TV TIME: How to Identify the Evil Twin

One thing I loved about TV Guide in its heyday was its frequent description of a performer playing two different characters in the same episode as being in 'a rare dual role.' It seems like it happens all the time. There is a rich history of look-alikes appearing out of nowhere in television, and quite often they are not just twins, but evil twins. Unsuspecting friends, associates, even family members frequently must determine who the real deal is. As a public service, TV Time draws on the proud tradition of the medium to teach you how to identify the evil one if you ever start seeing double. Just ask yourself these simple questions to expose the villain (Note: Major spoilers are ahead, but we feel it's worth it to give you this valuable skill).

Is he wearing black? Despite the cliche that the bad guys always wear black hats, many dark-clad television characters do good things: Zorro, Paladin, Tennessee Tuxedo...Yet as a general rule, if you see two guys in uniforms, trust the one in, say, the standard-issue military blues.

Case in point is 'Wilton the Kid,' a second-season episode of F Troop in which O'Rourke and Agarn stumble upon a bank robbery and are stunned when the bandit's veil slips, revealing the face of Captain Parmenter (Ken Berry)! They barely believe it, but later in another encounter, the same bandit's veil falls again, and it's unmistakably the face of their commanding officer. I was also stunned by the thought of Ken Berry doing anything evil until I remembered his character was the one who introduced Cousin Oliver to The Brady Bunch.

As Sheriff Lawton (guest star Sterling Holloway in glasses with lenses thicker than Agarn's cranium) reveals, the interloper is infamous fugitive Kid Vicious. The outlaw overcomes Parmenter and switches clothes with him in an effort to fool everyone. Fortunately for the real Captain, O'Rourke doesn't realize he's in a sitcom and is supposed to provide humorous complications for several minutes. Instead, he immediately exposes the fraud by asking several questions he can't answer.

It's a good effort by Kid Vicious, who realizes everyone suspects the guy wearing the dark clothes. However, the real lesson here is not that this thief needs to get a new costume. No, it's that he should have invested a few of those stolen greenbacks on a new veil. What's the point of getting cool bank-robbing duds if you kill the whole gimmick with a flimsy mouth covering?

Does he know what 'the banner' is? In The Adventures of Superman episode 'Jimmy the Kid,' Clark Kent has the goods on criminal J.W. Gridley, while a pair of goons come up empty in an attempt to find the affidavits and marked money that will serve as evidence. Gridley brings in a dead ringer for Jimmy Olsen, ex-con Kid Collins. (Apparently another solid way to identify the evil twin: Pick the one named 'Kid'). Kid switches clothes with Jimmy and takes his place at the 'Daily Planet' to snatch the documents.

You might think Kid Collins would play it low key while impersonating Olsen at the office, but, oh, how wrong you would be. Collins puts his feet up on the desk, smokes a cigar, and calls the sports desk to put in a wager on a horse race. The late Jack Larson has a great time sneering his way through the dual role, providing an impudent contrast to the wide-eyed cub reporter. Collins whistles at Lois Lane, calls her 'honey,' and keeps calling Perry White 'Dad.' He means it in a snide way, too, not like, 'I respect you as a father figure despite the fact you treat me like an idiot and always yell at me, Mr. White.'

When Clark calls in a story of Superman helping squelch a forest fire, 'Jimmy' is tasked with writing it up for publication. Kent tells him to stop trying to talk like an underworld character, but White is even more incredulous when he reads the story. 'Of all the ridic--' White sputters. 'A forest fire tried to muscle into Metropolis today. It was hotter than the hot seat at Sing Sing?' Personally I think the staid 'Planet' could use a little punchier reporting to compete with the tabloid Metropolis Post, but that's just me.

