Of the six Brady kids, Jan was clearly the most insecure about herself and her place in the world, almost neurotic. Not only did she struggle to find a personality that suited her, or at least something that would make her stand apart from the others especially Marcia but even to be respected and have a say in what she wanted to do. A series of minor arguments use of the phone, having first crack at choosing a snack from the refrigerator and watching a movie on TV soon irritate Jan to the point where she wishes she were ... "Jan, the Only Child."
Jan complains to her folks that her siblings are always getting in her way and that she can never have her privacy or wishes to do things respected. Carol and Mike are sympathetic but also tell her she does get her turn sometimes. But not often enough to suit Jan, unfortunately. Jan has a friend who is an only child and, she says, she doesn't have any of the major problems that she does in a house full of siblings that are always there. Carol reminds Jan that while her friend does have some advantages, she also doesn't get to do many of the same things that other families with multiple children get to do. For now, Jan doesn't see it that way ... and she's constantly on the phone with her friend to vent her frustration. She even wants to be let out of the family's act at the upcoming Charity Hoedown sponsored by their church. (The entire subplot features the family square dancing, Carol and Alice preparing secret recipes for their strawberry preserves and so forth.)
Meanwhile, the other kids decide to concede to Jan for awhile as she works through her frustrations, letting her sit where she wants to at the table, watch TV when the others want to watch something else ... on it goes. Of course, they don't let on, but eventually Jan catches on that something's up and gets Cindy to spill the beans.
Hell hath no fury like a Jan Brady who's pissed ... and she really is angry! She berates her siblings for treating her this way and tells them in no uncertain terms she wishes they'd just go away ... she really does want to be an only child. So Greg, after confirming that's what Jan really wants, and the others agree to exactly that. Jan soon finds that getting what she wanted might work fine for a little while, but soon it's as lonely as can be with five of her best friends her siblings ignoring her as though she doesn't exist. She could just as well have been dead.
Well, things don't quite get that desperate for Jan, but she does sadly watch her siblings have lots of fun practicing for a sack race. She mopes to her father, and Mike gives her a pep talk and encourages her to try one last time to get her siblings to speak to her. Eventually, Jan summons enough courage to do just that she walks right out in the middle of the sack race and bumps into Peter. After another heated exchange, Jan ultimately agrees that she'd love to have her siblings back and that she'll try harder to fit in. The other kids, admitting they could be better too, agree and Jan is welcomed back.
Needless to say, Jan goes to the Charity Hoedown and has a great time! She even invites her only child friend to the event.
Incidentally, in the scene where Jan goes to talk to her father about her and her siblings not speaking to each other, note that she seems to take an interest in Mike working at his drafting table. It's just a passing interest here to relieve her boredom, but Jan soon becomes interested ... very, very interested in architecture and following in his footsteps and, by 1981's The Brady Brides would become her career. Just one of those subtle things to take note of.
Tropes present in this episode:
- Be Careful What You Wish For: After her siblings agree to her wish to be an "only child," Jan soon finds that being just that in a house full of siblings is a very lonely proposition.
- Gilligan Cut: Mike brags that he doesn't mind trying on a pair of overalls for the Charity Hoedown. Cut to a scene with Carol hemming the overalls with Mike wearing them, and Mike yelling "OW!" when accidentally poked by a needle.
- Only Child Syndrome: Jan's friend is an only child, and someone she can cry on her shoulder to over having to compete with others for attention, the TV, the phone and so forth. By the end of the episode, when everyone makes up, Jan invites her friend to the Charity Hoedown.
- Unperson: What Jan becomes to her siblings after getting into a series of arguments with them over privacy, courtesy and personal space issues. They try to accommodate her but when that doesn't work and Jan angrily states (and confirms) her desire to be an only child, they grant her wish, declaring her invisible, ignoring her, refusing to invite her to their activities and staying out of her way.