THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Season 2, Episode 3
“The Who of You”
Available on CBS All-Access
“You know what I think? I think that we’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.”
— Anthony Perkins, Psycho
And, in this iteration of the second season of The Twilight Zone (now airing on CBS All-Access), nobody feels more trapped than Harry Pine, an out-of-work actor struggling for a break so he can escape until he finally does — just not in the way he expects. The third episode of the sophomore season of The Twilight Zone gives a glimpse of a desperate man, pushed to the brink by life, running away from a small squad of cops and a bag full of stolen money, so unable to change the scenery around him, he might as well be on a treadmill — and it’s the second solid offering we’ve seen from the new season.
It isn’t like Harry (Ethan Embry of the 90’s teen comedy Can’t Hardly Wait and TV’s Grace and Frankie) wanted to go this route. He’s not an objectionable guy. He’s kind, taking the time to tell his casting director that they’ve been acquainted before the director denies knowing him and impatiently orders him to start reading lines. He’s just down on his luck. His more successful wife waits for him at home but he’s jealous of her, afraid to open himself up to her for that very reason and because the resulting fight will just be a repeat of all the other times Harry’s come home without work.
Of course, the power going out serves to light that match anyhow. And the revelation that Harry didn’t pay the power bill turns flare-up into an inferno in seconds. Finally pushed to the brink, Harry decides to rob a bank which, predictably, turns into a shit-show before Harry looks the bank teller handling his stolen money-to-be…and somehow trades bodies with her. Both Harry and the teller look confused but Harry isn’t going to question it — at least not right now. As Jill, he grabs the money and runs.
And the chase begins. Soon, the police are hot on the money’s trail — but how do you catch a man who can inhabit the body of one of the cops chasing him? Of a child? Of anyone at all?
I first saw Ethan Embry in 1998’s Can’t Hardly Wait. In the film, he was a geeky teen type, but he had appeal. He was every guy. He was just…that guy. Admittedly, that was the last time I saw him. Yeah, I’d see him pop up every now and then (ABC’s Dragnet was where I last saw him) but I was pleasantly surprised to see him here. The irony here is mind-bending: he’s an actor playing an actor who the cops suspect is acting when the various people he inhabits show up inside his head, one after the next. Embry not only plays Harry Pine, he plays everyone Harry comes in contact with. A concept like this could come off as hokey depending on the actor but, with Embry, it’s another brilliant performance this show slices and serves to you on a platter.
Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me, Graceland) is on the lawful side of things here as Detective Reece, the cop assigned to find Harry. Sunjata plays Reece as the “cop who’s seen it all” but whose mind is opened up to more supernatural possibilities when Harry’s victims file into Harry’s body and speak to Reece through him. The issue, however, is that there isn’t so much for Sunjata to do here but “be a cop” so it’s a series of interrogation scenes he’s relegated to — but he does it well, and that’s what counts.
Rounding out the cast are Mel Rodriguez (Briarpatch, The Last Man on Earth) as one of the cops who initially chases Harry (and who knows Reece) and the great Billy Porter (the host of so many red carpet shows as well as TV’s Pose) as Keith, a sleazy Tarot Card reader who knows he’s not a psychic and knows that he’s scamming his customers but serves a more philosophical purpose: explaining that Harry’s purpose in life isn’t comprised of inhabiting people and acting like them. I wish there was more of Porter in this episode. He was brilliant.
The one thing I can’t totally get behind is the ending. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a hell of a twist but is it as brutal as the one in “Meet in the Middle”? That’s up for debate. Harry’s the type who wants to skip the hard work and go right to the type of success he doesn’t honestly deserve — so why did the writers feel the need to give a somewhat happy ending to Harry after all the sins he committed?
Still, I really liked “The Who of You”. The encounter between Harry and Keith in the Tarot shop alone is worth the entire episode as is the climax involving a child whose body Harry has inhabited while the child (in Harry’s body) looks at himself, scared out of his mind while a cop points a gun and demands that Harry jump back into his own body. It sounds silly but it isn’t. “The Who of You” is melodrama but it’s melodrama with talent.
LOST IN THE ZONE
- All right…let’s talk about the twist (SWIPE TO REVEAL): So, basically, Harry’s bag of stolen money is inside the Tarot Card shop and Harry’s been locked out. Harry ends up inside the body of a child because the apartment the kid lives in is above the Tarot Card shop, which has a skylight. After his mom puts him to bed, Harry (as the kid) breaks into the shop, through the skylight, and tries to find his money — only to run into Detective Reece and the kid (who is inside of Harry’s body). There’s some intense verbal fencing. Harry decides to jump into the body of Reece instead. The kid, back in his own body, freaks out. Reece and Harry (in opposite bodies) argue about things before Reece (in Harry’s body) gets his gun back. The cops break into the Tarot Card shop and yell at “Harry” to put the gun down. “Harry” tries to tell them that he’s Reece — but the cops don’t know that and gun down the body of Harry anyhow. Reece is dead — leaving Harry trapped in Reece’s body. Harry goes back to his apartment (in Reece’s body) with the intention of telling his own wife that “Harry is dead” — but it turns out that Harry’s wife recognizes Reece before he even steps into the apartment…because the two have been seeing each other behind Harry’s back this whole time, which is revealed when Harry’s wife tells “Reece” that “Harry is gone” and how they should “be together now”. After this, “Reece” becomes an actor and is more successful.
- This is Ethan Embry’s second trip through The Twilight Zone. His first trip was in the 2002 UPN incarnation when he starred in the episode, “Time Lapse”.
- Several Easter Eggs here:
- As “Harry” is escaping the bank as “Officer Luntz”, he passes by two girls. They’re wearing patches on their shirts for “St. Mary’s Boarding School”…which will become more relevant to this universe in the episode “Among the Untrodden”.
- Next to the two girls, somebody has left a cardboard sign with a drawing of a clock on it and the slogan “TIME ENOUGH AT LAST” — which is a nod to the classic Zone episode “Time Enough At Last”.
- Something I have been noticing in nearly every episode is that nearly every single living area in some of these characters’ “houses” and “apartments” have the same twin windows. In fact, the living room layout of Harry and Morena’s apartment is the exact same as Samir and Rena’s apartment in the first season episode, “The Comedian”.
- Also, inside the apartment, sitting on a shelf, is a rotary phone which bears a keen resemblance to the toy phone from the classic Zone episode, “Long Distance Call”.
- The coffee the barista kid is working on has a swirl pattern which resembles the twisting swirl pattern we’ve seen in the classic Zone intros.
- The bus stop “Harry” sits in (while inside the body of Officer Luntz) is on Franklin Street. It’s been slightly remodeled. It was last seen in the first season episode, “The Comedian”, when it was taped up by the police after it had been plowed through by a drunk driver.