“Meet in the Middle” tells a story of loneliness, connection, and instability that is depressingly predictable
This recap of The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 1, “Meet in the Middle”, contains spoilers..
Ah, modern dating. You meet someone on an app and get all kinds of fanciful ideas about what they look like and who they are; then you meet them and they have curly hair, not straight. What a nightmare. “Meet in the Middle” opens with such a scenario, as a very nervous looking man sits opposite a talkative woman on their first date. It’s a disaster even before he starts hearing the disembodied voice of some other woman in his head.
With a telepathic link and thus the episode’s premise established, the ever-reliable tones of Jordan Peele as the Narrator ease us into the idea of crossed wires in the complicated switchboard of The Twilight Zone.
Phil, the man, is in therapy, and his therapist suggests that the voice may be a coping mechanism to deal with a date he knew was going nowhere — this, it seems, is a trend of his. The subject of Dissociative Identity Disorder is raised, but Phil’s mysterious phantom interlocutor talks over the explanation. She’s bored. And with her prompting, Phil realizes he doesn’t have to listen to this and leaves.
At a coffee shop, Phil and the voice try and hash out how their connection works: can they see what each other sees? Can they hear all the other person’s thoughts or just the ones directed at them? Phil has designs to move on a barista, but it’s a no-go. He instead goes out for pizza and decides to dine in the restaurant alone, but the obvious idea is that he’s on a date with the voice in his head. We’ve all been there.
On this romantic telepathic date, Phil opens up to the voice, whose name is Annie. Their exchanges are tentative and a little flirtatious. Annie is quick to highlight the romance of a psychic connection, but she makes him promise not to look her up. Do we trust that he won’t? Of course not!
Naturally, in the very next scene of The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 1, Phil searches Annie’s name on social media and gets visibly, almost childishly excited when he realizes she might be a looker. Their bonding continues — cats or dogs? Tea or coffee? All the essential questions are asked and answered. Phil and Annie get ice cream “together” and watch TV “together”, but when Phil suggests they meet in person, Annie immediately leaves the chat, so to speak.
His interest piqued, Phil looks up Annie again and realizes she’s married. When he confronts her she admits that she is, but hasn’t been happy for years — “He’s not a great guy.” This is, I think, the dead giveaway about the upcoming twist is, but more on that soon. It’s also, apparently, enough for Phil, who starts speaking to Annie out loud in the middle of the night and telling her that he wishes she were there in amongst his existential rambling. He’s wondering why he’s here, why he’s alive, given how he isn’t particularly successful or special. Annie, having been repositioned as Phil’s new therapist, makes him feel better in more ways that one.
The next morning Phil feels a bit lighter on his feet, and excitedly tells Annie that they have to meet, but she’s having none of it. It’s too dangerous, apparently. They’ve gone too far and it has to stop, now, which sends Phil into a bit of a psychological tailspin. He starts exhibiting classic signs of an abuser, acting all nice, trying to start up casual conversations about movie trailers, then flipping out and getting aggressive when he doesn’t get a response. In his desperation, he tries to look up Annie’s address but is interrupted by his landlord looking for past-due rent. He tells the ceiling that he just needs to know this was real.
After being given the cold shoulder by his apartment roof, Phil’s on another date. In a surprising turn of events, it’s calamitously awkward. Midway through an excited Annie pops in his head saying how much she needs him, proposing they “Meet in the Middle.” Phil embarrassingly celebrates in the restaurant as his date looks on, perplexed.
On the train, on the way to his date, Phil can barely contain his excitement. But Annie, supposedly on her own train, picks up a weirdo stalker, so Phil has to talk her through an escape. She thinks she’s free and clear when a sharp scream cuts her off. Phil goes ballistic and insists he’s coming to save her.
He certainly gives a good go of it. He arrives at the station and then the nearby market frantically asking people if they’ve seen the woman whose picture he has on his phone. When he steps on some glasses that resemble the ones she’s wearing in the photo, he breaks down sobbing, but Annie’s voice pops into his head. She has come to in the woods, she thinks. Phil goes looking and finds a house owned by a suspicious-looking man who, based on Annie’s description, he beats to death.
Twist time! A little girl interrupts Phil happily caving her dad’s head in, and she’s soon joined by her mother — Annie. Of course, Annie claims to have never seen Phil before. When the police arrive, she insists that he broke into her house and killed her husband. In the back of the patrol car, Phil loses it, realizing it was all in his head. But was it? Annie pops into his head, giving the game away: She told him what he wanted to hear so that he’d come and kill her abusive husband. Now, she and her daughter can enjoy a better life. And Phil can enjoy prison.
I guess after “Meet in the Middle”, online dating doesn’t seem that bad after all.
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