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The Solitary


The story of an unlikely friendship between a prisoner and the security officer. The prisoner is hated and tortured by another guard regularly and the warden tries to find a way to resolve the conflict.



Air Dates

  • First Run - September 29, 1977
  • Repeat - February 19, 1978





91     7

24 Responses to Episode 0717

Larry Haines plays a violence-prone prisoner in solitary confinement for brutally beating up one of the guards. Ralph Bell is the senior guard who actually feels sorry for the man and takes a liking to him...much to the dismay of the warden (Fred Gwynne). The acting by semi-regular guest stars Gwynne and Bell is very good in this realistic, but grim story. There is no twist at the end however.

Heavy Metal Fanatic

This was a good one...some of the RMT's a-list actors were on here. I remember getting into a spirited discussion on the first thread about this episode so I'm not sure what more to add, but it's a good one.

Geoff G.

I've got a good one here. Still a decent story.


What I liked most about this show (and why I recommended it) is how it delves into the human psyche and the interactions with it's surroundings when one is placed under mental stress. Although this show touches on solitary confinement and the effects that it has on the individual, it doesn't quite capture the essence for which it is intended. The very nature of this form of punishment is to serve as a deterrent to prisoners so that they will learn to welcome their newfounded regimented environment and adhere to the rules that go with it. This story does a good job of capturing the prisoner's complete and utter loneliness that he suffers from as a result of his confinement and his desperate need to interact with others. You see him cling to the smallest of good deeds that one of the guards does for him (which he does out of sympathy, no doubt). And how he rebels against the other guard, who is not so good, and intentionally goes out of his way to try to make the prisoner's surroundings as miserable as possible.

Jared J.

Whoa - hoa...a "little hooky-dooky"? Amazes me some of the things they'd talk about (or insinuate) on the RMT at times. Excellent cast...Fred Gwynne, Larry Haines, Ralph Bell, Nat Polin. More after I'm finished with this.

W. Gaines

I'm new here and it's pretty late where I am, so maybe I'm a bit slow on the uptake. What were they insinuating? That there's a great deal wrong with the prison system? I would have subtitled this story "The Quality of Mercy." Indeed, the word "mercy" kept running through my mind as I listened. It seemed that all the people here wanted to be merciful -- Higgins the guard and the warden, and even Broder (sp?) at one point -- but the system wouldn't let them. Perhaps that was what the program was insinuating?


"...the place smells like (EXPLETIVE) in the county jail. Homie lookin' at me like he's seen me before, he started throwin' up a sack then he spit on the floor, I think 'Hey, yah yo, I know this kid, that's the same (EXPLETIVE) who cocktailed my crib', The dude said 'Get ready', pulled a shank on me, I said, 'Come on, homie, you a bit too sloppy'. Fool tried to stab me, socked him in the eye, the guards yelled 'GIVE IT UP' and let two fly... ...they put him in 'the hole'... From "Busted in the hood" by Cypress Hill Funny thing. This rap song came out over a quarter century after the RMT's "The solitary" and they're still calling solitary confinement "the hole", as was done in this episode. (And for what it's worth the group "Cypress Hill", which behaves as though they're trying to become the new poster children for legalized marijuana use, are apparently no fans of the Los Angeles Police Department yet in this song don't see "the hole" as that bad of a thing for guys who try to attack you in prison.) And while I, like you, see this as an episode of mercy of sorts (though it's interesting how Fred Gwynne handled his character, as though he sees both sides of the reasoning for and against solitary confinement and isn't just looking at the rule book) I think if I was a guy who "cocktailed" someone's home then tried to stab him as in the song above, or who almost killed a woman then hit a wise-cracking guard (twice) as in our current RMT show of the week, they ought to put me in the hole.


I don't think this guy should be let off the hook. He should certainly be punished for his actions. But a whole month in solitary without even sunlight? That's not punishment; that's torture. I'd suggest, for example, extra terms of kitchen or latrine duty -- such hard, dreary, unpleasant labor would give our offender plenty of time to think over his acts. The Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and in my opinion that's exactly what this was. But then, that's what RMT does -- it explores the cruel and unusual things in our world.

Allister L.

Hopefully, Gwynne's character made a good solution to the problem. If I were him, I would have: 1. Put him back in "the hole" for awhile...actions have consequences. 2. Forbade the guard played by Nat Polin (The one who joked about the "hooky-dooky") from getting near the prisoner with severe consequences for doing so, if possible. 3. Let the guard played by Ralph Bell check up on the prisoner in "the hole" as frequently as possible. 4. Hoped the prisoner behaved himself so he could get out and not return again. I believe it would be interesting to see real-life situations of those who are put in solitary confinement while incarcerated. I'm guessing most of them have richly deserved it. But I'm in agreement with you that this should be a means of punishment, not torture. (And I don't think it was, as the prisoner had already been convicted of a crime, and they weren't trying to elicit information from him.)


