Sam’s Weird Movie Theories: Ned Ryerson is Caught in his Own Time Loop

Happy Groundhog Day!

I’d like to take this time to outline a theory I have about Ned Ryerson from the 1993 movie Groundhog Day: there is evidence that Ned Ryerson has also been experiencing the same day on repeat.

Ned Ryerson (portrayed hilariously by Stephen Toblowsky) is an insurance salesman who approaches Phil on the streets first thing in the morning on Groundhog Day. Phil does not remember him, but Ned is able to pull out a ton of references to the past (including the fact that Phil’s sister is named Mary Pat), claiming they are actually old high school acquaintances. He then exploits this connection to attempt to sell Phil insurance, even though at no point does Phil ever show signs of remembering.

The scene in question, in case you’ve forgotten:

(The video is all the Ned scenes, but we’re just addressing the first one)

NED: Phil? Phil Connors?! I thought that was you!

PHIL Hi, how you doing, thanks for watching-

NED Don’t say you don’t remember me, ’cause I sure as heckfire remember you.

PHIL Not a chance

NED Ned! Ryerson! Needlenose Ned? Ned the Head. Come on, buddy. Case Western High? Ned Ryerson, did the whistling trick with my belly button in the talent show. Bing! Ned Ryerson, got the shingles real bad senior year almost didn’t graduate. Bing again! Ned Ryerson, I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple of times– ’til you told me not to anymore. Well?

PHIL Ned Ryerson?

NED Bing!

How does Ned have all these details from the past, when Phil obviously doesn’t remember him? Well the interesting thing about this conversation is that it parallels another conversation later in the movie… specifically, one that Phil has with a complete stranger named Nancy Taylor:

PHIL Nancy? Nancy Taylor?! Lincoln High School! I sat next to you in Mrs. Walsh’s English class!

NANCY Ooh.. I’m sorry?

PHIL Phill Conners!

NANCY Wow, that’s amazing! (still obviously confused)

PHIL You don’t remember me, do you?


PHIL I even asked you to the prom!

NANCY Phil Conners?

PHIL I was short and I’ve sprouted.

The initial introduction is almost the same. Phil, thanks to information he garnered from a cryptic conversation that Nancy won’t remember, is establishing a faux history in order to get what he wants (sex, in Phil’s case).

So if Ned is caught in a time loop, why go through the effort of finding out information about Phil just to use it to sell insurance?

Simple: Because Ned believes that’s his way out of the loop. Phil’s way out, as established in the movie, is to hook up with his producer, Rita, with whom he’s in love. He can’t do this through nefarious purposes (and believe me, he tries), he has to do it by using his powers to create a better world for everyone.

But Ned’s key, at least in his mind, is much simpler. He needs a big fat commission check from a major insurance sale. But he’s stuck in Puxatawney… how is he going to find someone rich enough? But look here… this big-shot television weather man from Pittsburgh is in town. That’s his target. So on Ned’s previous day, he grilled Phil for information about himself, and now he’s trying to score. Unfortunately for him, that’s the day Phil got stuck in the same time loop.

“But why doesn’t Ned remember that he’s stuck in a time loop?” you ask.

Because they aren’t stuck in the same degree of the loop. Ned’s loop and Phil’s loop run independently of one another. Ned might be on Day 502 of his own loop when he grills Phil for information. Then, Day 503 of Ned’s loop – the day he attempts to use this information – becomes Day 1 of Phil’s loop. So Day 2 of Phil’s loop is still Day 503 of Ned’s loop, from Ned’s perspective.

So did it work?

In the end of the movie, we find that Phil bought a shit-ton of insurance from Ned. If that was Ned’s way out, then it did work, and he woke up the next day as well.

But personally, I think that it probably did not. Phil couldn’t arrive at February 3rd by manipulating Rita, he had to actually become a better person (oooh relationship metaphors!). Ned, 502 days in, is still trying early tactics. And now that Phil has escaped the loop, Ned will wake up on his Day 505, and it will still be February 2nd. But it will be Phil’s perfect February 2nd that he created.

Poor Ned is going to have a hell of a time trying to make Puxatawney a better place in the shadow of a man who already did.



8 responses

  1. Also, listen to the lines Ned says the second time in that YouTube clip:

    NED: Don’t say you don’t remember me, ’cause I sure as heckfire remember you.
    PHIL: Ned Ryerson?
    NED: Bing! Oh, first shot right out of the box!

    That wording leads me to believe he’s done this with Phil over and over, and it always takes a bit to get Phil to recognize him (except for that day).

    And then just a sentence later:

    NED: You’ll never guess what I do now!
    PHIL: Do you sell insurance?
    NED: Oh, bing, again! You are sharp as a tack today!

    Why would he say “today” as if it’s usual for him to run into Phil? I think, as the theory suggests, that this is just one of many days Ned is running into Phil, but today is different.

    February 2, 2014 at 8:03 pm

  2. emilio

    Very nice theory indeed. However one comment from me. If the loop still continues for Ned, Ned sorting his situation out could affect Phil’s timeline as well as we don’t know how Ned’s loop ends. For all we know he could be an ‘evil looper’ who ends up ruining his plan.

    But if we do not consider the good vs evil thing, if the two loops are tied up somehow, resolving one should coincide with resolving the other. So I’d say that both Phil and Ned must have sorted their loop story somehow, otherwise there is no telling what could happen, what effect it could have.

    In fact it may even be that Ned was stuck in his loop until Phil got out of his. And Ned went after him every single day only because he knew or had noticed that Phil was the key. However, he thought, as he was stuck in the loop as well, that it was up to him to help him out with his insurance? …Or to give him a hint of what to do and give him a pick up technique???… so Ned could even have been there to guide Phil!

    God I love that film even more now

    February 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

  3. Jimbo

    You are an idiot.

    February 25, 2014 at 12:26 am

    • Sam

      Your opinion is noted

      February 25, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    • Emilio

      Excellent argument thank you jimbo, it rules out my suggestions altogether 🙂

      March 16, 2014 at 6:23 pm

  4. “Well the interesting thing about this conversation is that it parallels another conversation later in the movie”

    It’s not that they mysteriously parallel each other. Phil gets the idea for conning Nancy from his interaction with Ned. He meets a guy from high school he doesn’t remember (not surprising considering the way Phil treats most people) and it inspires him to recreate the scenario in order to get laid.


    February 26, 2014 at 8:04 pm

  5. quadrafake

    What if everyone was stuck in their own loops, and Phil found the way to bring everyone out of their loop (He made everyone’s day, not just his own).

    March 18, 2014 at 1:52 am

  6. In Ned’s last scene he is with Rita and Phil and says to Rita something to this effect: “I haven’t seen this guy in 20 years, and he comes to me out of nowhere today and buys all kinds of insurance.”

    The previous time Phil and Ned had interacted was the time Phil really creeped Ned out and made him run away. Could it be that Ned’s reference to “20 years” refers, not to 20 calendar years earlier, but 20 years of Groundhog Days earlier in their history of interaction? That would mean that Phil and Ned had had no interaction from the time Ned ran away as the same day repeated over and over for 20 years until Phil finally sought Ned out to buy insurance from him. It would also mean that Phil (and Ned) were stuck in the same day for well over 20 years by the end of the movie. I read somewhere that Harold Ramis said the timeframe is about 30-40 years for the movie.

    The writing of those Ned scenes is brilliant.

    May 21, 2016 at 3:43 am

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