Night Visions – Bitter Harvest (08/23/01)

For anyone who thought the Home episode of The X-Files was too much of a light-hearted romp, this is the episode for you.  It might have dipped too much into realism (like Megan is Missing) for my taste.  If this is what you’re looking for, though, bon appetite — this is great stuff.  Spoilers ahoy.

Young Shane Watkins and a couple of pals are checking out his horse Ginger who will be having babies in a couple of months.  They are wary of neighbor old man Jennings walking by.  They have reason to be concerned as he 1) is carrying an axe, and 2) is portrayed by Jack Palance.

The rumor is that old man Jennings shot an encyclopedia salesman and buried him behind his barn.  Also that his mother was a witch.  He lives on a farm bordering Shane’s in a house with several No Trespassing signs.

Occasionally, Shane has ignored the signs and snuck over to fish at a fishin’ hole on Jennings’ property.  And by “snuck”, I mean walked across a large open yard in broad daylight.

nvbitterharvest4One day, as he is sneaking to the fishin’ hole, he checks out behind the barn just to be sure.  There is indeed a mound of fresh dirt.  Well, looks like dirt on You Tube, but I’ll give Shane the benefit of the snout when he says it is just cow manure.

Jennings catches him.  As Shane runs away, he accidentally switches on a combine.  Or maybe it is some other piece of farm machinery, but I like the sound of the word combine so all farm equipment is combines to me.  Jennings, following closely behind, trips and his hands get caught in the gears. Shane’s mother then emasculates me by knowing that the machine was an auger rather than a combine.

One night, from his window, Shane sees Jennings standing at the barbed wire fence separating their properties.  Barbed wire fences make good neighbors if you live next to a pissed-off Jack Palance.  Tragically, he lost both arms in the auger.  Also tragically, the dolt from the county who is helping him has dressed him in a button-up coat.

nvbitterharvest5The next day as Shane is working on the horse, or whatever it is that you do in a barn, Jennings shows up. He tells Shane’s father that the boy has been naughty — Shane has been trespassing on his property to fish. The thing about causing him to have his arms chewed off does not come up.

In exchange for whatever fish he caught, Shane’s father offers his son’s services to help Jennings out until his prosthetics arrive.  The next day, Shane knocks but gets no response.  As in every show I have watched for this blog, Shane just walks right in.  He is startled when Jennings comes out wearing a short-sleeve shirt.  As am I.

Jennings puts Shane to work cleaning the gutters where he nearly falls, and does badly cut his hand.  Later in chopping wood, his hand starts to bother him, but he is not going to mention this to the guy whose arms he destroyed.

While Jennings is at the hospital for rehab, Shane sees a brown mound that really is dirt. Shane naturally digs it up. It contains a blanket belonging to his horse . . . Jennings severed arms are also wrapped up in it.  The episode is so good I won’t question how he buried this stuff with no arms.

nvbitterharvest8The next day, when Shane goes to Jennings’ house, the old man is bobbing for soup.  It is just very sad to see his face covered with food, and him have to ask Shane to feed him. On the plus side, Jennings does say it is time to do some auguring. When it jams, Jennings suggests that Shane stick his arm in there.

At the end of 2 weeks, Jennings actually pays Shane for his time.  As Shane goes to leave, he tells him to take Ginger’s blanket saying , “I won’t be needing it no more.”  As he arrives home, Ginger is giving birth — to a foal with no legs.

I was pretty satisfied at that ending.  The accident was squirm inducing, and seeing a beautiful horse suffer for the accident was tragic.  But then, holy shit . . .

Jennings is again staring at Shane from across the barbed wire.  His parents console him that there was nothing that he could have done, but that the horse will have to be destroyed.  On a happier note, his mother says she is going to have a baby.  Jennings continues smiling in the moonlight.

I give this one 5 out of 5 bushels.


  • Jack Palance was in the classic Shane.
  • For anyone who didn’t get it, no-neck says in his epilogue that Shane will find out in nine-months how vindictive Jennings is.  So, apparently, his mother is zero-days pregnant.  That must have been some conception last night.
  • And Jennings could have been a little more focused with his vengeance.  Yeah, sucks to be Shane; but it sucks more to be his little brother.

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