Industrialist — and has anyone outside of a Hollywood production ever been called that? And have they ever once been the economy-driving, job-creating, philanthropic good guy? — Deidrich walks down a long hallway filled with secretaries who will soon be replaced by computers, Mr. Coffees and younger, hotter secretaries. He is going to see his former protege William Feathersmith.
Both of the men are immediately unlikable. Deidrich checks his watch and insists “I’m a busy man.” Feathersmith bites the tip off his cigar and spits it across the room; plus he’s bald. To his credit, Deidrich is appalled by this — the cigar thing, I mean.
Deidrich had hired Feathersmith many years ago when they were both young men, despite his appalling manners. He soon found Feathersmith to be “a predatory, grasping, conniving, acquisitive animal of a man. Without heart, without conscience, without compassion, without even a subtle hint of common decency.” Maybe Feathersmith is just getting even for a bad reference when they parted ways.
Feathersmith has called Deidrich in to tell him that he has bought Deidrich’s bank note which is payable upon demand; and that he is demanding it. He takes great pleasure in stealing the company from Deidrich, destroying everything he has worked for. Feathersmith cackles boorishly as the crushed man walks from his office.
Having ruthlessly achieved every-thing he ever wanted, he tells the janitor he is thinking about his youth in Cliffordville. By coincidence, the janitor also grew up in Cliffordville. They apparently had a pretty good school system because he tells Feathersmith he is like Alexander the Great who wept because he had no more worlds to conquer. Though a janitor, like Hans Gruber, he clearly had the “benefits of a classical education”. Feathersmith wishes he could go back to Cliffordville and do it all over again. And this being a zone with twilightish qualities . . .
As he is leaving, he accidentally exits the elevator on the 13th floor. He is unable to recall either the elevator, or the nearby Devlin Travel Services owned by the lovely Julie Newmar. Serling is working from the Cruella DeVille book of villain names here. This isn’t intended for 7-year olds, but let’s not quibble.
She offers to send Feathersmith back to 1910 Cliffordville. All for the low, low price of oh, say, everything he has except $1,400. He regrets not having the time to bang the banker’s hot daughter because he was so busy working. He wants to experience the excitement of rebuilding his fortune and ruining the lives of countless men. He agrees to give up $36 million because he knows the future and this time will bet on Harry Truman, the 1969 Mets, Pet Rocks, Japanese Cars, Microsoft then Apple then Microsoft then Apple, VHS, Blu-Ray, and take a short position on Hillary Clinton. Both times.
Of course, being TZ, things don’t work out the way he planned. He blows the $1,400 immediately on land that turns out to be worthless at the time. He woos the banker’s daughter and finds that she is er, not the beauty that he remembered. Everywhere he turns he just misses opportunities, misremembers details, and realizes that he doesn’t know how anything works so he can’t preemptively invent anything. He tells people repeatedly that he is “not a crummy draftsman, or a two-bit blue-print man. I’m a promoter, a financier.”
The Devil gets the last laugh. She mocks Feathersmith for being “a wheeler and a dealer, a financier, a pusher, a manipulator, a raider. Because you are a taker instead of a builder, a conniver instead of a designer, a user instead of a bringer.” In other words, “You didn’t build that.”
Feathersmith begs Ms. Devlin to send him back to the future. His last act before leaving 1910 starts the wheels in motion for another well-played twist. The execution is slightly bungled, but it is still very satisfying. Unfortunately, Serling is not finished typing. He has to insert one last jab at capitalism. In his world, it is impossible to have money without being an asshole (although, I suspect, he excepted himself).
I could point out that it has some similarities to an episode just 3 weeks earlier. The aging make-up and bald-caps were sometimes too obvious, but this was not filmed for HD; it is actually kind of charming in a high-school production sort of way. The main negative is that Feathersmith is so obnoxious and so grating that it isn’t even fun to watch him; not even as his own arrogance dooms him.
Nonetheless, Another good episode in the much-maligned (sometimes by me) 4th season.