Hello again readers, friends and family. This week we resume our regular review of “The Brady Bunch” with “My Sister, Benedict Arnold”. It is a fun episode overall and has Greg and Marcia really playing with the emotions of others. There is a subplot involving a dunking booth for a junior high school carnival as well. Let’s commence to reviewing “My Sister, Benedict Arnold”!
The story opens with Alice and Peter hard at work on a dunking booth for the junior high school carnival. Did Mike Brady build this thing? If so, they must be expecting to make quite a haul dunking people in it to cover the cost of all those materials. If it was something the school system had on hand, was it delivered to the Brady house, stripped of paint, to be decorated? One final scenario is some other parent or school board patron donated it for the cause and had it sent to the Brady driveway for cleaning and decorating before having it trucked over to the school. The thing is not on wheels, so one would expect a forklift or hydraulic lifter of some sort would be needed to get that thing moved.
While the work is being done, Greg arrives home looking really hacked off. We soon learn he has lost his place on the first string basketball team to Warren Mullaney. Since we see Greg carrying a basketball, one must wonder if he stole one from the school as severance for his demotion or maybe he carries his own around to show his love of the sport, hence his ire at being reduced to second string. Peter now understands Greg’s angst as this same Warren Mullaney also beat out Greg for student council president. Warren ran on a campaign of false promises!
While Greg is having a terrible day, Marcia arrives home walking on air. A high school boy has asked her to the pizza parlor! References like this on any old sitcom always made me laugh. Was the Brady’s suburb so small that it had only one pizza place? Never in my own life have I heard a pizza restaurant called a pizza parlor. And if pizza is the food of choice, the place it is to be purchased is always named (Papa John’s, Dominoes, etc). For now, her destination with her suitor is “the pizza parlor”. Perhaps that was the name of the restaurant. The owner sought to be clever and named the establishment “The Pizza Parlor”. Marcia’s great news brings with it some bad news for Greg. The fellow who wants a date with Marcia is Greg’s arch nemesis Warren Mullaney! With this scene, we get another glimpse of some of the hallway seating offered in the Brady house!
The next scene begins in the boys’ room and it shows the molding that tops their bedroom wall. I don’t recall ever seeing this before. Mike comes in to chat with Greg about the events of the day. Mike assures him that if what Greg says about Warren always goofing off is true, the coach will soon see this and take appropriate action. Surely the coach did not put Warren on the first string squad because he doesn’t play the game well! Even if he is a goof-off, he must have some skills on the court. The next visitor to see Greg is Marcia. She is looking for the low down on Warren. Before she can reveal to Greg the classmate she will be seeing that night, he makes known his distaste for Warren. He states Warren Mullaney tops his crumb list, can be found at the bottom and everywhere in between! Such harsh name calling in referring to a most hated person as a “crumb” takes us back to a much simpler time. If such a reference were made on a sitcom today, there’d no doubt be some language parents would find objectionable for small children to listen to or repeat.
Downstairs, Marcia and Carol work on the booth decorations and discuss Marcia’s new suitor. Carol says she and Mike will want to meet the boy before he takes her to the pizza parlor. Marcia questions the situation of Greg not liking Warren Mullaney. Carol assures her that is Greg’s problem. Based on Greg’s description of the guy thus far, it seems Mike and Carol might have reason to be concerned. He sounds to be a lying and conniving student politician who sucks up to the basketball coach and likes to goof off! It would be interesting to see Warren arriving smelling like an ashtray, cussing like a sailor and making crude remarks to Carol. How would Mike and Carol cancel Marcia’s pending date right in front of the boy?
