While Ryan and Greer are somewhere over the Atlantic, in Syria Hanin is uneasy about the bunch of criminals who are squatting in their house. She is right to be worried; the repulsive Yazid corners Sara while she's alone and intimidates the 14 year old girl in a creepy/rapey way. She gets away from him and runs to her mother, sobbing in fear.
That night, Hanin asks Suleiman why he has brought these men to their home, where her children are. He doesn't give a satisfactory answer but does give her a pretty necklace, seeming to think this is an equitable exchange. Hanin says that she understood why he fought against Assad, but doesn't understand what he's doing now. He tells her that she must trust him because he is her husband. She doesn't look convinced.
In Paris, Greer and Ryan are met on the tarmac by Matice- who is now calling himself Garth- Police Captain Sandrine Arnaud, and the Paris SWAT team leader. Arnaud makes sure they know that they are subject to their law enforcement's regulations while on French soil and then they are loaded into a police van which is filled with SWAT team members. Matice gives them some guns.
They find themselves on their way to a raid on a terrorist cell to which Suleiman's phone has been traced. It's in an apartment building in Paris. Inside the apartment, Suleiman's brother Ali is seated at a table with a bunch of other men and women, using SIM cards to transfer funds to Suleiman. They get a warning from a lookout that the police are coming and scramble to pack up all the cards and grab their weapons. Ali pulls out a suicide vest which he just happens to have on hand and one of the women ends up "volunteering" to put it on. These guys are real heroes. While the terrorists exchange fire with SWAT, Ali escapes out the window with the SIM cards, though he does get slightly wounded.
Jack, who has been helping a wounded officer out of the building, spots Ali on the street and gives chase. He is hampered by the panicked crowd and, though he draws his gun, he doesn't dare take a shot for fear of hitting a civilian. Ali escapes into the milling horde. Meanwhile upstairs, Greer has gone into the apartment with SWAT. One member of the team ends up shooting the girl in the suicide vest and, as Ryan is returning to the building, he hears an explosion and looks up to see smoke billowing out of the apartment's shattered windows.
In Paris, a priest leaves his church; he is followed and stabbed to death on the street by two Middle Eastern-looking men. In Washington, Jack is back to work though he's in rough shape- stitches in his side, scrapes and bruises, and he's aggravated his bad back. He and Greer are called into a debriefing on the Syria debacle. Suleiman has been identified in some propaganda beheading videos, though they have no ID on the other guy. Jack says that Suleiman isn't ISIS: he's using modern money transfers from a European bank, which is more sophisticated than ISIS gets. Greer backs Jack up, saying that Suleiman's men have military-like training and precision. After the meeting, Greer tells Jack to go see about his back. Meanwhile, in Yemen Suleiman is sending his brother Ali on some sort of mission which requires him travelling by boat. He then heads for home. Jack is at Washington Memorial Hospital, having an MRI done on his back, which we learn that he has had multiple surgeries on. The doctor tells him he has a bad sprain and advises doing stretching exercises like yoga.
After his appointment, Ryan goes to the floor where epidemiology is located to see Cathy Mueller. She's pleased to see him and comments on his rather spectacular exit from her father's party. Jack tells her that he had to deal with a cargo shipment of romaine lettuce which was contaminated with ecoli; Cathy is understandably sceptical that this would be so urgent that the coast guard would be sent to fetch him. Jack changes the subject and asks her if she'll have dinner with him sometime... she agrees and gives him her number.
Back at his department, Jack's co workers are curious- and suspicious- about what's going on. Jack puts them off, telling them that he hurt his back rowing. He is soon called into Greer's office where he is presented with Suleiman's phone which was left behind in Yemen. Greer tells that it has an eight digit encrypted passcode and instructs Ryan to work on breaking that code. He is doing so when he gets summoned to the seventh floor- where the top brass are.
Nathan Singer, the Deputy Director of Operations, tells Jack that he's impressed with his work on this case. He says that Greer is on his way out and implies that Jack would be a suitable replacement, if he's interested. He says that, if Ryan plays his cards right, this case could make his career. Jack, uncomfortable, asks if he can have some time to think about it and Singer agrees, but says not to take too long.
