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“The White Lightning War”

S3 E11

Production 43021
Original Airdate: November 23, 1975
Story by
Wilton Denmark
Directed by
Phil Bondelli
Guest Cast
Guest Star(s)
Ben Hammer as Bo Willis
Katherine Helmond as Middy
Robert Donner as Kermit
Hugh Gillin as Sheriff Weems
Randy Kirby as Johnny
Austin Stoker as Charles Quinten
Red West as Owner
Broadcast Order
Season 3
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"The Blue Flash" "Divided Loyalty"


After Oscar reports two experienced OSI agents dead of rattlesnake bites, Steve travels to Morgantown, Georgia. There, he finds that every business is named for someone named Willis. This proves to be a certain Bo Willis, who is running a distillery in a supposedly dry county, with Sheriff Weems in on the take. He also learns that the network of payoffs includes Charles Quinten, a high-powered lawyer representing factions all the way to Washington. Steve's only ally is a kindly woman, Middy, whose husband has also been killed by "snake bite," and whose store has been confiscated by Willis.

Steve tries to order some of Willis's moonshine in the supposedly dry county, and eventually is arrested and locked in the sheriff's office. Steve breaks out, unseen, and discovers a shipment of moonshine being made in a vehicle labeled as a gasoline tanker. The tank is filled with liquor, but two small tanks are fitted into the openings and filled with gasoline to allay suspicions.

Steve mounts the truck while Kermit is driving it, opens the tank hatches and smashes the small tanks, emptying their gasoline into the liquor, then he returns to the jail. The moonshiners dump the load into their underground storage, then one takes a drink from the load while it is still being dumped--and discovers the gasoline taste. Kermit discovers the damaged small tanks, and they realize the whole underground tank is full of ruined moonshine.

Weems returns to the jail to find Steve still locked up, though not smelling the gasoline that should still have left a residue on Steve's clothes and arm. (See "Gaffes," below.)

Later, Steve is able to cause more mayhem, and claim that his "gang", which nobody has seen, is doing it all.



Kermit: Now then, what sort of business you got with Mr. Willis?
Steve: Look, just tell me where he is, you're wasting my time.
Kermit: You may not have a whole lotta time to waste, so why don't you just hop in this fancy machine of yours and ease on outta town. Do you read me, boy?
Steve: Yeah, like a dime novel. (grabs him by the dungarees and lifts him onto the hood of his car) You tell me where I can find Bo Willis, boy, or I'm gonna sharpen your heels and drive you into the ground, you understand me?

Steve: I'll have a drink.
Johnny: Water, soda pop or milk? This here's a dry county, mister.
Steve: I really came in to try some of that famous Bo Willis White Lightning.
Johnny: I don't know what you're talking about, mister.

Willis: Get him outta here. I'm tired of his jaw jackin'.

Steve: Well, I thought files came in cakes.
Milly: Just sandwiches, if you wanna buy 'em.

Steve: Better not try it. Willis might not like his number one boy getting blown up.
Sheriff Weems: How did you know?
Steve: I saw it in a movie once.
Sheriff Weems: But it's dark.
Steve: Yeah, it was dark in the movie, too.

Steve: Well, I'm sure you heard what happened to the still and car and the tanker truck while I was in jail.
Quinten: Yes. Sounds like you have an army behind you.
Steve: Well, let's just say I got a strong right arm.

Sheriff Weems: Listen, we just as soon work for you, I never did like Willis anyway.
Steve: Oh, that's mighty nice of you, but I got other plans for you too.
Sheriff Weems: You, you ain't gonna put that snake up here, are ya?
Steve: No, he'd, eh, probably bite you and get sick.

Steve: Well how does it look?
Oscar: Quinten's ready to make a deal.
Steve: No, that's not what I meant.
Oscar: Well frankly pal, I like you better with the beard.
Steve: I didn't, I didn't mean the beard, I meant the sign.
Oscar: Oh, the sign? Oh, yeah. Oh the sign, yeah, the sign looks good. Why?



  • For the second episode in a row, Steve puts on false facial hair to effect a disguise.
  • This is also the second episode in a row in which he sets the mission in motion himself on behalf of a deceased or soon-to-be-deceased friend.


  • The episode gives us a rare glimpse for the time at how fast Steve Austin really is, when he is shown at full speed grabbing the sheriff's gun, without slo-motion or the bionic sound effect. Since the occasional scenes of Austin running and doing "pocket bionics" chores at full speed seen throughout the series often look unnatural, this is one of the few occasions in which such an action actually looks realistic at full speed.
  • Just before he grabs the gun, Austin uses his bionic eye to spot a gunman in the distance. Unusually (given the scene takes place late at night), the infrared filter isn't used.

Guest Stars[]

  • Both Katherine Helmond and Robert Donner would find steady work by the end of the seventies in Soap and Mork and Mindy respectively.
  • Red West, Elvis' former bodyguard and sometime Hollywood stuntman, appears in a cameo in this episode as a moonshine collection man.
  • Austin Stoker, who plays Quinten, starred as Mr. MacDonald in Battle of the Planet of the Apes (1973).


  • Just after Steve is taken into the jailhouse, the camera pans to Middy outside her store. Behind her is a sack of "Universal" feed.
  • Morgantown is a fictional town. However, there is a Morganton, Georgia less than two hours north of Atlanta. Morganton is a small town in a rural region of the state.


  • During the fight at the refinery, the edge of the trampoline used for one of Steve's jumps is revealed as some barrels are knocked over.
  • As any person who has had gasoline spilled on their clothes, their hands, or the ground can point out, it has quite a strong odor that takes some time to wear off. But Steve immerses his right sleeve in gasoline twice when he punches holes in the canisters on the tanker, yet his shirt not only has dry sleeves when he returns to the jail cell, but also appears not even to smell of gasoline afterwards--at least not to the sheriff. (Even if Steve's bionic arm somehow resists odor, then his shirt would still reek of gas.)
  • The scene when Steve escapes the ambush outside the jail takes place "in the middle of the night," in Steve's words. Yet it is clear that it was shot in brilliant sunshine, with blue sky and shadows.
  • Quentin's plane is shown flying as he communicates with Willis to say he is arriving soon. The plane shown landing a moment later, however, is a completely different aircraft.