"Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room" is the third episode of the second season of The Twilight Zone, and was first broadcast in October of 1960. It starred Joe Mantell as low-level hood John Rhoads and William Gordon as gang boss George.

John Rhoads is sitting in a flop house room (four dollars was cheap, even by the standards of 1960). He is nervous, because he is a small time criminal, who has always been driven into action by those stronger than him. His boss shows up in his room and asks him to do a job that is more than the usual fencing and burglary he has been accustomed to: to murder a bar owner who has not been paying protection money. He begins to debate with himself whether he wants to do this, a debate that takes a supernatural turn towards the literal. This is one of several Twilight Zone episodes where we could doubt that there is anything supernatural: it could be that what is happening in this episode is a metaphor. The action of the story is contained to one room, and to what is more or less a monologue, but the story still manages to reach a dramatic conclusion.

One of my first notes on this story is that it is perhaps the first Twilight Zone episode in the "noir" genre to use that genre to effect. Whereas other crime stories have seemed to have used "tough guy" imagery for cheap sensationalism, and in a cartoonish way, this unspectacular story of a small time criminal in a cheap hotel room seems to mine noir for drama. And the second point about this episode is that it is, indeed, a drama. David Gerrold, (who would become, a quarter century later, a writer for the Twilight Zone) wrote a book about Star Trek in which he defined drama succinctly: drama is where a character has to make a decision. Many Twilight Zone episodes somehow obscure their drama because they are about a concept or an oddity. In a story about a baseball playing robot, no one ever has to make a decision, because the situation drives itself. But this story lets the natural drama of the situation, the story of a criminal deciding how far he will go, blend naturally with the concept of the eerie or unexpected that is presented in the episode. For that reason, I consider this story to be a good episode, even though the sparseness of the production (two actors in one room) might make it seem rather limited.

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