Six year old Megan McDowell comes downstairs to her parents watching TV. She says, “Daddy, I’m scared. There’s a man in my room.” Actually, I think it would have been more realistic for her to be shrieking, “Daddy, there’s a man in my room!” The scared part would have been implied. Show, don’t tell.
Jeff takes her upstairs and shows her there is no man there. When he clicks off the light, he sees a six year old Vietnamese girl in bed and hears helicopters. Lights on, back to normal. He turns the lights off again — which would not have been my next move — and everything is cool.
The next day when Denise brings Megan home from school, Jeff already has the wine flowing. A kid in his class asked him what he did during Viet Nam. He answered that he was in school, but did not mention it was in Canada. He asks, “Why do I feel so guilty?” Yeah, I wonder . . .
Megan comes downstairs and says the man is back. Denise takes her in the bathroom to wash her hands. In the mirror, she sees a scruffy bearded man in a Veteran’s Administration wheelchair roll out of sight. She runs downstairs and meets Jeff. She says, “Did you see him? Did he come past you? The man in the wheelchair?” Jeff steals my thunder by pointing out the man could hardly have wheeled the chair down the stairs past him. He doesn’t find the man, but does find wheelchair tracks in the plush shag carpeting.
Jeff suddenly flashes back to a past he did not have — he is in a swamp, under fire in Viet Nam. His first instincts are to take off his helmet, throw his rifle aside, and give away their position by screaming like a maniac — so maybe he was right to go to Canada. He quickly returns to his very patient wife.
He says the man being here is his fault. “I got drafted, but I chose Canada. I copped out on Viet Nam. And now it looks like Viet Nam is catching up with me.” He thinks maybe the legless man had to go in his place. Or maybe he died because Jeff wasn’t there. As he hugs Denise, he flashes back to the war and is making out with a Vietnamese girl, though thankfully not the six year old. When he snaps back, he does what comes naturally — gets in his car, and drives away.
The next day at work, Denise gets a call from Jeff asking her to come home. But a few minutes later, Jeff comes to her office looking for her. Uh-oh. She arrives home first, finding the man in the wheelchair — a bearded, grizzled, legless doppelganger of Jeff. Jeff-2 suggests there was a fork around 1971 and they took different paths.
Denise died young in Jeff-2’s timeline. Ya might think that would be used to validate Jeff-1’s choice, but nothing really is done with it. Jeff-1 has a random idea that by holding hands, they can exchange memories, giving Jeff-2 some happier ones to cling to. From there it gets new agey and kumbaya in the way that caused such damage to this TZ reboot.
I appreciate that the episode didn’t come down hard on either side of the draft-dodging question. It really just addressed the fall-out of each man’s choice without placing blame. Despite the mushy ending, it was a good journey.
- Title Analysis: More like the Road Not Taken than The Road Less Traveled. But the both came from the same source. I mean literally . . . literally literally.
- But what’s up with the 2 L’s in Travelled?
- Cliff DeYoung (Jeff) is still on my sh*t-list for his role in detonating that atomic bomb in Valencia. [UPDATE] Turns out that was Raphael Sbarge.