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1986

Phil's Visit

Jodie is sitting alone in the children's department. She sighs deeply.

"What a night we've been having," she tells us in a sad voice. "Jeff and I got upset, Muffy got sad and Sam got awfully angry. Do you know why? Well, all because a man drank too much alcohol. Do you know what alcohol is? Well, it's what's in beer or wine or liquor. Most grownups are very careful when they drink alcohol, and they make sure that they don't drink too much. But there are some grownups that have a drinking problem. Too much alcohol can make them say or do things to other people that really aren't very nice. They don't mean it, but they do it. Maybe you know someone that's happened to. Well, that's what happened here tonight. Funny thing is, one hour ago, we all thought this was going to be one of the most exciting nights that we'd ever had in the store."

(Flashback)

Jodie is setting up a new display. It's a beautiful castle made of Lego building blocks, complete with turrets with peaked red roofs. And when Jodie pushes a button, the roofs light up. It's quite lovely. Muffy and Jeff think it's wonderful. "Jodie, the whole children's department looks fantastic!" Jeff says.

The phone rings and Jeff answers it. On the other end, Sam tells him someone has arrived. Jeff tells Jodie, "He's here! Sam's gonna let him in."

"He" is Phil Fanelli (played by Gerry Parkes), a famous photographer for "Storemakers" magazine. He's one of the best. He has photographed stores all over the world.

Muffy is impressed. "His job is to travel and take pictures, too? Oh, now there's a job I'd like to do."

It seems Muffy's taken up photography and according to Jeff, she's getting quite good.

Meanwhile, Sam is letting Phil in. He offers to give him a hand with his things but Phil says he can manage on his own, although his assistant, who usually helps with his equipment, is sick tonight.

He introduces himself to Sam. "Phil Fanelli, photographer with flair!"

"Pleased to meet you," says Sam, "Sam Crenshaw, security guard with - cat!"

Phil recognizes his name. It turns out they crewed together on the ship Ida Bell in the merchant marines. He tries to jog Sam's memory but Sam doesn't recognize him at first. Then, finally, "Now I remember!" Sam says. "You're the fella we couldn't find. We thought you'd fallen overboard. And all the time you were up the deck there, having a nap in the lifeboat. Yeah, sure I remember. Well, nice to meet you again."

"Listen, remember that silver flask I used to carry? Well, what do you say to a drink for old time sakes? A toast! To the Ida Bell!"

"No actually, there, I'm going to have to say no thanks a lot," says Sam. "As a matter of fact, if you've got alcohol in that flask there, I must tell you that we don't allow drinking of alcohol in the store. It's a store policy. So I'd appreciate it if you'd just kinda put that flask back in your pocket again."

"Well, say no more, Sam!" says Phil brightly. "Just lead the way to the children's department."

"All righty then, hoist anchor and follow me!" says Sam.

"All right, Captain Crenshaw!"

Once they reach the children's department, as Phil gets ready for the shoot, Muffy, dressed just like Phil, asks him if she can tag along and watch him work.

"Muffy, a mouse as charming and as talented as you deserves more than to just tag along. How would you like to be my assistant for tonight? We'll work together as a team."

"As a team? We two? Oh! A dream come true!" Muffy exclaims.

"Ladies and gentlemen," says Phil grandly, "introducing Muffy and Fanelli, photographers with flair!" He begins to sing. "When someone needs a photo who will you find there? Muffy and Fanelli, photographers with flair!"

Jeff grabs a rope and swings across the room. "Who can take my picture as I hang glide through the air?"

"Muffy and Fanelli photographers with flair!"

"If the subject's common, or if the subject's rare," sings Jodie.

"Call Muffy and Fanelli photographers with flair."

"Our pictures make you happy, they never make you glum," sings Phil.

"Just be a little patient and some day your prints will come!" Muffy sings. Everyone groans at the pun. "Of all those who take photos there's none that can compare with Muffy and Fanelli, that pair extraordinaire! Muffy and Fanelli, photographers with flair!"

Then it's time to get to work. Sam goes off to do his rounds. Phil tells Jeff and Jodie he wants them in the pictures, and he asks Jodie if she has any outfits that go with the displays. She says yes and she and Jeff go to the dressing room to change.

While they're changing, Phil goes off to wash his hands (or so he says), and asks Muffy to unpack his things while he's gone.

In the stockroom, Sam is telling Mrs. Pennypacker about the visit and photo shoot.

"Samuel Crenshaw! I ought to box you up and send you parcel post! . . . Do you mean to tell me that Phil Fanelli is in our store and you neglected to inform me?"