Back in Syria, we see Hanin giving her son Samir an injection and we find out that he is diabetic. Suleiman arrives home, bringing presents for his kids just as though he's a normal dad who's been on a business trip instead of a murderous terrorist. He greets Hanin warmly, but that doesn't distract her from the fact that he's brought a lot of unsavoury characters with him who take up residence in their compound/home. One of them is this guy- named Yazid- who keeps staring creepily at Hanin's eldest daughter Sara who is 14 years old.
At a cafe in Washington, Greer is meeting a guy for lunch who we find out is from the mosque Greer used to attend. We learn that Greer converted to Islam so that he and his wife- who is Muslim- could get married and now that they're divorced, Greer has stopped going to the mosque. The man encourages him to return and gives him some prayer beads.
Meanwhile at the office, Jack is having no luck with the code and can't try multiple combinations because after 10 tries, the phone will lock permantly and delete it's stored information. He's not in the best of moods and butts heads with Greer when he arrives, questioning him about Karachi, Pakistan, which is where Greer was stationed when he did something to get himself relieved of his command. Greer tells him to mind his own business; they're not friends and he doesn't owe him an explanation. The footage of Suleiman's interrogation has been running on the computer screen while the two of them are squabbling and Greer breaks off when he notices something: Suleiman holds his wrists out for the hand cuffs like someone who's had experience wearing them. He's obviously been incarcerated before, but the Americans have no record of it. Ryan remembers that the cell phone has a French SIM card, checks France's criminal database and finds Suleiman's prison record. Acting on a hunch, he inputs Suleiman's prison number into the phone: it's the passcode and it unlocks the phone which contains four phone numbers, all in Paris. After reporting this development, Greer and Ryan are assigned to go to Paris to investigate and the two climb on a plane and head overseas.
The pilot episode of Jack Ryan was really a decent series opener. It introduces us to the main characters as well as some ones who may become important later, and sets up the plot which will run through all of the season's episodes. The titular Jack Ryan is ably played by John Krasinski, who's a lot more buff than he was in his Office days. He does the "everyman" thing very well although, as it turns out, Ryan isn't exactly your average Joe. He's a former marine who has a doctorate in economics which he uses in his present job in the counterterrorism department at the CIA, to track the money supplies of terrorist organizations. At first, Ryan seems a little too good to be true: brilliant, skilled, idealistic, and principled- he even bikes to work at the CIA- he's not too far off from what his previous employer calls him: a "self-righteous boy scout". Fortunately over the course of the series, Ryan's character is fleshed out and given more depth. Gradually we find out more about the helicopter crash which ended Jack's military career and still haunts him- and discover it occurred because of a decision he made. We also see his idealism take a mauling as it becomes clear that tracking down a ruthless and deadly terrorist means doing things- and dealing with people- which are morally questionable. Jack's new boss Jim Greer is a good foil for Ryan. A military man who has been relieved of his command in the Middle East under murky circumstances and demoted to a desk job at the CIA, Greer is no boy scout. Cynical and pragmatic, he is interested in getting the job done and has no time for- or interest in- playing nice with people who get in his way, whether that's his underlings or his superiors, and this doesn't endear him to either group. He and Ryan butt heads several times during the pilot episode and the argument they have over freezing Suleiman's finances is a good distillation of the differences in their outlooks. Jack argues that they should shut down the terrorist's accounts immediately to prevent him from using the funds to perpetrate a 9/11-style attack. Greer refuses, saying that freezing the account will alert Suleiman that they are on to him; they will lose their advantage and miss the opportunity to apprehend him and all his henchmen... the Coventry conundrum.
It is an interesting choice to not reveal the identity of Suleiman until almost the end of the pilot. Instead, we see more of his wife and children throughout the episode. Hanin knows what her husband is involved in, and she is afraid for herself and her children. Her fear is given visual form when, at one point, her kids- two girls and a boy- are playing by tracing each other's outlines in chalk on the pavement. When they run off, Hanin stares down at the drawings, which look rather like the chalk outlines at murder scenes.
Suleiman is portrayed as being intelligent and ruthless, and it doesn't take a clairvoyant to see that the series will eventually lead to a showdown between the terrorist and the CIA's resident smart guy Jack Ryan. They have a preliminary face off in Yemen, when Jack interrogates the then unidentified Suleiman. This scene ends in the escape of Suleiman and is very effective, but I do have a few issues with it. One of these is, this is an American military facility which is attacked by a group of terrorists in a couple of pickup trucks. Not only do the American soldiers appear to take more casualties, but the terrorists escape again in the two trucks. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like in real life the casualty count would have been reversed and there probably wouldn't have been enough left of the two trucks to drive away. The reason why terrorists more often than not use IEDs, etc. is because in a straight fight they generally get decimated.
