Medium's homage to They Live ... and who dies?

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

No one does high concept better than CBS' Medium, and the show comes up with another fun one tonight. Over Halloween, the psychic series took on the zombie flick Night of the Living Dead. Tonight, it's John Carpenter's sci-fi classic They Live. And while we won't see any aliens invading or star Roddy Rowdy Piper, the inspiration is there thanks to a special pair of sunglasses.

Imagine looking at someone and knowing exactly how long they have to live ... to the day. Even for someone with psychic abilities, like Medium's Allison Dubois, that kind of information is difficult to deal with. Especially when the number of someone you care about is about to be up. (Big spoilers ahead!)

The episode, "The Future's So Bright," follows Allison (Patricia Arquette) as she wakes up with a strange sensitivity to light that gets increasingly worse through the day. She ends up wearing a pair of sunglasses from the lost and found, which do a little more than just protect her eyes.

"There's a movie called They Live," said co-executive producer Robert Doherty, who co-developed the episode. "It's one of our favorites. That was definitely in our heads. It was something we've always liked, and when we started to talk about it, it seemed like a natural fit that Allison happens across a haunted pair of sunglasses that allow her to see something that she's not supposed to see."

In the episode, Allison discovers that when she wears the sunglasses she sees numbers floating in front of people's foreheads. "For the most part they're five digits; some are four. But Devalos [Miguel Sandoval] has a 14938 in front of his forehead. Scanlon [David Cubitt] has a 1724. It's puzzling until she finally meets someone who has a 1. It's the lowest number she's seen. She sort of puzzles over it, but the good news is the photosensitivity seems to be dissipating once she wears these glasses," said Doherty.

When the person with the number 1 is murdered, Allison puts two and two together, he said. "She realizes that these numbers that she's seeing are, in fact, life expectancy numbers. They are, in theory, what you have left. When she goes to the morgue, and she's wearing the sunglasses and she looks down at the bodies, there's a zero floating over everyone's heads."

That burden of knowing when friends and co-workers are going to die is one thing, but Allison can't bear the thought of knowing when her family is going to die. "She refuses to wear them around the house," said Doherty. "She just sort of bumps around and keeps the lights off. She already knows Scanlon's number and Devalos' number, and she'll just have to deal with that."

When Scanlon's number drops from a five-digit number to a 2, Allison finds herself in a race "to figure out what Lee Scanlon has coming his way and how she can prevent it and get the odds back."

Doherty and the writers also grabbed a little They Live inspiration for the next original episode, "Down With the Sickness," which opens with a massive fight scene which is reminiscent of the "seven-minute fight scene between Roddy Piper and Keith David." Once again, there are no aliens involved, but it still sounds pretty cool.

Are you ready for a little Medium on They Live action tonight? Medium airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

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