Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 5, “The Substitute Teacher,” 10/21/1968

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Written by:  John McGreevey. Directed by: Charles Barton.

Unlike most episodes, this one opens away from the Davis apartment.

I like the "Knowledge is Power" engraving on Buffy and Jody's school. I would love to know what school is actually pictured there--anyone recognize it?

I like the “Knowledge is Power” engraving on Buffy and Jody’s school. I would love to know what this building really is–does anyone recognize it?

Inside the classroom, the twins are surprised to see a new face.

It's June Lockhart! Well, that is a surprise.

It’s June Lockhart! That is a surprise.

For our story’s purposes, she is Miss Evans, and she is spending a few days substituting for the twins’ regular teacher, Miss Cummings.

Things get off to an awkward start when Miss Evans tells the kids to work on spelling, and Jody stands up and heads toward the back of the classroom instead.

Things get off to an awkward start when Miss Evans tells the kids to work on spelling, and Jody stands up and heads toward the back of the classroom instead.

Not listening to his explanation, she gently orders him to sit down. At recess, he attempts to explain his actions again.

Miss Evans just wants to forget the whole thing, but Jody eventually gets out what he wanted to say--it was his turn to feed the fish, and they're probably starving by now.

Miss Evans just wants to forget the whole thing, but Jody eventually gets out what he wants to say–it was his turn to feed the fish, and they’re probably starving by now.

Of course, Miss Evans is all, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Grrr. But when he points out that he tried to, she responds with good grace, and they go off together to feed the poor fish.

As they go, lets take a lingering look at the world's lamest playground--I think the look on the African-American boy's face says it all about the fun to be had here.

Before they go, lets take a lingering look at the world’s lamest playground–the look on the African-American boy’s face says it all about the fun to be had here.

At home that night, Bill is getting ready for another evening out. (Dinner jacket laid out, theater tickets in the pocket, dinner reservations confirmed–I need a Mr. French so badly.)

After proving to French that they are in "suitable" condition for dinner, the twins settle in for a quick chat with Bill.

After proving to French that they are in “suitable” condition for dinner, the twins settle in for a quick chat with Bill.

Buffy wants to “talk and talk” with her uncle, but she’s stumped for conversational topics.

When Bill asks how school is going, the kids fill him in about Miss Evans.

When Bill asks how school is going, the kids fill him in about Miss Evans.

Buffy says she prefers Miss Cummings to the substitute, but Jody argues that Miss Evans is just as good.

The next day, we see that Jody is actually quite taken with Miss Evans. On the playground, he’s paying more attention to her than his keep-away game.

This gives another boy a chance to knock Jody flat and then blame Jody for being inattentive. Brat.

This gives another boy a chance to knock Jody flat and then blame Jody for being inattentive. Brat.

Miss Evans takes a woozy-looking Jody aside to comfort him.

I bet this kind of comfort wouldn't fly for teachers today.

I bet this kind of comfort wouldn’t fly for teachers today.

The next day, Jody’s fondness for his teacher shows through again.

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During the class’ drawing time, he produces this.

Just for fun, here is Buffy's picture. As she says, "I know trees don't look like that, but it would be nice if they did.

Just for fun, here is Buffy’s picture. As she says, “I know trees don’t look like that, but it would be nice if they did.”

Around this time, Miss Evans announces that her stint as a substitute is ending, as Miss Cumming is ready to resume her duties.

Jody couldn't be happier.

Jody couldn’t be happier.

That night, Cissy regales her family with the story of her life. She talks about her nine “attention-crowded, love-filled” years before the twins’ arrival, and the sense of “loneliness and longing” she nevertheless felt.

Yes, Uncle Bill, I agree.

Yes, Uncle Bill, I agree.

Only French really seems interested in her story, which is an assignment for her English class. He says her style has echoes of Emily Bronte, or perhaps Charlotte.

I love the bemused look Bill shoots him.

I love the bemused look Bill shoots him.

Buffy is happy that at least Cissy’s story is nearing “the good part”–her own birth.

Jody is even less interested than Bill, however.

Jody is even less interested than Bill, however.

He wanders off to his room just before Cissy breaks out some old family photographs.

This is Buffy, who's older self wonders why her parents kept her if she looked like that.

This is Buffy, whose older self wonders why her parents kept her if she looked like that. (Aww, Olan Mills. Who didn’t have their photo taken there?)

This is Jody.

This is Jody.

(I wonder if these are really photos of the actors. I see more of a resemblance in the Buffy one than the Jody one.)

While they laugh over the pictures, Bill and Buffy talk about Jody's current dazed demeanor.