The fight scene between Ryan and Suleiman's brother seems a tad unrealistic, too. Jack, after being knocked down, gets repeatedly pummelled in the face but then gets right up and continues fighting. Well, maybe... but Jack also slams the terrorist bro's head into the stone wall and he just shakes it off and continues on fighting as well. In any case, these observations are mere quibbles- no one really expects fight scenes in movies and shows to be realistic. All in all, Pilot was a successful series opener- introducing most of the major characters and setting up a compelling plot. The beauty of it being a multi-episode show rather than a two hour movie is that it gives time to slowly unravel the story and reveal the characters' history, motivations, and intentions little by little and after this premiere episode, I was invested enough in the people and plot to continue watching Jack Ryan.
When they touch down in Yemen, Greer and Ryan are met by Matice, a CIA operative. He takes them to the compound where the prisoners are being held and questioned. The two men are being questioned in separate cells and Jack Ryan is eventually assigned to interrogating one of them, who insists that he is just a bodyguard who knows nothing. While the interrigations are going on, a group of middle eastern men arrive at the compound with the bodies of dead terrrorists, for which they receive payment from the American soldiers. The bodies are placed in a cool room for later identification. As it turns out, however, one of the "bodies" is not actually dead and, retrieving a gun smuggled inside of one of the actual corpses, he takes a soldier captive and forces him to show him the cells where the two prisoners are being interrogated.
While this is going on, the men who previously brought the bodies attack the compound, creating a diversion which draws most of the military staff present into the fray. Greer orders Ryan to stay in the cell with the prisoner he's been questioning and one of the guards, and then goes out with Matice to fight the attacking terrorists. Meanwhile, the terrorist inside the compound locates and shoots the other prisoner to keep him from talking and then enters the cell where Ryan is, shooting the guard. Ryan grabs the man and they struggle violently, Jack getting the worst of it as the terrorist slashes him with a knife. He then gets knocked into the table to which the prisoner is chained, and the man tries to choke him with the chain as the other terrorist seeks to finish him off with the knife.
Jack manages to yank himself free and lands on the body of the guard. He pulls a grenade off of the body and, as the terrorist raises a gun, shows him the pin that he's just pulled out of the grenade. Ryan says that, if he is shot, they will all die. The terrorist relents at an order from the prisoner, whom he then unchains. As the two men leave, Jack realizes who it is that he was interrogating and calls his name: Suleiman. The two of them stare at each other, then the terrorists leave and Jack slowly collapses on the floor, though not until replacing the pin in the grenade. While the firefight is going on at the front of the compound, Suleiman and his cohort escape over the wall at the back. Shortly after this, the surviving terrorists retreat and we later see them meeting up with the two escapees. Suleiman and his rescuer embrace and there is another flashback to the two brothers seen at the beginning of the episode, whose village was bombed and family killed. It becomes obvious that these are the brothers, all grown up.
As Suleiman and his men make their escape, Jack limps painfully out of the compound and joins Greer in staring after the lights of the terrorists' vehicles as they disappear into the darkness of the desert night.
After yelling at Ryan, Greer gets to the point: he's got men watching the bank in Yemen where the shell account is based. He's planning to have any persons engaged in suspicious activities at the bank watched and followed in the hopes of catching all involved. Freezing the account will tip the terrorists off that they're on to them. Jack is angry that Greer didn't tell him that, and also points out that, if they don't shut down Suleiman's finances, he might pull off whatever it is he's planning. Is apprehending the terrorist cell worth risking an attack potentially worse than 9/11? Greer's not particularly interested in the hand-wringing of an economic analyst who's only been on the job for four years, all of them spent behind a desk.
In Yemen, the agents watching the bank tail the bank manager to a market cafe where he is meeting with two unknown men. After the meeting, they follow the two men, taser them, throw them into a truck and quickly drive away. Back in Washington, Greer is reading Jack Ryan's service record. From this we learn that Ryan was the only survivor of a helicopter crash while he was serving in the Middle East. Though he survived, he was badly injured and hospitalized for some time.
