The Jeopardy Room
|"The Jeopardy Room"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 5|
|Directed by||Richard Donner|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Original air date||April 17, 1964|
"The Jeopardy Room" is episode 149 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone, which originally aired on April 17, 1964 on CBS. It is one of only four Twilight Zone episodes (the others being the very first season's first episode "Where Is Everybody?", season two's "The Silence", and season three's "The Shelter") to feature a story without any supernatural or science fiction elements. It does, however, contain one of the series' signature twist endings.
|“||The cast of characters—a cat and a mouse, this is the latter. The intended victim who may or may not know that he is to die, be it by butchery or ballet. His name is Major Ivan Kuchenko. He has, if events go according to certain plans, perhaps three or four more hours of living. But an ignorance shared by both himself and his executioner, is of the fact that both of them have taken the first step into the Twilight Zone.||”|
Major Ivan Kuchenko (Martin Landau), a KGB agent who is attempting to defect, is trapped inside a hotel room in an unnamed, politically neutral country. Commissar Vassiloff (John van Dreelen), a hitman, and Boris (Robert Kelljan), his assistant, are watching Kuchenko from a room across the street. Vassiloff, who considers himself an artist, has an elaborate plan for Kuchenko's assassination. After Vassiloff tricks Kuchenko into drinking a sleeping drug, Kuchenko awakes to find a taped recording from Vassiloff in which he explains that he has booby-trapped an object in the room. If Kuchenko finds and disarms the object within three hours, he will be allowed to live; if he tries to leave the room before then or turn out the lights, he will be shot by Boris (an expert sniper).
Vassiloff tells Boris he has hidden a lethal bomb in the telephone, but it will be triggered only by picking up an incoming call. Thus, when Kuchenko picks up the phone without it ringing, nothing happens. Kuchenko grows increasingly nervous and desperate as the ordeal continues, even begging Vassiloff to shoot him at one point. With ten minutes of time left, Vassiloff places a call to Kuchenko's room. Kuchenko puts his hand on the receiver, but hesitates. When Vassiloff tries to call him a second time, Kuchenko bolts out of the hotel room, narrowly escaping a spray of bullets from Boris. Later, Vassiloff and Boris enter the room to dispose of evidence. The telephone rings, and Boris and Vassiloff are both killed after Boris unthinkingly answers it. On the other end of the line is Ivan Kuchenko, calling from a phone booth at the airport. The operator tells him she is unable to reach his party, but Kuchenko states, "It’s alright, operator. I.. I have reached them.” He then leaves to board a plane flying to New York City, as Vassiloff and Boris are shown lying dead amidst the rubble of Kuchenko's room.
|“||Major Ivan Kuchenko, on his way West. On his way to freedom: a freedom bought and paid for by a most stunning ingenuity. And exit one Commissar Vassiloff, who forgot that there are two sides to an argument - and two parties on the line. This has been the Twilight Zone.||”|
- 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
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
- Payback, a 1999 film that features a similar booby trap as a plot device and a similar twist ending.