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Thursday, December 22, 2005

1.08 --- Kentucky Rye

Directed by : John Hancock
Written by : Chip Duncan, Richard Krzemien
Starring : Jeffrey DeMunn, Arliss Howard
First aired : 11th of October, 1985.

Bob Spindler (Jeffrey DeMunn, The Hitcher, Citizen X) is a businessman who just closed the deal of his lifetime. Celebrating his big payday with his boss and colleagues, Bob demonstrates the inability to recognize limits when it comes to alcohol (something which is apparently an old habit of his, as we learn through a brief phone conversation with his wife), and eventually winds up driving back home piss drunk. While carelessly driving around and singing along with the radio, Bob suddenly has to swerve to avoid an oncoming car. He succeeds, but crashes into a bush off the road, just in front of a little bar called "Kentucky Rye".

Entering the place, Bob is greeted by a lively crowd, so he decides to stick around a bit. On his way to the bar, he spots a fellow sitting alone in the corner (Arliss Howard, Full Metal Jacket, Birth), with somewhat strange light around his face. Once at the bar, Bob orders a shot of whiskey, and the cut on his head from the crash mysteriously disappears. Still, this doesn't bother him a whole lot - he just keeps on drinking, and then accepts an arm-wrestling challenge with the local champ. Briefly distracted by the "guy from the corner" and a woman who is just silently glaring at him, Bob wins the match and is crowned as the new "king" of the place.

The atmosphere gets even more gregarious, as Bob is enjoying himself even more, buying drinks for the customers and just generally having a good time. The bartender informs him that the place is for sale - Bob can't believe it, but when the bartender remarks he might get it for a low price, he decides to bite and asks how much. The asking price turns out to be a rather low $1600, and after much haggling, Bob reveals he only has $1500 on him, but the "guy from the corner" (with his face still hauntingly lit) approaches the pair and drops a $100 note on the table. After some consideration Bob accepts, and the moment he signs the check, place goes awfully quiet. Disappointed with the lack of atmosphere, Bob staggers around the joint in a drunken stupor, making advances at the silent glaring woman and trying to fix the jukebox. Eventually, he passes out at the pool table, with the rest of customers surrounding him.

Next morning, Bob awakens in an empty bar, which seems like it was closed and abandoned long time ago, cobwebs, dust and all. Through the barricaded windows he notices the police is out there investigating the car crash, and towing away his car. He soon gets the company from "the guy from the corner", and presuming that the other car being towed away is his, remarks how "that jerk drove us both off the road". But the truth could not be more different - he drove "the guy from the corner" off the road, and he crashed - the silent woman from the night before, also currently outside speaking with the police officers, is actually his wife. Defiantly, Bob thinks it's about that hundred which he borrowed him yesterday, until he spots "TGftC" 's body, soon followed by his own body, stretchered away from the scene. As the realization hits, Bob reaches for the drink behind the counter - but all bottles are empty. At that point, sinister laughter is heard behind him, and in the mirror he sees the bartender shouting "It's all yours !", resigning him to eternity of torment for his sins.


A chilling tale of dangers of drunken driving, Kentucky Rye perfectly fits in a neat thematical threesome with previous two episodes, Healer and Children's Zoo. Writing duo Chip Duncan and Richard Krzemien are very clear in establishing their standpoint on this still-vital issue, and director John Hancock, who directed a baseball classic Bang the Drum Slowly and several other new TZ episodes, succeeds in creating the right setting and atmosphere for it. Completing the picture is Jeffrey DeMunn, strikingly effective as the sinner, both while sober and drunk - Howard's performance is also of high standard, as his face gives away a combination of sorrow and anger.

Kentucky Rye is one episode I remember from the original airing, and it left a mark on me. If at least one drunken-driving death was averted thanks to these 18 minutes of film reel, you could call it a proper investment.

Comments on "1.08 --- Kentucky Rye"


Anonymous Scott said ... (9:30 PM) : 

I remembered quite a few from the original airings and this one stood out as one of my favorites.
Even 15+ years later I remembered so many of the details of this episode.
The whole setting works damn perfectly, even the creepiness of the bartender did a job on me years ago as it still does today.
To me, this is a throwback to the old "original" style Zones with a good ending I didn't see coming.
As far as I am concerned, this is another of the best in this 80s lineup. Definately in the top ten.
TZ DZ Fan-TZ Cafe


Anonymous Something_wicked_451 said ... (9:18 AM) : 

This was kind of strange because the story continued a while after the closing narration. I liked the ep a lot, solid performances and a fun story.


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