Meanwhile, Jack goes to the posh birthday party for his former boss. Mueller greets him warmly; it turns out he invited Jack because he has new business investments in South Korea and wants inside government information about the situation in North Korea. When Jack refuses to help him, Mueller calls him a self-righteous boy scout and walks off. While getting a drink, Jack meets Cathy Mueller, his ex-boss' daughter. She seems amused by the fact that he turned down her dad. Cathy is a doctor at Washington Memorial where she specializes in infectious diseases. She asks what he does and he reverts to his cover story- that he does supply chain logistics for the State Department. Suddenly a Coast Guard helicopter flies over the garden party and lands on the lawn. Two members of the crew jump out and start calling Ryan's name; when he identifies himself, he's told that he needs to come with them. He's clumsily trying to ask Cathy out as he gets hustled to the helicopter and loaded in.
Ryan is met at the military airport by Greer who tells him that they're headed to Yemen; the two men who were picked up are being interrogated and Greer wants Ryan to advise them about what to ask. Jack protests that he's never been trained to conduct interrogations- he's just an analyst. Greer tells him to get on the plane.
The 2018 Amazon Prime series Jack Ryan starts out with a flashback to 1983 Lebanon. Two young brothers are playing outside when suddenly planes fly overhead and start bombing their town. In modern day, we see Dr. Jack Ryan for the first time, rowing on the Potomac in Washington. Later we see him biking to work at the CIA; he nearly has a collision with a car, the driver of which cusses him out. He arrives late for a meeting. Upstairs on the 7th floor, the man who cussed at Ryan is also having a meeting. He is Jim Greer, formerly an upper level Station Chief in the Middle East. He has somehow screwed up and been demoted to a post in Washington as Head of the Terror Finance and Arms Division. This is where Jack works as an economic analyst.
Greer and Ryan get off to a rocky start. Jack attempts to tell Greer about suspicious transactions in Yemen which have been occurring over the last few months. He theorizes that the figure behind the transactions is Suleiman, a new name which is being noised about in terrorist circles. He doesn't have enough evidence to back up his hunch, and Greer doesn't seem impressed or interested.
The scene changes to Syria, where a woman is playing soccer with her three kids outside what looks like a military compound. They are interrupted by several trucks driving up, filled with sketchy-looking men. They are led by the even skeezier-looking Sheik Al Radwan, looking for Sheik Suleiman. It turns out that the woman is Hanin, wife of Suleiman.
She tells Al Radwan that her husband isn't at home, and the Sheik starts unloading some men and- ominously- what appears to be bomb-making supplies. He tells her that Suleiman requested that he drop them off there. Back in Washington, Jack Ryan receives a call from Joe Mueller, his old boss from when he worked on Wall Street. Mueller asks Ryan to come to his birthday party on the weekend. Jack reluctantly accepts the invitation. Later that night, Ryan seems to have insomnia; he experiences flashbacks of being in a military unit in the Middle East. As he gets out of bed, we can see that he has extensive scarring on his back. Unable to sleep, he goes in to work and continues following the terrorist money trail.
Jack goes to Greer with his information about the financial transactions which he's traced to a Saudi shell account. He tells Greer that there have been six transactions in eight days, totalling over nine million dollars. Ryan is sure that this means Suleiman is planning something big and he asks Greer to freeze the account. Greer shoots him down, saying that Ryan doesn't yet have enough evidence to justify doing that. Jack is frustrated and angry; Suleiman could by planning the next 9/11 and Greer seems to want to sit on his hands rather than be proactive about the situation.
Back in Syria, Hanin is unnerved by the presence of the creepy terrorist guys staying at the compound. Though she doesn't know exactly what's going on, it's obvious that they're working on chemical weapons of some sort. Hanin is very obviously worried about the safety of her three children (a son and two daughters). She watches as the chemical weapons are packaged as olive oil, loaded on a truck and driven away.
Back at the CIA, Ryan decides to go behind Greer's back and sweet talks a girl in the finance department who has a crush on him into ordering the Saudi shell account frozen. Greer gets a phone call from higher up the chain, asking for confirmation of this order. Greer knows immediately who's responsible and angrily bellows for Ryan to get into his office.
