Written by: Phil Leslie. Directed by: Charles Barton.
Jody is beside himself with joy at the prospect of a guys’ outing.
French tries to give Bill the directions for Trout Sauté Mozambique, but Bill claims his cooking skills’ limits are boiling and frying. He invites French to come along on the trip and do the cooking–a suggestion French accepts with surprising enthusiasm.
Of course, that leaves the problem of what the girls will do while the guys are gone. Bill suggests bringing the girls along on the trip, too.
Jody comes around a bit when he learns that the girls won’t actually be fishing. He springs the invitation on the girls just as they’re discussing their plans for a boy-free weekend.
When the girls hear that Bill is happy about the family outing, though, they adopt their usual strategy: Repressing their feelings to shield his.
French, for one, finds the country air “profoundly invigorating.”
Cissy makes a game attempt at appreciating the rural atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Buffy and Jody scamper off to the lake to skip rocks. These two and a body of water–what can go wrong?
Although she’s only fallen in foot-deep water, Buffy emerges completely soaked.
Cissy also faces adversity–she breaks a nail.
And Bill and Jody have no luck fishing because Jody keeps snagging his hook on nearby bushes and even his own pants.
Luckily, French has a back-up plan for dinner: Steak Sauté Mozambique.
After dinner, the family dodges mosquitoes and sings a chorus of “The Long, Long Trail.”
(I always felt short-changed by TV scenes where families sang around a campfire. My baby-boomer parents would have found the idea of sitting around and singing World-War-I vintage tunes hilarious.)
Everyone is ready for bed by 7 o’clock. Buffy claims to like sleeping in tents but changes her mind when she hears noises outside and imagines marauding lions.
The “lion” turns out to be Uncle Bill, who helps the girls get settled for bed.
French’s tent experience is even worse–the whole thing collapses on him.
By the next morning, even Cissy can’t put on a good front–her transistor batteries have died.
Bill admits that he has made a mistake in choosing a family outing that doesn’t suit every family member. (Sadly, instead of just acknowledging that everyone has different tastes, he has to add, “This is no place for girls.” Ugh.)
Jody’s reaction is slightly different.
Bill cheers him up by telling him that only French and the girls are leaving. Bill asks French to tell the people at the general store to “send a car for him” the next day. Wow–that general store offers some pretty unusual services!
Once they’re alone, Bill and Jody go on with their fishing. With nothing biting, Jody returns to the camp site to make a sandwich.
After reeling in his fish, he takes it off his hook and impales it on Jody’s. (If we had a close-up of the fish at this point, I’m pretty sure it would be our next Unhappy Camper image.)
He calls Jody back to the lake and helps him reel in “his” fish.
“This is the most fun I ever had in my life,” a beaming Jody says.
Feeling guilty about lying, he confesses to the old fish-switcheroo.
“Looks like I made a mess out of the whole family outing,” Bill groans. Ya think?!
Fortunately, sweet-natured Jody comes up with a positive spin on Bill’s brutal honesty–it proves that they are “a couple of guys,” rather than “a little kid and a big man” fishing together.
This episode is a long, long trail of parenting fails for Uncle Bill. I especially disagree with his decision to tell Jody the truth. How would it have hurt to let Jody believe he caught the fish alone?
The unhappy facial expressions throughout the episode are fun, though. You expect them from French, but Cissy and Buffy don’t often get the chance to look so disgusted.
A sweet scene about skipping rocks captures the essence of Buffy and Jody: She makes a poor attempt, he “shows her how” with his own poor attempt, and then she does it perfectly, giving him credit for her success.
This is a true rarity–an episode with no guest cast at all.
Two old stand-bys–the Velvet Vultures and Captain Hippopotamus–pop up again.
Buffy makes the best “unhappy camper” faces.
And yes, that is quite some General Store if they offer car service! I can never locate one of those when I’m out in the wilderness.
It must have been somewhat fun for Anissa Jones to show so much disgust in this episode, instead of the usual sweetness and light. Falling in the water might not have been fun, though.
So US General Stores do not supply cars to stranded campers? Good!On Uncle Bill’s mentioning the availability of such a service, I thought: “Wow, that’s America”.
If you ask me, Johnny Whitaker pretty much overplays in that scene where Uncle Bill makes his confession. He can do better than that. Furthermore, this line about “the little kid and the big man” doesn’t seem very appropriate for a 6-year old, either. That’s a bit precocious, isn’t it?
I can add another unhappy camper face to your list (a brilliant feature once again): mine from more than 50 years ago, which I remember like it was yesterday! I cannot have been older than 4 or 5 at most when my parents took us kids on a camping trip to the Bavarian Alps. More precisely, my dad and my brother went camping, and I had to spend the nights with my mother in a nearby boarding house!!! I was appalled, still am merely thinking of it, could still blow my top off. The reason my mother gave for this “outrageous decision”, as it seemed to me, was that I was just recovering from some serious illness. Admittedly, this was true, but yet I can’t help thinking this was something more along the lines of “This is no place for girls!” Ugh.
I would agree that this isn’t Johnny Whitaker’s best episode. He’s over-the-top in several scenes. When he thinks the camping trip is ending early, he looks like his puppy just died.
It amuses to me to imagine the general store owner’s face when French comes in with his “send a car” request.
Ugh, I can see why that unfair camping experience upsets you to this day. My parents took us camping quite a bit, and I didn’t really enjoy it much at first–the bugs, the dampness, the lack of my favorite TV shows. Since my mother did enjoy it, though, I never saw my failure to to do so as a “girl thing.” Eventually, camping did grow on me, and I’m glad I have the memories of those early camping trips now.
Well, to be fair, after this first unhappy experience we went camping – ALL OF US – every year until I was 15 and considered myself too old to go on vacation with my parents.