Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Zoning Out: The Hitch-Hiker

Remember: Spoilers ahead!!

~ The Hitch-Hiker ~

Season 1, Episode 16
Original air date: 1/22/60

Poor Nan Adams (Inger Stevens).
Driving cross country from New York to California, she no doubt thought that the flat tire she got was going to be the most trouble she had. After stopping at a garage to have it fixed, she notices a man hitch-hiking.
Ignoring him, she drives off - only to find that everywhere she goes, the hitch-hiker (Leonard Strong) appears. Miles and miles of landscape pass her by, and still the hitch-hiker plagues her - standing at the side of the road.

At a railroad track, the man seemingly coaxes her across the tracks, only to have the car stall with a train barreling towards her. Naturally, the hitch-hiker is there, staring at her. In the nick of time, the car starts and she is able to back off the track.

After witnessing the hitch-hiker's sly grin, she realizes he wanted her to get stuck on the track - and that he was trying to lure her to her death.

She continues on, state after state, driving into oblivion. The man is at her every stop, watching her, gesturing for a ride. In New Mexico she tries to lose the man by getting off the main highway. She finds a gas station that is already closed for the night and wakes up the owner, trying to get him to see her plight. Unamused, the man sends her away till morning.

She then runs into a serviceman (Adam Williams) out on leave hitching his way back to his base, so she hurriedly convinces him to ride with her the rest of the way to San Diego. It's obvious that she's scared to death to be alone, and feels more secure having a passenger.

But when her guest and her begin chatting about the possibility of a man (the hitch-hiker) being able to get from town to town before her, the hitch-hiker suddenly appears and she swerves the car to attempt to hit him - twice. Freaked out, the serviceman rights the car before she hits a tree and pretty much decides she's flipped her lid. Having not seen the hitch-hiker himself, he decides to get out of the car, but she pleads with him to the point of suggesting they get busy but he's just not buying what she's selling. Realizing she's on a one-way ride to the funny farm, he bolts and warns her to get some sleep.

Completely distraught, Nan stops at a diner to use a pay phone to call her mother, thinking speaking to someone familiar will stop all the madness she is experiencing. But instead of talking to her mother, she gets an unexpected voice on the other line. A woman she doesn't know explains that Nan's mother is still in the hospital recovering from a nervous breakdown that she had after learning of her daughter's death. Apparently she'd been driving cross-country when she blew out a tire and the car overturned, killing her.

It is only then that Nan realizes that the man - the hitch-hiker - was there all along to help her understand that she is dead and to "ferry" her to the other side. Returning to the car, she sees the hitch-hiker in the back seat of the car, who tells her "I believe you're going...my way."

This episode was originally a radio play, written by Lucille Fletcher and adapted by Rod Serling.
The music is composed by Bernard Herrmann of 'Psycho' fame, and is the same that was used in the play.

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