The Private Ear
Written by Michael Morris
Peter uses Mike’s tape recorder to listen to other people’s conversations. Things get out of hand when the kids start arguing with each other. Hope you enjoy the script.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
(The episode begins with Marcia walking in the house in a daze. When she gets halfway up the stairs, she decides to run up to her room, where she sees Jan.)
Marcia: Hi. (She moves a little closer) Jan, the truth, do you see anything different about me?
Jan (checking her over): Your right eye looks bloodshot.
Marcia: I mean my expression.
Marcia: Oh, good! I thought the whole world could see it.
(She sits on her bed and Jan comes up to her.)
Jan: Well, let me look again.
Marcia: Jan, can you keep a secret?
Marcia: You have to give me your solemn promise.
Jan (raising her right hand): My solemn word.
Marcia: I’m in love.
Jan: Wow! Who is it this time?
Marcia: What do you mean this time? the others were just school girl crushes.
Jan: Is there a difference?
Marcia: Is there a difference? Is there a difference between a shooting star and a firecracker?
Jan: Who is he?
Marcia: Andrew Winicker.
Jan: Is he gorgeous?
Marcia: Well, he will be once his complexion clears up. I’m so happy, and I’m miserable.
Jan: How can you be both?
Marcia: It’s easy when you’re in love.
Jan: If that’s love, I’d rather have the measles. I’m gonna go down for some milk.
Marcia: Hey, remember, you swore not to tell anybody.
Jan: I couldn’t even explain it.
(The girls leave the room, as Peter enters through the bathroom. He grabs a tape recorder hidden under the bed. He plays back the conversation between Marcia and Jan. The scene fades out.)
(In the next scene, Marcia is in the living room studying. Peter comes in whistling, then he goes up to Marcia and checks her over.)
Marcia: What are you doing?
(He pulls up a chair.)
Marcia: You’re not just doing nothing, you’re staring at me. Why are you staring at me?
Peter: You, you look different.
Marcia: What do you mean different?
Peter: It’s, it’s hard to explain. It’s like, you’re happy and miserable at the same time.
Marcia (suspicious): Peter Brady, you know something.
Peter: Not me. (He gets up) I don’t even know the difference between a shooting star and a firecracker.
Marcia (getting up): You do know!
Peter: Know what?
Marcia: You know what what. (to herself) Jan! Jan! (He runs in the kitchen, where Jan is having milk and cookies) You told Jan, you told.
Jan: What did I tell?
Marcia: You know what you told.
Jan: I did not, I didn’t say a thing.
Alice: Well, not to me, she didn’t. Hasn’t opened her mouth except to gobble cookies.
Jan: Who do you think I told?
Marcia: You know who, and you know what, and about you know whom. Now it will be all over you know where, and I’ll die of humiliation.
Jan: Well, whoever it is, they didn’t find out from me.
Alice: Why don’t you tell you know who what’s what, and maybe we can work it out.
Marcia: If you can’t trust your own sister to keep a solemn promise, you can’t trust anyone!
Jan: Look Marcia, I promised not to, and I didn’t!
Marcia: How could you look me straight me in the eye and tell me an outright fib? Jan, this is the end of our sisterhood!
Jan: I didn’t tell, honest I didn’t!
(They leave the kitchen and Carol comes in.)
Carol (to Alice): What in the world was all that shouting about?
Alice: Well, just a little disagreement, Mrs. Brady.
Carol: About what?
Alice: Well, it seems that Marcia accused Jan of telling you know who about you know whom, and pretty soon you will be over you know what.
Carol: Alice, I want to thank you for clearing that up for me.
(The next scene has Greg in his bedroom fixing a clock. Peter comes in.)
Peter: What are you doing?
Greg: What does it look like I’m doing?
Peter: Fixing a clock.
Greg: Gee, how did you ever figure that out?
Peter: Boy, you sure are edgy today.
Greg: I’m always edgy when people are breathing down my neck.
Peter: Sorry, I can’t inhale all the time.
Marcia (entering the room): Greg.
Marcia: Did you want to see me?
Greg: Yeah. Pete, will you get lost? I have something important to discuss with Marcia. It’s private.
Peter: Sure, I know when I’m not wanted.
(He leaves but gets down on the floor.)
Greg: What are you doing?
