The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
24 user 6 critic

Five Characters in Search of an Exit 

An army major awakens in a small room with no idea of who he is or how he got there. He finds four other people in the same room, and they all begin to question how they each arrived there, and more importantly, how to escape.


Lamont Johnson


Rod Serling (teleplay by), Marvin Petal (based on a short story by) | 1 more credit »




Episode complete credited cast:
Susan Harrison ... The Ballerina
William Windom ... The Major (as Bill Windom)
Murray Matheson ... The Clown
Kelton Garwood Kelton Garwood ... The Tramp
Clark Allen Clark Allen ... The Bagpiper
Carol Hill ... Woman
Mona Houghton Mona Houghton ... Little Girl


It all starts when an army major wakes up in a small cylindrical room with no way out. The walls are too high to climb and they're too hard to puncture. Trapped inside with him is a clown, a bagpiper, a ballerina, and a hobo. They have all woken up inside there and have no idea where they are, what they're doing there, how long they've been there or even who they are or how long they'll be there. They apparently are unable to feel anything, and every now and then a loud clanging sound makes them all fall down. All of them have tried various ways of finding an exit, unsuccessfully. The army major especially is determined to escape. He tries all sorts of ways to find an exit, but he cannot find one. Even when he hits the walls with his sword, it shatters. The major suggests that they are in Hell, so there IS no way out. Eventually the five characters decide that the only way out is to make a human tower. But then when the ballerina nearly reaches the top, the clanging sound goes again ... Written by almightyone

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis








Release Date:

22 December 1961 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The title "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" combines those of the play by Italian writer Luigi Pirandello: "Six Characters in Search of an Author," and the play by French writer Jean-Paul Sartre: No Exit. See more »


After they fall from the attempted escape, the ballerina lies with her leg straightened, but in the following shot, is kneeling and facing another way. See more »


The Major: Who are we?
The Ballerina: None of us knows Major. We don't know who we are, we don't know where we are. Each of us woke up one moment and here we were in the darkness.
The Major: How can that happen?
The Ballerina: That's the question we asked ourselves Major, a question with no answer. We're nameless things with no memory, no knowledge of what went before. No understanding of what is now, no knowledge of what will be.
See more »


Remade as Fox Mystery Theater: Child's Play (1984) See more »

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User Reviews

Where Do They All Belong?
11 November 2013 | by darrenpearce111See all my reviews

This one will either delight you or drive you crazy, or quite possibly both. William Windom plays the Major with no memory of who he is (the actor was brilliant in the Serling scripted 'They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar' in 'Night Gallery') and searching for his identity. He is confined in the austere setting of four high walls and the first person he meets to converse with is a Clown with a flower in his hat and a similar identity crisis. The Ballerina is played by Susan Harrison (from 'The Sweet Smell of Success') with a serene and dreamy quality.

The fun is to escape the 21st century for a while to enjoy the mysterious appeal of this puzzling TZ entry. You might be groaning a little at the end - but wasn't it fun to guess along with the characters?

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