The Twilight Zone Episode 136: The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross

General Information

Director: Don Siegel

Writer: Jerry McNeely

Cast: Don Gordon, Gail Kobe, Vaughn Taylor, J. Pat O’Malley, Douglass Dumbrille, and Doug Lambert

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 1/17/1964

Production Code: 2612



Desperate to marry a bright and cultured woman named Leah Maitland (Gail Kobe), Salvadore “Sal” Ross (Don Gordon)—a dim-witted loser with violent tendencies—developsThe Twilight Zone The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross a remarkable and beneficial talent. Specifically, Sal acquires the ability to exchange intangible traits such as age, temperament, and intelligence for anything that he desires—with a tragic outcome.

This effort should be commended for its valuable life message. Also praiseworthy is the acting of Don Gordon, who elicits both pity and contempt for his character of Sal.



The Twilight Zone The Self-Improvement of Salvadore RossIn spite of his odious and uncouth behavior, Sal struggles to improve himself due in part to his lack of education and unfortunate life circumstances—factors that compel the audience to feel mild sympathy for the protagonist, who, in his interactions with Leah and her father, comes across as a boorish, arrogant punk with no humility whatsoever.



Providing no origin story for Sal’s extraordinary ability, “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross” deserves criticism for its unexplained (albeit still The Twilight Zone The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Rossintriguing and well-suited for an installment of The Twilight Zone) main plot device.

(Spoilers beyond this point)

Astute viewers may also take issue with the paradoxical twist at the end of this episode. Notably, Sal—determined to win Leah’s heart through any means necessary—purchases Mr. Maitland’s “compassion” for $100,000. If Leah’s father were truly a selfless and compassionate man, however, he would never sell his most valued attributes to a lowlife bum.



The Twilight Zone The Self-Improvement of Salvadore RossA fantastic tale with a moral lesson, “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross” reveals a striking contrast between superficial charm and genuine concern for other people—the latter of which can never be bought, traded, or faked under any circumstances.


Concluding Comments

“The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross” is a well-acted, smoothly paced, and thought-provoking entry of The Twilight Zone. Nevertheless, this episode suffers from logical flaws and sci-fi/fantasy themes of an unexplored nature.


Overall Quality: 7/10


If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.