The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 2 – “Downtime”

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 25, 2020 (Last updated: February 7, 2024)
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The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 2 - "Downtime"


“Downtime” calls reality into question as a careerist hotel manager has to grapple with the fact that her life might not be what she thought it was.

This recap of The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 2, “Downtime”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.

Check out our full spoiler-free season review.

Check out the episode guide.

It’s always nice to Morena Baccarin, so “Downtime” puts its best foot forward — she’s the very first thing we see. Her name is Michelle here, and in a meeting with Reggie, she tells a story extolling her own charismatic virtues and is given a coveted manager position. Reggie’s position. The rest of the hotel staff are delighted for her.

And there’s no wonder, really. Michelle seems to have the patience of a saint when it comes to dealing with entitled, insufferable customers, and she’s firm but fair with her staff. In a cafe on her lunch break, though, she experiences a splitting headache, and the next thing she knows something that looks very much like a spaceship is hovering over the city.

The problem is that nobody else seems to be bothered by it. They all stare lovingly up at the orb in a kind of trance instead. A random woman asks Michelle, “How long did they say downtime was?” Jordan Peele lets us know that she’s about to take some time off, here in the Twilight Zone.

Michelle returns home, through throngs of zombified people, to Carl (Colman Domingo), her husband, who suddenly becomes “Donny”, an Irishman who is “going to wake up”. He also suggests Michelle might want to wake herself up too. He promises to contact “them” and make sure they send help, before staring up at the orb and entering a trance of his own. Waking up in The Twilight Zone season 2, episode 2 looks very much like going to sleep.

Two customer service reps arrive at Michelle’s house, determined to be sensitive about whatever it is she thinks she’s going through. To help, they play an advert for Sleepaway, an alternate reality program that allows people to live an entirely different life while they sleep. At the end of your character’s day, you’re supposed to wake up and enjoy your own; it seems Michelle hasn’t.

The customer service reps tell Michelle that she’s really a man, Phineas, who synced up to the game, had a heart attack, and fell into a coma. The suggested solution is a “forced un-sync”, which sounds particularly ominous, and Michelle is very much opposed. Ellen, Phineas’s emergency contact and wife, arrives to talk the situation down, but she’s against the forced un-sync too.

As we’re informed that maintenance will end in 20 minutes, Ellen talks to Michelle, who just wants to wait until the downtime is over and carry on as normal. Ellen shares the story of how Phineas proposed to her. She says this is serious; if he doesn’t un-sync before downtime is over, she might never see him again. Michelle is still insistent that nobody else is in there, but she agrees to try all the same. Together, they stare up at the object, but Michelle says she can’t do it just as Ellen un-syncs.

With the help of a sneaky disguise, Michelle returns to the hotel. There, she finds the difficult couple from earlier entranced in the penthouse suite. She pushes the husband over — why not, at this point? — and goes to lay down on their bed. Her contemplation is interrupted by a pigeon tapping at the window. When she nears it, it emits a harsh signal and flies off, having alerted some customer service reps — all Millennial skater kids — with only five minutes of maintenance remaining.

On the roof of the hotel, Michelle meets Tom, who is escalated priority customer service. He’s had a long day. He explains that if she wants to stay in the game and continue as Michelle, that’s totally fine, no problem, she just has to sign a waiver absolving the company of responsibility (ha!). Michelle is appalled and wants to log out, but Tom explains that Phineas took a sleeping pill cocktail before logging in. He has been taken off life support — if she logs out now, there won’t be anything to go back to. Michelle questions what the point of continuing to play is, knowing the game isn’t real.

As the game resumes, and the players come out of their trance and start going about their made-up lives, Ellen arrives at the hotel. She’d like to book a room for a few weeks.

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