Family Ties

Season 1 Episode 20

The Fifth Wheel

Aired Unknown Mar 28, 1983 on NBC

Episode Recap

Except for Alex's inadvertent endorsement, the evening never would have happened. Mallory had a date with Jeff; Alex would eventually be invited to a poker game at Neil's apartment; Steven had angered Elyse to the point where she had no interest in attending a Dale Lewis campaign event, and was prepared to cancel on Steven. That would have left Elyse home to sit for ten-year-old Jennifer. But Alex piped in inappropriately: "[Lewis] is a real clown. He wants to cut defense spending, increase welfare spending, he supports the ERA. The man is an admitted liberal." The spiel was intended to encourage Elyse to stay home. Instead, it energized Elyse to go see Lewis speak. And someone had to stay home to baby sit Jennifer.

It was Mallory's turn, but she had a movie date with Jeff. She was aware of her responsibility when she agreed to go, but she feared that the effort required to persuade shy Jeff to ask her out again might prove too much. She finally persuades Alex to fill in for her, but at the cost of her taking the next five turns.

It's evident that Alex doesn't plan on actually playing with her. He shuns All-Star Baseball, Clue, and he just reflexively shuns having his head shaved. Actually, he wasn't listening. Rather he offers to share his book on tax-free bonds with her. Jennifer complains to Mallory that Alex isn't paying attention. Alex even refuses to play Cinderella – a game that involves Alex trying Elyse's slippers on Jennifer.

The phone rings, and it's Neil. He's inviting Alex to join a poker game. Chuck the Fish will be there, and he hasn't won a pot in three years. Alex attempts to renegotiate with Mallory. Jeff enters, and Alex tries to persuade Jeff to cancel. He almost succeeds, but Mallory steps in. After Mallory and Jeff leave, Alex negotiates with Jennifer, and finally just decrees that he and Jennifer are going to the poker game. Alex writes a note for his parents, and takes Jennifer with him.

Neil's apartment is a mess. Chuck, Doug, Neil, Alex and Arnie sit around the table. Jennifer is free to walk around, and from time to time will tattle on what is in who's hand. Alex attempts feebly to get Jennifer permission to play a hand, but the other four refuse. Neil offers to let Jennifer play with his toaster, provided she doesn't put a fork in it. The condition is pointless, for Neil has no forks. As the guys expose their hands, Jennifer walks out unnoticed. Alex wins with a full house, and Arnie says "Damn." As Arnie apologizes, he discovers Jennifer has left.

As Alex starts to panic, Steven and Elyse knock on Neil's door. They had read Alex's note, and have come to get Jennifer. With no Jennifer to offer them, Alex fabricates a story that Jeff and Mallory had come to pick her up. As his parents walk away, Alex leaves, intent on beating his parents home. He leaves so fast that he forgets to claim his winnings.

Mallory and Jeff get home first, and they get on the couch, preparing to make out. Alex arrives, and Jeff fears that he is angry for his violating Mallory. Alex couldn't care less what Jeff was doing. He needed time to recruit Mallory's help. As Mallory checks upstairs to see if Jennifer might be in bed, Alex recruits Jeff's help – to lie. When Jeff agrees, Alex hugs Jeff in gratitude. Steven and Elyse arrive home and see Alex and Jeff hugging where Steven had expected Mallory to be. They explain that at the speech, Elyse now supports Lewis, and Steven has withdrawn his support. For "we heard him speak."

Mallory comes down, announces that Jennifer is sound asleep, and hints to Alex and Jeff that they need to go back out and find Jennifer. Further, she talks Elyse out of checking on Jennifer. Alex and Jeff go out to look for Jennifer on the pretense that Jeff is driving home on a weak battery. Steven and Elyse head up to bed. Mallory, afraid that they might check on Jennifer, feigns curiosity about boys and sex.

Steven spends over an hour going over the basics. When Elyse suggests that Steven move ahead, Mallory asks Steven to keep it slow. And Alex comes home empty-handed. He confesses that he lost Jennifer at the card game.

Steven requests calls to the police, to Chrissy, and to Neil. Since they have only one phone, Alex heads over to the Obeck's, and Elyse to the Bartons. And Jennifer walks in. She had taken the bus home. The bus driver, Sam, was the only person lonelier than her, and she had invited him to dinner for Thursday night. Jennifer was unimpressed that Alex and Mallory had claimed to be concerned.

Alex and Mallory are now grounded for a long time. They approach Jennifer, now in bed, to apologize. They pledge to pay more attention to her. Alex agrees to play Cinderella with her.