Twilight Zone – Aqua Vita (10/04/86)

Composition 101: Do not put a woman wearing stripes in front of a louvered door.

Christie Copperfield is a big-shot news anchor reader driving her red Mercedes home after a gruel-ing 30 minutes of delivering press releases and spoon-fed spin from politicians. She spots her picture on the side of a bus and smiles at her own awesomeness. [1] BTW, the director gives his credit a classy shot just below her ANCHOR 5 license plate as she pulls away.

She opens her front door and sees what to me would be the most hellish scene in the TZ canon — a surprise party.  She struggles to blow out the 3.333 dozen candles.  That night in bed with her husband Marc, Christie confesses she is worried about what being 40 will do to her ratings.[2]  Her husband jokingly assures her, “You’ve still got at least 5 good years on your warranty, then I can trade you in for a couple of 20 year-olds.”  Maybe the twist will be that he is an alien, because there was not enough booze at that party to make a human guy say that to his wife.  All is well, though, and they plan a long weekend in Santa Barbara at the Shakespeare Festival . . . yeah, one lonnng f***in’ weekend.

The next day at work, Christie shares the make-up room with young reporterette Shauna.  She tells Shauna it is no fun to be turning 40.  Shauna shows Christie her drivers license which says she was born in 1938, making her 48 (the actress is 29).  Christie asks how that is possible, and Shauna produces a silver flask.  Christie says she can’t drink before the show, but Shauna assures her it is just water.  She declines.

Just seconds before Christie goes on the air, the producer tells her that news-bunny Shauna will be filling in for her while she’s on vacation.  So maybe he and her husband crashed here in the same spaceship.  While she is on the air, the news director tells the producer that Christie’s ratings are down, and that Christie is “old news”.

After the broadcast, Christie and Shauna go see Marc at his photo-graphy studio.  His current gig is shooting scantily-clad, athletic young women exercising.  Shauna helpfully says, “Remember when you had a body like that?”  She hands Christie a card for her miracle water, Aqua Vita.

The next day, the Aqua Vita man installs a cooler in Christie’s kitchen.  He has a big toothy smile and is dressed in a white shirt, bow tie, and hat like a 1950s Texaco Man.  When he tells her “it’s no charge for the first one, missy” she asks how old he is.  He stares into the camera and says ominously, “Don’t ask.”

The next morning, she is noticeably younger to herself and her husband, but not the viewer.  It was probably fine when it aired, but the You Tubes are pretty fuzzy and the DVDs are worse.  I’ll take their word for it.  Before they head out to Santa Barbara, she takes one last swig of water.  For some reason there is a sinister musical cue as the camera zooms in on the key that keeps out unauthorized drinkers.  The water tank, I could understand, but the key?

The next morning at the hotel, Christie looks at herself in the mirror and looks so bad I can even see it on You Tube.  She looks terrible — bags under her eyes, lines on her face, and generally run-down, like by a bus.  Thank God she is wearing a towel.  She puts on a scarf and big Jackie O sunglasses and tells Marc they have to go home NOW.

As soon as she gets home, she runs to the water cooler.  Despite the earlier shot of the key, the water is fine.  In fact, because of a continuity error, there is actually more water in the tank than when she left.  The water works immediately and she takes off the scarf and glasses to reveal her younger self.

Back at work, things are going great — her ratings are up and she is getting offers from other stations.  Shauna asks Christie to return the favor by lending her a few thousand bucks.  Christie understands when her next delivery of Aqua Vita comes with a price tag of $5,000.

That night, Christie gets up to get a glass of the magic water.  This somehow escalates to an argument.  Marc says, “I’ll be staying at the studio if you need anything!” and takes off.  For some reason — but not that reason —  he is next seen knocking on Shauna’s door.  She refuses to let him in, but the Aqua Vita man is making a late-night delivery.  For the price of this stuff, you’d think he could hire some help.  When she opens the door, Marc sees she has aged worse than [                ][3] and her hair has gone white.

Back casa de Christie, she drop a glass of the water and shrieks.  She panics and tries to sponge the water off the floor and disgustingly squeeze it into the broken glass.  OK, I get that it is $5,000 a tank, but that’s a pretty big tank.  We’re looking at about $20 of water on the floor; not enough to drink brown water out of a broken glass.

Marc returns and stops her.  When he sees her face, she has aged again.  She tells him the whole story.  He tells her she has to stop, but she says, “Look at me, Marc!  I’m old!”  Cyrano tells her, “No, you only look old.”  He tells her not to worry about her career — she is “a journalist, a writer, not just a face.”  Dude, stop digging!

She is worried about them as a couple.  She worries that strangers will see them and think Marc is a gigolo, or that she will be mistaken as his mother.  Without saying a word, Marc drinks a glass of Aqua Vita.  Wait — there was water in the tank this whole time?  Why does she still look old?  Why was she practically licking it off the floor?

The next scene is them as an elderly couple.  Well, as the Aqua Vita man explained they only look old.  They can still go have wild sex . . . whoa, did they think this through?  I hate to say it, but it is kind of sweet until Charles Aidman’s insipid narration ruins the moment.

While I would have liked a darker tone, it was a good episode.  At least the score was tolerable this time. Mimi Kennedy was a strange choice to play Christie.  She is not unattractive and is always good in comedic roles.  However, her character would definitely not have been successful just based on her looks; she must have actually had talent.  Maybe a more traditionally beautiful actress would have been a better choice.  This was 10 years before Fox News — where did all the info-babes work then?

Classic TZ Connection #1:  In The Long Morrow, an astronaut allows himself to age 40 years during a trip to match his sweetie’s natural aging on earth.  However, she put herself in suspended animation and dumps the old man when he returns.

Classic TZ Connection #2:  In The Trade-Ins, people can be transformed into their much younger selves for $5,000.  An elderly couple can only afford one procedure.  After agonizing over the choice, the old man — who is in terrible pain — gets transformed. Seeing the effect this has on them as a couple, he has them reverse the process and make him a suffering old man again.

Wow, dudes are always getting the shaft in the Twilight Zone.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] She also sees an old couple crossing the road.  I get the connection to the end of the episode, but it is pointless.  There is no irony, no foreshadowing, she will not give it another thought, and it is not her time-travelling future self.  Just a big obese NOTHING is done with it.
  • [2] In a radical departure for TV, the actor’s age is actually 2 years younger than the character.  In this case, I think there was no agenda — they wanted her to face a milestone birthday, and the actress they wanted was close enough.
  • [3] Hmmmmm, I hate to mention anyone specifically.
  • Title Analysis: Simple, efficient, unique — water of life.
  • Other segment:  What Are Friends For?  I doubt this was intentional, but the other segment in this episode also dealt with aging.  Fred Savage becomes friends with the imaginary friend his father Tom Skerritt had as a boy.
  • They still make Aqua Velva?  Who knew?

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