The ruse collapses when Lois tells 'Jimmy' she had to rewrite the story, so SHE got the banner. Seeing his confusion, it finally registers.: 'Your freshness...the cigars...the way you wrote that article...and now not knowing what a banner is.' Yep, Lois, that ain't Jimmy. A later scene shows Collins holding White at gunpoint as the beleaguered editor insists he 'still finds it hard to believe it isn't Olsen gone crazy.' If those are the kinds of instincts possessed by the top newsman at the city's main paper, I'd hate to see who's running the competition.

What does his signature look like? If we can agree that the look-alike stranger is one of the sillier plot devices around, then we shouldn't be surprised Gilligan's Island uses it repeatedly. In 'Will the Real Thurston Howell Please Stand Up?' the castaways hear radio bulletins that Howell has been rescued and is resuming control of his corporation. This impostor is off camera most of the episode, as Mr. Howell fumes over the frequent news updates recounting how the crook is wasting his money. 'I'll kill him! I'll kill him!' Thurston rants as he walks into the lagoon three different times to track him down. I don't know if radio news is better or worse today for the fact that we don't get multiple reports of wealthy financiers selling off shares of Amalgamated.

Determined to save his money, Howell offers a million dollars to anyone who helps him get back to civilization. The others work feverishly on various schemes to get Howell off the island. NOW the millionaire suddenly thinks of this incentive? And come to think of it, NOW they decide to start thinking of ways to get off the island?

A pontoon boat fails, but eventually the fake Mr. Howell comes to them, washing up on shore after falling off a yacht. He conks the real Thurston on the head with a coconut and -- say it with me -- switches clothes to fool the others. The deception works for a while, as this guy looks just like Mr. Howell, talks like Mr. Howell, even has a mole on his elbow like Mr. Howell. While each Mr. Howell tries to convince the others he's genuine, the two follow proper sitcom twin etiquette, forming a neat symmetry by standing on opposite sides of the screen.

Soon the radio breaks in again with news that authorities discovered the rescued man was a fake when they saw his signature didn't match. 'Of course!' the gang exclaims, and the doppelganger doesn't even wait for the Professor to rig up a handwriting test with coconut ink, bolting for the lagoon before anyone can catch him. The lesson here is that two people can appear completely identical, but no two signatures are alike. Well, unless someone practices how to forge the other's signature. Maybe the real lesson is that even without the rise of rock music, AM radio was doomed if it didn't ditch those endless news bulletins.

Does he respond to the name 'Micky?' In 'Alias Micky Dolenz,' the drummer and vocalist of The Monkees is recruited by a police captain (Robert Strauss) to portray his look-alike gangster counterpart, infiltrate his gang, and lead the authorities to their stolen loot. Hey, what could go wrong in that scenario? As Strauss tells a nervous Dolenz, 'Gangsters are just like ordinary people...with Tommy guns.' Just think of all the overtime pay the city saves by scaring untrained civilians into doing all that pesky criminal investigation stuff.

This story seems a natural fit for Dolenz, considering that by my unscientific count he does a Jimmy Cagney impersonation in about 85% of the Monkees episodes. Much to my surprise, Dolenz plays Baby Face (I guess 'Kid' Baby Face would be redundant) not with Cagney tics, but by squinting and being surly.

It goes fairly well until Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork are essentially forced to pretend they, too, are criminals just as the real Baby Face escapes from the joint. As everyone gathers in a mansion to retrieve the stashed diamonds, Micky and Baby Face stand side by side, and Micky tries to convince the gang HE is the evil one. When Dolenz correctly answers a question about a past job, Baby Face says it was in the papers, and Peter says, 'He's got you there, Micky!' And the jig is up.

Conspicuous by his absence is Davy Jones, who shows up after the story ends in a tacked-on outro to explain that during filming he was in England to attend his sister's wedding. 'Alias' is a fun showcase for Micky, but the show loses something with two of the band mates barely there and one AWOL. Maybe Davy should have sent his evil double to the set.

Does he cast a shadow? In the Lost In Space episode 'The Anti-Matter Man,' Robot is messing around with some big motors when, long story short, a lightning storm summons an evil version of John Robinson from a parallel antimatter universe, and when the motors shut down, both Robinsons vanish. Later, the Robot and Will restart the machine, but only one John Robinson -- the evil one -- returns.

