Episode 19: Top Secret

Hello again readers, family and friends!  Thank you for joining me today as we review “Top Secret”.  Bobby and Oliver’s imaginations first ran wild on February 15th, 1974.  This one falls into the Brady Stock category for me as it was aptly written and acted, but not very memorable.  The misconceptions conjured by Bobby and Oliver are believable for kids their age (although just barely for Bobby).  Previous episodes have shown us just how much Sam loves his trade, but the secrecy involving the b-plot was a bit of a stretch.  Let us begin reviewing “Top Secret”!

 

The episode opens with Bobby constructing a card house while Oliver observes.  As Bobby adds the last card and relishes his fine work, the house tumbles into a mess of cards.  Oliver’s branding as a jinx must be a thing of the past as he receives no blame for the house’s collapse.  As Bobby looks upon the ruins of his efforts, a visitor arrives at the Brady home.  It is an FBI agent named Fred Sanders.  As many boys would be, Bobby and Oliver are awestruck at the presence of an FBI agent in their home.

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Don Fenwick

FBI agent Fred Sanders was played by Don Fenwick.  His acting career never provided him a recurring/regular role on a TV series, although he appeared on several different ones. After 1963, all of his work was on television with his final role being an episode of Hart to Hart in 1982.  IMDB shares some interesting trivia in that he has been married to the same lady, actress Marki Bey, since 1974.  The pair operated a murder/mystery cruise business after their acting careers were over.

 

The reason for the FBI agents visit to the home is made known quickly.  Mike had to pass a security clearance for some work he is doing for the government. He explains to Bobby and Oliver it was a routine check for a routine matter.  Finally, he tells them it was for a security clearance.  Why he had to be so cagey and overuse “routine” prior to telling them this is not made clear.

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Despite Mike’s downplaying of the matter and telling the boys to just forget it, their imaginations kick into hyper drive as they think Mike is secretly working for the government.  Bobby tells Oliver not to divulge this to Greg and Peter as they encounter them on the stairs, but only seconds pass before Oliver spills the beans.  Greg and Peter laugh it off and Greg tells them “You’re nuts!”

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In the kitchen, Alice is explaining to Carol and Marcia how a week’s worth of leftovers will comprise the evening’s meal.  My own leftover food rule is three days maximum.  The cost of meat was bemoaned on a previous episode, so maybe desperate times called for more extreme measures.  Perhaps Alice froze Monday and Tuesday’s leftover food.

 

As Alice explains her leftover delicacy, Sam arrives needing to see Mike.  His reason for needing such is kept a secret, but he assures Alice she will be the first to know should it work out.  Just as Bobby and Oliver did, the three ladies begin speculating about what secret Sam has in store for Alice and how it could involve a marriage proposal.  At first Alice will not allow her hopes to be raised, but soon falls victim to the pangs of her lonely heart.

 

On his way to Mike’s den, Sam briefly encounters Bobby and Oliver who further speculate Sam’s being there has something to do with Mike’s FBI work.  The butcher’s secret intentions are made known and have nothing to do with taking a wife or the FBI.  He is looking to possibly expand his butcher shop into a vacant store next to his.  He has asked Mike to draw up some plans to get an estimate on the cost.  Time is of the essence as he needs said plans by Friday.  We all know Sam loves being a butcher.  He has made that clear many times.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that.  However, he may just think a bit too much of his craft if he thinks the possibility of expanding the size of his store warrants this level of secrecy from his long time girlfriend.  Readers, maybe you can share some sound reasoning as to why Sam would not want to share this news with Alice.

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Up in the girls’ room, Marcia shares the exciting news of Alice’s possible nuptials with Jan and Cindy.  Either a day has passed before Marcia did this or she changed her shirt between the kitchen and the bedroom.  At first Marcia is hesitant to share the secret in Cindy’s presence, but Cindy reasons she is older now and it can be shared.  This was a nice continuity reference to Cindy’s snitching ways in earlier seasons.  Marcia shares the exciting yet unconfirmed secret news with her sisters.  Poor Cindy, she finally built up some trust among her sisters and will throw it all way in our next episode.

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Bobby and Oliver commence to investigating matters on their own.  They question how

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When Sam met Alice?

Alice came to know Sam.  She shares she met him at a dance when he was in the army.  When they question what Sam did in the military, Alice doesn’t know.  Perhaps this encounter was years before and they met again later in life.  It is hard to imagine that Alice has known Sam since he was of age to be a soldier and never knew what the man’s specialty was.

