Jesse Cardiff is a frustrated pool player. He's very good at his game but his frustration comes from the fact that no matter how well he plays or how often he wins, onlookers always conclude that he's not as good as the late, great James Howard "Fats" Brown. He says he would give anything to have had the chance to play Fats and his wish comes true when the man himself suddenly appears. They agree to a game but Fats warns his eager opponent that winning has its consequences as well. Written by
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.
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Remember all those Westerns about the gunslinger who wants to hang up his guns, but is constantly being approached by some young guy who want to draw on him. This is the same story with pool cues. Jack Klugman is the young guy. Jonathan Winters is the old gunfighter. It's about an existence that has little meaning, so focused on one thing, that life has little other meaning. The episode is about the game. If you win you pay a very dear price. But because of the way you're wired, you have to win--there isn't any choice. The acting is good, the game is good, and the conclusion is in doubt. This is one of the more memorable Zones. I think The Hustler may have borrowed a little from it.
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