Five Characters in Search of an Exit

"Five Characters in Search of an Exit" is episode 79 of the television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on December 22, 1961.

"Five Characters in Search of an Exit"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 14
Directed byLamont Johnson
Teleplay byRod Serling
Based on"The Depository" by Marvin Petal
Featured musicStock from "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim"
Production code4805
Original air dateDecember 22, 1961
Guest appearance(s)

Opening narration


A uniformed U.S. Army major wakes up to find himself trapped inside a large metal cylinder, where he meets a hobo, a ballet dancer, a bagpiper, and a clown who, ironically, seems to be the one among them all who reasons the most. All of them have different theories regarding their presence here, although they admit none of them are realistic. They also have no memory of who they are, or how they became trapped, and they don't seem to have any need for food or water. The major, being the newest arrival, is the most determined to escape. He is told there is no way of either breaking through or climbing up the cylinder.

Eventually, the major suggests a plan to escape: forming a tower of people, each person on the other's shoulders. However, the dancer at the top of the tower is still a few inches short of the cylinder's top, and a loud clanging sound shakes the cylinder and sends the five tumbling to the ground. Now even more determined, the major fashions a grappling hook out of loose bits of clothing and his sword. By reforming the tower, he manages to grapple onto the edge of the cylinder. As he turns to survey the area surrounding the cylinder, he tumbles to the ground outside. The clown inside the cylinder briefly bemoans the loss, admitting that the major was right after all: they're all in Hell.

The scene cuts to a little girl picking up a doll from the snow, in the dress of an army major. The cylinder is a Christmas toy collection barrel for a girls' orphanage, and all five characters are nothing more than dolls. The loud clanging was the ringing of a bell, used by a woman to attract donations; she tells the girl to return the doll to the barrel.

The final shot is of the five characters, now seen as dolls with painted faces and glass eyes. The ballet dancer moves to hold the hand of the major as her eyes fill with tears.

Closing narration


Episode notes


  • The episode was reportedly an inspiration for the 1997 film Cube.[2]
  • The TV series Felicity paid homage to "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" in the season 2 episode 11, "Help for the Lovelorn"; it was directed by Lamont Johnson.[3]


  1. Zicree, Marc Scott (1982). The Twilight Zone Companion (Second ed.). Sillman-James Press. p. 234.
  2. "Biography of Vincenzo Natali". IMDb. Retrieved 2011-08-04.
  3. Chan, Lisa (2001). "Sophomore Year (Season 2) Episode 11: Help For The Lovelorn". Archived from the original on 2001-03-07. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
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