Episode 21: The Hustler

Greetings again!  Thank you for joining me today to review “The Hustler”.  The episode first aired on March 1st, 1974.  The title of this episode is peculiar as it does not seem anybody gets hustled.  It is just discovered that Bobby has a knack for shooting pool.  The b-plot brings back reminders of “Miss Popularity” as Mike and Carol find they have an ever growing guest list for a dinner party.  Both plots get the job done as far as the episode goes, but the only really memorable thing about this story is the second appearance of Jim Backus in a guest spot.  Let us begin reviewing “The Hustler”!

The episode begins with the Brady boys playing basketball while Oliver holds up the privacy fence.  1974 must not have had the requirement that large trucks have a beeping noise when in reverse.  Somehow none of the four boys notice a large delivery truck backing down the driveway until it is just a few feet away.  The item being delivered is addressed to Mike and a mystery to the family.  Alice says the crate is large enough to hold a dinosaur.  Oliver says this is not true as most species of dinosaur were thirty feet long.  I found this funny as this is something a kid would respond with.  Since Mike isn’t home yet, they must all wait in suspense to find out what was delivered.


The next scene begins with Mike and the boys opening the crate.  In the past few years, I have taken up woodworking as a hobby.  As the crate was opened, I could not help but think of all the things I could do with that wood.  Upon the crate falling open, it is discovered the contents are a pool table.  Mike has no idea who would send the him such.  Alice utters a painful “joke” as she says she will be behind the eight ball if she does not get dinner racked up.  Man, with a line like that, it really seemed like the writers were just phoning it in at this point.

“Yes, it was me that sent you that big cumbersome gift without even knowing if you like to play the game.”

The origin of the pool table is made known in the next scene.  The president of Mike’s firm, Mr. Matthews, pays Mike a visit and is confirmed as the sender of the table.  The pool table was sent as a reward for Mike landing a big contract for the firm.  Maybe it was the Penelope Fletcher contract from the last episode?   Mr. Matthews suggests Mike set up the pool table in the living room of the Brady home.  Mr. Matthews must really have some sway with Mike as the living room is suggested to Carol as a place for the table.  Carol shoots this down right away and suggests the garage.  This must have just been added as filler as it is hard to imagine Mike even thinking such placement would actually be agreed upon by Carol.


Bobby’s pool shooting prowess is made known as he makes a challenging shot in front of Peter and Greg.  It is briefly mentioned that Bobby often shoots pool at the home of a friend.  For me this one line really helped the episode’s credibility.  Bobby is not some billiards savant; he has actually practiced the game.


As Mike and Carol sit in the family room, a funny exchange occurs.  Carol states if the pool table doesn’t stay in the garage, she will go stay with her mother.  Mike says this is “tempting”.  After five years of marriage, this may be the first unromantic line uttered among Mike and Carol.  The scene continues with plans to have Mr. Matthews over for dinner as a way of showing gratitude for the pool table.


The dinner guest list grows in the next scene.  Mr. Matthews shares with Mike he must decline the dinner/pool invitation as he all ready had committed to dinner with another firm employee.  Mike suggests that guy and his wife accompany Mr. Matthews and his spouse.  Back at the Brady house, Carol is sending Marcia and Jan to the store for the makings of the dinner.  They comment on the money being spent for such an important dinner guest.  A few seconds later, Mike calls and confirms with Carol they are having soup for dinner and she will need to add some water because the guest list just grew.  One can’t help but wonder what fancy makings are going into this soup as Jan and Marcia just commented on the cost.  Also, if it is such an important guest, a main course of soup seems unusual.

Anything remotely resembling a hustle occurs in the next scene.  Bobby is bragging about how easy it would be to beat Greg and Peter in a game of pool.  They overhear this and challenge their youngest brother to a game.  A bet is made that the loser must shine the other’s shoes for a month.  Bobby runs the table and demands some well maintained shoes by day’s end.  If Bobby had walked up and pretended not to know what a pool cue was or thought that sinking the cue ball was a good thing, this would have been a fine hustle.  However, Bobby earlier proclaimed and displayed his fine skills.  He also bragged he could easily beat Greg and Peter, so no hustle occurs here.

