If it's not been said already, many of the early episodes of The Brady Bunch focused on the kids and trying to adjust to their new family. Undoubtedly, some of the Bradys did a better job than others of adjusting.
Truth be told, Bobby probably had one of the toughest times fitting in of the Brady kid sextet, and a minor set of situations with his new mother and step-siblings — especially Carol — and all-around insecurity over his place in the family, all begin taking their toll. In fact, it's making him consider running away.
Indeed, "Every Boy Does It Once."
And it all begins when Bobby and Cindy watch a movie on a children's TV program — think the much later ABC Weekend Special — and a new adaptation of "Cinderella." Bobby, having not exactly gotten along with Marcia or Jan lately, begins thinking ... "They're just like those evil stepsisters. And Carol must be standing up for them" (even though she's clearly not). Bobby begins thinking this out loud, leading Cindy to tell him he's wrong (as if to say, as only a 6-year-old can, that while they might have their disagreements and squabbles, they're just learning how to get along and their fighting will pass), but Bobby is convinced he's right about his new family. Especially when just then, Carol comes in, asking him to dust the fireplace.
Mike and Carol (and Alice) eventually catch wind that Bobby is very unhappy with his place in the family, and try reassuring him that he indeed has a very vital place in the family. After Carol tells Marcia and Jan to knock it off when they come through the room and tease and taunt Bobby, he's convinced she did it just to save face ... this while trying to fit the Bob-ster into Peter's old clothes — hand-me-downs, as it were. And even though Carol suggests he is small enough to fit into the chimney flue to help clean the soot; Bobby takes it as an insult instead of realizing she trusts him and counts on him to help out. Also, when Greg and Peter had left to go to a friend's place, they hadn't even told him goob-bye (whilst he was busy watching the movie)
Eventually, it's too much, and he decides to run away. However, while he's packing, Peter walks in on him, and Bobby ends up telling him, but not before swearing them to secrecy. After all, no one will miss him when he's gone. But Peter spills the beans to Greg, who then indirectly spills the beans to Alice, and eventually Alice tells Mike and Carol, leading them to concoct a plan to get Bobby to stay.
First, Mike tries to get Bobby to reconsider ... after all, life will be hard on the road, being a Street Urchin with less than 10 dollars in his pocket, and whose employment opportunities are also limited (face it, jobs in finger painting and gluing aren't exactly in high demand). But Bobby is convinced he can survive on the road ... so, Mike helps him finish packing his suitcase and wishes him the best.
Until he sees Carol standing at the bottom of the steps and her suitcase is packed as well. Turns out she isn't all that happy about living in a house full of six children and a batty housemaid ... and "sharing" her unhappiness with Bobby, the 8-year-old boy needs someone to make sure he can get by with a life on his own. And of all people to show that genuine love and concern and motherly protection for someone so unhappy with having "steps" in the household, it's his stepmother.
Bobby realizes then that he has a stepmother ... er, make that mother — Carol tells him "the only steps in this house are the ones leading upstairs" — that loves him so. An enlightened Bobby happily announces, "Me and Mom are back home again!"
And Bobby's place in the Brady household is secure. Of course, he still had quite a lot more of insecurities and self-worth issues to overcome during the course of the show, but he never ever considered running away from home again.
Tropes present in this episode:
- The Runaway: A combination of the circus/attention-seeking/vagrant kind, and to get out into the open his still-iffy relationship between him and his sisters. With Mike and Carol's loving support, they convince Bobby he's better off under his own roof. (And presumably, they deal with Marcia and Jan's snickery behavior in short order.)
- Street Urchin: Averted, but what Bobby would have become. Of course, Bobby — being a 8-year-old — doesn't understand that in real life, living anywhere but home is not like he thinks it would be. No work, living (literally) on the street or maybe a group home, abuse and so much more ... . Mike doesn't tell him any of the truly bad side to a 8-year-old living by himself, but does tell him he'll have to find a way to support himself. (Which is why Carol steps in and offers to "run away" with him.)
- TV Never Lies: Bobby, after watching an adaptation of "Cinderella" on TV, he gets into his head that he's living in a real-life fairy tale. Even though Cindy — showing some rare early wisdom — refutes Bobby's claim as being just bunk, a few minor situations develop that reinforce Bobby's claim that his "steps" hate him.
- Wicked Stepmother and Stepsisters: How Bobby mistakenly perceives his step-sisters and stepmother. Although Carol never wavers from her usual role, the girls (Marcia and Jan in particular) mercilessly tease Bobby several times in the episode, especially after he is seen trying on Peter's old clothes.