"The Masks" is episode 145 of the American television series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on March 20, 1964 on CBS. In this episode, set on Mardi Gras, a dying man coerces his relatives into wearing grotesque masks that reflect their true personalities.
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 5|
|Directed by||Ida Lupino|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Featured music||Stock from A Thing About Machines|
|Original air date||March 20, 1964|
Mr. Jason Foster, a tired ancient who on this particular Mardi Gras evening will leave the Earth. But before departing, he has some things to do, some services to perform, some debts to pay—and some justice to mete out. This is New Orleans, Mardi Gras time. It is also the Twilight Zone.
On the night of Mardi Gras, a wealthy old man named Jason Foster is attended by his physician, Dr. Sam Thorne, who warns him that his death is imminent. Cranky and candid, Jason is not cheered by the arrival of his daughter Emily Harper and her family: husband Wilfred, son Wilfred Jr., and daughter Paula. All four have terrible traits: Emily is a cowardly hypochondriac who whines about her perceived ailments; Wilfred, a successful businessman, is greedy, thinking of everything in monetary terms; Paula is vain, constantly checking her appearance in the mirror; and Wilfred Jr. is an oafish, sadistic bully who enjoys causing pain and suffering.
Jason is not shy about his opinions and openly insults each of them. He says he has a special Mardi Gras party planned for the group that night. After dinner, the family gathers in Jason's study where he instructs them to put on special one-of-a-kind masks, which he says are "crafted by an old Cajun". Explaining that an old Mardi Gras custom involves wearing a mask that is the opposite of one's true personality, Jason sarcastically gives one to each person: a sniveling coward for Emily, a miserable miser to Wilfred, a twisted buffoon to Wilfred Jr., and a self-obsessed narcissist to Paula. He dons a skull mask, saying that it represents death as opposed to his life. The others refuse to participate at first, but Jason rightfully accuses them of only being there to claim his fortune upon his death. He informs them that his will is drawn up so that they inherit everything, but only if they wear their masks until midnight. They reluctantly concede and put on their masks.
As the hours tick by, all four beg to be allowed to take off the masks, saying that they are unbearable. Their pleas are wasted on Jason, who delivers a final tirade to his family as the clock strikes midnight. "Without your masks, you're caricatures!" he says as he dies. The four rejoice in their newly inherited wealth and unmask, but discover to their horror that their faces now conform to the hideous features of the masks. Jason's face, on the other hand, proves to be superficially unchanged. Dr. Thorne observes, "This must be death. No horror, no fear, nothing but peace."
Mardi Gras incident, the dramatis personae being four people who came to celebrate and in a sense let themselves go. This they did with a vengeance. They now wear the faces of all that was inside them—and they'll wear them for the rest of their lives, said lives now to be spent in the shadow. Tonight's tale of men, the macabre and masks, on the Twilight Zone.
- Ida Lupino Biography, Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved on 4 July 2011.
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)