The boys continue their investigation by paying Sam a visit at his butcher shop.  Not only has he rearranged since we last saw his place of cockandbullbusiness, it looks like he changed the name to Sam’s Fine Meats.  He also took to decorating the place with some faux meat.  There is no way that plastic pork adorning the walls of Sam’s shop could be real, not even by TV standards.  Sam regales the boys with a tale of how he single handedly stole the enemy code book when he was a soldier.  The boys’ belief of Sam’s story only fuels their imagination.

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Sam’s puffery is interrupted with the arrival of his landlord, Mr. Gronsky.  The boys listen in as the two men discuss the plans from Mr. Brady.  Since Sam is going to hand over the plans Mike is working with, they surmise Sam is a double agent, talking openly of betraying their father/uncle.  Here it seems Bobby might surmise that such a non-clandestine discussion means nothing is amiss.  He doesn’t.

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Back at the Brady house, Bobby and Oliver try to share the news of Sam’s treachery and their father’s peril with Greg and Peter.  The older pair once again laugh off the boys’ concern.  Just to show his complete lack of respect for the younger two, he suggests they use the talcum powder routine to gather evidence.  When they ask him to explain what that is, he dumps talcum powder on their heads.  I would have really enjoyed seeing the younger pair get some level of payback on Greg later in the episode, but no such luck.  I suppose Bobby selling Greg some Neat and Natural Hair Tonic a few episodes from now could be considered karma.

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Mike leaves the information Sam requested in his den for him to pick up later.  Both Alice and Carol try to “accidentally” open the envelope to see what secret Sam is hiding.  Tattling and snooping were both condemned by Carol in the past, but here she does not practice what she preaches.

 

Sam arrives to pick up the plans from Mike’s den and is observed by Bobby and Oliver.  Sam is in a hurry and can’t visit with the pair and rushes out.  Thinking Sam has stolen Mike’s FBI related plans, they attempt to call Mike.  As Bobby rotary dials the number, Oliver states he wishes they had a push button phone so Bobby could dial more quickly.  For some reason, this one line has always remained wedged in my memory.

 

On their second attempt to reach Mike, the boys learn he is going to Sam’s butcher shop.  The pair race over there to prevent Mike from meeting any peril.  Upon arrival, they find Mike has not arrived and Sam is willing to share more about his army days.  While doing this, Mr. Gronsky arrives.  He and Sam go in the meat locker to check out some faulty workings.   The boys see this as their chance to rescue Mike and capture the bad buys.  They slam the locker closed with Sam and Mr. Gronsky inside.  Fortunately, Mike arrives seconds later and sets things straight.

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The next scene begins with Sam and Mr. Gronsky laughing off the misunderstanding and all is forgiven.  Mike does lecture Bobby and Oliver on jumping to conclusions.  A really bad joke about coming in from the cold is made and the scene ends.

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Lew Palter

Mr. Gronsky was played by Lew Palter.  Most of his work was done on TV to include recurring roles on Delvecchio and L.A. Law.  He did appear in the feature film “Titanic”.  IMDB lists no work between 2001 and 2018.  The 2018 credit is for a short film.  IMDB lists he is also an acting instructor.

epilogue

The epilogue has Sam finally sharing with Alice the reason for his secrecy.  She is none too happy to learn his actions were business related and not romance fueled.  Poor Alice, we are once again reminded of her old maid status.

Thank you for reviewing “Top Secret” with me.  There really was not too much to pick apart and critique.  The story is solid, if not silly, and what one would expect for a juvenile audience.  At this point, The Brady Bunch had changed from a family sitcom to a kids’ show.  However, I could have easily seen this episode airing in an earlier season with Peter and Bobby conjuring up a tale of Mike’s FBI mission coupled with Sam’s treachery.  Please share your own thoughts on this episode!  Next week, we review “The Snooperstar”.  See you then!

 

 

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Author: bradybunchreviewed

I am a lifelong fan of the Brady Bunch. I love it for it's wholesomeness, it's absurdity and how it serves as a time capsule for a time that really never existed, but so many of us wish it did. The show was off the air by the time I was born, but I enjoyed it daily at 4:35 PM for years on Atlanta's Superstation 17, TBS. Through the years I've enjoyed the Brady Bunch spinoffs (however short lived), revivals in pop culture, books, reunions, movies and spoofs. Now, I am excited to be revisiting the show after nearly a decade's hiatus from viewing. I am a parent now, so there may be some new perspectives never before experienced. I hope my fellow fans, lovers and haters alike of the Brady Bunch will join me on this blogging adventure and share your own thoughts and observations.

