Twilight Zone Tuesday – Escape Clause

Escape Clause

Walter Bedeker – David Wayne
Cadwallader – Thomas Gomez
Ethel Bedeker – Virginia Christine
Doctor – Raymond Bailey
Narrator – Rod Serling

Written By: Rod Serling

You are about to meet a hypochondriac. Witness Mr. Walter Bedeker, age 44. Afraid of the following: Death, Disease, Other People, Germs, Draft and everything else. He has one interest in life and that’s Walter Bedeker. One preoccupation: the life and well-being of Walter Bedeker. One abiding concern about society: That if Walter Bedeker should die, how will it survive without him?

I love Serling when he’s snarky. You can usually tell what the episode is going to be like just by his voice. In this one he has a very “This guy is going to get royally screwed over. Let’s watch and enjoy” tone.

Mr. Walter Bedeker is in bed, wrapped up to the chin, with a doctor checking him out. Walter’s convinced that he’s dying but the doctor assures him he’s fine. Fine and dandy, actually. Walter whines about pains in his back and side and the poor baby hasn’t slept in four nights. The doctor tells him it’s psychosomatic. Walter takes offense at this. The doctor tells him that he’s fine except for his imagination. Walter is a very healthy man and the reason he can’t sleep is because he worries about himself too much.

Walter thinks the doctor is a quack because the doc’s not telling him what he wants to hear. Walter’s wife comes in, asking the doctor if Walter’s ok. She looks very, very tired. Walter tells her the doctor’s an idiot. When his wife tells him not to exert himself he bitches about her whispering. He says she’s half the reason he’s sick, “This woman goes around whispering, making me think I’m sick even when I’m not-and I am!”

Wow, that’s some twisty-turny logic right there. The doctor says he’ll be back tomorrow. Walter tells him not to bother, just bring the death certificate with him because he’s at death’s door. Walter’s wife gets upset and he crabs at her to stop faking it. He thinks she’d love to see him gone (he’s probably right).

The doctor goes to leave and Mrs. Bedeker sees him out. As they’re walking out she asks how her husband is, really. The doctor says Walter’s one of the healthiest patients he’s ever had. The doctor notices that Ethel’s looking a bit run down and prescribes some vitamins for her. I can’t imagine why she’d be run down. Walter is calling right then from the bedroom that there’s a draft and he feels a coma coming on. Perish the thought.

Ethel hurries back to the room to close the window and prevent the 8,900,000 germs (all with Walter’s name on them we can presume) from getting in. Walter accuses her of trying to kill him and if so then to do it more subtly. She responds that the doc said it was too stuffy and Walter needed some fresh air.

He wants to know who the prescription is for. He thinks it’s for him of course and that the doc is out there telling Ethel he’s dying while telling Walter that he’s fine. She tells him that they’re vitamins for her. He just can’t believe that they’re for her and snatches it out of her hand. She’s trying to fix the bed and he throws a little tantrum and tells her to leave him alone. She’s far more patient than I would be.

As she’s trying to leave, leaning on the door (the poor woman looks tired as hell) Walter’s ranting and raving that a man’s life is so short. That it’s not fair…blah blah blah…whine whine whine. His might not seem like that if he weren’t belly-aching and whining in bed when he’s perfectly fine.

He finally lets her leave and continues to gripe to himself. He’s so intent on his bitching and moaning he doesn’t even notice when another voice chimes in. A portly gentleman slowly phases into the room. The stranger wholly agrees with Walter. The portly gentleman introduces himself as Cadwallader. At least, that’s the name he’s using at the moment.

Walter freaks out, wondering how Cadwallader got in. Cad says he’s been there quite some time. He wants to propose a bargain. Walter is quite skeptical. He wants to know what Cadawallader can do for him. And, more importantly, what Cadwallader wants of him. He just wants a teeny tiny eensey-weensey, never-miss-it thing called a soul. In all of these ‘deal with the devil’ stories they never consider that if it’s such a ‘teeny little thing’ why would the Devil want it so bad?

Ever-so-smart Walter figures out that Cadwallader is the Devil. Wonder what tipped him off? Cadwallader/The Devil offers Walter immortality and indestructibility in exchange for Walter’s soul. Walter is very thrilled that Walter Bedeker will go on and on (the rest of us are also very thrilled, I’m here to tell you). I notice that Walter could care less if his wife goes on and on with him. Walter wants to be sure there’s no hidden catches.

Dude. It’s the Devil! There’s always a catch!

Cadwallader pulls out the contract and points out an Escape Clause for Bedeker if he gets tired of being alive. Walter assures Cadwallader that he’s going to have a long. long wait. Walter looks very smug about this but somehow I doubt it. Walter signs, Cadwallader stamps with a pitchfork. After everything is signed, sealed and delivered, Cadwallader vanishes in a puff of brimstone. Walter puts his new-found indestructibility to the test by grabbing the radiator until his hands start smoking. His wife comes rushing in and Walter introduces her to The All New Walter Bedeker. Yay.

