Greetings once again! Today we review “Her Sister’s Shadow”. Viewers first heard Jan mutter that immortal Brady Bunch line “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” on November 19th, 1971. This was yet another installment of the “loser Jan” episodes that have been discussed here before. Jan’s feeling inferior to Marcia dominates this episode and we get no b-plot. This episode is well remembered for the aforementioned line and it being among those that defined Jan’s character for the show. It is light on laughs and played mostly for drama. The sibling rivalry in this episode is as realistic as one would expect to exist in a typical family, but maybe not vocalized to the point Jan does. Let us begin our review of “Her Sister’s Shadow”!
The episode begins at the junior high school. That same establishing shot used in past episodes is used once again. Rusty must really enjoy talking to the principal because we see him do it on more than one occasion! The shot quickly moves to the classroom
where Jan is turning in her essay. The teacher, Mrs. Watson, tells Jan she is pleased with the way her school work has been improving. She tacks on she expects great things from Jan as she is a Brady and further adds that Marcia was one of her best students. In polite yet irritated reply, Jan lets Mrs. Watson know that has been shared before. Just then, Mrs. Watson’s prized pupil of yesteryear enters. Marcia is there to walk Jan home, but Jan snarkily replies she can handle that on her own and leaves. I have a brother who is five years my senior and I often heard from his former teachers what a good student he was. None of these comments ever rankled me like they seem to Jan. He was a more committed student and active participant in school activities (by his own choice) than I was though.
Jan arrives home dejected and sad. In an episode direction method I never recall seeing before on The Brady Bunch, the opening episode credits are played after the first scene is complete. This also the first time I recall there being separate credits for the story and the teleplay. It may have happened several times before, but this time it just stood out. Maybe that is because both credits had two names listed for each. Jan goes up to her bedroom and ruefully looks over all of Marcia’s past accolades. Past accolades that she tosses into the closet! Jan is tired of the Wall of Marcia! I wonder if Marcia is also an accomplished ukulele player as one of those is displayed amongst all her awards.
Marcia arrives home and is quite distressed to find the Wall of Marcia now just a plain and ordinary wall. She immediately goes about questioning the awards’ disappearance. Carol suggests that Alice took them down to dust them. Does Alice typically take the awards elsewhere to shine and polish them? Does she launder the blue and yellow ribbons? We all know that Alice is one awesome housekeeper. She cleans the entire house, prepares meals and does the laundry for eight people. While Marcia questions her about the awards, we get a glimpse of her oven cleaning prowess. Look at how clean that cooking space is! It looks as though it has never even been used! Let’s hope Alice has some deserved housekeeper awards in her room! Back to our story, Alice has not taken the awards to the cleaning and polishing room. She does give us a funny reply when Marcia laments her entire lifetime of achievement is now “gone, gone, gone”. Alice questions the absence of a drama award for Marcia. Marcia finds no humor in this. Alice then suggests the boys are playing one of their tricks. Marcia goes out to confront them and goes as far as taking their basketball to get their attention. Of course they have no idea what she is talking about. Mike arrives home and assures Marcia they will find the awards. Check out that shirt Greg has on. It just screams 1970s! It certainly could only be worn pre-puberty as a man’s chest hair getting tangled in those strings would be very uncomfortable.
For the first time in a while, we get a genuinely cute Cindy moment. As Mike and Carol discuss the missing awards, she enters carrying them in her arms. She asks if Marcia is through with them, if she can have them. Marcia gives Cindy her apologies and collects her markers of achievement. As she does, take notice of how the wooden plaques shrunk on their way downstairs! When we first saw them, they were the size of the framed award. When Cindy carries them in, they have all shrunk!
Back upstairs, as Marcia returns the awards to their rightful home, Jan enters. Marcia asks if she is responsible for the awards being tossed into the closet. With plenty of attitude, Jan asks “What if I did?” and after a few more barb ridden replies lets Marcia know she doesn’t care to discuss it and leaves the room. Marcia gives chase and the argument continues. Down in Mike’s den, Carol is helping Mike hang/repair part of a shelving unit and hears the argument. Mike either doesn’t hear it or does and just doesn’t care. Mike must have tired of refereeing fights as in the last episode, when Greg and Marcia exchanged words over a shared secret, he bid the kids to “have a nice argument” and was on his way. Carol is still concerned about childhood squabbles and goes to see what is the matter. In a funny moment, Jan comes down the stairs and offers Carol the friendliest of greetings and assures her all is well. Carol isn’t buying it and Jan is brought into the den for the episode’s talking to.
