The Twilight Zone

Season 3 Episode 23

The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank

Aired Unknown Feb 23, 1962 on CBS

Episode Recap

Two young boys attempt to peer into the church window at the casket containing Jeff Myrtlebank - a local resident who died after a brief but deadly fever. As the minister extols his virtues, the casket lid opens and Jeff sits up alive and well. The mourners - and the two boys - flee.

When Jeff emerges from the church, he finds his parents, little sister, fiancee Comfort Gatewood and her family, plus all the others standing outside. He is told that he died two days earlier which he dismisses as silly. Neither his parents nor Comfort will come near him until little sister, Liz, runs to him for a hug.

The doctor suddenly blusters that it is a rare European disease that only simulated death and the Myrtlebanks go home.

However, Jeff has changed. His mother frets at the number of eggs he eats, but also points out that he works a lot harder than he used to. His father agrees and sends his daughter out to the mailbox.

While there, she encounters the two boys and casually mentions her parents' concerns. Before long, the news of Jeff's change has spread through town and alarmed citizens begin to wonder if he's really Jeff Myrtlebank. At the general store, the local men discuss the possibility that Jeff's body was taken over by a spirit and even the doctor admits he made up the rare illness to alleve the family's concerns, assuring the men that Jeff was indeed dead.

Orgram Gatewood is not at all happy when Jeff comes to call on his sister, but Comfort dismisses his concerns. Jeff enters and they play a new bluegrass record when he presents her with some fresh flowers he picked along the way. They have died. Spooked by the incident, Comfort refuses to let him touch her and angers him. He knows what is really bothering her; it is what is bothering everyone. He expects suspicion from the neighbors, but not from his intended bride and asks if she's still going to marry him.

When she cannot commit, he storms out. Assuming the worst, Orgram goes out to tell Jeff not to come back. Jeff cautions him about making him angry and Orgram finds this amusing. As children, Orgram beat Jeff and chased him quite a few times, but Jeff points out that they haven't fought...lately. Quickly enough, Jeff exhibits a skill at fighting that no one in the small town has.

Orgram tells the men at the store that he is convinced that the man is not Jeff Myrtlebank. Feeling that Orgram's story is the final straw, they decide to ask Jeff to leave town and go to confront him.

Comfort overhears this conversation and goes to warn him. He tells her he wants to marry her and asks for her answer. The group of men arrive and present their case. He tells them he's waiting to see what Comfort says and she finally answers that she will stick by him.

He tells the men that he intends to marry Comfort and live in town. If he is who he claims to be, he is no threat to them and they have nothing to worry about. If, however, he is not Jeff Myrtlebank, they have much more to fear from him if they do not treat him nicely.

Realizing that they cannot risk his ire if their concerns are valid, the men agree to allow Jeff to stay and become very friendly. When alone, Comfort asks if he really could do all that he threatened. He tells her that he was just making it up and taking advantage of their superstitions to keep them from bothering him. While talking, he lights his pipe...without striking a match. When Comfort notices, he bemusedly tells her she should stop imagining things.
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