What You Need
Fred Renard – Steve Cochran
Pedott – Ernest Truex
Lefty – Read Morgan
Girl in Bar – Arlene Martel
We open on a swinging city scene, complete with sexy jazz. And now we’re inside the Diner of Depression. There’s a guy moping at the end of bar with a drink. Apparently he’s been nursing the same drink for an hour and the bartender wants him to order another or move out. The moper looks all mean (and, to give the actor credit, he does look freaking scary) and tells the bartender to “take a flying jump at the moon”.
You’re looking at Mr. Fred Renard who carries on his shoulder a chip the size of the national debt. This is a sour man, a friendless man, a lonely man, a grasping, compulsive, nervous man. This is a man who has lived 36 undistinguished , meaningless, pointless failure-laden years and who at this moment looks for an escape – any escape. Any way, anything, anybody – to get out of the rut.
And this little old man is just what Mr. Renard is waiting for.
Just a little side note: ‘renard‘ is fox in French. I think someone was having fun with words. Anyways, after the fade out we see the little old man is a peddler and he’s offering his wares to the patrons of Down and Out Diner.
The first guy says no so he offers his box of goodies to the lady sitting by herself. She’s pretty and sad and alone. She wants to buy some matches but he looks at her intently and says, “You don’t need matches, miss. I’ll tell you what you need.” and hands her a bottle of very good cleaning fluid.
He moves on to the other guy sitting at the bar, a former baseball pitcher whom the bartender so kindly calls Lefty. His arm is bum now and he can’t pitch anymore. We get Lefty’s baseball history from the bartender. Who seems to take an inordinate amount of pleasure in describing Lefty’s misfortunes. The little old man says he knows what Lefty needs and gives him a bus ticket to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lefty wants to know what’s in Scranton and the bartender starts teasing him that there’s coal mines there and maybe he could do that for a living. Since, you know, he can’t play baseball anymore.
Lo and behold, two minutes later the phone booth rings and it’s for him. An old manager of his wants him for a job as manager of a minor league club. Guess where? Scranton, Pennsylvania. He wants to know how the little old man knew he needed the ticket. The little old man shrugs it off as luck maybe, or good fortune.
I also noticed that the grouch ass at the counter, Mr. Renard, has a poster behind his head that says ‘Nightmare’. Quite appropriate and seems very on purpose because it wasn’t there in the previous close-up of Renard.
Lefty is overcome by his great good luck until he realizes there’s a spot on his suit jacket. Apparently the only one he has. He really wants to impress the new boss so he’s fretting mightily over the spot on his suit coat. Hmm, what can be done about it. Sad and Pretty Lady brings over her brand new spot remover and offers it to Lefty. As she dabs his coat, they exchange Significant Looks. We’re left with the impression that she’s going to be buying her own ticket to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Which would be fast but he looks nice and she looks like she could use a nice guy. I’m very happy for them.
As the little old man, whose name is Pedott, looks on happily, Renard is drilling holes in the back of his head with his eyes. Pedott gets frightened and leaves. Unfortunately, Renard follows him outside.
Pedott tries to brush Renard off and pretend he doesn’t know what Renard wants. Renard wants to know what he needs. Right now. He grabs poor Pedott by the lapels and tells him to give him what he needs. Pedott starts feeling around in his case and clutches a pair of scissors. Renard grabs his hand, thinking Pedott is going to stab him.
Renard is confused but Pedott tells him it’s what Renard needs right now. Finally Renard is satisfied with that and leaves Pedott alone. Renard goes home and rides up in the elevator. His scarf gets caught in the elevator and after a moment or two of choking and panicking he remembers the scissors and cuts himself free just in time. Then giggles to himself when he realizes that the scissors were exactly what he needed.
Pedott comes home to find Renard lurking in the dark, smoking a cigarette. He frightens Pedott and Pedott drops his case. Items spill out everywhere. Renard starts talking about the scissors and how they saved his life. Renard picks up something that rolled near his foot, wanting to know if it’s something else that he needs. Pedott says there’s only one per customer and Mr. Renard has already had his. He starts kicking Pedott’s Stuff around and wants to know how he does it. Crystal ball? Machine? Pedott says it’s just a talent he has.
