Just as a brief reminder, the "WTF Episode" is designed to demonstrate a particular case that is just so odd and twisted, it doesn't seem to be rational in the context of the series as a whole.
A part of the ABC Television lineup from the Fall of 1970 to the Spring of 1974, "The Partridge Family" was inspired by the real life story of The Cowsills, a musical family that had a series of minor hits in the mid to late 1960s, and who went on to perform the title track from another ABC series from that era, “Love, American Style,” (probably as a make-good on the fact that the network basically stole their story and recast the show with actors, rather than having the Cowsills play the parts themselves).
Much like “Bachelor Father,” “The Partridge Family” has a few classic TV tropes.
A deceased parent, in this case, Mr. Partridge, left Shirley Partridge (Oscar Winner, Shirley Jones) widowed and with her five way too precious kids: eldest Keith (David Cassidy, Shirley’s real life stepson), Laurie (Susan Dey), Danny (Danny Bonaduce), Chris (Jeremy Gelbwaks in season 1; Brian Forster, thereafter), and little Tracy (Suzanne Crough). But they formed a musical group, got their mom to sing along and became national hits, much to the delight of their manager Reuben Kincaid (Dave Madden)!
Stories tended to follow one of three separate scenarios: the family on their tours to various (and quite honestly, questionable) gigs, often at places like amusement parks, ski lodges, street festivals or other “non-headline” venues; some venture, ploy or plot schemed up by Danny that entangled the rest of the Partridges in some way, designed to make money but typically did not; or an episode with personal issues that one particular sibling was having in their lives. And it’s this third style of story drawn from the series’ second season that I have selected for this WTF episode, titled “The Partridge Papers.”
The focus of this tale is Laurie, who is trying to make sense of high school at this point.
The episode begins with Laurie having been selected “Miss Dill Pickle” (WTF? When did California become a center of Dill Pickle production?) But it’s a lot of publicity! (WTF? It’ll be all BAD publicity, based on Laurie's reaction). But Laurie also needs to donate something for a Celebrity Auction (WTF? Laurie may be Miss Dill Pickle, but she’s no “celebrity”)! The Auction is a fundraiser for the school newspaper and in charge of handling the material is Marvin, the editor of the paper who just happens to hate Laurie, for reasons, unknown (WTF? The least hateable character on the show is Laurie). A moment later, Marvin (played by Bruce Kimmel) arrives for the pick-up and greets “Pickles Partridge” (bad news travels fast) with a comment that he’ll put the news of her pageant win on page one, much to Laurie’s chagrin (WTF? Didn’t she enter the competition? Why is she all that embarrassed about it?)
Laurie donated her ballet slippers to the auction (WTF? Laurie never did any dancing of any kind during the series!), and asks Danny to go up to her room and retrieve the brown shoebox to give to Marvin (WTF? Why would she trust Danny to do ANYTHING?) Of course, when she came back from her publicity junket as Miss Dill Pickle, she is really in a pickle: Danny gave away the TAN shoebox: the shoebox with Laurie’s private diary! (Who knew that Laurie was a forerunner of LiveJournal, way back in March 1972?)
Shirley doesn’t understand what could possibly be so embarrassing about the contents of a diary. (WTF? How does she not understand the concept of a diary?) What was included in the text? When Laurie got a training bra, it was a D Cup (WTF? That’s not exaggeration, that’s fantasy!) Shirley’s advice: tell Marvin that a mistake was made and exchange the boxes.
But instead, Laurie asks Keith and Danny to do the swap (WTF? Getting Danny involved was how the trouble started!) All this does is get Keith suspicious about what is included in the diary as well, since she wants it so badly/quickly. So, Keith finally agrees, admitting he would like to see what’s in that diary after all (WTF?) So they’ll “help” her to read the results! (With brothers like these, who needs Marvin?)
When Shirley hears of the plot she chastises her eldest daughter for her thinking (or lack thereof), but Keith and Danny come home with no diary anyway. It’s too late. Marvin already knows he has it. As a consolation, Keith and Danny bring her a box of candy and bouquet of flowers (WTF? Are they dating her?), while Laurie is sure that Marvin is selling copies of her diary to anyone that wants one. Shirley says Laurie needs to go and ask for it back herself.
When Laurie returns from Marvin’s office empty-handed, she says that Marvin is going to print Laurie’s diary in the paper (WTF? What’s really in there that would be worth printing?) and he insulted her by saying “You’re so skinny, when you stick your tongue out, you look like a zipper” (WTF?) But Laurie is hatching a plot to get the diary back. She has to get it before it becomes a headline in the school paper.
Laurie admits that she will have a tough time doing this on her own, because she’s not as shrewd or cunning as a man or as strong as a man (WTF?) Keith notes she didn’t make such statements at the Women’s Lib rally the week before, so they’re clearly seeing through her pretense. It wouldn’t be a break in, Laurie says. It’s just a temporary trespass (WTF? How are they getting into the office without breaking and entering?) Danny suggests that a bribe might convince them to participate, like doing all his chores for a couple of weeks. But after a bit more teasing, Keith agrees to get them to help out.
