Hello again readers, family and friends. Today we review “The Driver’s Seat”. Marcia’s attempt at getting her driver’s license first aired on January 11th, 1974. This was the first sibling rivalry/battle of the sexes plot in a while. It is fitting that the contest was between Greg and Marcia as it was the two oldest kids who fueled most of the plots involving gender roles. It is a decent episode overall, but again not one that falls into my favorites or least favorites category. Let us begin reviewing “The Driver’s Seat”!
The story opens with Alice coming down the stairs dusting with gusto. She playfully flips her dusting rag along the handrail. The cheery mood continues with Marcia arriving home with good news. Wow, the later season’s episodes either started with one of the kids walking on air or way down in the dumps. Marcia’s elation is the result of her passing the driver’s education course at school with the highest score. When the good news is shared with Greg, he questions if Marcia’s high score even beat the scores attained by the guys in the class. Here is where the episode’s conflict begins. Greg believes all women drivers are inferior to male drivers. Greg is so confident in this that he bets Marcia a month’s worth of chore doing that her score for the driver’s license test won’t beat his own. This the first Brady bet I recall being waged in a while.
As we see Marcia and Mike cruise around the neighborhood, we get a good look at Mike’s car. Of all his vehicles over the course of the series, this one is my least favorite. That thing is huge! If Marcia learned to drive behind the wheel of this boat, she is ready to drive anything! One would almost expect to see a pair of steer horns mounted on the front of the car.
Upstairs the b-plot begins with Peter working on a model airplane. Needing to clean his hands he seeks entry into the bathroom. Jan currently occupies it and is very confrontational about allowing Peter access. Here we learn the reason for this is that Jan has joined her school’s debate team and she is practicing confrontation. She gives it another go with Bobby and Cindy who are playing checkers. Jan suggests Bobby cheated to rankle his ire and defense in practice of another debate tactic. A funny exchange occurs as Bobby calls Jan weird and then Cindy agrees with him. After the two youngest exit the room, Jan confirms their assessment of her by debating with Cindy’s doll. Is Jan wearing pajamas, a robe or a dress in this scene?
For the first time in a while, we see the Brady kids all leaving for school at the same time while Alice and Carol hand out lunches. Jan’s first debate is that day and she walks out the front door oozing with confidence. In a well done scene transition she returns through the same dejected. All her debate practice failed to do her any good that day at school. She blew it and lost the debate for her team. She states she has never been so humiliated her entire life. I guess she has finally lived down her embarrassment as the new brunette version of Jan Brady.
The main plot continues with Greg continuing to be a donkey’s rear. His chauvinistic comments about female drivers continue. It would seem some of Peter’s ways were passed up to Greg for this episode. So confident is he in the superiority of male driving ability that he ups the ante and extends he and Marcia’s bet to six months of chore servitude.
Upstairs, encouragement comes from a sibling instead of Mike and Carol. Marcia consoles Jan on her dismal debate performance. She gives some great advice in that since Jan knows what to expect going forward, she is past the problem. It was nice to see a sisterly bond in action in this scene.
The next day, Mike gives Jan some further encouragement and advice. He suggests that Jan just imagine the audience in their underwear. He says the psychology is that nobody can be frightening in their underwear. Alice cracks a joke suggesting that should she be seen in her unmentionables, it would be frightening. Mike’s advice here is good for those with a fear of speaking or presenting in front of others. Another tactic of my own is to imagine the other person or persons in clown makeup. If you have a fear of clowns, which seems to be in vogue these days, this will not work for you.
At her driving test that afternoon, Marcia seems to begin on the most confident of footing. When the examiner enters the car, she instructs him to buckle his seatbelt before the test will begin. From here, the confident ground Marcia stands on gives way to a sinkhole and Marcia bombs her test miserably. For some reason, she suddenly thinks instruments on the dash (the radio, wipers, convertible switch) are essential to driving the car. She fiddles with them as she has her meltdown.
Mike drives he and Marcia home. Bobby and Cindy eagerly approach expecting good news about the test. A funny exchange occurs as Mike states Marcia did what a lot of new drivers have done. Bobby asks if she got a ticket. Inside, Greg cracks another joke about female drivers. Marcia explodes in anger at his remark.
Jan’s day went much better than Marcia’s. She arrives home a victorious debater. The underwear strategy Mike shared served her well. Upstairs, the sisterly consolation plays out again, but in reverse. Jan encourages Marcia this time. Marcia says the situation is much worse for herself as the bad thing happened to her. The talk from Jan works and Marcia is ready to take the test again.
Marcia is so ready that she ups the ante yet again with Greg. Now the chores servitude will be for a year! Maybe Greg agreed because he knew that in less than a year’s time (and maybe even six months) he would be off to college and no longer around to do his sister’s chores.
The second time Marcia takes her test, she is successful. At first it would seem that she is about to repeat her earlier folly. However, she remembers her father’s sage advice about mentally undressing others and it serves her well. She looks over to see the examiner in boxers and an undershirt and begins laughing uncontrollably. The examiner is understandably confused. I will say that having the examiner’s badge pinned to his undershirt was a nice touch for the scene.
The driver’s license examiner was played by Herb Vigran. He played the haggard clerk at the Checker Stamp Trading store in season one. With the end of his employment with the trading stamp company, he must have gotten a job administering driver’s license tests.
Upon passing her test, it is found that she and Greg tied scores when both their written and driver’s tests scores were combined. Instead of discouraging the outrageous year long bet, Mike suggests the siblings go head to head in a driving competition. Really Mike? Maybe Marcia mentioned the examiner used to work at the trading stamp store and this jogged Mike’s memory to the time the kids challenged each other in building a house of cards. He must have thought to himself, “The kids learned a valuable lesson about stress and competition that day, let’s revisit that.”
The next shot has the family on location at a construction site setting up cones for Greg and Marcia to navigate. They wasted no time arranging the test as it appears to be the same day since Mike, Greg and Marcia have on the same clothes they did in the last scene. The final test will be to see who can get nearest to the last cone, or pylon, without breaking the egg sitting atop it. If anybody actually thought Greg would win this contest, they obviously had not ever watched an episode of the show before. Anytime the boys touted male superiority, they were destined to be defeated. As Greg overthinks the last few feet of the driving test, he hits the gas pedal of the car too hard and breaks the egg. Marcia does offer him an out for their bet, but he declines saying he will honor it.
The epilogue has Bobby and Cindy challenging each other as the better bike rider. They ask Peter to judge their ability. Peter encourages Bobby to rethink this as we see Greg inside ironing clothes. At the thought of suffering the same fate, Bobby declines to match his bike riding skills against his sister’s.
Thank you for joining me today to review “The Driver’s Seat”. It is a fun episode that follows the Brady sibling rivalry/ battle of the sexes formula that had served the show well for the past four seasons. With the exception of Peter who had only a few small scenes, the story involved all the Brady kids in some fashion. Next week we will review an episode that was probably fun when we saw it as children, but not so much as adults. “Out Of This World” is one of those Brady stories that really stretches credibility, but we will have fun reviewing it! See you next week!