Family Ties

Season 1 Episode 21

Stage Fright (a.k.a.) Video Jitters

Aired Unknown Apr 04, 1983 on NBC

Episode Recap

The stage is set for Keaton Day at WKS, with Elyse setting the stage. More accurately, she is designing the set for the championship round of The WKS High School Quiz Off. Alex's own Harding High will face St. Mary's High, and Alex, Ted Quinn, and Grover Garver comprise Harding's team. Alex is in full training, and Jennifer is his training coach. It is Thursday, and the Quiz Off is this Sunday.

But Ted comes down with a case of infectious pneumonia, and must withdraw. His replacement must be a sophomore who is interested in academic challenge. And he or she must be willing to play side-by-side with Alex. Two sophomores step forward: Petey, an exchange student from Brazil, whose English is lacking, and Mallory. Mallory has never been eager to participate in academic challenges, but the thought of being on TV actually does appeal to her.

Elyse is in charge of designing the set. Steven rejects the first draft as too elaborate, and Elyse rejects last year's set as too boring. They never do resolve their difference on the matter. Elyse's second proposal resembles a Theater-in-the-Round. Steven suggests that her proposal is great for My Fair Lady, but still too elaborate for a High School Quiz Off. Upon hearing the words, "My Fair Lady," Alex immediately fancies himself as a Henry Higgins in search of an Eliza Doolittle to tutor. All he needs is a sophomore whose mind is a blank slate. Mallory enters, asking how to operate the blender. Alex has found his Eliza.

True to the Higgins-Eliza version, the tutoring process seems hopeless. Even Jennifer is getting annoyed at Mallory's inability to grasp basic facts. Alex expresses frustration because she got a question right last time; Jennifer corrects him: it was Jennifer, not Mallory, who answered.

Steven and Elyse join the three children to simulate the basic show. Elyse now presents her third proposal, with Steven, the host, elevated on a hydraulic lift. When Steven once again rejects it as too elaborate, Elyse refuses to play the simulation round.

Eliza had her breakthrough moment with The Rain in Spain, and Mallory had hers. She correctly identified SCUBA as standing for "Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus." The three children break out in a "Rain in Spain" parody. The celebration ends abruptly when during the parody, Alex asks, "And who invented scuba?" to which Mallory answers, "Magellan."

Sunday has arrived. Mallory begins flirting with three boys, who turn out to be last year's Quiz Off champions, as well as this year's judges. Alex dismisses them as clowns, and pulls Mallory aside for further tutoring. Steven calls for people to take their places. The St. Mary's team huddles for a pre-match chant of "Beat Harding High. Fight!"

Steven introduces the two teams: From St. Mary's, Mary Catherine Robbins, Mary Beth McAllister, and Mary Margaret Dunne. From Harding High, Alex Keaton, Mallory Keaton, and Grover Garver. He introduces the judges, last year's champions from East High School, and explains that their decisions are final. Mallory and the judges flirt from their places.

Mary Catherine buzzes in to answer before Steven begins the first question, confident she knows the answer. When Steven reads the question, "Who was the last U.S. president born in a log cabin?" Mary Catherine answers, "James A. Garfield," and waxes into a thesis on everything she knows about President Garfield.

The second question was well rehearsed during the Keaton family practices: Name the body of water off the southern tip of Chile. Alex buzzes first, as he knows that the answer is "the Straits of Magellan." He begins to answer confidently. When Steven asks him to answer into the camera, he freezes with a severe case of stage fright. He doesn't finish the answer until the Quiz Off has ended. Mallory answers the question: "the Straits of Massachusetts," and Steven declares her answer incorrect. However, the flirtatious judges declare her answer "close enough." Over Steven's own objections, the score is tied at 5 to 5.

Throughout the Quiz Off, Mallory holds her own, and Alex remains in a stupor. At the end, Mallory puts Harding up by 5, correctly identifying the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as the longest suspension bridge in the U.S. Over Steven's objections, the judges are interested in Mallory identifying the second longest as the Golden State Bridge. The truth is that the only reason she got to answer at all is because the judges ruled she buzzed in before Mary Catherine.

Only a 10-point bonus question remains. Whoever gets the last question wins the Quiz Off. The question is, "Masters and Johnson are noted for their research in what area?" The answer is "sex," but the proper and Catholic Mary Catherine can't say that word out loud. She buzzes in, walks over, and whispers into Steven's ear. Steven declares the answer correct, and he declares St. Mary's the winner. Alex comes out of his stupor shouting, "Straits of Magellan."

Alex is debriefed about what he missed, but all he hears is that Harding lost. He plans an appeal to the commissioner, but is advised that it's over. St. Mary's proved no more gracious in victory than Alex proved in defeat. Mary Beth recounted a question she had answered about the crusades which Steven had judged wrong, but her Sister had judged correct. Though St. Mary's won anyway, they wanted the record revised so that they would win by more. Later, Steven is seen back stage, heavily lectured by the Sister.

Alex still has not conceded. He challenges Elyse to ask him any question. Elyse's "Alex, why are you like this?" isn't what he had in mind. As she explains to Alex the importance of viewing the Quiz Off as a fun event, and that Alex was taking it far too seriously, Elyse takes one final stab at insulting the boring simplicity of the Quiz Off set design.