- Greg: "Mom's favorite vase!"Bobby: "She always says don't play ball in the house!"
Yes, mom did have a rule ... a very strict rule "Don't play ball in the house." All three of the boys break the rule, and it is Peter who is to blame when he passes the basketball and allows it to bounce down the steps, over the railing and crash into Carol's favorite vase.
From that moment on, it is a battle of Peter's conscience and deciding whether to make "Confessions, Confessions."
The incident in question happens when the boys are home alone. Greg, realizing that Carol will have a cow if she finds out, hastily tries to glue the vase together before she gets home. After the vase-repairing operation is deemed a success, Greg gets the other kids to go along with enacting a code of silence and not say a word about what happened.
Carol comes home, and can't wait to put the flowers she bought ... in her favorite vase! She puts water in the vase and sets it at the table for dinner. During dinner, the vase the glue had not yet fully bonded begins to come unglued, and it isn't long before Mike and Carol are wanting an explanation. So five of the kids Greg, Marcia, Jan, Bobby and Cindy go to bat for Peter ... they all confess to breaking the vase, giving different stories.
So why go to bat for Peter? It isn't just because they love him and want to protect him ... but he's been invited on this overnight camping trip with his buddies and a couple of fathers don't worry, it's with honorable men and if Carol found out he broke a rule, she'd surely ground him from going on the trip. Mike and Carol eventually figure out what's going on and that it was Peter who broke the vase. But they don't directly confront him ... they hope that, by nudging gently at his conscience, he'll come clean.
It takes awhile, though. Peter is first asked to assign punishments to the kids, and then taken on a trip to the sporting goods store to buy some camping gear. Peter balks at giving his siblings punishments, but he eventually decides to give them extra chores. In the end, on the morning of the trip ... just as he's leaving, Peter finally breaks not down in tears (ironically, he was the only Brady kid never to cry actual tears during the five-year run of the show), but with a tearful voice and obviously with a lot of pent-up remorse and guilt he finally admits his misdeed. Mike and Carol reassure him that it's going to be okay before he can reach the point of waterworks, and admit that they knew he was guilty all along, but aren't really angry with him at all. Peter then realizes (for himself) that he can't go on the trip because if he did, it'd be like getting away with his wrongdoing ... so he tells his friends he isn't going after all.
In the end, Peter learns a valuable lesson about being honest and accepting both responsibility and the consequences.
As for that vase? Carol shows Peter the pieces of the vase to him and tells him next time, wait for the glue to dry before trying to use it. Turning to go inside the house, she accidentally drops the vase pieces ... and it busts into a million pieces! Carol sighs as her favorite vase is now a useless piece of junk, and she has no choice but to admit only she is to blame for its destruction.
Tropes present in this episode:
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: When Peter is asked to dole out punishments for his siblings for breaking the vase, he gives out, well, rather, illogical ones, such as making Greg take Cindy to the amusement park for the day. Carol and Mike, suspecting the truth but not letting on, call Peter out on this.
- Honesty Is the Best Policy: The episode's Aesop.
- Karma Houdini: The entire episode, in a nutshell, is one massive "go fuck yourself" to this trope. Mike and Carol easily figure out that Peter broke the vase, and furthermore, his own guilt drives him to confess his misdeed, voluntarily miss his camping trip, and complete the tasks he doled out to his siblings as punishment.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": The six kids show this reaction at the dinner table after keeping a nervous vigil on Carol's favorite vase once it starts leaking out of control.
- Nightmare Fuel: In-universe, where Peter has a nightmare the night before leaving on his big camping trip, watching the basketball break the vase repeatedly, along with repeated sayings of Greg and Bobby saying their signature lines. Includes slow-motion, stop-action and backwards runnings of said act to ramp up the nightmare to eleven (in a very G-Rated way).
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Even today, Mike Lookinland says the phrase "Mom always said don't play ball in the house" is what fans young and young-at-heart ask him to say.
- Secret Test of Character: What Mike and Carol likely were doing in holding out to confronting Peter about breaking the vase ... they wanted him to confess on his own. Eventually, Peter does.
- Signature Line: "Mom's favorite vase!" and "She always says don't play ball in the house."