Original Air Date: March 24, 1961
Writer: Charles Beaumont/George Clayton Johnson
Director: Richard L. Bare
Two friends operate a little diner called the Happy Daze Café. Their names are Ace Larson (played by Dane Clark) and Jimbo Cobb (played by Buddy Ebsen, known for his many classic roles including on the Beverly Hillbillies and for nearly appearing in The Wizard of Oz as the Tin Man). Ace longs to strike it rich, and he begs a waitress to marry him, Kitty (played by Christine White who famously later appeared alongside William Shatner in The Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare At 20,000 Feet”).
“Portrait of a man who thinks and thereby gets things done. Mr. Jimbo Cobb might be called a prime mover, a talent which has to be seen to be believed. In just a moment he’ll show his friends, and you, how he keeps both feet on the ground, and his head in the Twilight Zone.”
One day they witness a car wreck outside the diner and miraculously Jimbo is able to telekinetically lift the car without touching it. Jimbo explains that the unique power has been with him since childhood but using it gives him a terrible headache. Nevertheless Ace gets excited and takes Jimbo and Kitty to Las Vegas where they start winning incredible amounts of money thanks to Jimbo’s ability to rig the games. However, soon Kitty leaves as she is dismayed by Ace’s increasingly obsessive and cheating demeanor.
In rebellion, Ace pushes Jimbo even harder despite his headaches, and they continue to win while Ace meets a floozy in the hotel. At the last moment when Ace bets all of his money on one last game Jimbo’s powers give out. Ace loses it all. They both return to their sleepy cafe. Ace has now lost the desire to gamble for riches. He and Kitty are reunited and betrothed. As they embrace Jimbo drops a broom in the background. He smiles and lifts it telekinetically but Ace and Kitty are too busy being lost in each other’s eyes to notice -perhaps Jimbo never did lose his power after all.
“Some people possess talent, others are possessed by it. When that happens, the talent becomes a curse. Jimbo Cobb knew, right from the beginning, but before Ace Larsen learned that simple truth, he had to take a short trip – through The Twilight Zone.”
Powers confers responsibility, a fact which Jimbo knows but which Ace refuses to acknowledge. In the end, his hubris costs him both power and money and Jimbo loses his powers (or at least Jimbo loses his trust in Ace). Not every ordinary person would use supernatural power for evil ends. Generally speaking, The Twilight Zone does not look favorably upon cheaters like Ace.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- The car crash scene re-uses footage from the 1958 film Thunder Road.
- George Clayton Johnson actually sold “The Prime Mover” to Charles Beaumont for $600 before that episode was filmed. When the episode aired, however, it was credited solely to Beaumont. Producer Buck Houghton insisted that this was a production error and apologized to Johnson, promising that his name would be placed on the episode when it appeared in syndication. By the end of the fourth season the episodes credited to Beaumont were being scripted almost entirely by friends who were being paid in secret as the ailing writer succumbed to the illness that would eventually take his life (perhaps early Alzheimer’s or spinal meningitis).