Greetings! Thank you for joining me today to review “Everyone Can’t Be George Washington”! The episode once again takes us to the school stage. The Bradys kids sure did enjoy performing in some way or another didn’t they? This is a fun episode. I remember really liking it as a kid. As an adult, it is still a good episode, but not quite the laugh riot I remember years ago. Let us begin our review of “Everyone Can’t Be George Washington”!
The episode starts in the boys’ room where Peter is practicing for his audition in the school play. As the title suggests, he seeks the role of George Washington. The weak jokes begin quickly. Peter’s auditioning antics annoy his brothers. Greg says for him to keep it up and he will be the first general ever kicked out of his own room. Downstairs, Peter continues to practice the role and asks Marcia, Alice and Carol who he is supposed to be. Marcia answers, “Mickey Mouse”. As a kid, I might have found this funny, but not today.
The lame jokes continue as the next scene begins with Jan arriving home from school. She shares exciting news with her parents that she has a role in the school’s production. Mike and Carol think she has a part in the play and Jan begins to explain she is not really in the play; she is not an actor. Carol asks if she is going to be the cherry tree and laughs at her own joke. Jan is in charge of scenery and special effects. She had a very special qualification that landed her the role; her father is an architect. With this, a very minor b-plot for this episode is introduced.
Peter arrives home with not so great news. Looking sad and dejected, Peter shares he did not get the role of George Washington. Instead, he was cast in the more challenging role of Benedict Arnold. He rues the fact that Benedict Arnold dies at the end of the play. Alice jokes how that is better than dying at the beginning. Perhaps Peter thought that George Washington was immortal and still alive and kicking someplace. He should realize that every character in that play had been departed for well over a century at this time. Peter wants to give up the play all together, but Carol encourages him to stick with it. She uses a baseball analogy in that a coach needs the best players in the right parts just as a play director does. Do you think that Peter being told Benedict Arnold is a harder part was just flattery on the part of the play’s director? It is hard to imagine how a supporting role like this could be more challenging than the lead role. I’ve heard the Father of the USA was a stoic and serious man. Maybe whatever kid got the role was one who delivered his lines with little passion and remained monotone. This scene ends with Carol telling Peter to go do his homework as she will keep an eye out for the redcoats.
The next scene has Mike, Greg, Marcia and Cindy at work on the props. Cindy screws up the moon Marcia has painted by adding a smiley face. If this wasn’t annoying enough, we get a dumb Cindy line to go with it. She says she thinks everybody should have a nice day, even George Washington. Jan takes this very much in stride. Greg’s joke about the waves is comedy gold compared to Cindy’s. Jan is concerned about the waves being too big and hiding the boat from the scene. Greg says they can raise the boat or lower the Delaware. Mike has finished making the boat for the scene and Jan marvels at its authenticity. Mike says this boat has one thing that George Washington’s did not. Jan says, “Of course, it has no interior, oars, it is quite smaller and is made of cardboard instead of wood.” Actually Jan questions what makes this boat different and Mike reveals it sits on roller skates. Whoever wrote this episode had an easily tickled funny bone.
Upstairs, Bobby is helping Peter rehearse lines for the scene. Carol observes and applauds the boys’ efforts. Peter shares how Benedict Arnold is not an easy part to play. Carol reminds him that is why Peter was chosen as he would be able to handle a difficult role. Again, I must question what makes this role so hard. Is this a play about Benedict Arnold or George Washington? Peter makes reference to the earlier baseball analogy and being needed to play in the outfield. Carol says from what she knows, Washington would not have been a very good outfielder. She adds, “He barely made it when he threw that dollar across the Potomac.” I guess I have this episode to thank for teaching me one more thing about history. I’d never heard the story of Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac River. However, a Google search of this states that today this feat is regarded as a myth, as are the stories of Washington confessing to falling the cherry tree and sporting wooden teeth.
There is a brief filler scene showing the Bradys, minus Peter, testing out the finished boat and waves props. They all took to wearing Revolutionary War Era hats made of newspaper to heighten the experience! When one of the wave props falls over, Mike quips that the wave sunk instead of the boat.
