Eye of the Beholder
Janet Tyler (revealed) – Donna Douglas
Janet Tyler (under bandages) – Maxine Stuart
Doctor – William D. Gordon
Janet’s Nurse – Jennifer Howard
The Leader – George Keymas
Reception Nurse – Joanna Hayes
Walter Smith – Edson Stroll
Narrator – Rod Serling
We open on a hospital room with a bandage on her face. A nurse comes in and tells the lady that it’s time for her medicine. She asks the nurse what it was like outside. If it was warm and sunny with clouds and a pretty blue sky. The nurse supposes so. She doesn’t stare at the sky much. The bandaged lady grasps the nurse’s hand and says that she loved to look at the sky. If you stared at clouds long enough they look like different things. The nurse takes her temp and the lady asks when exactly she can get her bandages off. The nurse says that it depends on how bad her face is. The lady in the bed says that it’s pretty bad, huh? The nurse reassures her that she’s seen worse. Wow. How very comforting. Janet (the bandaged lady) says that she knows how bad her face is. Ever since she was a little girl people have turned away from her in horror. In fact, her first memory is of another little girl screaming when she looked at Janet. She starts to cry a bit and clutches the nurse’s hand again. She never wanted to be beautiful, not like a painting or anything (apparently Picasso’s, Dali’s and Escher’s don’t exist in their world). She just wants to be ‘normal’ looking. For people not to scream in terror. The nurse hushes her and to make sure she stays hushed she sticks a thermometer in Janet’s mouth.The nurse asks if it really matters how long it will be since Janet has waited this long already. Janet can’t really answer because of the thermometer in her mouth but shakes her head sadly and slowly.
The nurse walks to the Nurse’s Station to give her report to the doctor and have a smoke. While there she chats with another nurse about Janet. She wants to know if Nurse #2 has ever seen Janet’s face. Nurse #2 says that she has and if she had that face she’d kill herself. Damn, woman. I guess compassion isn’t a big thing in your society. Nurse #1 says that Janet is a “poor thing” for wanting o live no matter what. Gee, self-preservation, what an odd concept. As they stand there being judgmental a shadow walks by the outer curtain. It looks a little malformed but as it rounds the corner we see it’s Rod Serling.
Suspended in time and space for a moment, your introduction to Miss Janet Tyler who lives in a very private world of darkness. A universe whose dimensions are the size, thickness, length of the swathe of bandages that cover her face. In a moment we’ll go back into this room. And, also in a moment, we’ll look under those bandages. Keeping in mind, of course, that we’re not to be surprised by what we see. Because this isn’t just a hospital. And this patient in 307 is not just a woman. This happens to be The Twilight Zone, and Miss Janet Tyler, with you, is about to enter it.
Two figures chat behind a curtain, a doctor and a nurse. He’s giving instructions. The nurse leaves and the doctor comes in to talk to Janet. We can’t see his face, the camera is solely on Janet. He tells her that it’s very warm today. He also tells her that they’ll have the bandages off soon and he expects she’s pretty uncomfortable. She says she’s pretty used to the bandages on her face. He agrees and says that she should be, it’s her ninth visit there. She corrects him and says that it’s her eleventh. She waxes melancholy a bit, saying that sometimes she feels as though she’s lived her life in bandages and hospitals. She says it’s a bit comforting, though, being inside her gauze cave. It’s very private and no one can ever see her.
She asks suddenly if it’s hopeless. He says it’s hard to say. Weirdly, he runs his hand down her leg as he walks to the window but it doesn’t really look like he’s trying to feel her up but is either trying o be comforting or is distracted. He says that she hasn’t responded to shots, medications or any other proven techniques. He still has his back to the camera as he looks out at the lovely cardboard city. He says that she’s stumped them. Nothing he does makes any difference. He’s hopeful that this last course of treatment is successful but they won’t know until they get the bandages off. It’s also unfortunate that, in her case, plastic surgery is not an option because of her bone and flesh type. She says that this is it, after this there won’t be any more treatments and he agrees. Eleven is the mandatory number of treatments/experiments that they’re allowed to do.