"Hmm, well, uh, on the face of it, uh, yes."

"Well, don't you know that he's famous the world over for - for discovering beautiful women in the most ordinary of places?"

"Oh, yes. Well, no, I didn't know that."

"Oh, yes! He finds them in bus stops and laundromats and soda fountains and . . ." she lowers her voice dramatically. "Possibly even in department store stockrooms!"

Sam gets the hint. "Oh! Well, uh, well, he'll probably be right down then!"

Mrs. Pennypacker breaks into a gale of girlish laughter and tells Mr. Crenshaw he must be proud to have such a friend.

"Yes, well, yes I am," says Sam less than enthusiastically. He then turns around and mutters, "as long as he keeps that flask of his in his pocket."

"Let me know if he's coming my way!" Mrs. Pennypacker trills as Sam leaves.

"Shall do!" says Sam.

Phil is, at that moment, in the bathroom, taking a swig of alcohol and then using a breath spray to cover up the odor.

In the children's department, everything is set up for the photo shoot. Jeff and Jodie are both in tuxedos, ready to pose in a formal display, but Phil is missing.

"First he went to wash his hands," Muffy tells them, "he came back and then, after we set up he left to wash his hands again."

Just then he comes back, apologizing for the delay and full of compliments to Jeff and Jodie. He shoots picture after picture of Jeff and Jodie posing with a pair of child mannequins also dressed in formal wear. Everything goes extremely well. Next, Phil suggests that Jeff and Jodie go off to change into some sporting gear. He tells Muffy to reload the camera and he steps to one side to take a nip from his flask. Unexpectedly, Muffy comes up behind him.

"What film speed do we need?" she asks.

"Muffy! You startled me. You, uh, caught me with my breath spray," he says, tapping the flask.

"Well, from what my little nose can tell, that is not a breath spray smell. I guess Sam didn't say before, but you can't drink alcohol in the store. Well, I don't know the reasons why, but he'll explain when he comes by."

"Now just a moment, Muffy, you're not going to tell on me are you? You're not going to be a snitch and tattletale about your old friend Phil, because I think that would be a big mistake, Muffy Mouse!" His voice turns menacing as he speaks through clenched teeth.

"Something's changed. It's plain to see," says Muffy, "because right now, you're frightening me!"

Phil is immediately repentant. "I am?" he says, and his voice softens. "Well, I didn't mean to do that Muffy, it's just that if Sam even thought I'd been drinking, he's throw me out of the store quicker than you can say 'mozzarella,' and then, I wouldn't be able to take Jodie's pictures would I? One of the biggest nights of her life would be ruined just because of you. Now, you don't want that, do you?"

Muffy is flustered. "No. I wouldn't. I couldn't!"

"Of course you couldn't, she's your friend!" says Phil. He drops his voice to a whisper. "Now, listen Muffy, suppose we forget this 'breath spray' thing. Suppose we keep it a secret, between ourselves, between partners. What do you say?"

Muffy stammers, "W-well, I say, okay."

Phil's voice is cheery again. "Oh, I knew I could count on you, Muffy. That's the ticket!" He suggests that Muffy set up the lights, but Muffy excuses herself, saying she needs to get a snack. After she's gone, Phil mops his forehead and heaves a relieved sigh.

Muffy isn't really having a snack, but taking a moment to think. "If I tell Sam what Phil just did, he'll get very mad, and then Phil will have to leave the store, and then Jodie will get sad. But if I just keep quiet, Phil will drink the whole night long. And though he says it's secret, I should tell, I know it's wrong! Oh, should I tell or should I not? I don't know what to do. This is most confusing and - and most upsetting too. Well, I think that I won't tell for now, uh, nothing's what I'll say, and - and then, maybe if I'm lucky, this whole thing will just go away."

So she goes back to the children's department where Phil is having trouble opening his bag. Sam comes along and asks innocently if Muffy is "learning any secrets" about photography.

Phil jumps in. "Oh, sure she is! But one thing about photographers, we keep our secrets. Right, partner?"

"Well, yes, I guess," mumbles Muffy. Sam accepts this and goes off.

"That's the ticket, Muffy," says Phil.

When Jeff and Jodie come back, both in tennis outfits, Jeff notices that Phil's face is a little red. Phil keeps mopping his face, saying he's a bit warm.

Meanwhile, with one try, Muffy has opened the camera bag Phil had been struggling to open.

"Now how did you do that?" asks Phil.

"Well, as you see, easily," Muffy says.

"Easily is it? Are you trying to make old Phil look foolish in front of your friends?" His cheerful demeanor is slipping.

