To quit smoking, Frank Bigalow employs an organization with a one hundred percent success rate... but at what cost?
- Richard Romanus as Frank Bigalow
- Sam Anderson as Dr. Synapsis
- Howard Dayton as Matthews
- Catherine Battistone as Talk Show Hostess
- Paul Sparer as Narrator
It is morning in Frank Bigalow's apartment. His coffee machine begins making coffee and his alarm clock wakes him up at 7:30 AM. Bigalow grabs his television remote and turns his TV on, which first shows him only static. Bigalow looks in his nightstand for some cigarettes, recalling that he put two packs in the stand the previous night. When he cannot find them, he looks under the bed. He wonders why he can't find the cigarettes and also why his TV is not working. Bigalow gets up and begins to get dressed.
Bigalow goes into the bathroom and when he does, the TV screen displays a man in a suit. He continues to look for the cigarettes. When he looks at the TV, the picture returns to static. Bigalow goes to get himself some coffee. While is he facing away from the television, the man returns to the screen. Bigalow gets up to check the windowsill for his cigarettes and notices that he is not in his apartment. The sunlight is caused by stage lights shining through the windows. When Bigalow opens the door, there are bars preventing him from leaving. Bigalow tries several things to determine where he is, including checking the telephone and putting a hole in the wall. Bigalow finally reasons that he is not in his apartment, but in a cage.
Finally the man on the television screen speaks, congratulating Bigalow for figuring out the obvious. The man tells Bigalow that once he gives up tobacco his mind will work much better in the morning. Bigalow assumes that he is in a dream, but the man on the screen assures him that it is not a dream. Bigalow goes over several obvious reasons as to why the place he is in is not his apartment and objects to being kept in a prison. The man on the screen assures Bigalow that he will be allowed to leave the moment he gives up smoking.
Bigalow begins to get irate, but the man reiterates that Bigalow can leave as soon as he gives up smoking. This doesn't make sense to Bigalow because he points out there are no cigarettes in the apartment. The man instructs Bigalow to look in his nightstand. Bigalow finds the cigarettes but no lighter. The man points him to a book of matches under the TV screen.
When Bigalow lights up the cigarette, a smoke alarm begins beeping. The TV screen shows that he has received one smoking demerit. A spiraling light engulfs the room while a woman's voice instructs him to put out the cigarette to stop the punishment. Bigalow puts out the cigarette.
Bigalow is eating while the radio plays anti-smoking propaganda. He gets irritated and pulls the radio out of the wall. The TV screen shows packs of cigarettes set up like dominoes and Bigalow sees them on the counter. They begin to fall over, but he finally grabs a pack and opens it for a cigarette. The alarm goes off again and he is given a second smoking demerit. Bigalow tries to find a way to keep the smoke away from the smoke alarm, but it does not work. The alarm warns him to put out the cigarette or be punished. When the alarm suddenly stops, Bigalow scoffs at the punishment threat.
Looking around the apartment, Bigalow notices that almost all of his possessions are gone except a computer and a carton of cigarettes. He picks up the carton and as he does, the man's face appears on his TV screen, scolding Bigalow. Bigalow puts the carton into a drawer to which the man commends him on his willpower.
Angry, Bigalow accuses the man on the screen's methods as being a violation of law. The man, however, produces a contract with Bigalow's signature. Despite Bigalow's denial, the man informs him that he signed up for the program. Bigalow recalls sending for some information at the time of his father's funeral and the man on the screen lets him know that the reason it took so long for the program to start was due to a very long waiting list. Bigalow still has no idea how he arrived at the fake apartment and is surprised to hear that the company has a one hundred percent success rate.
Bigalow gets annoyed with the man on the screen and tosses his newspaper at the television screen. Suddenly packs of cigarettes begin to fall on him from the ceiling. Bigalow angrily tosses them aside.
Act IIIEditBigalow's apartment is even emptier than before. As he sits on the floor in a corner, he hears a voice call at him through a hole in the wall. Bigalow introduces himself to the man, who gives his name as Matthews. Bigalow remembers his voice as the voice of the anti-smoking propaganda he heard on the radio. Matthews claims he only read the script because Dr. Synapsis offered him three cigarettes to do so.