So, you think it's okay to torture people as long as it's a punishment for an actual crime, and as long as they aren't being coerced for information. You would have been very happy in Medieval times, I guess.


Your solutions seem reasonable. I'd also add therapy to help the guy grow up a bit so that once he got out, he would be able to manage his anger without getting himself back in. When I was a child listening to RMT, I used to thrill every time I heard the name Fred Gwynne. Wow, I would think, Herman Munster on the radio! (I never saw Car 54, Where Are You?.)


This episode ran by me very quickly. It was very engrossing. Disturbing. The file itself was VERY difficult to listen to - muddled and much like listening to Charlie Brown's teacher talk (wawh, wawh, waaawhh). So, the fellow is in solitary. That stinks. So the fellow beat his woman. That stinks. So the fellow is lonesome. That stinks, too. I'm sorry, but I am a very compassionate person who takes great pity of people in our society who have bad fortune befall them. I'm the guy who does give out change to the homeless person I see on the street. I can't help it. It's my nature. But when it comes to those people who break the societal laws - the laws which we all must obide in order to try to live halfway normal lives, my heart does not bleed too much. Often I will be in traffic and see that one car that flies down the road in the breakdown lane, as though they had some right that the other thousands of commuters do not have. I see people at the grocery store take 10 items when the sign clearly says LIMIT 3 PER PERSON. Or when people let their dogs run along the beach when it is posted all over NO DOGS ALLOWED ON BEACH. This kind of behavior is obnoxious and makes me shake my head - but it is the kind of stuff that can be forgotton or not taken "too" seriously. However, the character in this story clearly exhibited signs of not being able to follow the rules of a bigger scheme. He wasn't just cutting in line, or disobeying a sign, he was crossing the lines of what our society deems acceptable. He knew the consequences. Since he was asking about things like baseball and the weather, it is safe to assume he was for the most part "sane." An insane person would have asked about something completely obscure, such as "What is the going rate for terillium on Planet G these days?" My point is, that I only identified with the main character in that it would really stink to be stuck in the hole like that. But I did not feel sad for his situation. I thought the guard who was comforting him was being kind, but foolish in not fulfilling his responsibility. The only one who seemed to me, to have a grasp on things was the second guard - the one with the glasses. He may not have been an admirable person, but he knew the way things were. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the way it was presented. A fine choice for OTR show. I gave it a 4.1 and especially enjoyed the audio special effects like the slat in the door opening and closing; the glass; etc. Thanks and best wishes!

Alan S.

Since he was asking about things like baseball and the weather, it is safe to assume he was for the most part "sane." An insane person would have asked about something completely obscure, such as "What is the going rate for terillium on Planet G these days.

C. Burton

Since he was asking about things like baseball and the weather, it is safe to assume he was for the most part "sane." An insane person would have asked about something completely obscure, such as "What is the going rate for terillium on Planet G these days. .....90% of these humans should be put to death

Luella Cooper

I'm going to try hypnosis on you. Repeat after me: nahh... you just got to remember to spell "quote" correctly! ....and again: nahh... you just got to remember to spell "quote" correctly! ........OK, you are now hypnotised and will not repeat this in your own box below

Justin Ralph

This episode made me think "What if this we" If I were in the prisoner's place, solitary would drive me crazy. I am not a violent person so I wouldn't be in jail in the first place, but the solitary part would make me go wacky. I am one for personal responsibility. That means I think someone who beats someone up should do something for it--hopefully spend time in jail. However, that said, I also have the view that not everyone is exactly equal in the way they react to things. Although this guy might not be "insane", he is definitely going through a difficult situation--as much as it is a mental problem. I guess I don't see what the problem would be with bringing this guy to a psychiatrist and having him in confinement in some other way. Couldn't they confine him in a cell that isn't dark and closed off? I guess I just see that one punishment doesn't fit all crime. If we really want to rehabilitate people, we should try to figure what might work to help people who are incarcerated. I have a good sense of right and wrong. I have never even gotten a speeding ticket after 14 years of driving. I wouldn't be in this position in the first place. But someone with a different background might not see a reason to not break the law and that person might react like the character in this episode. Let the punishment fit the crime but also have some compassion.

