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The Bullet


An accident kills a man but he is made to return to Earth to trade places with the fated victim.



Air Dates

  • First Run - January 8, 1974
  • Repeat - February 15, 1974






54 Responses to Episode 0003

Fatalism at its finest; very Twilight Zone-esque. Have a hard time sympathizing with a man who won't fight for his life. Supernatural story with mild comedic elements, posits an afterlife replete with computers and bureaucrats.


This is one of my favorite episodes of Mystery Theater. Creative writing makes the listener enthralled in the plot. Absolutely classic!

Davy Joe

I concur, brilliant show !


Definitely one of my favorite episodes of RMT, just a great plot and very intriguing story!


Great episode!


Love this episode! In order to set things right in the world, a soldier who is accidentally killed in combat is sent back to earth to trade places with the victim!


An interesting tale about a survivor of a war who cheated his fate. Starring Larry Haynes, this story becomes interesting when he "sees" his friend from the army - a friend that took a bullet and died on the battlefield.


Boy, this episode was a real winner. Way to go Sam Dann! Top episode so far. I was wondering whether I would hear an episode that really moved me and this was the first one to do it. Maybe because I could really relate to Jerry, a mild-mannered guy that wasn't an assertive 'type A personality' kind of guy. When you realized that Jerry had to accept his fate and couldn't fight against the divine plan, you really started to feel for his plight. I thought that the personality of Paul went through a rather strange metamorphosis from spooky mean to kind and caring, but aside from that, this episode was perfect. A real high point was the conversation between Paul and Jerry when they discuss the way the "plan" must play out exactly as originally envisioned....with no deviations. This is really a well written episode! I can't wait for Sam Dan's next.


Although I also got the idea that if he strayed from the plan, others could be hurt as he said to Jerry not take the plane, as there were others on there.

Scott H fave episode of the series!


I knew a SGT SMILEY in the Marine Corps all these long and productive years ago. He and two other SGT's changed my life for the better Mac and James, and E! Funny how life works out Karma issues. Thx SGT! Many of my classmates and friends died in the Nam and after. I had survivor's guilt for years. But no more !


A few years after the Vietnam War, a veteran is visited by his best friend from the war. Slight problem - the friend was killed during the war. His wife and friends think he is cracking up due to stress, but the friend seems to have a reason for being back from the grave. Classic CBSRMT bizarreness!


Ten years following his tour of duty in Viet Nam, a man starts getting visited by his best friend - who died in the war. His friend was killed doing a job that he was supposed to be doing. Now, who the bullet that killed him was intended for has to be sorted out.


An intiguing episode that focuses on how a man's life is changed after a friend takes a bullet for him in Vietnam. Years later, as he is living his life back in the states, he begins to be visited by the ghost of his army friend. What this ghost wants threatens the man's very existence. This episode deals with the notion of destiny and how a person might not be living the life that was intended for them. Errie and effective. Genre:Occult

Norah Ono

The "wrong man" dies in combat and must travel back to get the man who should have died in combat to give up his life to set the cosmos straight.

Elli Isaac

The "wrong man" dies in combat and must travel back to get the man who should have died in combat to give up his life to set the cosmos straight. Sam Dann's first script is deep and the story well acted. Recommended.

Jerry Strothers

Great story of the fate and the supernatural. A war vetran is married, working too hard, and then sees the ghost of his war buddy who went out on patrol in his place and ended up being killed. He believes that for each war death there is a bullet specifically designed for you, and he got the wrong bullet. The war buddy tells him that his death was a mistake and that 'City Hall' is about to correct it in a couple of weeks when they will trade places.

Q. Phoenix

Larry Haines (as Jerry Price) does another tremendous job of acting as a paranoid man, just like in Ep.167-THE BLACK ROOM. Every time when Jerry's buddy, Paul Gardener (played by Marin Newman) appears, there comes that piano music that makes the scenes dark & illusory. The main character's death would've been better if the bullet that killed Paul was the same bullet to kill Jerry. Other than that, it's worth listening to.


