The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Episode Three “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room”

Original Air Date: October 14, 1960
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Douglas Heyes

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“This is Mr. Jackie Rhoades, age thirty-four, and where some men leave a mark of their lives as a record of their fragmentary existence on Earth, this man leaves a blot, a dirty, discolored blemish to document a cheap and undistinguished sojourn amongst his betters. What you’re about to watch in this room is a strange mortal combat between a man and himself, for in just a moment, Mr. Jackie Rhoades, whose life has been given over to fighting adversaries, will find his most formidable opponent in a cheap hotel room that is in reality the outskirts of The Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Jackie (played by Joe Mantell who also played Jack Nicholson’s partner in Chinatown) is a nervous man who sits, fidgeting, in a warm hotel room. He is a two-bit lower level crook working for the mob. We find him held captive by a dominant gangster named George (played by William D. Gordon) who has ordered Jackie to murder a bar owner. George leaves while expecting Jackie to fulfill the job. Filled with inner turmoil Jackie fumbles around the room. He reaches for a match to light a cigarette but when he looks in the mirror he is confronted with his alter ego: a strong, confident version of himself who demands to be unleashed.

Later when George returns he is met by Jackie’s alter ego who firmly denies the call to murder. He beats up George and kicks him out of his apartment. This once weak man has now found his inner strength by merely looking in the mirror.

“Exit Mr. John Rhoades, formerly a reflection in a mirror, a fragment of someone else’s conscience, a wishful thinker made out of glass, but now made out of flesh, and on his way to join the company of men. Mr. John Rhoades, with one foot through the door and one foot out of the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

This is not the best of The Twilight Zone, but nevertheless I can appreciate the idea of an ordinary man confronted by a stronger version of himself. This is another episode in which The Twilight Zone serves a moral role –to educate or improve the lives of the downtrodden.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • All the mirrors in this episode were actually screens featuring previously recorded material shown during filming.
  • This was, in actuality, the first produced episode of the second season but it was the third to air.
  • The Jackie Rhoades character is the first to deliver the famous lines “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?” while facing a mirror. Most people know these lines from the films Taxi Driver and Dirty Harry, but they first appeared in this episode of The Twilight Zone.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

1 thought on “The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Episode Three “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room”

  1. Strange how other people aquire alter ego when using or trying to use a mirror when it has steam on it with condensation trickling down. Dangerous site for shaving. Even worse when substitution of other products for shaving lotion takes place. I should know!


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