The Encounter (Twilight Zone)
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|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Robert Butler|
|Written by||Martin M. Goldsmith|
|Featured music||Stock and Japanese music cues|
|Original air date||May 1, 1964|
"The Encounter" is episode 151 of the American television series The Twilight Zone. First broadcast on May 1, 1964, its racial overtones caused it to be withheld from syndication in the U.S. On January 3, 2016, the episode was finally reaired as part of Syfy's annual Twilight Zone New's Year Eve marathon.
|“||Two men alone in an attic, a young Japanese-American and a seasoned veteran of yesterday's war. It's twenty odd years since Pearl Harbor, but two ancient opponents are moving into position for a battle in an attic crammed with skeletons, souvenirs, mementos, old uniforms, and rusted medals. Ghosts from the dim regions of the past, that will lead us into the Twilight Zone.||”|
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, and invites Takamori to share a beer with him 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 found an old samurai sword. He shows it to Takamori and says he took it off a Japanese soldier whom he killed during the war 20 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 samurai sword is gone. When Fenton first notices its absence, he is confused that it has been misplaced. He goes on to say that he has tried to get rid of the samurai sword for 20 years, but it somehow keeps coming back.
The two men reveal more and more about themselves. Fenton admits that he already knows the inscription on the samurai sword ("The sword will avenge me"), and he 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 that cool but then reemerge. Takamori tries 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, and Takamori challenges Fenton with the sword, which he has retrieved from the place where he hid it earlier. This tension too subsides, though Takamori, seeming to gain some kind of supernatural insight, accuses Fenton of killing the Japanese soldier *after* the soldier surrendered and was disarmed.
Fenton challenges the accusation, but then admits to it: "All right, so what if I did? So what if I did?" At this point, 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 obeying 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 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 now thoroughly 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 samurai sword in hand, is seized by Fenton. Fenton overpowers him, and the samurai sword is dropped, leaving a slippery mess wedging into the table supports, pointing upwards. Going down to the floor to retrieve it, Fenton is then impaled on the samurai sword when Takamori pulls at his feet. He looks at Takamori and dies. Takamori takes the samurai sword, shrieks "Banzai!", and jumps out the window, presumably to his death.
Moments later, the door slowly opens on its own.
|“||Two men in an attic, locked in mortal embrace. Their common bond, and their common enemy: guilt. A disease all too prevalent amongst men both in and out of The Twilight Zone.||”|
Aired on May 1, 1964, as President Lyndon B. Johnson was increasing United States involvement in the Vietnam War, so the subject 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. The controversial topic (given that Japanese-Americans were accused of spying, but no such spying was ever uncovered), and the complaints it engendered, caused this episode to be omitted from syndicated broadcasts of The Twilight Zone in the United States, although it aired in syndication in other countries, including Canada, without issue. It was finally rebroadcast in the United States as part of the SyFy channel's annual New Year's Twilight Zone marathon, on January 3, 2016. It is available as part of the numerous DVD releases of the series, the Season 5 and Complete Series Blu-rays, and on Netflix.
- 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