Janet asks what now? He says they won’t know until they get the bandages off so try not to get so down about it. This last treatment may have worked. She seems to be a realist, though, and asks him what happens if it did fail? He says there are alternatives. She wants t know what they are and he says “Don’t you know?” It seems she does but doesn’t want to say it. Ok, now they’re scaring me. They’re not going to kill her are they?!
He goes on a bit about why these rules are in place. Each person has a (state, presumably) given right to try to blend in as much as they can with society. He tells her to think of all of the time and money spent to make her look ‘normal’, the way she’d like to look. She begs the doctor to go outside for a little while to feel the breeze, smell the flowers and pretend that she is normal? If she sits out there in the darkness then the whole world is dark. She’s not just a grotesque woman with a bandage on her face and a special darkness. She clutches onto him and begs him to help her, to please help her belong and to be like everybody.
The doctor is at least a bit more compassionate than the nurse, he holds her for a minute while she cries. He tells her that there are people who share her misfortune of being, different, and there are other people who look much like she does. One of the alternatives that is available, just in case, y’know, is to allow her to move into a special area with other people like her are living. She doesn’t seem to find this appealing since she starts to cry/laugh at his word choices of “people of my kind” and “congregated”. Then she totally loses her shit and says “No! You mean segregated, not congregated. Segregated in a ghetto designed for freaks!”. He talks to her sharply and tells her that she’s not being rational. That the state (told you) is not unsympathetic, it’s doing all it can for her, her being in the hospital proves that. He says that there’s no way she could live among normal people if the treatment fails. She says she could try. She could wear a mask or a bandage. She wouldn’t bother anybody, she’d just go her own way. She could get a job, any job. Then she starts getting angry at the state for making all these rules that people who are different have to stay away from people who re normal.
He tries to calm her down but she says that the state isn’t God. It hasn’t the right to penalize somebody for an accident of birth nor to make ugliness a crime. She runs to the window and unlatches it and sticks her head out saying that she can feel the wind and smell the flowers. He tries to pull her away and she begs again to get the bandages taken off. She then tries to pull them off herself but he restrains her hands. Nurse #1 and Nurse #2 come running at the commotion and help the doctor trundle her into bed. He agrees to take the bandages off and tells the nurse to get an anesthetist.
Before the bandage removal, the doctor is catching a smoke in, I’m guessing, the doctor’s lounge. One of the anonymous nurses comes in and tells him he looks tired. He agrees. She says that she knows it means a lot to him. He says he knows he’s supposed to stay impartial but he tries everything possible, everything humanly possible but in the end he’s just crossing his fingers for luck. And sometimes it happens. Not often but enough to convince himself that he’s not being foolish in hoping for one. The nurse tells him that he’s making himself a wreck and that he shouldn’t get personally involved. He knows this but still…
He says that he’s looked under the bandages. The nurse interrupts and says she has too. It’s horrible. He tells her that he means that he’s looked underneath the pitiful, twisted lump of flesh. Deeper than the misshapen skeletal mask. He’s seen her ‘real’ face. Her true self. He says that it’s a ‘good’ face, a human face. The nurse understands but she admits that it’s easier for her to think of Janet as human when her face is covered by bandages. The doctor wants to know why? Why should they feel that way? What’s the difference between something beautiful and something repellent? Is it skin deep? No, less than that. Why shouldn’t people be allowed to be different? The nurse tells him to be careful. That what he’s saying is treason. She tells him that this case has upset his balance and his sense of values. He tells her not to worry, he’ll be all right once the bandages are off, once he knows for sure one way or the other.
Back at the nurse’s station one of the nurses is telling the doctor that Leader will be speaking that night. She slides down a future-y screen and trumpets sound and the screen looks a bit static-y for a moment and then The Leader comes on to talk about glorious conformity and the delight everyone should have over being unified.
