image credit Robert Falconer, CBS
The day has finally arrived! Twilight Zone fans have been eagerly awaiting the 2019 Jordan Peele helmed reboot since it was first announced. Much to our surprise not one but two full hour episodes were released on CBS All Access on Monday, April 1! Let’s get to the recap!
The first episode, The Comedian, opens with a shot of a mural painting while a voice over by comedian Samir Wassan, played by the stellar Kumail Nanjiani plays over it. The camera cuts back to reveal the painting takes up an entire wall in the back of a comedy club, Eddies, and you immediately notice a couple of glaring easter eggs here. Firstly, Jordan Peele is a big fan of Stephen King’s work, particularly The Shining going so far as to add references and homage’s to the film in many of his works, and the painting in this episode evokes the picture in the film by King. The second is to an episode from the original The Twilight Zone, “Eye of the Beholder” as a couple of the faces portrayed in the painting seem to be distorted in a way to resemble certain characters in that classic episode.
Samir’s voice over continues as he is shown to be on stage doing a bit about the second amendment supporters and gun regulation detractors. The joke is about how one side of the gun issue thinks that only soldiers should have machine guns and that the other side is saying that you can’t regulate guns because of the second amendment. Samir then points out the irony in this stance by reciting that the amendment begins with “A well regulated” which is 11% of the entire word count. He likens this to a plane crashing into the ocean, and after seeing the room’s indifference to the joke, decides to end his set.
Samir then makes his way over to the bar and orders “something cheap and brown with no ice.” As Samir sits at the bar, a woman approaches to his right and they share a smile before breaking into laughs. She suggests adding some actual jokes to his routine, but Samir rambles on about certain shallow jokes before exclaiming “Didi if you don’t make people think then your comedy’s never going to matter.”
Didi, happens to be Didi Scott, a fellow comedian who is booked at the club and is played by the phenomenal Diarra Kilpatrick who is the real star of the episode. She defends her routine exclaiming that people like her act and that she has fifty-nine thousand followers. Samir then jokes that he should be like Joe Donner (Toby Hargrave), a fellow comedian who drinks too much, seated close to where they are. Didi looks towards Joe before looking back and expressing her disbelief.
Joe did something in which the legal system ruled it wasn’t murder, Didi reveals. Samir, however says that they fucked that up. Didi then tells Samir that funny is funny and that Joe, not Samir is funny. They exchange barbs as she departs the room, much to Joe’s amusement.
Samir’s attention is then caught by a voice he hears from behind him quoting J.C. Wheeler, a legendary comedian and Samir’s idol. Samir’s finishes the quote as he spins around in his chair to come face to face with J.C. himself (Tracy Morgan) who was seated to the left of Samir at the last stool near the wall. Samir, realizing this, stumbles over his words as he moves to the empty barstool next to the icon. After some small talk by Samir in which he remarks that J.C. had it all before he disappeared, J.C. looks gives Samir a sharp look in the eye before asking “I had it all?”
After a beat J.C. tells Samir that he saw the set. Samir obviously asks the legend for any advice semi launching into a bit about exchanging his girlfriends dog for said advice. J.C then tells him that what he just said was funny, funnier than the second amendment anyway. Samir launches into an explanation of why he thinks its funny before being cut off by J.C. who yells out “Next!” Confused by this J.C. explains next topic, to which Samir laughs before asking again if he had any notes on his act. J.C. tells him to stop with the politics as the audience doesn’t care about what he thinks, they care about him.
Samir asks if him using personal experience is a cop out to which J.C. explains that them the audience does want to hear Samir make points, that him dating a high school girl is interesting. Samir tells him that he isn’t dating a high school girl to which J.C. remarks “that’s comedy.” Samir still feeling uncomfortable continues to pepper J.C. with questions about providing insight. J.C. asks Samir what he wants out of his career and if he wants it all to which Samir replies “yes more than anything.”
J.C. tells him that he has one natural resource and that he is going to tell him a secret. J.C. explains to Samir that if he puts himself out there then he will get laughs and be successful, before asking him if he is sure that’s what he wants. After Samir confirms that he does, J.C. doubles down on his warning telling Samir that once he puts it out there the audience will take it in a connect making it theirs, and once it’s theirs it’s gone forever. Samir confirms that he got into comedy because he wants it all. Samir and J.C. then toast their drinks.
