Written by: John McGreevey. Directed by: Charles Barton.
Although it aired just before Christmas, this episode opens on a beautiful day in Central Park. Accompanying the twins, Mr. French encounters his fellow servants.
French’s discomfort around the latter group is obvious. Withers tweaks him about his role as a “children’s supervisor” and then expresses surprise that French still considers himself primarily a gentleman’s gentleman.
The awkwardness continues after he sits down, as he fulfills his function as keeper of jump-ropes, baseball gloves, and other kid paraphernalia.
“That’s why the other nannies carry enormous handbags,” Withers quips.
Miss Faversham gives him some advice about treating skinned knees, and French gets Buffy back on her feet.
French isn’t amused.
Back at home, Cissy has emptied her whole closet in search of a perfect date dress.
They also give Cissy some advice about her dress, encouraging her to pick a blue one since blue is her favorite color. Cissy notes that her date’s favorite color is yellow. “Let him wear yellow,” Buffy replies.
French, on the other hand, refuses to offer any advice. Choosing a teenager’s clothes is neither his forte nor his responsibility, he announces coldly.
The kids are left wondering what they did to make him mad.
Bill doesn’t know what’s wrong with French, but he does make a quick decision on the clothing front, choosing a green suit for Cissy.
French has news for them–he doesn’t read bedtime stories anymore. He suggests that the twins read to each other.
After Jody makes a few attempts to sound out “abductors,” the twins agree to forgo a bedtime story completely. They ask French to tuck them in, but he’s not doing that anymore, either.
Then Jody realizes that Buffy has no one to tuck her in.
Later, when Bill gets home, he tells French that the kids are wondering about his behavior.
French says he is proud of his profession as a gentleman’s gentleman, which his father and grandfather also held. He’s “exceedingly unhappy as a nanny,” however. (I wonder if French would have liked the term “manny.” Probably not.)
He feels he has to adopt a different approach to his work, even if the kids don’t like it. Bill agrees that French should do his job in whatever way that makes him comfortable.
When we next see French, he’s entertaining a visitor–Miss Faversham.
French is shocked about her dismissal, but she accepts it as the lot of a nanny–the better she does her job, the sooner the children are able to function without her. She points out that French is more fortunate–when the Davis children grow up, he will still have a place with Uncle Bill.
In the park the next day, French’s peers tease him about which bench he will choose–the one with the nannies or the one with the “good lads.”
Withers welcomes him back into the fold.
French finds the nanny packing her things.
He says he was worried that he wouldn’t see her again and invites her out to dinner. She says that getting to know him has been one of the greatest pleasures of her current situation.
Get a room, you two!
It’s nice to see French going out and Bill staying home with the kids for a change. (He’s reading to the twins because another book has defeated them. I’m almost 100 percent sure it’s this Whitman Tell-a-Tale book, which should be easy for third-graders.)
At dinner, French tells Miss Faversham how much he will miss her. She reveals that she’s interviewed with a new family with young children. The mother has “queer ideas about discipline” that she’s picked up from magazines, but Miss F is prepared to set her right.
She should have her own home and someone to look after her, he says, pointedly. And she calls him Giles. Whoa.
Miss Faversham says that it’s too late for her to change. She’s already raised more than 20 children, and someday she may raise some of their children. She obviously believes taking care of children is a special calling, and she notes that it’s one she and French share.
Returning home, French “tucks in” the sleeping twins.
In the park the next day, French is back to holding the twins’ things.
(And don’t worry, Miss F fans: We learn that she has secured a new job in the same neighborhood.)
I like the way this episode doesn’t spell everything out for the viewer. Thoughts and motivations are murky at times. Was French thinking of proposing to Miss Faversham? Or, as a commenter on IMDB.com suggests, giving up his job so that she could have it? Did she sense what he had in mind and purposely deflect it? In any case, it’s a sweet episode, and it gives Sebastian Cabot many good Frenchisms to utter and a chance to show some range.
This episode is a little jarring after the previous one, in which French was prepared to take total responsibility for the kids. But I can fanwank that his embarrassment about taking such a demonstrative stand made him want to distance himself from the children a little bit.
Miss Faversham: Heather Angel. Mr. Hardcastle: Noel Drayton. Miss Talmadge: Nora Marlowe. Mr. Withers: Richard Peel. Miss Alcott: Merri Wood-Taylor.
We’ve seen all the members of this British brigade before. We won’t see them all again, though: This was the final Family Affair appearance for Marlowe, Peel, and Wood-Taylor.
Miss Faversham’s favorite poet is Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
I find this bunch of British servants – or ‘British brigade’, as you aptly called them – just hilarious, despite (or perhaps because of?) their highly overstated traits, e.g. the Victorian attitudes and clothes of the nannies and the biting sarcasm of Withers and Hardcastle! The latter never fail to hurt French’s pride as a gentleman’s gentleman and cast doubt on his role as a nanny.
‘The Violins of Emotional Resonance’: I just love that, as I do your remark about Miss Faversham’s hat and the toilet paper roll cover – I always thought these covers were so utterly German and would never have believed them to be part of the US “lifestyle”!