Shelter Skelter

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"Shelter Skelter"
The New Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 33b
Directed by Martha Coolidge
Written by Ron Cobb
Robin Love
Original air date May 21, 1987
Guest appearance(s)

Joe Mantegna: Harry Dobbs
Joan Allen: Sally
Jon Gries: Nick
Danica McKellar: Deidre
Adam Raber: Jason

Episode chronology
← Previous
"Joy Ride"
Next →
"Private Channel"
List of The Twilight Zone (1985 TV series) episodes

"Shelter Skelter" is the second segment of the thirty-third episode and the ninth episode of the second season (1986–87) of the television series The Twilight Zone.


Harry Dobbs is a family man obsessed with surviving a nuclear war. He has even built himself a fallout shelter in his basement. One afternoon, his wife, Sally, makes plans to visit her sister in Kansas City, taking their two kids with her. Harry has their son, Jason, downstairs in the shelter, teaching him to shoot a gun when she wants to leave. They have an argument over teaching a seven-year-old to shoot and why she has to go to her sister's. He becomes frantic when he thinks Sally might have revealed their "family" shelter. He wants no one to know about it.

Nick, who runs Harry's gun and ammo store, comes by that evening. He talks about the escalating tension in the Middle East, that it could lead to nuclear war. They learn from the news that the President has left the White House to an undisclosed location. Harry then talks about how he wishes the bomb would come, so the world could be rid of pimps, cowards, rock stars, hair-dressers, bureaucrats, i.e. scum, in his eyes. He talks of how he and his son would start over in a "purified" world (somehow, leaving out his wife and daughter). While drunk, Harry blabs about his "family-only" shelter to Nick and shows him the whole operation, all the while talking of how "no one knows about it". Harry also shows Nick the fallout shelter's communication system, which includes a hydraulic system that can raise and lower its antenna through tons of rubble, so he could communicate with other survivors after a nuclear attack.

Harry then turns on his communication system, raises its antenna, and turns on a TV that is connected to it. On the news, Harry and Nick learn that World War III could be imminent. Harry frantically tries to get Sally to come home, but she refuses saying that Harry "cries wolf" far too often. Suddenly, without warning, a blast takes place and Harry runs back to the shelter with Nick and shuts the door. The blast, however, destroys the raised antenna, cutting off all information about what is happening outside. Believing that a nuclear weapon has hit the local air force base and that World War III has begun, Harry and Nick believe they are the only ones left.

Six weeks later, Nick hears something moving above. Harry believes it is the walking dead or scavengers. Harry goes ballistic when Nick tries to get whatever is moving above to come down there. After ten months, the radiation has not gone down at all. And Nick is going stir crazy. Harry decides to kill him, but Nick leaves the shelter. After a while, Nick returns to tell Harry of what it is like outside. Everything is gone, there is no more daylight and it is freezing outside. Harry refuses to let Nick back in, afraid he'll contaminate him. Soon, Harry sits in the red lit shelter, waiting. Outside the shelter is Nick's decaying body. Through ash and darkness, light is finally seen.

Outside, however, things are quite different. The explosion was not a nuclear attack, but the result of a Broken Arrow incident in which a bomb accidentally detonated at the local Air Force base, destroying the entire town. The accident actually shocked the world from the brink of nuclear war. One year later, the blast crater has been contained under a radiation proof dome memorial, the Peace Dome, which has sealed inside it all of the debris and radiation and proved to the world the folly of war. The memorial was built right on top of the Dobbs house, with Sally and the kids putting flowers down on the memorial. Jason asks Sally if that's where his daddy is buried. She says yes, and then smiles...

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