A moment later Joe is finishing his set before handing the mic off to Samir. Samir begins his set by launching right back into his second amendment bit but stops as the crowd is once again not into it. Samir decides to switch lanes as he tells the crowd they should look at their faces as it the exact same expression his dog has when it’s pooping. As the crowd laughs Samir, noting their reaction continues into the new bit. As he continues talking about his dog, the crowd keeps laughing, fueling him forward.
Samir is then back home at his apartment, looking around and calling for his dog but the dog is nowhere to be seen. Samir enters his bedroom and falls onto the bed next to his girlfriend Reena (Amara Karan) waking her in the process. After telling her of his success that night at the club, Samir asks her about the dog. Reena is bewildered by this and tells him she is trying to sleep. After again asking for the dog, Samir is shocked when Reena tells him that they don’t have a dog.
At this point host Jordan Peele makes his debut performance in the role as hints of the original score eerily build as he speaks. Always a well spoken individual, Peele’s words and cadence feel incredibly similar to series creator Rod Serling and it’s a welcome familiarity. The title sequence has Peele using the same voice over that Serling did however the intro graphics are much different. This sequence alone shows the love and respect that Peele has for the series as it feels fresh yet incredibly familiar.
The episode picks back up with Samir and Reena’s nephew Deven (Marc Joseph) posting flyers for the missing dog, whom Deven also doesn’t remember. Deven asks Samir what happened to a damaged bus stop across the street and Samir reveals that a very bad man who is also a comic there, Joe, got really drunk and crashed into it causing some people to die. Deven asks if the posters are part of an act before Samir says no and explains he had to google a similar dog because all of the photos on his phone were gone. Deven doesn’t remember the dog and Samir writes this off as Deven and his aunt Reena pulling a joke on Samir.
Inside Eddies, Samir asks the bartender if J.C. Wheeler was there to which the bartender laughed saying “yeah right.” Deven then explains the significance of the name Eddies to Samir attributing it’s hilarity to punctuation. Didi comes by and hilariously ribs on Samir as she meets Deven. Deven makes a joke about wanting to be a comedian like Samir, although a good one much to Didi’s amusement.
Samir again begins his set with the second amendment bit but stops in the middle of it as he notices members of the crowd, including Deven, are mindlessly browsing their phones instead of paying attention. Samir then asks if he should pull out his phone as well before comparing them to Deven, whom he jokes he can only speak to through text. Getting a laugh from the audience, Samir launches into a bit about Deven, pointing him out and telling the crowd thins such as the ribbing he endured earlier and that he isn’t even his nephew by blood making it funnier. Samir then tells the crowd to give it up for Deven Singh and they oblige him with applause. However, when Samir looks back into the crowd for Deven at his seat, he is unable to find the boy.
Backstage Didi compliments Samir on his set telling him that he brought it before Samir asks her if she has seen Deven. Didi asks Samir who he is talking about before Samir recaps the earlier meeting between the three. Didi ,still confused, leaves the room without helping as Samir desperately begins to search for Deven outside of the club. None of the people hanging around the club have seen him so Samir uses his phone’s version of Sir to call Deven Singh. The phone and Samir have a back and forth before the phone reveals that it doesn’t see Deven in his contacts. A stunned Samir confirms this by checking his contacts manually however when he looks up from his phone he sees that the missing dog sign he and Deven taped up earlier.
Back at his apartment Samir finds Reena having dinner with a friend of hers, David. Samir expresses surprise as he didn’t know that she was going to have company. After blowing David off, Samir asks Reena if he can talk to her about Deven. When Reena asks who Deven is, Samir in an exasperated tone responds that Deven is her sisters son. Reena says that she doesn’t like that joke as her sister is unable to have children. David chimes in by saying that comedy has to go to dark places because its art. As Reena and David discuss this, Samir tries to tell them that David is in a picture on the wall before realizing that the boy is missing.
Samir removes the picture from the wall and pleadingly asks Reena to remember, citing shared events from their past. Reena just stares at Samir in disbelief before he walks off into the bathroom. Reena follows him in and is surprised that he is even worried about her sister. Samir then begins to ramble about how he shouldn’t worry because Deven never existed therefore Samir couldn’t have killed him.
