Monday, October 26, 2020

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 2 Episode 14 (The Whole Truth)

George Carlin once said that if honesty were introduced to politics, that the system would fall apart.  You would think that honesty would count for something.  Certainly, you don’t have to lie all the time.  It’s generally considered a good trait to tell the truth.

Harvey Hunnicut would rather lie his way to an easy buck.  He has his own used car lot and would seem to typify the stereotype of a lying about everything.  If he told you the weather was bright and sunny, you’d look out a window to make sure.

The episode starts with Harvey trying to sell a clunker to a young couple, only to have the car fall apart on him.  As they’re looking it over, a man drives another used car in for Harvey to buy, which he does for $25.  There’s just one catch:  The legal owner is compelled to tell the truth, no matter how hurtful or damaging it is.

As you might expect, things go south for Harvey.  He can’t sell a car.  He’s compelled to tell his wife that he’s actually playing poker when he says he’s doing inventory.  He even loses his one employee, who only wants a raise.  Harvey almost sells the car to Honest Luther Grimbley, a politician.  Before they can close the deal, the two hatch a plan.  A visiting foreign dignitary will be steered to Harvey’s lot so that this dignitary can be the car’s next victim. 

There are certain Twilight Zone episodes that I am just now seeing for the first time on Netflix.  In most cases, like The Whole Truth, I can see why they don’t make it into the normal rotation.  It’s one of the weaker episodes.

On the face of it, there is a lesson to be learned.  Yes, truth is good.  If your girlfriend’s grandmother makes her special casserole, you don’t say anything, no matter how bad it is. 

The problem is that Harvey is an out-and-out liar.  Sure, he could be honest.  There’s nothing stopping him from buying better cars or fixing up the ones he has.  He could easily be more truthful.  Then again, there does come a point where it is acceptable to lie.

The twist ending is also kind of weak.  It’s implied that international relations will take a sharp left once the whole truth starts coming out.  There isn’t any sort of punch.  I don’t know if it was supposed to be funny or satirical.  Most world leaders would probably handle their affairs through intermediaries, so some of the damage could be mitigated under the right circumstances.   There’s only one explanation that I can think of: Harvey did one good thing in his life by at least trying.


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