Five Characters in Search of an Exit
|"Five Characters in Search of an Exit"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Lamont Johnson|
|Written by||Rod Serling from the story "The Depository" by Marvin Petal|
|Featured music||Stock from "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim"|
|Original air date||December 22, 1961|
"Five Characters in Search of an Exit" is an episode of the television series The Twilight Zone.
A uniformed Army major wakes up to find himself trapped inside in a large metal cylinder, where he meets a hobo, a ballet dancer, a bagpiper, and a clown. None of them have any memory of who they are or how they became trapped. The major, being the newest arrival, is the most determined to escape. He is told there is no way out except the ceiling, which is too high to reach but nonetheless he investigates and perseveres. The major's questioning reveals that the characters have no need for food or water and indeed feel nothing in general, except for pain.
The characters question where, what and who they are. The ballerina informs the major, "We are in the darkness; nameless things with no memory—no knowledge of what went before, no understanding of what is now, no knowledge of what will be." Guesses are made about the nature of where they have been placed: the ballerina speculates that they are on another planet or a spaceship or they are insane and it is a mirage; the hobo that they are all dead and in limbo; the bagpiper they do not exist they are dream figures of somebody else's imagination; while the clown, who ironically, seems to be the most reasoning of them all, claims they are all players in each other's dreams, but then suggests the answers to these questions are infinite, thus unsolvable and immaterial. The major then concludes that they are in Hell.
Eventually, the major suggests a plan to escape: forming a tower of people, each person on the other's shoulders. The plan almost works, but a loud sound shakes the cylinder and sends the five tumbling to the ground. Now even more determined, the major fashions a grappling hook out of loose bits of clothing and his sword. By reforming the tower, he manages to grapple onto the edge of the container. As he turns to survey the area surrounding the cylinder, he tumbles to the ground outside. The other characters talk about him, and the clown says that he may be right, and they may be in Hell.
The scene cuts to a little girl picking up a doll from the snow, a doll in the dress of an army major. A kindly woman tells her, "Put it back in the barrel with the rest of them." It is revealed that the cylinder is a Christmas toy collection bin for a girls' orphanage and that all five characters are nothing more than dolls. The loud noise was the shaking of a handheld bell which the woman used to attract donations.
The final shot is of the five characters, now seen as dolls with painted faces and glass eyes. The ballet dancer moves to hold the hand of the major and her eyes fill with tears.
Episode notes 
- The title is a variation on the Pirandello play Six Characters in Search of an Author and Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit.
- The last shot of the episode, in which the five characters are seen in doll form, does not feature the actors; rather, specially made dolls were crafted that closely resembled the five actors who played the parts, and these are shown.
- The little girl who appears at the end of this episode was portrayed by the daughter of longtime Twilight Zone producer Buck Houghton.
- End titles screen features the street corner Christmas toy collection drive.
- The episode was reportedly an inspiration for the 1997 film Cube.
- The TV series Felicity paid homage to "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" in the season 2 episode 11 episode "Help for the Lovelorn"; it was directed by Lamont Johnson.
- Zicree, Marc Scott (1982). The Twilight Zone Companion (Second ed.). Sillman-James Press. p. 234.
- "Biography of Vincenzo Natali". IMDb. Retrieved 2011-08-04.
- Chan, Lisa (2001). "Sophomore Year (Season 2) Episode 11: Help For The Lovelorn". Felicitypage.com. Archived from the original on 2001-03-07. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
- "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" at the Internet Movie Database
- TV.com episode page
- Five Characters in Search of an Exit Review at The Twilight Zone Project
- Full video of the episode at CBS.com