Heartaches of a Fool
When Rocky comes to, he's in the hospital, with his bandaged up but none the worse for the wear & tear. Jim shows up as he's being questioned by the Highway Patrol, who don't believe him when he says he was run off the road. They take his license & tell him he'll most likely have it revoked. It gets worse. It turns out that Rocky had been duped into driving a non-union shipment. His membership is also revoked. Rocky is inconsolable, & Jim decides to investigate.
Jim goes to see Roland Eddy, the man who hired Rocky. Over a beer, Roland tells Jim that the job was actually a smuggle. He had told Rocky to avoid the truck-scales & stay off of I-5, & assumed that Rocky would understand what that meant. The sausages come from Mexico, & are unloaded illegally at the supermarkets. Now Jim decides to look into sausage company. Charlie Strayhorn is a country singer who's lent his name to the product, so after several unsuccesful attempts to contact the company, Jim goes to see Strayhorn in person, at his house in Bel-Air.
We find Strayhorn meeting with his lawyers, accountants, & soon-to-be ex-wife. His impending divorce & tax audit are making him regret even getting into the music business; he's so busy with legal matters he doesn't have any time to write new songs. When Jim knocks on his door, both of them are in foul moods. Jim confronts Charlie over his sausages, & Stayhorn writes Jim off as a shakedown artist. An argument quickly ensues. Next thing you know, the two are brawling in Strayhorn's front yard. His wife comes running out to separate the two, and Jim chases after them as they hop into Strayhorn's dusty pick-up. With Strayhorn at the wheel, they speed off. Jim asks Strayhorn to take him to Roland Eddy's place, so he can prove that the sausages are smuggled. They get there just in time to see a couple of men kidnapping Roland. Strayhorn's truck stalls in the driveway & they can't give chase. They call the police, then head for the hospital, where Strayhorn volunteers to pay for Rocky's medical bills. Rocky is cheered up considerably. He always listens to Charlie Strayhorn tapes during long-hauls, so he's thrilled to meet him.
That night, Jim is having a drink at the bar by his trailer. As he's leaving, a Chinese man picks a fight with him. He's getting the best of a surprised Rockford until Jim grabs a telephone off the bar & brains him with it. Meanwhile, Strayhorn & his wife are conducting an inventory on their home for the divorce settlement. Strayhorn leaves after gettin gemotional over a saddle he bought before he was famous. Later that night, Jim is visited by a rip-roarin' drunk Strayhorn, who still doesn't believe that his brand of sausages are being smuggled in from Mexico. To prove it, he drags Jim to the Van Nuys Airport, where they take Strayhorn's private jet to Cripple Creek, Arkansas. On the plane, Strayhorn finally has enough peace & quiet to write a song: "Heartaches of a Fool".
When they get to Cripple Creek, they find the sausage plant: a dilapidated trailer & toolshed on an otherwise empty tract of land. It's an unmanned maildrop, & Strayhorn finally believes Jim. He vows to go straight to his business manager, Clement, to find out what's going on. When they take a look at the shed, they find a dead Chinese man. Now, this is the mid-'70s, so it's unusual to find a Chinese laborer in rural Arkansas. Jim is concerned, noting that the man who attacked him the night before was also Chinese. He's even more concerned when Strayhorn informs him that his business manager Clement is, you guessed it, Chinese. Clement Chin.
They head back to L.A., & find Chin in a Chinatown restaurant. Chin admits that the whole operation is crooked. He has a corrupt FDA official stamp the sausages in Mexico, then has them smuggled into the States & illegally bypasses the unions, via Chin's food distribution company. When Strayhorn tries to rough him up, Chin's "business associates" intervene. We learn that Chin is a member of the Triad, aka the Chinese mafia. Suddenly, the restaurant empties...word has gotten out that rival gangsters are about to shoot up the place. As Rockford & Strayhorn are leaving out the back, Jim peels the label off a carton by the kitchen entrance. It's a label for Chins distribution company downtown.
As Chin is being chauffered away, his driver turns on him. The rival gangsters have hired him to double-cross Chin. While Rockford & Strayhorn are staking out the distribution company, Chin's driver has turned him over to the head of the same Union that has revoked Rocky's membership. The Union leader also happens to be involved in organized crime. The Union & the Triad have been involved in a running battle, & the corrupt Union thugs are about to kill Chin. First, however, they stop at the distribution plant, where Roland Eddy has been held captive all this time. Seizing their opportunity, Rockford & Strayhorn pull a couple of shotguns out of Strayhorn's truck & ambush them. After a brief skirmish, the Union thugs surrender.
When Rocky is out of the hospital, he & Jim go to visit Strayhorn & say thanks. Rocky's license & Union membership have been reinstated now that the scandal has been uncovered. But Strayhorn's gone...his assistant tells Rocky & Jim that he's gone back to his ranch, & may never come back. But he has a gift for them: the saddle he bought before he was famous. The Rockfords are a bit confused, but there's another gift. It's a pressing of Strayhorn's new single, "Heartaches of a Fool", the song Strayhorn wrote on the plane trip to Cripple Creek with Jim, & in the liner notes Strayhorn dedicates the song to Rocky, "for setting me free."
As the song plays, we see Strayhorn & his wife in his truck, driving out of the city for good.
This one featured music by Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings. The music Strayhorn played, including the title track, was by Willie Nelson. The last shot was pretty impressive, an aerial, which was uncharacteristic for the show.