24 thoughts on “Episode 19: Top Secret”

  1. Good treatment of an okay story. What is most notable to me about this episode is that we find out that Sam’s last name is Franklin. It is written on the envelope left for Sam in Mike’s den. We also see a rare glimpse of the den’s fourth wall, as shown in one of the pictures you posted.

    In this episode we see the pairing of Bobby and Oliver, a possible template of future developments. Unlike The Partridge Family, where Ricky Segall was mainly used in rare scenes after his first appearance, usually singing in the tag scene, here we see the more common sitcom tactic of pairing the new cute kid with the next youngest kid of the same gender. This was observed on Diff’rent Strokes and The Cosby Show.

    Oliver’s line about push-button dialing always stuck with me, too. We got our first push-button phone around that same time. Though the feature arrived at different times around the country, in New York City, 1974 saw a huge increase in “touch-tone” home phones. The feature came with an extra fee on the monthly bill, and did so long after rotary dialing had everywhere fallen by the wayside.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for commenting! Good catch on the seldom (if ever before) seen fourth wall of Mike’s den. Based on the home’s exterior, it could be expected to see a window there. Good comparison with Diff’rent Strokes and The Cosby Show. I had not even thought of that.

      A friend moved into an old home in the early 2000s that still had a rotary phone on the wall. His employment still required him to use a pager (which where rapidly becoming antiquated at the time). Just for fun, he attempted to page himself using the rotary phone. The technologies clashed and it did not work! Thanks for the history on the extra charge for a push button phone.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. We saw the den’s fourth wall when Greg converted it to his mod bedroom. We may also have seen it when Peter burst in, looking for his surprise party.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. “Top Secret” is a middle of the road 5th season episode for me. Not great (the Cincinnati Kids) but not a time filler (the Elopement) either. Yes, the fourth wall of the den makes its only appearance here. Most of my memories of this episode you’ve already touched upon: the lame looking fake meat on the butcher shop wall, the bad joke from Sam (although younger viewers may not get the cultural reference) and of course Oliver bemoaning the existence of the rotary phone for a slower dialing experience. One thing you hadn’t mentioned was the name of the guest star: Gronsky. To me, it sounded vaguely Russianesque (along with his prominent mustache). It’s also weird that Jan and Cindy have perhaps the least amount of air time on this outing than any other episode. Just that short scene with Marcia. I haven’t seen the episode in a while, so maybe I’m off a bit.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I thought it was odd that Mike never told Carol about any of this…him doing work for the government and having to get a security clearance. Just seems like the kind of thing he would at least mention. I know it was just a routine matter…but still. And why didn’t he give her a heads-up that an FBI agent might be stopping by? Unless he didn’t know…but if that’s the case, why didn’t the FBI agent call Mike to let him know he would be stopping by?
    Another thing that’s weird (and it happens in alot of episodes)…is that everybody is always referring to Sam as “Sam, the butcher”. In this episode, Oliver says it at 13:29 when he and Bobby are telling Greg and Peter what’s going on. I mean…what other Sam is there? And even if there were two Sams, wouldn’t it make more sense to differentiate this Sam by saying “Sam, Alice’s boyfriend”? Sam even refers to himself as “Sam, the butcher” at 22.32 after he finds out why Bobby and Oliver locked him in the freezer! He says “How ’bout that? Me…Sam, the butcher…A spy!” LOL

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s funny. As far as I remember, this was the only time Sam’s last name was ever seen, and it was never spoken by any of the characters. Barry Williams mentioned this in his book, along with the “The Butcher” ending, in writing when mentioning Sam’s last name “…you probably thought it was ‘da Butcher'”.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think the 4th wall of the den made a brief appearance when Greg made the den his room (“our son the man”). When Mike and Carol first entered Greg’s new room, we get a shot if it from their point of view. .. the room was dark, so you couldn’t see much, other than the wall covered with posters and other decorations

