Written by: Edmund Beloin and Henry Garson. Directed by: Charles Barton.
Before we dive into this week’s episode, I wanted to alert Family Affair fans that Kathy Garver has written a memoir called Surviving Cissy. It will be published in September and is available now for pre-order on Amazon. Check it out!
We open this week in the park, as Mr. French reminds Jody about an upcoming dental appointment.
Jody hopes he’ll get hit by a ball in the park so his loose tooth will come out. Then the dentist won’t have to pull it.
French assures Jody that the dentist won’t be pulling any teeth–he’ll only be checking Jody’s bite.
“Bite him good,” Buffy urges.
(She has a bit of a biting fixation–remember her early encounter with French?)
That night at dinner, Bill reproves Jody for not eating his meat.
Jody claims his mouth hurts too much from the dentist, but Cissy disputes this.
The dentist only made a wax impression of Jody’s teeth, she says. Any pain is purely psychosomatic.
Someone’s been paying attention in psychology class again, I see.
The word “psychosomatic” leaves the twins predictable clueless.
“It’s all in your head,” Cissy explains.
Of course it’s all in his head, Jody agrees–that’s where his teeth are. Ba-dum-bump.
Somehow, the conversation shifts to Cissy’s intention to become a nurse. That surprises Bill, who notes that she wanted to be an actress the week before. (Cissy’s very practical plan is to become a nurse, then use her nursing salary to put herself through dramatic school.)
Buffy announces that she wants to be a secretary, which finally leads us into this week’s main story.
Buffy wants to be like Miss Travers, a pretty young secretary that French met in the park that day.
French explains to Bill that Miss Travers recognized the twins’ names when she heard French talking to them. She’s a secretary at a construction company, and her boss is an acquaintance of Bill’s.
Well, Buffy and Jody are rather odd names, so I guess that makes sense.
Bill’s attempts to recall Miss Travers to mind are amusing. Is she the one that’s very short and a little too…?
He gestures with his hands, ever so briefly, in the way that conveys the ampleness of the female form.
Oh no, French replies, in a slightly salacious and un-French-like way. Emily Travers is not “too” anything–she’s just right.
Bill finally remembers her as an attractive blond with blue eyes, but French says they are aquamarine–“the limip hue one associates with tropical reefs in the Caribbean.”
Picking up on French’s infatuation with Miss Travers, Cissy says she wishes a boyfriend would describe her eyes so poetically.
Buffy adds to French’s embarrassment by observing that he and Emily shook hands for a long time before parting.
“I don’t know which one was holding on,” she says. “Maybe both.”
As usual, Bill takes some amusement in French’s discomfort.
Next, we find ourselves back in the park, this time with the British servant contingent.
French’s encounter with Emily has already become gossip fodder for them.
“He’s quite crackers about the young woman,” Mr. Tyburn burbles, noting that she is half French’s age.
“Let him chase her–he’ll never catch her,” a smug Hardcastle says.
Quick to defend her friend, Miss Faversham says she heard Miss Travers was doing the chasing. Tyburn and Hardcastle decide then that Miss Travers must be frumpy–“thick glasses and flat shoes.”
After Miss Faversham leaves, French comes along and endures some teasing from his frenemies.
They aren’t laughing for long, though, because the woman in question soon makes an appearance.
Well, here she is–the long-awaited Emily.
French and Emily walk on, leaving behind two stunned butlers.
“They say that love is blind, but this is ridiculous,” Hardcastle grumbles.
Later, Bill comes home to wait for a long-distance business call and encounters Cissy.
He compliments her on a cute outfit.
(I don’t think I share his opinion.)
She’s heading off to the library to study psychology with a cute boy, Freddie. She gets insulted, though, when Bill assumes that Freddie is her main focus, rather than studying.
“Freddie is incidental,” she says, none to convincingly.
After she leaves, it’s not long before Bill hears a knock at the door.
It’s Emily, ostensibly looking for French and bearing a present for Buffy and Jody.
(The wardrobe in this scene makes it fitting that this episode first aired on St. Patrick’s Day.)
French and the kids are out, but Bill invites Emily in to talk for a few minutes.
She passes the present along to Bill and tells him how much she likes the children. Jody is “all boy,” but so polite, and Buffy is adorable.
Bill deflects credit for their politeness, saying manners are French’s department.
Ignoring the reference to French, Emily gushes that she has admired Bill from a distance for years.
He’s surprised, but she tells him how impressive it is that a busy professional like him with no parenting experience took on the job of raising three children.
Modestly, Bill says that he and French do all right with the kids.
(It’s nice how he considers French a co-parent.)
Sometimes, they probably need a woman’s touch around the house, Bill admits.
He’s not flirting, although it may read that way on paper.
“Maybe someday you’ll find just the right girl,” Emily replies.
Now, she’s definitely flirting.
When French and the kids return, Emily is gone. The twins play with her gift, a game of quoits.
