This review contains mild spoilers.
I've always had mixed feelings about "Swamp Molly". It is by no means amongst the weakest episodes of the show's run, not by a long shot; but at the same time, it had never been a particular favourite of mine.
This is the first episode broadcast-wise from when the show moved from Covington, Georgia, where the first five episodes were filmed, to the Warner Brothers lot in Hollywood (although the next episode, "Luke's Love Story", was actually the first to be filmed after the move). This abrupt change, and the loss of the genuine rustic, rural settings (and more serious stories) of those very early episodes is one reason I never liked "Swamp Molly" so much; it just seems such a comedown.
With the move, things move much more into the standard template for the series. As well as the change of sets (including the Duke farm and Cooter's garage), Rosco is far more buffoonish than his far more serious earlier self (here decked out in full military gear, complete with radio codes which Enos keeps mixing up!), with his goofy laugh quickly developing, his "Good news! Good news!" chant, and even calling Enos "Dipstick" for the first time (replacing "Jackass" from the first few episodes).
Boss Hogg too is more cartoony and comical (here he is trying to learn disco dancing to keep wife Lulu happy); and the Police pursuits are more prominent (Enos's car turns over for the first of many times in this story). Heck, Uncle Jesse even wears his trademark red cap for the first time in this episode!
Anyway, production changes aside, I suppose the plot of this one is reasonable. It's never really stood out to me as one of my particular favourites of the series, but in complete fairness, I suppose it is more varied than the much more formulaic, generic plots that would sadly take over in later seasons (don't get me wrong, episodes were still fun, but many of the plots were extremely similar).
Any episode that opens with the accidental blowing up of an out-house (a memorable shot used on all Bo and Luke episodes from the next season until the end of the show), and concludes with a truck full of illegal weapons sinking in a lake (which I was a little annoyed at being spoiled on the opening teaser), you know is gonna have some variety at least!
As with the rest of the first season, the production values are a bit sharper than some of the later episodes – the main point of note being that, at this point, they thankfully weren't using terrible back screen projection, as would be the case with nearly all close-up vehicle shots in later stories, something that always looked horrible and unrealistic.
Swamp Molly herself is an interesting character, who has for years been calling in some unexplained debt from Uncle Jesse. Cousin Alice is also fun, played by ever-reliable character actor Mary Jo Catlett (who I associate with the third housekeeper, Pearl, in 'Diff'rent Strokes'; a character that, incidentally, replaced the previous housekeeper played by Nedra Volz, who would go on to play the recurring Miz Tizdale in 'Dukes').
Molly and Alice are intriguing guest characters, and I'm a little surprised that Molly (or Alice) never turned up again in the series; I could maybe see her appearing once-per-season (a la Hughie Hogg), to trick the Dukes into her latest scheme. Alas (not Alice!), it was not to be.
I really can't make up my mind about this story. As I say, it is certainly more interesting than the many more generic stories from later on, but at the same time, it just doesn't rank as one of my particular favourites, and the abrupt move from Georgia does stick out a bit. I kinda had this episode down as an 8; watching it on DVD tonight to review, it did have enough nice scenes and lines to keep me amused, and based on that, I give it a reasonable 8.5 out of 10.