Chanticleer’s Discovery Program adds another well-executed TV equivalent of a one-act or short story, and if the resolution of William Wise’s tale smacks of easy sentiment, it’s still quality stuff. And Lois Nettleton and Paul Dooley sure strut their stuff.
Divorced Joanne (Nettleton), stopping on a stormy night at Traveler’s Lodge, a worn-out motel near nowhere, rents the last vacancy from motel owner Andy (Dooley). It’s late at night, widower Andy’s helpful with a burnt-out bulb and a dead TV set — and even fixes her a sandwich.
But flashbacks to both their earlier lives are grim. They begin telling about their former spouses and, when he discovers that Joanne’s ex-husband, Marty (who ditched her for a younger woman), has just died, Andy sympathizes.
The characters’ dead mates silently and momentarily appear, and Joanne tells of how she found herself consoling Marty’s widow, whom she liked. Andy responds by telling how his wife Annie died so suddenly.
Andy, who says that the lovemaking going on audibly next door to Joanne’s room is none of his business, stays the night in Joanne’s room; they comfort one another.
Craig Belknap’s shrewd direction finds nuances in the script, and Nettleton and Dooley play out their roles with endearing details. Steve McMahon’s camera finds angles that don’t call attention to themselves but create a feeling of completeness. If the ending veers to the neat and smug, getting there’s a pleasure.
Nettleton glows as Joanne, and Dooley hands in a strong, reassuring performance. Priscilla Pointer as Andy’s sick wife is touching.
Production designer William Maynard gives a realistic atmosphere to the motel setting and editing by John Currin and Martha Huntley is, like the camerawork, subtle. “Traveler’s Rest” is another reassuring sign that American TV can still qualify in half-hour drama league.