Attention Family Affair fans–make sure you check out Rick’s great interview with Kathy Garver on The Classic Film and TV Cafe. And don’t forget: You can pre-order Kathy’s autobiography through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Written by: Cynthia Lindsay. Directed by: Charles Barton.
It’s appropriate that we are flashing back to a fabulous Cissy episode this week. Get ready for vinyl flower stickers, long hair, and dialogue like, “Hang loose, Uncle Bill.” That’s right–we’re about to meet some hippies!
As we look in, Cissy is primping for a date with her latest heartthrob, Garfield Schafer.
Jody tells her that her perfume smells like strawberry ice cream, an observation that doesn’t delight her.
Everyone is delighted by the appearance of her date, however.
Such a clean-cut, respectable looking boy.
Garfield and Cissy tell Bill that they are going to a nearby movie theater.
“Don’t worry about Cissy,” Garfield says, unprompted and with an urgency that might have led an experienced parent to start worrying.
After the happy couple leaves, Bill, French, and twins comment approvingly about Garfield’s hair. Cissy must have been dating some less conservative guys recently; Bill says it’s often hard to tell her boyfriends from sheepdogs.
“Sheepdogs bark,” Jody notes, showing his usual command of the obvious.
Little do they know that Garfield has taken Cissy to a real, live hippie party in the East Village.
(Notice the flower decals on the door? We’ll be seeing a lot more of them.)
Cissy is not amused.
“If I had known what you had in mind, I wouldn’t have gone out with you,” she exclaims, primly.
Garfield tells her to quit being a drag because the party’s going to be a gas. Jo-Ann and Myra, the girls who live here, are really out of sight, he promises.
Oh, these kids and their crazy language.
Cissy finally relents and agrees to go inside. What’s the worst that could happen?
Oh, my God, someone’s playing the sitar. Run, Cissy, run!
Introducing Cissy to Myra and Jo-Ann, Garfield notes that Cissy is “strictly square but she has possibilities.”
“Your life began tonight,” Myra tells Cissy.
Oh, dear. Let’s hope these people people don’t ask her to creepy-crawl someone’s house with them.
Jo-Ann greets Cissy by saying, “The word is truth. The song is peace.”
The smell in the air is, undoubtedly, weed.
Cissy notices that Garfield has left the room, and she gets quite a shock when he returns a few moments later.
“I’m living, baby!” he exclaims from beneath an unfortunate wig.
Garfield, it seems, is a “weekend hippie.” He maintains his clean-cut image through the week to avoid family conflict, but at weekend parties, he lets his hair down.
Cissy begins to find the flower children’s lifestyle beguiling (or maybe she’s just experiencing a contact high.)
“I’m beginning to think you’re normal and I’m the strange one,” she says.
I’m beginning to think they’re both pretty strange.
Not as strange, though, as these East Coast Manson girls, who begin recruiting Cissy to join their family.
“We love everybody and everybody loves us,” they say, and Cissy says her Uncle Bill espouses the same philosophy–though admittedly not in the same words.
Myra and Jo-Ann want Cissy to move in with them, even if only on the weekends.
“Do what I please, when I please, from Friday to Sunday?”
This idea appeals to Cissy, as it would to any teenager, and she determines to raise the issue with Uncle Bill.
But first she has to confess to him that she and Garfield went to a party instead of a movie.
“It was a special party with a special kind of people,” she tells him, which brings him little comfort.
She adds that the the party-goers were doing nothing wrong, despite their “peculiar” appearance.
“They’re just kids with a point of view, who are blowing their minds with music, poetry, and love. Is that so wrong?” Cissy asks.
Wrong? Not necessarily. Nauseating? Yeah.
Cissy broaches the subject of moving in with the girls, just for one weekend as a trial. If he refuses, Cissy promises she won’t be angry. She knows he has her best interests at heart.
Bill, ever reasonable, agrees to meet Myra and Jo-Ann before making his decision.
Being a reasonable parent sucks sometimes.
Soon, Cissy and Bill find themselves before that flower-bedecked door.
Bill’s surprised that door isn’t locked, but personal safety is for squares, apparently.
“You just walk right in. It’s complete freedom,” Cissy gushes.
When they do go in, Bill gets a good reception from Myra.
“He’s cute,” she says. “Square, elderly…but cute.”
An uncomfortable Bill elicits from the girls that they have been living away from their families for two months–“two months in heaven,” according to them.
(Unfortunately, he doesn’t ask the question that would be foremost on my mind: Who’s financing their adventure in “complete freedom”?)
There’s an interruption in the awkwardness when a loud guy barges in looking for a hammer.
Jo-Ann and Myra don’t know him, but he’s a neighbor and another member of the anti-lock club–he wants the hammer to demolish one someone has placed on his door.
(Random fashion note: Flower decals are not just for home decor, it seems.)
This neighbor is also rude. Catching sight of Bill, he says: “Man, it must be tough to outgrow your membership in the swinging generation.”
You should talk, buddy. If we can’t trust anyone over 30, you definitely fall on the untrustworthy side.
Unsurprisingly, Bill decides he’s had enough of this social call.
Myra and Jo-Ann tell Bill he’s welcome to stop by again…but not on weekends: “It would put out the fire to have old folks sitting around staring us.”
