The BEST Episodes of In the Heat of the Night

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Network: CBS

Based on the critically acclaimed novel and film of the same name, this series provides a hopeful, yet honest look at life in the new South. Set in the fictional Sparta, Mississippi, the show is a blend of heartfelt drama and folksy humor, portraying both the professional and personal pursuits of Sparta P.D's officers. Series star Carroll O'Connor, in a role far removed from Archie Bunker, served as executive producer. Using the pen name Matt Harris, O'Connor was also the story editor and wrote many of the episodes.

Sweet, Sweet Blues

#1 - Sweet, Sweet Blues

Season 5 - Episode 8 - Aired Nov 26, 1991

The lyrics to a blues song recall a murder that happened 50 years earlier.The victim - Sweet's grandfather.And the only people left with the answers are the bluesman who wrote the song and a retired sheriff.

star 8.13
8 votes
Pilot (1)

#2 - Pilot (1)

Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired Mar 6, 1988

Virgil Tibbs returns to Sparta and joins the police force as chief of detectives.His arrival is met with resistance from police chief Bill Gillespie - who resents having an officer hired without his approval.Virgil has trouble adjusting to the small, antiquated police force.Tibbs' first case is a racially charged murder case that is soon complicated when the suspect is murdered in his cell.

star 8.00
66 votes

#3 - Missing

Season 2 - Episode 22 - Aired May 16, 1989

Gillespie is kidnapped and Virgil believes that Tom Dugan is involved.

star 8.00
12 votes
Writers: David Rupel
Pilot (2)

#4 - Pilot (2)

Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Mar 6, 1988

The investigation into the brutal murders of a young girl and the suspect in her death, leads Tibbs and Gillespie to the son of one of Sparta's wealthiest and most influential citizens.As they come closer to the truth things become dangerous for Virgil.

star 7.95
38 votes
Blind Spot (2)

#5 - Blind Spot (2)

Season 1 - Episode 6 - Aired Apr 5, 1988

An angry Gillespie seeks answers when an old friend is shot.And Virgil narrowly escapes death after trying to ascertain the real reason behind an old adversary's return to Sparta.Nan finds herself in danger after she finds out the truth about her new love.

star 7.93
29 votes
The Hammer and the Glove

#6 - The Hammer and the Glove

Season 2 - Episode 4 - Aired Dec 13, 1988

Virgil is delighted when Matthew his former partner from Philidelphia 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.

star 7.90
20 votes
Citizen Trundel (1)

#7 - Citizen Trundel (1)

Season 3 - Episode 21 - Aired May 1, 1990

Harriet's sister is murdered on the orders of the wealthy white man who fathered her child.

star 7.86
7 votes
Directors: Leo Penn
Writers: Carroll O'Connor
The Pig Woman of Sparta

#8 - The Pig Woman of Sparta

Season 2 - Episode 21 - Aired May 9, 1989

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.

star 7.85
13 votes
Writers: Marc Taylor

#9 - Prisoners

Season 2 - Episode 5 - Aired Dec 20, 1988

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.

star 7.77
26 votes
Directors: Russ Mayberry
Writers: Lee Maddux
...And Then You Die

#10 - ...And Then You Die

Season 1 - Episode 8 - Aired May 3, 1988

The Sparta police search for a killer and his girlfriend.But the case becomes personal when they take Althea and the grandson of one of the victims hostage.

star 7.75
32 votes

#11 - Fate

Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired Mar 22, 1988

Racial tensions run high when a married white woman has an affair with a black businessman from New York.Meanwhile Virgil is not happy when the Chief enlists his aid in tracking down Bubba's cousin, a suspected moonshiner.

star 7.74
39 votes
Writers: Richard Fielder
Don't Look Back (1)

#12 - Don't Look Back (1)

Season 2 - Episode 1 - Aired Dec 4, 1988

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.

star 7.70
37 votes
Tear Down the Walls

#13 - Tear Down the Walls

Season 2 - Episode 10 - Aired Jan 31, 1989

A minister who was integrating his church(by inviting Virgil and Althea to attend services)is poisoned.

star 7.69
16 votes
The Family Secret

#14 - The Family Secret

Season 2 - Episode 3 - Aired Dec 6, 1988

The murder of well respected man turns up a shocking secret about his family.

star 7.67
30 votes
Directors: Lee H. Katzin
Writers: Nancy Bond
A.k.a. Kelly Kay

#15 - A.k.a. Kelly Kay

Season 2 - Episode 12 - Aired Feb 14, 1989

The past comes back to haunt JoAnn in the form of an escaped convict.

star 7.64
14 votes
A Trip Upstate

#16 - A Trip Upstate

Season 2 - Episode 11 - Aired Feb 7, 1989

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.

star 7.63
19 votes
Fifteen, Forever

#17 - Fifteen, Forever

Season 2 - Episode 19 - Aired Apr 25, 1989

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.

star 7.63
16 votes
Time of the Stranger

#18 - Time of the Stranger

Season 3 - Episode 7 - Aired Dec 5, 1989

After a private investigator searching for a missing child is found dead, the evidence points to a local dance teacher - a neighbor that Parker has become very fond of.

star 7.60
15 votes
Directors: Ivan Dixon
Writers: Mark Rodgers
Hot Nights

#19 - Hot Nights

Season 2 - Episode 6 - Aired Dec 27, 1988

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.

star 7.59
27 votes
Directors: Harry Harris
Writers: Mark Edward Edens
Road Kill

#20 - Road Kill

Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired Mar 15, 1988

The affair between the husband of a wealthy woman and her distant cousin leads to her murder. Virgil immediately suspects the pair.But he has a difficult time persuading Gillespie, who is a long time friend of the man and Bubba, who has been seeing the cousin.Bubba and Virgil clash again and Virgil is frustrated when the Chief rejects his theory about the crime.

star 7.59
44 votes
Directors: Leo Penn
Writers: Kathy McCormick

#21 - Walkout

Season 2 - Episode 17 - Aired Mar 28, 1989

A bitter strike leads to a murder investigation on a snowy day in Sparta.

star 7.56
16 votes
Fairest of Them All

#22 - Fairest of Them All

Season 3 - Episode 2 - Aired Oct 31, 1989

A beauty contest is marred by blackmail and the ambitious mother of a contestant.

star 7.56
16 votes
Directors: Mario Azzopardi
Writers: Edward DeBlasio
First Girl

#23 - First Girl

Season 3 - Episode 4 - Aired Nov 14, 1989

Sparta P.D. gets it's first black policewoman.

star 7.56
16 votes
Directors: Gene Reynolds
Writers: Carroll O'Connor
Don't Look Back (2)

#24 - Don't Look Back (2)

Season 2 - Episode 2 - Aired Dec 4, 1988

Tibbs,Gillespie and Bubba pursue different leads in a bizarre murder case and the Chief realizes that the killer has plans for him.

star 7.56
25 votes

#25 - Accused

Season 2 - Episode 18 - Aired Apr 4, 1989

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.

star 7.53
15 votes
Directors: Chuck Bowman
Writers: James Novack