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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

1.03 --- Wordplay

Directed by : Wes Craven
Written by : Rockne S. O'Bannon
Starring : Robert Klein, Annie Potts
First aired : 4th of October, 1985.

Bill Lowery (Robert Klein, Two Weeks Notice, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days), a veteran salesman of medical equipment, is thrown into a limbo of sorts when his company starts selling a new line of products with rather difficult names. After spending a night on the sofa after falling asleep while learning, Bill's day starts taking a weird turn.

First off, his wife Kathy (Annie Potts, Ghostbusters, Pretty in Pink) comments on the doctor replacing their regular doctor called "Bumper". Bill finds this amusing, but Kathy just shrugs it off. Next one to act a bit strange is his first-door neighbour, who calls his dog an "encyclopedia". At work, Bill overhears younger colleagues badmouthing him, saying "you can't teach an old dog new trumpets" (or trumps, I could have misheard), while his older coworker quips how old boys like them two have one thing on their side "which only time can give them - mayonaise". Then Bill's boss uses the word "throwrug" (or something to that extent) in place of anniversary, and finally, what really sets Bill's alarm off is a young mailroom worker who asks him where can he take his girlfriend out for a "dinosaur" (as in, "lunch").

Back home, Bill is greeted by Kathy, who rather ordinarily comments how their son is not feeling well - he didn't eat any of his "dinosaur". At this point, Bill is still reluctant to believe something has gone terribly wrong in his corner of the universe, and after a somewhat heated exchange he learns that "lunch" all of a sudden means "colour, sorta reddish".

From this point on, situation progressively gets worse for poor Bill. Instead of just an odd word not making sense here and there, he is unable to comprehend virtually ANYTHING what is said to him - and his name mysteriously changes to "Thunder Hinge". Finally realizing something's very wrong, Bill bolts home, where he's greeted by his worried wife, who tries to explain him that their son is rather sick. Bill suspects pneumonia, and they rush the kid to hospital, where the doctors begin an emergency procedure.

The procedure is a success, and Bill's child will live on - a fact which we realize only from the happy face of Kathy, as, well, all characters still speak gibberish. Back home and a bit relieved, Bill spends a comfortable evening with his wife, then sneaks to his son's room and starts looking at his schoolbooks - determined to adapt and learn the language.

***

Wordplay is the first above average coloured TZ episode in my opinion, and a true testament to the strength of human spirit, often championed in Twilight Zone stories. Bill Lowery's world tumbles upside down in one afternoon, but he shows tremendous character - instead of just locking himself up and lamenting his fate, he overcomes adversity and adapts himself to a new, strange surrounding. As Bill, Robert Klein gives a spirited performance, but what really makes this work is the supporting cast - who all look scarily natural while speaking the inverted tongue. Just observe the scene in the hospital. In case I'm not making myself clear, the "gibberish" talk is actually ordinary English - but all words have totally different meanings.

Wes Craven (again) provides competent direction, aptly visualising Bill's hell as created by the writer Rockne S. O'Bannon. Look fast for Craven's ex-wife Mimi Meyer-Craven, who cameos as a hospital receptionist, and Robert Downey Sr. (obviously, father of Robert Downey Jr.) as the next door neighbour with an "encyclopedic" dog.

TZ Trivia : IMDB credits Robert Klein with a role as Jesse James in episode 20 of the 3rd Twilight Zone season Showdown with Rance McGrew, but Zicree's TZ Companion lists only a certain Robert Kline as "TV Jesse James". Any clues on who is right here would be appreciated.

Comments on "1.03 --- Wordplay"

 

Anonymous Something_Wicked_451 said ... (9:13 AM) : 

I would have liked a little twist at the ending, but I enjoyed it very much. The ending is satisfactory, but in a different way.

 

Anonymous 3D said ... (9:52 AM) : 

I'm pretty sure his name became Hinge Thunder, not Thunder Hinge.

Everyone starts calling him "Hinge"... I doubt they would be calling him by his last name.

 

Blogger The Plush Armadillo said ... (8:21 AM) : 

Re Robert Klein/Kline...

The Robert Klein of "Wordplay" couldn't possibly be the Kline of "Rance McGrew." Robert Klein was born in 1942 and would have been in his teens during the run of the original ZONE.

 

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