The Twilight Zone: Season 3, Episode Twenty-Seven “Person or Persons Unknown”

Original Air Date: March 23, 1962
Writer: John Brahm
Director: Charles Beaumont

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Cameo of a man who has just lost his most valuable possession. He doesn’t know about the loss yet. In fact, he doesn’t even know about the possession. Because, like most people, David Gurney has never really thought about the matter of his identity. But he’s going to be thinking a great deal about it from now on, because that is what he’s lost. And his search for it is going to take him into the darkest corners…of the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

David Gurney (Richard Long) wakes up hungover and stares at his blurry alarm clock. He chides his wife Wilma (Shirley Ballard) and laments that he is an hour late for work. However, when she awakens she does not recognize him and threatens to call the police. Instead Gurney leaves for work at the bank, but when he arrives none of his co-workers recognize him and he discovers a man named Mr. Cooper sitting at his desk. After a brief scuffle, Mr. Gurney is escorted out of the bank and he is arrested.

Gurney is then questioned by a psychologist named Dr. Koslenko (Frank Silvera). He sees another patient who is convinced he is Winston Churchill, but still in disbelief, Gurney attempts to call his best friend “Pete” who does not know him, and then he also calls his mother who also has never heard of him. He then crashes out a window and steals a van and drives up to a secret bar that no one else would have any knowledge of, but the bartender Sam Baker does not recognize him. Desperate, Gurney then rushes to a photography studio where he locates an old photograph showing him and his wife, but when Dr. Koslenko and the police arrive, he looks down at the photograph and it shows him standing alone. Gurney seems to have a mental breakdown screaming ‘we were together, we were together…”

Suddenly, Gurney awakens in his bed at home from his nightmare with a hangover beside his wife –only the woman he sees is not his wife. He has never seen this woman before in his life.

“A case of mistaken identity or a nightmare turned inside out? A simple loss of memory or the end of the world? David Gurney may never find the answer, but you can be sure he’s looking for it…in the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

This episode follows a familiar theme in The Twilight Zone: a protagonist who is suddenly having a crisis of identity, or perhaps a complete psychotic break which we (the audience) are given unique opportunity to witness. Is it all a dream? Is a trick being played on him? In this episode we are given a sympathetic view of a person suffering from a mental collapse.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • This was one of the first episodes in television history wherein a man and a woman were shown sharing the same bed. Due to strict policies and regulations, men and women were required to be shown sleeping in separate beds. In this episode, David Gurney is shown above the covers and fully clothed.
  • Director John Brahm plays the fellow patient who believes himself to be Winston Churchill.
  • John Brahm directed twelve episodes of The Twilight Zone, more than any other director. He is also the only person to direct episodes in each of the five seasons of the show.
  • Lead actor Richard Long suffered from pneumonia as a child which weakened his heart. He had his first heart attack not long before this episode was released (in 1961), and tragically he then had a series of heart attacks in 1974 and died at the age of 47. He had a successful acting career appearing in a later Twilight Zone episode in Season 5 “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, and also in a variety of films including Orson Welles The Stranger.

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

1 thought on “The Twilight Zone: Season 3, Episode Twenty-Seven “Person or Persons Unknown”

  1. Sudden mental conflicts, including those that involve identity, may be most common for so many anthologies. It’s most impactful for the episode in this case to leave us all wondering like David Gurney what the truth actually is.

    Liked by 1 person

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