I watched the Amazon Prime series Jack Ryan not long after it first came out and quite enjoyed it, though it has it's flaws. I first made the acquaintance of the character of Jack Ryan one summer while babysitting a couple of kids on summer vacation. Their family cottage where we spent a lot of time had full book shelves lining the walls of the living room and I worked my way through quite a few of them over the two months I was there, reading on the dock as the kids swam and played. These books included a couple of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan books- The Hunt For Red October and Patriot Games. I hadn't seen any of the movies at that time, so found the books really interesting and had no idea what was going to happen in them. I haven't read any Clancy since then and frankly, I hadn't really paid too much attention when I heard that this series was in production. When I thought of it at all, I decided that it would probably be the usual boring Ugly American/ Misunderstood Terrorist narrative which we can reliably expect from the Hollywood crowd. To my surprise, when the series aired quite a few sensitive souls started screeching that Jack Ryan was full of toxic patriotism. Reading between the lines, I took this to mean that the series didn't portray the western powers being always in the wrong and eastern ones being uniformly innocent, exploited victims. That the series made so many really annoying people angry piqued my interest in a way the trailer had failed to do, so I decided to give it a try and, as I said, I really enjoyed the eight episodes for the most part. I'm planning to re-watch the series and write a few posts on it, though I probably won't get a chance to start right away since my family in it's entirety- a not inconsiderable crowd- is gathering together on the upcoming long weekend. This requires almost the same amount of planning- and food- as a military operation.
Christmas viewing has commenced with my very favourite animated Christmas special A Charlie Brown Christmas. I love Peanuts cartoons, but can take or leave most of their TV specials except for this one, which is essential Christmas season fare. A Charlie Brown Christmas was released in 1968 by a very nervous CBS, who though the whole thing was going to be a flop. They thought this for several reasons, one being that the animation was done on a shoestring budget and looked amateurish to the executives. Also the producer, Lee Mendelson, had had Vince Guaraldi compose the soundtrack and having a children's Christmas special set to jazz music seemed eccentric at best. In addition, Charles Schultz's story contained several features which, according to traditional TV wisdom at the time, should have proved fatal to the little cartoon. The pacing of the story was slow, and the kids in the Peanuts gang used big words and talked like little adults: “Don’t think of it as dust. Think of it as maybe the soil of some great past civilization. Maybe the soil of ancient Babylon. It staggers the imagination. Maybe carrying soil that was trod upon by Solomon, or even Nebuchadnezzar.” The characters' wordy vocabularies were offset by the- at the time- unheard of insistance of Schultz to use child voice actors instead of adult ones for the Peanuts gang. Also, instead of being a relentlessly cheery holiday romp, the show addresses the melancholy and loneliness which can be experienced at this time of year through the character of Charlie Brown. In short, no one at the studio thought that the special was going to succeed and their disapproval shook Mendelson enough that he suggested to Schultz that they give in on one point and add a laugh track to the show. Schultz- thank heavens- refused to consider it. Worst of all, Charles Schultz was insisting that Linus recite from Luke 2, and what possible place could an account of the birth of Jesus have in a Christmas program? Despite pushback, Schultz wouldn't remove the scene and later Mendelson admitted that he thought this was going to end his career. Of course, this scene is actually the heart and soul of the special and Schultz's instincts were 100% right. The rest, as they say, is history: A Charlie Brown Christmas was a rousing success, its jazz soundtrack now a Christmas standard. The special has aired every year since 1968, providing enjoyment and the true message of Christmas to generations of children.
The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street is a classic episode of The Twilight Zone. It originally aired in March of 1960, the 22nd episode of the first season of the show and was written by Rod Serling, the creator of The Twilight Zone. The story starts out in what appears to be an idyllic setting: a tree-lined street in 1950's America, filled with happy families and friendly neighbours. But things are not always as they seem...
"Maple Street, U.S.A., late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice cream vendor. At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 P.M. on Maple Street...This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street in the last calm and reflective moment - before the monsters came."
And the monsters did come; the twist of Rod Serling's tale is that aliens have indeed invaded the earth, bent on conquering the planet. This destruction of earth's inhabitants is not accomplished, however, with superior numbers or more advanced weaponry- or, indeed by any kind of frontal attack. Rather, the alien invaders simply turn the power off and wait for the humans to destroy themselves. And this is the true point of this episode: the true danger to society comes, not from without, but within.
