Night Gallery

Season 2 Episode 5

Death in the Family

Aired Unknown Sep 22, 1971 on NBC

Episode Recap

Two county workers bring the corpse of an elderly destitute man, Simon Cottner, to the Soames Funeral Home. The owner, Jared Soames, signs the county papers and is surprised that Cottner has no mourners, no flowers, no marker, and no minister. The driver explains Cottner is being given a county funeral, and they pay $100 to bury him. A disgruntled Soames waits until the workers leave and then assures the corpse that it deserves more than a $100 funeral, and that it will get much more.

At the cemetery, Soames oversees Cottner's burial, and the grave diggers comment that the wooden box seems suspiciously light. The funeral director tells them that Cottner was a small man and wasted away before his death. Satisfied, they continue with the burial. As Soames drives home that night, state troopers pull him over and warn that an escaped convict was wounded, and he's still somewhere out in the night. Soames assures them that he hasn't seen the man and continues on his way to the funeral home. When he arrives, Soames goes into a room and starts singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

After a few minutes, Soames emerges to close the windows and finds the convict, Doran, waiting for him. Doran has a gun and threatens to kill Soames if he doesn't cooperate, but the funeral director appears unimpressed. Doran asks who Soames was singing to, and the funeral director tells him that it's no one who can harm the young man. Doran investigates and finds Cottner's corpse, dressed up and wearing a party hat. Soames explains that he let the grave diggers bury an empty coffin. Doran explains that he's badly wounded and demands a car and clean clothing. Soames warns that Doran won't live long without medical attention, and the only car he has is a hearse. Instead, Soames offers Doran a sofa to rest on for as long as he wants. Surprised, the young man accepts Soames' offer. He asks why Soames is giving him a break, and Soames asks if he has a family. Doran admits that he doesn't, and Soames explains that he's also an orphan. The convict admits that now that he's on death's door, Soames is the first person he's ever met that has showed him compassion.

Later, Doran wakes up and hears Soames singing again. He follows the funeral director's voice to the cellar and finds Cottner's corpse at a table with five other corpses and Soames. Soames introduces them as his wife, mother, two children, and brother, and explains that Cottner is the most recent addition to his "family," Soames' new father. When Doran recoils in horror, noting that they're dead, Soames explains that they were unloved in life, and he kept their corpses and used them to create a family and give them the love that they never had when they were alive. There's a knock on the front door, and Soames figures that it's the state troopers. He goes to get rid of them and Doran insists that he has to get out because Soames is insane. The funeral director says that Doran can't go because he belongs there.

When the two state troopers get no response at the door, they prepare to leave. They hear gunshots and break down the door to investigate. Following the blood trail to the cellar, they find Doran, dead from his wounds, sitting at the table with the other corpses. The troopers recognize all of Soames' family, and find him sitting at the head of the table, mortally wounded. With his dying breath, Soames tells them that his family are gathered in his "living room" and have his love, and that he is their father and Doran is his son.

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