When I first started listening I thought this one may not be all that good. But after a couple minutes it soon became very compelling. I rate this 4 out of 5 delusions for very good. :) This shows idea and plot obviously have been played in different degrees in many programs. There was a Twilight Zone that played on this similarly. The soldier in that case was aboard a ship and by his mistake caused the death of all his ship mates. The more recent years example of the idea of cheating death was the "Final Destination" movies. The acting in this episode are very good as well. They all play the parts excellently. Take a listen. This on is definitely near the top of my fav list of shows! Check it out!


Great selection! This is one of my top 10 episodes because the writing and acting are superb. I think most people have wondered if fate plays a role in their lives but Sam Dann, in his first CBSRMT creation, tells a terrific story to make us explore this issue. We see friendship, a call to duty, fate, fear and love in this play which I gave a 5 because it embodied everything I like about the CBSRMT. I find it interesting to think of the mindset at the time this play was written. The fact that it was based on a battle scene reminds me that it wasn't until April 30, 1975 that the last of the US troops were pulled back from Vietnam. The whole country was influenced by the war and I'm sure Sam Dann's writing reflected this preoccupation. Finally, you had to love hearing Himan Brown speak of his excitement about this new series of radio drama we all love as the CBSRMT. Anyone win one of the prizes that were offered? Anyone got one to sell?

Brad Dolph

I have not re-listened to this episode yet for evaluating, but I want to chime in here with a little information. On later recordings from 1974, Himan Brown announces the winners. this actually happened twice. It's pretty cool stuff. God bless that soul from the Kansas City area who thought to record the show in its very earliest days along with all that interesting news. Also a special blessing for the person who recorded all of those Fulton Lewis commentaries from WOR on Watergate. I love that stuff.


Larry Haines had a certain voice quality he could just couldn't help feeling SORRY for the guy. (I think of some other episodes he did this, like "The Solid Gold Zarf" in which he's an everyman who loses his job for a large company where he's worked almost lifelong, and spends the rest of the episode trying to learn WHY he was fired.) He does it very well here, as a guy who had an unhappy, unable-to-please-his-father childhood who seems to survive (Viet Nam?) staring death in the face, only to stare at it again later, after marrying and having a career, when he learns he's the one who should have died in combat. This is one of those very few RMTs that I'd have a tough time listening to again (a similar episode being "Star Sapphire") because I feel such pity for the central character.

Meljohn Forbes

One aspect of this episode I found intriguing was that the initial introduction of the the ghost of the friend is very disturbing and you have a feeling that he is a malavolent spirit. It is only later we learn that he is, in a sense, a lost soul just like the lead character. This is a fine drama, dealing sensitively with the real regret many feel at some time in their life, that they have not lived the life for which they were intended.

Denver Delovino

I think the show is very good for creating a mood of doom, or fate, which runs its course. I've listened to it 2 or 3 times. A thoughtful episode.


I liked this one. It was an interesting concept to think about (not that I believe it) every person having a bullet with their name on it, then finding out there had been a cosmic mistake. I was wishing it was a "part 1 of 2" since I really wanted to know how the buddy made the move on the main character's widow and just who the son turned out to be.

Jerome Juggs

This was the type of show that made RMT what it was at its best. Mystery and suspense abound – was Paul truly a supernatural appearance to right an error of fate or just a stress related creation of Jerry’s tortured mind? Was there really a “Plan” or was Jerry’s death a suicidal product of post traumatic stress syndrome? We get conflicting clues as the show progresses – Jerry sees Paul in civilian attire, but then as the doctor predicts he doesn’t see Paul at all when he takes a long needed break from work and winds down. Even at the end, when Jerry yields to the Plan and steps in front of the truck we do not know whether it was fate or delusion induced suicide – until we hear Paul’s voice appear to comfort Marge. Then there was all that English teacher stuff – allusions and irony – just in the names we had Jerry “I didn’t pay the” Price and Paul “pushing up daisys” Gardner. It may be a stretch, but I thought even of Marge the Sarge confidence builder - always pushing Jerry to “be all he can be.” I gave it a solid 4, but it wasn’t quite a 5.


Great analysis.


your commentary on this episode is very interesting. I never considered that perhaps the whole thing was just stress-induced delusions (though being the Mystery Theater, I guess I just accepted the fantasy elements). I also appreciate your thoughts on the significance of the characters' names. I'm curious why it seemingly took so long for the "powers that be" to set things right and switch the two men. Why was Jerry allowed to return from Nam, marry, and start a career? And what had Paul been doing all this time? Standing around talking with Mr. Death about the weather?

