Original Air Date: April 28, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Boris Sagal
“The note that this man is carrying across a club room is in the form of a proposed wager, but it’s the kind of wager that comes without precedent. It stands alone in the annals of bet-making as the strangest game of chance ever offered by one man to another. In just a moment, we’ll see the terms of the wager and what young Mr. Tennyson does about it. And in the process, we’ll witness all parties spin a wheel of chance in a very bizarre casino called the Twilight Zone.”
Jamie Tennyson (played by Liam Sullivan) is a loudmouth, loose-talking young man. He is a member of a prestigious gentleman’s club, but some of the older generation are not impressed with his demeanor, nor his ongoing requests for loans, in particular the aging curmudgeon Archie Taylor (played by Franchot Tone, best known for his role in Mutiny on the Bounty) cannot stand listening to Tennyson pontificate. One night, Taylor places a wager -he bets that Tennyson cannot maintain silence for one year while enclosed in a living space within the gentleman’s club. If successful however Taylor will pay $500,000.
Much to everyone’s surprise Tennyson accepts the bet. He enters a glass living space and despite Mr. Taylor’s attempts to lure him out of his dwelling, he survives one full year without making a sound. We learn of his need to impress his wife with money and prestige. When he finally leaves his bubble one year to the day from when he entered, he marches straight up to Taylor demanding his payment of $500,000. However, a white-faced and anxious Taylor publicly admits he cannot afford to make the payment. He is, himself, penniless and indebted. A shocked crowd is met by a truly tragic note from Tennyson which reads; “I KNEW I COULD NOT FULFILL MY END OF THE BARGAIN. SO ONE YEAR AGO I HAD THE NERVES TO MY VOCAL CORDS SEVERED.” Tennyson pulls back a scarf covering his neck to reveal a deep scar.
“Mr. Jamie Tennyson, who almost won a bet, but who discovered somewhat belatedly that gambling can be a most unproductive pursuit, even with loaded dice, marked cards, or, as in his case, some severed vocal cords. For somewhere beyond him, a wheel was turned, and his number came up black thirteen. If you don’t believe it, ask the croupier, the very special one who handles roulette – in The Twilight Zone.”
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- “The Silence” is a rare episode in the series in which some sort of fantasy element is not at play.
- The plot bears striking resemblance to a Chekov play entitled “The Bet.”
- Director Boris Sagal was involved in a number of television programs from Alfred Hitchcock Presents to The Twilight Zone. He died in 1981 during the production of a series called “World War III” when he was partially decapitated by accidentally walking into a helicopter blade. Similarly, Vic Morrow and two child actors died in a helicopter accident while filming The Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1982.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.