Marcia is concerned about Warren and Greg crossing paths when arrives, but Alice assures her Greg is at the library. Alice cracks a joke about Greg getting a book on witchcraft and to not be surprised if Warren turns into a frog. Marcia does not find this to be funny at all. With the chime of the doorbell, Marcia knows Warren has arrived. In the most inconvenient of timing, Greg arrives home. Alice distracts Greg by giving him some pie. He says this will be his third helping, but obliges her. Meanwhile, Marcia and Warren are in the living room being spied on by the remaining Brady siblings. Greg has finished his slice of pie and wants to go up to his room and study for a test the following day. I pondered what kind of test it was if he was checking out a library book the night before to study for it. Alice tries to detain him by offering a fourth slice of pie with ice cream but he is not having it. As he enters the living room, he notices Warren sitting there. Warren greets Greg warmly, but Greg ignores his cordiality. Somehow, Greg’s disdain of Warren escaped the guy’s notice. He greets Greg as though they are friends. He even questions what Greg is “so sore” about. Maybe this is part of his good politicking and sucking up skill. Mike and Carol enter the room to meet Warren as Greg storms angrily upstairs.
The next scene beings with Carol on the phone with Martha. She is just as chatty as we have experienced her being in previous episodes. Between Martha and Ellie calling, Carol must rue answering the phone as she always seems irritated when speaking to them. Marcia arrives home and says her date with Warren was nothing special. He even wore some smelly aftershave she mistook for pepperoni pizza. This is one of those small throw-away jokes that dotted the Brady Bunch. They were never that funny and added only to the “corny” label the show gets with so many detractors. I’ve often pondered what the producers sought to accomplish through them.
As the kids make their nightly toilet, we get one of those classic sitcom moments where a character speaks too soon and either continues or escalates the dilemma at hand. The audience knows what was about to be shared by Marcia and then experiences with her the increased ire generated by Greg demanding she not see Warren. Not wanting to be bossed by her older brother, Marcia will continue seeing Warren out of spite!
The next morning, in a laugh out loud moment, Marcia and Greg leer at one another over their bowls of cereal. The other kids are arguing over the contents of their lunch bags. Why doesn’t Alice just pack the same thing for each of them, or know what they like and pack and label each bag? Such arguing every morning would get old quickly! Alice puts a stop to it announcing whatever they hold in their hand at that moment is their lunch for the day. With the other kids gone, Mike and Carol discuss Greg and Marcia’s dilemma. Greg has been made aware that Marcia is seeing Warren after school and asking him to junior high carnival! Marcia is dismissed to leave and Greg is kept back. He is told by Mike and Carol that as long as they approve, Marcia may have over any guest she likes. Greg asks if the same applies to him and they confirm it does. Greg does refer to Warren as “My worst enemy in my own home”. Geez Greg, it seems like the guy has never targeted you specifically, just horned in on things you felt entitled to. Declaring him your worst enemy is kind of extreme.
The scene that follows shows the dunking booth decorated and in action. One will notice here the sign across the front that reads “Brady Booth”. Did each family taking part in the carnival identify their booth via surname? One would think a booth would be identified with the “Athletic Department”, “Debate Team”, etc. I guess the Bradys put a lot of time and effort and wanted it known the dunking booth was THEIR contribution to the carnival. Cindy is the first to be dropped into the water. Bobby is very anxious for his turn in the dunking booth. Peter asks Bobby when is he going to grow up. In a funny reply, Bobby says, “When I get older.” Before Bobby can have his turn, Carol calls Peter inside to work on his homework and will hear no objections. I recall the scene ending here with poor Bobby not getting his turn being dunked into the water. However, the DVD has him activating the dunking device himself and Peter saying Bobby “makes a dumb looking mermaid”.
That afternoon we see Greg and Marcia at their worst. I don’t recall such levels of underhandedness on their part occurring on the series any other time. While Marcia and Warren study in the family room, Jan calls Marcia away. She tips her off that Greg is bringing home Kathy Lawrence. She is a classmate of Marcia’s who beat her out of a spot as a cheerleader. That must have been an interesting tryout if those wanting to be cheerleaders knew it was down to two final students. Marcia feels the same way about Kathy as Greg does about Warren. I doubt Kathy pulled a Tonya Harding and smashed Marcia’s ankle and prevented her from making the cheerleading squad; Marcia’s dislike of the girl here is just as shallow, if not more, than Greg’s dislike of Warren. Soon after, Greg and Kathy enter the family room. Marcia rubs some salt into Greg’s wounded pride by introducing Warren as being part of the first string basketball team. Greg shares that Kathy is now head cheerleader.