Brian Pontillas

"I'm curious why it seemingly took so long for the "powers that be" to set things right and switch the two men." Well Joseph, My guess is that, since as Paul mentioned, it was a bureacratic mix up, the case worker responsible did not discover the mistake for several years, perhaps when his supervisor inquired about the birth of that special child Paul and Marge were to have. Then, rather than admit the mistake and seek assitance recitfying the situation, he covered it up for a few more years until his supervisor audits the file and learns that the child had never been born. The supervisor then notifies the Dept. Chief for North American Affairs, who is afraid to bring the matter up at the next board meeting for fear that the exposure of yet another such error from his Dept., would compromise his pending promotion. Only after several more years when the Dept. Chief finally takes control of the Board does he discretely take the measures recounted in this episode. Haven't we all lived this process at one time or another?


I also liked this epesode. It does make you wonder sometimes if there is a plan in store for us all. Not that I believe it, but it does make you wonder. I like Mike's description about why it took so long for the plan to be worked out. Maybe he should have been a writer for RMT.

Tychus F.

This show was very dramatic and the dialogue was outstanding. I kicked my vote up to a 5 because of the ending. I was expecting a sort of 'It's a Wonderful Life' type ending where Jerry's buddy had come back to help him see how much he had to live for. The 2-week binge at the end set me up for this expectation so the ending took me by surprise. In listening I tried to imagine hearing this as a brand-new series. It must have had quite an effect on the first audience. Also the treatment of the Vietnam vet and mental disorders was more open at this point than would be the case in the years to come when people didn't want to face these things. Also enjoyed the news spots and commercials, man how times have changed.


I give this episode a 5. I had listened to it once and it really didnt do much for me. I listened again last night and found it to be very entertaining. The part about every bullet being meant for a specific person really made me think. The war veteran angle really made me think what it must be like to be involved in a war. The way it was described the writers painted a very good mental picture, much better to me than tv shows or movies that I have seen.

John Richard V.

I enjoyed the acting and the story aspect dealing with fate (reminds me of the "It is your destiny" line ala darth vader). I was wondering though, when Jerry finds out he's gonna die in 2 wks by a truck, what does he say at the end of his vacation, "Honey we better hurry home I've got an appointment with a truck, smack dab in the kisser". What's the consensus on Jerry's last action of jumping in front of the truck. Noble? Stupid? Doesn't really matter, because he didn't have a say in it because fate/destiny forced him to do it?

Antonel Ross

I liked this episode for a number of reasons the biggest of which is that we don't really know why he did it. It could have been post traumatic stress but maybe it was guilt? Well into this episode I couldn't help but wonder if Paul really didn't get killed but somehow managed to survive... Sometimes the best episodes are the ones that really leave a lot to the listener. The thought provoking questions alone make this one a 5 in my book. I almost forgot to mention the music. How creepy was it when Paul first appears in the bar. The effect is extraordinary and sent a shiver down my spine.

Ruth Claire A.

The drama between both characters was a strong point in this episode for me. Not to mention the timeliness of the content. Has been one of my faves for a long time.

Roland Abot

Jerry was a Jackass! We all control our own destiny and the ghosts are demonic influences that we should NEVER listen to ... what a waste!


Larry Haines definitely has the worried/paranoid voice for all the roles he had on CBSRMT, I sometimes wonder if he always sounded like that (or similar). Although I agree with Nick about controlling our own destiny, if I heard my wife basically say that she would've moved to a place where my dead buddy would've gone back to, I might question it myself.


A tale of PTSD, rather than the supernatural. Martin Newman's only appearance (as Jerry's friend, Paul).


Another good one! Sad ending, however.


I'm a Sam Dann fan and this episode is one of his finest. PTSD playing into a well crafted emotional mystery. Well done Sam. Definitely 5 stars in my book.


EXcellent. So sad Jerry didn't get that partnership. I really didn't know how it would end.

Thomas V.

