"What You Need" is the twelfth episode of the The Twilight Zone.

From the CBS Video Library cover:

"Pedott is an enigmatic sidewalk peddler with the uncanny ability to give people the item they will soon desperately need—before they even know why they'll need it. He gives Lefty, a washed-up ballplayer, a ticket to Scranton moments before Lefty gets a call offering him a coaching job in Scranton. Fred Renard, a violent, bitter failure of a man, demands Pedott give him what he needs. Frightened, Pedott produces a pair of scissors. Renard is mystified...until a hotel elevator door closes on his tie and scissors prove very handy. But Renard wants much more."[1]

Episode Details

Opening Narration

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 has been waiting for.

Episode Summary

Pedott, a peddler, has the curious ability to give people exactly what they need before they need it. The old man enters a cafe where he first gives a woman a vial of cleaner. Then, he gives a down-on-his-luck ex-baseball player bus tickets to Scranton, Pennsylvania. The ball player receives a job offer in the city the tickets are for; and the ball player needs his jacket cleaned, for which the woman just happens to have the cleaner.

Renard, a small time thug, asks Pedott to give him what he needs, and the peddler gives him a pair of scissors which save Renard's life when his scarf gets caught in an elevator's doors. Renard shows up at Pedott's apartment, asking for another thing he "needs," and the peddler comes up with a leaky pen that predicts a winning racehorse.

Renard continues menacing Pedott for more. Pedott gives him a pair of new shoes. When a car suddenly heads directly toward Renard, he tries to run, but the new leather soles are so slippery, he cannot escape on the wet pavement. He is struck and killed by the passing car. The shoes, Pedott explains to Renard's corpse, were what Pedott needed, because he foresaw that Renard would eventually kill him. At the end of the episode the peddler gives a couple a comb, which they use to groom themselves just before they are photographed as witnesses for a newspaper story covering the "hit and run" accident that killed Fred Renard.

Closing Narration

Street scene. Night. Traffic accident. Victim named Fred Renard. Gentleman with a sour face to whom contentment came with difficulty. Fred Renard, who took all that was needed, in the Twilight Zone.

Preview for Next Week's Story

Next week on The Twilight Zone, one of the most bizarre and unusual tales we've told yet - one man with four faces. Four separate and adventuresome lives that must be seen to be believed. Harry Townes, Philip Pine, Ross Martin and Don Gordon star in "The Four of Us Are Dying". This is a story designed for goosebumps. I hope we'll see you next week. Good night.


  • Rod Serling as Narrator (voice only); uncredited
  • Steve Cochran as Fred Renard
  • Ernest Truex as Pedott
  • Read Morgan as Lefty
  • Arlene Martel as Girl in Bar [Credited as Arline Sax]
  • William Edmondson as Bartender
  • Doris Karnes as Woman
  • Fred Kruger as Man on Street
  • Norman Sturgis as Hotel Clerk
  • Frank Allocca as Waiter; uncredited
  • Juney Ellis as Woman on Street; uncredited


  • Rod Serling (executive producer: Cayuga Productions)
  • Buck Houghton (producer)
  • George T. Clemens (director of photography)
  • Joseph Gluck (film editor)
  • Millie Gusse (casting; credited: Mildred Gusse)
  • George W. Davis (art director)
  • William Ferrari (art director)
  • Rudy Butler (set decorator)
  • Henry Grace (set decorator)
  • Ralph W. Nelson (production manager)
  • Edward O. Denault (assistant director; credited: Edward Denault)
  • Franklin Milton (sound; credited: Frank Milton)
  • Jean G. Valentino (sound; credited: Jean Valentino)
  • Van Allen James (sound effects editor; uncredited)

Production Companies


  • Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1959) (USA) (TV) (original airing)


  • United Productions of America (UPA) (animated title)


  • The original story featured a machine that could foretell an individual's probable future. Serling replaced this science-fiction element with a street peddler who could magically perform the same function. In the original story the man owns a shop where he has such a machine, and then gives people what they need to provide the best possible outcomes. Also, the Renard character is killed not by a car, but by falling off a subway platform while a train is coming in to the station.
  • The final shot before the first commercial (while Serling is concluding his narration) is actually played backwards; looking carefully, one can see smoke returning to Renard's cigarette.
  • During the scene in Mr. Renard's hotel room a bellhop brings him a newspaper. Renard then opens it and spreads it out on the floor. The movement is quick, but the front page of the newspaper is visible, indicating that it is the same front page used in another Twilight Zone episode, "Time Enough at Last". The headline reads "H-Bomb Capable of Total Destruction." Once Renard opens the paper and looks at the racing page, several in-jokes are apparent in the names of the listed jockeys, which include "Serling", "Clemens" (referencing director of photography George Clemens), "Houghton" (referencing producer Buck Houghton), "Butler" (referencing set decorator Rudy Butler) and "Denault" (referencing assistant director Edward Denault).
  • This episode inspired the song of the same name by British post-punk band The Fall from their acclaimed 1985 album This Nation's Saving Grace.
  • This episode was also the inspiration for the Stephen King short story "I Know What You Need", appearing in his first short story anthology Night Shift.
  • The same source story was also used for an episode of Tales of Tomorrow, aired February 8, 1952. That episode is available for viewing at archive.org.
  • The character of Fred Renard utters the line: "Why don't you take a flying jump at the moon?!", this is the same line used by the character Leila in the later episode "The Chaser" and by the character Michael Chambers in the later episode "To Serve Man".

Notes and References

  1. CBS Video Library: Twilight Zone #0318 "The Obsolete Man/Long Distance Call/What You Need/A World of His Own" ; UPC: 000318060000, EAN: 0000318060000, ASIN: B0007LHU64; Format: NTSC, VHS, Collector's Edition (1987)

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