After leaving the apartment, Bill and Cissy discuss the hippies. Bill wonders why Myra and Jo-Ann left home, and Cissy theorizes that they were looking for more freedom and love.
Bill inquires gently whether Cissy feels she’s lacking in freedom and love.
She assures him she doesn’t: “I just want to try something different for the experience.”
I’ve heard there was a lot of that going around in the ’60s.
Bill says he trusts Cissy and gives his approval for her psychedelic sleepover.
Surprisingly, French is pretty chill about things, too. They’ve given Cissy proper training, he says, and have to trust her to put it to use.
He does ask what will happen if Cissy likes the hippie life so much she wants to stay away permanently.
“Then we’ll move in and stop her cold,” Bill says, proving that he hasn’t entirely lost his mind.
French even takes a detached view of Cissy’s hippie friends arriving to pick her up for the weekend–he thinks his experience observing strange native customs while on safari with a certain Colonel Bassington will hold him in good stead.
He can’t resist taking a quick glance toward their feet, however. (We know he feels strongly about proper footwear.)
For their part, the flower children love French’s beard.
“It’s super hippie!” they squeal. You can imagine how much he likes that.
In their creepy, spacey way, Cissy’s friends also seem to like Buffy and Jody.
“Little people!” they exclaim when as they catch sight of the twins.
Buffy and Jody are excited, too. They think the teens are here for a costume party–a Raggedy Ann party, Buffy surmised based on the girls’ clothes.
“Do you love me?” Jo-Ann demands of the twins. In her most sensible moment ever, Buffy replies that they don’t know her.
“Let’s play so we can love each other,” Jo-Ann says. “You must love everyone in whole world.”
Yeah, that’s great advice for kids.
By the time Cissy is ready to go–and by ready I mean festooned with flower stickers–the hippies are engrossed in a game of jackstraws with the kids.
Mildly exasperated that her worldly new companions are playing childish games, Cissy tells the twins it’s bedtime.
As an aside, I had never heard of jackstraws before watching this episode. I only knew about pick-up sticks, of which jackstraws is apparently a variation.
Reluctantly, the twins leave. “I wish we were hippies,” Buffy sighs. “Then we would never have to go to bed.”
As Cissy helps to tuck Buffy in, the hippies keep playing their game.
They invite French to join them, but he says it wouldn’t be proper.
Mystified, the teens decide that acting like a butler is French’s bag.
“If that’s his thing, I guess he has to do it,” Myra says.
Meanwhile, Buffy is making Cissy promise that she won’t enjoy her weekend so much that she doesn’t want to come back.
Talking about Cissy’s friends, Buffy remarks offhandedly that she’s glad Uncle Bill is not a hippie.
“He would be so busy talking about love and being free that he wouldn’t have had time for us,” she explains.
“He doesn’t talk about love much. He lives it. I think that’s better.”
Anissa Jones’ delivery is guileless enough that these lines don’t hit you over the head too hard.
They do smack Cissy back into reality, though.
Later, French emerges from the kitchen and is relieved to find the teenage group gone.
He asks when Cissy is coming back and Bill shocks him by saying she isn’t.
Of course, Bill is just being a scamp. Cissy isn’t coming back because she never left.
She’s safe at home, in the Quilted Robe of Conformity, and all is right with the world.
“You dig?” Bill asks French, who leaves us with the wonderful closing line, “Indeed, sir…I dig.”
This episode is great fun. Of course, the lesson Cissy learns doesn’t bear close scrutiny: Bill certainly enjoyed lots of freedom and love before the kids came into his life, and Cissy probably could have balanced freedom and responsibility, too. But I like the conclusion anyway, probably because I have no desire to see Cissy wear flower decals ever again.
We get a reference to Sharon.
Garfield: Rick Gates. Jo-Ann: Veronica Cartwright. Myra: Diane Roter. Hippie: Jamie Farr.
At this point, Jamie Farr had spent a decade making the guest appearance rounds; among the highlights were four Dick Van Dyke Show outings as a delivery boy. He was just a couple of years away from his career-defining role as M*A*S*H’s Corporal Max Klinger.
Veronica Cartwright is one of those rare child actors who went on to build a solid adult career. It probably helped that she wasn’t identified with any long-term series role (as her sister Angela was with Make Room for Daddy and Lost in Space). She did play Jemima on Daniel Boone for two years and made several appearances as Violet Rutherford on Leave it to Beaver. Even as a child, though, she seemed to have a flair for creepy material—she appeared on The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents and as Cathy in Hitchcock’s The Birds. She continued in this direction as an adult with memorable roles in Alien and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My fellow X-Files fans will remember her recurring role as Cassandra. The 21st century has found her on other paranormal-themed series such as Invasion, Resurrection, and Eastwick (the latter based on the 1987 film The Witches of Eastwick, in which she also appeared). Currently, she has a role on Amazon’s series Bosch.
Rick Gates was married to Cartwright at the time this episode was filmed. (They would divorce in 1972.) He made scattered screen appearances through the early 1990s, when he gave up acting.
Diane Roter played Jennifer for one season on The Virginian. According to her IMDb bio (which is exhaustive and, one suspects, self-penned), she and Kathy Garver appeared in a play together in 1972. Roter’s screen career ended around 1970, and she’s gone on to work as an acting coach and entertainment journalist.