Peter: I dropped something, I want to pick it up, do you mind?
Greg: well, hurry up.
(He turns the tape recorder on and gets up.)
Peter: Have a nice talk.
Greg: Marcia, can I trust you to keep a secret?
Marcia: My word, unlike some people’s, is as good as gold.
Greg: I’m in kind of a jam. (He gets up from his chair) And if Mom and Dad find out about it, I’d get one of those lectures which I probably deserve, but which I’m not in the mood for at the moment.
Marcia: What did you do?
Greg: Last year I had an assignment in English class to read the Red Badge of Courage. I got it out of the library, and read it, and then forgot it.
Marcia: Yeah, some books are like that. They just don’t stay with you.
Greg: What I mean is, I forgot to return the book to the library.
Marcia: You mean it was overdue?
Greg: 40 weeks. The fine was like the national debt, wiped me out.
Marcia: I don’t see why Mom and Dad should get so mad. Forgetting to return a library book can happen to anybody.
Greg: Yeah, well, this is my 3rd offense this term. So I’d rather not ask Dad for an advance on my allowance. If you could lend me enough for lunch money, I’d sure appreciate it.
Marcia: okay, I’ll lend you the money.
Greg: Thanks, Marcia, and mum’s the word.
Marcia: mum’s the word.
(The next scene has Greg playing basketball and Peter pestering him.)
Peter: Read any good books lately?
Greg: Why did you bring that up all of a sudden?
Peter: No reason. Just making conversation. (He throws the ball to him) How about last year? Read any good books last year?
Greg: I don’t remember.
(He takes another shot.)
Peter: Some older brother you are. You’re supposed to set a good example, so I don’t end up reading trash.
Greg: Read war and Peace.
Peter (throwing the ball to him): How about the Red Badge of Courage?
(Greg balks at taking a shot.)
Greg: How about the Red Badge of courage?
Peter: I heard it was great. It must be, because when I went down to the library to get it, the librarian said it was out, and hadn’t been returned in almost a year.
Greg (fuming): Marcia!
(Peter runs off and Marcia comes out.)
Marcia: Did you want me?
Greg: Maybe for the last time in my life!
Marcia (surprised): What’s that supposed to mean?
Greg: You told Peter and don’t deny it!
Marcia: I didn’t tell him a thing!
Greg; So you told somebody who told Peter!
Marcia: I didn’t tell anybody!
Greg: Then how did he find out?
Marcia: I don’t know, maybe he’s got ESP.
Greg: ESP, Marcia, don’t just sit there and deny it!
(Mike comes home, parks the car and tries to intervene.)
Mike: Hey, hey, hey, what are you kids arguing about?
Greg: Dad, this is kind of private.
Mike: Oh, well, in that case, have a nice argument.
Marcia: I didn’t tell him a thing!
(Carol is upstairs in the bedroom when Mike comes in.)
Mike: Hey, sweetheart.
Carol: Hi, honey.
Mike: When did the rummage sale start?
Carol: I was just checking my old ski clothes for the weekend, but the moths beat me to it.
Mike: Then you can use a new ski thing, guaranteed off limits for months.
(He hands her a gift.)
Carol: Oh, Mike! (She kisses him) Thank you. Oh, my goodness. What brought this on? (She opens it and it’s a new ski sweater) Oh, Mike, it’s lovely.
Mike: It’ll be even lovelier when it’s filled. (He gives her another kiss) How was your day?
Carol: Oh, the usual. Marcia and Jan are still feuding.
Mike: That’s funny. Marcia and Greg were just fussing and feuding too. What’s it all about?
Carol: I haven’t a clue.
(The next scene has Bobby and Cindy arguing over something as well in the family room.)
Bobby: You did.
Cindy: I didn’t.
Bobby: You did too.
Cindy: I did not.
(Greg comes in.)
Greg: Hey, what are you two arguing about?
Bobby: Well, you might as well know, she told everybody else. I got called to the principal’s office for chewing gum in class.
Greg: That’s not exactly the crime of the century.
Bobby: Well, just the same, a secret’s a secret.
Cindy: I did not say a word.
(Greg decides to walk away and Alice comes in.)
Alice: Anyone for dinner?
Bobby: If I wanted to tell you know who about you know what, I would have told you know who myself.
