The Rockford Files (1979) – The Man Who Saw The Alligators and The Return of the Black Shadow


Private investigator Jim Rockford (James Garner) finds himself in all manner of trouble this week.

First up is The Man Who Saw the Alligators, written by David Chase, and originally airing as an extended episode on 10 February, 1979, you can catch glimpses of Chase’s Sopranos in this episode, as a gangster on parole, Tony (George Loros) decides to go after the guy who helped put him behind bars. Jim.

The phone gag features a rather amusing call from the Happy Dawn School of Secret Arts. It was definitely worth a chuckle.

The chuckles continued as Jim shows up doped to the gills from having been to the dentist, probably about the root canal previous phone messages have mentioned, but is immediately plunged into trouble when he learns he needs to get his taxes in order, with the assistance of friend Adrianna (Sharon Acker).

Deciding to get away from it all to her cabin to better work on Jim’s financial woes, trouble seems intent on following, and thanks to the less than courageous efforts of Angel (Stuart Margolin), Tony tracks him down.

These moments are counter-pointed with Tony’s interaction with his brother, mother and other family members, as they are manipulated by the Don to give up Tony’s location and have him snubbed out.

This episode probably put a bit of a strain on Jim and Angel’s relationship as the latter can always be counted on to only look after himself, and tries to make an escape without Jim and Adrianna as the cabin is laid siege to by Tony.

All ends well, mostly, except for the IRS audit for Jim.


The second episode, The Return of the Black Shadow was written by Cannell and aired on 17 February, 1979. The phone message features a woman calling about a problem she’d like to discuss with Jim, confidentially.

This episode ends up being a little darker than previous ones, and lets Cooper (Bo Hopkins) take center stage, as Jim is laid up in the hospital, following a brutal assault by a bunch of bikers, led by Whispering Willie (Paul Koslo), that also sees Coop’s sister, Gail (Laurie Jefferson), gang-raped.

And they actually get away with calling it that on air (as well as referring to it as a train!) in the late 70s!

Coop is understandably furious, and, digging into his past, which we learn about in the first few minutes of the episode through dialogue between Jim and Gail, decides to go undercover, and wreak his vengeance on those who abused his sister, and hurt his friend.

It’s a brutal story, and it’s a tough tale to feature on a Rockford Files, but it’s done well, and honestly, could have gone much darker, letting Coop set up and take down each member of the gang, but instead, it rushes to its end, and everyone comes out alright.

There are a lot of great moments, it’s brutal to see Jim take as many hits as he does, but when his rage takes over, that was fantastic. There is a great sequence where Coop, trying to blend in, gets ripped and high with the bikers, and then calls Jim to let him know where and when the bikers are going next.

4 more episodes left to season 5 before tackling the series final episodes!

The Rockford Files - Season 1



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