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Although an imaginative Bobby wanted to protect his father, he ought to know the perils of being shut in the meat locker after he closed himself and Greg in there back in Season Three’s “Big Little Man”, and Mike should have reminded him of that incident during his lecture to the two boys. Guess Sam still has to modernize the locker! Speaking of which, this episode marks the final appearance of Allan Melvin as Sam the butcher.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Agree with BBR that this eposode does not have a lot of “meat” in it to critique. Ok..bad reference to Sam’s profession there. Here are my thoughts about this episode:
    -Several people have called this episode middle of the road. IMDB has a user rating for this episode of 5.8/10 with 78 votes so it is certainly falls in the middle. By contrast, Hawaii Bound on IMDB has an 8.1 rating, Personality Kid 7.7, Two Petes in a Pod 6.3, and our old standby You’re Never Too Old with a dismal 5.3 which is probably more generous than it deserves. Overall for the entire series The Brady Bunch, IMDb has a 6.7 user rating that includes 6.5 for males and skews slightly higher at 7.1 for females. Do I now sound like Oliver by letting you know all these fascinating numbers?
    -Alice is in the den when she sees the envelope for Sam Franklin and then she calls for Mrs Brady with a voice that’s a little louder than normal. Carol enters the room as if the house is on fire, asking Alice what’s wrong. But Alice did not have that severe a tone in her voice to give reason for Carol to have entered that dramatically.
    -Not too long ago in The Elopement, Carol, along with her family, made a big false assumption that Alice and Sam were getting married and wanted to buy a house. It’s surprising that Carol went along with Alice in this episode assuming that Sam was perhaps again looking for a house. Perhaps this emphasizes that older scripts were being recycled at this point in the series.
    -During the opening ‘house of cards’ scene did anyone else besides me think back to the very early episode with the trading stamps and the house of cards?
    -I loved all the comments about Sam’s meat shop different look and the meat props.

    That’s all I have for this episode. OMG are we really nearly at the Shirley Temple eposde?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great thoughts Marty! The card house did bring back memories of an earlier era of The Brady Bunch. It is difficult to compare the early seasons with the later ones as the show seemed completely different by then .

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  7. Great review, and great comments, everyone!

    A few thoughts…I’ve tried posting this several times (over the last couple of days) and it doesn’t seem to go through; so I apologize in advance if it ends up being posted multiple times.

    1) I would think that Mike would explain at least on the kids level what the FBI was doing. He was way to vague about it being a “routine” matter. If it was so “routine”, then why haven’t any FBI agents shown up at the door prior to now? Mike should know that this requires a bit of an explanation so that Bobby and Oliver don’t get a bunch of crazy ideas. Telling them to “forget it” is the exact WRONG thing to say to two boys their age.

    2) lol, they just went through “The Elopement” and now Sam shows up with another “secret”… and all of a sudden everybody thinks Alice and Sam are engaged again???

    3) Just as with the original “house of cards” in 54/40 and Fight, Bobby’s house of cards collapses…but a couple (held up with wires) are still standing after the rest of the house collapses.

    4) Allen Melvin played several “Military” characters in his career. He was well known as “Sgt Hacker” on the series “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”, playing Sgt. Carter’s buddy/enemy. He also played an army buddy of Rob Petrie in “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (in some episodes which were “flashbacks” to Rob’s time in the Army). I believe he was also the voice of Sgt. Snorkel in the “Beetle Bailey” cartoons produced in the early-mid 60s. I’m guessing that the picture of “Sam” from his “Army days” is from the Dick Van Dyke Show?

    5) I’ve never tried knocking a sealed envelope to the floor to see if it would open. That was kind of strange.

    6) I remember getting our first push button phone at our house. I wouldn’t have guessed this, but the first push button phones came out in November of 1963! Not sure when the first time was that one appeared in an episode of a TV Show. I think it was probably around 1972 that we got ours. I remember we could play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the touch tone buttons. 3 2 1 2 3 3 3 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 2 1 2 3 3 3 3 2 2 3 2 1

    7) I’m not sure how much I liked this episode when it first aired. It’s not one that I would watch in reruns today…I was probably past the age of jumping to conclusions the way Bobby and Oliver did. But of course, with the ongoing success of James Bond, the long and successful run of the sitcom “Get Smart”, and the actual Cold War going on, Spying was on a lot of people’s minds. I agree that Bobby was of borderline age to jump to these kinds of conclusions.

    8) This episode seems like it was written for this season and for Bobby and Oliver. It doesn’t seem like an old script that was resurrected from the scrap heap in order to fulfill an episode commitment.

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  8. Not one of my favorite episodes, but the nods to past episodes with the house of cards and Bobby locking Sam and Mr. Gronsky in the meat locker were interesting.
    The moment where Oliver blabs about the FBI visit to Greg and Peter on the stairs was pretty funny, especially when Greg tells him and Bobby to “come closer” before saying “You’re nuts!”

    Liked by 1 person

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