Charles Brailing is growing annoyed watching his wife play with a set of magic rings. Nothing so bold as presenting them as only intermittently interlocking — no, she’s just spinning the damn things like an idiot.
He calls his pal Tom. Tom’s wife Anne is playing kissy-face with her oblivious husband and refuses to hand over the phone as it is Tom’s night to stay home with her. Charles tries to engage his wife in conversation, but she is not interested. He suggests a vacation, but that somehow turns into her snapping at him for them having no children.
He takes her hands and she gasps as if something a little more intimate occurred. She is astounded because he “hasn’t done that in years.” She recalls a time when he once kissed her hand. The lack of children is starting to make sense. She gets on her knees and says she’ll go on a trip with him if he will only kiss her hand again. Apparently that price is too stiff for Charles. Or maybe he isn’t stiff enough.
Charles manages to get Tom on the phone and they agree to meet. Lydia tells him to be home in 10 minutes. Charles sneaks down to their basement and laments that he “gave her a chance.”
We cut to Tom & Charles stumbling out of a bar. Charles complains that Tom’s wife doesn’t want him to go out because she loves him; and his wife doesn’t want him to go out because she hates him. It’s a pithy line, but Charles clearly doesn’t have any idea what women want. Not that Lydia is making it easy — she is alternately accusatory, frigidly cold, and pathetically needy. Charles makes the bizarre claim that he is at home with his wife as they are standing outside the bar. Tom is drunk enough to take the bet. In easily the best moment of the episode, they stuff the ante into a lawn jockey’s hand for safe-keeping.
Sure enough, they look in the window and Charles appears to be inside with his wife. Charles II really knows how to light Lydia’s fire as they are both dressed in snappy outfits, playing chess. Charles blows a whistle and the other Charles comes outside. Charles shows Tom a card from Marionette Inc which created a robot in his image. They card says he is a 1965 model , which is a very optimistic 7 years in the future.
Tom claims not to be able to tell them apart even though Charles II, made to his specifications, seems to have about 4 inches on Charles I. I suspect Lydia would be thinking the same thing. Charles I announces his intention to fly to Rio for some fun while the iron man services Lydia. Say, maybe he does know what women want.
Tom thinks this is a swell idea. But when he goes home, he is horrified to discover that his wife has beaten him to the punch and replaced herself with a robot.
Charles bought his robot to give Lydia a companion while he flew off to Rio and later, I suspect, Thailand. That plan could work, but Anne bought her robot to leave with her husband who didn’t appreciate her smothering him. She’s just going to end up annoying some other poor sap. So her problem is not really solved.
Back at the Brailing house, Lydia starts to come on to Charles II, so Charles I literally blows the whistle and summons him back to the basement.
Charles II says he doesn’t like his box in the basement because it is too cramped. Charles I wittily proposes relocating to a closet which I suspect he has some experience of living in. Charles II ominously tells Charles I that they Marionettes are far more advanced than the company is aware. Charles II grabs the Rio ticket and stuffs Charles I in the box.
Tom shows up that the Brailing house and tells Charles that his wife has replaced herself with a Marionette. Charles II tells him these are strange times when strange machines are moving into our lives and taking over. Strange days indeed.
That night, Charles II brings Lydia a martini in bed where she is still playing with the rings. Even Charles II is annoyed at this. He kisses her hand and takes the airline ticket out of his pocket. He places it on the nightstand for reasons unknown. Is he going to now take Lydia to Rio? Then how to explain the single ticket? Has he decided to cancel the trip and stay happily with Lydia? Then he better not let her see that ticket or it will not be so happy.
There is an imbalance here that might have required an hour to remedy. Tom and Charles are in the same situation, trapped — in their eyes — with an incompatible, annoying wife. However, it is Tom and Lydia that will benefit from the new robots. They will both be happier despite having been deserted by a spouse and being out $15,000 in 1965 (or 1985) dollars. Or maybe that lack of symmetry is the point.
Overall it is a fine story, just done in by some weak characterizations and a couple of married schlubs who think themselves superior and entitled due to mores that were out-dated even in 1958. No, I’m thinking of the lawn jockey scene.
-  To be fair, when the card is shown, it says 1985. Of course even in 2015 we have nothing like this technology. That I’m aware of.
- AHP Deathwatch: If IMDb is to be believed, Norman Lloyd is 101 years old.
- Title Analysis: All I can think of is that it was originally titled Designed for Loving and the ed got cut as being too suggestive. Love really doesn’t play a role in the story.
- Based on the same short story as the first episode of Ray Bradbury Theater. Luckily, I saw it years ago, thus did not need to rewatch it for this blog. And I ain’t going back. The story leaves it ambiguous as to whether Charles I or II is with Lydia.
- Back at Tom’s house, we see a couple of signs of the future. The light comes on automatically when he enters. And there are faucets on the wall in the hallway to dispense coffee and orange juice. Are these public utilities now? Has “Big Beverage” bought off the local government?