This one is one of my favorite episodes, and it’s the very first one I can remember watching first run. It sticks out.
The Lawsons have just finished breakfast and Joan and Ted are going to get ready to go shopping, but not before Ted and Jamie roshambo over who’s going to take the trash cans to the front. Ted wins because, of course he does. I’m operating on this theory that Ted, himself, is an advanced robot from the future sent back in time to make Vicki just to insure his own existence. He’s his own grandpa… or something. Anyway, while Jamie’s taking out the trash, he asks Vicki to put everything in the sink. This time it was innocent enough. He just wanted Vicki to help out.
But Vicki is so over it. These people have treated her like a slave long enough. If you asked her to please pass the salt, she’d probably hurl it at your head.
Just as Vicki acts out her brief moment of defiance, Harriet comes over. Even though the door is wide open, she does knock first, so she has some manners. Harriet says that Vicki does the dishes like her mother, and then asks her to come play. Vicki says that Jamie told her to stay put, but Harriet is like, “Don’t let no man tell you how to live your life, you do what you want.”
Figured out why I like this episode so much yet? Oh, yeah, it’s the one where Harriet teaches Vicki independence. To quote Harriet, “There’s no age limit on women’s lib.”
This is only the third time they show a set outside of the Lawson home, and it’s Harriet’s bedroom! Harriet shows off her stuff, and Vicki admits she doesn’t have stuff. Harriet decides Vicki is deprived and decides to help Vicki out. It would be awesome if Harriet wasn’t such a spoiled brat.
Meanwhile, Ted and Joan notice how Vicki’s done the dishes again, and Ted’s like, “I’d spank her, but I don’t want to break my hand.” Is that not an extreme reaction? I mean, yes, I know, spanking was all the rage in the 80s – my butt and I were there. But over her trying to help out and making a mistake? Ted is a horrible father. Jamie returns from taking the trash cans out, and everyone can’t help but notice they’re missing one Vicki. Ted’s logical conclusion is that Brindle has kidnapped Vicki, but Joan notices that Jamie leaves the door wide open when he enters and leaves the house so they come to the more logical conclusion that she’s run away. Which, yes, she absolutely should because she is not treated very nicely.
Over at Harriet’s house, the girls play with Harriet’s toys. Vicki decides to play with a Rubik’s cube, but Harriet believes it to be too hard. Nothing is ever too hard for Vicki though – you know, except for not taking people so literally – and she solves it pretty quickly. Harriet thinks it’s sneaky that Vicki didn’t admit that she knew the trick, and that’s a quality that Harriet likes in Vicki. Finally, someone appreciates the girl for being herself. Bonnie comes up to tell Harriet she has to go to the orthodontist soon, so clean up her room. A battle ensues that ends up with Harriet getting paid to do what she’s supposed to do in the first place. Bonnie does call Harriet out on being a spoiled brat, though, so… I don’t know. At least she’s acknowledging that her daughter is learning negative traits? Anyway, Harriet passes the lesson on to Vicki.
Now that Harriet is Vicki’s bestie, Vicki admits that she doesn’t even have a bed and sleeps in a cabinet – how did Harriet not learn that one episode ago when she spent days at the Lawson house? I have got to stop questioning the logic behind this show. Anyway, Harriet is in shock how mean the Lawsons are to Vicki and brings it to her attention. Vicki listens, because she has no reason to believe Harriet means her harm. So Harriet teaches Vicki how to throw a temper tantrum.
Harriet sends Vicki home, but tells her not to tell her parents she was over there and she borrows her mother’s catchphrase. It’s actually adorable. She knows they’ll figure out Harriet taught Vicki how to stand up for herself, so she makes her say that she was in the backyard or something.
Ted is actually worried about where Vicki is, but he still refers to her as his invention. Joan is like, “Um, hello, I’m missing a daughter.” And Jamie’s like, “I’m missing the coolest little sister in the history of ever.” Okay, Joan has always thought of Vicki like a little girl, but Jamie is bullshitting. He’s missing his slave. Vicki walks in the door right that second, and when they ask where she was she literally says she was in the backyard or something.
Joan says that she’s going to buy Vicki a bow when she goes out shopping, and for some reason, that’s what sets Vicki off. She wants the things other little girls have! Dolls, stuffed animals, allowance! The Lawsons are shocked. You programmed her to be a little girl – how are they not getting they got what they wanted?
Ted decides it’s Jamie’s fault. Has Ted ever accepted blame for anything? Of course not, Ted is flawless in Ted’s own mind. Vicki also demands toys and a bed and says she can’t believe how mean her parents are to her. She does have a point there. Most parents know the fine line between a child doing chores and your child being a slave. Also, most kids get toys. She’s not being unreasonable. Ted manages to say the right thing that gets Vicki to drop a clue that it was Harriet that taught her these things.
Ted is actually happy. Wait, what? Vicki went out and made a friend and she wants to be treated like a little girl and – Ted, where were you the past 13 episodes? This is not new. Can you maybe love her, too? Ted tells Vicki to go to her room, so she borrows Bonnie’s catchphrase. “No no no no no no” is really getting around, y’all. Joan is like, “Um, reprogram her” and now I’m wondering if Vicki crossed over into a bizarro universe. Ted likes seeing Vicki act like a little girl and Joan is freaked out by it? That… oh, you know.
Up in their room, Jamie tells Vicki to get in her cabinet, but she wants the bed. Jamie tells her she’s crazy, mixed up, needs a shrink, and she’s not a girl. Way to dehumanize your sister, Jamie. What’s next, you decide to sell her for scrap metal? That’s your sister. Anyway, Vicki throws a temper tantrum and it’s awesome. Ted is the only one who’s supportive of Vicki expressing herself, but Joan and Jamie are like, “get our docile girl back!”
Ted tries to reprogram her but he fries out her circuits and she throws another temper tantrum. Ted says he has to take her apart and sneak her into his office. Um, can’t he just be like “Take your daughter to work on a Saturday day?” Whatever, Joan finally comes to her senses and doesn’t want her daughter taken apart, but Jamie’s like, “don’t think of her as a child, think of her as Harriet” and Joan’s like “chop her up.” Damn, woman. And you’re so nice to Harriet to her face.
And Vicki goes back to being body parts in a case. Ted whispers that it’s okay to the body parts, and I’m really thinking he does have the mind of a sociopath. It’s disturbing. Harriet comes over to look for Vicki while Ted is running off with her body parts in a case. Harriet knows they’re lying about where she is, but they won’t tell her anything. Harriet tells Jamie that she knows Vicki is being abused, and Harriet makes it clear – she’s going to make trouble.
Bonnie, Harriet, and a policeman come over right after Ted comes home but before he can put her back together. Jamie says he thought Harriet was kidding when she said she was going to call the cops for doing bad stuff to Vicki – dude, seriously? One of the admirable qualities about the Brindles is they’re pretty serious about child abuse being fucked up. The whole reason Vicki got adopted was because Bonnie called social services. Ted tells them to stall while he gets Vicki put back together.
Well, after waiting around for awhile, everyone sees Vicki is okay. Bonnie apologizes, but you know, they did the right thing. It’s really hard to be mad at the Brindles for worrying about Vicki’s welfare, you know? At the end, though, Ted reveals that there was such a rush, he didn’t get time to put Vicki’s hair back on. And… the end.
The lesson here is Ted isn’t necessarily against Vicki having some independence, just as long as she isn’t learning it on her own. And that Joan and Jamie would rather see Vicki as parts in a case than be like Harriet.
Firsts: Harriet’s room, borrowed catchphrase