The final Bobby Brady dream sequence of the series follows.  All through the series, it has been Bobby’s sleeping psyche that was shared with viewers.  This time around, Bobby is onstage before a royal looking audience displaying his expert pool shooting ability.  It was an interesting piece of stock footage showing such a regal crowd.  Cindy and Oliver, dressed in royal attire, bring Bobby his cue and chalk.  Some really impressive billiard shots are seen from above.  I was hoping IMDB trivia might share who was the master of the pool cue for this episode, but it remains a mystery for now.  If some other fan has been made aware, please share with us who was making the shots.

Bobby’s dream inspired in him some late night practice.  Greg arrives home at a late hour and shares with Mike and Carol that Bobby is out in the garage shooting pool.  Mike goes outside and has Bobby come in.  Mike suggests a spanking is in order as he says he will be showing Bobby what he can do with the other end of a pool stick.  Physical discipline is not on the agenda by the time he reaches the garage.  He tells Bobby he is proud of his dedication to practicing the game, but he has his entire life ahead of him to do that and doesn’t need to be up in the middle of the night doing it.

Marcia and Jan arrive home with additional groceries for the upcoming dinner party.  They comment on how “Old Mr. Schultz” is enjoying the extra business Carol is sending his way.  I always associated this exchange with “Miss Popularity” as the Brady guest list grew, but I was wrong.  The guest list grows yet again.  Back at Mike’s office, Mr. Matthews laments he must decline the evening of dinner and billiards as two more people had been invited to the engagement he was to attend.  Without Mike even suggesting they too be invited, Mr. Matthews says he won’t hear of it, despite wanting exactly that.  Mike says the other couple is welcome to attend.  The suggesting while not hearing of it bit is used on sitcoms of old pretty frequently.  However, seeing a talent like Jim Backus perform it was fun.


Speaking of Jim Backus, he really needs no sideline to explain what a talent he was or what a great career he had.  We previously saw him on The Brady Bunch in “Ghost Town, U.S.A”.  It is fun to think that maybe the old prospector’s gold claim saw him find riches enough to purchase the firm Mike works for.  Perhaps when he took over, he and Mike thought they’d met before but just could not place from where.


Before the dinner guests arrive, all the other kids except Bobby (and Greg) leave for the evening.  We can assume Greg was chilling in his attic abode or had left all ready.  Bobby must stay home because he has accumulated a homework backlog as his studies have suffered at his billiards ambitions.  The dinner guests all arrive at the same time.  Either they shared one vehicle, caravanned together or just happen to all arrive at the exact same time.

Dorothy Shay as Frances Matthews

The additional guests were played by Dorothy Shay, Charles Stewart, Jason Dunn, Susan Quick and Grayce Spence.  Of all the guests, only Dorothy Shay had a notable career in Hollywood.  She played Mr. Matthews’ wife Frances.  IMDB shares that after she had worked to lose her southern accent as it seemed detrimental to her career ambitions, she later became famous singing hillbilly songs.  She would appear on eight episodes of The Waltons.  She died in 1978.

Speaking of acting credits, Robbie Rist got no mention in the closing credits of this episode.

Before having dinner, Mr. Matthews and the other men go out to the garage for a game of pool.  He takes each one of them on in a game with a dime going to the victor.  Mr. Matthews defeats all three.  Bobby comes outside with his homework complete and asks if he may watch.  Soon, he is playing against Mr. Matthews.  Instead of the hefty sum of ten cents, Mr. Matthews will play Bobby for a pack of chewing gum.  As a kid I wondered why this was the wager as Bobby has braces and kids with orthodontia should not be chewing gum.  As expected, Bobby runs the table and defeats Mike’s boss many times over.  By the time play is complete, Mr. Matthews owes Bobby 256 packs of chewing gum.


In a funny conclusion, Mr. Matthews blames the chirping crickets for breaking his concentration and contributing to his losing the game.   Carol suggests they give up their pool table as they really don’t have room for it.  Mr. Matthews was about ready to give up the game all together, but then thinks with a bit more practice he can become even better.   We don’t see it onscreen, but this must have been quite a blow for Bobby who aspired to be a pool champ.  Had the series made it to a sixth season, there might have been episode about the youngest brother hanging out in dive bars after school so he might get the practice he so desperately needs to someday play before a royal audience.

