Private investigator Jim Rockford (James Garner) is back as season five opens.
The season premier was 22 September, 1978 and saw Jim’s dad, Rocky (Noah Beery jr.) in a bit of a trouble in this episode written by Cannell. And the first phone message of the year features a phone call from a person who hit Jim’s car, confiding that sorry, he doesn’t have any insurance but hey, he thinks he hurt his arm.
Rocky ends up in an accident, rolling his rig, when a pair of cars ambush him. While in the hospital, he and Jim learn that the haul was non-union, which may cost Rocky his licence, not to mention boot him from the union, and that what he was hauling is an illegal meat import from Mexico.
As Jim digs in, he goes right to the top of the company, or at least the face of it, Charlie Strayhorn (Taylor Lacher), a country-western singer (actually it’s Willie Nelson singing). The two of them form an initially shaky relationship, as they look into the meat company, and uncover a deal involving the triads, overseen here by Clement Chin (Die Hard’s James Shigeta), but even they end up with problems with the locals.
It’s a lighter story to start the season with (it is fun to see how Jim and Charlie interact however), and while it was fun to see a slightly Rocky-centric story, I would have loved something a little stronger and rougher for the season opener. But hey, different times…
Rosendahl and Gilda Stern are Dead was written by Juanita Bartlett and aired 29 September, 1978 and had a hilarious phone gag that had a guy calling to say he found Jim’s wallet… he’ll return the money but being a leather fetishist, he’s keeping the wallet.
This one has a few familiar faces, including Robert Loggia, Abe Vigoda, and Rita Moreno returning as Rita Capkovic, it also has Becker (Joe Santos) making his first appearance in the season, and it’s also worth mentioning that Officer Billings (Luis Delgado) usually shows up in the police station as well.
Rita is being held for murder of a doctor, and no one seems to believe her that there is something more going on. As Jim gets involved he finds a bit of a revenge scheme at work; it seems mobster Phil Gabriel (Vigoda) is suffering from pain from a surgery that while not necessarily botched did not go as well as could be hoped.
Suffering from incredible pain, Gabriel is exacting his revenge, and Jim slowly pieces it all together and is able to clear Rita’s name.
There are some nice comedic moments in this one, especially at the end when Rita is sharing gifts with Becker, Jim and Rocky.
And like that, the fifth season is underway – I wonder what other guest stars we’ll be seeing soon?