Jan explains her removal of the awards to Mike and Carol. She states Marcia is always being handed awards left and right. Here she utters that character defining line of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”. Sadly, it followed Eve Plumb a little further than she would have cared for. Years ago, I was watching one of those afternoon filler talk shows and she was a guest. She had brought along with her some of her artwork to display and seemingly did not want to discuss “The Brady Bunch” at all, but instead wanted the audience to pay attention to her art. When the Q&A portion of the show started, an audience member asked Eve if she would quote the famed line and she refused. The host even commented on how Eve seemed bitter about any talk of “The Brady Bunch” and her sentiment was that the show was a part of the past and it should be left there. Back to our episode! Carol shares that Marcia is three years older than Jan and has had more time and opportunity to gain fame and recognition. Mike adds that nobody has smooth sailing all the time. At the worst possible time, Marcia enters with the good news that she is now editor of the school newspaper. Jan can add this to her list of Marcia’s irritating accomplishments. Mike and Carol refer to another never before heard, but always used quote when they tell Jan to find what she does best and do her best at it. Readers, do any of you have any idea what is hanging on the wall above Carol and Jan, beside the picture, in this scene? It looks like a random tassel was just hung there for decoration.
The next scene has Jan and her friend Katey noticing a posting for pompom girl tryouts. Jan and her friend decide they will give it a go. The idea appeals to Jan because it is something Marcia has never done. Katey shares that she too has an older sister with plenty of awards and praise. Katey was played by Julie Reese. This was her second and final appearance per IMDB. She had previously appeared on “The Doris Day Show”. Her name is just too common to make any Google search worthwhile.
The next scene must have been trimmed in syndication, because upon this round of viewing it seemed to just ramble on way past its shelf life. I remember well the ludicrous idea Alice had of shredding newspaper and tying the shreds to spoons to make pompoms. While her willingness to help Jan is great, the idea of tying shreds of newspapers to spoons so they can be jostled about just makes no sense. Let’s forget how tedious of a task it would be to tie multiple newspaper shreds to a spoon without them ripping. Upon completion of the tying, shaking the completed craft about with the vigor of a pompom would see all that hard word disintegrate in seconds. Bobby and Greg join the futile cutting effort and Greg shares how his school’s team was lousy the year before, but the pompom girls were great. He goes as far as demonstrating the cheer. Bobby does the same for a cheer he heard recently. Finally it is Alice’s turn to demonstrate a cheer from her day that concludes with “whoop whoopee doo”. Greg questions the phrase and Alice equates it to the early 1970s vernacular saying “whoop whoopee doo” was as “right on” as “heavy man” is to the boys. Alice also tries to test her homemade pompoms and finds they only make a mess as they fall apart with the first shake.
Outside, Jan is preparing for pompom girl practice. She does an impressive stretch to get warmed up. This led me to wonder why she didn’t try out for gymnastics since Mike and Carol said for her to find what she does best and do her best at it. That stretch she does is no easy feat! Alice brings Jan out two mop heads to practice with. Let’s hope she washed them beforehand! In what appears to be Mike’s tape recorder, Cindy queues some marching band music for Jan to practice to. It’s always good to have a recording of a marching band playing on hand. I have long since misplaced my own copy of it, but thanks to Youtube and the like, that music is more readily accessible today.
The next scene begins with another subtle nod to Jan’s talents. She is sitting on her bed working on a well done sketch when Marcia enters. Jan’s artistic talent will come into play again on another occasion when she finds herself feeling inept at life. Marcia praises Jan’s skill at handling the mop heads and gives her confidence a huge boost by suggesting she might even be selected as lead pompom girl. With this, the rivalry seems over and they are loving sisters again.
The day of the tryouts arrives and we see the audition of the girl who goes before Jan. This girl has some moves. She is working those pompoms like a pro and has the moves to go with it. The credits list her as Nancy Gillette. IMDB lists this as her only credit and a Google search produced no results. At first glance, she resembled Robert Reed’s daughter Karen, but unless she used a stage name this time around, it wasn’t her.
Of the two ladies evaluating the potential pompom girls, only one gets a credit at the episode’s end. I would be very curious to know who the lady pictured above on the left is. She is one of the most beautiful extras I have ever encountered on TV. Maybe she was the significant other of one of the producers or crew and happened to visit the set that day. The lady with a speaking part is listed in the credits only as the teacher. She was played by Peggy Doyle. “The Brady Bunch” was her second onscreen role, but certainly not her last. Through 2001 she enjoyed a steady acting career to include roles on “CHiPs”, “Highway to Heaven” and “Doogie Howser, MD”. Her final appearance was in 2001 in “The Trouble With Normal”. She died in 2006.
