Our daily series of Season 2 reviews of The Twilight Zone on CBS All Access continues with Episode 4, “Ovation.” How did it do and what did we grade it?
THE TWILIGHT ZONE Season 2 Episodes:
Available on CBS All Access
I’ve often thought about what would happen if myself or my wife became famous and everyone suddenly knew our names. It’s not because I have a giant ego. It’s because I’ve seen what happens to people who have it all. Would it be a bigger house and a better life for me and my family? Would it be non-stop parties and autograph signings? Would we become sick and tired of the fame? Where would it all end? “Ovation,” the fourth episode of the second season of The Twilight Zone (now on CBS All-Access) serves to look at fame with a modicum of cynicism.
When we’re introduced to singer “Fiji” (the fittingly enigmatic musician Sky Ferreira), we only hear ambient noise, something along the lines of a David Lynch fever dream, raging ever so quietly. Even when she opens her mouth to sing, her voice is muffled. Her director tells her to envision herself “devouring her audience” and tells her to think of who she should “devour” next. When he yells “cut”, it’s nothing but applause from the time she walks off-stage to the time she sits down to relax. She tells her handler that she’s taking a walk, where she meets street busker Jasmine (Jurnee Smollett of True Blood, Friday Night Lights, Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) who sits in the city square, singing her heart out and playing guitar. Jasmine recognizes her — but doesn’t applaud like everyone else does. “What do you want?” Fiji asks Jasmine to which Jasmine says, “I guess I want what you have.” Fiji tosses a strange coin into Jasmine’s guitar case, then walks away while fans crowd her. Fiji looks back, salutes Jasmine, then steps in front of a moving bus, killing herself.
Yes, her fans are devastated — but, there’s nothing to fear! Soon, Jasmine becomes a sensation, having sung at Fiji’s makeshift memorial spot at the city square and everyone heard her. The attendees applauded. And continue to applaud. At first, Jasmine’s blown away by the new-found attention, and she’s approached by “J.J.” (Thomas Lennon of Reno 911) the host and producer of a famous talent show, “Ovation!” It all happens so fast. The suits watching applaud, J.J. applauds, fans applaud, everyone applauds. And all Jasmine can do is smile while her sister (Tawny Newsome) looks on with a mix of surprise and admiration — but never applause. It isn’t until fans begin camping out outside her house to cheer for her that Jasmine senses something is awry — even though her sister tells her that it’s only because she won “Ovation.” But, then, Jasmine botches an appearance on the show…and still gets applause. She runs to visit her sister, who’s operating on a patient, and — wouldn’t you know it — the doctors in the OR applaud her madly. Even the patient on the operating table applauds her!
The best thing I can say is that the performances in this episode are good. Smollett plays the street hustler role well, and you believe she’s a kid from nowhere, making it big. You also believe her when she gets a bit snobby about her newfound fame. It’s also nice to see Thomas Lennon here as J.J., though he doesn’t last long. However, there isn’t much to it, besides the gimmick where Jasmine now possesses a weird, secret coin that makes everyone go nuts over her. Because of that, the episode wears halfway through and feels bloody long. It’s handled in an insanely heavy-handed fashion, and the ending is something you can see from miles out — and even the ending doesn’t make any sense from a logical standpoint or a character standpoint.
At one point, Jasmine decides to throw her Lucky Coin into a nearby lake in order to end all the success she’s been having. Her sister does it for her because she’s almost attached to it. Following this, Jasmine…goes into total seclusion (a cabin in the woods) and loses her ever-loving mind? Why? Over people clapping for her? Was she that traumatized that her world is that bleak and hopeless after…what, a month? She got rid of the coin, so what’s the problem? Why can’t she just go back to playing on the street?
At best, “Ovation” is a somewhat mundane cautionary tale about the price of fame, until it becomes so convoluted, that it almost becomes a bad parody of the show it belongs to. You never quite believe what you’re seeing (even from a satirical standpoint) or the directions any of the characters take. The script (written by Misery Loves Company scribes Emily Chang and Sara Amini — who also gave us the outstanding lead-off episode, “Meet in the Middle”) feels half-baked with a silly, tacked-on twist that comes off like something a emo middle-schooler would write for a short story assignment in order to come across as edgy. “Ovation” is the first dud of the second season.
LOST IN THE ZONE
- Let’s get the twist out of the way. (HIGHLIGHT TO SEE IT): While in seclusion, Jasmine gets mail. I have no idea how the hell you’d forward your email that fast. Maybe she bought a cabin while being somewhat famous? I have no idea. Anyhow, she gets the mail, which includes a magazine subscription to her favorite music magazine. The first magazine outlines Jasmine’s rise and fall, which irks her a bit. The very next month, a new magazine arrives — only this one features a rising singer named “MYNX.” You can see where this is going. This somehow drives Jasmine insane and leads her to track down and eventually murder MYNX at an event. MYNX turns out to be Jasmine’s sister, who has somehow retrieved the coin she threw into the lake. Jasmine is devastated by what’s happened — and the audience claps and claps and claps to end the show.
- Jordan Peele doesn’t have Outro Narration for this. He simply picks up the coin, puts it into his coat pocket…then joins the audience in clapping as he walks off-screen. It’s not an unheard of thing for the narrator to do. Serling interacted with his characters once or twice. Honestly, that moment is clever and better than the episode.
- EASTER EGGS:
- The director, guiding Fiji through her music video, tells Fiji to “picture an octopus devouring its prey” and to think about “who it wants to devour next”. This is a reference to an episode later this season called “8”.
- “Ovation” (the show J.J. hosts) is brought to us by “Mr. Dingle’s Ice Cream: ice cream so good, you’ll die for it.” The slogan isn’t really elaborated upon but Mr. Dingle’s Ice Cream truck did appear last season in “Point of Origin” and Mr. Dingle is a reference to the classic Zone episode, “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.”
- The radio in the OR is by Whipple Technologies which, again, is a nod to the classic Zone episode, “The Brain Center at Whipple’s.”