Story by Charles E. Fritch
Directed by Allan Arkush
Teleplay by Steven Rae
Original Airdate - January 3, 1986
Elliot Gould - Harry Folger
Bennet Ohta - Mr. Lee
Caroline Langerfelt - April Hamilton
Frederick Coffin - Max
Claire Carter - Glamourous Gourmet
John G. Scanlon - O'Malley
Elven Harvard - Guard
Albert Leong - Proprietor



Harry Folger, the movie critic for a San Francisco television station, loves to destroy a restaurant in his reviews.  He even keeps a model graveyard, where each restaurant that has failed due to his reviews has a tombstone.  One day, a rival of his gives a superior review to a new Chinatown restaurant, Mr. Lee's.  Harry determines that he'll give the restaurant a bad review that will air that evening, then stop by the new restaurant, order some food, and not eat it, to cover his review.  One of his colleagues tells him that's not the way reviews should be done, and Folger shrugs it off; the restaurant can't be that good, he says.  Mr. Lee, the owner of the restaurant, knows who he is, but is puzzled why Folger isn't eating anything.  When Folger asks for the check, Lee says that he won't have to pay for food he didn't like.  Lee also brings him a special fortune cookie.  Harry opens it and reads his fortune: XXXX 

Harry dismisses the fortune, which seems to be standard fortune cookie prediction, and leaves the restaurant.  Just as he steps out the door, a man runs into Harry and trips over a stack of garbage bags.  Two police officers come running around the corner, and tell him he's captured a diamond thief and that he'll get the reward.  Harry realizes that the "special" fortune cookie really predicted his future.  He goes back the next day for lunch, orders more food he doesn't eat, and then asks for a special fortune cookie.  Mr. Lee is upset because Harry's bad review has caused people to stop coming to his restaurant.  Harry promises that he'll give the restaurant a great review now.  Lee brings him another special fortune cookie, which says:  April arrives today, bringing sunshine.  Harry thinks Mr. Lee is making a joke, since it's November.  Mr. Lee says that you get the fortune you deserve. 

The next day, Harry is walking to work, and bumps into a beautiful woman.  She asks him where a certain building is, and Harry directs her.  She tells him she's in town on business, and he asks if he can take her to dinner.  She agrees, and when they part, Harry asks her name, which is April.  His fortune came true again. 

Harry takes April to Mr. Lee's restaurant, so she can get a special fortune cookie too, but not for the food.  Harry tells her not to eat too much, because he's made a reservation at a wonderful little bistro across town.  April tells him she really can't understand why he's not eating, because the food is the best she's ever had.  When Harry asks for the special fortune cookies, he gets a real surprise.  April's reads: Danger - you've made a grave error in judgement.  That's bad enough, but Harry's reads:  XXXX.

Harry is appalled, and yells at Mr. Lee for threatening him.  April is upset by his actions, and leaves him sitting in the restaurant.  Harry starts to run after her, but doubles over from crippling hunger pangs.  He sits back down and starts to eat…and eat…and eat.  After what seem like days, he is still starving.  A strange waiter brings him a fortune cookie.  This one reads:  You're dead.  Harry now realizes he's in Hell and is indeed dead…and sentenced to eating Chinese food for eternity.


One of the most inventive of the series, "The Misfortune Cookie" is a fun and energetic episode.  Tightly paced and stylishly written, it is based on a 1970 short story by Charles Fritch and adapted for the new Twilight Zone by Steven Rae.  Elliot Gould is perfect as the fussy, self-righteous food critic, and he is always a joy to watch.  He hits exactly the right notes in his performance.  I suspect there are some real food critics out there like him, though hopefully not quite as mean.

The special effects are an enhancement to the episode.  Damp San Francisco back alleys with neon lights shining off them, the misty depths of Mr. Lee's after Harry's been killed off, and sunny sidewalks all contribute to make the viewer feel that they are actually in Chinatown.  Even the model graveyard is done well.  The scene of all the Chinese restaurant neon signs, during Harry's descent in Hell, is evocative and haunting.