At the generically named Research Center for Advanced Studies , we see the most advanced thinking machine ever constructed — blinking light and knob technology made great strides in the 1950’s. People from all over the country submit questions to the machine like “WTF are we doing in Korea?” Host Truman Bradley tells us that, like a human being, a computer can have a nervous breakdown, a bug not worked out until the HAL 9001.
Professor Spaulding is feeding a formula into the computer which would take 30 mathematicians 6 months to solve. The real achievement is that he seems to be feeding it from a chalkboard. A typewriter is clacking away like a player piano with the keys pressing, but I’m not clear what the source of the data is. The computer should be able to derive the answer in 3 minutes, but has performance anxiety and blows up in just a few seconds. The other scientists find non-professor Vic Murphy unconscious.
They figure Murphy took 90,000 volts. The doctor thought he was dead, but only because he had “no pulse [and] respiratory function had ceased”. Turns out he was only mostly fried — sautéed really — and bounces back quickly. In no time, he has re-tightened his necktie. His boss tells him to take the rest of the day off. On his way out, Vic notices an error in the complex problem the computer was working on. He pulls a Good Will Hunting and corrects it on the chalkboard (actually a Better Will Hunting because Matt Damon is not involved).
He stops by the pharmacy to pick up whatever you take for being electro-cuted and flat-lining for a couple of minutes. He sees a hot blonde in the phone booth and asks Pete the soda-jerk  who she is. Pete is busy adding up the day’s receipts, but says she lives in the apartment above him. Vic amazes him by adding the columns of figures instantaneously. With his new super-hearing, he can hear Sally’s boyfriend Frank being mean on the phone.
When Pete says he can’t hear the conversation, Vic grabs Pete’s noggin in a way too familiar way. Vic asks for just a glass of water. The woman comes out out the phone booth and also asks for just a glass of water. Well, at least Pete won’t have to update those sales figures.
Vic and Pete go up to Pete’s apartment. Vic can hear Sally crying in the apartment above. Pete says, “C’mon Vic, these are very quiet apartments. I can’t even hear her walking around up there. And I’ve listened.” Vic hears Frank up there too. Then he hears Frank slap her, although, I’m not sure how he knew it wasn’t Sally belting him. Vic dashes out of Pete’s apartment. He spots the stairs, then looks the other way down the hall, then back at the stairs. He shrewdly determines that the best route upstairs is up the stairs. That was kind of a weird beat; didn’t he just come up the stairs to Pete’s 2nd floor apartment?
Vic barges in and tosses Frank out. Sally gets mad at Vic. After all, this is 1955 and she is unmarried at 29. When Vic reels off the things Frank did to her, she gets even madder, calling him a Peeping Tom. She tosses Vic out. He is upset, hearing her still crying inside. Pete says, “Spend the night with me, Vic . . . you’ll feel better in the morning.”
The next day, Vic goes to Dr. Stern at Leland University “to get an answer to his dilemma.” Although, I don’t think dilemma means what the writer thinks it means. Miraculously, Vic catches him during office hours. Had he arrived 15 minutes later, he would have missed him; or 15 min-utes earlier. The professor suggests he would be better off seeing a psychiatrist. Then Vic is able to tell him the conversation on a call he receives.
Sensing a textbook deal which could con debt-ridden students out of a cool $125 per head, Stern gives Vic a series of tests. Vic looks at a Rorschach picture and not only interprets it, he has analyzed it down into six separate components with circles and arrows when it is clearly just a man having sex with a chicken. Playing with blocks displays his remarkable mechanical aptitude, or maybe they were just taking a break. He then completes a 3-4 hour IQ test in just 53 minutes, and tests out at 197.
For some reason, he is still hanging out with Pete; and still wearing the same suit and striped tie. Pete is impressed by the the high IQ resulting from Vic’s electrocution and asks if he would be a genius if he stuck his finger in a light socket. Asked and answered, counselor. Vic says there will be more tests tomorrow. Suddenly, Vic appears alarmed. He can hear gas escaping in Sally’s apartment. They run up and rescue Sally who is passed out on the floor.
After more tests, Dr. Stern comes up with a theory. He proposes that the blast from the computer caused a surplus of electrons in Vic, making him negatively charged — the theory of static electricity, at least according to SFT. That negative charge caused his senses to heighten. Unfortunately, more testing reveals that Vic has lost his super-powers and must go back to holding a glass up to women’s walls to listen in. Dr. Stern falls back on the old “10% of the brain” trope that still just won’t go away. He says that even though Vic is back to normal, he proved what is possible.
Back in the pharmacy, Sally meets up with Vic. She thanks him for saving her life. Vic tells her that his brush with death has inspired him to “swing the pendulum” the other way, to go back to school, to enter the bustling field of medical research. He encourages her to do the same. Of course, his brush with death was the result of a lab accident which endow-ed him with super-powers; and hers was a failed suicide attempt resulting from soul-crushing depression and a overwhelming sense of loneliness, hopelessness, and despair. But I’m sure they’ll be fine.
Despite being a complete man-child caricature, Pete did amuse me a couple of times. He was not enough to save the episode, however. Criticism has a short menu on this show: Negative.
-  To be fair, DARPA isn’t much better. However it does make me long for the days before tortured acronyms like USA PATRIOT Act, VOICE, and SHIELD.
-  The soda-jerk was played by former Little Rascal Alfalfa. It would have been nice to have a Buckwheat cameo at the lunch-counter, but . . . you know.
-  Apparently, long ago, pharmacies often had a soda fountain. This began in the 1800’s when you could put drugs such as cocaine into the drinks. In the early 1900’s, they became a soda & ice cream replacements for bars closed during Prohibition.
- IMDb calls this episode The Negative Man.
- Particle Man.