An eerie tale of a woman picking up a hitchhiker and how their experience seems to them as if has happened before. The Night Gallery segment “Midnight Never Ends” is reviewed here.
Season 2 Episode 7—aired 11/3/71
“Midnight Never Ends” ***
Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Robert F. Lyons as Vincent Riley
Susan Strasberg as Ruth Asquith
Joseph Perry as Joe Bateman
Robert Karnes as Sheriff Lewis
Driving alone at night on a long stretch of deserted highway, Ruth Asquith (Susan Strasberg) stops to pick up a guitar-carrying hitchhiker, a Marine on leave, Vincent Riley (Robert F. Lyons). A series of events on their drive together suggest a strong sense of déjà vu.
He begins whistling a tune and she says she recognizes it, but he only just wrote it, so how could she? He says “standing out there in the dark, I knew it would be you picking me up, Ruth.” She also somehow knows his name is Vincent. He thinks they’ve met before. He seems to remember more of their past experience. She remembers some, then they both gradually remember more.
Shortly, they will stop at a roadside diner. “It will be closed,” Ruth predicts, incorrectly, as it turns out. “It changes a little each time,” she notices. Vincent wonders, “I’m not sure what he wants—whoever is playing with our lives.” A gun falls out of Ruth’s purse and Vincent pockets it.
The Blue Danube Café’s owner, Joe (Joseph Perry), a kind of gruff tough-guy, has been playing solitaire, counting the minutes to midnight when he is due to close. He reluctantly lets Ruth and Vincent inside, but only for a cup of coffee.
Instantly hostile to his last customers of the day, Joe questions whether Vincent’s uniform proves that he’s in the Marines. “I got hippies coming in here all day wearing the uniforms.” He begins to add, “I can remember when I was…” then trails off. Odd, he can’t seem to remember.
Ruth then predicts, “Someone else joins us. A policeman.” “Sheriff sees the door open, comes to check,” as Vincent adds his own part to Ruth’s prediction. “Right on cue,” Vincent says as a cop pulls up and enters. They all notice a strange noise, a vibration of sorts, coming from above them.
“You on some kind of trip?” the young people are asked. “Oh, brother, am I. We all are. This is a trip that never seems to end and goes nowhere,” replies Vincent in some very dated early 70s argot.
The cop asks Ruth for her driver’s license and i.d., and she has neither. He asks Vincent for i.d. and he also doesn’t have any. “When I was in the Marines, I carried a rifle, not a guitar,” the sheriff scoffs at Vincent. When asked when that was, the sheriff can’t recall. Like Joe, he, too is speechless.
Vincent says the cop and Joe didn’t exist until he and Ruth drove up. “We don’t exist, none of us,” Vincent adds. He thinks they’re puppets in a play, but he also thinks they have the ability to choose their own destinies.
Ruth says she knows what the tapping sounds from above are (they sound more and more like typing). Vincent tries to leave and is shot by the cop.
The scene dissolves into a man, who looks just like Vincent, though no longer dressed as a soldier, typing. He pulls the sheet of paper from the typewriter and crumples it and throws it into a nearly-filled wastepaper basket. A woman’s hand picks up the paper and asks, “why did you give her a gun? Ruth seems familiar to me. Should she be?” “From an old play I wrote,” replies the man. “And the Marine?” “From a tv western.” The camera moves to reveal it is “Ruth” or at least Susan Strasberg.
“You know who I think Ruth killed? Her husband. Because he left her alone too many nights,” she says and tells her husband good night. He resumes typing and we revert back to the initial scene on the road with Ruth driving and she again stops for the hitchhiking Marine. The begin to repeat that scene and that’s where we end.
It’s difficult to describe this segment well; it presents an eerie mood and one is not sure of what is going on until well into it. It kept me at rapt attention, thanks to some interesting scenery and direction from Jeannot Szwarc as well as fine acting by Susan Strasberg and Robert F. Lyons in the leads.