Distracted driving may be the hot-button topic on American roads today, what with cell phones, texting and other forms of electronic communication devices out there to keep the focus on anything but on the steering wheel and the road. But even in the early-to-mid 1970s, and long before that, there were problems with eating, changing radio stations, getting dressed and shaving, rubber-necking the pretty girls in the car next to you ... looking at album jackets ... .
Looking at album jackets? Greg becomes a distracted driver when he does just that. He narrowly avoids an accident, gets the keys taken away from him for a week when the folks find out and then gets severely punished when he tries to go behind his parents' backs to get rock concert tickets by driving a buddy's car. It's all what happens when ... "Greg Gets Grounded."
The little smart-ass who rats Greg out is none other than Bobby, whom had gone along with his older brother to the record store to buy a couple of albums. Greg makes Bobby keep his mouth shut when they get home, but Bobby (and rightfully) immediately boasts that Greg was this great driver, what with his ability to both drive and look at the album art of one of the LPs, his cat-quick reflexes and slamming on the brakes to barely avoid rear-ending the back end of a semitrailer truck (he ended up passing the slowing truck on the shoulder). Mike and Carol needn't hear any more they know what this means, especially since, it is implied, that Greg had been guilty of distracted driving before and had been counseled on it. Since warnings didn't work and Greg is very lucky to not have caused a huge pileup with multiple deaths and injuries, Mike says that Greg is not allowed to drive the car for two weeks.
That doesn't sit to well with Greg, who doesn't think that nearly causing a major accident that would have made the national evening news is such a big deal, but he goes along with it. Until ... he hears about this rock concert coming to town and wanting to revive his on-again, off-again relationship with babelicious classmate Rachel decides to make a date for the concert. But to be able to go on the date, he needs tickets. And to get tickets, he needs to find a way to get to the box office ... which, it is implied, is some distance away and too far to go on a bicycle.
What to do? He tries asking Mike for the car, insisting that this time he'll be a good driver, but Mike is unwilling to compromise. So instead of just simply asking his dad (or even a friend) to take him to the box office, he convinces one of his buddies to let him borrow his car. Greg drives to the box office, buys the tickets ... and that's that. No harm, no foul, right?
- harsh losing NBC game show buzzer as heard on Card Sharks *
Carol had gone grocery shopping and coincidentally ran into the mother of Greg's friend. The mother asks if Carol needed a ride, since she was under the impression that the Brady station wagon was in the shop. Carol is confused ... and rightly so, since she is unaware that Greg would try something like this. The matter is cleared up, and Carol reports this to Mike, who is now pissed. Greg comes home and announces he has his coveted rock concert tickets. Mike announces that he knew what his son did and then levies a really severe punishment ... except for school, you are not allowed to leave the house. Greg protests, saying he'll miss the rock concert ... but Mike gets even angrier and Greg runs off in a huff, realizing he's lost this argument.
That night, Greg can't sleep, his mind still on the punishment. So he goes to his parents to appeal his punishment. He suggests that his father's punishment may (gasp) have not been specific enough ... that it applied only to the Brady cars, not anyone else's, and that perhaps Mike should have been more specific on what he meant (which is, no driving). Y'see, if Mike had used Exact Words ... that is, "Greg, you are not allowed to drive for two weeks," he would not have disobeyed his parents.
Mike looks at Carol, pauses, tells Greg that he believes that he knew exactly what was meant by not being allowed to drive the family cars for two weeks ... but in a show of grace and mercy and (unstated) sensing that perhaps Greg needs to be taught a lesson about the ambiguity of parental punishments a different way agrees to back off the more severe grounding punishment. Greg is satisfied, although after he leaves the room, Mike tells Carol to just see how this will work and that Greg will be in for more than he's bargained for.
As Greg is held to his commitments to wash the car and do the dishes on the day stated remember, Exact Words Bobby and Peter have been spending the episode preparing their frogs for a community frog-jumping contest. Greg earlier had made a promise to his younger brothers to take them to this concert, forgetting to add, "Unless something comes up." It so happens that this frog-jumping contest is on the same night as the rock concert. Greg remembers this and then tries to tell the brothers he's unable to hold to the earlier promise. Bobby and Peter complain to their dad, and Mike sides with them once Greg admits he didn't add the "unless something comes up" clause. Greg is made to take his brothers to the frog-jumping contest ... forcing him to repurpose his hot date with Rachel.
Greg follows through, per his Exact Words argument, with his brothers, then after dropping them off at home leaves in a hurry to make his date with Rachel. Bobby and Peter quickly realize that they left the frogs in the back seat of the car, but Greg's already racing to Rachel's house and they realize there's little they can do but hope nothing wrong goes on.
Well, Murphy's law strikes again ... as during a tense scene at the movie, just as Greg is cozing up to Rachel and thinking about doing more than just share some pizza, one of the slimy frogs gets loose. It jumps directly on top of Rachel's head. Greg immediately realizes what has happened he didn't let his brothers get the frogs out of the car. Before long, several of the gross-feeling amphibians are hopping all around the car, with one even landing on the pizza. Eventually, Greg and Rachel laugh at the absurdity of the situation as their second date comes to an early end.
Back at home, Greg is explaining things to his folks, and it draws a big laugh. Afterward, Greg admits he's learned his lesson, Mike agrees, the Exact Words agreement is canceled and all is well in the Brady house again.
Tropes present in this episode:
- Exact Words: In spades when Greg weasels his way out of Mike's tough punishment. In the process, Mike is still able to teach Greg a lesson about how sometimes there is a reason why there is ambiguity in punishments.
- Funny Aneurysm Moment: This episode was one of the earliest to address the seriousness of distracted driving (some 25 years before cell phones were common), with Greg the guilty driver who, while looking at the cover of his new album (while presumably driving at highway speeds), luckily avoids causing an accident on a major freeway. In November 1973, as he reveals in his autobiography and retrospective of the series "I Was a Teenaged Greg," Barry Williams reveals that he was involved in a car accident that was caused by a distracted driver (the other driver), who was tending to her dog while driving and caused a head-on collision; Williams was bruised but otherwise not hurt, but his new 1974 Porsche was destroyed.
- Barry writes that he also had to get stitches in his lip; when he returned to work shortly after the accident, the producer slapped a Band-Aid on the wound and decreed that "Greg had cut himself shaving." Barry's response: "With what, a lawnmower?"
- Girl of the Week: Greg's sometimes girlfriend, Rachel. Incidentally, Sherwood and Lloyd Schwartz (Hope Sherwood's father and brother, respectively), never thought to revive her character — much less cast her as Greg's wife — in the Brady reunion movies and The Bradys years later. (That duty would fall on a woman named Nora (Caryn Richman), whom Greg met in medical school and eventually married.)
- You Are Grounded: The backbone of the episode's plot — Greg gets grounded when he tries to skirt Mike's direct order to not drive for two weeks.