With Jan’s tryout complete, the teacher and that stunning beauty tally the scores and the names of the four new pompom girls are announced. Among them was Jan’s friend Katey, but not among them was Jan. While I am sure most viewers were pulling for Jan to make it, the girl before her had far superior talent in waving the pompoms. We can only assume the other girls did too. Poor Jan. At least her losing didn’t bring with it a face slathered with ice cream while wearing a paper crown, while on TV.
Jan’s misery is short lived. She comes home with the wonderful news that the essay she turned in at the beginning of the episode won the Honor Society contest! She scored a 98, winning over the next best score of 95. Marcia gives a fake interview for the school newspaper and Jan acts like a starlet. However, just like her misery of losing out as pompom girl, he joy is short lived. Jan sits at her desk and kisses her essay before looking it over once again. Here she relishes in her victory by recounting the points her essay scored, only to realize they total only 93 points. Jan has lost yet again.
Here, “The Brady Bunch” takes one of the darkest and strangest turns of the entire series. Jan’s inner bad self begins talking to her. It reasons that nobody will ever know the score was tallied incorrectly and her parents would be crushed with disappointment at knowing she did not win. If this was not bizarre enough, Jan begins verbalizing her own thoughts and arguing with this inner demon. Mike and Carol heard their own advice and encouragement repeated back to them mentally in “A Fistful of Reasons” and even verbally replied. On that occasion, it was done strictly for comedy. Here, Jan is fighting her own conscience which is urging her to do the wrong thing. Had she broken out a Ouija board, things would have really gotten strange. Instead, her inner turmoil and the argument it creates is disrupted by the arrival of Alice, her brothers and Cindy. They are all there to congratulate Jan on a job well done.
Jan’s inner turmoil continues for at least one cycle of sleep as the next scene is of her about to be presented the Honor Society Award at a school assembly. The scene includes the principal, played by Lindsay Workman making announcements to the assembled student body. This was Lindsay Workman’s third appearance on the show. The mundane nature of the announcements being made lead me to believe that an assembly such as this was a weekly occurrence at the school. Sharing there will be a week’s delay of a play and the posting of science lab schedules doesn’t sound worthy of the gathering of a student body. While my school did have an occasional assembly for whatever reason, announcements such as these were made daily over PA system during the first and final class of the day. Perhaps the school’s PA system was inoperable or the principal just made them during this assembly in lieu of afternoon announcements over the PA. We know the school has a PA because Greg was going to use it as part of his campaign in “Vote For Brady”.
Mrs. Watson takes the stage to introduce Jan as the winner of the Honor Society Award. The “good Jan” wins and she rushes out on stage and makes Mrs. Watson aware of the mistake. Mrs. Watson commends Jan for her honesty and sportsmanship. She shares with the entire school what a fine example Jan has been and is a model for all to follow. This leads to a chat backstage with Mike and Carol where Jan shares her inner dilemma. Carol states that sometimes when we lose, we win.
Mrs. Watson was played by Gwen Van Dam. While I’d never heard of her, she certainly hasn’t lacked for work during her long acting career. Her acting career began in 1955 and she continues to work today! While most of her acting resume lists TV movies, she has appeared in feature films, TV dramas and several well known sitcoms. IMDB lists four 2017 acting credits!
The next scene takes place in the girls’ bedroom. No offense to fans of “Her Sister’s Shadow”, but man this episode just seemed to drag on and on. There sure was a lot packed into it. Marcia shares how Jan’s actions were still the buzz among her classmates that day. Cindy comes in complaining that Jan’s heroics in honesty saw another teacher request Cindy be moved to her class. Cindy quotes the lesser known Brady quote of “Jan, Jan, Jan” as she deals with being in Jan’s shadow.
With epilogue finally arriving, we get another dose of the Barry Williams and Ann B. Davis chemistry. Alice is delighted that her housework now moves along more quickly and is more fun as she has taken to dusting the shelves while enacting the moves of a pompom girl. It’d have been funny if she knocked something off the shelf while demonstrating this to Greg, but instead we just get Greg finding it amusing.
“Her Sister’s Shadow” is a very believable and solid episode. It is light on laughs and heavy on drama. While Jan is unhappy with herself, it doesn’t quite fit the mold of one of the “woe is me” plots. Jan actively pursues trying to better herself through the episode instead of just feeling sorry for herself. While her efforts did not include a black wig or bad celebrity impressions, the episode itself wasn’t bad to be primarily non-comedic. Like I stated before, with all of the content, it just seemed to drag on. As always readers, your own thoughts are most welcome. Next week we will review “Click”. See you then!