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The Twilight Zone: A Game of Pool

A legendary pool player is summoned by an eager young hustler, determined to make himself famous.

Episode Info  

Episode number: 3x5
Production Number: 4815
Airdate: Friday October 13th, 1961

Guest Stars
Jack KlugmanJack Klugman
As Jesse Cardiff
Jonathan WintersJonathan Winters
As James Howard "Fats" Brown
Main Cast
Rod SerlingRod Serling
As Narrator/Host


In an empty pool hall, Jesse Cardiff is ceaselessly practicing his game but complains that all he hears is how legendary pool play Fats Brown is better. Cardiff declares that he'd give anything to play Fats Brown in just one game. In a misty limbo, a voice summons pool player Fats Brown from the table where he's practicing his game and sends him to the pool room in Chicago...

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Episode Notes
George Clayton Johnson originally wrote a second ending for the episode, where Jesse loses and "dies". The death any second-stringer gets when he doesn't measure up and fades into obscurity. There was some debate on which ending to use. The 1985 remake of this episode used this alternate ending.

Jack Klugman is best known for his roles as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple and forensic Dr.Quincy in Quincy, MD.

Jonathan Winters was known for his comedic appearances in variety shows and as Robin Williams' son Mearth on Mork and Mindy.

Jack Klugman was also in "A Passage for Trumpet," "Death Ship" and "In Praise of Pip."

Episode Quotes
Opening Narration
Jesse Cardiff, pool shark, the best on Randolph Street, who will soon learn that trying to be the best at anything carries its own special risks in or out of the Twilight Zone.

Fats: You called?
Jesse: But you're...?
Fats: Dead? Not really. As long as people talk about you, you're not really dead. As long as they speak your name, you continue. A legend doesn't die just because the man does.
Jesse: It's impossible!
Fats: Nothing's impossible. Some things are less likely than others, that's all.

Jesse: Look, I've come a long way, boy, and not to be fooled with. I've seen your kind before - a little skill, a knack, a style, but when the heat's on, you fold.
Jesse: That isn't fair! You've never seen me play. Maybe I can beat you. It's possible, isn't it.
Fats: It's possible. Things change. Records get higher. But you'll never get the job done with your mouth.

Fats: It takes more than skill to be a champion. It takes equal parts of talent, luck, work, nerve. A quality you sadly lack.
Jesse: Nerve. You mean insanity. Risk my life on a game of pool.
Fats: Insanity if you prefer. I'm just a pool player. There's probably no less important thing on the face of the earth. But mark this in your book: I'm the best. It's proud thing to be the best at anything. But you wouldn't know anything about that.

Jesse: I had an eye for this game. (misses the shot)
Fats: What happened to it?
Jesse: I almost made it.
Fats: A funny thing. In geometry, "almost" isn't enough.
Jesse: Geometry?
Fats: Pool is geometry, in its most challenging form. A science of precise angles and forces.

Fats: You know something, Jesse. There's more to life than this pool hall. It isn't right you're being all cooped up in here like this. Get out a little, see what's gong on.
Jesse: You didn't get to be the best sitting on a park bench. You spent a lot of time with that cue in your hand.
Fats: Of course I did. But I took time out to live, too. I've been places where they've never heard of billiards.
Jesse: Fifteen ball in the corner pocket.
Fats: I may not look the part, Jesse, but I made love, walked uphill, swam in the ocean. When I think of the wonderful things there are to see and do. It hurts me. Yeah, see you rotting your life away in this miserable dark hall.
Jesse: You're lying, you're trying to distract me. That's a lousy thing. Fifteen ball in the corner pocket. (Fats taps his chalk then drops his cue, Jesse misses) You made me do that, you made miss!
Fats: Oh come on. A little gamesmanship, a little fun, and you came apart. Kids stuff to make you break your concentration, go wild.

Jesse: Couldn't be a nice friendly little game, huh?
Fats: I take them as I find it. To you, pool is not a nice friendly game. It's a win at any price affair. I acted accordingly.

Fats: Believe me, I've only been doing my job. Someone has to keep the flame. Someone has to weed out those who haven't got what it takes. You see the champions, the legends, they serve as a purpose. A challenge, an incentive.
Jesse: I don't need a challenge.
Fats: Everyone needs a challenge, Jesse. Someone great out of the past to say, "Match what I've done, boy, and make it better." That's true in all walks of life. Music, politics, sports, you name it. Me, I'm only a pool player. But I'm the best.
Jesse: You were the best.

Closing Narration
Mr. Jesse Cardiff, who became a legend by beating one, but who has found out after his funeral that being the best of anything carries with it a special obligation to keep on proving it. Mr. Fats Brown, on the other hand, having relinquished the champion's mantle, has gone fishing. These are the ground rules in the Twilight Zone.

Episode Goofs
At the end of the Episode, when Fats misses what would be his last shot, the cue ball is at the spot mark on the table. Then, when Jesse goes to sink that shot after an interruption by Fats, suddenly the cue ball is much farther away.

Other Episode Crew

CreatorRod Serling
Executive ProducerRod Serling
ProducerBuck Houghton
EditorJason H. Bernie
Set DecoratorH. Web Arrowsmith
Director of PhotographyJack Swain
Art DirectorGeorge W. Davis  |  Philip Barber
Production ManagerRalph Nelson
Sound EditorFranklin Milton
Main Title ThemeMarius Constant
SoundWilliam Edmondson
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