(They both go to dinner.)
Alice: Seems to me I’ve heard that song before.
(During dinner, Mike and carol notice the kids eating their dinner without speaking to each other.)
Carol: What is this, a silent contest?
Mike: If silence is golden, this must be worth a fortune.
(Carol laughs. When the kids continue their silence, Mike clinks on his glass for attention.)
Mike: Okay, kids, that’s it. You are all released from your vow of silence and I want to hear a little conversation and not about the weather.
Marcia: Well, I confided something in Jan, and she told it to everybody.
Jan: You accused me of being a stool pigeon.
Greg: You can’t trust anybody, Dad.
Bobby: It kinda makes you mad when your own sister rats on you.
Cindy: I didn’t rat on you.
(They continue to argue with each other while Peter eats his dinner like nothing was going on. Carol and Mike notice this and they bring him to the den after for a talk.)
Mike: Guess you’re wondering why we’ve asked you to this private caucus.
Peter: It kinda entered my mind.
Mike: From what we’ve been able to learn, there’s a security leak in the Brady administration. You seem to come off as Mr. Know-it-all. Any explanations?
Peter: Gee, I didn’t think it would turn out like this.
Carol: You didn’t think what would turn out like what?
Peter: Well (Pause) I kinda bugged the rooms with Dad’s tape recorder.
Mike (shocked): You kind of what?
Carol: Peter, why would you do a thing like that?
Peter: I only did it for a joke.
Mike: You think eavesdropping on other people’s private conversations is a joke?
Peter: I meant it to be.
Mike: Son, invasion of privacy is a serious offense. People can be sued for that.
Peter: You mean my own brothers and sisters are going to sue me?
Carol: Well, since this is your first offense, I think they might settle for an apology.
(Peter leaves and apologizes to the other kids in the next scene in the family room.)
Peter: So, I’m sorry. What I did was dumb and stupid, but I really didn’t mean any harm. So I’d appreciate it if you’d just forgive me, okay?
(All the kids forgive him and apologize to each other for their accusations. They leave the family room except for Greg and Marcia.)
Greg: He’s getting away with murder. All he has to do is apologize.
Marcia: I know. What kind of punishment is that?
Greg; None. He’ll just do it again.
Marcia: He probably will. But, there’s nothing we can do it.
Greg (coming up with an idea): Wait, maybe there is.
Greg: Give him a taste of his own medicine. I mean, if Peter is so crazy about listening to other people’s conversations on the tape recorder, why not give him something to really listen to.
(Marcia smiles in agreement as the scene fades.)
(The next scene has Greg and Marcia in her bedroom with the tape recorder. They’re about to record a conversation.)
Greg: Okay, let’s give that private ear something he’ll really enjoy listening to.
Greg: You know what to say now?
Marcia: Yeah. I’d love to see Peter’s face when he hears this.
(Greg starts to record.)
Greg: Boy, that Peter’s a lucky son-of-a-gun, isn’t he, Marcia?
Marcia: Whatever do you mean, Gregory?
Greg (frustrated): Cut! Erase! What is this whatever do you mean Gregory stuff?
Marcia: That’s what I’m supposed to say.
Greg: Yeah, but not like you’re the Queen of England. Be yourself, okay?
Greg: Boy, that Peter’s a lucky son-of-a-gun, isn’t he, Marcia/
Marcia: What do you mean, Greg?
Greg: I mean, Mom and Dad are throwing Peter a surprise party.
Marcia: Are they really going to?
Greg: Sure, and he deserves it. I mean, Peter has been failing geometry all year and then, bang, he buckles down and brings home an A. Mom and Dad are so proud they had to do something for him.
Marcia: We should too. Are you going to get him a present?
Greg: I sure am, something special.
Marcia: We should all get him presents. I just hope he doesn’t find out.
Greg: Not a chance! Mom and Dad have worked it out great. They’re going to pretend to drive away on their skiing trip Friday. But they’re really going to come back for the party.
Marcia: Gee, that’s terrific. Boy, will peter be surprised.
(The next scene has Peter in his room, and Greg comes in with the recorder.)
Greg: Okay, Mr. Big Ears, what’s the big idea?
Greg: Don’t give me that innocent jazz. Haven’t you learned your lesson yet?