Jodie hurries over. Phil quickly explains that his assistant usually takes care of opening the bags.

"It wasn't very hard to do," says Muffy, "I was only helping you!"

Jodie puts her hand on Muffy's shoulder protectively. "Oh, and you did, Muffy. Phil was only joking. Weren't you Phil?"

Phil takes the out Jodie has offered him. "Of course I was!" he laughs. But from the looks they give each other as they return to the shoot, it's apparent Jeff and Jodie suspect something is wrong.

Mrs. Pennypacker is in the stockroom, dressed in an elaborate tropical-type getup, complete with fruit in her hair. She is playing with what looks like a mole or gopher puppet. "Oh, I do so love it when the toy shipment comes in!" She hears Sam coming and quickly hides the puppet. "Oh - oh Sam!" she calls.

"Flamin' fruit trees, Mrs. Pennypacker, look at you!"

"When is Phil coming my way? Shall I expect him soon?"

Sam says he's just finishing in the toy department, but he'll mention her to him.

"I so want to be part of the shoot!" she says.

Back in the children's department, Phil is getting pretty soused. He's now drinking openly and singing while Jeff and Jodie are changing, laughing at his own drunken mistakes. Meanwhile he's barking orders at Muffy, who is trying to do what he asks. She is trying to place a toy dragon on the Lego castle display, but no matter what she does, he's not satisfied and yells at her.

"You're not trying hard enough!" he barks.

"Your voice sounds strange, I have to ask, have you been drinking from that flask?" Muffy asks.

He tells her to mind her own business and just do what he says. But no matter how hard she tries, she can't satisfy him. Finally, in her distress she knocks over a little tower.

"Some helper you are!" Phil shouts. "Get out of the way I'll do it myself!" He takes one step towards the display, knocks his tripod against the castle, and then falls to the ground. The castle is shattered. "Muffy! Look at what you made me do. Look at this mess. You've ruined the whole shoot! You've ruined everything, the whole evening is wasted." He fishes the flask out of his pocket.

"Oh please, oh please, you needn't shout. I only tried to help you out!"

"Get out of here," says Phil. "I don't want to ever see you again."

"Oh, this breaks my little heart. I should've told Sam from the start!"

Jeff and Jodie return, exquisitely dressed in royal finery in order to pose with the castle. Muffy is running out of the room, and Phil, drinking openly, slurs, "Look at what your mouse friend has done."

"Oh, Jeff, call Sam right away, I've gotta go find Muffy!" says Jodie.

Muffy is with Sam in the computer room. She's very unhappy and confused. She's hurt that Phil apparently doesn't like her anymore. "He'll be madder now as well, because he said I shouldn't tell."

"No, Muffy, you did the right thing. It doesn't matter if he said you shouldn't tell. Why, if something upsets you, you should always tell me, or Jeff or Jodie, or any grownup you trust. Why they'll try and help you."

Muffy blames herself for everything, but Sam is firm. "Now, you listen to me, Muffy Mouse, it's not your fault at all. It's only Phil's fault and the way he drinks alcohol." Just then, the phone rings (it's Jeff calling from the children's department), and when Sam goes to answer it, Muffy leaves.

Upstairs, Phil is making excuses to Jeff, saying maybe he did blow off a little steam.

Jeff looks at the wrecked castle. "You call this a little?"

"Anyway," Phil continues, "I don't think Muffy was too upset."

"She's very upset, Phil!" says Sam, walking in, "And so am I."

"Well, I just couldn't work with her. I mean, she's a mouse. It was too much of a problem."

"Muffy wasn't your problem, Phil, alcohol is your problem. You use it wrongly. You drink too much."

"Me! Alcohol? It was Muffy, I tell you."

"No, Phil, it was you!" Sam says, "You have a drinking problem, and it's your problem. So stop blaming Muffy. She tried her best tonight, proud to be helpin' ya, flattered you called her your partner. Why, she gave you her friendship, and you just - just broke her heart."

"No. I did?" Phil finally seems to hear what they're saying. "I really hurt Muffy?"

"You really hurt her, Phil."

"I've never seen her so upset," Jeff adds.

Phil seems genuinely sorry. "Where is the little sweetheart? I better set things right!"

"Apologies won't set things right, Phil. You've gotta stop drinking! Besides I'm - I'm not sure that Muffy cares to see you again. And frankly, neither do I. Now, I want you to pack your things and then get out of the store. Now!"

Phil looks as if he has been slapped. He turns to look at Jeff, who gives him a steady, sad gaze.

