The Twilight Zone Season 2 Episode 2 Recap: Downtime
In Episode 2.02 of The Twilight Zone, after a recent promotion to hotel manager, Michelle (Morena Baccarin) feels like she’s on top of the world, but any cause for celebration is short-lived when the nature of her reality is called into question. Colman Domingo and Tony Hale also guest star in the episode written by Jordan Peele.
After officially receiving her promotion as hotel manager from her newly-retired boss Reggie, who tells her she picked the right life, Michelle celebrates with the rest of the hotel staff before jumping into her new role. That role includes dealing with difficult guests, such as Mr. Desmond and his wife. After reminding her employee Geoffrey that you have to be extra reasonable even with the most unreasonable clients, Michelle chats with her husband Carl over the phone about mastering her new job as “Miss Manager.”
When Michelle hangs up, though, she suddenly experiences a searing headache and her heart begins to pound. When the episode passes, she notices that people all around her have all stood up and are staring at a singular point in the sky. When Michelle spots the large orb hovering above them, she’s confused why none of the onlookers are running. Instead, they are responding as though the existence of the blinking sphere is completely natural. A woman asks Michelle how long Downtime is supposed to be before she, too, stares at the orb and goes into a trance.
Peele, as our narrator, officially introduces the episode: “Michelle Weaver is a woman who’s worked her entire life to get where she is in the world. Now, as this new chapter begins, it’s the world itself that’s about to change. She’s about to take a break from life as she knows it and book an extended stay here in The Twilight Zone.”
Michelle runs into a cop on her rush back home. He explains that the red orb is there for scheduled “world maintenance” before falling into the trance himself. Michelle finds Carl inside their home, seemingly okay, and tries to explain to him what is happening outside. Suddenly, Carl begins speaking in a very thick Irish accent, saying that he completely forgot about the scheduled Downtime signal and then tells Michelle his name is Danny and he’s going outside to “wake up.”
When Michelle expresses more confusion at this game Carl, or Danny, is playing, he realizes she doesn’t remember who she is. Carl tells Michelle he’ll send someone to help her, before he stares up at the blinking light and falls into the Downtime trance. Michelle goes back into her house and is followed by two men who claim to be customer service who are there to diagnose the issue. When they realize that she doesn’t know who she is, they ask her to watch a video.
The video introduces Michelle to Sleepaway package, the newest in identity tourism. Essentially, it’s an alternate reality, monitored and controlled by their servers with people’s brains being used as the computer. The only rule is you have to stay in character as you inhabit your character’s avatar.
S. Phineas Lowell
Michelle is told that her character is being played by a man named S. Phineas Lowell, who had a heart attack during gameplay and is now in a coma, which is why Michelle doesn’t remember being Phineas and that she is actually an avatar. The customer service reps say they can do a force-unsync, but Michelle demands to know what that means for her, because she is Michelle Weaver, not Lowell.
Ellen, Phineas’ emergency contact (and his wife) comes into the room to try and help “wake” Phineas up. Ellen demands that customer service leave Michelle alone and says she wants to speak with her in private. Michelle tells Ellen she’s not leaving and is going to wait until the Downtime signal is over. Ellen says she understands why Phineas wanted to experience Michelle because the avatar is strong, brave, in control, and beautiful. Ellen warns that if Phin doesn’t unsync before Downtime is over, he’ll be lost forever.
Ellen kisses Michelle and tells her that she can feel him and believes her husband of 15 years, father of her two kids, is simply trapped. Michelle finally gives in, saying she’s willing to try and see if they can wake Phineas up. At the last second, though, Michelle backs out, while Ellen has already slipped into Downtime.
Michelle attempts to hide during the last few minutes of Downtime as customer service searches for her. A bird spots Michelle in a window and lets out a high-pitched roar that draws more customer service reps to Michelle’s location, who are determined to find her within the next five minutes before world maintenance ends.
On the hotel’s roof, Michelle meets Tom, escalated priority customer service, who apologizes for the inconvenience. Tom says that when Downtime ends, players are going to be logging back in again, millions all over the world. He tells Michelle that if she wants to stay, she can, she just needs to sign a waiver. Michelle bristles at the thought of Phineas being swept under the rug, but Tom says his family is taken care of. Michelle decides she can’t live in the world knowing she isn’t real and that Phineas has a real life with family out there. Tom tells her that Phineas drank a “sleeping pill smoothie” causing the heart attack and that if she logs out, there’s nothing to go back to because Phineas has since passed away.
Michelle says she thinks he can feel Phin now, though; Tom encourages her to play the game and continue running the hotel as she wants. Michelle signs the waiver as Tom tells her the only rule is she has to stay in character. Michelle doesn’t understand the point of playing anymore. But, Downtime ends, the orb disappears, and the game begins anew. Michelle continues as the hotel manager and happily welcomes back Ellen, who checks in as a guest hoping to stay for a few weeks.
Our narrator closes out the episode: “How would you feel if you spent your life making your dreams a reality, only to find out that reality itself was a dream all along? You can never know what makes something real but today Michelle Weaver has found meaning in an otherwise synthetic world. And that’s good enough for her, here, in the Twilight Zone.”
What did you think of Episode 2.02 of The Twilight Zone? Let us know in the comments below!