The epilogue has the same truck and delivery man returning to the Brady home.  The delivery guy was played by Lenny Bremen.  We previously saw him as the exterminator in “The Impractical Joker”.  For some reason, the truck backed all the way down the driveway to hand over a small package.  It is the 256 packs of chewing gum owed to Bobby.  The old prospector must like to flaunt his riches as it would have been cheaper and easier to just give it to Mike to take home to Bobby.

Thank you for reviewing “The Hustler” with me.  Like the previous episode, there isn’t too much to pick apart and critique.  I’ve noticed that reviewing these later episodes, the same energy and feel that came with viewing the earlier seasons is now missing and it also seems to be missing in the review process.  Earlier scripts seemed a bit deeper and more developed and offered themselves up to better reviews than these final few Brady Bunch episodes.  Next week, we conclude the series with “The Hair Brained Scheme”.  In the weeks that follow, we will all share our thoughts on “The Top Five” categories for the show.



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.

26 thoughts on “Episode 21: The Hustler”

  1. I always thought that it would have been nice to have had Mr. Phillips and his wife in this episode.

    Lennie Bremen, as you point out, was the exterminator in Jan’s practical joker episode. He was also the truck driver who delivered Farnum’s 2000 boxes of soap.

    Mr. Matthews referred to Bobby as a hustler during their pool game, and then as a hustler’s hustler. While, as you point out, that is not an accurate description of Bobby, the episode’s title is a reference to the 1961 film The Hustler, starring Paul Newman as a young hustler who beats legendary pool champ Minnesota Fats, played by Jackie Gleason. Gritty black and white drama.

    Thanks, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, The Hustler movie was the origin of this episode’s title. Many Brady Bunch episodes have a reference to a popular movie at that time or shortly before the Brady Bunch aired or maybe even a little bit longer before like this reference from 1961. Unfortunately those movies aren’t quite as popular now so we don’t get the references. For those of you who watch Grey’s Anatomy, virtually all of the episode names are based on song titles. And of course everybody knows that Friends episodes all start with “The One Where…”, which actually was a joke at first because the writers were just trying to name the episodes and one writer said why don’t you just make it easy and call it “the one where” blah blah blah

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “As a kid I wondered why this was the wager as Bobby has braces and kids with orthodontia should not be chewing gum.”
    Good point. I’ve always been bothered by that myself. Also, we see Bobby eating popcorn at the amusement park in Cincinnati, another thing one should not be acting with braces.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review again! I think this was the best of the Oliver episodes (which may not be saying much), and it had some funny lines. I especially remember one of the other men making a very un-Brady comment to Mike: “If that was my kid, I’d break his arm!”.

    “You Can’t Win ’em All” from Season 4 was the episode with the ever-expanding dinner guest list, not “Miss Popularity”, which had Mike & Carol’s impending trip as a B-plot.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Like Jon H, I find “The Hustler” to be the best of the Oliver BB episodes. Yes, a credit for who the pool mastermind was in Bobby’s dream would’ve been nice. This was Robert Reed’s final appearance on the BB proper. Too bad this wasn’t the show’s final episode. But alas, the lamentable “Hair-Brained Scheme” finished the show off (in more ways than one).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The episode that had the ever growing guest list was “You Can’t Win ‘Em All”. I remember this episode as the only time Bobby slept in the top bunk. I also always wondered how Bobby felt when they gave away the pool table. I even wondered why Greg didn’t go to the movies with the other kids. it’s possible he had a date.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for catching that. I should have done my research a bit better instead of just going off memory. Good observation on Bobby being on the top bunk. The first night Oliver arrived he was on the top bunk, not Bobby.


