Written by: John McGreevey. Directed by: Charles Barton.
Unlike most episodes, this one opens away from the Davis apartment.
Inside the classroom, the twins are surprised to see a new face.
For our story’s purposes, she is Miss Evans, and she is spending a few days substituting for the twins’ regular teacher, Miss Cummings.
Not listening to his explanation, she gently orders him to sit down. At recess, he attempts to explain his actions again.
Of course, Miss Evans is all, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Grrr. But when he points out that he tried to, she responds with good grace, and they go off together to feed the poor fish.
At home that night, Bill is getting ready for another evening out. (Dinner jacket laid out, theater tickets in the pocket, dinner reservations confirmed–I need a Mr. French so badly.)
Buffy wants to “talk and talk” with her uncle, but she’s stumped for conversational topics.
Buffy says she prefers Miss Cummings to the substitute, but Jody argues that Miss Evans is just as good.
The next day, we see that Jody is actually quite taken with Miss Evans. On the playground, he’s paying more attention to her than his keep-away game.
Miss Evans takes a woozy-looking Jody aside to comfort him.
The next day, Jody’s fondness for his teacher shows through again.
Around this time, Miss Evans announces that her stint as a substitute is ending, as Miss Cumming is ready to resume her duties.
That night, Cissy regales her family with the story of her life. She talks about her nine “attention-crowded, love-filled” years before the twins’ arrival, and the sense of “loneliness and longing” she nevertheless felt.
Only French really seems interested in her story, which is an assignment for her English class. He says her style has echoes of Emily Bronte, or perhaps Charlotte.
Buffy is happy that at least Cissy’s story is nearing “the good part”–her own birth.
He wanders off to his room just before Cissy breaks out some old family photographs.
(I wonder if these are really photos of the actors. I see more of a resemblance in the Buffy one than the Jody one.)
When Buffy explains how much Jody likes Miss Evans, Bill naturally assumes Jody’s dealing with a schoolboy crush.
Soon, however, he learns that it is a bit more serious.
Jody hasn’t been doing his homework or paying attention in class since Miss Evans left.
Bill asks him if he would like to see her again, and suggests that French could take Jody by Miss Evans’ apartment after school for a visit.
Cut to Miss Evans’ apartment, which abounds with greenery, in more ways than one.
Miss Evans hints to French the boy needs more attention at home. When French tells her Jody’s an orphan, she notes that Bill and French will have to be the ones to give him attention. (Left unsaid but implied: “Duh.”)
That night, while tucking Jody in, French attempts to provide “the kind ministrations of motherhood.” This takes the form of humming Brahms’ Lullaby.
Declaring his attempt at nurturing a fiasco, French runs to Bill for guidance. Bill doesn’t understand the power Miss Evans has over Jody, so French suggests that he witness it with his own eyes. Bill agrees to invite the teacher over.
When Miss Evans arrives, an excited Jody rushes to answer the door.
Bill reacts to the teacher with the same glassy-eyed expression Jody gets in her presence.
It’s not until Cissy comes into the room, that the mystery is finally solved.
Bill catches on, then, and Cissy explains the situation to Miss Evans by showing her another of those old family photos.
Cissy is surprised that Jody remembers their mother at all, but Bill says he must have some memories, even if he doesn’t quite understand them.
(Random observation: In this scene, Lockhart gets the soft-focus treatment that 40-plus females usually get on this show. It’s jarring, though, because she didn’t get it in any of her earlier scenes.)
That night, Bill has a heart-to-heart with Jody.
He talks about how wanting something you can’t have may trick you into believing things that aren’t true. He points out that while Miss Evans is happy to be Jody’s friend, she can’t be his mother.
When Jody thinks about Miss Evans and gets a sad feeling, Bill says, remembering this photo might make him feel better. Jody suggests that he can also think about Bill and French at those times, which actually seems a lot more comforting than Bill’s idea.
This episode represents everything I love about Family Affair. Three seasons in, they are still dealing with the ramifications of the kids’ loss. I tear up at both Cissy’s reaction to Miss Evans and the Bill-Jody conversation. I like that Bill doesn’t have any easy answers to offer Jody–grief is just something to live with, day by day.
Of course, the episode does raise a question. Jody and Buffy were five when their parents died–not babies–but I can believe their memories are fading. Wouldn’t they have seen family photos around the house, though?
Miss Evans: June Lockhart. Rand: Michael Barbera. Miss Cummings: Joan Vohs.
The daughter of actors Gene and Kathleen Lockhart, June Lockhart has had a long and productive career. (And she’s still alive and working–yay!) She was a child actress herself, making her stage debut at age 8 at the Metropolitan Opera and her screen debut at age 13 in A Christmas Carol. She had small roles in several memorable movies, including Sergeant York, Miss Annie Rooney, and Meet Me in St. Louis, although she is best remembered for her TV roles on Lassie and Lost in Space. She also went on to play the teacher of another motherless TV moppet–Michelle Tanner from Full House.