The Once and Future King (The Twilight Zone)
"The Once and Future King" is the first segment of the twenty-fifth episode, the first episode of the second season (1986–87) of the television series The Twilight Zone.
|"The Once and Future King"|
|The Twilight Zone (1985 series) episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2|
|Directed by||Jim McBride|
|Written by||Bryce Maritano |
George R. R. Martin
|Original air date||September 27, 1986|
Exit one Gary Pitkin, singer, impersonator, and restless subject of a dead king named Elvis Aaron Presley. A frustrated young man, born twenty-five years too late, who is about to find his own place to dwell, down at the end of lonely street, in a neighborhood called...the Twilight Zone.
Gary Pitkin, an Elvis impersonator, opens his show in a smoke-filled lounge by singing "Heartbreak Hotel" in Elvis's signature 1950s gold lamé suit. Much to Gary's chagrin, his performance receives mediocre applause. Afterward, Gary is in his dressing room when his manager Sandra enters and tells Gary that she was able to book him into a small hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. The mere mention of Las Vegas drives Gary into a rant about how Vegas killed Elvis. He laments about how it was great music, but she reminds him that while it was, it still wasn't "his" music.
Sandra then mentions that she once met the real Elvis years ago after he picked her out of an audience. He took her back to his hotel room where he began acting strange and gave a bizarre, paranoid rant. Gary remarks that Elvis "got weird" towards the end of his life.
As Gary is driving home, he sees an incoherent driver coming the opposite direction. To avoid hitting the driver, Gary steers off the road only to get into an accident. Gary awakes the next morning and sees the damage done to his car, grabs his guitar, and starts thumbing for a ride. A man in an old pickup truck sees Gary and pulls over. To Gary's shock—the man resembles Elvis. He offers Gary a ride and Gary notices a sign on the door that reads "Crown Electric Co.", which was the company Elvis worked for before getting his first recording contract.
They break the ice by talking about how they're both musicians. As they're talking, Gary looks over and sees an old Chrysler DeSoto drive by and then picks up a newspaper from the floor. The date reads: July 3, 1954. Gary comes to the realization that the man sitting next to him not only looks like Elvis Presley but that he actually is Presley. Gary begins to believe that all of this is a hallucination resulting from his accident.
When they arrive at Crown Electric, Elvis's boss comes out and chides him about picking up hitchhikers "even if it's your brother." Elvis begins to question Gary about who he is and where he comes from and he then uses Elvis's belief in the supernatural to convince him that he is Jesse (Elvis's twin brother who died at birth). Elvis, thinking that Gary is his thought-to-be-deceased twin, asks him why he came back. Gary tells him that he came back to help him because he was going to be bigger than he could ever imagine. Gary starts listing all the positives of Elvis's future career and then he starts listing all the negatives, but affirms that it doesn't have to be that way. Feeling remorseful about deceiving Elvis, Gary begins to back out, until Elvis asks to meet him the next day so that he could help him rehearse the song he was going to record for Mr. Phillips. Gary agrees.
The next day, Gary continues to tell Elvis about his future success and how he is going to be the King of Rock 'n' Roll. Elvis starts playing an easy-listening ballad called "I Love You Because" with his guitar. Gary is disappointed with Elvis's choice of song and attempts to convince him to play "That's All Right" and even moves around and shakes his hips. Elvis is horrified and claims that it's the devil's music and even accuses Gary of deviltry. The two break into an argument that leads to a brawl, and Elvis grabs a guitar to swing at Gary, but he misses and hits the edge of a shelf instead, breaking off the top part of the guitar's neck. As they continue to fight, Elvis leaps towards him and accidentally lands on the broken guitar when Gary moves out of the way. The guitar goes right through Elvis's chest and he dies.
With no other alternative, Gary buries Elvis and wonders about his future. He thinks about it and decides from that point on to assume Elvis's identity and to do everything just the way Elvis did. The following day, a nervous Gary (wearing Elvis's clothes from the day before) goes into Sun Studio and is received by the office manager who lets him know that everyone is already waiting for him in the recording booth. As Sam Phillips is preparing his recording equipment, Gary plays a little of "That's All Right" to the other band members who immediately join in with the song. Phillips interrupts the trio but tells Gary to keep playing. As he plays the song, the scene flashes forward to 1970s Las Vegas where Gary talks to a woman in his hotel room. He tells her that he did all the songs and all the moves as closely as he remembered. He questions whether or not the real Elvis would've been a better King than he would've been or if there would've even been a King at all. He says that he has terrible dreams and that he talks to Elvis all the time, who tells him that he still owes him for what he did. He even goes as far as to say Elvis would have liked Vegas. The woman turns out to be a young Sandra. She tells him that he is tired and not to worry about it and no one could ever take his place. He was the King and the only King. He then sends her off with a kiss, and after she leaves Gary sits in front of a window facing the Vegas Strip.
A round of hollow applause for Gary Pitkin, who tried to pay a blood debt in sequins and B-movies, and discovered, to his sorrow, that sometimes you're called back for one encore too many...in the Twilight Zone.
A title card comes up at the end of the episode thanking the Elvis Presley estate for permission to use Elvis' likeness and songs for this episode.
Elvis's boss at the Crown Electric Company was played by Red West, Elvis's real-life schoolmate and best friend. Also, the newspaper that Gary picks up in Elvis' truck to find out the date is labeled The Commercial Appeal, the real newspaper of Memphis, Tennessee.