Mike is due at a meeting when Marcia wants help at maths. Eventually, Mike agrees to help her although he will be late for the meeting. Afterwards, Marcia tells Carol how much she appreciates what Mike did. Later, when Marcia is clearing newspapers away, she sees an ad for a "Father of the Year" contest.
That night, Jan and Cindy find Marcia is not in bed and go looking for her while avoiding awkward questions from Alice and Carol. Marcia is in the den writing her essay for the contest. The other girls find her there, and she refuses to say what she is writing. While Jan and Cindy demand to see the writing, Mike comes home. He is not pleased to find the girls fighting in his den or out of bed. Jan and Cindy say they were looking for Marcia, whom they found writing what they think is a love letter. Mike sends them to bed and tells Marcia he will speak to her in the morning. But there is further trouble when Mike unwittingly knocks the whiteout bottle over and the whiteout spillls all over his blueprints and speech notes because Marcia did not put the lid on properly.
Next morning, Marcia hears about the whiteout accident and comes to be punished. Mike tells her not to worry about that, but she will be punished for violatations with extra chores. But when he gets home, he finds Marcia has not done the chores (because she was too busy with her essay). She explains that she was too busy with something else, but refuses to say what because it is personal. Mike says she has to explain more or face a more severe punishment, but Marcia says she cannot explain for the time being. So Mike grounds Marcia for one week. After he leaves, Marcia is so upset she screws up the essay.
After bed, Marcia changes her mind. She retrieves the essay, finishes it, and puts it in an envelope. But when she reads the deadline for entries, she has to sneak out of the house in order to post it on time. Downstairs, Mike suggests they go on a weekend ski trip, but Marcia's grounding poses a problem. Carol pleads with him to relent, at least for the weekend, and Mike agrees. But when they go to check the children, they find Marcia not in bed. At that moment, Marcia comes back through the window, saying she had to do it in order to mail the letter, but cannot say why. Mike sees no alternative but to exclude Marcia from the skiing trip and stay with her grandparents while the rest of the family will be going. Marcia looks on sadly as the rest of the family practice for their skiiing, and eventually bursts into tears.
At the office of The Daily Chronicle, the judges are making their decision for Father of the Year amid thousands of entries. Marcia's entry has made it to one of three finalists.
Mike is having second thoughts about excluding Marcia, but Carol says they have to stand firm about the rules. Upstairs, Jan and Cindy try to cheer Marcia up, but Marcia bursts into tears again when Cindy thoughtlessly says the word "skiing" (something they had agreed not to mention). Then Marcia does cheer up when she reads the paper and sees that it will announce the winner of Father of the Year the next day. Marcia now decides to tell Jan, as she cannot keep the secret any longer. She makes Jan promise not to tell, but as she begins to explain, Cindy comes in. They refuse to tell Cindy as she does not have good track record for keeping quiet. To satisfy Cindy, Marcia tells Jan a cover story. Greg comes in, and big mouth Cindy blabs what she believes is Marcia's secret to him.
Then Lance Pierce from the TV station arrives with an award for Mike. Pierce refuses to say just what the award is, because they want to capture the moment of surprise on film. So the family are soon all dressed up for the camera and the cameras are waiting for Mike. Things go a bit wrong when Mike comes in unexpectedly. But Pierce rallies quickly with the camera, and Hamilton Samuels of The Daily Chronicle presents Mike his award for Father of the Year. Samuels tells Mike that they chose Marcia's entry out thousands. All of a sudden, Mike understands why Marcia has been acting in the way she did. He is further touched when he reads the tribute; although he has been Marcia's father for only a short period, "no father could be a realer father." He gives Marcia a tremendous hug, and this makes the photograph that appears in the paper.
Later, Mike tells Carol that she ought to be proud of Marcia as she is her daughter. Carol immediately corrects him: "our daughter."