Five Characters in Search of an Exit

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"Five Characters in Search of an Exit"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 14
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"
Production code 4805
Original air date December 22, 1961
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Once Upon a Time"
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"A Quality of Mercy"
List of season 3 episodes

"Five Characters in Search of an Exit" is episode 79 of the television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on December 22, 1961.


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 of either breaking through or climbing up the cylinder. The Major's questioning reveals that the characters have no need for food or water.

Eventually, the major suggests a plan to escape: forming a tower of people, each person on the other's shoulders. However, the dancer at the top of the tower is still a few inches short of the cylinder's top, and 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 scene cuts to a little girl picking up a doll from the snow, a doll in the dress of an army Major. A woman tells her to put it back in the barrel with the rest. The cylinder is a Christmas toy collection bin for a girls' orphanage, and all five characters are nothing more than dolls. The loud noise was the shaking of a handheld bell which the woman uses 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.



Opening narration[edit]

Closing narration[edit]

Episode notes[edit]

  • 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.[1]
  • The little girl who appears at the end of this episode was portrayed by the daughter of longtime Twilight Zone producer Buck Houghton.[1]
  • End titles screen features the street corner Christmas toy collection drive.


  • The episode was reportedly an inspiration for the 1997 film Cube.[2]
  • 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.[3]


  1. ^ a b Zicree, Marc Scott (1982). The Twilight Zone Companion (Second ed.). Sillman-James Press. p. 234. 
  2. ^ "Biography of Vincenzo Natali". IMDb. Retrieved 2011-08-04. 
  3. ^ Chan, Lisa (2001). "Sophomore Year (Season 2) Episode 11: Help For The Lovelorn". Archived from the original on 2001-03-07. Retrieved 2012-11-25. 

External links[edit]