Sometimes when you push too hard, you end up getting bitten and hurting the ones you truly love.
The kids find this out the hard way when, after a series of minor misunderstandings and miscommunications, Alice is led to believe she had so badly breached the kids' trust that she decides to leave ... and they almost never get a chance to say so much as the "goodbye" in "Goodbye, Alice, Hello."
It's not exactly known how long things had been building up, but the first example comes when Peter and Greg (rather childishly) play Frisbee in the house. Forgetting the lesson they learned in "Confessions, Confessions" (that little rule about not playing ball in the house), an errant throw leads an antique lamp in Mike's den being broken.
Alice is aware of the boys breaking the lamp, which Greg and Peter try to repair without their parent's knowledge. As such, the boys — knowing they'll be in trouble if found out — ask Alice to keep their secret from their parents, which she vows to do. But when Carol discovers the lamp has been broken, Alice is caught between her code of secrecy and Carol directly asking Alice to tell what she knows. Alice, remembering she has never lied to Carol about anything, decides to tell the truth ... and of course Carol immediately withholds Greg and Peter's allowances to cover the repair of the lamp.
Later, Carol asks Alice a seemingly innocent question about why the record player was left on all night. Alice makes an off-hand remark that Marcia was having fun listening to her records the night before. Carol is surprising harsh in telling Marcia (off-camera) that she can't use the record player for a week.
These — and apparently other incidents — have the kids upset at Alice. So much that they won't speak to her, for fear that she will squeal to the folks. And it begins to grow ... until they are outright rude and cold to Alice, not even speaking to her when necessary. They won't even explain why they're so angry, just that they are and that she's a snitch.
It grows to a point where Alice can't take it anymore. So she tells Carol she's leaving and gives her notice that, effective immediately, she's leaving. She plays tit-for-tat, too: "If the kids pretend I don't exist, I'm not staying to say goodbye, either!"
And so it goes. At least she lines up her successor: Kay, a friend of Alice's who apparently had a similar situation with a family she had grown close to, only for them to turn their back on her when she needed them and when the kids felt they no longer could confide or trust in her.
And that's how Kay goes about her work. Very nice, but too professional.
So one evening, Greg and Marcia decide they want to get to the bottom of this whole thing about Alice. They admit they were wrong to behave that way to Alice in the final weeks, but Carol is pissed. She says essentially, "You pushed too hard, now she's gone." And no amount of "I'm sorry" might ever get her back.
And that leads the kids have to figure out how to get their beloved Alice back. So they manage — on a tip from Kay, no less — to track her down to a roadside diner, where she had just taken a job. They go in and are seated at a table that happens to be Alice's. Alice is overjoyed and after a few uncomfortable moments, both sides admit they love each other and the kids admit they were very sorry for how they treated her. Alice is overjoyed and quits her job immediately. Why? "Because I got my old job back!"
And Alice remains with the family happy ever after!
Tropes present in this episode:
- Broken Aesop: "Mom always said 'Don't play ball in the house.'"
- Idiot Ball: Surely Marcia and Greg (or the boys, who grew up with Alice) would understand that Alice couldn't keep secrets from their mother, she is employed by their parents not them.
- Tropes associated with Alice's (temporary) departure:
- Despair Event Horizon: The increasingly rude behavior by the kids grows hostile and to a point where Alice has no choice but to resign. Incidentally, a friend of Alice's (Kay, a nice but eerily and stoically efficient woman who temporarily replaces Alice) relates her own similar experience with a past family to whom she had grown close to but later felt betrayed by.
- Mandatory Unretirement: When the kids finally understand it was their own behavior toward Alice that drove her to resign, they have to do all they can to convince Alice to return.
- Put on a Bus and The Bus Came Back: In-universe with Alice, and all within the span of less than 15 minutes in show-running time. The short version: Alice, no longer feeling trusted or welcome by the kids, resigns and moves out of the house (not even saying goodbye); the kids track her down and convince her that they're sorry for how they treated her, and she comes back.
- The Stool Pigeon: What the kids believe Alice has become by (inadvertently) saying the kids did different things; they essentially call her as such in a very hurtful way. It can be implied they called her worse (off-screen).
- 10-Minute Retirement: Alice — who had just taken a job at a roadside diner — accepting the kids' apologies and realizing her place is indeed with the Bradys.
- Easily Forgiven: Despite the hurtful things the kids said to and about Alice, apparently all she wanted was to hear them say "We're sorry" and mean it.
- FaceHeel Turn: Alice, to the kids. No amount of Carol trying to de-convince Alice of this can help.
- Rejected Apology: Greg and Marcia admit to Carol their rude behavior toward Alice led to her departure and are truly sorry for it. But Carol, sensing the kids don't quite yet get it, rejects the apology, telling them: 1. In essence, "You pushed too hard, can you blame her for leaving?"; and 2. If they want to apologize, it needs to be to Alice ... and it had better be a good apology. Fortunately, Alice is far more forgiving (and Word of God has it that Carol eventually is).
- Skinny Dipping: Surprisingly Squick for an early-1970s family situation comedy, there was an infamous scene where 11-year-old Bobby and 10-year-old Cindy are dressed in robes, ready to go to a neighborhood swimming party at a neighbor's house. Alice checks Bobby and Cindy to see if their swimwear is in goo ... uh, they're wearing their birthday suits. Alice, seeing the red flags, refuses to allow Bobby and Cindy to go to an X-rated swimming party, especially without Mike and Carol's permission; the kids balk but Alice stands her ground ... and no doubt — already on thin ice with the kids — continues to lose popularity.
- We Used to Be Friends: The kids blame Alice for reporting their misdeeds, almost all of it for trivial incidents (such as Marcia leaving the stereo on and Alice making an off-handed remark about the eldest Brady girl having used it last night) ... growing to a point where they feel they can no longer confide in her.
- What Did I Do?: When the kids become increasingly rude, snap at her when she simply tries to make conversation and so forth (this all coming after each of the kids, at one point, felt "betrayed" by Alice) Alice begins to think about this very seriously, crying herself to sleep at night several times before no longer wanting to take anymore and deciding to leave.