When Alice goes on a week's long vacation, the family seems ready and able to handle her absence. After all, more chores and picking up the slack, but they can handle it.
Until "Sergeant Emma" comes into the picture.
And Emma's routine has everyone wanting to give the former drill sergeant and mess hall master a three-day pass.
After all, Mike and Carol tried reassuring Alice that, just before she leaves for the airport, that they'll be fine and they've handled her absences before. Just then Alice announces she's bringing in a capable pinch-hitter: Her identical cousin, Emma, a 20-year Army veteran who spent much of her career at a nearby base, supervising a mess hall, and with a reputation for toughness, rigidity and perfection.
She makes her presence immediately known.
Bobby and Cindy race into the house and through the family room after school, as usual, and in their haste forget to shut the screen door. Until they hear a harsh whistle ... and someone with the same voice as Alice telling them to settle down and go back and close the door. Bobby and Cindy can't believe that Alice ... is that Alice? ... is barking an order at them.
And then a rude wake-up call: 5:30 a.m., and calisthenics with the kids. It's a tough routine for the six kids to adapt to. And then inspection of quarters, where everything must be ship-shape perfect before chowing down.
In what was sure to be a point (among many) that Robert Reed likely raised with the script writers and producers about this episode, in a normal family Mike and Carol would immediately have told Emma, "Thanks for your offer. We'll manage." Of course, that's not what happens here. In fact, even though Mike is a bit wary of some of Emma's ways of doing things, and so is Carol, they agree that the calisthenics are good for the kids.
So, one night, when Greg and Marcia are trying to talk to their parents about Emma, she listens right in. When the folks say that exercise is good for you, Emma says, "It's good for adults too!" Mike realizes he should have kept his mouth shut ... and same with Carol.
The result has Emma — not Mike and Carol — basically in charge, and weak-willed Mike and Carol (maybe out of fear of disappointing Alice) refusing to tell Emma, "Thanks but no thanks!"
So on the day Alice is set to come home, they plan a huge party to welcome her back. Except Emma misconstrues matters as the Bradys' show of appreciation. The family realizes that Emma deserves a little slack and a "thank you."
And then Alice returns ... ready to keep the family on the same routine during the Emma regime. So when she wakes the family up at 5:30 a.m. ... they all go back to bed!
Tropes present in this episode:
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Mike and Carol remark about how effective Sgt. Emma's regimen of daily calisthenics and "white glove test" inspections is doing the kids a world of good. Emma says to the parents that since they're so impressed, they can join right in!
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Although Flanderized with Emma she never curses or outright insults any of the Bradys, but she does push them heavily and tests their patience.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance: Alice and her identical twin cousin, Emma.
- You Are in Command Now: Mike and Carol, through their silence, concede defeat and allow Emma to take charge of the household.