Before we move forward, let’s review the short resumes of the episode’s guest stars. Gary Rist played Warren Mullaney. A Google search confirmed he is no relation to Robbie Rist who played Cousin Oliver later in the series. Gary Rist, with only one acting credit prior to this episode, would have no further on camera acting after 1973’s “Brother On The Run”. The 1980s saw him with two music/composer credits. The last one being in “Soldier’s Revenge” in 1986. Sheri Cowart, who played Kathy Lawrence, fared somewhat better. She did not act again until the 1980s and then took another hiatus until 2001’s “Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical”. A Google search and her IMDB page suggest she has also done work onstage.
Greg and Kathy move to the living room to work on homework. Kathy shares with Greg her surprise that he even remembers her. Kathy must really pine for the attention of an older boy as she seems to have made afternoon plans with Greg on very short notice. The scene with Greg and Kathy is so absurd it is hilarious. Greg asks Kathy to do one of her junior high school cheers. At first she understandably feels silly doing it, but with Greg’s encouragement of “Louder!” she is soon cheering at full volume in the Brady living room. This poor girl thought that this older boy was genuinely interested in her cheering. It would have been even funnier if Mike, Carol and Alice were home and all walked in with quizzical looks on their faces at some teenage stranger belting out a cheer. Instead, we get some extra salt in Greg’s room a la Marcia as she enters and shares “Warren thinks it (the cheer) is better than the cheer for his first string basketball team.” It was very humorous how petty and silly Greg and Marcia were acting. Marcia’s comment is the final straw and she and Greg go into the kitchen to duke it out verbally. The hilarity continues as the younger Bradys stand outside and spy Marcia and Greg’s fight with glee. I’d have been doing the exact same thing if such things were occurring at my house at their age.
The fun is over when the adults arrive home. This is the second time I’ve noticed Mike coming home from the supermarket wearing a sports coat/blazer. I do most of the grocery shopping for my family and usually go on Sunday afternoon clad in running shorts and a t-shirt. The other kids share the drama taking place indoors. Mike and Carol thoughtlessly load Alice down with the grocery bags and go inside to handle matters. Peter just stands by and watches Alice struggle with a big grin on his face. Mike must be working from home this week as he seems to be home a lot while the kids are heading off to and coming home from school. Marcia and Greg are taken to Mike’s den for a talk. Over the years, the Brady kids did some really underhanded things to one another. However, this episode’s “talk” points out that this time around, they used other people in their scheming. That had never occurred to me before. At the conclusion of the talking to, Greg and Marcia go to apologize to Warren and Kathy and find they have all ready split. Alice relays the two hit it off right away and left for “The Pizza Parlor”. It would be interesting to know if they heard Marcia and Greg’s argument and knew the jig was up or if they were just super-fickle hopeless romantics who took no issue abandoning Greg and Marcia without a word of explanation. Warren did seem a bit star struck with Kathy when she entered the family room with Greg. Greg and Marcia still leave to apologize to them. Alice then commences to clean up some towels strewn everywhere. Seeing how the other Brady kids were all bone dry and the adults had just returned from the market, I questioned the origin of all those towels. Had they been laying out there for a day or so? Did some neighborhood kids take a few dunks when nobody was home. Alice’s grabbing one of the towels activates the dunking device and she finds herself submerged in the tank and begins to playfully splash around.
The epilogue has the entire family coming home from the carnival. Surprisingly nobody is heard mentioning how the dunking booth was such a hit. The family brings in the typical carnival wares and Alice says her prize was just a pair of trick handcuffs. With the Brady family headed upstairs, it is revealed the trick handcuffs have her baffled and she is stuck! As wacky as Alice could be at times, one must wonder why being stuck in those cuffs was such an embarrassment that she couldn’t ask for help.
“My Sister, Benedict Arnold” is one of the most fun and memorable of the entire series. The drama and conflict is on a totally believable scale and is played well. Seeing Greg and Marcia at their worst was interesting. As always, your thoughts and observations are most welcome. Next week, we will review another very memorable episode, “The Personality Kid”. It will be another fun one! See you then!