Peter’s acting aspirations and the role he will play begin to cause him trouble at school. A classmate named Edith approaches Peter and he shares with her the great part he has in the school play. Edith says it is a great part if he likes being a traitor. Next, Peter encounters Harvey. Peter shares with his pal that he has the toughest part for a guy to play. In reply Harvey surmises, “Betsy Ross.” For me this was the first laugh out loud joke in the episode. Upon learning Peter will portray Benedict Arnold, Harvey seems almost angry and calls Peter a traitor. Peter encounters similar negativity when he encounters Stuart. Stuart rescinds his invitation for Peter to come partake in the ball game at the park as Peter’s role of Benedict Arnold suggests he might throw the game in favor of the opposing team. Good grief, do none of Fillmore Junior High’s students watch television or movies? Did the kids playing the roles of British soldiers catch grief as well for being an enemy of the USA? While one might expect a playful jab at Peter playing a traitorous role, the anger rankled in these kids at Peter’s role is ridiculous.
These dim students were played by Cheryl Beth Jacobs, Michael Barbera and Sean Kelly. Cheryl Beth Jacobs has only this episode as an acting credit on IMDB. A Google search revealed nothing conclusive about her beyond this episode. Michael Barbera had appeared in several well known TV shows before this episode. He was also in the feature film “Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice”. IMDB lists only three TV acting appearances after this one. The final one was a role on CHiPs in the 1980. Unless Michael is now a business adviser to Fortune 50 companies, a Google search provided no current information about him. Sean Kelly had previously appeared on The Brady Bunch episode, “What Goes Up…”. A regular role on the TV series The Cowboys would follow this one along with a few episodes of One Day At A Time. However, IMDB lists no credits beyond 1983 and the name Sean Kelly is just too common for Google to be of much help.
When Peter rehearses the play that afternoon, the taunts and jeers of his classmates have him attempting to rewrite history. He tells the play’s director, Mrs. Bailey, he might not sell the plans after all. An aghast Mrs. Bailey tells Peter that all of the history books state Benedict Arnold was a traitor. Peters asks if they might give the American guy the benefit of the doubt. Such nonsense brings an end to the day’s rehearsals as Mrs. Bailey dismisses the cast. The boy playing Major Andre is quite upset with Peter trying to make him look like the rat for stealing the plans. Uh kid, you are already an enemy of the US. Stealing the plans would make you a hero to your character’s side of the cause. The scene ends with the pair in each other’s faces on the brink of a fight.
Peter arrives home with a bloody nose and ready to quit the play. Readers, was this the only time we saw actual blood on The Brady Bunch? The boos and hisses of his classmates have taken their toll. Maybe Peter should have buddied up with the kid playing Major Andre instead of pissing him off. Since the kids at Fillmore Junior High take acting so seriously, this kid should see that Peter is on his side and seeks to preserve the thirteen colonies as part of the British Empire. Greg reminds Peter that he promised Mike and Carol. What did Peter promise them? He says to himself he won’t quit, but has a better idea.
The next day at rehearsal, Peter attempts to get himself tossed by forgetting his lines. Mrs. Bailey solves this by saying the lines can be taped to the plans for West Point. If Peter gets stuck, he can just read them from there. Peter should have read them very monotone and verbatim if he was trying to get booted from the play. He might have even been downgraded to the lead role of George Washington.
Mrs. Bailey was played by Sara Seegar. Her career in Hollywood began in 1937. Her final acting credit on IMDB was a 1979 episode of The White Shadow. She was a regular on Dennis The Menace playing Eloise Wilson. This role is more commonly remembered “the second Mrs. Wilson”. IMDB lists a fun fact that she played ten different roles on Bewitched. Her most memorable feature film role was in “The Music Man”. Sara Seegar died in 1990.
A malfunctioning prop adds humor to the next scene. Instead of the top of the cherry tree being toppled with an axe, the trunk falls instead.
