Twilight Zone – The Hellgramite Method (11/05/88)

A dude is lighting another dude’s cigarette in a bar, and his name is Timothy Bottoms.  Thank God I’m woke enough not to make anything of that.

The older man tells Miley Judson to keep the box of matches which says Hellgramite Method and has a red slash over a liquor bottle which I interpret as “say no to blended Scotch.”  The back of the box promises “a cure for the problem drinker” although a better ad for a matchbox would  be “a cure for the modern smoker.”  When he turns to the man, he is gone.  So Miley orders another drink.

He wakes up hours later with his head on the bar.  It’s bad to fall asleep at a bar, but it’s worse to be a bar that allows a dude to fall asleep there for hours.  He asks for another drink, but the bartender tells him to go home.  He grabs a pizza box that has been sitting on the bar beside him for 5 hours and heads home.  There is no ad on the pizza box to “cure the problem eater.”  At home, his wife is not pleased to have him coming home drunk yet again.

The ad said they were open 24 hours, so that night Miley goes to see Dr. Eugene Murrich at the sprawling medical campus of Hellgramite Method (i.e. Murrich’s living room).  After offering Miley a drink, which he happily accepts, Murrich offers him a red pill.  Like Morpheus, Murrich warns him that if he takes the red pill “there’s no turning back.”  Like Neo, Miley takes the pill.

The next morning, his wife is still pissed in the American sense, and he is probably still pissed in the British sense.  She is hostile and not supportive at all, but she’s probably seen this 100 times.  He says this time is different, and goes to work.

Naturally, he heads back to the same bar again.  He slams back his usual mass quantity of booze.  This time, however, he feels no effect from it.  He perspicaciously thinks, hey, maybe it has something to do with that red pill I took from an unlicensed practitioner working out of his living room at 3 am last night.  So he goes back to see Murrich.

Murrich explains that just like Agent Smith did to Neo, he put a disgusting squid-like bug inside Miley.  There was a hellgramite tapeworm larvae inside the red pill.  He explains, “By now, the worm [1] has attached itself to your stomach, and the drinking has stimulated its growth.  From now on the hellgramite will absorb all the liquor you can consume.  You won’t feel any effect from drinking.”  Miley is understandably doubtful.  Then Murrich shows him one of the slimy bastards in a glass jar.

Murrich helpfully waits until after the commercial to further explain the rules.  “No matter how much you drink, the worm will not be satisfied.  If ever you stop drinking, the pain will be excruciating . . . it’s dangerous.  You might not live through it.  And even if you succeed, the worm will always be waiting for you to drink again.  Every time the hellgramite is awakened from its dormant state, it comes back stronger.  Eventually, strong enough to kill you.”

Back at home, he once again tells his wife this time will be different; then kicks her and his son out.  He pours all the liquor in the house down the drain.  He then goes through the excruciating withdrawal phase.  While in agony, he goes back to see Murrich.  We finally get Murrich’s motivation, which is that he lost his family to a drunk driver.

But I’m still not entirely understanding Murrich’ motivation.  Is he interested in solving a problem or just wreaking vengeance on other alcoholics?  Taking the pill neutralizes the intake of liquor — great!  But why the agonizing pain?  And the only way to stop the pain is to drink more?  Isn’t that counter-productive?  Sure, the continued drinking will be fatal eventually, but how many more lives will be at risk until that time?

Back at home, Miley continues suffering through the withdrawals.  He is in such pain that he begins searching for any leftover alcohol.  He finally finds a small bottle in his luggage.  We next see him clean and sober handing a Hellgramite Method matchbox to another alchie.  But what does this mean?  Did he find temporary relief from the pain by drinking the little bottle?  Or did he persevere through the pain and is now free (as long as he doesn’t take another drink)?  The scene isn’t played to make that ambiguity interesting, so I guess it is the latter.  But what is his motivation to lure more drunks into the painful, potentially deadly, scheme?

A fine episode, but it could have been tightened up.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] I’m no entomologist, but how is this thing a worm?  It has at least 6 appendages and a definable head and abdomen.  Probably a thorax back there somewhere, too.
  • Hey, Miley, how about calling the cops or a good gastroenterologist?

One thought on “Twilight Zone – The Hellgramite Method (11/05/88)

  1. Apropos of nothing, it reminds me of the old joke: a worm is trying to make time with another worm, and the worm that is hit upon says, Relax!!, I’m your other end!! Not too many worm jokes out there.

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