Tales From the Darkside Episode 106 – Slippage

Okay, now this is a weird one, as actor David Patrick Kelley, familiar to fans of things that are great as T-Bird from The Crow, plays a commercial artist working away at his drawing table. Rich, his character, is having a bad day. First his boss can’t seem to find his paycheck, and then his partner Chris reveals that they call they’d been waiting for – recruitment to a prestigious advertising agency, had already come – but Rich hadn’t gotten a similar job offer! With treatment like that, is it any wonder the man spends most of his day staring into a mirror, contemplating his own existence?

Desperate to feel valued in any way, Rich phones home to talk to his wife, who’s in the midst of some stereotypically 80s aerobics.

She reports that he, as usual, hasn’t received any mail, and then encourages him to call the advertising agency to find out what happened with the job offer. Why hasn’t he gotten the offer? It seems that they haven’t been able to confirm any of CV – his personal records were destroyed in a fire, and although he’s sent away for replacements, none of them have arrived yet! Not only that, but his portfolio has mysteriously disappeared from the agency’s files… what could all this mean? Is he a con man? A guy in witness protection? Probably not, since this is a horror-themed show.

Back at home things don’t seem as bad – work’s not going well, but at least Rich has a loving wife at home. Things are a little strange there too, though. Rich subscribes to his hometown’s weekly newspaper, and he discovers that his local high school closed, and he missed the reunion. A call to his best friend from childhood, the head of the reunion committee, proves unsatisfying, as he only manages to reach the man’s wife, who’s never heard Rich’s name!

It begins to seem like some kind of conspiracy is brewing – not only isn’t Rich getting any mail, but suddenly his wife is getting mail under her maiden name… is this a convoluted betrayal, is his workmate (and wife’s old friend) Chris somehow involved? What’s the significance of the fact that Rich’s favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life”?

Looking for some kind of reassurance, Rich heads to his mother’s house, and finds that the old woman there, “Mrs. Hall” not only doesn’t know who he is, but claimed that she never had a son!

After a brief commercial, we cut back to Chris and Rich’s wife, who are flipping through Rich’s yearbook, looking for people who could reassure Rich about his own existence.Rich’s wife, proving either that she’s kind of scummy or suffering from the same forgetfulness as everyone else in the world, even starts coming on to Chris! Just then the phone rings, and it’s Rich, who’s gone walkabout since the incident as his mother’s. Chris demands to know where he is so they can talk, and at the same time our questions about how supernatural this whole situation is are answered, as Rich’s photo fades from the yearbook!

Chris rushes to the office to meet Rich, who’s working away on a drafting board. While Chris tries to reassure Rich and drag him home, Rich sees no point to it. He’s figured out what’s going on, but doesn’t do the best job of explaining it.

Then, in genuinely effective ending, Chris rushes back to Rich’s house, desperate to tell Elaine what’s happened.

Earlier in the episode Rich mentioned that Elaine had left college to marry him – now look what’s replaced the wedding photo by their door!

Chris tries to explain what happened with Rich, but he’s confused by Elaine acting like the two of them are married, and by the end of the conversation even he’s forgotten who Richard was.

The episode then ends with a stinger as Richard, now invisible, leaves through the front door, never to be seen again!

So, that wasn’t especially horror-y, now was it? A little creepy at the end there, and I think what will stick with me most will be the complete lack of a coherent explanation for exactly what happened to Rich. Are they saying that you should call your mom, lest you cease to exist? If so, you’d better get on that.

Also, I didn’t really notice the similarity until that door opened and closed on its own right at the end, but wasn’t that the plot of a Buffy episode back in season 1? The one that ended with the assassination manual that consisted of Beatles lyrics?

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