I wish I could explain this better, but I must confess I have no idea what's happening. I grew up reading comic books about parallel universes and anti-matter, and I just nodded my head and thought, 'Ahh, yep, got it.' Now I'm an adult and it's all way over my head.

It's still a fantastic outing of the series, though, with the Robot quickly realizing Evil John Robinson, who imprisons the real deal in his antimatter world while seizing his opportunity to take over in our reality, is an impostor. As he tells a skeptical Will, this guy doesn't cast a shadow. Really, everyone notices what a jerk this John Robinson is to everyone, so it's not a huge mystery.

It culminates in a great battle between the two John Robinsons on a funky bridge-like structure between the two worlds. It's like one of the old scaffold matches in the National Wrestling Alliance, only if it were on an escalator as a fog machine went crazy in the arena. Not only that, John Robinson Prime has to first battle Evil Don West, plus we get a glimpse of the anti-matter world's version of Robot. The encounter between the two Robots isn't directly relevant to this article, but I can't in good conscience get out of here without letting you know that the counterpart, behind bars in the alternate universe, sings 'Sweet Low, Sweet Chariot' in one of the all-time highlights of the series.

Does he have facial hair? At the risk of offending our more hirsute readers, you just don't see too many instances in which the clean-shaven look-alike is the one up to no good. Unlike in many of these episodes, there isn't much confusion in Star Trek's 'Mirror, Mirror,' when a transporter mishap (notice I didn't write 'rare' transporter mishap) sends Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty to an alternate universe where the Enterprise crew is bad to the bone and Evil Spock has a great Van Dyke. Of course this rattles the real Kirk and the real McCoy (sorry), but they figure out pretty quickly the dude with the cool new look is not 'their' Spock. Still, my site membership might be revoked if I write a column about evil twins without giving this legendary episode a nod.

Then there's Chuck Connors as both Lucas McCain of The Rifleman and unhinged desperado Earl Bantry in 'Deadly Image.' Bantry steals some cattle and guns down a man in cold blood, leading the victim's brother to confront and accuse Lucas the next day. It was his face, the brother says. It was dirty and unshaven, and it had a scar and a mustache. Problem is, as Lucas points out, he doesn't have a mustache or a scar. Oops. You can't blame the guy, though, since other than the scar, the mustache, the steely stare, the grizzled voice, the different clothing, and the behavior totally unlike anything ever exhibited by Lucas McCain, they could be twins. I half-expected Lucas to channel Chico Marx and plead, 'Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?'

Finally, there is the amazing coincidence in Bonanza's 'The Gunmen,' when not only do a couple of cold-blooded hired killers, Big Jack and Little Jim, look just like Hoss and Little Joe, respectively, but the Cartwright's happen to wander into town right after the bad guys blow through. The rattled citizens cower, but of course we know Big Jack and Little Jim aren't our heroes because they wear a full beard and a mustache.

Not until the episode's conclusion do all four men meet, but plenty of hi-jinks ensue before that point, and the show plays almost all of it for laughs. Now, Bonanza ran fourteen seasons and 430 episodes, so you might excuse the creative team for resorting to such a plot...until I told you that 'The Gunmen' appeared just over halfway through its first season. In fact, the series loved the evil double gimmick, using it multiple times over the years, to the point where I think you couldn't get hired as a ranch hand on the Ponderosa unless you could provide proof of a devious doppelganger.

Let's not bury Bonanza, though, for doing what so many other shows of its era did. If classic television is indicative of real life, and I think we all hope that it is, then the odds are pretty good that you or someone you know will meet an evil counterpart at some point. Thanks to shows like these, we have a fighting chance of spotting the good versions.

Rick Brooks is the proprietor of Cultureshark, a blog in which he uses an often irreverent approach to express his reverence for the classics and the un-classics.