Welcome back to my Twilight Zone Marathon! What if you had the ability to exchange things to get what you want? Not just physical things like money or valuables, but also looks or personalities. Today’s episode features a man who can do just that. This is easily one of the longest titles of Twilight Zone, “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross.”
Salvadore “Sal” Ross is a crass, quick to anger car washer who wants to live a happy life with high-class social worker Leah. She likes him but doesn’t think he’s compassionate enough to be with. While at the hospital treating a broken hand, he discovers he can exchange his injury for another man’s cold just buy making a deal with him. Sal soon uses this to get everything he wants and soon tries to win Leah’s heart. Will he succeed, or is he in over his head?
I had mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, the premise was interesting and made for a good temptation story. On the other, I found the main character unlikable that I didn’t feel like rooting for him. The story is simplistic because it follows Sal’s goal of getting with Leah, which worked okay. And the twist ending was a great dose of karma and moral lesson.
The main characters are Sal, Leah, and Mr. Maitland, Leah’s wheelchair-bound father. We learn some of Mr. Maitland’s backstory via a conversation between him and Sal. Leah takes her father over Sal all the time because of his compassion and need for care. The father is a good person, however, so it’s done more as a daughter to a father thing.
Leah came off as snobby to me at first, but as the story went on, I started to see things from her perspective and sympathize with her. She does care for Sal, but also feels his rough disposition makes him incapable of truly caring about people. I kinda wish the episode didn’t end with the twist, because I would’ve liked to see how she’d react to it all.
And finally we come to Sal. I wanted to root for this guy and kinda did at the start (because Leah seemed snobby). However, once he gets his “gift”, his colors start to really come out. He treats Leah like she’s a prize to be won and makes all these deals for his selfish goal of winning her. Needless to say, that karma that occurs in the twist felt completely justified for me. I’m still not sure if the intention was to dislike him throughout the story, but I definitely did.
Like I said, disliking the main character made it harder to root for him and his actions. The episode mostly revolves around Sal making deals to get rich, stay young and improve his manner of speaking. These deals mostly involve trading money to people, who have to take the brunt of it. For example, the hospital dealing involves him giving his broken hand to an old man, who laments that it won’t heal due to his age. Sal practically laughs at him and waltzes off. You can see why I grew to dislike him just from that.
Overall, “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross” was an interesting idea, but Sal was just so unlikable that it left me feeling unsympathetic for him by the end. The concept of trading things was neat and something I’d never seen before, but it felt dampened by tying it into Sal’s story. I suppose in hindsight it acts as a life lesson about the dangers of being someone you’re not. For me, this episode was average and I would only recommend it if you want a karmic story.