Samir relays his experience with J.C. Wheeler to her and as he explains what was said he comes to the realization of what is happening. Samir asks her not to send him to a mental institution while Reena, still believing this to be a bit, explains to him that putting his real life out there might be a good thing. David suddenly appears in the bathroom with the couple once again giving his input on the situation. Reena then asks David to leave the bathroom and closes the door before giving Samir a talk on how he should pursue this new avenue of success. When Samir asks her about what he should do about the people who disappear, David interrupts them yelling from the hallway.
Back at Eddies, Samir is told that he is going to be headlining and as he makes his way to the stage Joe tells Samir not to mess up but that of course he will. Samir comes onto the stage to an applause and once again begins his set with the usual bit. Samir then tries to recycle the jokes that scored before by talking about Deven but it again receives a tepid response as Samir remembers he doesn’t have a nephew anymore. After trying a bit about the president, Samir sees Joe drinking a beer and watching in the back of the club.
Samir then asks the club to give it up for the guy who was on stage previously, before launching into a verbal assault on Joe, using the previous drunk driving incident as ammunition. The crowd is loving it, Joe included, before Samir asks them once again to give it up but reveals his targets name to the audience this time, Joe Donner. When Samir looks back to where Joe was a moment ago, he is no longer there.
When Samir leaves the club he looks at the bus stop across the street to see an intact bus stop with patrons waiting. Samir knowingly says aloud that it never happened because Joe no longer exists. Two guests from the show approach Samir and tell him that he killed it on stage. Samir happily replies that he actually un killed two people, justifying his actions in his own mind. Using his newfound ability Samir begins combing through the social media accounts of people whom he is acquainted and compiles a list of people that he decides to erase.
This newfound fuel propels Samir to the heights of fame that he was so desperately trying to achieve. At a dinner with Reena later that night, she asks him about Coach Keller who Samir had forgotten about. Recalling what the rumors around school were at the time, Reena reveals that she knew about what was happening. In Samir’s next bit, he asks if the crowd if they recall how rumors would be spread around school and would become legend whether they were true or not. Samir then reveals the rumor about Coach Keller being a pervert and preying on kids was real, thus erasing him.
Samir and Reena later get into an argument about David, who it turns out was Reena’s law professor in college. After Samir accuses David of wanting to sleep with her, Reena storms out while Samir continues to yell.
Samir then sees a white supremacist on the bus which becomes the topic of his next set. Telling the crowd that he met a murderer that day, Samir watches as Reena takes her seat in the crowd. As the murderer bit fails to get any laughs, a phone notification is heard and Samir watches as Reena checks her phone only to quickly put it away once she realizes he noticed.
Samir then asks the crowd if they have a girlfriend who has a creepy older mentor prompting raucous laughs not only from the crowd but from Reena as well. The laughter grows as Samir continues before culminating with David’s full name, David Candell. Once the set ends, Samir runs into Didi at the bar and they discuss an article that touts Samir as a top comedian to follow. After Samir mocks her by telling her she should be grateful she knows someone on the list, Didi comments about his recent narcissistic attitude change prompting Samir to blow her off. This is evidenced by Samir snapping at the bartender to order his drink while talking with Reena at the bar. Samir confirms his ability by asking her about David, to which Reena has no idea who he is speaking of. As she begins to leave Samir asks her where she is going and Reena answerers that she is headed to her shift, to the confusion of Samir.
Following her out of the club Samir wonders why the law office would need her at such a late hour, to which Reena reveals that she isn’t a lawyer and angrily storms off. Samir comes to the realization that without David Candell, Reena would never have become a lawyer thus explaining the current situation. Samir follows Reena into a diner and begins to plead with her to go with him citing events from their past before quickly realizing that many of them didn’t happen due to his meddling. Reena loudly warns him not to touch her again causing the staff to ask if she was okay. Reena chides him for using the people in his life as material before starting her waitress shift. Samir continues to try and win her over but Reena counters by asking him when she was going to be used as material for his act. Samir again tries to explain his ability to her but Reena no longer cares and walks away after calling him selfish.
Back at his apartment Samir is going through his “hit list” before he throws the journal across the room. Back at the club, Didi approaches Samir offering sympathy for the recent break up only she jokes the sympathy is for him alone as Reena is better off without him. Samir then depressingly vents a bit causing Didi to ask him that if he is going to commit a murder rampage, to please do it while she isn’t there.
