The Twilight Zone season 1, episode 2 recap: Nightmare at 30,000 Feet


Based on one of the all-time great episodes of The Twilight Zone, CBS All Access takes to the skies for an episode about one man’s terror.

Justin Sanderson is an investigative journalist who is flying to Tel Aviv. This episode of The Twilight Zone opens by following him through the airport, first through security and then to a shop.

In the shop, he spots a magazine with one of his articles on the cover. He goes to pick one up and winds up reaching for the same one as another man. The man recognizes Justin from tv and Justin, flattered, decides to buy the magazine for the man. The man, Joe, asks for a signature and Justin obliges.

Back on his way to his gate, Justin calls his wife. (Behind him is a wall ad for missions to Mars, which, based on clips from future episodes, might play in later this season.)

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Justin’s wife doesn’t think this trip is a good idea, but Justin says he needs the work. He’s made a promise to stay out of high-stress situations (after seeing troubling things on his last assignment), so he tries to explain that Tel Aviv isn’t Yemen, so this trip will be fine.

His wife reminds him of a mantra he was given: “the past is the past.”

Before getting off the phone and boarding the plane, Justin mentions that the flight number is 1015 and it’s departing at 10:15 p.m. and it also happens to be Oct. 15.

On the plane, a family is having a conversation with a flight attendant because they need an extra seat in first class for one of their children (who they had thought would be able to share a seat with them). Kindly, Justin agrees to move back to coach to allow the family to have his seat.

Since the main cabin is one-third empty, Justin can pretty much take his pick of seats. As he puts his bag away, he sees Joe a few rows back and they nod at each other.

In his seat, Justin finds an mp3 player with a podcast episode about the mystery of a missing flight 1015. He digs out some headphones from the seat pocket in front of the guy next to him and starts listening.

The podcast narrator starts and is completely in sync with what’s happening, talking about the thunderstorm outside and the flight attendants going through safety instructions. The narrator then says that, in less than an hour, the plane was going to disappear. As Justin listens, there’s a crack of thunder that makes him jump, grab the armrest and start saying his mantra.

“Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” — Pictured (l-r): China Chavers as Alysha Quinn; Katie Findlay as Asa Maynor of the CBS All Access series THE TWILIGHT ZONE available to stream on Monday, April 1st. Photo Cr: Robert Falconer/CBS © 2018 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

The podcast moves on to “ominous signs” and mentions a “Captain Donner.” At the same moment, the captain of Justin’s flight is giving an announcement. Justin pauses the podcast and asks the man next to him what the pilot said his name was.

The man is trying to sleep and brushes Justin off. Persisting, Justin asks the man to listen to the podcast, to verify what he’s hearing. Eventually, the man gets so annoyed that he gets up and switches seats.

Back into the podcast, the narrator says that it was reported that a bird struck one of the plane’s engines at 10:21 p.m. Justin glances at the time, 10:21 p.m. and there’s an explosion from the engine closest to him. He jumps out of his seat. Panicked, he goes into the bathroom to splash his face with water.

He gets back to his seat and repeatedly, frantically calls for a flight attendant. When one finally comes up to him, he asks if the plane his a bird, but the flight attendant doesn’t seem to know anything about it and won’t bother the pilot. Justin starts to raise his voice and the flight attendant tries to calm him down.

Eventually, Justin calms down and the flight attendant walks away. Then, Joe comes up to Justin and says that they did, in fact, hit a bird. Joe says he knows because he used to be a pilot for this airline.

But then he tries to calm Joe by saying that this is a good flight crew. He also admits that he doesn’t fly anymore because he made one too many mistakes he can’t take back.

After Joe goes back to his seat, Justin gets back into the podcast. The podcast mentions that the flight disappears at 11:15 p.m. (it’s 10:30 p.m. at this point) and the final words from the pilot were “Good night, New York.”

The pilot then comes over the speaker system and says that they storm in front of them is developing quicker than expected, but he assures passengers that it’s nothing to worry about. Things might just get bumpy.

Next, the podcast talks about looking for signs and clues to help figure out what happened to the plane to make it crash. Justin takes out a notebook and pen and starts taking notes.

Justin also walks the plane, looking at all the passengers and watching the cameras that were set up so that passengers could see what the pilots were up to in the cockpit.

Two theories get Justin into a bit of trouble with the flight attendants. The first, the idea that something might have disrupted communications. Justin disturbs and angers two Sikh passengers when he tries to tell them to stop watching sports, even though they are using wifi. Flight attendants make him go back to his seat.

“Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” — Pictured: Chris Diamantopoulos as Joe Beaumont of the CBS All Access series THE TWILIGHT ZONE available to stream on Monday, April 1st. Photo Cr: Robert Falconer/CBS © 2018 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

The other, the theory that there’s a Russian in witness protection on the flight who might be the target of the Russian mafia. There’s also an Air Marshal on board. Justin picks out two men who he thinks are the Russian and the Air Marshal charged with protecting him.

Justin asks the flight attendant to speak with the Marshal, but she says that flight crews aren’t told when Air Marshals are on board. Justin also asks Joe if Joe is actually the Air Marshal. He isn’t. But Joe gives Justin advice, saying that Air Marshal’s have to think like a terrorist and the best way to do that is to think like a deceptive person.

Justin takes that advice and decides to sneakily goes to the two me he thinks are the Russian and Air Marshal and, while they’re sleeping, riffles through their stuff on the ground. (Yes, everyone around is looking at him doing this.)

When he tries to find their overhead bags, a bag drops into the lap of one of the men and wakes him. Then all hell breaks loose. Justin tries to explain that he knows who the man really is and that they’re in danger, but the men don’t know what he’s talking about. The real Russian man bursts in from first class, thinking someone is threatening him. Flight attendants and the captain get involved, other passengers are filming the incident on their phones and, eventually, Justin is convinced to go back to his seat.

As he gets back, he starts the podcast again. This time, the podcast brings him up by name saying that Justin Sanderson is directly linked to the events. Video of a disturbance was uploaded online just before the plane disappeared. Audio from the incident is played, it’s the exact incident that just happened.

Since Justin still hasn’t sat down, the flight attendants and pilot again come up to him, increasingly frustrated with his behavior. The pilot pulls him aside and Justin tells him to not say “Good night, New York” because they’ll be the last words anyone hears from their plane.

The pilot takes it as a threat and warns Justin. Finally, Justin is arrested by the real Air Marshal (who had been sitting across the aisle from him the whole time).

It’s 11:10 p.m. now and the Air Marshal tells Justin that she listened to the podcast, but they don’t predict the future. Suspecting a psychotic break, she says there’ll be people to help him when the plane lands.

Justin tries to reason, saying he knows what a mental breakdown feels like and this isn’t one. Just then, the pilot comes up and pulls the Air Marshal aside to talk about a situation. When she leaves, she leaves the mp3 player.

“Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” — Pictured: Adam Scott as Justin Sanderson of the CBS All Access series THE TWILIGHT ZONE available to stream on Monday, April 1st. Photo Cr: Robert Falconer/CBS © 2018 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

Justin grabs the player and turns the podcast back on. It’s the very end of the podcast now. The narrator speculates that the flight was perilously close to the thunderstorm and wonders if anything could have been done to prevent the tragedy. On cue, Joe walks up and sits by Justin, saying he believes Justin.

They talk and Justin, since Joe is a pilot and they only have two minutes left before 11:15 p.m., suggests that Joe take over control of the plane, turn it around and land them safely.

Joe points out that he doesn’t know the key code to get to the cockpit. But then, Justin realizes that he knows it: 1015.

Joe springs into action with a plan. Once he’s in the cockpit, he’s going to drop the cabin pressure (and make sure the oxygen masks don’t work) so that everyone on the plane falls asleep. Joe makes sure Justin has a handheld oxygen tank so he can stay awake. Then, when the coast is clear, Joe will call for Justin to join him.

Finally, Joe says that Justin is doing a good thing and saving the souls of those on the flight.

Then, Joe makes his way to the front of the plane. He uses the code to enter the cockpit and he knocks out the captain and co-pilot. He takes control of the plane, executing their plan. Everyone on the plane is panicking and the Marshal and flight attendants rush to the front to try to break into the cockpit.

Oxygen masks drop and, before long, everyone but Justin is asleep.

Joe comes over the speakers, thanking Justin. He says that he’ll never be able to be the man he once was and this has given him the chance to find peace. Still, on the speaker system, Joe receives a message from air traffic control.

He responds by saying, “Good night, New York.” Joe leans back in his seat and closes his eyes. Justin realizes his mistake. The plane goes down.

The Twilight Zone then cuts to Justin waking up on a beach alone with luggage floating in the water and plane wreckage in the water. He spots the mp3 player. He turns it on. It’s episode two of the podcast.

The podcast reveals that, after months of searching, a cargo ship found the passengers and everyone had survived. Well, everyone except Justin, who was still missing.

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Justin looks up and spots a child who was on the plane. He then sees everyone else from the plane. All walking directly toward him. He tries to reason, saying he tried to save them, but they won’t listen. They blame him.

This episode of The Twilight Zone ends with Justin being beaten (and presumably killed) by the angry passengers of flight 1015.

How are you feeling after this episode of The Twilight Zone? What would you do if a true crime podcast started predicting your future? Let us know all of your thoughts on The Twilight Zone in the comments.