Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room
|"Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Douglas Heyes|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Featured music||Original score by Jerry Goldsmith|
|Original air date||October 14, 1960|
According to the book The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Serling wrote the teleplay in response to a request from CBS to write scripts using as few actors as possible for budgetary purposes. This episode was produced $5,000 under budget.
An insecure, unsuccessful gangster named Jackie Rhoades (Joe Mantell) waits in a cheap, dirty hotel room for a phone call from his boss, George. When he finally calls, George says something that clearly leaves Jackie distraught. Jackie frets and paces until George shows up in person.
Once he arrives, George gives Jackie a gun and orders him to shoot a barkeeper to send a message to other shop owners. George then leaves. Terrified, Jackie starts talking to his reflection in the mirror, trying to justify committing murder. He puts a cigarette in his lips but finds no match.
A puff of smoke comes out from the other side of the mirror, and he sees a different version of himself in the reflection: a strong, self-assured, confident Jackie Rhoades. Jackie looks into the mirror and asks, "Are you talking to me? Are you talking to me?" Jackie and his reflection enter a lengthy argument about how badly his life has turned out as a result of his listening to others and never himself. Jackie tries to flee, but he sees more mirrors in the hallway, the closet, and the bathroom, and his reflection continues to argue with him out of each one. Jackie passes out, but when he recovers, the double is still there. They continue to argue about Jackie's choices; the double points out all the choices that Jackie made in his past that led him down the wrong path, times when Jackie had a choice to do the right thing and did not.
Jackie keeps crying out to the double, "What do you want from me?" Finally, the double tells Jackie he wants to take over, that it is his turn to run their life and that he deserves to live. If Jackie does the job for George, they will both die. Jackie refuses.
George telephones and Jackie nervously assures George that he is on the way to do the job. The double reappears and urgently tries to persuade Jackie to let him out. Angry, Jackie spins the mirror on the chest of drawers. As the mirror spins, Jackie backs away in terror, spooky music plays, and the screen goes dark.
George returns, furious that Jackie has not done his job. He finds Jackie with his head in his hands and berates him for not killing the bartender.
"Whattaya gotta say for yourself, crumb?" he sneers.
Jackie lifts his head confidently and responds, "I resign! You can have your gun back, plus the following." He then kicks and punches a surprised George, throwing him out of the room, along with his gun. Ringing the room clerk to check out, he refers to himself as "Jackie—'JOHN' Rhoades."
He then sees the nervous Jackie, who is now the one on the other side of the mirror and who asks, "What's to do now?" The newly confident Jackie responds by saying, "Now we go look for a job. Now maybe we get married. Now maybe we stop biting our nails." The nervous, mirror Jackie stops biting his nails and looks at his fingers; clearly he is already changing. The confident Jackie then walks out of the room, looks back at the mirror, and sees only his own confident reflection.
Closing narration: "Exit Mr. John Rhoades, formerly a reflection in a mirror, a fragment of someone else's conscience, a wishful thinker made out of glass, but now made out of flesh, and on his way to join the company of men. Mr. John Rhoades, with one foot through the door and one foot out of the Twilight Zone."
References in other media
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
- Most people know these line, "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me?" from the films Taxi Driver and Dirty Harry, but it first appeared in this episode:
You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Oh yeah. Yeah, sure you are. Now me and the mirror we're havin' a talk. I've had it huh? All my marbles are gone. This is how it happens.— Jackie Rhoades
- The Fox sitcom Married... with Children paid homage to this story in the season-eight episode, "Proud to Be Your Bud?" (1993) where Bud Bundy (David Faustino) builds a portal in his basement room and a clone of himself appears, who tells him that he is a loser and fights with him.
- The title of the song "Paranoia Man in Cheap Shit Room" by the band The Fall, from the album The Infotainment Scan (1993), echoes that of this episode.
- In the CBS comedy series Two and a Half Men (season eight's "Three Hookers and a Philly Cheesesteak" ), the character of Alan is confronted by a more confident and decisive version of himself in a mirror. As the episode ends, Alan and his alter ego have changed places, the latter heading out into the world.
- In the Nostalgia Critic special, "The Review Must Go On" (2013), Doug Walker has a conversation with his character Nostalgia Critic, tempting him to return to the series, which begins on a computer screen, and continues as his reflection in a mirror.