Season one: Episode 15
Directed by: Richard Friedman
Written by: Michael McDowell
Based on a story by: Michael McDowell and Dennis Schuetz
Joan Matlin: Jean Marsh
An actress, at home in her apartment, is annoyed by a phone in a neighbors apartment that won't stop ringing.
Jean is sleeping and wearing a sleeping mask when a phone starts ringing. She at first assumes it is her alarm clock, but when she knocks it over, she realizes the phone is ringing. She gets up, accidentally stepping on the clock on her way to answer the phone. When she picks the phone up, Jean realizes that it is not her phone but the telephone of her neighbor that she is hearing through the thin walls of the apartment building.
Jean talks to herself as she is annoyed by the ringing. She tells herself that her grandmother always told her to not spend $600 a month on an apartment with thin walls. Jean pounds on the neighbor's wall and asks whomever lives there to answer the phone. She laments that not only does she have jet lag and a phone keeping her up in the middle of the night, but an audition at nine AM that she needs to get to. As the phone keeps ringing, she puts her pillow over her head and screams in frustration. As Jean lies there with the pillow over her face, the phone stops ringing. She cautiously takes her pillow off of her face, smiles and gives thanks for the phone stopping ringing.
Later, at 5:00 AM, Jean is once again woken by the phone ringing. Seeing what time it is, she muses that she must live next door to vampires because the neighbors are taking calls all night.
Jean begins talking about the problems she had in Los Angeles, mentioning how there may be crime and murder and smog, but at least the apartment buildings in California are built thick enough that you cannot hear a phone ringing through the walls. The ringing stops for a moment and then there is a loud thump on the wall. Jean muses that the vampires living next door must be having a party. She goes over to the window, leans out, and yells to the neighbors to answer their phone because others are trying to sleep. When the next ring is cut in half, she assumes that the phone is answered, yells "thanks" gives herself a point "for the good guys."
Still exhausted, but unsure if she can go back to sleep, Jean attempts to talk herself into falling back to sleep and manages to do so.
Jean is woken up again later by a knock on the wall. This time the knock causes the picture on her wall to get rocked. She is up and looking through her headshots, still talking to herself. The phone rings and at first she thinks it is the neighbor's phone again. However, she picks up her phone and it is her friend Lucy, whom she subletted the apartment from. Jean goes on an extremely dramatic and sarcastic rant, saying that she is fine because the best cure for jet lag is not getting any sleep. She sarcastically complains about the neigbors taking calls all through the night and letting their phone ring 67 times before they answer it.
At first Lucy must be surprised, because Jean's comments mention that although there may not have been any neighbors there two days ago, there are some now. Jean complains that if this is a regular thing, she will demand a rebate from Lucy on the apartment. Lucy gives Jean a phone number for the superintendent and Jean writes it down. She then tells Lucy that she did not get the part she had an audition for because she did not get any sleep. As she continues to complain, it is assumed Lucy doesn't want to be her sounding board, so Jean explains that she just needed to complain to someone. She ends the call. The moment she sits her phone down, the neighbor's phone starts ringing again.
Jean is eating a TV dinner when the neighbor's phone starts ringing again. Annoyed, Jean picks up her own phone and calls the super. Joan explains to the super that she has been constantly hearing the neighbor's phone ringing at all hours of the night. The super informs her that no on is in apartment 12F, but Joan insists that there has to be because someone was banging on the wall during the night. Frustrated beyond capacity, Joan holds her phone up so the super can hear the phone ringing. The super mentions that an English gentleman used to live in 12F but that no one lives there now. Joan tries to determine if the occupant of 12F had a phone that was always ringing off the hook.
Joan's conversation with the super reveals several things. When she asks when the English girl next door moved out, the super informs her that she died. Joan apologizes that the girl died, but insists that her friends should still stop calling. The super is obviously not offering much help, as Joan refers to herself as a "lowly sublet" and informs him that she will find a way to handle the problem on her own.