Peter is doing some falling of his own. Up in his bedroom he stages an injury via tripping on a roller skate. He even stages the room to make it appear he took a bad fall and twisted his ankle. So convincing is his pain and agony that Carol suggests he stay home from school. Peter won’t hear of it and goes to school. His injury remains convincing as Mrs. Bailey states Benedict Arnold had an injury in the same leg, so the limp works into the script perfectly. Imagine if Peter really had hurt himself and it was truly painful to walk. Mrs. Bailey would be in effect saying, “Peter, you will just have to be in pain while you perform your part.”
The episode’s b-plot continues in the next scene. A fun and subtle reference to the past episode “And Now A Word From Our Sponsor” will be noticed by regular viewers of the show. Mike is using Safe laundry detergent for snow. They got so much at the end of that episode, one can guess they had no trouble wasting some for use as snow. While the origin of the detergent is no mystery, I had to question where the Bradys got those two huge ladders! Maybe they were on loan from the school, but it seems like a lot of trouble to lug those home to set up and test such a simple special effect.
As Mike and Carol marvel over the snow effects, Peter arrives home with laryngitis. His latest ruse to be booted from the play has worked. Mike and Carol are suspicious and their questioning of Peter’s injury is fueled by the fact that his limp has cured itself during the course of the day. During this scene Jan gets bad news. Without Peter playing Benedict Arnold, the entire production has been cancelled. Wow, how big of a part does Benedict Arnold have in this play? We’ve seen Peter rehearse only a single scene.
Mike and Carol visit Peter in his room for the episode’s talking to. Peter confesses to not wanting to be in the play any longer. He then learns that without the Benedict Arnold character, the entire play is cancelled. Mike shares that Peter’s letting everybody down is what the real Benedict Arnold did. Peter realizes, “If I don’t play the part of a traitor, I’ll be a traitor.” Peter’s mind is now changed and the show will go on.
The next day is a dress rehearsal for the play which Mike and Carol attend. Why they are attending the dress rehearsal is not made known. Maybe too many kids in the show meant too many parents in the audience and each student could invite only one parent. The night of the show was reserved so that Alice might attend. Peter and Freddie act out the scene that has been rehearsed a few times during the episode.
The end of Peter and Freddie’s scene is bridged by Donna. She comes out to announce the scene that follows; it shows the final minutes of Benedict Arnold’s life. Had Peter not come around or legitimately been ill, Donna could have easily narrated that Benedict Arnold sold the plans to West Point to Major Andre. I doubt the audience would have been terribly upset not to see the final hours of Benedict Arnold’s life.
Freddie/Major Andre was played by Jimmy Bracken. This was his third Brady Bunch episode. He previously appeared in “What Goes Up…” and “The Drummer Boy”. Donna was played by Angela Satterwhite. This was her second appearance on The Brady Bunch. Her first appearance was on the episode “The Power of the Press”.
Peter acts alongside Peggy in the scene that has Benedict Arnold dying. It is played for a mix of drama and comedy. Per Wikipedia, Benedict Arnold’s last moments may not have had him requesting his old uniform. Peggy was played by Barbara Bernstein. She previously appeared in the episode “The Slumber Caper”. With the rehearsal complete, Mike, Carol, Peter and Mrs. Bailey have a brief chat about Peter’s rapid laryngitis cure. Mrs. Bailey suggests it was a dreadful home remedy that required something sweet being added to be consumed. Peter says that Mike just gave it to him straight.
The epilogue has Peter still rehearsing the George Washington part. Bobby squirts him in the face with a water pistol to simulate the spray of the water as Washington crossed the Delaware.
Thank you for joining me to review “Everyone Can’t Be George Washington”. It is one of the more memorable ones, but not one of the most entertaining. There are some good laughs once the episode gets going, but it sure had a rocky start. Whoever it was who enjoyed inserting Benedict Arnold into the previous episodes’ scripts so often sure got his/her fill with this episode. As always readers, your own thoughts and observations are most welcome. Next week, we will review “Love and the Older Man”. This is one I remember not airing as often as others and I remember very little about it. Have a great weekend!