"Baby talk, baby talk. it's a wonder you can walk!"
One of a number of memes from The Brady Bunch was this signature taunt from one of the best-known one-time characters in the series. Buddy Hinton was the school bully, and he is the one who utters the sadistic line, with ultra sadism to the series' youngest character, Cindy. And it came in an episode whose main topic is as hot-button today as it was when this episode aired (as of this writing) 40-plus years ago ... bullying.
Long before Facebook and social media were a twinkle in anybody's eye, and way before students suspected of being homosexuals were the prime targets ... 13-year-old Buddy Hinton used classic bullying, taking someone's weakness here, Cindy's lisp and using that as his means to relentlessly taunt "the youngest one in curls." When Peter witnesses the bullying and tries to stop it, Buddy senses that Peter is reluctant to fight and makes him give him a reason to stop ... "A Fistful of Reasons" to stop.
Cindy comes home from school, teary-eyed after obviously having been crying over something. She ignores Alice, goes straight to her room and then breaks down bawling. Mike and Carol go up to talk with her and Cindy breaks the news: "They all think I talk funny. Especially that mean ol' Buddy Hinton." Yeah, Buddy Hinton, a young teenager who is at least sixth grade and thus in Peter's class possibly even a year older, which would put him in junior high(!) and has done this sort of behavior before. This time, Cindy is the one he's driven to tears, and he's determined to make it continue until he drives 8-year-old Cindy (a second grader!) to a nervous breakdown and permanent psychological damage. Buddy's hideout is near a park and every time he sees one of his targets, he teases them relentlessly.
Carol assures Cindy that it's OK to have a lisp ... after all, when she was little, she, too, had a lisp. And the Brady folks have just the trick to cure that lisp: Tongue Twister books. Cindy immerses herself in the twisters about selling seashells by the seashore, taking comically ineffective lessons from Alice (she can only tie up her own tongue) and having her brothers help her out.
Meanwhile, Greg and Peter have learned about Buddy targeting Cindy with his bullying. Mike comes in to remind the boys to wash up for dinner and overhears the boys talking about how to deal with Buddy. Greg wants to talk to Buddy and tell him to knock off the bullying, but Mike tells him to back off, since it would then turn into a "might makes right" situation and would thus be counterproductive. (Not to mention that Greg, as a freshman in high school, is two years older than Buddy, and Buddy could come back with a claim of his own that someone older and bigger than him is intimidating him.) So Peter is the one that is given the task of asking Buddy to stop teasing Cindy.
One day, as luck would have it, Peter happens to be walking nearby when Buddy once again taunts Cindy with his "Baby talk, baby talk! It's a wonder you can walk." Peter asks him to stop the bullying, but when Buddy tells him basically to "make me," Peter tries to walk away. Buddy, sensing that Peter is not willing to fight, gives him a huge black eye. Mike asks his son what happened, then tells Peter to try again with reasoning. Of course, Buddy wants to fight and once again socks Peter ... in the other eye!
So now Peter's got two black eyes, and Mike's got a date with Buddy's dad ... to have him tell his son to stop picking on little girls. Mr. Hinton not only refuses, but he intimidates Mike into leaving his property or he'll "help" him off. Mike blows some steam to Carol, and Carol decides to talk to Buddy's mother to see if she can get somewhere. Mrs. Hinton basically has been brow-beaten into silence "I listen to Ralph!" she says, giving a hint as to their relationship, "and you'd do best to listen to Ralph" and also can't make headway with her.
Out of options, Mike tells Peter he may have to fight Buddy Hinton to stick up for his sister's honor. He tells him it should be just a last resort, but then Peter's clearly nervous about the whole thing. Mike assures his son that even the greatest men in the world have had to deal with fear and putting their own worries to rest to show courage. Peter agrees, and after some training from his brothers and Alice all she can do is punch Mike in the gut ... accidentally, of course he's ready to deal with Buddy once and for all. Even after Cindy assures Peter that she's built up some courage of her own, he says he's willing to stick up for her anytime.
And then the day of the big fight. A bunch of Buddy's classmates perhaps several who have also been on the receiving end of his taunts follow Peter and Cindy to the designated fighting spot. (Cindy sheepishly admits she told several of Peter's classmates there may be a fight, which isn't exactly what he wanted.) Sure enough, Buddy is ready for a fight. Peter tells him one last time to cease the bullying, but Buddy tells him to put up or shut up. Peter then realizes he has to do what he has to do ... and when Buddy swings, this time, Peter dodges the fist ... and then hits Buddy flush in the mouth!