Walter goes down to the subway to have a little fun by throwing himself in front of a subway train. People are freaking out, especially the subway conductor. Walter, dickhead that he is, climbs out and commands the conductor to get their claims adjuster.

Now, I’m not in insurance and certainly no expert but I would think since he threw himself in front of the train and then wasn’t hurt at all would they even have to pay out?

Walter’s been a busy little bee in the scamming department. signing some papers for a check. On the way out Subway Insurance Guy passes Bus Insurance Guy coming in. To hell with all the poor people he’s traumatized doing his scams, I guess. Incidentally I love the lamp in the background. It’s a Pegasus. Seems a bit whimsical for Mr. Walter Bedeker, though. Must be Ethel’s touch. They also have a weird ceramic fish for a vase.

Anywho, poor little Walter is getting bored. He’s an idiot. If I were immortal and indestructible (and now he apparently has money) I’d be doing all kinds of stuff. He still hasn’t bothered to change his clothes. They’re all tattered up from the multiple accidents.

It’s only been a couple of days and 14 accidents later he’s bored already. Ethel’s concerned and more than a little confused. He misses the good ol’ days when he took all the risks by being a hypochondriac in bed half the time.

Walter decides to make himself an iodine, rubbing alcohol and ammonia cocktail. Ethel shrugs it off and brings him the ammonia. Then watches him mix and quaff it. She actually doesn’t try very hard to stop him. After his refreshment he heads up to the roof with Ethel following. She begs him to come inside and she’ll make him potato pancakes. Which doesn’t sound very tasty to me. He calls her a pancake (foreshadowing much?). He starts walking toward the edge, I’m assuming so he can jump off for fun and terrify more innocent bystanders. Ethel gets in front of him and backs up and over the edge. The pile of selfish excrement of humanity that is Walter just seems amused. He wonders if it hurt. Umm, probably you d-bag. For normal people who aren’t immortal or indestructible anyways.

Thinking he might like to take a spin in the electric chair he calls the police and turns himself in. The lawyer is annoyed because Walter doesn’t want his help. The guy’s just trying to do his job but Walter says that all they’ll get for their trouble is a staggering electric bill. Which makes me wonder…how much does it actually use and how does it get paid? The state? The prison?

Somehow the case made it all the way to the Supreme Court where I thought only appeals and stuff like that go. If anyone knows for sure, drop me a comment. Civics was never my strong suit. He’s pled guilty so I would think it would be a local trial.

The judge finds him guilty and Walter is very smug-satisfied with himself until his lawyer drops the good news/bad news: he’s talked the judge down to life imprisonment for the rest of his natural life.

Poor little Walter. Now he’s stuck in jail for eternity. I think I might cry…nope, just a sneeze, never mind. He’s only in there for a couple of days but he’s already bummed. Cadwallader pops in to ask if he wants to use his Escape Clause and Walter does. Let’s see, 60-70 years of being incarcerated and coming out looking exactly the way you went in? Or, dropping dead right then and there. Tough decision. Cadwallader says that he’s being a wise man. Cad says that Walter looks just like a man having a heart attack. Exactly like a man having a heart attack. Walter promptly keels over. The guard is very concerned for Bedeker and calls him “poor devil” . Which I’m not sure if it’s irony or the guard is just a genuinely nice guy and feels sorry for the admitted wife-killer.

There’s a saying: Every man is put on earth, condemned to die. Time and method of execution unknown. Perhaps this is as it should be. Case in point: Walter Bedeker, lately deceased. A little man with such a yen to live. Beaten by the devil, by his own boredom, and by the scheme of things in this, the Twilight Zone.

Ugh, Walter is a truly disgusting individual. Impatient, too. In the Twilight Zone dealing with the Devil is a bit like gambling at the casino. The House always wins.

Join me next week for another episode of the Twilight Zone: The Lonely. It’s a very good episode about loneliness and humankind’s need for companionship.

2 thoughts on “Twilight Zone Tuesday – Escape Clause

  1. All sorts of cases MAY be appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Court had heard cases involving $10 fines and habeas corpus proceedings, so it MIGHT review a murder case. But it would be likely to do so only if a Constitutional issue or Federal law issue of equal gravity were involved.

    A murder case would most likely reach the Supreme Court if there were some question of due process, something to do with how the trial was conducted or sentence imposed.

    In Walter’s case, were I his defense attorney, I’d be raising questions of Walter’s mental state or the ability of his defense attorney to represent him properly under the circumstances. The guy clearly wants to be convicted, so isn’t he out of his head? And let’s not forget all those accidents he was in. The guy’s a loon.

    Had the defense attorney taken that approach, the result could have been just as satisfying from Serling’s perspective, since Walter might have drawn a life sentence in an asylum for the criminally insane!

    1. Thank you! That helps a lot! I was wondering why it would have gone all the way there but that clears it up a lot!

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