The club owner comes over to tell Didi and Samir that a certain show needed a new comic and that they would both be competing for the role. Samir once again begins his set with the gun control bit only to randomly change course and exclaim that his football coach was a rapist. With no response to either joke, Samir comments that they need fresh blood only to have a heckler from the audience to exclaim that they need fresh jokes. When Samir asks the man if he thinks that he is funny, the man responds that he doesn’t find himself funny. Only that Samir is not, causing the crowd to laugh for the first time since Samir took the stage.
Samir decides to ask the man and his group their names to which two of them respond Gabe and Will. They tell Samir what they do causing him to label them as some hedge fund guys. Samir and the men go back and forth about his salary before Samir launches into his takedown. As the crowd reaches it’s peak, Samir says the men’s names into the microphone only to see that they have both disappeared from their table, causing Samir to leave the stage in a near panic.
Backstage in the dressing room Didi confronts Samir asking him how he suddenly became funny while explaining that she should have won the position outright as she had been the MVP in the club for a minute. Samir explains that he doesn’t want to go on stage that night but Didi surprises him by challenging him on this choice explaining that he has been very good and that he can’t stop now. Didi tells Samir that if he was chosen over her then she would be happy as it would be a good choice. She then mocks him as she is called to the stage before giving him a kiss and revealing that if she was straight that she would probably sleep with him out of respect for his talent.
Samir turns around after she leaves and looks at the Eddies sign and hears Deven’s voice explaining the meaning to him once again before he loses his cool. The club owner comes into the dressing room telling Samir that he is on after Didi. Samir asks if the shows representative is in attendance to which the owner confirms and tells Samir that this is it.
Samir watches the owner leave before J.C. Wheeler appears in the room exclaiming the same thing, that this is it. Samir asks J.C. what he did to him but J.C. tells him this is what he wanted. Samir argues but J.C. says that he warned him of the consequences beforehand. When Samir complains he didn’t know that he would be murdering people, J.C. disagrees by saying that you can’t murder people who have never existed. It’s not murder if there are no crying moms.
Samir goes to argue but J.C. continues saying that the people were never born and even though Samir believes he remembers them he is wrong as they are gone, prompting Samir to ask where they went before he is called to the stage. J.C. encourages Samir to finish what he started as he is so close to attaining his goals and tells him to weaponize his ability and bring down the house. Samir then watches the crowd cheer on Didi’s set laughing the entire time.
With the crowd still cheering Samir begins to ask them to give it up for Didi but stops short of saying her name into the microphone for fear of what might happen. With his voice cracking in hesitation he asks the crowd to give it up for Didi Scott, causing her to be erased.
Samir’s bit consists only of names but the crowd is laughing more and more as he continues naming people including his own parents. After going through several names people begin to fall out of their chairs with laughter before someone in the crowd begins to loudly boo causing Samir to stop and ask them to read the room.
Samir locates the heckler and sees that it’s Reena. Samir tells her that she shouldn’t be there as an audience member tells another that the performer kills hecklers . Reena reveals that she found the secret to his act, the journal of names and eggs him on to use her just like she did the others. Samir then agrees with her that he has been selfish but that he wants to talk about someone else. Samir wants to talk about himself and the crowd immediately responds with laughter.
Samir then begins talking about his own vanity and pointless aspirations of fame and popularity. Samir concludes that he is a bully and has been selfish before exclaiming that he only had one final thing to give. He then finally yells a final phrase into the microphone, “Ladies and Gentlemen I’ve been Samir Wassan!” causing the microphone to fall lifelessly to the floor as the crowd roars to a standing ovation.
Deven is seen running into the lobby where he meets Reena and says that the show was really funny. Reena then tells Didi that her set was hilarious, and Didi thanks her before taking a seat at the bar. To her left sitting on the last stool near the wall is J.C. Wheeler who tells Didi that he saw her set. Didi politely asks him if he has any notes to which J.C. sinisterly smiles in response. The camera pans away to Jordan Peele who is closing out the episode with a final monologue. When he finishes, the camera zooms into the wall painting behind him to reveal that Samir himself has now been added.
The Twilight Zone is streaming now on CBS All-Access