"A Piece of the Action" is a second-season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series first broadcast on January 12, 1968. It was repeated on August 30, 1968, the last episode to air in the 8:30 pm time slot on Friday nights. It is episode #46, production #49, written by David P. Harmon and Gene L. Coon, and directed by James Komack.
On stardate 4598.0, the starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, is exploring space near Sigma Iotia II, where the USS Horizon was reported missing nearly 100 years earlier. Upon reaching orbit, the ship receives a message from Bela Oxmyx, who invites the command crew down for a welcoming party.
Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy are hesitant about interfering with the inhabitants, who are reported to be a pre-nuclear industrialized culture. Kirk points out that any cultural contamination would have started with the Horizon's visit, since the Prime Directive had not yet been established at that time.
The three beam down in the middle of a busy city street, in what appears to be the USA's 1920s era. Most of the people around them are visibly armed with Tommy guns. Two men hold the party at gunpoint and order them to remove their weapons and communicators. The men take them to Oxmyx, but as they walk, a car drives by and opens fire, killing one of the men. The other thug, Kalo, fires back as the car drives off, and then orders the landing party to continue as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
When the group arrives at Oxmyx's office, Kalo informs him of the drive-by shooting. Oxmyx orders his men to make a retaliatory hit on the rival gangster Jojo Krako. Spock finds an obviously Terran book, entitled Chicago Mobs of the Twenties, presumably left behind by the crew of the Horizon. This book is now viewed as a holy relic by the Iotians, who have built an entire culture around what they refer to as "The Book".
Oxmyx demands that Kirk supply him with their phasers, which he refers to as "heaters". Kirk refuses, so Oxmyx threatens to kill them in eight hours if Kirk doesn't come clean with the goods. The landing team is led away and Oxmyx picks up a communicator and tells a confused Mr. Scott what will happen to the captain if he doesn't comply.
Meanwhile, Kirk butts in on a game of poker that Oxmyx's thugs are playing. He introduces them to a fictitious (and extremely confusing) card game, "Fizzbin" in order to distract the gangsters so he and Spock can overcome them and escape.
Kirk orders Spock and McCoy to go to the local radio station and try to contact the Enterprise while he goes after Oxmyx. Spock and McCoy succeed, and are beamed up to the Enterprise but Kirk is captured by Jojo Krako's men. Krako offers Kirk the same deal as Oxmyx--phasers in exchange for a "third of the action". Kirk tries to offer a peaceful solution; Krako rejects it out of hand, and has Kirk locked up until he changes his mind.
Spock and McCoy, aboard the Enterprise, are trying to figure out how to free the captain when Oxmyx contacts them. He offers to help rescue Kirk, and seeing no alternative, Spock agrees. He and McCoy return to the planet only to be captured by Oxmyx. By this point, however, Kirk has managed to escape and heads to Oxmyx's office. Kirk surprises the guards and subdues them, obtaining their weapons and their clothes. Kirk and Spock then disguise themselves as the gangsters and head back to Krako's.
They ask a newspaper boy to arrange for them to enter Krako's headquarters bloodlessly, promising him "a piece of the action". They successfully enter, and hold the rival gangster and his men at gunpoint. Kirk announces that the Federation is taking over this town. If Krako helps, they will cut him in on a percentage of the action. Kirk informs him that they want one man to lead the Iotian people, with the Federation "pulling the strings". Krako agrees. They then "put the bag" on Krako by having Mr. Scott beam him up to the ship.
Kirk and Spock then make the same demands of Oxmyx. He agrees, even helping to round up all the gang bosses to his office by calling each one on the telephone. (The Enterprise transports them to his office as they answer.) Kirk tells them all that they are going to combine in a single operation with the Federation taking a forty percent cut.
Krako's men then attack the building, but they are stunned by the Enterprise's phasers. Witnessing this show of force, the mob bosses realize they are at Kirk's mercy. With their full attention, Kirk arranges for Oxmyx to be the "top boss" with Krako as his "first lieutenant". He says that the Federation will stop by once every year to collect their "piece of the action".
After returning to the Enterprise, Spock is curious to know how Kirk plans to explain to Starfleet why a ship will need to be sent to Sigma Iotia II every year to collect the Federation's "cut". Kirk explains that the money, while nominally due to the Federation, will actually go into a trust fund to finance the necessary projects to re-orient the planet's culture to a civil society. McCoy admits that he has forgotten his communicator down in Oxmyx's office. Kirk jokes that in a few years, the Iotians may figure out the Federation's technology — and then they may want a "piece of our action."
The rules of Fizzbin were intentionally very complex. Each player gets six cards, except for the player on the dealer's right, who gets seven. The second card is turned up, except on Tuesdays. Kirk dealt the henchman two jacks, which are a "half-fizzbin." When the henchman said he needs another jack, Kirk warned that a third jack is a "shronk" and is grounds for disqualification. With two jacks, one wants a king and a deuce, except at night, when one wants a queen and a four.
At this point, Kirk dealt a third jack, but to keep the ruse going, he ignored the disqualification rule he had just made up. He explained that, had a king been dealt instead of a jack, the player would get another card, except when it's dark, in which case he'd have to give it back. The top hand is a "royal fizzbin," but the odds of getting one are "astronomical": when Kirk asked Spock what the odds are, Spock truthfully replied that he had never computed them.
Kirk called the last card a "kronk" and then purposely dealt a card such that it fell on the floor. As the henchman being taught reached down, Kirk punched him in the face after hitting him in the stomach, and Spock nerve-pinched the other guard, allowing the three to escape.
This episode was digitally re-mastered in 2006 and was first aired April 28, 2007 as part of the remastered 40th Anniversary original series. It was preceded a week earlier by the remastered version of "All Our Yesterdays", and followed a week later by the remastered version of "Tomorrow Is Yesterday". Aside from remastered video and audio, and the all-CGI animation of the Enterprise that is standard among the revisions, specific changes to this episode also include: