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"A Game of Pool"
The New Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 55
Written by George Clayton Johnson
Directed by Randy Bradshaw
Original airdate December 31, 1989
Guest stars

Esai Morales: Jesse Cardiff
Maury Chaykin: Fats Brown

Episode chronology
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"Something in the Walls" "The Wall"
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"A Game of Pool" is the fifty-fifth episode (the twentieth episode of the third season (1988-1989) of the revived television series The Twilight Zone. It is a remake of the original-series 1961 episode of the same name.


Opening narration

"Jesse Cardiff, pool shark; the best on Randall Street, who will soon learn that trying to be the best of anything carries its own special risk, in or out of...the Twilight Zone."


The owner of a pool hall collects the billiard balls of his tables as he calls out "closing time". As some of the customers leave, a couple of guys give the owner a hassle over letting one of the guys stay, one Jesse Cardiff. Jesse, of whom one guy says "he thinks he's the next Fats Brown", slams a double shot. Instead of enjoying completing such a difficult shot, Jesse complains about being compared to Fats Brown. He off-handedly remarks that if he was alive and in the room, he'd show Fats Brown that he could beat him. He turns around to see a portly gentleman sitting down. The man says..."at your service".

It is Fats Brown, in the flesh, so to speak. He tells Jesse that Jesse called for him, he didn't come on his own. Stuttering and nervous, Jesse tries to explain that he didn't really mean it. Fats dresses him down and tells him he's not nearly as good as he claims to be. Jesse gets brazen and says he can beat him. So, they play. The only problem is: what are the stakes? Money means nothing to Fats...he's dead. Fats says that Jesse said he'd give anything to play with Fats, so how about life or death? Jesse wins, he can claim that he beat Fats Brown, but if Jesse loses, he dies. Jesse hesitates and Fats calls him on it, but finally Jesse accepts.

They begin to play. Jesse does very well, but so does Fats. When Jesse gets excited over sinking a tricky shot and Fats is non-plussed, Jesse starts telling his sad story about everyone treating him the same, that no matter how good he was, no one gave him his due. The match gets to be nearly even, then Jesse pulls ahead, but Fats is unconcerned. Fats blows Jesse away in the next game. Then at the end, Jesse needs only one to win. As he begins to line up his shot, Fats begins to tell him that there is more to life than the pool hall. Jesse claims you don't become the best sitting around. Fats agrees but he still had a life outside the pool hall and thinks that Jesse is just rotting his life away. Jesse claims he's just trying to break his concentration. When Fats shoots his final shot and misses, Jesse gets excited. All he has to do is sink that ball and he becomes the greatest, but Jesse misses.

Fats lines up his shot and takes it. He looks up intensely at Jesse, who is shaking. Fats takes something out of his's his cue chalk. He sets it down and takes his cue apart. Jesse questions him about the life or death thing. Fats laughs and says that Jesse will die, in obscurity like all second-raters do, but not from anything Fats does. If he had beaten Fats, he would've lived forever. Fats says that Jesse's good but not good enough. It was too easy to break his concentration. Anyone can be a marksman if the target doesn't shoot back or move. As Fats disappears, Jesse screams that he can do better, that he'll practice more and more, and eventually he'll beat Fats...

Closing narration

"Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime; and departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time, on the earth, as we know it, the Twilight Zone."

Alternate ending

This episode was written for the original Twilight Zone series. That 1961 version, starring Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters, featured an ending where Jesse wins. The ending used here was the original ending as intended by writer George Clayton Johnson.


  • Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)

See also



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