While they laugh over the pictures, Bill and Buffy talk about Jody’s current dazed demeanor.

When Buffy explains how much Jody likes Miss Evans, Bill naturally assumes Jody’s dealing with a schoolboy crush.

Soon, however, he learns that it is a bit more serious.

Miss Cummings calls him to a meeting in a Family Affair green teachers' lounge.

Miss Cummings calls him to a meeting in a Family Affair green teachers’ lounge.

Jody hasn’t been doing his homework or paying attention in class since Miss Evans left.

When Bill approaches Jody, the boy says that thinking about Miss Evans gives him a funny feeling--like he's lost and can't find his way home.

When Bill approaches Jody, the boy says that thinking about Miss Evans gives him a funny feeling–like he’s lost and can’t find his way home.

Bill asks him if he would like to see her again, and suggests that French could take Jody by Miss Evans’ apartment after school for a visit.

Jody's thrilled, and I'm sure French and Miss Evans will be, too.

Jody’s thrilled, I’m sure French and Miss Evans will feel the same.

Cut to Miss Evans’ apartment, which abounds with greenery, in more ways than one.

She claims the place is messy--ha! She should see the room where I'm writing this. I do like her Renoir print.

I like her Renoir print.

When Jody arrives, he presents her with a seashell and stares at her in a creepy way.

When Jody arrives, he presents her with a seashell and stares at her in a creepy way.

Miss Evans hints to French the boy needs more attention at home. When French tells her Jody’s an orphan, she notes that Bill and French will have to be the ones to give him attention. (Left unsaid but implied: “Duh.”)

That night, while tucking Jody in, French attempts to provide “the kind ministrations of motherhood.” This takes the form of humming Brahms’ Lullaby.

Jody responds, fittingly, with a WTF look.

Jody is, understandably, all “WTF?”

Declaring his attempt at nurturing a fiasco, French runs to Bill for guidance. Bill doesn’t understand the power Miss Evans has over Jody, so French suggests that he witness it with his own eyes. Bill agrees to invite the teacher over.

I bet Miss Evans is thinking about changing her phone number about now. I am impressed, at least, that Bill is making this awkward call himself instead of foisting the job on French.

I bet Miss Evans is thinking about changing her phone number about now. I am impressed, at least, that Bill makes this awkward call himself instead of foisting the job on French.

When Miss Evans arrives, an excited Jody rushes to answer the door.

He also insists on taking her coat himself, which is cute.

He also insists on taking her coat himself, which is cute.

Bill reacts to the teacher with the same glassy-eyed expression Jody gets in her presence.

Bill feels he's met her somewhere before, but he can't place it.

He feels he’s met her somewhere before, but he can’t place it.

It’s not until Cissy comes into the room, that the mystery is finally solved.

Kathy Garver does a good job with Cissy's first reaction to seeing Miss Evans.

Kathy Garver does a good job with Cissy’s reaction to Miss Evans.

Bill catches on, then, and Cissy explains the situation to Miss Evans by showing her another of those old family photos.

This is the kids' mother.

This is the kids’ mother.

Cissy is surprised that Jody remembers their mother at all, but Bill says he must have some memories, even if he doesn’t quite understand them.

"Now you know," Miss Evans says. Left unsaid, but implied: "What are you going to do about it, that doesn't involve calling me every other day?"

“Now you know,” Miss Evans says. Left unsaid, but implied: “What are you going to do about it, that doesn’t involve calling me every other day?”

(Random observation: In this scene, Lockhart gets the soft-focus treatment that 40-plus females usually get on this show. It’s jarring, though, because she didn’t get it in any of her earlier scenes.)

That night, Bill has a heart-to-heart with Jody.

He starts by showing him the picture and explaining why Jody feels so strongly about Miss Evans.

He starts by showing him the picture and explaining why Jody feels so strongly about Miss Evans.

He talks about how wanting something you can’t have may trick you into believing things that aren’t true. He points out that while Miss Evans is happy to be Jody’s friend, she can’t be his mother.

When Jody thinks about Miss Evans and gets a sad feeling, Bill says, remembering this photo might make him feel better. Jody suggests that he can also think about Bill and French at those times, which actually seems a lot more comforting than Bill’s idea.

This is a moving scene, like so many Jody and Bill scenes.

This is a moving scene, like so many Jody and Bill encounters.

Also sweet: Jody looking at his mother's picture again before he drifts off to sleep.

Also sweet: Jody looking at his mother’s picture again before he drifts off to sleep.