  6. I enjoyed this episode. Perhaps because I enjoy pool.
    -Oliver has a noticeable nasty injury to his lip throughout this episode. I can’t remember which Brady book where this is mentioned, but I seem to remember that Robbie Rist was playing on the backyard set teeter totter when he fell and cut his lip. Unlike Greg in the UFO episode, the producers did not try to hide it.
    -Even though Mr. Matthews is president of the company, he is kind of rude by just opening Mike’s office door and walking in. He did it not only once but several times.
    -Continuity error. When Cindy rides her bicycle up the driveway and Bobby is playing pool, the scene cuts to Cindy and you hear a pool shot in the background. But when the scene goes back to Bobby, the balls are in the same position as before the scene cut to Cindy.
    -It’s pretty sad that the only roles for Marcia and Jan in this episode were going back to the market several times
    -I am guessing that the pool shots were stock footage purchased cheaply for this episode. Then the producers got a pool table that looked like the one in the stock footage and had Bobby set up the shots based on what was already in that footage. I wouldn’t think that they would have hired a pool expert to do those shots. Just as in some of other Bobby’s dreams where they showed skiers and race cars and things like that – all stock footage.
    -256 packs of gum weighs quite a lot as gum is pretty dense. Yet Carol could easily lift this package with one hand. It was obviously a prop with nothing in it.
    -Poor Susan Olsen. In the previous episode she had to wear a silly Shirley Temple outfit and in this episode she had to wear a silly Royal Servant outfit
    -Wow..we are really down to the last episode next week!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I meant that the pool shots in his dream were stock footage. Most of the other pool shots in the garage seem to be the actors really shooting and I’m sure they each had several takes before they got the pool shot to actually work. The White Shadow was the same way, having the actors actually shooting the basketball but usually requiring multiple takes before the basket actually was made.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. When Peter was about to retrieve a crowbar to open the crates, and Carol said that since it was addressed to Mike, that they had to wait for him to open it, and Bobby said, “You mean we have to wait for Dad?” and CRol said “Right!” I am always half waiting for Bobby to say “Aw, that sucks!”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This episode is one of the few tolerable ones of the final Brady Bunch Season. I have wondered for YEARS who did the pro off-camera pool shooting for Mike Lookinland in this episode? I don’t think that soup was the main course in the Brady’s dinner menu? I think I remember something about “Swedish Meatballs from Ms. Gonzalez.” Carol questions that, and Alice tries it and says, “Hasn’t lost a thing in the translation.” Do I have the right episode here or not?

    I do remember something else about a pool theme type menu, with meatballs and something shaped like little pool cues. (Celery and carrot sticks maybe? I have not seen this episode for a long time! But I do know that Mr. Schultz was the Deli owner, whom if you recall had his ad for “Schultz’s Delicatessen” on Page 3 of Fillmore Junior High’s play program of “Romeo and Juliet.”



  9. The Hustler

    Not sure what the issue might be, I’ve tried posting comments the last couple of weeks, and the posting doesn’t seem to be working for me. I’m logged in, but I tried posting my comments a half dozen times, and none of them would take. It wasn’t until about the 5th attempt that I got a message from the site saying “it looks like you’ve already posted this”. But I still never saw my post work. Anyway, I’ll try again here:

    1) I would most certainly agree with several other posters who name this as the best of the “Oliver” episodes. Not sure why, maybe it’s the most “normal”. The family gets a pool table and one of the kids (Bobby) happens to be good at the game because he’s played quite a bit at a friend’s house. That seems much more normal than running into a duplicate of yourself at school, or trying to become the new Shirley Temple, or thinking your Dad is mixed up with spies.

    2) The re-appearance of Jim Backus also makes this a more tolerable episode. Gotta love that guy, he was great!

    3) I like playing pool, and if I happen to come across a pool match on TV (ESPN sometimes televises championship pool matches) I’ll usually watch it. It amazes me how good the professional players are. I’ve learned a few things about how to set up your next shot, etc but to see them do it so easily just blows me away. I love the game, although I don’t have a table in the house

    4) I’ve had a few friends growing up and through the years who had pool tables… never saw any of them keep a table in a garage, much less a car port. I seriously doubt that nighttime moisture would be good for a pool table.

    5) I’m not sure when trucks started having the beeper alarms that go off when the truck is being backed up. I know they didn’t have them at the time this episode aired, and when I first saw them being used, I remember thinking about what a good idea it was. It was kind of ridiculous though, that the boys are playing basketball in the driveway and would be completely unaware that a truck was backing up toward them. Oliver notices it just as it comes into frame.

