The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Episode Sixteen “A Penny For Your Thoughts”

Original Air Date: February 3, 1961
Writer: George Clayton Johnson
Director: James Sheldon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Mr. Hector B. Poole, resident of the Twilight Zone. Flip a coin and keep flipping it. What are the odds? Half the time it will come up heads, half the time tails. But in one freakish chance in a million, it’ll land on its edge. Mr. Hector B. Poole, a bright human coin – on his way to the bank.”
-Rod Serling

On a busy, crowded street Hector B. Poole (played by Dick York) buys a newspaper by tossing a coin into the vendor’s box. Somehow the coin manages to land directly on its side. As he walks away he is nearly hit by a car and suddenly realizes he can hear people’s thoughts.

When he arrives at the bank where he works Poole listens to his boss’s inner monologue where he learns about an extramarital affair. Poole also learns that his co-worker Miss Helen Turner (played by June Dayton) has a crush on him and that a primary client of the bank is applying for a loan to embezzle money. Lastly, Poole overhears the bank’s eldest employee’s as he plans to head down to the vault and quietly rob the bank. The elder man is astonished at Poole’s ability to read his mind but he confesses the scheme was merely nothing more than a daydream.

Due to all the ruckus Poole is fired but as he is cleaning out his desk it is revealed that the client has been arrested for gambling away company funds. Poole actually saved the bank from a financial scandal. At the behest of Miss Turner’s encouraging thoughts, Poole orchestrates a quid pro quo with his boss. Poole demands a promotion and in exchange he promises not to reveal the extramarital affair. When his boss acquiesces, Poole triumphantly strides home with Miss Turner. He stops to buy an afternoon paper at the same tienda as in the morning. Poole tosses a coin into the box and it knocks over the other coin balancing on its edge since the morning. Miraculously, it has been balancing all day. At the same moment, Poole loses his mind-reading abilities. Nevertheless he continues cheerfully onward with Miss Turner.

“One time in a million, a coin will land on its edge, but all it takes to knock it over is a vagrant breeze, a vibration, or a slight blow. Hector B. Poole, a human coin, on edge for a brief time – in the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • George Clayton Johnson had tried to sell another story called “Sea Change” about a fisherman whose hand is cut off only for it to mysteriously grow into an evil doppelgänger. However, the story was deemed too grisly so instead he sold “A Penny For Your Thoughts.”
  • This was the first of four Johnson teleplay scripts for The Twilight Zone. He also contributed four stories that were converted into teleplays.
  • As originally written, Hector B. Poole’s mind reading power was to have originated with the car accident. Though the episode still featured Poole being hit by a car shortly after his coin landed on its edge, the production team felt that staging a realistic car accident would be too difficult and decided on the coin effect instead when a special effects technician demonstrated to Serling how the effect could be achieved with a coin on a string. 

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

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