Commentary

This episode represents everything I love about Family Affair. Three seasons in, they are still dealing with the ramifications of the kids’ loss. I tear up at both Cissy’s reaction to Miss Evans and the Bill-Jody conversation. I like that Bill doesn’t have any easy answers to offer Jody–grief is just something to live with, day by day.

Of course, the episode does raise a question. Jody and Buffy were five when their parents died–not babies–but I can believe their memories are fading. Wouldn’t they have seen family photos around the house, though?

Guest Cast

Miss Evans: June Lockhart. Rand: Michael Barbera. Miss Cummings: Joan Vohs.

The daughter of actors Gene and Kathleen Lockhart, June Lockhart has had a long and productive career. (And she’s still alive and working–yay!) She was a child actress herself, making her stage debut at age 8 at the Metropolitan Opera and her screen debut at age 13 in A Christmas Carol. She had small roles in several memorable movies, including Sergeant York, Miss Annie Rooney, and Meet Me in St. Louis, although she is best remembered for her TV roles on Lassie and Lost in Space. She also went on to play the teacher of another motherless TV moppet–Michelle Tanner from Full House.

11 thoughts on “Family Affair Friday(ish): Season 3, Episode 5, “The Substitute Teacher,” 10/21/1968

  1. rosebunting says:

    The baby pictures really are of Johnny and Anissa. Kind of a fun fact!

  2. MC says:

    This is one of my favorite episodes of “Family Affair” — it always makes me cry. Like you I love that the show doesn’t shy away from letting the kids deal with real emotions about the loss of their parents, as they do in this episode, the one where Cissy doesn’t have a mother to take to the mother-daughter school event, or the ones where the family returns to Terre Haute. The fact that they address these things and show some sensitivity about them makes the cornier aspects of the series worth living with. I mean, how often did the Brady kids or Kelly from “Bachelor Father” mourn the deaths of their parents? Never, really.

    • Amy says:

      Yes, that is exactly what I like about Family Affair. Even later shows like Full House didn’t mention the dead parents as frequently as Family Affair did.

  3. The only thing that bothered me about this episode was how Buffy didn’t make the same connection – or Uncle Bill as soon as he saw her. Could he really forget what his sister-in-law looked like after just 5 or 6 years? But you’re right, it’s a wonderful, touching show.

    • Amy says:

      You do have to suspend disbelief a bit to enjoy this episode. I guess if we accept that Jody has only vague, subconscious memories of his mother, it’s possible that Buffy doesn’t have any at all. (Ignoring, of course, the fact that they’ve reminisced about their parents before.) I can also fanwank that Bill’s work schedule kept him from seeing his brother’s family too much before the tragedy. You would think he’d remember his sister-in-law’s appearance, though! (And you would think that all of them would look at old family photos from time to time.)

  4. Orschel52 says:

    I just love this episode. For being so touching, for keeping alive the memory of the kids’ parents, for making me cry, for Uncle Bill’s very warm heart-to-heart with Jody and its moving end, for the cute talk-and-talk scene on the couch, for everything already said in the above comments and your post.
    Maybe Bill just has a bad face memory (which supposedly means you have great reading skills instead!!!). In Season 1, when Cissy moves in, Bill talks to her about his brother, saying: “We always used to say that we have to see more of each other. They were real busy raising a family and I was wandering around all over the world”. So Bill might really just have a blurred image of his sister-in-law.

    As a side note: where did Jody take Miss Evans’ coat to? He walked off in the direction of Bill’s bedroom, but as far as I remember there is a wardrobe just opposite the entrance door. In “A House in the Country”, they even put Bill’s dripping wet coat into the kitchen!!!

    That playground IS weird! And isn’t that African-American boy way too old for a play device like that, anyway? He barely fits on to it – maybe that explains the Boy’s look.

    It would really be interesting to know whether the kids’ photos are real.

    • Amy says:

      It really is a moving episode, isn’t it?

      I agree that Bill probably didn’t see his brother’s family much. Bad face memory makes sense, too–I should have thought of that because I struggle with it a bit myself. I know what my sister-in-law looks like, though!

      According to a commenter above, the photos are real. Anissa’s does look recognizably like her, but I would have imagined Johnny looking different as a baby.

      Good question about the coat! Maybe hanging it up would have been too hard for Jody, so he laid it out on Bill’s bed?

      The boy on the playground does look way too big for that equipment. The look on his face cracks me up.

  5. This sounds like a touching episode. Those poor lil’ kids!

    Also, I could use a Mr. French, too. He is amazing!

  6. Boy, you really don’t want to watch “Oliver,” do you? :)

    • Amy says:

      Ha! I’ve watched, just having trouble finding the time to write about it. I will have a post ready on Sunday, at the latest.

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