    6) Yeah, Alice’s “behind the 8 ball” joke as lame indeed! As much as Alice likes bowling, I’m surprised she knows nothing about pool. I always kind of put those two sports together in the sense that someone who likes one usually likes the other. TV history has many characters that liked to bowl and shoot pool (Ralph and Ed from The Honeymooners; Fred and Barney from “The Flintstones”; Archie Bunker and his buddies from All in the Family etc.

    7) Re; Mr Matthews entering Mike’s office without knocking. That’s probably the way things were done back then. The Secretary would have let Mr. Mathews know that Mike did not have a client in his office, as I’m sure Matthews would not have wanted to interrupt him in that case.

    8) It was great to see Bobby trounce Greg and Peter… After Bobby clearly showed he knows what he’s doing around a pool table, they still thought they could beat him. They might be bigger and stronger than Bobby, but that doesn’t do you much good at a pool table.

    9) They did a really nice job of cutting away from Bobby taking the trick shots to whoever actually did it.

    10) Re: The picture of the family in the driveway … it always cracks me up when they have to frame the family standing there practically on top of each other. Real families don’t stand like that!

    11) I noticed that one of the shelves in the garage had a box on it labeled “Driscoll’s Toy Store”

    12) Lol I liked when Carol came out to announce that dinner was ready, and Matthews balks at having to stop right in the middle of an important game…then Bobby pipes up “no problem, I can make these last two shots easy”

    13) Good point from Marty McFly about how heavy 256 packages of gum would be. There’s no way Carol could handle
    the box as easily as she did.

    Yes, definitely the best of the Oliver episodes in my opinion. After all this time, can’t believe that the next episode is the last one. Great job on this review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to know that you’ve been having trouble with posting, Tweety, but it’s great to see you again in the comments section. I’ve always looked forward to seeing what you have to say about each episode most every week.

      There’s not much for me to say about this episode other than what follows. WNEW would go into commercial after Bobby won his bet with Greg and Peter, and cut the part about the dream sequence, due to Bobby’s anti-school attitude and the absurdity of the dream sequence itself.

      I was amused to see Cindy and Oliver in their outfits; it represents Bobby’s promotion and Oliver’s entry into the Bradys’ pecking order. Stock footage of the audience made me think that Bobby was giving his exhibition at Royal Albert Hall. There’s a conductor visible at the edge of the stage; so Bobby has an orchestra as part of his presentation?! Also amusing is the way that Bobby is shown hitting the cue ball and how the perspective changes to show the trick shot expert barely getting out of the shot. This violates my regular opposition to dreamers being visible in their own dreams, but maybe I’ll have to chalk it up to seeing different things in dreams that don’t line up with each other.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Pretty good episode overall. You have to wonder about a company’s future with a doofus like Matthews in charge, though.

    I enjoyed seeing the Driscoll’s toy boxes on the carport shelves. Really nice tie-in.

    Seeing the pool table moving in and out of the carport was also interesting, as if Bobby could move it. Even if it were on wheels (it wasn’t) you can’t just move it onto the driveway and play – it has to be level.

    Bobby clearly was good – most of the shots were done by him. I believe he only played Matthews one game – the 256 was reached by ‘double or nothing’ on most of the shots.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. No idea how they had time to play 256 games of pool– I play roughly 6 games in 2 hours when I play at a local bar. Wasnt this BEFORE dinner as well? What was wrong with the garage for the pool table? Obviously they made room for it; the car could stay outside in the summer and being in California, how cold did it ever get at night?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I noticed that Mike calls the boss, Mr. Mathews kinda like he did for Mr. Phillips. I wished they had brought him back but then he doesn’t play pool, I bet. lol

    Mr. Mathews was annoying I thought and was intruding on Mike and Carol and I don’t care how often Mike says, ‘I’m sure Carol won’t mind’, she probably would mind. I didn’t care for one of the guests to tell Mike that if it was his kid, he’d break his arm… I would think that would anger a parent but maybe nowadays it would. If Mr. Mathews was dying to see the pool table, why couldn’t he just drive over to the Bradys and see it?

    I noticed one thing about Mike, his watch is on his wrist but over his sleeve. I’ve noticed him doing that in some episode in the last two or three years.

    Sucks that this is Bob’s final episode.


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