The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street points out a troubling aspect of human nature: when people are faced with an outward threat they tend to draw together to face it, but when confronted with a frightening situation which they don't understand, it is not uncommon for them to fracture apart and look for someone to blame. And that blameworthy someone is generally The Other- someone who is just a bit different, or has some perceived unfair advantage over other members of the group.
This is what sets Charlie off, transforming him from a seemingly harmless schlub into something a lot more unpleasant. Something is terribly wrong and no one understands what's happening. Someone must be to blame, however, and Charlie looks around for a likely suspect... everyone has no power and then, suddenly and inexplicably, Les' car is working. No one- including Les- knows why, but Charlie immediately assumes that he must have been favoured in this way because of something he's done, or who he is. He starts reviewing Les' previously unremarkable behaviours in his mind and assigning sinister motives to them. He vocalizes his suspicions which causes other members of the community to also regard Les differently, reinterpreting his actions in a way that makes him seem odd... and suspect. Later on, brooding over the continuing blackout, Charlie remarks to his wife that it's like a return to the dark ages. This is truer than he knows although not for the reason he thinks. The real darkness is caused by the descent of the street's denizens into attitudes and actions based on fear and superstition, letting these things outweigh their rationality and sense of community. This results in the transformation of neighbours and friends into possible- maybe even probable-suspects. The Maple St. residents start to regard each other distrustfully, putting the worst possible spin on the motives of The Other; they grant no benefit of the doubt, and reject the need for evidence or proof. They might as well be demanding trial by ordeal for suspected witches.
Les is the first victim of this whipped up panic- and later a perpetrator of it. His reasons are no doubt somewhat understandable, if not admirable: Charlie first pointed the finger of accusation at him. Probably Les wants him to experience what it feels like to be falsely accused and maligned, alienated and treated like a criminal. Also, if people are directing their suspicions/ accusations elsewhere, it lets him off the hook. By the time he accuses Charlie, however, everyone is so worked up and freaked out that it almost seems like Les believes what he says about Charlie. In any case, he has regressed from pointing out how dangerous wild accusations are, to throwing some around himself.
Even Steve, the voice of reason throughout this debacle- who has been calling for calm and rational behaviour- is not totally unaffected by the paranoid rhetoric and panic. When the rifle is being brandished around, instead of saying the sane and sensible thing- that it could be anybody walking up the street towards them, he asks what good the gun will do, implying that it will be useless against aliens. He has- momentarily, anyway- slipped into thinking of the alien invaders as a sure thing. The shock of Pete's death snaps him out of it, but it's too late. The irony is, of course, that there actually are hostile alien invaders and the Maple Street residents are playing right into their hands by turning on each other. The paranoid ravings of a few nuts like Charlie work on the fears and anxieties of the other residents who, scared and angry, form a violent mob, behaving in ways as a group which they would never do as individuals. Those who don't agree with the violence generally keep quiet for fear of becoming targets of the mob themselves, like Steve did.
Maple Street has turned into Lord Of The Flies- people losing the vestiges of civilization through paranoia and fear, violently attacking and counter-attacking one another. The aliens have won without firing a shot, not so much by sowing the seeds of discord and destruction in the residents of Maple Street, but by providing fertile ground for those seeds already present in them to grow. The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street takes a rather dim view of human nature and, while I don't believe by any means that this is the only possible human response to an inexplicable, fear-inducing situation, it's certainly a very possible one. As anyone who is on Twitter could attest to, there are any number of people who in the face of a crisis are- like Charlie- ready to shout, "Look, look I swear to you...it isn't me...but I do know who it is...I swear to you, I do know who it is. I know who the monster is here. I know who it is that doesn't belong. I swear to you I know." This has never and will never end well.
"Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us." -Charles Spurgeon
The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street is a first season episode of The Twilight Zone which originally aired in 1960. The story takes place in a small 1950's era town, specifically on Maple Street. It's a warm summer evening and the residents of the street are doing everyday things- cooking, washing their cars, kids running around, etc. Suddenly an object- they assume a meteor- streaks across the sky, startling people with its light and noise. Soon people begin to realize that everything which requires power of any sort isn't working: telephones, radios, cars, power tools, appliances- everything is dead. Maple Street residents gather in groups, trying to figure out what's going on... it's a clear day with no electrical storm, and even if there was one, cars and battery operated radios shouldn't be affected. One of the men-Pete Van Horne- decides to walk over to the next street (Floral), to see if it too has no power, and another resident named Steve Brand suggests that he and his neighbour Charlie walk downtown to see if there's power there. The two men are stopped by nerdy teen Tommy who, as an avid science fiction reader, is sure that the meteor was a U.F.O. and that aliens who want to isolate them for some nefarious purpose are responsible for the blackout.
