dangerous a trained soldier like himself is.  At this point Arthur grabs the sword and seems to be preparing to attack Fenton with it.  Fenton arms himself with a small knife and attempts to disarm Arthur but Arthur ends up with the sword against Fenton’s throat.  Fenton placates Arthur by saying he was just describing his war training not threatening Arthur.  Arthur puts the sword down and they begin fencing with words again.  When Fenton says that he killed the officer in self defense Arthur calls him a liar and says the officer had put the sword down when Fenton killed him.  Fenton admits it but says that on Okinawa the standing order was take no prisoners.

Next we learn a little about why Arthur is so angry.  His father was construction contractor for the US Navy in Pearl Harbor and had built a dock for the Navy.  Initially Arthur tells Fenton that his father was a war hero who had warned the sailors about the approaching planes but later he breaks down and admits that his father had betrayed the Americans and had guided the planes to their targets.  He was a traitor and Arthur was consumed by the blood guilt.

When Arthur tries to leave the attic, he finds that the door is inexplicably stuck.  They continue to talk and we learn that Fenton has lost his job and his wife over his drinking and the anger that he harbored over the war.  Once again Fenton and Arthur become involved in a fight with Arthur wielding the sword.  After a prolonged struggle Fenton manages to pry the sword out of Arthur’s hands and tosses it aside.  But the sword was caught between some of the furniture in the attic with the blade protruding up.  And when Fenton attempts to get up off the floor where he had been wrestling with Arthur, the young man grabs Fenton’s feet out from under him and Fenton impales himself on the blade and dies.  Arthur grabs the sword with an anguished look on his face, yells banzai! And hurls himself through the attic window to his death below.  Finally, the door to the outside opens on its own.

Rod Serling returns to one of his fascinations.  Serling served in the Pacific and it scarred his mind.  Fenton to some extent symbolizes the barbarity of the war but typically for Serling, he faults the American soldier and makes the Japanese officer the noble victim.  To be somewhat even handed he gives Arthur a guilt complex over his father’s treason.  But it’s pretty clear where our sympathies are supposed to lie.  I would give this episode a B but George Takei plays Arthur.  George and I do not share political sympathies.  I think he’s a jerk.  So, I’m giving it a B- because I’m as vindictive as they come.