Tales From the Darkside 121: Bigalow's Last Smoke

This isn't the episode I've been talking about - the one I'm searching for because it terrified me so thorougly as a teen. Nevertheless, I remember this episode of Tales From the Darkside almost perfectly. Which is a little weird, although it could be the subject matter struck a chord with me decades ago and I've just had it kicking around inside my head ever since. In fact given the clarity with which I remember James Woods' segment from Cat's Eye, that's almost certainly the case.

Yes, for anyone who hasn't seen that film, I'm saying that this is an episode about a man being forced to quit smoking. That's him waking up in a daze, searching in vain for the cigarettes he remembers stashing in his night table. Bigalow stumbles around the apartment, puzzled that his television isn't working - of course, in a quantum conundrum, the television only doesn't work when he's looking at it. When he turns away, the face of popular character actor Sam Anderson appears!

Finally Bigalow realizes something's amiss when he notices that his windows have been barred over, and the 'sunlight' from outside is actually being proejcted by a series of lights. This isn't his apartment at all, but rather a set designed to look like it! But why? Oh, right, to help him quit smoking, I already said that part.

Sam finally starts addressing Bigalow, letting him know that he'll remain locked inside the fake apartment until he gives up cigarettes, once and for all. Sam remains nebulous as to who he represents, or why they're doing this, but as a show of good faith, he tells Bigalow that he'll be able to find a single cigarette inside his bedside table. Lighting it, he discovers there's a downside to smoking inside an anti-smoking prison.

The smoke detector picks up the scent and starts blaring an alarm and flashing blinding disco lights! Bigalow's left with no option but to put it out and go on with his day. Once breakfast is done he's offered tempation again, and like most addicts, he immediatley succumbs to it. Proving that something a little more complicated than simple reality is going on, Bigalow's second alarm ends more quickly than his first, but when it stops, a concrete punishment has been levied against him:

All of the furnishings in his apartment are gone! Could the lights have hypnotized him, or is something more magical going on? Sam points out that as cruel as this might seem, Bigalow signed up with a stop-smoking clinic, and in doing so he asked for all of this. He admits that he sent away for some information a long while ago, but doesn't remember agreeing to any of this imprisonment. Sam brags about the program's 100% success rate - no one leaves unless they stop smoking!

Proving that he's at least willing to consider going along with it, Bigalow doesn't smoke any of the cigarettes that Sam showers him with. So that's a step in the right direction.

Some time later an emotionally shattered Bigalow sits in a corner of the now completely-barren room, having smoked all of the available cigarettes. Aw, and he was showing so much promise before the commercial break. He hears a voice coming through the hole he kicked in the wall earlier, and goes over to talk to the man on the other side. The voice claims to be another captive, one who desperately needs a fix. Bigalow is down to his last smoke, however, and isn't quick to give it up. His lack of matches proves a powerful motivator, and he agrees after the voice promises to share the cigarette once it's been lighted on the other side of the hole.

While the conversation goes on Sam reappears on a the viewscreen, and the voice advises Bigalow to tell Sam whatever he wants to hear - it's the only way to get out! You'd think Bigalow would be a little more suspicious - after all, if the voice knew how to get out, why would he still be locked up? He's a little addled at the moment, though, so we'll give him a pass.

The interview goes well enough, with Bigalow claiming that he doesn't ever want another cigarette. But will he give in to the temptation offered in the form of a cigarette pack left in the corner. How can he smoke it without punishment, though? The man in the hole claims to know a way to disconnect the smoke detector, but he'll only tell in exchange for all the cigarrtes in the back but one. This proves to be a double cross, however, which infuriates Bigalow so much that he viciously attacks the suddenly-gigantic smoke detector:

It's at this point, the point where Bigalow is stomping on the crushed remains of the giant smoke detector, that I'm forced to wonder how much of this is literally occuring. Especially when, after the next demerit and alarm, Bigalow finds himself waking in his own bed, in a completely furnished apartment. He wonders for a moment if it had all been a dream, and finds that whether or not it was real, he has no desire to smoke any more.

The whole 'real-fake' question gets answerwed dfinitively just moments later, though, when Sam reappears on the viewscreen. It seems that he also has a problem with Bigalow's coffee intake! A nice enough twist ending, but it`s not exactly fair of Sam to pre-strip the apartment-

After all, Bigalow didn`t know he was now being treated for a caffine addiction, so how can he be expected to not take that first sip?

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