Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Climb Outta My Tree

“Counter Gambit” is an entertaining con episode in which Rockford (James Garner) is framed for the theft of a pearl necklace, but manages to get off the hook when he tricks the real crooks into returning the necklace to the safe from which they stole it. Rockford is summoned to the state pen by Moss Williams (Eddie Fontaine), a thug who once tried to kill Jim in prison. Moss hires the reluctant detective to find out whether his girl, Maria Heller (Mary Frann, later Bob’s wife on NEWHART), is cheating on him. The smell of Williams’ retainer—and the rantings of Jim’s dentist, who threatens to repo the detective’s filling if his bill isn’t paid—convinces Jim to take the case, which, in true ROCKFORD FILES fashion, turns out to be nothing like it seems.

Besides just being a really fun episode with an especially breezy performance by Garner, “Counter Gambit” is also notable for being Stuart Margolin’s first appearance on THE ROCKFORD FILES after the pilot. Soon to become one of the show’s most popular supporting players as Jim’s cowardly ex-cellmate Angel Martin, Margolin already appears to have the part down pat, and his initial scene, set in a seedy porn theater, sets the pace for the entire series. Also appearing in supporting bits are M. Emmet Walsh (BLOOD SIMPLE) and Garry Walberg, late of THE ODD COUPLE and soon to become a regular on QUINCY, M.E. Director Jackie Cooper, who earlier had helmed “Aura Lee, Farewell,” was better known as an actor (he began in films as a child in 1929), and actually appeared as a Special Guest Star in the next televised episode, “Claire.”

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