Matthews asks Bigalow if he has any cigarettes left, to which Bigalow admits that he has one but it is broken. Matthews asks for it, but Bigalow does not want to give it up as it is his last one. Bigalow, however, does not have any matches. Matthews has matches but no cigarettes. Matthews offers a trade of one cigarette for one match, but Bigalow recognizes the futility of this trade because it would leave him with a match but no cigarette. Matthews insists that they will give him more cigarettes because that is how their system works and Bigalow gives in and gives Matthews his cigarette.
As Bigalow is passing the cigarette over to Matthews, Matthews tells him he needs to act like he wants to give it up. Bigalow asks why and Matthews informs him that he is about to be interviewed by Dr. Synapsis, finally revealing the name of the man on the TV screen. Matthews says that if Bigalow pretends he wanted to give the cigarette up, it is the only way to fight Dr. Synapsis.
Dr. Synapsis starts the interview with Bigalow. He asks Bigalow how much he smokes a day, to which Bigalow answers three packs. Dr. Synapsis produces a picture that shows Bigalow smoking at age fifteen. Bigalow, remembering what Matthews told him, tells Dr. Synapsis that he is finally ready to give up smoking. Dr. Synapsis, however, is not fooled. He tells Bigalow that he knows Bigalow is only trying to be released from the program, but Bigalow insists that whether he gets out or not, he wants to quit. Dr. Synapsis commends him on his attitude and the screen goes fuzzy.
Bigalow turns around and looks at the room. He looks very uncomfortable, likely due to nicotine craving. Bigalow sees the alarm is turned off and also sees a pack of cigarettes on the floor. As he reaches for them, Matthews warns him that it is a trap and the moment he picks up the pack of cigarettes, the alarm will come back on. Bigalow tells Matthews that since everything in the apartment is gone, Dr. Synapsis has no way to punish him. Matthews tell Bigalow that he will tell him how to short circuit the alarm, but it will cost him all of the cigarettes but one.
Once Bigalow passes the pack of cigarettes (save one) to Matthews, the alarm begins to go off. Matthews goes silent and Bigalow demands the cigarettes back. Bigalow realizes that Matthews was part of the treatment and he finally snaps. He rips apart the smoke alarm, dropping pieces all over the floor.
Bigalow reaches for his last cigarette and realizes it fell out of his belt loop. He searches for it in the rubble and finds it almost broken. He attempts to fix it and then looks for a match and starts to light the cigarette. After taking a long puff on the cigarette, Bigalow hears the alarm going off again. Shocked, he looks up and sees the alarm is fully intact on the ceiling. He gets a third smoking demerit and the voice informs him that once he puts out the cigarette, the punishment will cease. Bigalow snaps again, screaming.
Bigalow wakes up in his apartment and everything seems normal. His first assumption is that everything was just a dream. He finds out that he does not want his cigarettes and throws them to the side. He looks around and all his belongings are back.Bigalow pours and savors a cup of coffee. He them hears Dr. Synapsis's voice wish him a good morning. Apprehensively, Bigalow looks over at the TV screen and Dr. Synapsis informs him that they are going to work on his addiction to caffeine. Shocked, Bigalow drops his coffee mug and Dr. Synapsis tells him it is a promising beginning. Looking around, Bigalow sees his possessions are once again gone.
- This episode's plot bears a remarkable resemblance to Stephen King's short story "Quitters, Inc." (first appeared in Night Shift, 1978). It also involves a man attempting to quit smoking with the help of a mysterious company that promises a high success rate and uses cruel punishments as aversion therapy. Both are responses to the prolific anti-smoking PSAs during this era.
- "Synapsis" refers to the plural of "synapse" - the brain structure that allows nerve cells to pass electro-chemical signals to other nerve cells. They are the basic unit of the nervous system and play a strong role in memory formation.
- When Matthews is offering the trade, Bigalow says, "It's a terrible trade. What do I need a cigarette for if I don't have a match?" As the one giving up the cigarette and getting the match, he should have said "What do I need a match for if I don't have a cigarette?"