Original Story by Rockne O'Bannon
Directed by Wes Craven
Original Airdate - October 4, 1985
  Robert Klein -
Annie Potts -
Adam Raber -
Robert J. Downey -
Brian Bradley -
Bernard Behrens -
Anne Betancourt -
Willard Pugh -
Helene Udy -
Mimi Neyer Craven -
Brynja Willis -
Russ Marin -
Alexandra Morgan -
Lee Arnone -
Raye Birk -
Joseph Whipp -
Dwier Brown -

Bill Lowery
Cathy Lowery
Donnie Lowery
Mr. Miller
Older Salesman
Admitting Nurse
Man in Elevator
Woman #1
Russ Marin -
Nurse #1
Nurse #2
Bearded Man
Doug Seaver


Bill Lowery, a salesman whose company has switched to a medical supply product line, stays up all night studying the new catalog to memorize the hundreds of pages of new medical terminology, in order to be ready to sell it in a weeks' time. His wife is worried about their son, who doesn't feel well. Bill goes off to work, hearing his neighbor call his dog an "encyclopedia". He shrugs it off, thinking he just didn't hear it right. He puts in a full day of trying to cope with the new words, and the jibes from the younger salesmen about teaching old dogs new "trumpets." He's surprised when he begins to hear people say things that he doesn't understand, but doesn't question it till later. At first it's just a word or two, completely out of place and meaning something entirely different to him, but obviously not to the other person.

Then, as the next few days go by, everyone starts to speak gibberish to him and he is now very scared. When he gets home, his wife is really upset about their son, who's got a very high fever now. Bill can't understand a word she's saying. Instead of wasting time trying to figure out what she's saying, he picks up the little boy and they go to the emergency room. His wife has to explain everything to the doctors, while Bill doesn't understand what she's saying. He's truly worried about his son. He sits in the waiting room with his wife, as people all around him speak a language he doesn't know anymore. When the doctors come out to tell them that their son is okay, the only way he can tell that is that his wife begins smiling. As the episode closes, Bill sits down in his son's bedroom, and picks up one of the ABC books. He begins studying the basics of a language he needs to relearn.

A question trembles in the silence: Why did this remarkable thing happen to this perfectly ordinary man. It may not matter why the world shifted so drastically for him. Existence is slippery at the best of times. What does matter is that Bill Lowery isn't ordinary. He's one of us. A man determined to prevail in the world that was, and the world that is, or the world that will be. In the Twilight Zone. 



This episode has great appeal to it, thanks to the remarkable performance of Robert Klein. He does a superlative job of losing his grip on the English language, and it was a good decision of the show's creators to take us along with him. We hear what he does, and it helps the episode attain credibility. Annie Potts seems kind of washed out and feeble in this role, and since Klein has the major share of the spotlight she's mostly in the background anyway. "Wordplay" is one of the "better than average" episodes, and is a delight to watch.

This is apparently based on a real but rare medical condition. Over the years I've gotten quite a bit of email on this particular episode, and everyone has been universally appreciative of the story.