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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

1.20 --- Dealer's Choice

Directed by : Wes Craven
Written by : Donald Todd
Starring : Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh, Morgan Freeman, Garrett Morris, Barney Martin
First aired : 15th of November, 1985.

Four old pals - Tony (Morgan Freeman, Se7en, The Shawshank Redemption), Peter (M. Emmet Walsh, Brubaker, Blade Runner), Jake (Garrett Morris, Cooley High, The Stuff) and Marty (Barney Martin, best known as Jerry Seinfeld's dad Morty in Seinfeld) - are joined for their regular poker night by a stand-in called Nick (Dan Hedaya, The Usual Suspects, Mullholand Dr.). Through the night, Nick is having a terrific lucky streak, mostly winning his games by a trio of sixes.

When Nick hits the toilet, the rest of the players become suspicious, and after one phone call reveals that he's not a stand-in they believed he is, their suspicions are confirmed - he is the devil, and he came to pick one of them up. After a random draw decides Peter will leave this Earth tonight, Tony comes to an idea - Peter can't just leave without a fight, so he proposes the devil to play one hand with him with a win-all stake. The devil, ever the competitor, accepts, and Peter elects to play lowball - a polar opposite of a five-card stud, meaning that worse cards win.

A tense deal ensues, with Nick/devil predictably getting all the sixes, and Peter getting all the...fives. As Peter completes his four-of-a-kind combo with fives, all eyes are on Nick - if he draws another six, Peter wins. But the devil draws a queen (presented uniquely as the grim reaper saying "death" underneath), thus resigning Peter to eternal damnation.

Just as Peter and the devil are about to make their exit, the rather dim Marty, who is positively oblivious to everything which is happening around him, reaches for the card to inspect it. Nick cries out to leave it intact, but it's too late - the "death queen" turns into another six ! Realizing he's been caught cheating, the devil apologizes and leaves the relieved foursome...but not before loading their fridge up with beer and leaving them a gourmet dinner.

***

Wes Craven returns to the Twilight Zone after a 15-episode hiatus, and his fifth TZ venture is a real bullseye. Great script by Donald Todd ("What's the devil doing in New Jersey ? Man, he lives here !"), five-star cast spearheaded by Freeman and Hedaya, and tense, punctual direction completely erase the bad memories of Craven's previous clunker (Chameleon), and provide the viewer with 22 minutes of sheer fun. If he was alive at the time of original airing, Rod Serling would have been proud of this effort.

Odd trivia : with Barney Martin starring as Marty, both actors who played Jerry Seinfeld's dad in his long-running sitcom made Twilight Zone turns - Philip Bruns, who was previously seen in Kentucky Rye, is the "other" Morty Seinfeld, appearing in only one episode before being replaced by Martin.

Comments on "1.20 --- Dealer's Choice"

 

Anonymous Scott said ... (9:19 PM) : 

Gotta agree with Mairosu on this one. Its one of the more lighthearted ones but its good material nonetheless. Not your typical "sci-fi type" Zone but was a good story.
A good cast completely fits in this one to make it another of this "80s" series best.
This isn't for everyone, but is a good little change for a Zone.

TZ DZ Fan-TZ Cafe

 

Anonymous Eric said ... (4:24 PM) : 

Not typical TZ, but one of the best-written, best-acted bits of network television I've ever seen. IMO this is right up there with the best of the series, like Nightcrawlers and The Paladin of the Lost Hour. "Man, I think he lives here!" Classic.

 

Anonymous Jp said ... (6:47 AM) : 

This episode is just sheer fun! I suspect the cast had a good time doing this one, and I sure had a ball watching. My 3rd fave TZ mark II (Paladin and Charity). Don't miss this one!

 

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