"What You Need" is episode 12 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It is based on the short story of the same name by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore).
Pedott is a peddler who has the curious ability to give people exactly what they need before they need it. The old man enters a cafe where he first gives a woman a vial of cleaner. Then, he gives a down-on-his-luck ex-baseball player a bus ticket to Scranton, Pennsylvania. Moments later the ball player receives a phone call at the cafe with a job offer in the city the bus ticket is for. The ball player then notices a spot on his jacket, for which the woman just happens to have cleaner.
Fred Renard, a small-time thug, asks Pedott to give him what he needs, and the peddler gives him a pair of scissors which save Renard's life when his scarf later gets caught in an elevator's doors. Renard shows up at Pedott's apartment, asking for another thing he "needs", and the peddler comes up with a leaky fountain pen that predicts a winning racehorse when a drop of ink lands on a newspaper racing column.
Renard continues menacing Pedott for more and then helps himself to a pair of new shoes from Pedott's peddler case. When a car suddenly heads toward Renard, he tries to run, but the new leather soles are so slippery he cannot escape on the wet pavement. He is struck and killed. The shoes, Pedott explains to Renard's corpse, were what Pedott needed, because he foresaw that Renard would eventually kill him. At the end of the episode the peddler gives a couple a comb, which they use to groom themselves just before they are photographed as witnesses for a newspaper story covering the "hit and run" accident that killed Fred Renard.
The original story featured a machine that could foretell an individual's probable future. Serling replaced this science-fiction element with a street peddler who could magically perform the same function. In the original story the man owns a shop where he has such a machine, and then gives people what they need to provide the best possible outcomes. Also, the Renard character is killed not by a car, but by falling off a subway platform while a train is coming in to the station.
The final shot before the first commercial (while Serling is concluding his narration) is actually played backwards; looking carefully, one can see smoke returning to Renard's cigarette.
During the scene in Mr. Renard's hotel room, a bellhop brings him a newspaper. Renard then opens it and spreads it out on the floor. The movement is quick, but the front page of the newspaper is visible, indicating that it is the same front page used in another Twilight Zone episode, "Time Enough at Last". The headline reads "H-Bomb Capable of Total Destruction". Once Renard opens the paper and looks at the racing page, several in-jokes are apparent in the names of the listed jockeys, which include "Serling", "Clemens" (referencing director of photography George Clemens), "Houghton" (referencing producer Buck Houghton), "Butler" (referencing set decorator Rudy Butler), and "Denault" (referencing assistant director Edward Denault).
This episode inspired the song of the same name by British post-punk band The Fall from their acclaimed 1985 album This Nation's Saving Grace.
This episode was also the inspiration for the Stephen King short story "I Know What You Need", appearing in his first short story anthology Night Shift.
The same source story was also used for an episode of Tales of Tomorrow, aired February 8, 1952.