Written by: Austin and Irma Kalish. Directed by: Charles Barton.
This week, we open in the living room, where Jody is confessing to some problems at school.
Soon, Cissy breezes in.
She has exciting news–Dana Mason, the daughter of two Broadway stars, is attending Cissy’s school. Cissy wants to invite Dana over to spend the night, and Bill gives his approval.
An avid name-dropper, she’s quick to tell Cissy about her Uncle Larry–Laurence Olivier. She adds that she just calls him Larry now that she’s grown. This inspires an impressionable Cissy to drop the “uncle” from Uncle Bill throughout this episode.
(I wish that Dana would have told Cissy that bows are childish.)
A bemused French replies that it depends which Larry, Rex, Noel, Alec, and Sarah she means.
(I know which Larry, Rex, Noel, and Alec she means, but I’m drawing a blank on Sarah. Can anyone help me out?)
When Bill comes home, Dana tries out her name-dropping on him, too. When she tells him that she passed up a chance to attend a party at Truman’s, he thinks she’s talking about Harry Truman. She has to make it clear that she’s talking about Truman Capote. (She pronounces his last name as if it rhymes with connote.) Bill is similarly clueless about her reference to Lee. (Lee Radziwill, Jackie O’s sister.)
Dana tries to give Buffy some tips about method acting, then disparages the whole idea of school plays as unimportant and dull.
The Davises and French assure Buffy that they are excited about her play and wouldn’t miss it for the world.
This show of family togetherness seems to make an impression on Dana.
They were so poor that for awhile the whole family lived in a dressing room at a dingy theater where the Masons were performing.
Cissy thinks that must have been awful.
She asks Cissy if she can stay at the Davis apartment for a few more days. Her parents are always frazzled when they are appearing in a play, she notes, and they would be relieved to have her out of the way. Cissy is excited to have her glamorous friend extend her visit.
Prevailing on Dana to help Buffy rehearse, Bill has a private talk with Cissy.
“You just don’t understand the jet set, Bill,” Cissy says.
“I guess I don’t, Catherine,” Bill replies.
(On paper, it doesn’t look like much, but Brian Keith’s delivery makes this exchange amusing.)
(What is up with that wall decor behind them?!)
She has to admit that her parents don’t know where she is. They have recently separated, and each of them thinks she’s staying with the other.
“Would you understand what it’s like to be divided up between your mother and your father, like a polite note they keep packing back and forth?” Dana asks.
Dana says she enjoyed staying with the Davises because they are a real family, the kind the Masons used to be.
She takes off before Bill can contact her parents.
Later, Dana’s frantic parents arrive to find their daughter gone.
The Masons are shocked that Dana thinks of those struggling days as her best times.
They rush off to the theater with Bill and Cissy.
She’s delighted to see that both her parents have come for her–she thinks it means they are getting back together.
Mr. Mason says the three of them will have to find a new way to be a family.
Being a real family isn’t about having your mother and father together, she says, pointing out to the oblivious Dana that she herself is an orphan.
“Being a real family has to do with somebody loving you…and, especially, with you loving them back,” Cissy says, as the violins swell.
That comforts Dana, and she walks off into the sunset with her parents, never to be seen again. (Thank God!)
When we next see the Davis family, everyone is celebrating a successful performance by Buffy.
She makes a show of pretending that she doesn’t know they came from her family.
(I like Cissy’s outfit here, scarf, purse, and all.)
Dana is supposed to be annoying and affected, and Lori Martin certainly puts those qualities across. The character has a nails-on-blackboard effect on me that makes this episode difficult to watch.
The closing message is a good one and must have been especially important for kids to hear in 1969, when divorce rates were soaring. (Brian Keith went through a divorce himself that year.) The reactions to Cissy’s use of “Bill” are amusing, and Buffy as a tree definitely amps up this episode’s cuteness quotient.
Why would the daughter of jet-setters be attending a public high school?
Since the Masons were working together, wouldn’t one of them have asked the other how Dana was doing at some point?
Dana Mason: Lori Martin. Richard Mason: Liam Sullivan. Lois Mason: Kathleen Crowley.
Lori Martin was experienced young actress. She was best known for her appearance in 1962’s Cape Fear and for a starring role in a TV-series version of National Velvet. Martin, who retired from acting not long after this episode aired, died in 2010.
Liam Sullivan made many TV guest appearances, including memorable ones on Star Trek (“Plato’s Stepchildren”) and The Twilight Zone (“The Silence”).