Lyle S.



Larry Haines is a fantastic actor. A pleasure to listen to.

Barbara K

Elspeth Eric explored this same theme (solitary confinement) in another episode, which I think was much better, and much more dramatic. It was called "THE BLACK ROOM" and Larry Haines also played the prisoner in that episode as well. In "THE BLACK ROOM" one gets the feeling that the prisoner is being held for some unjust reason, either as a political dissident, or for some sick experiment to see how long people hold out in solitary without going mad or dying. In this episode, the prisoner doesn't get to talk to anyone, and his only contact with any living being is a small, little mouse, which he befriends and feeds part of his rations to. He also finds a little hole where he can peep through and see a tiny bit of light. These two things are the only things which give him any hope. Carrying the whole episode by himself, (with only an occasional dialogue between the heartless guards talking to each other about him), Larry Haines does a fantastic job portraying the prisoner. This episode just feels like a sort of rehash to me, but it's not nearly as effective. I don't know why Elspeth Eric likes to rehash old stories. She has done this with other episodes as well. It makes one feel like she only had so many plots in her head, so she recycled some of them when she couldn't think of anything new to write about, lol! By the way, nothing "gay" happened between the sympathetic guard and the prisoner in this episode. The guard was only motivated by compassion, and that's all. The other guy who made the insinuation was just a jerk who couldn't imagine that anyone would want to do a kind act for somebody without some sexual motivation. (It's pretty amazing that this dialogue was included in a 1970s show.)


Follow up to my last comment....I'm not saying that this episode was the same as the "BLACK ROOM" or had the exact same plot. I'm just saying it explored the same theme, but the prisoner character in this episode is much less sympathetic, and his constant, desperate whining at the guard for attention is actually annoying. I feel a little sorry for the kid, especially when he asks about a letter form his mother. He seems so young and boyish, which I guess is the whole point. Still, I don't feel sorry enough for him to cry. "THE BLACK ROOM" on the other hand brought tears to my eyes, especially when Larry Haines' character started crying near the end. What I am saying is that there is no comparison between these two episodes. "THE BLACK ROOM" was so much better that it's just not even in the same ballpark. The similarity of the theme she explores is similar enough that it begs a comparison. This episode fails by comparison, so I don't know why she had to write another inferior story on this same theme when she already had mastered the best version possible.


Some of the guards in jail or prison are sadistic. Most aren’t, but some are terrible, using their job to satisfy their evil primal urges or exact revenge on society for their faults and hardships occurred in life. I was in jail some, and was thrown in solitary for answering a question from a shady prisoner when we were supposed to bunk up. I was set up. The lady guard was mean. I was in solitary for two hours, and it was terrible. You already are suffering from being in a jail pod with 60 guys that have various problems. Now, you are shut up with no books or anything to keep your mind occupied. I took a rubber piece of the croc shoes they made us wear, to throw at the wall like a rubber ball. Thankfully another prisoner got a guard, who was a supervisor to let me out. I was told that the lady guard was crazy, and to just stay in bed and sleep when she was on duty, because she would flip on people and punish them. Another time they wouldn’t give me clean clothes to wear after several days, so I was my clothes in the shower with a little bar of soap they gave us. I hung them up to dry, and went to sleep in underwear. I woke up, and another sadistic female guard took my clothes. So I walked around wrapped in a blanket like Bobby Sands & IRA did in The Maze to protest. The guard finally gave back my clothes in a slot in the jail door. And then she tried to accuse me of trying to grab her hand. Like I could hurt her via a mail slot in the door. She was sadistic and cruel. The other guards were nice. I think this happens many times in jails, prisons, concentration camps, and immigrant detainee centers. Humans are cast in sin. Some go to jail. Some become guards and inflict pain on others for their self gratification. And I was in jail for smoking marijuana, after being on probation for a DWI. I didn’t hurt anyone, but myself. And some humans are sinful and cruel. And some are prison and jail guards, not the prisoners!

Scooter D & the Greens

Good episode, especially considering who wrote it. She brings up some interesting points to consider concerning crime and punishment. I think the guy got what he deserved for the most part. Though they should've transferred him to an asylum after seeing what a damned whacko he really was.

Jim K.

Let me just say that this is an incredibly engrossing episode, remarkably well written by Elspeth Eric and with remarkably nuanced performances by the three leads, who performed seamlessly with each other. I felt I was the main character in the cell. Astonishing, the power of radio.

Melanie C

This story was beautifully written and acted. One of the absolute best I have heard. This one will stay with me awhile.


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