The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 23 – The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank

The episode opens up with a funeral mass being held in a rustic church somewhere in a country holler.  A young man named Jeff Myrtlebank is being mourned by his family, friends and sweetheart.  He died two days earlier from influenza and the town is assembled to say goodbye and lay him to rest in the churchyard.

Suddenly the cover of the coffin is pushed open and Jeff sits up.  The congregation panics and stampedes out of the church.  When Jeff follows them out most of them are too frightened of him to go near him.  Jeff tells them that he just woke up in the box and doesn’t remember anything after he fell ill.  Jeff begs his family to welcome him back and finally his kid sister Liz comes up and hugs him.  Now the town doctor who up until this moment assured everyone that he had carefully checked for any sign of life when Jeff expired remembers a very rare syndrome that causes suspended animation as a side effect and declares this the reason for the miraculous cure.  This breaks the ice and the crowd calms down and Jeff’s parents get over their fear and take him home to a big meal to satisfy a three day fast.

But after a few days his parents notice some changes in their restored son.  Whereas previously Jeff was never a hard worker now he is relentless at performing all the hard farm work that he undertakes.  He has become remarkably stronger than he was before but despite this higher work output, he now eats much less than had been his habit.  Overhearing his parents talking about these things, Liz spread this information as gossip and it makes the rounds in the community.  Pretty soon the consensus around town is that Jeff is possessed by a haint or evil spirit.  When Jeff goes to see his girl Comfort Gatewood at her home, she is afraid of him, especially after the bouquet of roses he freshly picked for her turns out to be wilted and dead.  Her brother Orgram, who had always bullied Jeff when they were younger attempts to throw Jeff out of the house but Jeff easily beat him in a fistfight.

Now the whole town is convinced that Jeff is demon possessed.  Deciding that she still loves Jeff, Comfort reaches Jeff’s farm before the mob and warns him that they are coming to threaten him and force him to leave town.  When the mob reaches his property and gives him the ultimatum, Jeff asks Comfort if she will marry him.  When she accepts Jeff tells her to stand behind him and then he faces the crowd.

He makes a speech.  He says that there are two possibilities about him.  One is that he’s just a normal man and if that’s the case they have nothing to fear from him.  The other possibility is that he’s a haint and if that’s the case then he can use his powers to destroy their crops and kill their livestock.  When the mob thinks about this for a moment, they get the message and change their tune and say now that he is marrying Comfort everyone will be one big happy family and they depart quickly.

After they are alone Comfort asks Jeff if he really has those powers and Jeff demurs that it was just something he had to say.  But as he is lighting his pipe the match flares up without Jeff striking it.  Comfort exclaims about this but Jeff says, “Comfort, honey, first thing you got to learn is not to imagine things.”  Then as they’re walking toward his house the property gate at the road closes slowly behind them on its own.

Well, you all know I like the comical episodes and this one is definitely that.  And I liked the way it was done with just the right amount of cornpone, tongue-in-cheek hillbilly flavor to lay to rest any doubts as to its intentions.   It’s a B.