021 – Mirror Image

Original air date – 2/26/60

Written by Rod Serling  |  Directed by John Brahm

Starring Vera Miles, Martin Milner, Joe Hamilton, Naomi Stevens

Set entirely at a bus station, Mirror Image (watch here on imdb) is another iconic episode brimming with suspense but sadly falls short on the ending.
Vera Miles plays Millicent Barnes, a woman sitting on a bench at a bus depot in Ithaca, New York, waiting for the bus to Cortland. When the bus runs late, she approaches the ticket counter to ask about the train’s progress. The ticket agent snaps back at her that he doesn’t know when the train will arrive, and tells Millicent that she has been asking him the same question over and over again all night. She insists that this is the first time she has bothered the station agent with any questions until she sees a suitcase identical to her own sitting behind the counter while hers is still next to the bench.

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When she points out that the suitcase looks identical to her own, the ticket agent snaps at her once again. He tells her that the bag is indeed hers. She checked it in herself a while ago. Of course, when she turns back to look at the bench, her suitcase is gone.
Milllicent, vexed by the strange goings-on, seeks refuge in the restroom to collect herself. There she finds a cleaning lady who comments on how Millicent was in the restroom only moments before, though Millicent has no recollection of an earlier visit. She begins to think that she’s the victim of some elaborate prank, when the restroom door opens and she sees sitting on a bench in the depot a mirror image of herself!

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Now Millicent is feeling like she is losing her mind. She leaves the restroom and returns to the bench (but where did her mirror image go?), where Millicent is befriended by a fellow passenger, Paul Grinstead (Martin Milner), who happens to be waiting for the same bus. Paul is so charming and easy to talk to that she quickly confides to him about how her world has turned topsy-turvy for her in the last few minutes.

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The bus finally arrives. Millicent is about to put the mind-bending episode at the bus depot behind her when she spots a mirror image of herself already sitting on the bus!

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Millicent gasps, runs back to the bench and faints. Being the gentleman that Paul is, he forgoes getting on the bus and runs back to the bus depot to take care of her. Now with the bus gone, Paul, the ticket agent and the cleaning lady are left wondering what they are going to do with her for the rest of the night.

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When Millicent wakes up, she starts theorizing to Paul about the possibility of her experience being a parallel universe. Now, if Millicent lived in the age of Comic-Con, Paul would have gone along with her. But since her theory is too out there for him, he decides to call the cops without Millicent knowing.

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The cops pull up. Millicent gets whisked off, but not before she turns to give Paul the look of disappointment for his betrayal.

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Back in the bus depot, Paul puts down his briefcase and is about to take a nap on the bench since the next bus is not until tomorrow when suddenly his briefcase is disappears. Then he catches a glimpse of a mirror image of himself running out the door. Paul gives chase but his doppelganger gets away…

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I love the premise of this episode, but unfortunately, Serling’s treatment of a parallel universe irks me. Why would the mirror image Millicent and Paul not be every bit as alarmed to see their own doubles as the Millicent and Paul who exist in what we assume to be ‘our’ universe? The apparent lack of awareness of the mirror image doubles makes the who plot seem like an elaborate prank indeed.
This is the third TTZ episode to be directed by John Brahm who previously directed another iconic episode Time Enough At Last and not-my-favorite Judgment Night. As for Miles, she played here a woman with a good head on her shoulders finding herself in a mysterious situation. A year later, Miles would play yet another woman with a good head on her shoulders finding herself in an even more extremely mysterious situation when she went searching for her sister Marion Crane in Psycho.
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