In the hospital room the doctor is about to remove Janet’s bandages. He asks that she remain rational, with no tantrums. She nods in agreement. He tells her that he’s going to unwrap the bandages slowly so that her eyes can become accustomed to the light. He says that the treatment may have had some effect on her vision so he wants her to keep her eyes open and describe to him the gradations of light that she sees. If she starts freaking out then he’ll have the nurses hold her down and put her under sedation. She promises that she’ll behave. He starts to cut away the bandages.
They finally get down to the last layer of bandages. He asks her if she’d like a mirror but she says no, thank you. He asks her to listen for a moment. They’ve done all that they can do. If it’s been successful then great, there shouldn’t be any problems. However, if it was not successful then she can live a long and fruitful life among people like herself. She asks, in the advent that she is still ugly, then couldn’t she be put away? The doctor says that under certain conditions the State does provide for the extermination of ‘Undesirables’. But there are many factors to be considered with that. They’d rather not execute her for her ‘disability’ but have her go live with others like herself. She seems very resistant to this, though. She asks if he’ll make her go and he says yes, probably. He wishes her “every good luck” as he takes off the last bandage.
They finally undo the last bandage. The nurse screams, the doctor drops the scissors and says, “No change, no change at all!” Janet raises her head to reveal…a very lovely woman.
She feels her face and starts to cry and freak out. They hold her against the wall, ready to sedate her. Now that the lights are on we can see that all of the ‘normal’ people have pig-monkey faces.
I guess beauty really is in the ‘eye of the beholder’. Janet runs from the room and they chase after her. She runs by a screen where their Leader is still giving his speech that “there must be a single norm, a single entity of peoples, a single virtue, a single philosophy of government. It is important in this society that we not only have a norm but that we conform to that norm!” The screens are pretty much everywhere that Janet is running to and it looks like he’s chasing her down to yell at her for being ‘different’. He continues to rant that “Conformity we must worship and hold sacred. Conformity is the key to survival.”
Janet runs into a room where she is confronted by a man who is ‘ugly’ like her. She gets scared and kind of oozes down to cry on a table. The doctor tells her not to be afraid. That the man is a representative of the group that she’s going to live with. The doctor says that oddly, she’s run right to him. I think they’re going for a “meant to be thing” but the line is worked in very awkwardly. The doctor gently pulls her up and tells her not to be afraid, the man won’t hurt her. He introduces her to Mr. Walter Smith, who’s in charge of the village group to the North. Mr. Smith is quite a good looking guy. He gently takes her hand and says that they have a wonderful village with wonderful people. Once she’s there, with her own kind, she’ll feel a sense of great belonging and she’ll be amazed at how little of a while it will take her to adjust. That she’ll feel as though she’s loved, and she will be loved. Mr. Smith nods to the doctor to leave. He still has Janet’s hand but she’s still cringing away from him.
He tells her that they can leave at any time and if she’d like to get her things now? She asks him why they have to look like that and he says he really doesn’t know and that once they get to the village it really won’t matter.Then he tells her about a very, very old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” He tells her to repeat that to herself. He holds out a hand to her and she comes to him. On the other side of the door are nurses and the doctor. The doctor tells Janet goodbye and she and Mr. Smith walk off, hand in hand.
Now the questions that come to mind, here is his place and when is it? What kind of world where ugliness is the norm and beauty the deviation from that norm? You want an answer? The answer is, it doesn’t make any difference. Because the old saying happens to be true: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” in this year or a hundred years hence. On this planet or wherever there is human life. Perhaps out amongst the stars. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lesson to be learned, in the Twilight Zone.
Such a great episode. And, unfortunately, no matter how far we seem to progress it’s still relevant. If anyone recognizes ‘Janet’ it’s Ellie May Clampett. I wonder why they had two different actresses to play the parts? Perhaps Donna Douglas wasn’t willing to do half the show wrapped in gauze? Can’t say I blame her. For someone with claustrophobia it would be very confining.
Join us again next week for Twilight Zone Tuesday: Nick of Time with Shatner in one of his more subdued roles.