Renard calls Pedott a dummy for not using his gift to become rich. Renard declares himself the partner of Pedott. Pedott says he doesn’t need a partner, he doesn’t want anything. He’s content. Renard says tough. Pedott has a partner and Renard’s tastes are expensive: What satisfies him comes long and low and drives on four wheels, drapes nice and smooth around the shoulders. It fits easy, comes from expensive shops, looks Uptown. Luxury, in other words.
He tells Pedott to do whatever it is he does and wants to know what he needs to know for today, tomorrow, forever. Pedott gives Renard a leaky fountain pen. At first Renard grouches a bit but then realizes it dripped next to the name of a race horse. Renard is off to the races. Pedott does not look happy but very, very worried.
Looks like Renard has won some decent money at the track but wants more. A knock at his door brings a bellhop with the next day’s paper. To show what an ass he is he almost literally kicks the bellhop out of the door rather than giving him a tip. Renard’s getting all excited about the possibilities. Football, baseball, and any other sport you can think of. However, the pen has dried up. Renard’s angry about it and threatens to “take it out of the crum bum’s hide”. They had the weirdest insults back then. Of course, the same could be said for our generation.
We see Pedott on his corner, peddling his wares. He instantly freezes as he feels Renard behind him. Renard does not look happy. He starts bitching about the pen. LOM says that the things he gives only work once. Renard next wants to know what’s next for him. LOM would rather not sell him anything else.
Renard starts a little pity party for himself. Pedott says he truly feels sorry for Renard. Renard says he doesn’t want pity, he wants what he needs to keep coming and never stop. Pedott says that it must stop, right now. Renard honestly looks confused and befuddled as to why. Pedott tells Renard that he can’t supply what Renard needs most: serenity, peace of mind, humour, the ability to laugh at oneself. Renard considers this for a moment but then gets back to asking what he needs the next day. He starts to paw through Pedott’s case. Pedott begs him not to but Renard grabs a pair of shoes. Renard, again, complains. The shoes have slippery soles and are too tight. He starts getting impatient and wants to know what’s going on. Pedott starts backing across the street and says that another thing Renard needs is patience. Renard gets suspicious and threatens to come over and take Pedott apart bone by bone. Wow, big tough guy. Gonna pick on a little old man?
Pedott tells Renard that he never said the shoes were what Renard needs. They’re what he needs.
Renard starts to cross the street to him (to take little Pedott apart bone by bone, one can presume) and a car comes around the corner. Renard tries to move but slips. So he throws up his arms dramatically and gets hit by the car. The car takes off.
Pedott looks on sadly and says to Renard (well, Renard’s corpse) that what he saw in Renard’s eyes in the diner was his own death. So ‘slippery shoes’ is what Pedott needed.
People are gathering to see what’s going on with the accident. A couple comes out to rubberneck the scene and Pedott tells the husband “I know what you need” and hands the husband a comb. Then moves off into the night. The wife and husband chat about the bizarre little man. A few minutes later a reporter comes up to take their picture. Mr. Rubbernecker combs his hair quickly with his new comb.
The ambulance doors are closed on Mr. Renard. All that’s left of him is a pair of slippery shoes on a cobblestone street.
Street scene-night. Traffic accident. Victim named Fred Renard, a gentleman with a sour face to hom contentment came with difficulty. Fred Renard, who took all that was needed, in the Twilight Zone.
I have a few notes on this episode. Firstly, the bar/diner they’re in I swear is the same bar set from the last episode, and When the Sky Was Opened.
I also want to mention that I believe Stephen King’s story “I Know What You Need” is based on this episode. The name of the man in “I Know What You Need” is Ed Hamner, Jr. One of the main writers on the Twilight Zone was Earl Hamner. So I believe it to be an homage to the episode.
I also have to comment on how they throw their hands up when about to be struck by a car (or whatever vehicle). It’s always in the same way and looks a little goofy.
Join me next time on Twilight Zone Tuesday for another really good episode:The Four Of Us Are Dying.