Hello again! Today’s review gives us the conclusion of the Brady peril introduced in “Ghost Town, U.S.A.” and their arrival at The Grand Canyon. “Grand Canyon Or Bust” is an episode with little substance as far as plot or story. The ghost town dilemma is resolved quickly and the remainder of the episode is mostly the Bradys taking in the sights of The Grand Canyon while oohing and aahing over them. I suppose that back in 1971, many viewers had never seen the Grand Canyon outside of still photos, many of which would not have been in color. This episode gave them a chance to take in the beauty and splendor of this natural wonder and perhaps vacation there vicariously through the Bradys. An episode like this would never make it to prime-time today. Let’s get started reviewing “Grand Canyon Or Bust”!
The episode begins with Carol, via a voice-over, recapping the events of “Ghost Town, U.S.A.” that saw the Bradys and Alice stranded in Cactus Creek. Then she decides that she and Alice aren’t doing any good just sitting around and has Alice go “round up the kids”. Were the kids still out exploring the ghost town? Maybe they went back to the old stagecoach to finish filming “The Great Stage Coach Robbery” minus Peter.
While searching for signal fire wood, Greg and Bobby enter an old structure and find a phone mounted on the wall! Greg deduces the phone once operated on battery power and comes up with the idea to use the flashlight batteries in hopes of getting the phone to work and serve as a link to the outside world. One can see where such deduction would be made in a dire circumstance. Reason and logic are out the door as a logical deduction would see that no phone lines extended out of Cactus Creek and functioning flashlights might be one of the few valuable resources available; not one that should be wasted on the off chance that a phone in a ghost town might work.
Carol and Cindy come across an old water pump and are hopeful that it might just produce once again. The scene has a very poor sound quality. Whatever the issue was, it was rectified by the time the next scene at the pump begins.
Meanwhile, Alice, Marcia and Jan try to help their cause by writing the world help in the ground. They are hopeful that an aircraft flying over head might see it and know of their distress. Their efforts to scratch the word on the ground are fruitless as Alice claims that over the years the sun has baked the ground harder than one of her biscuits. Good old Alice is still cracking jokes in the face of adversity. Marcia then struggles to recall the name of a jackhammer, but demonstrates how that tool works, and says it would be useful here. Jan then recalls she saw an old plow down the street. It can be used to break the ground and spell the word help. The aforementioned segment of this scene was one I’d never seen before watching this episode on DVD. The syndicated cuts I had seen previously began with the mule refusing to pull the plow, followed by Alice giving it a try. One must wonder why they didn’t just find some old boards or rocks and write out help that way.
We then return to Carol and Cindy at the pump. What occurs is not only impractical, it is also predictable. Despite this, it is still very funny. It is a testament to Florence Henderson’s acting talent that this scene is still humorous. As she and Cindy slave away at the pump handle, Carol can tell the pump is primed and about to produce. She yells in triumph, “Good old H2O!” Instead of “good old H2O” a huge clump of dust pours from the pump into their bucket. Carol then sends her daughter off (by herself!) to search for wood for the signal fire.
Meanwhile, Greg has collected the flashlight batteries and taped them together. The source of the tape is not revealed. I know that ANYTIME I go camping, I keep a few rolls of electrical tape handy, but I don’t think that is the norm. The taped together battery is successful is making the phone function. Greg spins the handle and is excited that there is ringing on the other end of the line. Meanwhile, Cindy is searching for wood and hears the phone on the other end ringing and answers. Somehow, Greg doesn’t recognize his sister’s voice and pleads for help and says “Help us! Please help us! We are trapped out here in the desert in a ghost town!” Cindy, not recognizing Greg’s voice replies, “That’s funny, so are we.” If I had been in the director’s chair, the reveal that Cindy had answered would not have come until after Greg’s line. I would have even tacked on Greg exclaiming, “Bobby, somebody answered!”. Instead, we see Cindy hearing the phone ring from the street and going inside to answer it.
As the stranded Bradys prepare their signal fire, Mike, Peter and Zaccariah return! The old prospector apologizes for giving Carol “a turn”, but states he was afraid they were looking to jump his gold claim. He had to steal their car and go to town and stake his claim. Mike is convinced the man meant no harm as he and Peter encountered him on his way back to Cactus Creek. Carol says she supposes that all is forgiven. Phew, the Brady family truly were some good hearted folks. Old Zaccariah would have an imprint of my foot on his back side if he’d locked me and those I love most up in a cell 20 miles from civilization with no food or water. For use of the automobile, he does give the Brady family ten percent of his claim. With his exit, the Bradys prepare to leave Cactus Creek. Their actions as the scene closes suggest they are all getting in the car to leave. Alice even says, “Good bye ghost town, hello Grand Canyon.” They won’t be breaking down their camp or even lowering the pop up camper? Also, it looks as though no camping ever occurred in Cactus Creek. It appears they arrived, were locked up, struggled to survive and left in the course of a single day.
Like the previous episode, we are treated to some more shots of the Bradys traversing the roads of the American southwest. This time the traveling song of choice is “My Darling Clementine”. There is a brief break as the shot turns to Mike and Carol standing outside the car alongside the road. Bobby emerges from the woods and the family are back on their way. The laugh track is queued at Bobby’s urinary needs. I grew up in the days before kids could be handed an Ipad in the back seat or have a DVD played via an overhead screen. To think my family could travel miles and miles singing together like this is beyond laughable. We might play the alphabet game once or maybe a round of I-Spy. Most trips as a kid saw that plenty of Cracked magazines, comic books or a novel accompanied me and kept me occupied. Readers, how did you and your family make long road trips more tolerable?
