Welcome to another installment of Family Affair Friday! Sorry it’s late–I’m blogging from the depths of migraine hell this weekend.
This week’s episode is an important one in the Family Affair canon. A good alternate title for it would be “Aunt Fran 2: The Nightmare Continues.”
Written by: Austin and Irma Kalish. Directed by: William D. Russell.
Mr. French and Cissy are out, so Uncle Bill sacrifices a bowling game to stay home with Buffy and Jody.
After he hangs up and begins talking to Buffy, the phone rings again.This time it’s one of his many lady friends, and he uses the expression “stuck with the kids” again.
(Note to Uncle Bill: You can’t really be “stuck with” your own kids. They’re kind of your responsibility.)
Uncle Bill and the twins go on to have a pleasant evening, but Uncle Bill’s words are still worrying Buffy at bedtime. Unfortunately, her insecurities make her easy prey from the evil force that blows in the next day from the mid-west.
Aunt Fran tells Uncle Bill that Uncle Harold’s feelings have changed, and they both want Buffy back. Harold’s gotten a new job, they have a bigger house now, and they’ve hired “the Indiana version of Mr. French.” They’re even willing to take Cissy–isn’t that big of them? And Fran’s sister in Terre Haute will take Jody.
Of course, Uncle Bill wants the kids to stay with him, but Fran the Manipulator starts him doubting whether that’s what’s best for them. Everyday, he admits, people tell him how much better off kids are with a mother. (He must have some really rude friends.) Finally, he decides to leave it up to the kids.
Fran’s quick to work her magic on them, too.
She treats Buffy and Cissy to an afternoon of shopping, forbidden desserts, and mind games, convincing them that Uncle Bill would be happier without them.
The kids reluctantly agree, and Uncle Bill tries to conceal his heartbreak at their decision.
(Note to Uncle Bill: You can often gauge kids’ attitudes through their demeanor as well as their words. If they say they want to return to Indiana, but they’re wearing expressions like those below, you may want to question them a little more.)
The next day Fran drops by the apartment with Uncle Harold.
Buffy and Jody share a very sad farewell as the girls are about to leave. He gives her a self-portrait, so she won’t forget what he looks like.
At the last minute, Buffy breaks down before Uncle Bill and admits she wants to stay.
“Kids, I’d like to see anybody try to take you away,” Uncle Bill says in a voice choked with emotion.
All’s well that ends well–except for Aunt Fran.
This episode has everything–funny punchlines (Buffy gets most of them–she seems especially precocious in this episode), heartrending moments and a joyful ending.
Ooooh, do I hate Aunt Fran and, even worse, Uncle Harold! Fran’s manipulative tactics during the lunch with Cissy and Buffy were downright evil.
Not surprisingly Brian Keith brings great poignancy to the episode’s emotional ending. Johnnie Whitaker also does an impressive job generating real emotion.
There are some nice little moments in the script, from Buffy’s remark that Mrs. Beasley “stays with me, because she loves me” to Cissy’s complete nonchalance upon learning that Jody plans to give Mr. French a dead goldfish as a farewell present. (He ends up giving it to Buffy instead. “I’d rather you had it,” he tells her. “I think Mr. French would rather I had it, too,” she observes.)
Fran Higer: Louise Latham. Harold Higer: Bill Zuckert. Latham reprises her role from the pilot. Zuckert’s last part before his death in 1997 was a small one in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
The whole episode, obviously, revisits the events of the pilot.
Jody mentions a turtle–he must have replaced the one that died.
Buffy, on seeing a movie: “It’s just like TV, only you don’t have to go out tomorrow and buy something”
Buffy, on New York: “Even when you’ve got nothing to do, there’s lots to do.” ‘
The twins, returning from a cultural outing with French:
Jody: “We learned it’s okay not to wear clothes”
Buffy: “Only if you live in a museum.”
This Week’s Bonus Feature
TV and Movie Screen, December 1967–probably the silliest Family Affair magazine cover ever. Within, we learn that Kathy Garver “shuns beatnik attitudes and habits.”