Hello again dear readers. Thank you for joining me to review “My Fair Opponent”. It originally aired March 3rd, 1972. It is an episode centered on Marcia and much like a previous episode focusing on her, “Juliet Is The Sun”, it is played mostly for drama with few laughs. For the second episode in a row, there is no b-plot. The entire episode focuses on Marcia’s helping a shy and awkward girl and then finding herself in direct competition with her. Let us begin our review of “My Fair Opponent”.
The episode opens with very up-tempo music. It is there to give instrumental accompaniment to the fury and anger Marcia is experiencing. Marcia comes home from school mad as a hornet who just had his nest kicked. As she storms into the yard, she angrily kicks a basketball. Marcia better be careful doing that near sliding glass doors! (Yes, I realize those on the set were without glass). Inside, Cindy is creating some chalk art. The family chalkboard was conveniently moved for the episode so Marcia could show her ire by changing Cindy’s drawing. The chalkboard normally hung on the broom closet door. Marcia crosses out the word “Nice” from Cindy’s “Have A Nice Day” drawing and adds a frowning face to the emoji she was drawing. As she goes upstairs, she encounters Mike who asks her what is wrong. She is so mad she can’t even discuss it with him.
The next scene, in what I assume would have followed a commercial break in 1972, has Marcia in her room with the music used in the opening still playing. I don’t recall such musical direction in a previous episode. Mike and Carol enter the room to discuss with Marcia why she is so upset. Marcia explains that her senior class at the junior high school pulled a mean and dirty trick. They nominated an unpopular and shy girl to compete against the most popular in the girl for the honor of being hostess for senior banquet night. The nomination was done as a mean trick as nobody would actually consider the girl, Molly Webber, for the honor. Apparently the cruelty of the joke went over poor Molly’s head as she was excited to be nominated. Sadly, I recall things like this happening in my academic days. One can only remind himself/herself that kids can be cruel like that. Mike and Carol suggest Marcia do something about what’s happened and try to help Molly.
The next morning, the kids all leave for school and pick up their lunches as they go. Season 3 really wanted us to dislike Peter. He’s been a real jerk in more than one previous episode and is so again in this one. He suggests Marcia would be able to help Molly by putting a bag over her head. Carol only chides him in telling him what he said wasn’t nice. Of course it wasn’t, Peter wasn’t trying to be when he said it. I am glad Peter’s character would not maintain this direction as the series progressed. As Marcia leaves, it occurs to her how she can be Molly’s saving grace. She recalls the plot of the movie “My Fair Lady” (hence the episode’s title). She decides she will follow the action by Professor Higgins in the film and render Molly Webber popular and likeable. Friends, I have never seen this movie, so I can’t draw any further parallels to it. Feel free to share any knowledge you have of it!
That afternoon, Marcia brings home Molly Webber. The poor girl is very shy around the boys and after meeting them, Peter shares with Greg another insult about her. Jan and Cindy watch Marcia and Molly’s arrival from the family room. Props to Susan Olson for her ability to make it appear her hands are on the glass. She also gives one of the episodes few chuckle worthy moments as she really lays it on thick with the compliments upon meeting Molly. As Molly meets Mike and Carol, her clumsy ways are made known as she knocks a bowl of carrots onto the floor.
Up in Marcia’s room, in another clumsy moment, Molly spills what looks like 25 pencils from her notebook. How many pencils does this girl need at one time? It looks like she has her supply for the entire school year on hand. Marcia begins to propose her idea of giving Molly a makeover. The director of this episode did a fine job of making Molly look so plain and unremarkable. Her dress is very simple and fits loosely on her. Her hair is pulled back and made to look very simple. The final touch to her awkward appearance is a pair of oversized black glasses. Marcia has her take them off and tells her she has beautiful eyes behind her glasses. How do glasses hide one’s eyes? In a convenient turn of events, we learn Molly has a pair of contact lenses available. She agrees to let Marcia help her reinvent herself and her look. As they leave the bedroom, one more reminder of her clumsy ways is made known as he bumps into Marcia’s bed.
The montage of scenes that follows shows Marcia’s efforts to help Molly. In a lesson on conversation, Marcia encourages poise and dignity on the part of Molly. A lesson in posture has Molly walking across the living room with a book on her head. Fashion sense is shared up in the girls’ room as Marcia suggests Molly show more leg. Hairdos are part of the final lesson we see on camera. Over the course of the scenes with Molly thus far in the episode, we have seen her wear three different dresses. Either she had a closet full of fashionable and stylish clothes she never chose to wear or somebody footed the bill for a shopping trip. During the rest of the episode, she is dressed in the current styles of the day.
The new and improved Molly enters the Bradys’ backyard in the next scene. She greets the boys who paid her little mind only a few days before. They now think she is a total babe. Not pining for their attention, she leaves abruptly after saying hello. Greg references Peter’s earlier insult calling her a wipeout by saying she just got wiped back in. Inside, Carol, Alice and Mike are also impressed by the change that has come over Molly. She greets them confidently and is no longer the bashful girl they knew only days before. Changes in clothes and looks are believable, but Molly finding this new level of confidence in such a short time was a stretch for me. Upstairs, Jan and Cindy marvel at the new Molly before Marcia boots them out of the room so the pair can work on Molly’s speech for the selection committee.
