DISCLAIMER: This recap contains spoilers for the episode. Please proceed at your own caution!

Here we go again! Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 30,000 feet” seems to be a spiritual successor to one of my favorite original series episodes.

Opening Narration: “Settling in for a 13-hour transatlantic flight to a land rife with ancient mysteries is Justin Sanderson. Mr. Sanderson’s occupation is to uncover unbiased truth. But with an hour left before certain doom, he must ask the right questions of the right people. Landing at the truth this time will require an unscheduled stop over, in The Twilight Zone.”

The episode begins with our protagonist Justin Sanderson (Adam Scott) who is being put through a future version of an airport body scanner. Justin happens to be a journalist, and after passing through security, he notices a magazine stand and recognizes a story that he wrote featured on the front page. Justin reaches for a magazine at the same time as another man, who recognizes him from TV. The man introduces himself as Joe Beaumont (Chris Diamantopoulos) and asks for Justin’s signature.

Justin later gets a phone call from his significant other prior to boarding the flight. During the conversation it’s revealed that Justin saw some messed up things during his time in Yemen that gave him PTSD. She tells him that she doesn’t think it’s a good idea for him to go on his trip, but he assures her that everything will be fine.

As Justin boards the plane, he notices a flight attendant telling a family that their child must have his own seat and they would be moved to the main cabin. Justin offers them his first class seat and makes his way to the main cabin of the plane where he notices Joe seated a couple of rows behind him.

Justin reaches into the seat pocket in front of him to retrieve the plane safety information card, however he notices and old school MP3 player inside. The display shows that a paused file, entitled “The Tragic Mystery of Flight #1015, was last being played. Justin decides to listen and the narrator begins mentioning events that occur on the plane as Justin observes them happening simultaneously, before finally saying that the plane will disappear from radar somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

After the opening credits the podcast continues and explains that it has previously covered airline mysteries in the past but that this flight was the most interesting. Justin attempts to have his seat mate confirm what he is hearing, but the gentleman declines before moving seats. When the narrator predicts that a bird will hit the plane engine and it comes true, Justin has an anxiety attack and heads to the lavatory.

Upon returning to his seat, Justin repeatedly presses the flight attendant button trying to get their attention. Justin franticly begins asking whether or not they hit a bird and starts to raise his voice in frustration as the attendant tries to calm him down. After the attendant leaves Joe appears in the seat behind Justin, confirming that they did indeed hit a bird. Joe also explains that he was a pilot in the past.

Justin begins listening once again as the pilot warns the passengers of turbulence due to an upcoming storm. While he listens, Justin pulls out a pen and paper and begins to jot down notes before searching the plane for anything suspicious and approaches two men who are using a cell phone. As he argues with the men asking them to turn off the device the flight attendants appear and force Justin to return to his seat.

The podcast goes on to explain that a certain passenger on the plane is in witness protection hiding from the Russian Mob and speculates that they could have possibly sabotaged the plane in order to eliminate him. It also reveals that an Air Marshal is aboard the flight, and Justin begins searching for them. Justin approaches Joe and questions him about being the Air Marshal, to which he declines repeating that he is only a former pilot.

Justin then approaches two eastern European looking men who are sleeping and begins searching their belongings for any clues. A bag falls from the overhead bin onto them, waking them up in the process. Justin mentions the name of the man in hiding, Mr. Orlov, who neither man ends up being. The whole event causes a large commotion on the plane in which the real Mr. Orlov hears his name spoken, causing him to rush after Justin. The pilot comes into the cabin and warns Justin to immediately return to his seat, which he does after noticing that everyone looking at him. After he does, Justin plays the podcast only to hear his own name mentioned as a person of interest.

Justin learns that video of his actions on the plane were uploaded online prior to the plane disappearing before the pilot forces him into the galley. Justin attempts to explain things to the Pilot before he is arrested by the undercover Marshal for making threats against the plane. The Marshal listens to the podcast but refuses to believe it. Justin grabs the MP3 player after the Marshall leaves her seat and continues to listen.

Joe then appears and sits next to Justin before telling him that he overheard him earlier believes his story about what is going to happen. Justin remembers that Joe is a pilot and wants him to fly the plane somewhere safe. Joe explains that it’s impossible as he doesn’t know the code to the cockpit. Justin guesses that the code is 1015, the number of the flight. They make a plan to get Joe inside and once they are ready he starts walking up the isle as Justin watches from his seat.

Reaching the door, Joe punches in the code and quickly enters the cockpit slamming the door behind him. The screens around the plane show him assaulting the pilots and taking control of the plane. The passengers begin to panic as Joe informs them via the cameras that he is the new Captain. After incapacitating all of the passengers except for Justin, Joe then thanks him for teaching him that the past is gone and it can’t comeback.

The plane then begins to descend into the heart of the storm before disappearing. Justin then wakes up on a rocky beach before taking in his surroundings and realizing that he is alive. The wreckage of the plane is submerged in the water behind him and he finds the MP3 player still intact. The narrator explains that a rescue search went on for months before all of the passengers except for Justin were found alive. Justin then sees the boy from the family he helped earlier as more passengers appear on the beach and approach him. The angry mob blames him for their circumstances and attack him.

Closing Narration: “In his final moments, Justin Sanderson made the case that he did everything he could to avert disaster. But in the end, he was an investigative reporter unwilling to investigate himself, until it was too late. Justin discovered that the flight path to hell is paved with good intentions, and it passes directly through The Twilight Zone.”

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The Twilight Zone is streaming now on CBS All-Access



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