From: "RG Naylor"
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 1999 14:57:55 -0700

Greetings, Rockford fans. This week's episode is Tall Woman in Red Wagon, episode number five, starring Sian Barbara Allen as Sandra Turkel, George DiCenzo as agent Stoner, and Susan Damante as Charlotte Duskey. This is one of my favorite episodes, where his client turns out to be a real pistol. There's a sort of father/daughter dynamic in place here, where Sian Barbara Allen is a sassy lassy who insults Rockford as only a wealthy young, 70's woman could do. Oh, yeah, and I find this lady to be particularly beautiful as well. She reminds me of someone I know.

The opening scene takes place at a time in the future of the bulk of the story, in a graveyard. Rockford employs a couple of "intellectuals" to dig up a grave for him. Just as he's about to open the casket, a couple of gun-wielding thugs show up, and one shoots Rockford in the head (it's not too serious). He is heard calling a name while recovering from surgery, which makes it clear he survives the attack.

Then the story takes us back in time to the beginning of the tale. Rockford's at the newspaper office of his new client, Sandra Turkel. She starts right off barking orders about how she wants her lunch, which doesn't go over well with the Rockfish. It is humorously entertaining; to see her character insult Jimmie like she does. She promises him: "I'll grow on you."

And at lunch, Sandra says: "One thing I want to tell you though, um, I plan to run this what I need you for is to kinda go along with me in case there are some real kinda dangerous types and you can take care of them for me. " (I don't know about you guys, but she just gives me this view of the seventies that is so fresh, and she's so sexy in an innocent way.) " I need a, a, whatchmacallit." Rockford: "A gorilla?" And then, when Rockford rebuffs her plan, she says: "Maybe you don't know everything. Maybe you could stand to listen more." So, Rockford says: "You don't pyramid, you know all about police work, uh, you drive your editor nuts, and you're looking for a gunslinger to help you shoot people while your looking for your best friend Charlotte Dusky. We oughta sell this to the comics!" When she tells him to "just say so" if he can't keep up, Rockford says: "No, what are you talking about? No, you just give me time to go home and get my gun and greaze the axle on my wheelchair" (I never understood that line?), and then gets up from the table and leaves, followed by a repentant Sandra Terkel.

After she talks Rockford into taking the case with the promise of Charlotte's beauty, Rockford says: "Sandra, all the men in the world don't subscribe to Playboy.' Sandra: "Do you?" Rockford replies, rather sheepishly: "No.... I borrow my father's copy when he's through with it." So the upshot is that Sandra's friend and co-worker Charlotte Dusky is missing, and although she says she doesn't have time to find another P.I., anyone who's seen the episode can deduce that she's sweet on Jimmie boy.

So they're off to Elmira thanks to Sandra's "circle search." At the Hotel, the manager tells them that Charlotte's died of a congenital heart failure. Sandra doesn't believe she died of heart failure, because she was an avid jogger. When questioning the hotel employees, Sandra gets snippy, and irks Jimbo. The conversation then touches on the fact that Sandra covers the crimebeat on her paper. Jim: "Ah, lotta big crime in Longview." Sandra: "Yeah, we get our share. It can get pri-tty hairy." "Ah, yeah, the way I hear it there's a lot of terrible stuff going on down there; gum machines get ripped off right and left." LOL!!! . Jim notices now that they're being tailed. Finally, Sandra asks JIm to "stop making fun" of her.

Their next stop is the doctor's office who declared Charlotte dead, where Rockford misrepresents himself as an insurance investigator. Sandra shoots a question in her usual curt way, but Jim stops her from getting an answer. Sandra: "It's important to know where he practiced before. That's gonna help us find out if Charlotte knew him." and then Rockford says:"He practiced in Chicago." Sandra:"How do you know that?," Rockford points to the wall next to them, where the good doctor's diploma is hung. "Oh, I missed that." Rockford: "Really?" LOL!!!

Out in the car, Sandra discloses what she concealed earlier, that Charlotte invested $100,000.00 in her family's paper. Then she gets snotty (not much of a stretch): "That's not true. PIs can be forced to reveal anything in court, and most of them would spill their guts for a $10 bill." which wasn't a very nice thing to say to ol' Jimbo.

