The Twilight Zone

Season 3 Episode 20

Showdown with Rance McGrew

Aired Unknown Feb 02, 1962 on CBS

Episode Recap

Rance McGrew arrives on set to film the new scene for his Western television series. Rance tells everyone to get set up and informs the director on how to film him. The crew goes to work and Rance, the marshal in his TV series, prepares for the scene. As he twirls his pistol, the cast and crew duck for cover as Rance inevitably throws it through a mirror. After they get a new mirror, they finally start filming the scene and Rance's character enters the saloon. He manages to miss the bartender sliding him a bottle and they refilm the scene again. This time Rance manages to hit his cues and the villain of the week, a black-clad Jesse James, comes in. Rance manages to throw his revolver through the mirror again. They then go to the fight scene where Rance's stuntman comes in for all of the fighting scenes. They set up for the death scene and the actor playing Jesse insists that the real Jesse James never shot anyone in the back. Rance overrides him and they start to film the scene as scripted.

Suddenly all of the actors and crew disappears, and Rance finds himself drinking real whiskey. He looks around and discovers that he's in a real saloon, with real people, in the real Old West. The real Jesse James comes in and a desperate Rance yells "Cut!" Jesse insults Rance who readily accepts it and then pours out drinks. Rance is unable to either drink or roll a cigarette. He tries to get out but Jesse calls him back and says that Rance does well enough in the show, but he's never fired a gun or rode a horse in real life. Jesse figures he's a fake despite Rance's protestations. Jesse and all the other Old West villains are disgusted with Rance and how he always wins, beating their screen incarnations. Jesse is there to represent the others and tell Rance that it's time for him to lose. He calls Rance out on the street and tells them they're going to have one fair gunfight. When Jesse steps on to the street, Rance is in hiding. Jesse forces him to come out and counts to fight. Rance drops his gun and begs for his life, promising to do anything Jesse wants. Jesse considers and figures they can make a deal. He doesn't know what he wants yet but he promises to think about it.

Rance finds himself back on the set in the saloon. At first he can't believe what happened. When they prepare to shoot, Rance's new agent arrives: Jesse, wearing a California agent's outfit. He says he's going to stick around and make sure that Rance plays it realistic. For his next scene, Jesse has the fake Jesse knock Rance through a window. Rance goes through with it and Jesse starts reviewing his future scripts to make sure the bad guys are properly represented.