After it has been firmly established the Bradys have travelled some distance, we see them arrive at The Grand Canyon. Some National Parks do charge taxpayers for entry today, but this may not have been the case in 1971. Mike rolls up and is handed some papers by the gate attendant. For now this woman’s identity is a mystery as she gets no mention in the closing credits. The Bradys ride past the camping area before they finally get to take in the breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon.
As the family takes in the magnificent view, they crack some corny jokes. Mike comments how thousands of years running water created The Grand Canyon. Peter chimes in that he now knows why Mike doesn’t like for them to leave the faucets dripping. Bobby jokes about how the canyon depth was determined and in response to Jan’s desire to sleep right on the canyon rim, Carol jokes that you wouldn’t want to get up on the wrong side of the bed. Afterward, the family rides past an old railroad station and Alice cites the year it was built as 1881. She adds she got that date from the guidebook and was not a passenger. I never recall seeing the train station scene in this episode before watching the DVD.
In the next scene, the Bradys take in a Native American show and watch some Hopi Indians do a rain dance. In a strange bit Carol is bobbing her head to the sounds of the tribal music. Alice says their dance isn’t too mysterious as she would be doing the same if she were barefoot on a hot rock. Never mind that the dancing Indians are wearing shoes…. In a very predictable bit, Greg confirms for Peter that rain dances don’t really work, they are just for the tourists; seconds later the sky opens up and rain douses the Bradys!
The next morning the Bradys again enjoy the splendor of the canyon view and a new corny joke is cracked. Greg states their lungs will wonder what happened to the smog. California’s air quality will be referenced again next season when the Bradys visit Hawaii. Here Alice learns that the trip to the canyon bottom will be made on the back of a mule. Her comedic efforts to mount the beast of burden follow and she finds herself sitting backwards on it. The scenes that follow are another overly long traveling montage, but not of the car, but the Brady mule train. Yes, riding mules to the canyon bottom is neat, but the shots of the Bradys doing so go on for over a minute. That doesn’t sound like a long time, but for a half hour sitcom, it does make for some extended viewing. Not too long ago, I read that today these mule train trips must be reserved at least a year in advance. Hardcore fans of the show know that the Bradys got preferred treatment at King’s Island in Season 5. I wonder if they got pushed to the front of the line for the canyon mule train or if the wait wasn’t quite so long in 1971.
At the canyon’s bottom, the Bradys make camp and Mike gives a stern warning that the kids are not to wander off; they are in the wilderness, not at a playground. Then the toll to the mule train ride took on the adults is made known. At first, Alice limps away as she goes to start dinner. Then Carol goes to tend to some camp matters and is seen limping. Finally, Mike is seen hobbling about. During this scene we also learn the Bradys are in Yutahay(?) Flats. I googled a few different spellings of this name but could find no links (other than those referencing this episode) that reference the place. Readers, if you can provide more details on this location, or if it was just created for the show, please enlighten us!
The next scene finds Bobby pounding a rock on the canyon wall in search of a dinosaur fossil. Cindy joins him as he partakes the amateur effort at paleontology. Failing to heed the warning of their father, they begin to stray from the campsite. Perhaps they had not gone far or maybe they had when they encounter a young Native American boy standing around watching them. They attempt to speak to him and he takes off. The pair give chase and soon find they can’t catch up with the boy and they also can’t find their way back to camp!
The Native American boy was played by Michele Campo. The credits list his character’s name as Jimmy. He will appear in the next episode as well. I wish I could tell you we’d review the young actor more in depth then, but there is really nothing more to share. IMDB lists only the two “Brady Bunch” episodes on his acting resume and a Google search produced nothing more. Let’s hope he just enjoyed a happy life outside of acting after this episode.
As the sun sets over the canyon, the search for Bobby and Cindy is getting underway. Greg reports they are nowhere to be found and Mike chides the kids who obeyed the rules, “Didn’t I tell you kids not to wander off from camp?” Uhm, Mike, they didn’t. That is why they are standing in front of you.
Meanwhile, Bobby and Cindy wander aimlessly about the bottom of the canyon searching for their camp. I wonder what was on Susan Oleson’s lip during these scenes? On a commentary for a previous episode, she noted she had a cold sore in a scene. She looks to have a blood blister or something here. For the search for the Bobby and Cindy, the rest of the Bradys have split into two search parties while Alice stays back at camp.
Things are looking very grave for the two youngest Bradys and Cindy is in tears. Bobby tries to comfort her. In “Double Parked”, Bobby mentioned he is a Cub Scout. One thing scouts are always taught is that if you get lost, you stay put! Bobby must not have been paying attention or just ignored that. The final shot of the episode shows the pair as a tiny speck in the vast wilderness that surrounds them.
With that, the second episode of the Season 3 ends with members of the Brady family in peril again. Does anybody know if these scenes were filmed at the bottom of The Grand Canyon? It seems like it would have been quite an undertaking to get the equipment, cast, crew and props down there. There really isn’t much to summarize as much of the episode is just the Brady family sightseeing. The ghost town trauma is but a memory once the Bradys are back on the road. The ending introduces a new adventure that will carry over to the next episode. Please join us here on Friday for the exciting conclusion of the Bradys’ Grand Canyon adventure! In the meantime, please share your own thoughts and observations!