Meanwhile, Jodie has found Muffy. Still wearing her stunningly beautiful princess attire, she is cuddling with Muffy outside her apartment. Muffy is still feeling responsible. "When Phil arrived, what fun we had, well, how - how did I make him so mad?"

"Oh, you didn't do anything, Muffy, Phil did. Phil has a drinking problem. He drinks too much alcohol and it makes him act in ways that aren't very nice. But it's not your fault, it's Phil's."

Muffy wishes she could make him stop. Jodie agrees, but tells her she can't. "His family and his friends can give him their love and support, but only one person can make Phil stop drinking, and that's Phil himself."

"And though the shoot is at an end, you're not mad? You're still my friend? We can sing and laugh and play, just like every other day?"

"Aw, of course we can Muffy," says Jodie, hugging her. "Aw, I'll always be your friend."

In the meantime, Phil has packed up his things and is ready to leave. "I'm sorry, Sam." he says.

"Me, too, Phil."

Jodie and Muffy come in and Phil is glad to see them. He immediately apologizes for his behavior, especially to Muffy. "Because you were really a wonderful helper. It was me who made the mistakes. And, thanks to all of you, I've finally realized that I have a drinking problem. I'm only sorry I had to hurt and disappoint you to find that out. Starting from tonight, I'm gonna try and do something about it. Oh, I know it won't be easy, but I'm going to try."

Muffy whispers to Jodie. "Gee, from what I heard Phil just say, very soon, he'll be okay!"

"Muffy, no," says Jodie gently. "No, it won't be soon, and it may be never. Some people can get better from a drinking problem, but some people can't. But whatever happens, it's up to Phil. I hope he makes it."

"You do? Yeah, me, too," says Muffy.

Phil waves, goes to the door, and then turns around and looks back at them all. They all stare mutely for a moment, and then he's gone.

"Yoo-hoo! Mr. Crenshaaaaaw!" cries Mrs. Pennypacker, rushing into the children's department. "Am I too late for the shoot?"

The others looks at each other uncomfortably.

(End flashback)

Now we're back with Jodie, by herself in the children's department. Jodie tells us how unhappy Muffy was, but that she's feeling better now and that Jeff is helping her to write a letter to Phil saying she hopes they can be friends again one day.

Sam is feeling better, too, though he had been very angry.

Then Jodie smiles. "And Mrs. Pennypacker is also feeling better. Muffy said that she would take some practice photos of her later on tonight."

Her face grows serious again. "Oh! I am so glad that Muffy told us what was going on even though Phil warned her not to. You know, you must never be afraid to tell a grownup that you trust anything at all that bothers you."

Now she looks at the ruined castle display. She's going to have to come with a new display before the morning. Then she brightens. Maybe she could use some of Muffy's photographs in her display! She's especially tickled at the thought that there might be one of Mrs. Pennypacker. Happy again, she runs out of the department calling, "Muffy! Muffy, I need your help!"

Quizzes:

  • Where was Phil sleeping on the Ida Bell when Sam thought he had fallen overboard?
  • Which photography equipment bag is the second smallest? (When we find it, Muffy is inside. She found it too).

Nursery Rhyme:

  • None

Notes:

  • "Phil's Visit" is one of the very best episodes of Today's Special. I'm impressed with the way they dealt with what is a very difficult and delicate subject by introducing it first by means of Jodie so that the serious nature of the show wouldn't come as a complete surprise to the children and parents. This is a perfect episode for parents and children to watch together and could be useful not only for children who are suffering because of alcoholic relatives but also for those who may be being abused or taken advantage of in other ways by an adult in secret.
  • The episode departs from the current politically correct idea that an alcoholic is no more responsible for his addiction than a cancer sufferer is for cancer. I believe this is because it is so important to let kids know that alcoholism is not their fault, as alcoholic parents may carelessly claim. Also, while the predisposition to alcoholism may be linked to genetics, the responsibility for getting help still rests squarely on the alcoholic himself.
  • I loved the way Jodie explained that some people can get better from a drinking problem and other people can't, since some people wage a perpetual struggle with alcohol. There's no need to give the kids false hope as if it is an easy disease to overcome.
  • Phil's behavior was very realistic. At first he was very careful, excusing himself to the bathroom to drink. Later, as he became more and more inebriated, he became sloppier and sloppier, until he was drinking quite openly. Muffy was quite astute when she said that if she didn't tell Sam, Phil would drink all night long.
  • Though he is often referred to as a boy in other episodes, in this episode, Sam suggests that Jeff is one of the "grownups" that Muffy could confide in.
  • Here's a very subtle inside joke. When Sam walks through the stockroom for the second time, he is humming an old sea song, "The Drunken Sailor."
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