"You knock my tooth looth!" cries Buddy as Peter tries to apologize.
Cindy, this time having the upper hand, tells her tormenter, "You sure talk funny!" All the other kids laugh.
"Stopth it! It'h not funny!" moans Buddy.
"Baby talk, baby talk! It's a wonder you can walk!" says Cindy as the kids laugh and Buddy runs off, humiliated and finally gotten his due.
Amazingly, there is only one person who doesn't laugh or delight in Buddy's misfortune at all and that's Peter. In fact, he tells the other kids off, telling them it's not funny and that they need to go home. This, despite Peter having by all rights every reason to join in the Humiliation Conga; perhaps Peter senses something that Buddy himself has been taunted and victimized by cruel treatment. When all the other kids walk away, Cindy asks Peter why they shouldn't make fun of Buddy. Gently, Peter says, "You didn't like it when he made fun of you." Cindy realizes that Peter is right and realizes that by not making fun of Buddy's lisp, they are the bigger people.
This was the first of several episodes where Cindy and Peter are paired up, usually with Peter helping Cindy through a problem. Later in Season 2 came "Lights Out," and by the fourth season, there was "The Great Earring Caper." While she could always count on Greg or Bobby to also help her out, it was Peter who Cindy had the most trust in, and Peter was always willing to help his little sister out.
(Incidentally, there were few, if any Greg-Cindy or Marcia-Bobby ... or even Jan-Bobby, Marcia-Peter or Greg-Jan episodes. Of all the episodes that paired up opposite sex siblings and explored their sibling relationship, it was either Greg-Marcia, Peter-Jan, Bobby-Cindy ... or in the first of at least three cases, Peter-Cindy.)
Tropes present in this episode:
- Beef Bandage: Peter nurses his black eye with a steak.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Peter is by all accounts a nice, level-headed guy and an excellent negotiator. But never, ever cross his path if you delight in teasing his youngest sister, Cindy.
- Big Brother Instinct: Peter shows this for Cindy big time here.
- Boxing Lesson: Mike and humorously, Alice attempts to give Peter boxing lessons. Of course, all Alice is good at is giving Mike a punch to the gut (accidentally, of course).
- The Bully: Buddy Hinton. Buddy's father is an adult bully.
- Extreme Doormat: Mrs. Hinton is this. Early in the episode, Peter was this when he was reluctant to fight Buddy, despite his clear taunts to "make me" stop teasing Cindy.
- Humiliation Conga: When Buddy complains of his tooth being knocked loose, Cindy and the other kids laugh and mercilessly tease the bully, knowing that he finally got his comeuppance. Averted with Peter, who is astutely aware that laughing at Buddy's misfortune would make him no better than him ... and he makes the others aware of that.
- Kids Are Cruel: Buddy, in mercilessly and relentlessly mocking Cindy's lisp. Even crueler, since Buddy is Peter's age (12) and Cindy is in the second grade.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Happens to Buddy after Peter hits him in the mouth, causing him to have a tooth knocked loose and talk with a lisp.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Along the same lines, except it is Cindy's lisp and due to her age (because Buddy is at least four years older) inability to stand up for herself that makes her an easy mark.
- Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Which Buddy decides to do when he realizes that Peter is reluctant to fight him and get him to stop tormenting Cindy. And, why Mike sends Peter (instead of Greg) in to deal with Buddy.
- Prone to Tears: Cindy's reaction to Buddy Hinton's sadistic bullying ... which is exactly why he turns it up when she begins crying.
- The So-Called Coward: Peter, particularly when he's not exactly anxious to fight Buddy when he learns he might have to. Buddy had already picked up on this and taunts him endlessly. Mike, on the other hand, also has ... but in contrast he asks Peter what's the matter and he reassures him that many of history's greatest heroes have had to deal with anxiety and fear. This gives Peter more than enough reassurance to stand up to Buddy when the time comes. And the trope really kicks in at the end, when he finally has enough of Buddy and winds up hitting him flush in the mouth. It's worth pointing out that this comes only after Peter told Buddy one last time to knock the bullying off ... and instead Buddy swung at Peter.
- Stay in the Kitchen: According to Mrs. Hinton, Mr. Hinton prefers her to stay out of raising her sons a certain way, he has rather strong opinions on raising boys...
- Tongue Twisters: Cindy uses these to help get rid of her lisp; in real life, Susan Olsen had surgery to help correct this condition:Cindy: She sells seashells by the seashore. She sells seashells by the seashore. She sells seashells by the seashore.Marcia: Cindy, would you mind practicing somewhere else? Arithmetic is kind of hard.Cindy: So are S's.