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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
Bobby and Oliver commence to investigating matters on their own. They question how
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 business, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!