(That’s not a term I’m familiar with. I would have called it ring-toss, I guess.)
French takes a moment to talk to Bill about Emily. He asks whether Bill finds it odd that such a young and attractive girl is interested in him.
Bill assures French that many women prefer older men.
Relieved, French decided to ask Emily to accompany him to the theater for an outing with the British gang to see The Barretts of Wimpole Street.
Emily enjoys the play, finding that the traditional British reserve conceals a strong romantic streak.
(Tyburn, for his part, faults the play for “far too much display of sentiment.”)
When French leaves to get Emily some orangeade, Emily chats with Miss Faversham.
Miss F tries to suss out Emily’s feelings for French.
Emily says she admires his style, which must have come from being around rich and sophisticated people so much.
Miss F notes that “working among them” would be a more accurate description.
Nevertheless, Emily responds, French has traveled the world. She herself has been nowhere.
She wants to see the world, but not as a tourist, she explains. She wants to be one of the beautiful people–like Mr. Davis’ friends.
Of course it’s not possible on a secretary’s salary, she adds.
“Well, you’re young yet,” Miss F observes drily. Emily agrees–and says she plans to make the most of it.
Returning from the theater, Miss F meets Bill in the apartment building lobby.
She asks Bill what he thinks of Emily. Typically taciturn, he only says that she seems nice and pretty.
She says she thinks French is falling in love with the girl, and Bill admits that wouldn’t surprise him.
Miss F claims that her womanly intuition gives her a bad feeling about Emily’s motives.
She’s afraid Emily doesn’t care one bit about French. “Isn’t it possible,” she asks, “that she isn’t after the gentleman’s gentleman, but after the gentleman?”
Bill finds this conversation all kinds of awkward.
He seems to take it to heart, however.
Later, French returns bubbling with enthusiasm about Emily and the passion they share for Browning and Keats.
The next day, Bill pays a visit to Emily’s office.
He tells her he feels unsure about what he wants to say and hopes he doesn’t come across as a “fathead.”
You can feel Emily’s hopes rising that he’s about to make some kind of pass.
Instead, he quizzes her about her feelings for French.
When she’s vague, he tells her how happy French has been since meeting her. Emily wonders why that’s a bad thing.
French is way up on a cloud, Bill says. If he falls off, it will be a long drop.
Emily says she considers French her friend, like Buffy and Jody and Cissy.
(Hey, when did she meet Cissy?)
Bill says French is much more serious. He wouldn’t be surprised if he starts shopping for a ring soon. How would that make Emily feel?
“Flattered,” is all she can come up with.
When Bill asks where that leaves French, a chastened Emily says, “Nowhere, Mr. Davis.”
She promises she won’t let things get that far, and a relieved Bill tells her he thinks she’s okay. She says she’s not so sure.
Later, French is waiting around the park for another chance to see Emily.
He’s been there so long that Buffy and Jody are bored and want to leave and do their homework.
When he’s just about given up, he finally sees Emily approaching.
(She loves that green suit, doesn’t she?)
She wastes no time in telling him that she won’t be seeing him again. She doesn’t want to give explanations and hopes he’ll accept this as final.
Heartbroken but ever-the-gentleman, French does so.
At home, French tells Bill what happened and conjectures that Emily found someone else.
Bill comforts him by saying that while it hurts now, he will soon recover.
French surprises Bill by saying that, on the contrary, he feels wonderful–he’s just had the best week of his life.
This isn’t the kind of episode that would have appealed to me as a child. The kids’ roles are incidental (like Freddie), and the script’s light on humor. Surprisingly, we don’t even get many good Frenchisms. But as an adult what I most appreciate is the episode’s restraint. Other shows might have gone for melodrama, making a Emily a conniving femme fatale and having French undergo the humiliation of discovering her true motives. Instead, Emily comes across as young and misguided. Leslie Parrish’s acting in the final scene with Uncle Bill, as Emily becomes ashamed of her actions, is nicely subtle. Heather Angel also does a good job of conveying Miss F’s concern about French, along with just a touch of jealousy. (I’m on Team Fraversham, all the way!)
We get a new spin on Uncle Bill’s famous head rubs this week–the one-fingered version.
Miss Faversham mentions Peter as the child she’s watching. Didn’t his family let her go?
Emily Travers: Leslie Parrish. Mr. Hardcastle: Noel Drayton. Mr. Tyburn: Leslie Randall. Miss Faversham: Heather Angel.
Leslie Parrish was one of those promising mid-century starlets who never quite broke through to full-fledged stardom. Her most memorable film appearance was as Jocelyn Jordan in The Manchurian Candidate. She also played Daisy Mae in the 1959 musical Lil Abner. Her TV roles included three Batman appearances and the Star Trek episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” Later, she ended up in some B movies such as 1975’s The Giant Spider Invasion. She retired from acting in the late 1970s, around the time she married Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. (They divorced 20 years later.)
Let’s end with some Uncle Bill eye candy, just because.