Jason Foster, a very wealthy old man, is dying. Cranky and candid, Jason is not cheered by a visit from his daughter Emily and her family—husband Wilfred, son Wilfred Jr., and daughter Paula. All four have various, terrible traits. Emily is a cowardly, self-centered hypochondriac who whines and complains about the most trivial things. Wilfred, a successful businessman, is introverted and greedy, thinking of everything in monetary terms. Paula is extremely vain, constantly checking her appearance in the mirror; in fact, she is looking in one when she greets her grandfather. Wilfred Jr., meanwhile, is an oafish, sadistic bully who enjoys causing pain and suffering to other people and animals. Moreover, it is clear that they are only there in order to claim Jason's fortune once he dies. Jason is not shy about his opinions of his family and openly insults each of them. In an act of apology, he says he has a special Mardi Gras party planned for the little group that night.
After dinner, the family gathers in Jason's study, where he offers special, one-of-a-kind masks. These masks, which he said are "crafted by an old Cajun", are very ugly creations. Jason informs his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren that a Mardi Gras custom is to wear masks that are the exact opposite of a person's true personality. Thereupon, he says sarcastically that these masks are just that—and offers the mask of a sniveling coward to Emily, a miserable miser to Wilfred, a twisted buffoon to Wilfred Jr., and a self-obsessed narcissist to Paula. He himself dons a skull, claiming that the opposite of life is death. The family is reluctant to wear the ugly masks—until Jason quotes his demands as a proviso from his will; unless all four of them don the masks and leave them on until midnight, all they will receive from his vast estate is train fare home to Boston. So do the foursome comply, in spite of their disgust.
As the hours tick by, all four beg to be allowed to take off the masks...claiming that they are worse than uncomfortable; they are unbearable. Yet their pleas are wasted on Jason, who delivers his final tirade to his family as he dies; he explains that even "without [their] masks, [they're] caricatures!" He then dies. The foursome rejoices in the fact that they are now rich—until they remove their disguises and find, to their horror, that their faces have conformed to the hideous shapes of the masks. When Jason's mask is removed, it appears as if nothing has changed, but his face is actually the expression of death itself- calm, peaceful, and serene. As Dr. Sam Thorne observes, "This must be death. No horror, no fear...nothing but peace." As the episode ends, the butler, Jeffrey, looks upon the relatives' ugly faces.
"The Masks" was directed by Ida Lupino, who had starred in the first-season episode "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine." She was the onl