Tales From the Darkside 116: Tear Collector

This is one of those episodes where I miss Rod Serling. Now, to be fair, I haven't seen an episode of Twilight Zone in so long that I could be remembering this all backwards, but I'm pretty sure that somewhere in his introduction he mentioned the title of the episode. Or maybe I'm thinking about Alfred Hitchcock. Either way, the point is that if this title was read aloud by someone I'd know for certain if this episode concerned a collector of tears (as in crying), or tears (as in ripped clothing).

Although the fact that the show opens on a crying woman certainly makes a persuasive argument in one direction.

A self-pitying woman speaks about her life-long depression in voiceover while her cheerier roommate tries to get her made up in time for a blind double date. Their debate basically boils down to the sad woman complaining about how sad she is, and the roommate demanding to know why she can't just be happy.

The fact that neither of them has considered therapy and medication, what with her lifetime of sadness qualifying as chronic depression and all.

The next day the sad woman is accosted on the street by a homeless man who may be played by Eric Bogosian, considering that he sounds almost exactly like him.

Fleeing from the encounter, the sad woman runs into Victor Garber, a matinee-idol-handsome stranger:

Who seems oddly captivated by the sad woman's tears. But why? Could he be the tear collector of the title? I don't know why I'm acting as if this is a mystery - he tells her that he's been searching for someone who's capable of feeling all the sadness in the world, and then hands her a business card-

So yeah, he's the titular collector. The custom license plate on his car even says 'TEARS'. But what's his game? Are the tears used to summon a demon, or does he just drink them to become aroused, like that guy in Hannibal (a detail that was, thankfully, cut from the film).

Filled with curiosity, the sad woman visits Victor's shop some indeterminate amount of time later. She finds the place uninhabited, so she naturally wanders around, picking through the antiques until Victor shows up, startling her. This, naturally, starts her crying, which is exactly what Victor was counting on! Making her as comfortable as possible on a divan, Victor interviews the sad woman about her sadness, and she reveals, thankfully, that she'd considered going to a therapist, but decided that she didn't want help or pills, she just wants to cry.

Which, I'm just going to say it, is the point at which involuntary commitment really ought to be considered.

Victor's in full support of the crying, however - he even takes out a glass swan designed to catch her tears.

That picture is there so you won't think I'm making this up. Victor, it seems, shares the ancient Chinese belief that tears are where men meets the divine, for it's only man who is blessed with the ability to cry.

There's an awkward moment as Victor escorts the sad woman from his house and pays her for her tears - she's reticent, because just having the tears collected has made her feel better, almost as if Victor is trapping her sadness in the crystal swans. Treating it like a kind of therapy, sad woman continues going back to Victor, and begins asking him why he preserves the tears she cries. He doesn't offer a great explanation, which frustrates me since I'm wondering the same thing.

Victor does explain, however, that the tears of profound sadness have different chemical properties, which he's somehow been able to identify. He implies that, in a way, it's her own tears that are causing her sadness, and the fact that she's spent a lifetime trying to fight her tears and wipe them away she's really been clutching the sadness inside of her. It's only by allowing herself to shamelessly cry that she can let the sadness out, once and for all.

You know, if it wasn't for the crystal swans, this would be a fairly standard therapy technique.

Speaking of swans, Victor takes sad woman through a locked door to his 'room of ancient sorrows'.

He claims that these tears have been collected from across the ages, and that soon hers will be part of his collection. Is he an immortal? Why do I feel like this isn't going to get a firm resolution?

Back at the apartment sad woman's roommate has noticed an improvement in her mood. She's (rightfully) concerned about the five hundred dollars though, intuiting that anything secretive that involves cash payments can't be entirely wholesome.

He intuition is validated by the next scene, in which Victor spends some quality time with the sad woman's tears, possibly listening to the sadness they radiate.


Sad woman comes to visit Victor as he's enjoying the vial - it seems that she's developed something of a crush on the immortal sadness-obsessive. He can't return her affections, however, and he insists that she try to cry once more. Sad woman simply isn't sad any more, and she needs some help to get the tears out. Victor knows exactly what to do: He kisses her, and the waterworks start.

Is this a normal response to kissing Victor Garber? Gentlemen, care to weigh in?

With the final tears captured, Victor explains that he'll have no more need for sad woman, and breaks her heart a little by explaining that they can't see each other ever again. She's shocked and disheartened by this, especially when she runs into another tear-factory on the way out of the small house.

Feeling betrayed, sad woman sneaks back into the tear repository and grabs her swan, accidentally knocking over a few vials in the process. When they strike the ground the vials (or perhaps their spilled tears) let out anguished wails, attracting Victor's attention. Also creeping me and the sad woman right out. She tries to flee, and yells at Victor about the fact that her tears were the only thing he ever wanted from her. You know, in Victor's defense, he was completely open about that from the start.

Sad woman runs out into the street, where she's almost struck by a taxi - the fright causes her to drop the swan, which breaks without all the drama of the ones from the room. The taxi's passenger runs out to make sure she's okay, and the smiles they share let us, the audience, know that the happy woman's going to be find from here on out.

You know, I'm not entirely sure what was going on in this episode, but it was effectively eerie, even if it never attempted to go for the horror that the show is themed around. Excellent restraint, Tales From the Dark Side.

Although I've got to say, over the centuries Victor's standards have certainly sunk when it comes to picking the tears he collects. The two bottles he shows off are 'An Aztec man, weeping at the sight of his destroyed civilization', and 'A confederate mother, who will never see her son again'. Pretty intense emotions there. These days he's just grabbing the tears of women who are thrown into a malaise by the disconnectedness of modern life.

Setting your sights low there, Vic.


shenmue_1986 said...

Just got done watching this episode. As they are doing a marathon today from 8am tell 3 pm. I had seen this episode before but it had been a while I plan on getting the tales from the dark side complete set eventually off either Amazon or Ebay whatever one has the best price when I decide on buying it. But anyways as far as the Tear Collector goes it is a fairly decent Episode of a man collecting tears go get other people to feel better. That would kinda be a quite lonely existence but also at the same time a very worth existence in the fact that he is helping people overcome there tears and after there vial is filled they move onto happiness and he move's onto the next unhappy person and start's all over again. If I was that sad and met that guy I would have to say I would find the idea very strange and I don't know what I would do I think he would scare me a way. But I guess if I knew the outcome and I cried as much as her I would go through with it. over all I would give that episode a 6/10. A little above average. A nice story but but nothing to special.

shenmue_1986 said...

By the way I just read what I had wrote over and dumb me I completely forgot to say what channel the Tales From The Darkside marathon was running on. Well anyways it's running on the Chiller channel. A fairly decent channel. Although I wish they would show some of the more prominent older horror movies.

Anonymous said...

The director's cut of this episode concludes with the collector using the tears as fuel for his immortality bestowing genesis machine... Also, robot monkeys, an entire legion of them.

Anonymous said...

What the hell was that ending, really? There are some good ideas in this episode, but overall it's a mess.