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Monday, June 26, 2006

2.13 --- The Card

Directed by : Bradford May
Written by : Michael Cassutt
Starring : Susan Blakely, Virginia Kiser, William Atherton
First aired : 21st of February, 1987.

Linda Wolfe (Susan Blakely, The Towering Inferno, Airport '79.) is a wife and mother of three, who also happens to be a compulsive spender. After having every credit card known to man withdrawn from her, she is invited by the mysterious "The Card" agency, which makes her an offer on a new credit card via sly-looking miss Foley (Virginia Kiser, Poltergeist). There is one catch - the minimum payment must be made within a week rather than thirty days, a fact which doesn't bother Linda who only too easily signs the terms, before even bothering to read them.

A week later, Linda is late on her first payment, and is stunned to find out her cat Boris is gone. Not only that, but neither her kids, nor her husband Brian (William Atherton, previously of Night of the Meek) seem to remember they had a cat in the first place. Linda finds this all very suspicious, but shakes it off as a weird prank by her family. Linda and Brian proceed to buy an expensive new fridge, but when Linda is late on her payment again, her dog - Scoobie - disappears as well, with similar effects. The kids not only not remember any dog, Linda's behaviour completely freaks them out, and Brian is suggesting she sees a psychiatrist. Still, she's convinced this is someone's weird idea of humour, and shrugs those things off.

After promising Brian she won't use the credit card anymore because she was late on the payment again, Linda's car crashes in the middle of the road and she is forced to pay for the expenses with the card again. A rash decision, which she realizes once back home - her children are gone, and Brian is now positive she's cracking up, as he maintains firmly they had no kids at all ! In a half-rabid state by now, Linda desperately searches for her sons all around the neighbourhood, until finally realizing that it might be this new card of hers behind the problems.

First thing in the morning, Linda drives off to the "The Card" offices, and is in complete shock when she sees her children behind a glass wall walking into another room. Miss Foley soon takes her in, and casually informs her that they are behind all of it, and that her kids had their minds reprogrammed so they could be "dispersed" to other good families. Linda is at the end of her wits now, so she tries to buy her children back by writing a check which draws from the joint account she and Brian have.

But that's not the end of her problems. Brian, obviously failing to understand the wisdom of such action, meanwhile called the bank and canceled the check - an action which turns out to be fatal for everyone. Linda hurries for the phone, but as she's dialing the bank number, things around her just start to disappear - from Brian onwards ! She goes for one more desperate solution and cuts the credit card in half with a pair of scissors, but it's too late - her house, and her, vanish into thin air without a trace.

***

Now you're talking. A completely brutal and malevolent episode, The Card is, along with The Toys of Caliban and The Road Less Traveled easily the best episode of the second season so far. Writer Michael Cassutt, who previously contributed to the new TZ with season one's Red Snow, really surprises friend and foe with the final twist, and is not too shy to hammer his message straight into the unsuspecting audience. There is simply no redemption for the sin of overdraft, regardless of how benign it might sound to you.

The episode wouldn't be half as good without Susan Blakely, who is positively superb as the shopper in distress. With her range going from "ordinary mother" to "pandemonium parent", she is the main ingredient which makes the script and this piece work to its maximum potential. Evenly good is Virginia Kiser in her role of the soulless credit card representative, and the scenes in which her deadpanning meets Susan's hysteria are one of the show standouts.

A good word has to be put in for the special effects, which are astonishingly good towards the end of the show - the disappearing thing doesn't look dated at all to me. All in all, a classic, in my opinion.

Trivia, or is it ? : sharp eyes might have spotted the fact that in the last seconds of the episode, Susan's card says "Linda Wilson" instead of "Linda Wolfe" on it. While you might initially judge this to be a cock-up on the side of the staff, think again - by this time, husband Brian also went poof, so the card is addressed on her presumedly maiden name. Big props for the Zone folks for being this punctual in covering every detail of the story.

***

The World Cup sucks this year, so I decided to watch more TZ and say "screw football" for once. Hope you didn't miss me too much. ;)

Comments on "2.13 --- The Card"

 

Anonymous MrRSerling said ... (3:36 AM) : 

Missed you? Who are you again? ;-) Yeah, I've kept checking and was pleasantly surprised. Just finished season 1 myself so I'm catching you up. Do try and stay ahead! ;-) All the best! Still enjoying it thoroughly!

 

Anonymous NYer said ... (6:14 AM) : 

This was a terrific episode! I have been making my way through the whole 1985-89 series and this might have been the best one so far. Very realistic dialogue, believable characters, just a great story brilliantly executed!

One thing, though. You were correct to specially mention the name on the credit card at the end, but it goes just a little deeper than that: at the beginning of the story she is Linda Wolfe, but then, when her husband Brian disappears, she reverts back to her maiden name, Wilson. But! When you see the card on the ground after the house has disappeared, there is _no_ name on it... because she herself has ceased to exist!

Very very well done!

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:24 PM) : 

In fact it is even better than what I wrote in my previous post: the first time you see a close-up of the credit card, in Foley's office as she hands it to Linda, the card says "Mrs. Linda S. Wolfe" - as it does when she sits in front of her house after asking the neighbors about her kids.

But after Brian disappears, there's a close-up of the credit card and it says "Miss Linda S.Wilson".

And then after the house disappears, there is no name on the card at all.

That Blakely person gives a great performance!

 

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