CBS’s The Twilight Zone
2×09: “Try, Try”
Directed by Jennifer McGowan
Written by Alex Rubens
* For a recap & review of 2×08, “A Small Town” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “You Might Also Like” – click here
Claudia (Kylie Bunbury) is working on her dissertation, going to museums and looking at a series of indigenous masks. She takes notes on her phone using the voice recorder, keeping all her thoughts organised. She’s at home in grad school, but maybe a bit too at home because it sounds like she wonders if being an academic is really what she wants out of life. She’s so distracted recording her notes she nearly gets creamed in the road by a Dingle Moving truck when a guy named Marc (Topher Grace) pulls her out of its way. They have a little laugh, then head on their separate ways. They end up at the same place, though. Marc buys her a ticket into the museum they’ve both arrived at, but still, he goes his own way.
While Claudia’s taking more audible notes on masks she’s again approached from behind by Marc. This time they get talking for more than a handful of seconds. He makes an awkward segue into talking about the thick book he’s been carrying around with him. He does make good points about high v. low culture in his discussion of the novel. They continue on with more conversation and Claudia starts to get more interested in Marc. They get to talking about her dissertation on masks, why she’s doing a PhD. Then she equates her feelings about academia currently to how you feel after being sick and it’s like a “new beginning.” Marc takes Claudia to another mask exhibit, running off a few silly jokes. Out of nowhere he catches a water bottle thrown near them. Eerie reflexes. Sort of the way he almost knows what Claudia might say next before she says it. Just cutesy first-time meet stuff? Or something more sinister?
The Narrator calls it a “blind date,” the kind you’d only find deep in the Twilight Zone.
“A day is what you make it, right?”
Claudia finally actually finds out Marc’s name and, coincidence, she had a crush on a guy named Marc with a C in the 7th Grade. She “thought the C was sexy.” It’s a vivid memory of hers. Marc thinks it’s a cute story. He talks about feeling compassion for oneself, not being hard on ourselves but rather accepting parts of us. He pulls another strange move when he asks Claudia if she’d like some gum, just prior to somebody dropping a pack next to them on the ground. Marc then says he had a childhood fantasy of getting in the big canoe at the Museum of Natural History. Perfect place for them to be, no? And Claudia’s again struck by coincidence, as she tells Marc that she had the same specific fantasy as a kid. He steps on into it, urging her to join him. She does, after a little coaxing. It’s like Marc knows, for certain, the guard nearby won’t look over. Once in the canoe together things turn romantic. Claudia knows there’s “a secret” about Marc. She wants to know before they get any more intimate. They get out of the canoe, but he forgets his book— Lords of Imbecility— and she forgets her phone.
That’s when Marc says Claudia hasn’t met him before, yet he’s met her. He claims to “know everything.” He knows personal things about her— that she feels caged, that she has insecurities about her love life, and so on. They get chatting about a large sculpture briefly, each of them with a differing opinion about power and how it’s wielded. Finally, Marc tells Claudia he’s been “working on this date” for a long time. He’s been trying it over and over. He’s waking up to the same morning, every single day, perpetually. Life’s been going on for everybody else. But Marc’s “stuck in a time loop.” Of course it sounds like he’s full of shit. He reels off more things impossible for him to know while Claudia’s mind all but implodes. He can predict when people next to them will sneeze. He’s relived the same day a thousand times over. All he cares about anymore is him and Claudia.
The museum’s become like a joke to Marc while reliving the same day forever. He takes up an oar and plays around with it to show how one security guard’s essentially oblivious. Claudia tells him that’s an artefact with meaning to people, but Marc goes on further and actually slaps her on the ass with the oar, acting as if she’s cool with it because he knows her “so well.” Quite creepy. He’s like a space-time stalker mansplaining existence for her. Not only that, he’s been basically manipulating events to his purposes. Things don’t go exactly the same all the time. Practice makes perfect. The whole situation freaks Claudia out. She’s had no control over this and Marc has been exerting power over her with space-time trickery. Marc could’ve used this time loop for some greater purpose. He’s used it for an extremely selfish purpose. He wants Claudia to love him like he’s come to love her. But she doesn’t want that. He’s also kind of blaming her for the time loop, like she can break him out of it, placing a huge burden on her.
We see the entitled male privilege come out of Marc fully now: “You‘re lucky I‘m nice,” he tells Claudia. Super sinister. He keeps harping on about how much effort he’s put into this ‘date,’ as if she’s suddenly going to fall into his arms because of what he perceives as effort when it’s actually just terrifyingly creepy behaviour. He gets on about freedom again. Claudia makes the distinction that she wants actual freedom, to not be harassed, whereas he only wants freedom to do what he feels like “without being judged.” That’s a fundamental distinction between men and women: men want to do what they feel like doing without repercussion, women simply want to be safe and free to do as they choose when it comes to their own bodies/lives.
Claudia makes a great point about consent, digging into Marc about “no backsies” because, in some iteration of this situation, she once said ‘yes’ to his romantic advances— as if one ‘yes’ to a man means a woman can never again say ‘no’ to him. Well, then Marc reveals he doesn’t even see her as a real human. He’ll get “another try” tomorrow. A slippery slope to justifying horrific things. Marc ultimately doesn’t care what he does to Claudia because tomorrow, for him, everything resets. So she takes off running, initiating a cat-and-mouse game until she figures out she’s going to have to kick the shit out of him. He gets real nasty, using the word ‘triggered’ like an idiot and putting on cultural masks to make a mockery of them. He gets one of the swords from the exhibit, too. Claudia punches the mask right off his face, then gives him another one, and another, knocking him to the ground. Security guards show up to haul Marc off. Claudia cracks him another one on his way out. The next day, everything repeats. Marc doesn’t stop Claudia from nearly getting hit by the truck, but she doesn’t get hit. Marc’s left “in a prison of his own design,” stuck in that loop with only himself and his awfulness in the end.
This episode is such a perfect sci-fi look at male behaviour and the abusive ways men wield power over men to get what they want from them. It’s also a hopeful episode in a way because Claudia uses her own power to show Marc that women are not weak, nor helpless as too many men want to believe. A supremely unsettling episode. One of my personal favourites of the series. Disturbing sci-fi with a couple really great performances to hold it up.