The Rockford Files (1976) – So Help Me God & Rattlers Class of ’63

 

Private investigator Jim Rockford (James Garner) gets into it this week, with this double dose of episodes.

First up is a courtroom thriller entitled, So Help Me God, written by Juanita Bartlett that aired 19 November, 1976. The phone gag this week features a call from a dentist’s office telling Jim he can’t put off the appointment for a fourth time. He needs a root canal, and his sore foot has nothing to do with it.

When Jim is handed a summons to appear before a grand jury, even consulting with Beth (Gretchen Corbett) can’t prepare him for what’s coming. He’s treated poorly, and as a hostile witness, as Gary Bevins (William Daniels – in another appearance on the show) believes he is perjuring himself, and is holding him in contempt of court when he tries to use the 5th Amendment from being incriminated in something that he’s sure he’s not involved in.

With some assistance from Beth, and some digging around, Jim tries to figure out what is really going on, before he ends up in prison for contempt, as different parties prepare to file against him, all while he tries to maintain his integrity, ethics, and probably even a little bit of his sanity.

This one was a bit of a different episode for the show, and it actually works really well. I mean who doesn’t like a good courtroom drama?

It ended up being an interesting look at the courtroom system of the 70s, and to date in the series is the only episode to close with an informative little text tag at the end, letting the viewer know that yes, this kind of abuse of the legal system (keeping Jim in prison for contempt, over and over, and overruling his rights) could happen to you, the viewer!

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The second episode, Rattlers Class of ’63 was written by David Chase and aired 26 November, 1976. The phone gag this time around features a phone call from a 24 Hour Emergency Plumbing service… they’ll be able to fix Jim’s water heater Wednesday.

The way that this one starts off, you know something is up from the get-go… Rocky (Noah Beery Jr.) and Jim are late for a wedding… Angel’s (Stuart Margolin).

It seems Angel is in deep in part of a con that now is turning up a dead body! Jim gets pulled into it, unwillingly and unwittingly, and finds himself in harm’s way as Angel’s would-be in-laws are coming after the two of them.

Gerald McRaney makes a second appearance on the show, this time with a little more dialogue. A step up from the hotel concierge he played previously.

There’s a rather poignant undertone of emotion that kicks in about halfway through the episode, when it’s revealed that Angel may have in fact developed serious feelings for Regine (Elayne Heilveil), the woman he’s marrying. But his lies, the fact that he’s conned her family, and all the things he’s done, and will no doubt continue to do, weigh against him. He doesn’t even make the effort to change who he is.

The last shot features Jim and Regine going, arm in arm, for a bite to eat. She wants to hire him to help track an old boyfriend she’d like to catch up with. Angel steps out of Jim’s camper behind them, and their smiling faces are in direct contrast to the pained and almost heartbroken expression on Angel’s face.

It’s a really good moment, and a bittersweet way to end the episode, and that’s always good!

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