The case of the missing 'JAG' episode

By: H&I Staff     Posted: June 15, 2018, 12:31PM

Image: The Everett Collection

In the JAG episode "Skeleton Crew," we see Harm, our hero, investigate the killing of Naval officer. Turns out, the body was an old friend of Harm's from his Academy days. After 45 minutes of mystery and drama, the story ends on a shocking note. Harm's fingerprints are found on the murder weapon — and he's arrested!

How will Harm get out of this pickle? Well… he just does. We never find out. In the next episode of the series, "We the People," Harm is a free man, working another case, trying to nab some bad guys who hijacked the Declaration of Independence. (Yes, "We the people…" is the opening line of the Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence, but just go with it.)

As astute viewers often point out: "Wait, how did harm get out of being arrested for murder?" Just what is the deal? The answer had to do with Hollywood.

JAG premiered in the fall of 1995 on NBC. Though it is hard to believe, considering the massive television universe it spawned, with its spin-off NCIS and all the other NCISes, JAG was a bit of a flop in its first season. Scheduled against Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and The Jeff Foxworthy Show on Saturday evenings, the series sank to No. 79 in the ratings. A spring move to Wednesdays did not help. As the season was coming to an end, the network canceled JAG.

There was just one problem. The planned finale for season one, "Skeleton Crew," ended on a cliffhanger. NBC decided to simply not air the episode.

Enter CBS to the rescue! Loyal fans convinced the Eye to revive the show. For season two, JAG started fresh on CBS, where it steadily climbed from No. 68 to No. 15 over the course of a few seasons. Due to the network switch, there was no plan to air "Skeleton Crew" or film the resolution to the story. "Skeleton Crew" sat around for years until JAG made it to DVD and syndication. When it surfaced, there was no "Skeleton Crew" Part 2. "Skeleton Crew" Part 2 is not only "lost," it never existed.

However, in season three, CBS did at least get some use out of "Skeleton Crew." Bits of the episode were recycled as flashback scenes in the episode "Death Watch." 

Today, in reruns, "Skeleton Crew" airs in its intended order, at the end of season one, leaving a strange shift between episodes as it jumps from a cliffhanger to… the cliff disappearing completely. It was one case that Harm couldn't solve. Thanks to behind-the-scenes business, not even Perry Mason could have fixed that one.

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