Their next stop is the Elmira train station. Now Rockford shows Sandra his portable business card press, saying, "You can waste a lot of time on people if you don't have the right props." He cons the manager out of the conductor's name, in a brilliant show of acting, and apparently gets the information about the casket. Sandra busts his balls over the con job on the way to the car.

Now, Rockford gets a little tired of his tail, so he stops the car, backs it up at full speed, and slams into the guy. This seems to me to be a little out of character for ol' Rockfish. I kind of suspected that it was an immature ploy to impress the young lady, but I hope that isn't true. When he learns that the man is an I.R.S. agent, he hilariously hits "reverse" again: "I keep meaning to get that gearshift fixed. It uh, drops into reverse. You can bet that thing's going into the shop today. I hope you'll accept my sincerest apologies, Agent Stoner." There's something in his tone that just screams of comedy. He was able to do this throughout the series, and is one of his trademarks. Now Rockford doesn't let on that the guy is a phony. At a coffee shop, "agent Stoner" reveals Charlotte's past in Chicago, and Rockford and Stoner agree that Charlotte is not dead. It turns out that Charlotte was the girlfriend of an Arizona mobster, and that she stole $1,200,000 after the hood died, and, apparently, the I.R.S. wants their cut, $340,000. When agent Stoner wants to know how Rockford got to the train station manager, Sandra snitches: "He has a little priniting press and he makes up phony business cards; it's disgusting." The looks these two give each other here are priceless.

At the station, Jim bails out because it's an open case. But before he does, he calls Joe Baron Jr., the son of the deceased mobster, and finds out that he can make $20,000 if he finds Charlotte Dusky, and that "agent Stoner' is a phony. That means Jimmie is back on the case. The girl and Jim are supposedly left at the station, while Stoner takes a train, but they pull a charade on the train as Dr. and nurse, claiming they are looking for an "outpatient"; agent Stoner. This is another hilarious and classic display, which was the hallmark of the series. Sandra says: "It really works. It's fascinating." Here, you can tell that she's got a bigtime crush on Jimbo. Now the trap is set in the boxcar, after Rockford says to Stoner: "You're about as official as a cubscout at a rodeo." Stoner convey's his intent to kill Rockford and the girl to get the loot, and avoid prosecution for impersonating a Fed, but Jim set up the bunk to knock him out, and they slam the bunk closed with Stoner inside.

As they are leaving the train station for the mortuary, the thugs (the same thugs who we see shooting Jimmie at the cemetary) from the mob show up, tipped off when JIm called at the station, with the background noise. At the mortuary, Rockford is pulling another scam on the mortuary proprietor; he is now "agent Stoner", which is ironically funny, because if he gets caught, he can just say it was the original "agent Stoner". But Sandra talks out of turn saying she'll pay the mortuary owner $50.00 if he lets them look in the casket. Yet another time that Sandra ad libs her part, and it works to her delight. They don't find the loot, and so they end up on a plane on their way to the home of one Charlotte Dusky (they got the address from the mortuary), who's lying unconscious on the kitchen floor, the apartment in a shambles.

At the hospital, Charlotte is recovering, and she tells Jim and Sandra that the money was hers; that her boyfriend/mobster promised it to her, and that the mobsters took it all. Then Charlotte asks Sandra if she likes Jim, and Sandra asks Jim if he's "eligible", and Jim says, "For everything but marriage." and Sandra says, "I wonder.", which doesn't go over well with Jimbo. So as they're leaving the hospital, they argue over Jim's tab, and Jim expresses his disbelief in Charlotte's story, suggesting that she's still got the money, and offers Sandra a cut of the recovery.

So now we're full circle, at the cemetary, and Jim gets shot. He gets out of the hospital and in his car he is accosted by "Agent Stoner". Jim tells him he doesn't have the money, and he starts the car and takes off, Stoner in tow. Jim agrees to tell Stoner where he can find the money if Stoner cuts Jim in for 20%. At the trailer, Sandra is waiting for him. She tells him Charlotte disappeared again. He tells her that the mobsters got the money from the casket, but leaves out the fact that he was the one that dug it up. At this point, you don't know what exactly happened. Now Jim tells Sandra he's off the case for good, and Sandra says: "It happened, didn't it?" Rockford says: "What?" And Sandra says: "I grew on you." Jim says, with a smile: "Yeah, yeah you did." A touching moment. After she leaves, JIm sits back on his desk chair, and contemplates, "I wonder where the hell that money REALLY is." End of of story.