Twilight Zone – The Misfortune Cookie (01/03/86)

tzmisfortunecookie1Starring one of the top five worst actors ever to make a good living at it: Elliot Gould.

There is a TV on in the newspaper office where Gould works.  Even back in 1986, TV news was making the most of the medium’s miraculous ability to communicate and educate; in this case by broadcasting a review of a sandwich shop.

This incenses Gould who fancies himself a real journalist — he reviews restaurants.  We can tell he is a serious critic because, not only is he wearing an apron in the newsroom, he seems to have a little mini-kitchen and wine-rack in his cubicle.

The report continues on to rave about Mr. Lee’s Chinese Cuisine.  For reasons unknown, Gould decides to ruin the restaurant with a terrible review.  He types a terrible — in more ways than one — headline, then admits to his co-worker that he has never actually been there.  Thank God journalists had evolved past this kind of elite tunnel-vision, bias and arrogant presumption before the 2016 elections.


Gould is such a great journalist, he can use a keyboard without a screen.

To preserve the facade of his journalistic integrity, Gould goes to Mr. Lee’s for dinner the next day.  He orders several dishes which are beautiful and still steaming on his table when he asks for the check. Mr. Lee is an honorable man.  He says he can’t accept money for a meal that was not enjoyed.  He brings Gould a “very special fortune cookie.”  It reads, “A grand reward awaits you just around the corner”. Moments later he inadvertently causes a thief to drop a bag of diamonds and gets a reward.

He goes back to the restaurant the next morning — the morning his scathing review runs in the paper.  Mr. Lee says, “You are the man who wrote all those bad things about Mr. Lee in newspaper” because Chinese people don’t understand pronouns or articles.  He promises to write a great follow-up review, then orders another meal and fortune cookie. Again, he skips the meal and goes straight to the fortune cookie which reads, “April arrives today, brings romance.”  Just after leaving, he meets a woman named April and I don’t even want to imagine what happens later.

tzmisfortunecookie3They go on a date to Mr. Lee’s Chinese Cuisine.  April chaus down, but Gould waits for the fortune cookie.  It’s not really worth the wait as it reads, “You’re going to die.”  He calls Mr. Lee out of the kitchen.  Lee says you get the fortune you deserve.  Gould storms out, but after a few steps all those skipped meals catch up with him.  He is acutely, ravishingly starving.

He looks down the street and all of the restaurants are Chinese.  He enters one and begins stuffing his face.  Two seconds later he is hungry again.  He eats and eats and eats but is never satisfied.  The marching Chinese bring dish after dish to his table. Yada yada, he’s dead and in hell — but one of those TZ hells where you get too much of a good thing.  He is sentenced to having Chinese food brought to him, which is a deal a lot of Chinese people would take.

Gould was surprisingly good in this.  Most weeks this segment might have grated a little bit.  The first two segments in this episode built up considerable goodwill, though.  It would just be churlish to point out he was damned to hell for a fake news story.  Even Brian Williams got another chance.

I rate it #18.


  • Classic TZ Roots:  A Nice Place to Visit also had a very hospitable hell.
  • Trivia:  Note in the beginning when Gould’s co-worker says the word “exposes” something flies out of his mouth.  Note also that when Gould begins typing his review, he has a keyboard, but no screen.
  • Gould’s tombstone at the end charitably trims 10 years off his age.
  • The ending narration says he is a man “for whom the phrase Dim Sum is not merely a description, but a damnation.”  I have no idea what they were going for there.

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