Written by: Ted Sherdeman and Jane Klove. Directed by: Charles Barton.
At breakfast in the Davis apartment, the kids ask how long Uncle Bill will be “living at his office.” Cissy explains that he’s not actually living there, and French reassures the kids that Bill’s time away from home doesn’t reflect a lack of affection for them.
We learn that a serious problem is keeping Bill away from home. A thief has been plundering one of his company’s construction sites, getting away with 10,000 feet electric conduit and 100 gross of outlet boxes. (That’s an oddly specific bit of scripting.)
Bill has a plan, though–he’s posing as one of his own workers to catch the thief red-handed. Why this is a better plan than involving the police, he doesn’t say.
Calling home to let French know he’ll be working late again, Bill seems distressed to learn that all the children are out for the evening. Jody and Cissy are each visiting a friend, and Buffy is helping a neighbor with domestic tasks.
They eat together, which Bill probably regrets since this welder likes to announce each food item as he removes it from his lunchbox.
When Bill returns home late that night, he frets to French about the way the family is disintegrating in his absence.
The next day, Bill learns that Welder Guy is also a parenting expert. Hearing Bill complain about spending so much time away from the kids, he suggests that a shared project would bring the family together. Welder guy’s idea of a suitable project? Tropical fish.
Jody calls the “live sardines,” but Bill explains that they are guppies and they originated in Trinidad.
Bill also tells them that one of the guppies will soon give birth to 60 or 70 babies.
They also head to the pet store to get a few more occupants for the aquarium.
The kids find their aquarium entertaining–for a little while. Soon, they want to start spending time with friends again, although they feel an obligation to “watch Uncle Bill’s fish for him.”
The downside of fish ownership soon becomes clear.
(I love this scene. It sums up my childhood experience with fish perfectly.)
Bill remembers that his mother used to put sick goldfish in saltwater, so he gives it a try and averts disaster.
The next day on the job site, Bill’s know-it-all welder friend says the fish would be healthier if they got to eat some live food, like mosquito larvae.
Fortunately, Bill’s work problems are coming to an end.
Revealing his identity, he offers his welder friend a drafting position, complete with on-the-job training.
He explains that he got the fish for all of them because families should do things together. Buffy suggests that the whole family learn to sew, as she’s doing, and Jody thinks the whole family should play toy soldiers with him.
Bill admits that they can pursue their individual interests without sacrificing family closeness.
Normally, I would worry about the Davis tendency to acquire and relinquish pets at a furious rate, but I think the welder guy is getting what’s coming to him.
This episode’s writers must have had experience with fish and kids. They did a good job portraying the gruesome learning opportunities an aquarium can provide.
It was nice to see Bill so active in this episode; for the past several weeks, he’s mostly been reacting to the kids.
Scott Norvell: Ray Baxter. Bookkeeper: Gene Tyburn. Salesman: Gene Barton. Guard: Howard Culver. Driver: Jack Lilley. Helper: Guy Way.
Baxter was in The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming! with Brian Keith and Johnnie Whitaker.
Lilley, who plays a driver here, appeared in many episodes of Little House on the Prairie as a stagecoach driver. He also worked as a stuntman and an animal wrangler.