"The Silence" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.
From the CBS Video Library cover:
"Wanting only to enjoy a little peace and quiet at his men's club, aristocratic Archie Taylor is infuriated by the endless prattle of fellow member Jamie Tennyson. Taylor makes him a bet: if Tennyson can remain silent for a year, he will pay him half a million dollars. To insure his silence, Tennyson must remain a virtual prisoner in the club's basement. Deep in debt, Tennyson agrees to the wager. Taylor feels sure Tennyson will soon crack under the strain. But as the weeks go by, it becomes increasingly clear that Tennyson is determined to win at all costs. Taylor is desperate to make him speak, but he has no idea to what lengths Tennyson has already gone to win the bet."
"The note that this man is carrying across a club room is in the form of a proposed wager, but it's the kind of wager that comes without precedent. It stands alone in the annals of bet-making as the strangest game of chance ever offered by one man to another. In just a moment, we'll see the terms of the wager and what young Mr. Tennyson does about it. And in the process, we'll witness all parties spin a wheel of chance in a very bizarre casino called the Twilight Zone."
Colonel Archie Taylor, a gruff aristocrat, has difficulty enjoying his men's club because of the constant chatter of fellow member Jamie Tennyson. Just as irritating is the content, which usually concludes with a transparent attempt to curry investors. One evening, his lawyer-friend George Alfred arrives to discuss a message Taylor sent to him. The colonel has proposed a wager, which is illegal in their state, but Alfred has found nothing else particularly criminal about it. Taylor then has an attendant deliver a note to Tennyson, whose subsequent speechlessness amuses the other members. Taylor explains to them that he has proposed a wager with Tennyson. He will bet $500,000 that the younger man cannot remain silent for one year. He tells Tennyson, "Your voice has become intolerable to me. I sit here each night, and the sound of it makes me wince." If Tennyson accepts the wager, he will be enclosed in the club's game room, in which a small glass-walled apartment has been erected. There, Tennyson will be monitored by microphones so that he cannot speak without detection. Any requests he makes will be made in writing, and any member may come to visit him at any time. Tennyson is offended but agrees to the wager, requesting only that Taylor put a check on deposit in his name, and have a copy available for all members of the club to view. This measure is refused by all in the club as the Colonel has a strong standing of honor and credit within the club. "My courage against your credit" is then accepted by both. Alfred cautions Tennyson that Taylor is very serious about this, but Tennyson's wife has expensive tastes and is largely responsible for his needing money. Tennyson takes the bet. Though he had assumed Tennyson would be successful for only a few weeks, Taylor is astonished by how long the younger man is able to go without speaking. After nine months, Taylor gets nervous, particularly after Alfred confronts him about having enough money to fulfill the wager should Tennyson win. Taylor offers Tennyson $1,000 to leave immediately, under the guise of being concerned about the man's welfare. Tennyson points to the calendar and writes a note in reply: "Three months to go / The bet stands!" Taylor counters by bringing up the subject of Tennyson's wife. Though Tennyson has sent several notes requesting that she visit, his wife has never responded. Taylor mentions that she has been seen around town in the company of other young men. Over the months, Taylor continues to bring Tennyson gossip about his wife until Tennyson seems ready to break. Taylor offers him $5,000 to leave the room, but when he isn't actually shown any money, the latter sees through the loophole and refuses to give up. The fateful evening arrives. The other club members are entertained by Taylor's solemn face. Alfred takes the Colonel aside and opines that Archie's underhanded attempts to win the bet are quite unworthy of Taylor's often touted breeding. Alfred points out that, for someone who prides himself on having more honor than most, Taylor has acted in a dishonorable manner. Alfred comments that Tennyson is much stronger than Taylor assumed. Taylor laments that Tennyson was able to accomplish this impossible feat. Tennyson emerges to the congratulations of his fellow club members and silently approaches Taylor for the money. The embarrassed Taylor admits that he had lost his fortune a decade ago and has been scrambling to maintain the charade ever since—all in vain now, due to Tennyson's triumph. Actually, Taylor was offering more than he could afford just in hope that Tennyson would call the bet off. He praises Tennyson's resolve and character and then announces his decision to resign from the club. The distraught Tennyson scribbles furiously on a sheet of paper. The other men tell him that the year is over and he can now speak. Taylor reads the note aloud: "I knew that I would not be able to keep my part of the bargain, so one year ago I had the nerves to my vocal cords severed!" Tennyson displays the scar on his throat from the operation, which he has concealed for the past 12 months under scarves and turtlenecks.
"Mr. Jamie Tennyson, who almost won a bet, but who discovered somewhat belatedly that gambling can be a most unproductive pursuit, even with loaded dice, marked cards, or, as in his case, some severed vocal chords. For somewhere beyond him, a wheel was turned, and his number came up black thirteen. If you don't believe it, ask the croupier, the very special one who handles roulette - in The Twilight Zone."
Preview for Next Week's Story
Next week on The Twilight Zone, you'll sit in this courtroom and you'll watch what is apparently the standard, everyday turning of the wheels of justice. But because this is The Twilight Zone, don't be fooled by the readily apparent, for when the judge enters, the jury rises, the bailiff calls out the case, all of this is the opening salvo to one of our wildest journeys yet. Our program is called "Shadow Play" and it's written by Mr. Charles Beaumont. It comes well recommended.
It relies heavily on irony and discussion of human nature. Overall, it is similar to the works of French writer Guy de Maupassant, such as "The Necklace".
It also has elements in common with Anton Chekov's "The Bet".
Notes and References
- ↑ CBS Video Library: Twilight Zone #0322 "The Silence/Kick the Can/A World of Difference/And When the Sky Was Opened" ; UPC: 000322060003, EAN: 0000322060003, ASIN: B0007LHU6O; Format: NTSC, VHS, Collector's Edition (1987)