This review contains spoilers.
'Route 7-11'... another fairly decent 'Hazzard' episode, although it is one of several examples from the latter end of the season that feels to be "in-between" – in that it comes after the wonderful first five episodes filmed in Georgia, but before the more rounded, even-footed feel that would start to appear as the show returned for a second season.
Don't get me wrong, '7-11' is a perfectly watchable 'Dukes' episode (and, as I say on just about all of these episodes, much more varied and believable than so many of the late episodes), but at the same time, this episode never seemed to fully find it's footing in my view, and even by 'Hazzard's often lightweight stories, much of this plot just doesn't feel fine tuned enough to even make much sense in places.
As I added to the notes here on TV.com (back when it was still TVTome) many years ago, the whole "mobile casino" notion has been reworked in many action-adventure series both before and after this. Growing up, I was familiar with the third season 'A-Team' episode 'Road Games' which features a similar plot, and other popular shows such as 'Starsky & Hutch', 'T.J. Hooker' and possibly even 'The Incredible Hulk' (unless my memory is playing tricks) all had episodes with variations of the basic premise to fit the respective series.
The head of the crooked gambling racket, Helen Hogan, is played by Jo Ann Pflug, a regular 1970s/80s TV guest performer, who some may recognise for playing "Big Jack" in the first season of 'The Fall Guy'. Here, she comes across as a credible adversary, and – as I say about so many of these early opponents that the Dukes encounter – it's maybe a shame that the character never made a return appearance.
For the overall plot, this story isn't that bad (again, at this stage things were much more varied than the rather formulaic scripts later on), but it does sag in places. For example, the dragged out sequence of both Rosco and Luke sneaking around in the half-light in the back of the truck, serves as little other than filling out the runtime. (By the way, for the sharper eyed regular viewer, this episode contains some little seen angles of the town square; in fact, the set doesn't actually look to be fully constructed at the time this episode was filmed, as there are large nondescript sections that just look like a car park).
Thankfully, the action does pick up a bit later on, as – with Jesse, accompanied by Daisy, is in the back of the truck posing as a naïve gambler – Bo and Luke set their plan in motion. Sadly, just what they're doing isn't that clear; Luke exits the truck's passenger seat into the General Lee (driven by Cooter) while both vehicles are moving, but when the Balladeer comments that doesn't know what they're up to, neither do us viewers! It seems to be little more than giving Rosco and Enos the run-around, in which case, one wonders why either Cooter or Daisy (who didn't really have to be with Jesse) couldn't fill this position.
Likewise, for those (such as myself) not all that familiar with poker, just how Jesse manages to outwit the crooked poker table is never made clear enough for the average viewer to really get behind.
Unusually, Boss Hogg takes a backseat for most of this story (reverting to the type of story role he held in the first couple of episodes). I like that the Dukes don't always directly go up against one of Boss's dastardly plots, as I feel that too many of those sorts of stories can get a bit repetitive, but even so, it's uncommon that Boss doesn't have some kind of "angle" on the proceedings here, other than a rather half-hearted desire to get his hands on all of the gambling equipment.
In all, far from an out-and-out *terrible* episode, but this one just doesn't feel to be as sharp or as thought out as it should be, leaving it ultimately feeling a bit disappointing by first season standards. It is certainly one of my lesser favourites from the original season. For it's few decent action moments and "fresh" first season feel, I give 'Route 7-11' a slightly generous 8 out of 10, but this one feels like it could / should have been much better, maybe even a classic.