Peter: What did I do?
Greg: Marcia found this under her desk and it was going.
Peter: Well, I didn’t put it there.
Greg: Sure you didn’t. Now, put it back in Dad’s den where it belongs, and don’t let me catch you using it again.
(He leaves the room.)
Peter (yelling): Boy, you’re sure not the forgiving type, are you? (to himself) what’s that all about?
(He takes the recorder, shuts the door and listens. The tape plays back the conversation between them while Greg and Marcia listen from the hallway in triumph.)
(Next, Peter is in the kitchen peeling potatoes, much to Alice’s surprise.)
Peter: You keep looking at me kind of funny, am I doing it wrong?
Alice: The raised eyebrows are not for how you’re doing it, but why you’re doing it.
Peter: Well, I just think a person should help another person whenever he can, that’s all. Like, I loaned my baseball mitt to a friend who lost his. The only trouble is, now I don’t have one. I sure could use a new baseball mitt.
(Carol comes in the kitchen with a ski outfit.)
Carol: Hi everybody. Well, Alice, what do you think?
Alice: If you’re not crowned snow queen, Mrs. Brady, the fix is in.
Peter: You look terrific, Mom.
Carol: Thank you very much.
Peter: Hope you have a great time at the ski lodge.
Carol: What’s so funny?
Carol: Well, I had these ski pants for years. I’m surprised they still fit.
Alice: Well, you watch your figure, Mrs. Brady.
Alice: I watch mine, too, and it’s done some things that have shocked me.
Peter: My only problem is that I’m still growing. (He gets up and puts the potatoes on the counter) Like last year, my feet were too small for cowboy boots. Now they’re just right. Especially brown cowboy boots. Well, I guess I’ll be moseying along.
(He leaves the kitchen.)
Carol: Brown cowboy boots. (She laughs) I know a hint when I hear one.
Alice: He’s also shy one baseball mitt.
Carol: But his birthday isn’t for months.
Alice: I guess he figures, shop early, avoid the rush.
(We next see Mike in his den, working on his typewriter.)
Mike (to himself): Now, what’s the matter with that thing?
(Peter comes in.)
Peter: I finished waxing the car. Anything else I can do?
Mike: Waxing my car, how come?
Peter: Well, all the pollution air can really ruin the paint. If there’s nothing else, I guess I’ll mow the lawn.
Mike: It’s night. And I doubt if the grass has grown very much since you mowed it this morning. You certainly are ambitious today, Peter.
Peter: I guess I’m just in a working mood. Need a hand with the typewriter?
Mike: No, I think it’s had it. This carriage is in the last stage of rigor mortis. The tab key isn’t too well either.
Peter: it would be neat if we had a new typewriter. I know if I had a typewriter then you could use it. Everybody could. A typewriter could really help with my schoolwork. a typewriter is something a guy can really use.
(Mike gives peter a shocked look. Next, Marcia and Greg are playing chess in the family room and Peter comes in.)
Greg: Hi, Pete.
Peter: Anything I can do for you guys?
Marcia: No, thanks.
Greg: Me either.
Peter: Well, if you need anything, just holler, but holler loud, because I’ll be up in my room listening to records.
Greg: It won’t bother us.
Peter: It might, because my records are kind of scratchy and warped. I really need some new records. Yes, sir, I could really dig some new records. Bye.
(He leaves and Greg and Marcia gloat.)
(Mike is in his den examining the typewriter. Carol comes in wearing a ski jacket.)
Carol: Brave hunter, you like Eskimo wife?
Mike: Hey, that’s something. Yeah, I may lose you to Smokey the bear.
Carol: Well, you lime it?
Mike: Yeah, how much it cost?
Carol: I borrowed it from Barbara.
Mike: I love it! (They laugh) Oh, I don’t know. This thing (typewriter) is hopeless. You know, I think I’m gonna put my notes on tape. You want to hand me the tape recorder on the table?
(Carol gets the recorder.)
Carol: Hey, listen, do you know why Peter mowed the lawn twice yesterday?
Mike: Well, I think he’s trying to make up for the trouble he’s caused with this thing.
(He turns the recorder on and they hear the conversation between Greg and Marcia.)
Carol: Surprise party?
(The next scene has Mike and Carol leaving for the ski trip. The kids are saying good-bye.)
