Bobby is the dreamer of the six Brady kids. He always wants to do better, something special, whether it's trying to discover his best talents, or getting out of the shadow of his older siblings. But the case was different when he would realize these dreams, such as when he began enforcing his own "Law And Disorder."
Bobby is often overlooked, so is not always expected to assert himself, at least not well. But he does, and when he does... boy, watch out!
The episode begins with Bobby's friends all shunning him and complaining to Cindy that "my whole class hates me." He further explains to his mother and father, showing them an "SM" armband. "Should stand for 'snitch monitor,'" he says. In reality, "SM" is "safety monitor," a teacher-appointed group of older elementary students who police themselves — ergo, helping teachers by monitoring each other's behavior by reporting minor infractions or asking for help when more serious issues arise.
When Bobby says there wasn't a single volunteer and he was appointed, Carol reassures him by pointing out that his teacher thought he was mature enough to accept the responsibility. Mike adds that rules are important and tells him he thinks that he can be a good safety monitor.
If only his teachers and parents knew what they were in for.
At first, Bobby does alright by everyone's advice, but then he begins rigidly enforcing the school's rules and not showing good judgement. For instance, a classmate, while standing on a stairwell, tries to throw a piece of paper in a trash barrel below but misses; Bobby immediately confronts her and says, "Name please, last name first." Bobby becomes more and more like a "stop a speeding driver for going 56 in a 55 mph zone" rather than exercising judgement, and his classmates soon begin to get frustrated with him.
Not even Cindy is immune when he turns her in (along with a group of other girls) for running in the hallway. When Cindy protests, Bobby threatens to cite her for arguing with a safety monitor. Sure enough, later that afternoon, as Bobby is kicking back enjoying a snack, an angry Cindy returns home and snarls at him. Carol sees what's happening, takes her aside and explains not letting nepotism interfere with work, using an example of Bobby being a police officer who tickets her for running a traffic light. When Carol tries to explain that she would expect that to happen (ergo, he'd not show any favoritism), Cindy retorts, "If my son gave me a ticket, I'd give him a spanking!"
Meanwhile, the family is preparing for an outing on the water. Mike had been given, as a gift, a boat shell from a client (whose boathouse he had drafted plans for), and much of the action here focuses on the kids helping Mike with the restoration. note
Not Bobby, he instead begins abusing his jurisdiction and believes that his safety monitor duties carry over at home. Planning to make a report for his parents at the end of the week, his siblings and Alice end up on the report for one reason or another. Jan — who was nailed for not helping to set the table (she was studying for a test, and told Carol ahead of time) — curtly reminds Bobby that he is safety monitor at school, not at home. Eventually, the other kids go to their parents and say they don't want to go on the boat outing if Bobby comes, too; when Carol gives an "of course he's coming," they give both her and Mike an earful about Bobby's tyrannic attitude of late.
It all catches up with Bobby in the end.
The youngest Brady boy has dressed in his good suit for a yearbook photo for the safety monitor organization. While on the way home, Bobby is met up by one of his classmates, a pretty girl named Jill, who is hysterical because her beloved pet cat got loose and ran into an abandoned house. Bobby is reluctant to go in at first, seeing the "no trespassing" sign clearly posted, but — does he sense that he might get a date with a pretty girl? — eventually relents. He is eventually able to find the cat inside a chimney and talk it out ... but as the cat flees, a cloud of soot spills over him. Bobby's hormones begin working overtime as Jill thanks him, but then his being majorly turned on and the thought of him getting really close to her quickly goes away ... once he realizes that if his mom sees that he had gotten his clothes dirty, he'll get yelled at.
Arriving home, he sees an opening when he finds nobody is home ... and by Carol's note on the chalkboard, nobody is expected home until 6 o'clock. He's got an hour's opening to wash his clothes and hope that nobody will notice.
Except that Bobby, not knowing that you're not supposed to machine wash a good suit or use the entire contents of laundry detergent to wash a single load, finds out why. The washing machine quickly overflows and covers the service porch in suds. Bobby — going to the porch to put his clothes in the dryer — is horrified to find out what happened ... and is met by Carol and Alice, who had just gotten home and find out what happened.
Bobby has no choice but to confess what happened to his parents. Mike suggests that his actions call for punishment, but lets him off easy. Well, not in the least: "We always have to have rules and laws, but we also have to use them with reason and justice." So while he (somehow) lets Bobby off with also trespassing into an abandoned house, Mike and Carol continue by explaining why Jan, Greg note and his other siblings seemingly were allowed to get away with household infractions. And then Mike makes it abundantly clear, parroting what Jan had tried to tell him earlier: Being a safety monitor at school gives him no such authority at home; Carol lets on that she had also gotten calls from school about Bobby abusing his authority.
And then, everyone is able to go on the boat outing, Bobby presumably re-invited by his siblings. (Or at least, they were willing to tolerate him.) Bobby is seen wearing his suit pants, which he ruined several days earlier with the washing machine fiasco. After several good-hearted jabs at him, the family joins in to help the family lift the boat ... until Bobby splits the rear seat of his pants, ruining them for good! (And leading to a couple of bad puns by Mike and Carol.)
Tropes present in this episode:
- Cowboy Cop and Rabid Cop: The School Safety Monitors are merely there to encourage their peers to follow the rules and, if necessary, to report rulebreaking ... not trample over their rights or be a by-the-book, stop-'em-for-going-56-in-a-55-mph-speed-zone type SSM. After he becomes comfortable in his new role, Bobby is the latter in spades, and quickly makes him intensely disliked at school.
- At home, Bobby becomes one of these as well behind his parents back. Mike and Carol catch on quickly, however, after his brothers and sisters start complaining about him coming along on a family boating trip.
- Doomed New Clothes: It is implied that the suit Bobby ruins when getting it dirty while inside the old house, and then trying to wash it in the clothes washer is brand new.
- Hilarity Ensues: Bobby trespassing into an abandoned house, with a sign clearly posted. In the Brady world, Mike — although not happy — says Bobby's nobility wins out over breaking the law. In the real world, both he and his cute classmate Jill would be sent to juvenile hall. Both of them could have risked serious injury (such as a falling roof beam striking one or both of them on the head(s)), something Barry Williams pointed out in his autobiography; Mike would have grounded Bobby and really yelled at him; and — as others have pointed out — one of them could have easily called animal control for help in rescuing Jill's cat.
- Picture Day: Bobby dresses in his best suit for a group shot of the school safety monitors but this is merely to set up the crucial scene of him trespassing into an abandoned house to rescue a friend's cat. (Word has it the photo was re-taken, only without Bobby, who had been relieved of his Safety Monitor duties, although this is never stated outright.)
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Not Helping Your Case: Bobby hates being a school safety monitor because the kids won't talk to him. When encouraged to embrace his new role, he goes on a power trip which only makes things worse when he starts busting his fellow students and even his own family members for minor offenses.
- Shout-Out and Continuity Nod: Bobby uses a whole box of "Safe" in the washing machine scene. "Safe" was the brand of laundry soap the Bradys tried to do a commercial for in Season 3 episode "And Now A Word From Our Sponsor". While the commercial was not made, they still recieved 2,000 boxes of "Safe" as compensation.
- The Stool Pigeon: At first, Bobby bemoans the fact he's become essentially this. But as he becomes more comfortable in the role of School Safety Monitor and begins aggressively asserting himself, he truly earns the reputation of being a "snitch monitor," ironically the very thing he complained he didn't want to be. (Neither at school nor at home.)