Season two began airing in December 1988, due to a writers strike. The series had a new look, and a new set of executive producers. On-location shooting was moved from Louisiana to Covington, Georgia. The season premiere was aired as a two-hour TV-movie, “Don’t Look Back”; the plot revolved around a copycat murder that Gillespie had investigated 20 years earlier. It introduced two new regular characters: Joanne St. John (played by Lois Nettleton), the chief’s sometime-girlfriend and owner of the local diner; and Officer Wilson Sweet (played by Geoffrey Thorne). It also introduced the first of several new recurring characters: Doctor (or, “Doc”) Robb, the county coroner (played by veteran actor Dan Biggers). The episode “The Creek” saw the introduction of the first new police character “Officer Randy Goode” (1988–1993) played by Randall Franks cast following the show’s move to Georgia introducing the second prominent Georgia performer to claim a regular role on the series. Franks was already an established bluegrass music star performing for the Grand Ole Opry pursuing a new path.

Other episode plots in this season included: a prominent citizen being murdered due to sexual abuse in his family; Virgil’s ex-partner and Althea’s ex-lover (Michael Warren) coming to visit Tibbs in Sparta and being exposed as a murderer; Chief Gillespie having to confront the legacy of his own bigoted past when he’s duty-bound to arrest a close, lifelong friend—who is also the sheriff of the neighboring county—for committing a racially-motivated murder in his jail; Bubba getting caught up in a love triangle; Althea’s 17yr old niece visiting from Philadelphia and becoming close to Bubba’s teenaged nephew, Virgil and Althea going to an all-white church; Joanne being stalked by a murderous ex-con, which eventually exposes that she had been a prostitute out of necessity in a different city, long ago; the arrest of councilwoman White’s son; Chief Gillespie witnessing, and being deeply affected by, an execution; a plant strike that leads to murder; Bubba being accused of rape; and, a manhunt for a drunk driver who killed three of Sparta’s most popular high school cheerleaders, and crippled a fourth.

During the last four episodes of this season, Joe Don Baker guest-starred as Retired Highway Patrol Capt. Tom Dugan, who was brought in as acting chief-of-police, while Chief Gillespie was at a month-long police conference in Quantico, Virginia. In reality, Baker was brought in to substitute for O’Connor, who was undergoing open heart surgery. In the storylines, Dugan is a good ol’ boy with a mysterious side; he often works without consulting Detective Tibbs, and is unaccounted for on several occasions. The working relationship between Dugan and Tibbs becomes increasingly strained, in some ways reminiscent of Tibbs’ and Gillespie’s formerly combative relationship from season one. Eventually, Tibbs and Bubba Skinner become completely distrustful of Dugan, and Dugan increasingly feels that the entire police department will never accept him as one of its own, and views Tibbs as the rightful “chief”, in Gillespie’s absence. Ultimately, it is revealed that Tom Dugan was working undercover for the FBI, part of an effort to prevent the assassination of a prominent southern civil rights preacher. The second season ended in a cliffhanger: Chief Gillespie returns, only to be kidnapped (and JoAnne shot) at his home by two men wearing pig masks. Inexplicably, season three opened without any explanation or reference to this, as if it never happened. Only later in season three was any mention made of it—and only a passing one. Carroll O’Connor wanted his open heart surgery to be written into the story line, but the writers refused and came up with the kidnapping idea, instead. The kidnapping episode is resolved in the third season premiere “Anniversary”—which aired out of order, later in season three, because O’Connor wanted Althea’s rape story line to be the season opener.

Episodes in blue are linked to the full episode on youtube.