Mike: We’ll be back next Sunday night, okay?
(The kids all say one more good-bye.)
Peter: Sure you will.
Greg (to Marcia): We really got Peter going.
(Peter is up in his room getting dressed for his expected party. Bobby comes in.)
Bobby: What are you all dressed up for?
Peter: Just getting ready.
Bobby: For what?
Peter: Nothing in particular. When you get to be my age, you kind of go through a neatness period.
Bobby: Boy, I hope that never happens to me.
Peter: It wouldn’t hurt you to look a little neater tonight.
Bobby: You’re off your rocker.
(Next, Peter goes to the staircase, expecting his big bash. He goes down the stairs and excitingly runs into the den but nobody is in there. He then runs into the kitchen, with the same result. He hears Greg and Marcia converting in the kitchen and runs in. He sees them playing another chess game. They are surprised to see him dressed the way he is.)
Greg: You’re sure dressed up.
Peter: Yeah. Well, I don’t want to interrupt your game. I think I’ll have a glass of milk.
(He goes into the kitchen.)
Greg (to Marcia): Gee, he’s really all charged up about the party.
Marcia: I, I feel kind of funny about it now.
Greg; me too. You think we ought to tell him the truth? (They go out to join Peter in the kitchen) Pete, we better talk to you about something.
Greg: Listen, there’s not going to be any surprise party.
Peter (pretending not to know): Surprise party?
Marcia: Peter, it was a joke.
Greg: A bad one. We were just trying to teach you a lesson.
Marcia: So we taped that stuff about the surprise party on the tape recorder.
Peter: Oh. (Pause) I don’t blame you guys for being sore. I guess I guess I really deserve it.
(Just then, Mike and Carol return with presents for Peter.)
Mike: Surprise party!
Carol: Where is everybody? Kids, Alice, Peter, surprise! (Alice, Bobby, Cindy and Jan come down the stairs) We’re having a party for Peter.
Jan: How come?
Mike: Because he got an A in geometry!
Peter (protesting): Greg and Marcia said it was a joke!
Carol: Oh, it’s no joke, honey.
Bobby: Gee, we didn’t buy any presents.
Carol: Oh, yes you did and you’re gonna be amazed at what good taste you all have.
Mike: Come on, how about opening them up? We got to get back to the lodge tonight.
(Greg and Marcia go up to them.)
Greg: Mom, Dad, how did you two find out about it?
Carol: Well, a little tape recorder told us.
Mike: That was pretty unfair of yo two. Why did you do it?
Marcia: Well, Peter played a dirty trick on us.
Greg: And all the punishment he got was that he had to promise not to do it again.
Mike: Well, sometimes a promise is enough.
Carol: I think from now on you two had better leave the discipline to us, okay?
Marcia: We’re sorry.
Peter: Wow, look at this. A tape recorder of my very own. Thanks Mom, thanks, Dad.
Carol: I think you know what to do with one of those, right?
Alice: Hey, Pete, do me a favor, open this one next. It’s from me. I’m dying to see what I got you.
Carol: You’ll love it, Alice.
(Peter opens the gift as the scene fades away.)
(In the final scene, Peter is in his room playing something on his new tape recorder. Greg and Marcia come in to see him.)
Greg: Hi, Pete.
Marcia: How do you like your new recorder?
Peter: It’s really neat. And I was just going to tell you guys, if you want to borrow it, you can borrow it any time you want.
Greg: Hey, a thing like that can come in handy. I mean for schoolwork and for taking notes in class.
Peter: Yeah, but it’s kind of tricky, so you better be careful. See this button. (He points to a button on the recorder) That’s what you press when you want to record. And this button’s where you press when you want to listen to what you recorded. But don’t press that button because I already got some stuff on it. But you wouldn’t be interested in that.
(He leaves the room.)
Greg (to Marcia): Did you hear that? He’s just dying for us to listen to what he recorded.
Marcia: Should we listen?
Greg: Sure, that’s what he wants.
(He plays the recorder back and hears a message Peter recorded.0
Peter: I, Peter Brady, do hereby solemnly swear to forgive Greg and Marcia for the crummy thing they did to me. And shame on you for listening when you shouldn’t have. (He laughs.)
(Greg and Marcia laugh to each other.)