Twilight Zone – The Crossing (10/08/88)

Following yesterday’s Tales of Tomorrow is like getting the slot after Spiderman at the dance contest.  Making the comparison even worse for TZ, this is a really mediocre episode.

Boring Father Mark Cassidy is working obsessively to raise funds for a new children’s hospital.  His boring assistant brings him some boring tea, but the coffee and cigarettes probably have him wired enough already.  Coming out of the rectory (hee hee), he sees an old family truckster passing by.  It disappears around the bend on a dirt road.  He hears a crash and runs down the road.  At the bottom of a hill, he sees the car in flames.  When his assistant arrives, she thinks he’s gone around the bend because she sees nothing.

As Cassidy is updating the fund-raising graph, Monsignor Perot [1] drops by.  He says, “I remember when that children’s wing was just a dream.”  That’s nothing, I remember 2 minutes ago when it was a whole hospital.

These are literally the most boring characters I have seen this year.  Both are soft spoken old white men.  The Monsignor is a geezer who, at least, is puffing on a meerschaum to give him a little character. [2]  Cassidy is just a tall, blonde, angular non-entity.  Both speak somberly and slowly as if to add some gravitas to the scene.  The new announcer ain’t working for me either, but that can come later.

During a class about Father Damien and the lepers, he spots the family truckster through the window.  He runs outside, and after the car.  It again goes around the bend just out of budget range, and he hears the sound of a crash.  His mob of students chase him down like they just found out he believes in the 1st amendment.  He looks down the hill and sees the car on fire again — this time with a woman he recognizes inside.  Again the kids see nothing.

That night, staring at a fire — a real one, in a fireplace — Cassidy looks through some pictures.  He and the woman are in the same car, surrounded by kids.  It is never made clear what their relationship is.  At first, I though it was his family, but the kids are never mentioned.  Maybe they were camp counselors.  They are wearing camp tee-shirts and Cassidy has a whistle among his keepsakes; there is a lanyard, but that is inconclusive as there is no clipboard.

The next day, the Monsignor announces that after Cassidy’s years of hard work raising $2 million, the children’s wing can be built.  Not only that, it will be named after Father Mark.  He takes this news very somberly.  Later the Monsignor tells him to take some time off, but he is worried about the clothing drive, the pageant, the operating costs.  He is clearly driven, but it is the dullest drive I have ever seen.  Worse than Alligator Alley.

Cassidy spills his guts in the confessional.  He describes the actual accident from his youth when he looked exactly as he does now.  He was able to hear the girl call him for help as she burned alive.  He asks why he was thrown from the car and not her.  He asks if all his works have not atoned for his cowardice at not fighting the flames to rescue her.  He begs forgiveness at leaving her to die while he lawyered up with the family fixers, and wearing a fake neck-brace to her funeral in a laughably transparent ploy for sympathy.  No, wait, that was Ted Kennedy.

The confessional is a great made-for-TV location for exposition.  However, isn’t there supposed to be someone listening?  I’m not up on the rules, but isn’t that the point?  Isn’t the priest supposed to absolve you of your sins?  Cassidy spends a couple of minutes talking to the screen partition — there is no one on the other side.  I guess you could argue that he was talking to God, but that could be done anywhere.

He later sees the car outside again.  This time, he gets into the car beside the woman and they drive around the bend.  The screen goes black and we hear the same crash again.  If this episode were not so deadly dull and dreary, I would have thought they were going for a joke.  Actually, it is a pretty good joke, though unintentional.

However, the real joke is on the viewer as the episode continues at the funeral of Father Cassidy.  As his casket passes by, the woman who had appeared burning in the car places a rose on it.  She watches it be loaded into the hearse, then walks away.  That’s it.  Seriously, that’s it.

The script was nonsensical on a Hitchhikerian level.  As a full stand-alone 30 minute episode, there was no excuse for this.  Was the original crash his fault?  Who was the woman?  What was their relationship?  Why was he confessing to an empty chair?  How did he die? [3] How was the dead woman able to attend his funeral?  She left a rose — does she forgive him?  Shouldn’t she have faded away as she walked down the road?  Or maybe at the end, they could have both driven safely around the bend?  My only explanation is that the pace is so lethargic that scenes had to be cut for time.

The performances were so flat as to be tiresome.  This includes the new announcer.  I had hoped the person following the avuncular Charles Aidman would have a little more menace in his voice.  Unfortunately, it sounds like they just went for a younger Aidman.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Also boring.
  • [2] OK, it’s just a boring regular pipe.
  • [3] When he got into the ghost car and rode away, his assistant should have seen him hovering down the road in a sitting position.  To be fair, I’m willing to accept that anything in the car moved to a different dimension.
  • Title Analysis:  No idea what they were going for.  Yeah, Cassidy crossed over at the end, but I don’t think that’s it.  The car accident was not at a railroad crossing.

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