The Twilight Zone

Season 1 Episode 6

Escape Clause

Aired Unknown Nov 06, 1959 on CBS

Episode Recap

During a house call, Bedeker's doctor explains that he is in perfect health and tries to tell him that the aches and pains he's experiencing are all in his mind. Bedeker accuses the doctor of being a quack and complains about his wife's attempts to assist him. The doctor privately assures Ethel Bedeker that her husband is fine, but does prescribe some vitamins for her to deal with the stress her husband causes.

Bedeker is miffed when Ethel is given a prescription and shoos her out of the room, all the while complaining about how short a lifetime is. He wonders aloud why people have to die. A voice agrees with him and he is quickly confronted by a portly man with a jovial face who introduces himself as Mr. Cadwallader. He freely admits to having many names, but points out that words are just words. Engaging in a conversation regarding semantics, Cadwallader offers Bedeker immortality or, as he calls it, extra free time. In return, Bedeker will give him a small piece of his make-up - his soul. Bedeker astutely recognizes that this is the devil.

He drives a hard bargain with him anyway. He wants indestructibility along with no changes in his appearance. Cadwallader also offers an escape clause in the contract. If Bedeker should ever grow tired of living, he may request that his life end at that time and his demise will be provided quickly and with not a lot of suffering. Bedeker agrees.

After Cadwallader leaves, he tests his new-found indestructibility by putting his hands on a steaming-hot radiator. Noting that his hands aren't burned at all, he tosses out his pills and pronounces himself the New Walter Bedeker.

He handles his new lease on life unusually. On a subway platform, he waits until the train is nearing, then jumps onto the tracks. The train runs over him with many witnesses watching in horror, but they are shocked to find the man himself perfectly fine.

Bedeker quickly makes a good living purposely jumping into danger and receiving cash settlements from the companies involved. Ethel, not understanding why her husband is treating these near-death experiences in such a blase manner, tells him he should be grateful when he complains about how bored he is. Knowing he won't die makes putting his life in danger completely unexciting.

He explains to her that he made a deal that gives him immortality, but she thinks he's lost his mind. Pouring a concoction of ammonia, iodine and other toxic liquids into a glass, he downs it in front of her and experiences no side effects. He declares that he's going to jump off of the roof and she follows, protesting.

Trying to prevent him from jumping, however, she accidentally falls off herself. Bedeker handles her death with barely a reaction, but realizes he may be able to solve his boredom problem. He returns to their apartment, calls the police and confesses to murdering his wife.

In jail, his lawyer is perplexed at why his client doesn't seem to want to help his case at all. He cautions Bedeker that a guilty verdict could result in the death penalty. Bedeker, eager to try the electric chair, assures his lawyer that a huge electric bill will be the only effect should they try to execute him.

Nevertheless, Bedeker receives the shock of his life when, after being found guilty, the judge sentences him to life in prison without parole.

As he waits in the jail cell to be transferred to the penitentiary, he ponders what a lifetime in prison will do to him. The guard tries to reassure him that a lifetime for a man his age is not likely to be very long anyway.

When alone, he is joined by Cadwallader who asks if he would like the escape clause invoked. Bedeker agrees and Cadwallader tells him he looks like a man having a heart attack. Bedeker instantly drops to the floor and dies.