The episode’s conflict arrives in the next scene. Marcia is home from school with upsetting news. The most popular girl in the class won’t be competing with Molly for the honor of being hostess after all. She had to drop out of the competition. Unbeknownst to everyone, Marcia was third in line to be selected for the hosting honor and is now in direct competition with Molly. Marcia discusses with Carol how she would enjoy the honor of hosting the banquet, but at the same time, doesn’t want to destroy Molly’s newfound confidence by beating her out in the competition. Marcia “discusses” this with Carol without letting her mom get a word in. She hems and haws back and forth over the decision to compete or withdraw. She finally decides to withdraw and in a funny moment thanks Carol for her help.
The next day, a new wrench is thrown into the previous resolution. Jan shares with Marcia the guest of honor at the senior banquet is none other than a moon-bound astronaut! Previous years have seen the guest of honor was only the school principal. This year, the school’s most famous graduate, Lt. Colonel Dick Whitfield, will escort the hostess for the evening. I could not help but think how in previous years, girls vied for the honor of an evening with the school principal as her escort. It doesn’t sound appealing.
In the next scene, Molly is is seen socializing with some other girls before approaching Marcia. One of the girls, Suzanne, gets an acting credit for the episode. She was played by Suzanne Roth. This was one of three television appearances per IMDB. The new and improved Molly soon shows herself not so improved personality-wise. Marcia shares with Molly she is too busy to compete for the hostess honor and will be withdrawing from the race. Molly says that is too bad because it would have been a close race. Marcia is a bit miffed at Molly’s remark but is even more so in the comments that follow. Molly, not even acknowledging Marcia’s contribution, states her new found popularity and confidence reveal that she has “arrived”. Molly states that if Marcia thought she had a chance of winning the race, then she would not be “too busy” to compete against her. This upsets Marcia to the point that she decides she will remain in the race for banquet hostess. Molly tells Marcia to go ahead and try to beat her. I like this scene as it reminds us that those who are meek and timid can also be selfish and shallow. Especially during adolescence, a quiet or reserved person is given the “nice” label and thought to be harmless or a even a pushover
Molly Webber was played by Debi Storm. An interesting bit of trivia is that Debi Storm was originally cast in the role of Jan on The Brady Bunch, before Sherwood Schwartz decided all of the Brady girls would be blond. Before this episode, Debi Storm had appeared in the feature films “Village of the Giants” and “The Brotherhood of Satan”. She would later appear in “Fun With Dick and Jane”. Among her many television credits were appearances on Green Acres, I-Spy and Emergency! IMDB lists her last acting credit as an episode of Dallas in 1979. A Google search provided a 2008 interview with the actress. Debi Storm Interview
The next scenes must have been shot to fill some time in the episode. Jan recaps to Greg Marcia’s decision to remain in the competition and Molly’s inflated ego. Greg takes a few jabs at the female mentality before clarifying it doesn’t apply to sisters. Marcia faces a quandary in her own speech writing effort as she used all of her best words to craft Molly’s speech. This has not eroded her confidence in winning the coveted hostess role though. She seeks dancing advice from Mike and Carol so she may dance well with the older guest of honor. This follows with Mike waltzing with Carol, then Marcia and then Alice. While it was a sweet scene, it still felt like episode filler. In the next scene, the boys do some humorous impersonations of what they see as female vanity. This too does nothing to advance the plot, but does provide a breath of humor for the episode.
The episode’s story resumes with Molly and Marcia giving their speeches. We have the previous filler scenes to thank for not having to listen to both speeches in their entirety. The scene shows the start of Molly’s and the end of Marcia’s speech. The committee tallies the scores and states it was the speeches that resulted in their final decision; the one that awards Molly the coveted hostess role! The only speaking role afforded to the committee was played by Lindsay Workman. This was one of many appearances he had playing different roles on The Brady Bunch.
The episode ends happily with one final visit from Molly. She has come to apologize to Marcia for her bad behavior. She also has some exciting news and a surprise visitor. Lt. Col. Whitfield has accompanied Molly to the Brady house. They are there to share that this year’s senior night will be co-hosted by two hostesses. So elated is Marcia that she initially closes the door on them, only to let them in and exit the house herself. It was one final attempt at laughs in this low humor episode.
Lt. Colonel Dick Whitfield was played by William Wellman. He is listed in the closing credits only as “The Astronaut”. He enjoyed a long acting career, appearing on many, many TV shows, but never with a regular role. His feature film credits include “It’s Alive!” and two Billy Jack films. His most recent acting credit on IMDB is direct to video Star Trek release in 2007.
The epilogue has Marcia home from the senior banquet. She was the first to dance with the astronaut and knows their waltz will always be one he remembers. She knows this because she stepped on his feet seven times. The dress Marcia is wearing is not in line with any 1970s styles I am familiar with. For me, it rang more 1870s. Readers, do any of you recall girls wearing dresses such as this in the 1970s?
Thank you for joining me to review “My Fair Opponent”. This definitely does not rank among my favorite episodes. The story is solid enough, but not very interesting to me. It lacks any of that craziness or zaniness that made the show what it was. The lesson about humility and helping others is a good one though. Like many other Brady friends we would meet, Molly is never seen or mentioned again. Your own thoughts and opinions are most welcome. Next week we will not be reviewing “The Fender Benders”. To celebrate Christmas, the film “A Very Brady Christmas” will be reviewed instead. This review will not be the detailed play by play like those done for the episodes. I don’t think I have the time or energy to write such, nor do you have the time or energy to read such. I had originally hoped to review the film as a Sunday Special, but December 25th will be here before we know it and my fatherly holiday duties are many! I hope you will enjoy the movie review in place of an episode. See you then!