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 hotel room for instructions from his boss, George. George gives Jackie a gun and orders him to shoot a barkeeper who has refused to pay for protection. 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 and his reflection enter a lengthy argument about how his life has turned out as a result of his going along with his peers and never standing up for himself. 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. Jackie refuses.
George telephones and Jackie nervously assures George that he is on the way to do the job. The double reappears and 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 from the double.
George returns, furious that Jackie has not done his job. Jackie tells him, "I resign!", emphasizing the point by kicking and punching a surprised George, then 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." The nervous Jackie, now the one on the other side of the mirror, asks, "What's to do now?" John responds, "Now we go look for a job. Now maybe we get married. Now maybe we stop biting our nails." John then walks out of the room, looks back at the mirror, and sees only his own confident reflection.
"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
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- 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.