I love CBSRMT and I could probably list over a hundred great episode such as this. I think it gets unfairly panned by too many...sure, a few clunkers in the nearly 1300 episodes, but the many good ones rank as some of the best listening...on par with any Golden Age series!!! I'll probably see lots of rebuttal posts now!


I wonder if the horror film, final destination got it's idea from this episode? At any rate, Jerry was a decent soul, but I think the reason he didn't try to run in the end might have been that if he did others may have suffered too. Because his friend Paul said for him not to take the plane as others would be on it. In the end, what would someone else do? Try to outrun death? And as in the film, Final Destination, does death just regroup for another sequence.

Scott H

This plot is also taken out of the movies "Heaven Can Wait"... The 1978 remake was with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie... It was pretty good....


Two war soldiers who were buddies during Vietnam get together to talk about old times after nine years of separation. One of them is happily alive, while the other is dead.


Warning spoilers ahead. Up to the final 10 minutes this was a terrific episode however, just when you thought Jerry was going to fight what was going to happen he changes his mind. And then Paul shows up. But is in Paul supposed of been dead for almost 10 years, how is this going to be explained or is he somebody different altogether, I don’t believe that was ever explained how he was going to come back. Very interesting premise though just wish I had a better ending


You make a good point, and until you mentioned it, I didn't realize the big plot hole, lol! Maybe they just fixed it so Paul was never killed in the war. Apparently, they didn't want to completely erase Jerry, so they had him get run over by a truck instead of shot by a bullet. It still doesn't explain why Paul just suddenly appears out of no where, lol! Wasn't Jerry supposed to get Paul's bullet? If so, then they should have traded places, and Marge would never have met Jerry. You're right that there are many plot holes in this episode, lol! A better ending would be to have Marge married to Paul, talking to him about their son. Then Paul mentions his friend, Jerry, who got killed in the war and she gets a funny, eerie feeling. I can imagine the ending dialogue where she says, "Somehow, when you mention Jerry, I get such a funny feeling." He says, "Like what, honey?" She says, "Like I somehow knew him before and can't remember where, but I know that's not possible. I wonder, why do I feel that way?" He says, "I don't know, honey. Maybe it's just because Paul and I were so close, and you're somehow connected to him through me." Marge, "Yes, maybe that's the reason, but I still have this odd feeling I can't shake. I wonder why?" He says, "I don't know, honey. What's for dinner?" Cue the ending suspense music, lol! :D


Oops, I made a silly error, lol! When I was writing how the end dialogue should go, I had Paul say, "Maybe it's just because Paul and I were so close, and you're somehow connected to him through me." I should have made him say, "Maybe it's just because Jerry and I were so close, and you're somehow connected to him through me." Sorry for any confusion.


I have listened to all 1,399 episodes and now am listening to them again and reviewing them. I like Larry Haines and Ralph Bell. If you add Mason Adams, they are my favorite actors in the Mystery Theater Universe. Larry played "Speed" in the movie version of the Odd Couple. The story is solid and the acting is fine. A pretty damn good episode.


Got to love this one. Bureaucracy, so true! But truly a sad story in the end for Jerry. This was a solid one for RMT.


This is a fine episode, predating the concept that we are in a matrix-like simulation. One night, when I was going home from a meeting, a friend called me from a hamburger joint in Hollywood. I was tired, but I decided to go meet him. I'm so glad I did. I heard a tiny meow from a little kitten hiding behind the trash bin. 10 years later, my little sweet girl Pinky and I have become the dearest of friends. Kismet? Only EG Marshall knows for sure

Tony Forkush

Did anyone else feel that Paul was kind of a jerk when he was talking to Jerry about how Marge would love him better? He was really insensitive and superior, and to me he wasn't really acting much like a best friend. Jerry just took it and didn't even seem to be bothered by Paul's attitude. Jerry was kind of a wimp, lol!


Thank you for bringing back great memories! If my wife, two children were rich we sure would donate but since I have become disabled in my late 30’s we don’t make much so that’s why from our family to whom ever makes this possible Thank You! In Jesus Christ Name Through The Holy Spirit Amen 🙏 😇👼

Craig & Luzviminda Johnson

Stupid episode. God doesn't make mistakes . “If there is one maverick molecule in all the universe, then God is not sovereign. And if God is not sovereign, He is not God.” -- R. C. Sproul


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