After Joan hangs up the phone, she takes her hands and puts them around her own neck. She wonders how one can strangle oneself. She returns to her meal, complaining that her mashed potatoes are cold and her gravy is congealed. Right away there is a loud thump on the wall of her bedroom and the phone starts ringing again. Joan gets up, leaves her apartment, knocks on the door to 12F and asks whoever lives there to unplug their phone or prepare to die. She pounds on the door and hears a pound back and the phone continues to ring.
Joan convinces herself that she has to get into the apartment. She rationalizes that since both Lucy and the super have told her that no one lives there that it does not matter if she goes in. The door is locked, so Joan goes back to her own apartment and gets a credit card. Right before she attempts to open the door with the credit card, the door opens on its own.
Upon entering the apartment, Joan notices several things. First, the apartment is totally empty. On the wall that her bed sits on the other side there are large dents which are obviously made by human hands. Joan thinks they appear to have been made by someone trying to get out of the apartment.
Joan then looks over and sees that the bathroom door is closed. She assumes that there must be someone inside the bathroom and asks whomever is in there to come out. When no one does, she ponders on whether she is stupid enough to go in the bathroom on her own. Deciding that she is that stupid, Joan opens the bathroom door and looks in, finding nothing. The apartment door sways a little as Joan is checking out the bathroom. As she continues to try and determine what is going on, the door to the closet slams shut.
Joan tries to explain to herself how the closet door closed. She at first thinks that it must have been the wind from the windows, even though the windows are closed. Opening the door, she sees the phone and immediately assumes her victory.
Picking up the handset for the phone, without dialing a number, Joan informs anyone that she is the occupant of 12E and that the occupant of 12F strangled herself to death and will not be taking any future calls. When an operator asks if she can help, Joan tells her she would like the have the phone disconnected. The operator tells her to call the business office back the next morning during business hours. The operator asks for the number that Joan is calling from so she will be able to give Joan the correct office to call for the disconnection. Joan informs her that she does not know the number because it is not her number. When the operator tells Joan that only the owner of the phone can disconnect the phone, Joan explains that it is a phone in an empty apartment where the occupant killed herself, commenting that it was probably due to dealing with the phone company. When the operator asks if the woman strangled herself with the phone cord, Joan gets worried and hangs the phone up.
Joan starts wondering what friends she might have in New York. She remembers Beth, who was her best friend before Joan stopped calling her. A voice answers that is identical to the one that was on the phone during the operator call. Before Joan can say anything, the voice informs her: "Beth can't come to the telephone, Joan." The voice tells Joan that Beth had an accident. Joan wants to know what kind of accident Beth had and how the person answering the phone knew Joan's name without it being given. She realizes that the voice is the same one that she hung up on. When Joan hangs up again, she calls 411 and the voice answers yet again. Joan asks for the number for emergency disconnections and the operator informs her that they have no listings. Joan tries to get a number for the police, but the operator asks her many questions and assumptions as to what the emergency is. Joan hangs the phone and leaves the apartment.
Joan is in bed reading "The Call of the Wild" when the banging and phone ringing start up again. She gets out of bed, lamenting that she did not choose to spend the summer in Salt Lake City rather than Manhatten. She muses that mormons ttreat actors like Royalty. She takes money out of her wallet. Joan picks up a skillet, wondering what the best object to beat someone to death would be. She finally decides on her hands.
Joan leaves her apartment and knocks on the door to 12F. She moves away when there is a pounding in response. She attempts to open the door with her credit card, while praying to herself that the door will not open at all. When the door does open, Joan mentions that she knew it would and she enters the apartment again. There is more damage. When Joan is in the apartment, all the doors slam shut. The phone begins one long continuous ring. Joan throws the phone and the ground and tries to leave. The phone attacks her, knocking the door closed and strangling her with the wire. The scene exits with the phone ringing and Joan laying strangled on the floor.
Joan's Apartment was 12E
Beth's phone number was 555-1568