Twilight Zone – The Card (02/21/87)

Linda Wolfe is invited to the offices of the THE CARD card.  It is an exclusive new invitation-only credit card operated out of a strip shopping center across from the   7-11.

Ms. Foley immediately brings up Linda’s past problems.  “Mrs. Wolfe, you have a very spotty credit record . . . AMEX, Visa, MasterCard have all cancelled you in the past.  So have the department stores.  Even Union-76.” [1]  Linda swears she’s learned her lesson.  Mrs. Foley says they offer credit to those who can’t get it anywhere else, but they have some stringent requirements:  They require a minimum payment within se7en days of purchase.  She is honest that there are some serious penalties.  Mrs. Foley hands Linda a contract which has only slightly more fine print than a standard non-Twilight Zone cardholder agreement.  Like only 100% of applicants, Linda signs without reading.  Mrs. Foley hands her an onyx THE CARD with her name already embossed on it.

Back at home, her husband notices a bottle of perfume and the new card and asks about it.  Linda replies 3rd personally, “Are we going to start fighting about Linda’s problem again?”  Her husband, hoping to ever see her naked again, says, “No, I don’t think that would be a good idea at all.”  He does carefully ask her to be careful, though.

You know there is going to be trouble when a title card pops up that says “ONE WEEK LATER.”  She is looking for their cat, but he has disappeared.  No one else in the family even remembers them having a cat.

Two days later, they are shopping for a new refrigerator.  They pick out one with a $1,698 price tag, which would be — holy crap — $3,700 in today’s dollars!  Natch, she blows this purchase also, and the dog disappears.

Then the car breaks down; there’s another $360.  Using the card again even though she is already delinquent earns her an immediate penalty.  When she gets home, the kids have disappeared and her husband doesn’t remember them.  The mass extinction of all 3 kids at once answers one of my questions — why not just buy a bowl of goldfish and be late on the card every week?  I guess they delete all like items at once, so that wouldn’t work.  But you could still make it work for you — did I mention my pet termites, Mrs. Foley?

Linda understandably flips out like a woman whose kids are missing.  She runs to the kids’ room, but their stuff is gone.  The family portrait seen earlier is now just she and her husband.  She realizes it is the THE CARD card.

The next morning, Linda goes to the THE CARD office and demands to see Mrs. Foley.  While she is waiting, she sees her kids in the hall [2].  She screams for them, but they seem not to recognize her.  Mrs. Foley calls her into the office.  “Yes those were your kids.  Earlier this month, we acquired your cat and your dog.  What seems to be the problem?”  Linda finally hands Mrs. Foley a check to get her kids back.

Linda rushes home to yell at her husband about her day.  She says she wrote a check out of their joint account.  He says the bank called him to approve it and he told them not to honor it.  She screams and runs out to the car — which disappears.  She tries to call Mrs. Foley, but furniture starts disappearing.  Then her husband disappears from the family portrait which is now just of her.  Her The Card, lying on the floor, now says Linda Wilson, presumably her maiden name.  There is a good laugh as she digs through a kitchen drawer looking for scissors.  As she removes each item from the drawer and places it on the counter, it disappears.  Great stuff.  Or maybe I’m just reminded of Zinc Oxide.

She cuts the THE CARD card in half.  In an exterior shot, we see the house disappear.  The card halves flutter to the ground.  Even Linda has disappeared.

Great episode, and not just because I’m a sucker for nobody-else-remembers-what-I-remember stories.  There was a lot packed into this episode and they did an amazing job making it fit.

I’m undecided on whether they should have shown the kids again.  It provided an opportunity for Linda to give a great reaction; plus, it is creepy that they no longer recognize their mother.  On the other hand, I would have liked the idea of them just being gone, blinked out of existence.  I guess the The Card needs to make a profit off of them, though.

Maybe they have an adoption service that places the kids for a fee.  But what lucky guy gets the pixie-haired Linda as part of his Rewards Program?  Actually, it would have been the interesting for the 2nd segment of this episode to be a stand-alone story that showed The Card operation from the opposite POV.  We would see where the cat, the dog, the kids, Linda, her husband and the house go.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] I was prepared to say Linda had caused the jingoistically-named Union-76 to mercifully go under before it had the chance to trigger any snowflakes.  Turns out, they still have a few stations.  OK, 1,800.
  • [2] I have no idea if that link is representative of their work.
  • Classic TZ Legacy:  And When the Sky was Opened.  A rocket returns to earth with its crew.  One by one, the crew disappears with only one crew-member remembering them.  Then he disappears and no one at all remembers any astronauts . . . just like today.
  • Skipped Segment: The Junction.

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