Tommy says that a situation like this occurred in a story he's been reading and, in the same story, aliens had sent some of their kind ahead, disguised as humans, to infiltrate the town and prepare for an invasion. Naturally everyone scoffs at this wild theory and Steve tells Tommy that like as not the meteor just caused some kind of interferance which disrupted everyone's power.
Suddenly, the car belonging to another neighbour- Les- starts running without anyone turning it on. Les is bemused, but a number of the street residents are suspicious... why is his car running- and by itself- when nothing else on Maple Street is working? Charlie starts muttering that Les has always been a bit odd, and another man says that he noticed that Les didn't come out of his house to look at the meteor like everyone else- didn't seem a bit interested, in fact. That's kind of weird, isn't it. Steve tries to diffuse the situation, but it gets even more tense when one of the women says that several times she's seen Les out in his yard late at night, staring up at the sky as though he was waiting for something- or someone. Les, incredulous and indignant about the overt suspicion being directed at him says that the only thing he's guilty of is insomnia. He also warns them that they're starting something dangerous.
As the evening progresses and darkness falls, the power remains out and peoples' nerves fray even further. A lot of them are still staring accusingly at Les, who is defiantly standing on his porch with his wife. Charlie in particular is confrontational, drinking and keeping watch on Les. When Steve tries to inject some sanity into the situation, Charlie belligerantly suggests that maybe he's in cahoots with Les, and wants to know just who Steve's been talking to on that ham radio in his basement. Now angry, Steve accuses the murmuring neighbours of trying to find a scapegoat- any scapegoat- and says that the only thing which will result from all this finger pointing is that they'll end up eating each other. He seems to be getting through to a lot of the gathered crowd as many start to look down or away, uncomfortable and ashamed. In the sudden quiet, however, they hear footsteps coming along Maple Street towards them.
Fearfully, the gathered residents peer down the street but all they can see is a shadowy figure emerging from the darkness, coming towards them. In a panic, Charlie grabs a shotgun and fires at the approaching form. It staggers and falls, and the crowd runs forward only to discover that it is Pete, returning from checking on Floral Street. He's dead. Charlie tries to make excuses... how was he to know it wasn't a monster? He was just trying to protect his home! But as he's babbling, the lights come on in his house. Accusing eyes turn on Charlie: why did his lights come on the minute he killed Pete? A vengeful Les pipes up: Charlie was awfully quick to point the finger at other people... maybe he was trying to hide his own machinations. Maybe Pete found out something about him over on Floral Street and Charlie had to kill him to keep him quiet.
Of course Charlie denies this but the crowd, transformed into a mob, is in no mood to listen to his pleas. Charlie is forced to flee to his house, pursued by his maddened neighbours who pelt him with stones. Terrified and bleeding, Charlie shouts that he knows who's responsible: young Tommy, who started all this trouble to begin with. Horrified, Tommy's mother denies it- her son is just a boy. Yeah, one of the other ladies points out- a boy who knew everything that was going to happen with the aliens. Tommy flees in terror as the hysterical crowd gives chase, while Steve futilely shouts at them to stop this madness. Suddenly, lights start flashing on and off in random houses all along the street, while lawnmowers, cars, etc. turn on by themselves as well. Terrified, confused and hostile, the mob turns on each other and the once idyllic street devolves into a scene of chaos and violence, with shots being fired, bricks thrown, and formerly friendly neighbours brutally attacking one another.
It is at this point that we find out that the meteor actually was a space ship and that two aliens are watching the ghastly scene on Maple Street with scholarly interest. One explains to the other that, by turning off humans' technology and stoking the fires of paranoia and fear, they could cause them to turn on each other. The other asks if this always happens and the first one replies yes, with few variations. He says the humans always try to find their most dangerous enemy and it turns out to be themselves. He also says that all they need do to conquer this world is to sit back and watch the humans destroy each other, one Maple Street at a time.
"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices – to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill – and suspicion can destroy – and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own – for the children – and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is – that these things cannot be confined – to the Twilight Zone.”