# Title Director Writer(s) Original airdate Production Code
9 “Don’t Look Back: Part 1” Peter Levin Jeri Taylor, David Moessinger December 4, 1988 8804A
A copycat recreates a shocking unsolved murder from the past. Gillespie feels threatened after Ted Marcus suggests that Virgil should become the Chief. The situation becomes more tense after Virgil criticizes Parker and Bubba’s actions.
10 “Don’t Look Back: Part 2” Peter Levin Jeri Taylor, David Moessinger December 4, 1988 8804B
Tibbs, Gillespie and Bubba pursue different leads in a bizarre murder case and the Chief realizes that the killer has plans for him.
11 “The Family Secret” Lee H. Katzin Nancy Bond December 6, 1988 8801
The murder of a well respected man turns up a shocking secret about his family.
12 “The Hammer and the Glove” Harry Harris Jeri Taylor December 13, 1988 8806
Virgil is delighted when Matthew his former partner from Philadelphia comes to visit. But he soon learns his friend has another purpose for coming to Sparta. Althea is uncomfortable because she and Matthew were romantically involved before she met Virgil and she realizes that he is unwilling to accept the fact that she chose Virgil over him. Meanwhile the F.B.I. enlist Sparta P.D.’s aid in hiding a witness.
13 “Prisoners” Russ Mayberry Lee Maddux December 20, 1988 8805
Sweet risks his life to prove that the Sheriff of a neighboring county is guilty of the racially motivated murder of a young man that Sweet was friends with in high school.
14 “Hot Nights” Harry Harris Mark Edens December 27, 1988 8807
Bubba is seduced by an alluring writer who has more on her mind than romance. Bill and Virgil worry that he is in over his head. Bubba tries to protect her from her estranged husband, but things get complicated after she shoots someone.
15 “Gunshots” Lee H. Katzin David Moessinger January 3, 1989 8811
Virgil is forced to shoot a suspect in an armed robbery. He has trouble dealing with the consequences of his actions, after he realizes the person he shot was a teenaged girl – and no one can locate the gun he believed she was pointing at him.
16 Country Mouse, City Mouse Vincent McEveety Lee Maddux January 10, 1989 8812
Virgil’s visiting niece and Bubba’s nephew team up in an effort to escape the boredom of small town life.But they get more excitement than they bargained for when they cross paths with a dangerous parolee.
17 “Stranger in Town” Michael Rhodes Jordan Budde January 17, 1989 8802
Gillespie suspects that JoAnn’s new cook is connected to the murder of a young prostitute. But Virgil suspects the culprit maybe a local pimp who has been intimidating the women.
18 “Tear Down the Walls” Vincent McEveety Terry Erwin January 31, 1989 8808
A minister who was integrating his church (by inviting Virgil and Althea to attend services) is poisoned.
19 “A Trip Upstate” Jeffrey Hayden Carroll O’Connor February 7, 1989 8803
In this thought provoking episode, Gillespie is surprised when a man he arrested asks to see him on the eve of his execution. He must confront his feelings about the death penalty when the prisoner asks him to witness his death.
20 “A.K.A. Kelly Kay” Chuck Bowman Lee Maddux February 14, 1989 8813
The past comes back to haunt JoAnn in the form of an escaped convict.
21 “These Things Take Time” Michael Rhodes Nancy Bond February 21, 1989 8809
A teenage mother from an impoverished family is arrested for murder after her infant is found dead, but Virgil believes there is more to the case than meets the eye. Meanwhile Althea believes the situation could have been prevented if the school had offered sex education classes.
22 “Intruders” Chuck Bowman Steven Baum March 7, 1989 8817
The police search for a burglar who preys on elderly women. And the prime suspect is the son of a city councilwoman.
23 “The Creek” Alexander Singer Jo William Philipp March 14, 1989 8810
The investigation of a possible assault brings back nightmarish and confusing childhood memories for Virgil.
24 “Sister, Sister” Lee H. Katzin Carol Saraceno March 21, 1989 8818
A vivacious socialites return to Sparta delights her ailing father and childhood friend Virgil, but her sister is less than thrilled at her homecoming. After their father is poisoned the jealous siblings become suspects in his murder.
25 “Walkout” Russ Mayberry Steven Aspis March 28, 1989 8816
A bitter strike at a local factory leads to a murder investigation on a snowy day in Sparta.
26 “Accused” Chuck Bowman James Novack April 4, 1989 8820
Bubba tries to rescue a woman from a rapist, but she mistakes him for her attacker. Gillespie tangles with an ambitious district attorney who plans to use the case to further his career.
27 “Fifteen Forever” Vincent McEveety Nancy Bond April 25, 1989 8814
Sparta grieves after a drunk driver causes a fatal crash with high school cheerleaders on their way home from a game. While the officers try to find other driver, Althea tries to help the victim’s families deal with their loss. The accident brings back painful memories for retired officer Tom Dugan. Meanwhile, district attorney Dutton accuses the department of being inadequate.
28 “Ladybug, Ladybug” Alexander Singer Terry Erwin May 2, 1989 8815
With the Chief in Quantico Bubba and Virgil try to catch a serial arsonist. Things get complicated after a man dies in one of the fires. And Councilwoman White stirs things up by appointing Tom Dugan acting chief of police in Gillespie’s absence.
29 “The Pig Woman of Sparta” David Moessinger Marc Taylor May 9, 1989 8821
It seems that a serial killer has been burying his victims in a wooded area owned by a wealthy hermit that Virgil refers to as “Sparta’s Howard Hughes”. Suspicion immediately falls on an eccentric woman who lives in the woods with her pigs and chases away trespassers with a shotgun. The officers ask the landowner’s disturbed son for help and Bubba is surprised to find that a woman he attended high school with is working as the man’s “nurse”. Also Parker and Sweet compete with one another to solve the case.
30 “Missing” Alexander Singer David Rupel May 16, 1989 8819
Gillespie is kidnapped and Virgil believes that Tom Dugan is involved.

Leave a Reply