The Encounter

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This article is about the Twilight Zone episode. For other uses, see The Encounter (disambiguation).
"The Encounter"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 5
Episode 31
Directed by Robert Butler
Written by Martin M. Goldsmith
Featured music Stock and Japanese music cues
Production code 2640
Original air date May 1, 1964
Guest actors

Neville Brand: Fenton
George Takei: Arthur Takamori/Taro

Episode chronology
← Previous
"Stopover in a Quiet Town"
Next →
"Mr. Garrity and the Graves"
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"The Encounter" is episode 151 of the American television series The Twilight Zone. First broadcast May 1, 1964, its racial overtones caused it to be withheld from syndication in the U.S.

Opening narration[edit]

Plot[edit]

The story is about the meeting of an American WWII veteran named Fenton (Neville Brand) and a young Japanese-American named Arthur Takamori (George Takei) who comes to Fenton's house looking for work, on a tip from a neighbor. Fenton is gruff, yet cordial, offering Takamori a beer up in his cluttered attic. Takamori is intent on work rather than conversation, but reluctantly agrees to Fenton's offer. In conversation, Arthur states that he changed his name from Taro, and Fenton responds in a subtly racist and hostile manner.

Before Takamori arrived, Fenton had found an old samurai sword. He shows it to Takamori and says he got off a Japanese soldier whom he killed during the war twenty years earlier. Fenton asks about the inscription on the sword; Takamori claims to not be able to read Japanese. But when Fenton leaves briefly to fetch more beer, Takamori takes hold of the sword and says in an astonished way "I'm going to kill him. I'm going to kill him. Why?"

When Fenton comes back, the sword is gone. When Fenton first notices its absence, he acts confused at its misplacement. He goes on to say that he has tried to get rid of the sword for 20 years, but it keeps coming back.

They reveal more and more about themselves, Fenton admitting that he knows the inscription on the sword ("The sword will avenge me"), and challenges Takamori to admit that he can read Japanese. Takamori grows more uneasy and more confrontational to match Fenton's increasing hostility. They have brief heated exchanges which then subside and reemerge again. Takamori moves to leave, but Fenton refuses to let him, insisting they drink another beer.

Fenton appears to suffer from a post traumatic flashback. They briefly assume an adversarial posture, Takamori challenging Fenton with the sword, which he retrieves from its hiding place. This too subsides, and on account of some rare insight, Takamori makes the accusation that Fenton killed the Japanese soldier only after the soldier surrendered and disarmed.

Fenton challenges the accusation, but then admits to it: "All right, so what if I did? So what if I did?" Takamori tries to leave but the door at the foot of the stairs to the attic won't open. Fenton can't open it either, despite claiming the door doesn't have a lock. "Well, it looks like you're not supposed to leave yet," Fenton says. Takamori asks what he means, and Fenton says he doesn't know.

They go back to the attic to try to find a tool to open the door, and Takamori picks up the sword again. Fenton again insults him, questioning his manhood, and in response, Takamori describes his experience as a small child at Pearl Harbor, claiming his father was a construction foreman who helped build the harbor. Takamori claims that he watched from afar as the planes bombed the harbor, and his father with it, stating his father tried to alert sailors to the attack. He grows increasingly agitated as he tells the story, but then grow calm and says, "That's not the way it happened. He was a traitor. He signaled the planes. He showed them where to drop the bombs. He was a traitor." As he speaks, tears flow freely down his face.

Seeing Takamori's guilt, Fenton has pity for him, and tries to offer some comfort. The sword, however, appears to be dictating the course of the conversation, and soon Takamori accuses Fenton of being a murderer because he killed an unarmed man.

Fenton offers a speech in his own defense about following orders. "You can't hold a man responsible for following orders, can you? ... In the Pacific we were told you guys weren't even human - you were some kind of ape. And that we shouldn't worry about burning you out of your caves. Now all of a sudden, you're fine people - highly cultured - and it's propaganda about your lousy transistor radios."

In a sudden depression, Fenton soon admits that he is unhappy with himself and what he has done, his wife is leaving him, and that he has pulled Takamori into conversation because he does not want to be left alone. But Takamori is under the control of the sword. Fenton, fully aware of Takamori's silent building rage, replies, "If that's what you're here for, all right then. Kill me."

Fenton quickly reverts into a depressed confessional tone, stating "I'm not afraid of dying as much as living." But his anger again resumes. "I've got a box full of decorations over there. Decorations! First you're an ape, and now all of a sudden you're some kind of highly cultured people. I've been pushed and pulled this way and that way until I hate everybody! You dirty little Jap!"

Takamori, still with the sword in hand, is seized by Fenton. Fenton overpowers him, and the sword is dropped, wedging into the table supports, pointing upwards. Going down to the floor to retrieve it, Fenton is then impaled on the sword when Takamori pulls at his feet. He looks at Takamori and dies. Takamori takes the sword, shrieks "Banzai!", and jumps out the window, presumably to his death.

Moments later, the door slowly opens on its own.

Closing Narration[edit]

Notes[edit]

Aired on May 1, 1964, as President Lyndon B. Johnson was increasing United States involvement in the Vietnam War, the subject matter of Americans fighting Asians who "weren't human" was a notably pointed commentary.

After its initial airing, "The Encounter" triggered complaints from Japanese-Americans due to the backstory of the character played by Takei: he portrays a Nisei (the U.S.-born son of Japanese immigrants) whose father spied for the Japanese navy during the Pearl Harbor attack. In fact, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American residents of the island of Niihau aided the pilot of a shot down Japanese fighter to escape custody after capture and take native Hawaiians hostage. The controversial topic, and the complaints it engendered, caused this episode to be omitted from syndicated broadcasts of The Twilight Zone in the United States, although it did air in syndication in other countries, including Canada, without issue. It is available through the numerous DVD releases of the series, the Season 5 and Complete Series Blu-rays, and on streaming Netflix.

References[edit]

  • DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0

External links[edit]