Written by: Phil Davis. Directed by: Charles Barton.
We open this week’s episode in one of those old-school male gyms.
Ruby apologizes profusely, explaining that he’s too distracted by worry to know what he’s doing.
Is Michael sick? Is he getting into serious trouble? No…he just plays with his three sisters too much.
“It ain’t a good idea for boys to be around girls too much,” Ruby explains. (He says he found Michael playing 1, 2, 3, O’Leary with the girls, and “he wasn’t even O’Leary.” I’m not familiar with that game, but I did find a description, complete with a demonstrative video.)
Bill seems bemused by Ruby’s concerns. He’s not at all worried about his own son, who’s at home playing house with his sister. When Ruby still insists on sending Michael away to a boys’ camp, Bill recommends one run by a friend.
(I wonder if some 1960s viewers would have objected to a scene involving a black man delivering an unanswered punch upon a white man, even if the blow was accidental.)
He suggests to French that camp might do Jody some good.
In England, he says, people send their sons off to boys’ schools and camps at the earliest opportunity. There, “they indulge in all sorts of masculine activities.” (So I’ve heard.)
We get a fun Frenchism here: “Roast beef and boys’ schools–that’s what won at Waterloo and Trafalgar!”
Bill heads into the girls’ room to broach the camp issue with Jody.
(I’ll refrain from commenting on that one.)
When Bill tells Jody about camp, the boy is excited. He assumes, however, that his sisters will be going, too. Buffy assumes so as well and begins rhapsodizing about the pleasures of swimming and hiking.
(The kids also say they’ve never been to camp before–a major continuity error. The same actor even plays the camp director in each of these episodes.)
(And to think: She’s the smart twin.)
Jody is crestfallen, too, but he quickly puts on a brave face for his uncle’s benefit.
Walking down to the lobby, where Jody’s ride is waiting, an obviously ambivalent Bill tries to suss out Jody’s true feelings. Jody continues to put up a positive front, even when he gets his first look at the kids who’ll be his cabin mates.
The driver assures a worried Bill that the kids’ homesickness is normal, and that they will soon be having a great time.
Buffy’s upset, too. She’s slipped back into her “Yes, sir,” mode of communicating that always emerges in times of distress. That’s a nice touch, especially coming from writers who can’t even remember a previous camp-themed episode.
In Jody’s cabin at camp, the only repeat camper provides a discouraging report.
Jody is determined to make the best of things, however.
His postcards from camp also accentuate the positive, but Bill questions his over-working of the phrase “wonderful time.” (French’s explanation: Children have a limited vocabulary.)
When Bill meets up with Ruby at the gym again, Ruby says that Michael cried non-stop the first three days of camp. All’s well that ends well, though. Bill is glad to hear that Michael is doing better now.
Bill’s startled by this news, and even more startled when Michael tells him that cabin-mate Charlie also left early after crying his eyes out.
The Davis family hustles up to Camp Anawanda to see how Jody is really doing.
Jody does seem enthusiastic about everything as he shows Bill around the camp grounds.
Bill finally finds a clever way to assess Jody’s true feelings. He says that after the boys’ camp ends, Camp Anawanda will be having a girls’ camp, and he plans to send Buffy.
“You wouldn’t do that to Buffy?!” Jody blurts out.
Without directly referring to the kids’ traumatic past, he says that some kids do better being at home with their families. (Presumably for the benefit of camp-averse kids in the audience, he takes pains to say that camp is great for most kids.)
He and French have an amusing exchange:
Bill: Did you remember to put a fresh perspiration garment in there?
French: If you are referring to the, um, sweatshirt, sir, the answer is in the affirmative.
Bill: I didn’t think you would use that word.
French: When in Rome, sir…
Meanwhile, Jody’s helping Buffy cut out construction-paper contact lenses for Mrs. Beasley.
(I guess the writers wanted to be sure we know he’s a normal red-blooded American boy.)
If you didn’t know the Davis family backstory, Bill would appear to be inventing helicopter parenting here. I believe camp was a standard experience for city kids of the twins’ social class, and kids usually do get over their homesickness. Jody does such a good job convincing everyone he loves camp that he appears to have almost convinced himself. If Bill hadn’t continued probing for his real feelings, I think Jody would have survived the camp without any lasting trauma. This episode does a good job reflecting ongoing Davis family issues–their separation anxiety and their impulse to protect one another’s feelings.
Jody still has a turtle.
Jody’s camp was supposed to last more than three weeks. It must be summer, so seasons in the Davis world don’t match up with real world at all.
Charlie: Michael Barbera. Counselor: Robert Broyles. Allen: Ricky Cordell. Driver: John Lawrence. Ruby: Archie L. Moore. Mike: Ezekiel Williams. George Sperling: L.E. Young.
Moore, a champion prize-fighter in the 1950s, turned to acting in 1960 with a strong performance as Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Through the early 1980s he made a series of TV series appearances, mostly in boxing-themed roles like this one.
Most of this week’s guest actors are Family Affair veterans. Cordell had a memorable role as Pepino in the first-season episode “Love Me, Love Me Not.” We’ll see Barbera again next week, but his character will have a different name.