Twilight Zone – Joy Ride (05/21/87)

Not to nitpick, but Robert Knepper has a very distinctive voice, plus he is Greg’s brother. You’re telling me Greg would not have seen through this in a split second?

Deena and Greg are walking down a suburban street at night.  Greg is trying to lure her into some kind of delinquency.  From the shadows, they get a gun stuck in their faces.  After demanding their cash, his wacky brother Alonzo steps out to say it was a funny comedy joke.  They all share a good laugh.  Alonzo admits it is just a starter pistol, the kind they give to li’l criminals just starting out.[1]  He fires it into the air.  A porch light comes on and they take off running.

Alonzo wants to show them something.  He leads them to the late old man Taylor’s driveway, on top of which sits a pristine ’57 Chevy.  I can’t tell them apart, so all old cars are ’57 Chevys.  Alonzo’s girl Adrienne needs some dialogue, so she says, “I wonder what the inside is like.”  Fortuitously, Alonzo also has a starter car thief tool with him.  They are amazed at how spacious the interior is.  Alonzo wants to take it for a spin.  Greg has some car thief skillz too. He pops the hood and flips that big ON/OFF switch that all other guys seem to know about.  Alonzo starts the engine.

They shoot out of the driveway with Alonzo at the wheel.  When he makes a sharp turn, a pistol slides out from under the seat.  He says, “Charlie Taylor must have been some crazy guy!”  Yeah, he was such a fascinating character that they cut his backstory completely out of the segment.

The gang does not recognize the street they are on.  Then, they notice all of the cars are ’57 Chevys, although of various years, makes and models.  Alonzo tells Adrienne to get him a cigarette from the glove box.[2]  She asks how he knew they would be in there.  Greg tells him to pull over because “Something weird’s going on.”  Just then a police car pulls up behind them.

Alonzo pulls the stolen car over.  The cop says there was a robbery at the Five and Dime Store.  Greg remembers it was torn down years ago.  Alonzo pulls out Charlie Taylor’s pistol and shoots the cop.  The cop goes down, but as Alonzo drives away, a cop is shooting at him.  Was this the cop’s previously unseen partner?  Why didn’t he tend to his fallen partner?  Or maybe Alonzo had only used his starter pistol which he hallucinated as Taylor’s gun?  However the cigarettes were real, so why would the gun . . . . forget it.

In any case, the cop is using a real gun.  He starts firing at the car as it pulls away.  Somehow, in a shot even the Warren Commission wouldn’t believe, from behind the car the cop manages to shoot Adrienne who is sitting in front of Deena in the passenger seat of the enclosed sedan.  With the cops in pursuit, Greg and Deena beg Alonzo to take Adrienne to the hospital.  He does the next best thing — he pulls off the road, and shoves her out of the moving car onto the ground.

I am just baffled by much of the editing in this episode.  It is seems likely that this was a much longer segment which had to be edited down for time.  That would explain Charlie Taylor non-sequitur, and the mysterious identity of the cop shooting at them.  However, this last scene is inexplicable.  Alonzo’s struggle to open Adrienne’s door seems to have some significance, but what?  Whether he was Alonzo or possessed by Charlie, I think both know how to operate a door.  Besides, a) Alonzo would not ditch his wounded girlfriend, b) Charlie would know how to operate his own car.  Here are the shots that baffle me:

  1. Alonzo struggles with the latch.
  2. He gives up and sits up straight in his seat.
  3. He presses the accelerator, the car starts moving.
  4. From outside, we see the door open.
  5. He pushes Adrienne out the door.

Why did Alonzo have such trouble with the latch?  When he sat back straight, had he opened the door and we just didn’t see that shot because it was cut for time?  Then why do we have two separate shots of him struggling with it?  Why does he start driving before he pushes Adrienne out?  Forget it Jake, it’s TZ.

As they drive off, Greg notices Adrienne is not behind them.  Most people would think she’s being dragged under the car.  But to be fair, “sucked into time portal” would be most people’s second explanation.  The cops continue chasing them.  Greg and Deena complain so much that Alonzo pulls over again and tells them to get out.  Alonzo is somehow able to reach from the driver’s seat to the rear passenger seat door and push Deena out.  I’ll give him credit for flooring it only after Deena hit the dirt.  Greg looks out the window and, like Adrienne, Deena has disappeared.

Greg climbs into the front seat while the police are still on their tail.  Although they should be safe — these are the worst cops on earth.  Alonzo has stopped twice and they didn’t catch up.  He could stop off for a bucket of chicken and still get away.  Alonzo refuses to stop again because he knows they will be peeved at him shooting a cop.  Greg jumps from the car while it is going about 40 MPH.

He finds himself back in the driveway where they stole the car.  Hey, there’s Deena and Adrienne!  Greg sees the car is still parked in the driveway.  EMTs are trying to get into the car.  A cop on the scene says he doesn’t know what’s going on, “but that car was used in a robbery 30 years ago.  A cop was killed.”  They are able to crowbar the door open.  The interior is filled with fog, green light, and lots and lots of chrome.  A fireman is held by the waist as he leans into the car to pull Alonzo out.  Of course, Alonzo / Charlie thinks he is still leading a high speed chase.

The fireman is able to pull Alonzo completely out of the car.  Not having an attorney present, he blurts out, “I killed a cop!  With this gun!”  The cop examines the gun and says it has not been fired in 30 years.  Greg tells Alonzo, “It was old man Taylor.  After all these years, he was trying to confess.  I guess this was his way.”  Confess to what?  It sounds like the cops already knew he had killed the cop; OK, technically, they knew his car was involved.  And how exactly was a confession being communicated in this scenario?  Cue the — as usual on TZ — entirely incongruous music that sounds like the closing theme to a 1980s sit-com.  I’m surprised they didn’t have the kids jump into the air and freeze the frame.

The episode succeeds in spite of itself.  It accomplished everything I described in an economical 11 minutes.  Unfortunately, paring it down that much caused a few problems.  I’ve said many times that these minor issues don’t matter in a good episode, and this is a good episode.  It took a great high-concept, added some simple set direction in the form of old cars, and came to a suspenseful ending.  Normally, I would not have even posted about an 11 minute segment, but this is worth a viewing.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Correction, after further research, a starter pistol is used to start races.
  • [2] It was a glove compartment where I came from, and I’m sticking with that.  Apparently in Idaho, they call it a jockey box.
  • Classic TZ connection #1:  You Drive — A car takes on a mind of its own, returns to the scene of a crime, and delivers the criminal to the police.
  • Classic TZ connection #2:  Little Girl Lost — A man is anchored in our world as he leans half-way into another dimension to pull someone back to our reality.  It’s a minor point, but I love this trope.
  • The cast was unexceptional, but Robert Knepper (Alonzo) would go on to create one of the most interesting characters in TV history — T-Bag on Prison Break.
  • I can’t emphasize enough how terrible the score is for this episode.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.