Later, Laurie hands Shirley and Reuben (WTF? Doesn't Reuben have ANY other clients?) a list of things she needs to get, such as a Chinese/English dictionary, and Collar Tabs (WTF?), but Shirley knows this scavenger hunt is really just to keep her out of the way for a while and she asks them how much time they need (WTF? Why is she ignoring her motherly responses?). Laurie eventually asks for 2 hours, and Shirley agrees to the bargain, but will want the story when she returns.
As soon as Shirley and Reuben are gone, the plot begins. Danny has a mini reel to reel tape player strapped to his ankle where he gives begins to give recorded details about the team about to handle the case, in what is clearly a parody of “Mission: Impossible” (WTF? The tape player would have made sense if Danny wasn’t there! Also, wouldn’t his ankle have self-destructed? WTF?) But soon enough, they head to the school.
The three of them arrive at a back alley, filled with the requisite crates and boxes to provide clutter (WTF? Aren’t there carting services to haul that away?) They spot an open window and the guys make Laurie climb the crates to the fire escape ladder (WTF? Who leaves wooden crates under a fire escape ladder?) And as she gets on the ladder, a cop (played by Gordon Jump, eventually of “WKRP in Cincinnati”) happens to wander by to question Keith and Danny. They explain that they’re there to meet Marvin to give him the ballet slippers (WTF? The cop was perfectly ok with that explanation?) During that, Laurie slips and the ladder she’s standing on lowers back to ground level, where she winds up directly behind the officer. But the cop remains oblivious and wanders on his beat, presumably to miss other suspicious activity, elsewhere. (WTF?)
They push her back up and she climbs through the window where she is greeted immediately by - Keith and Danny (WTF?) The front door was unlocked (WTF? Why wouldn’t you check that first before climbing up crates?) The guys just walked in.
Of course, Marvin’s office is locked so they still need to figure out how to get in. Laurie spots an air vent and suggests that Danny crawl through to Marvin’s office. Danny said he was short but Laurie was skinny (WTF?) so she should do that too. And Keith? He just washed his hair (WTF?!)
Meanwhile, Marvin showed back up at the Partridge home, where Shirley greeted him. When she told him Laurie wasn’t at home, he moved to leave but Shirley pulled him inside for a talk. Finally, we hear why Marvin dislikes Laurie: she’s talented, pretty and has green eyes (WTF?). Shirley understands that Marvin has a crush on Laurie. But he chose not to tell her because he was dull and has no talent (WTF? Low Self-Esteem much?) But he admitted he had no intention of printing it, and never even read it (WTF? is anyone believing THAT?). But while he’s holding her diary, she’ll notice him (WTF? Marvin is part stalker)! Shirley suggests that if he gives the diary back, Laurie will notice him in a much nicer way (with a restraining order, we hope!).
Back at the newspaper office, Laurie has crawled through the vent and found an opening. When she kicks out the grating, it turned out she only came right back to the hallway Keith and Danny were standing in. Danny waved a key ring in Laurie’s face. There was a peg with the key right on it in full view (WTF? Maybe they need to improve their observational skills).
In the office, as they rummaged through the materials, suddenly the sound of people outside sent Laurie, Keith and Danny scrambling under the desks. But Danny left his foot sticking out from underneath and when he moved it, his tape recorder started playing again (WTF? Why didn’t he take that off?) Of course, it’s Shirley and Marvin who entered, and Mrs. Partridge gets to give a lecture on law breaking (WTF? Guess what, Mom? You shouldn’t be at school after hours, either!). Marvin was all set to give the diary back anyhow.
Shirley grounded all three of her brats. But then, she encouraged Marvin to speak and after mumbling something, finally admitted to Laurie that he thought she was nice, and if she would go out with him as Danny rolled his eyes. (WTF? What super shy guy suddenly is ok with admitting all of that to the girl he’s crushing on, in front of her mom and two brothers?!)
The episode features The Partridge Family playing the song “It’s One Of Those Nights (Yes, Dear)” which actually is a pretty decent little tune (WTF?) Marvin has a ringside table and shoots the most frighteningly stalker style expressions at Laurie throughout the song (WTF?!) I mean, this just isn’t normal! (WTF? WTF?!) I actually defy you to watch this concert style video through to the end, without wavering and not thinking this guy would be some sort of freaky Hillside Strangler or serial killer! This is especially apparent when Keith comes off the stage and stands right by him singing the lyric. Marvin’s expression at that moment cannot be unseen! (WTF!)
Next day, Laurie brought in the mail. Just a letter for Keith. Shirley asked about Reuben’s date (WTF? Getting a little personal, aren’t ya, Shirl?) and he said they drank beer and sang Prussian Marching Songs all night (WTF?! Even as a metaphor that’s insane). But that she looked cute in her helmet (WTF? It WASN’T a metaphor?)!
But then Keith is about to read aloud from Laurie’s Diary. Laurie asks for it back but then suggests that he won’t read it… she is holding a letter from Cynthia to Keith and she opens the envelope. Keith grabs for the letter but misses. Keith’s letter begins, “Dear Bootsy.” Keith proposes a trade but Laurie says, anything that starts “Dear Bootsy” must be better than her diary! The episode ends with Laurie racing up the stairs with Keith’s letter, and Keith chasing right behind. (WTF? Keith left the diary on the table right by Danny, who had no blackmail material to prevent him from reading it!)
Still not convinced? Have a look at this episode for yourself!