The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 21 – The Prime Mover

This is a morality play disguised as science fiction. Jimbo Cobb (played by Buddy Ebsen of Beverly Hillbillies fame) is a partner in in a small diner in the southwest. His partner Ace Larsen is a very unlucky gambler with a bad temper. He begs and threatens the slot machine installed in the diner whenever he loses a try. Their waitress is a young woman named Kitty Cavanaugh who is also Ace’s long-suffering girlfriend. She is growing tired of Ace’s gambling problem and his stalled marriage proposal. It is implied by his facial expressions that Jimbo is very sympathetic to Kitty’s plight and wishes that his friend Ace would get his act together and move all their lives forward by concentrating on constructive actions instead of wasting his resources on gambling.

Outside on the highway that day a car skids off the road and tumbles into an electric substation. Ace and Jimbo run over to the crash site and Ace is prevented from reaching the passengers of the car by the high voltage current arcing around the car. He somewhat incoherently tells Jimbo to do something to help the passengers trapped inside and amazingly Jimbo does something.

A looked of pained concentration goes across Jimbo’s face and the automobile reverse flips away from the substation and clear of the electrical hazard. He clutches the sides of his head as if he is in great pain and Ace goes to the aid of the motorists.

Afterwards, Jimbo is lying on a bed in the apartment behind the diner rubbing his temples while Ace talks to him. He tells Jimbo that the car passengers weren’t critically injured and were expected to recover. The Ace asks Jimbo to explain how he had saved them.

Jimbo explains to Ace that he has always had the ability to move things by thinking it. At first, he had thought everyone had this ability but later he figured that it was something that was best left unsaid because he had gotten in trouble back in grammar school when people didn’t understand how he was able to do these impossible things. He also explains that using this ability too much gives him blinding headaches.

Ace asks him to prove it by moving something. Jimbo lifts the bed off the ground and lets it float for a few seconds before landing again. Then Ace asks him if he can move smaller things and Jimbo tells him that smaller things are of course easier to move. Ace flips a coin onto the bed and it lands tails. He asks Jimbo to make it heads and as Jimbo twitches his head to the side the coin flips over to heads. Then Ace gets a pair of dice and asks Jimbo to make the dice land seven. Ace tosses them and as they are tumbling Jimbo twitches his head and the dice land seven.

Now Ace is ecstatic and his gambling dreams have all come true. He gathers Jimbo and Kitty (and Kitty’s hundred dollars) and they head to Las Vegas to make some money. With Jimbo as his guarantee Ace goes on an unbroken winning streak at the roulette wheels and craps tables of all the casinos on the Vegas Strip. Perhaps they practiced on a site like beforehand or it may have even been beginner’s luck but they accumulate two hundred thousand dollars in winnings before Jimbo’s headaches become too extreme to continue.

When they collect their cash, Ace has let the money go completely to his head. He starts flirting with the cigarette girl in front of Kitty and Jimbo and tells them that he intends to make enough money to buy the state of Nevada tomorrow with the money he will win. Jimbo tells Ace that he doesn’t want to keep going with this gambling setup because it’s cheating and goes against Jimbo’s ethics. Ace convinces Jimbo to allow just one more bout of gambling the next day before quitting. But Kitty has had it and declares she’s heading home. She walks out the door of their suite. Jimbo convinces Ace that Kitty is more important than the money and that he should run after her and win her back. Ace catches up to her in the lobby and tells her it’s just one more day and then he’ll be filthy rich. But she’s so disgusted by the way he’s acting that she runs out of the casino without looking back. Now Ace is angry and just at that moment Sheila the cigarette girl shows up again and after she flirts with Ace again, he decides to celebrate his good fortune with her instead of Kitty. The casino manager wants to know why she is walking away from her job so Ace gives him some cash and tells him she’s keeping him company which works for the manager. Then Ace tells the manager to get in touch with whoever is the highest roller in town and tell him to get in touch with Ace. The manager tells Ace that would be the Chicago gangster Big Phil Nolan.

Next morning Jimbo wakes up to the phone ringing. It’s Nolan and he tells Ace he wants to have a high stakes craps game with Ace. When Nolan shows up with his bodyguards, they set up the game and with Jimbo’s help Ace turns his two hundred thousand dollars into a million. Ace tells Nolan that he wants to bet his whole million on one throw of the dice, his last play. But just then Sheila shows up and Jimbo sees that Ace has replaced Kitty. As Ace gets ready to roll, Jimbo tries several times to stop Ace and warn him that there were no more guaranteed wins. But Ace ignores him and rolls a loser. He has lost the whole million. The happy mobster leaves with the money and seeing the gravy train departing Sheila leaves too. Now Ace asks Jimbo what happened. Jimbo lies saying he blew a fuse. But instead of becoming enraged, he starts laughing uncontrollably and seems to have learned a lesson.

The next scene is back at the diner. Ace is having the slot machine removed and then he asks Kitty to marry him. She agrees and Ace grabs Jimbo’s arm in excitement and Jimbo dropped the broom he was holding. He watches approvingly as Ace and Kitty kiss and while they are distracted, he uses his ability to lift the broom handle off the floor without touching it.

The lesson is love trumps greed. A simple story with enjoyable characters. A solid B.

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War Pig
War Pig
3 years ago

Serling sort of remade this with another episode. It was about a country boy that sort of had the same powers. His neighbors wanted to hang him as a witch when he reminded them that it was best to leave him alone, else their houses and barns just might catch fire and their crops may fail for seven years if he died. The neighbors decide that since he has never harmed anyone, best to leave him be. Happily ever after.