February 14th, 2018 by Proprietor
Mr. Ed Phillips, played by Jack Collins, who was introduced in the “Call Me Irresponsible” episode 6 of season 2, was technically Mike Brady‘s direct boss. But the president of the architecture firm was Mr. Harry Matthews, played by the great Jim Backus, who famously played Thurston Howell III in Gilligan’s Island. It would be Jim’s second guest appearance on the Brady Bunch. He played the old prospector in Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2 “Ghost Town USA” and “Grand Canyon or Bust“.
Season 5, Episode 21 “The Hustler” was one of the final episodes of the Brady Bunch. Robert Reed was growing tired of playing a character he felt was unrealistic, and in a sitcom he felt was holding his career back. Throughout the entire run of the show, Robert was a bit of a jackass, but he did love the children. As it was, the Brady Bunch was running out of steam anyway. The children were getting older, Greg was planning on going to college and moving out of the attic. Marsha was probably following in his footsteps. Producers had tried several ways to revive the show. Introducing the Kelly Family as an attempt to back end a spin off. Then bringing in Cousin Oliver to keep the cuteness factor going. But, none of it made any sense, and ratings were not as strong, if the network renewed for another season, Mike Brady was going to be replaced. Though more sinister thoughts had crept in, and conspiracy theories evolved.
A pool table had been delivered to the Brady House, with no note as to whom it was from. Once the pool table was uncrated and assembled in the car port, Bobby became a hustler. With Cousin Oliver as his sidekick, Bobby gained sweet revenge on his brothers. Mike and Carol were befuddled as to who would send such a nice gift. When Mike returned to work the next Monday, Mr. Matthews asked Mike if he liked the gift he sent. Turns out the Mr. Matthews was so pleased with work Mike did for a major client, he sent the pool table as a reward. A pool table seems like a real downer compared to Hawaii and King’s Island. Though Mike was grateful for the gift, and happy to solve the mystery. To show his gratitude, Mike invited Mr. Matthews and his wife over for a cookout and to play a few games on the table. This is where things go sideways.
Having covered all the events in a previous post, we get to the conspiracy theory. Mr. Matthews was obviously a generous man to his employees, especially loyal ones, except it was hinted he had a petty and dark side. Though it seemed like losing a major client like Beebe Gallini was no big deal, losing at a game of pool was a big deal.
Two other men who worked at the firm and their wives had been invited. The men went to the car port to play pool, and look at the Driscoll’s Toy Store box, while the women chatted, and Alice made the food, maybe some cake as well. The men fearing losing their jobs, at the least, lost to their boss, Mr. Matthews. Enter Bobby. Having finished his delinquent homework, because he was too busy being a pool champion in his mind, Bobby asked if he could play. At first Mike balked, either understanding that Mr. Matthews was petty, losing to employees was not acceptable, so losing to a boy would bring far more grievous consequences, or Mike just did not want Bobby to get a swelled head again.
Bobby began beating Mr. Matthews quite easily. After several games, and betting to make it more interesting, Mike’s co-worker advised Mike to break Bobby’s arm. This is where the conspiracy theories begin to build the case as to why Mike Brady did not appear in the final episode.
Even though Mr. Matthews appeared fine with losing to Bobby, and having to send him over 100 packs of gum, underneath the cool exterior was seething rage at being so humiliated. To compound the humiliation, Mr. Matthews wife, Frances, played by Dorothy Shay, found out. Mr. Matthews toyed with getting rid of the pool table he had or maybe even having Bobby teach him to be better. In the end, Mike, trying to salve his boss’ wounds, suggested donating the pool table in the car port to a charity. All seemed good, except Mrs. Matthews bemoaned to Carol about not being able to have her grand piano back. Things get real dicy in the realm of conspiracy.
Mrs. Matthews angry that she cannot get rid of the pool table and replace it with her beloved piano, more than likely gave Mr. Matthews an earful. Already stinging from being humiliated by Bobby, and his gift being given away, was probably pushed too far. A message had to be sent. Mike was killed, and the Brady family silenced. In the last episode Mike did not appear, and there was no mention of his absence from what was a major event in his oldest son’s life, graduating high school. This is conspiracy of course, and people having fun with certain thought processes. Mike would return in the spin offs. Not only was he forgiven, but he would be promoted to senior partner.
The reality of the situation was Robert Reed being a jerk. If the Brady Bunch were renewed for a sixth season, Robert was going to be replaced. In my humble opinion, Mr. Brady should have been sent to somewhere exotic to oversee the construction of a project his firm designed. It would have left open the ability to bring Robert back and explain Mr. Brady’s absence, since the firm did have a reputation for sending Mike off to inspect building projects, Hawaii or meet directly with clients, King’s Island. Though it would be really snarky to just have Mike disappear completely, like Tiger and Fluffy, leaving his drafting board in the den as a reminder of his existence, like Tiger’s dog house in the backyard.
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