Annette Funicello gets her own serial on the third and final year of "The Mickey Mouse Club". The serial was based on Janette Sebring Lowrey's 1950 book "Margaret" and was filmed between November and December, 1957. This was the first installment, although the day before, on February 10, 1958, there was a special introduction to the serial to get kids interested. Annette McCloud, an orphaned teenager from rural Nebraska, shows up on the doorstep of her Uncle Archie and Aunt Lila in the town of Ashford. Her father has just passed and she needs a place to stay, but the ...
While shopping for new school clothes with her Aunt Lila, Annette meets Val Abernathy and her mother, who invite Annette to a party at Val's home. The guest of honor? Laura Rogan, whom Annette will quickly clash with.
Annette dresses for the party at Val's house, but there's a mix-up over who which boy is escorting her. Steve Abernathy was originally slated to pick Annette up, but calls Annette's Uncle Charlie to tell him he's taking Laura Rogan instead. But not to worry, Olmstead Ware (a.k.a. "Steady") will take his place. This infuriates Aunt Lila and Katie the maid, but Annette makes the best of it--even when she finally greets Olmstead, a short, stubby kid with little manners, a big appetite and a gift for gabbing.
Annette may regret going to the party with Olmstead Ware: he doesn't have a car, though Annette insists she likes walking, and he talks her into stopping by the local malt shop first--for his daily sugar rush. Annette likes the handsome soda-jerk, Mike Martin, but is dismayed that he won't be at the party. When the couple finally arrives at Val's house, most of the gang has already paired up for dances out on the patio. Kitty Blalock, who has a crush on "Steady" (and matches him in height!), isn't happy that he brought a girl with him, but everyone appears to like and...
The party gets going with a game of Spin the Bottle. Losers must pay a penalty (in Laura's case, a very expensive necklace) and redeem it later with a performance. In that phase, Laura sings, Steady stands on his head and dances a jig, and Annette starts to sing but is interrupted by the call "Soup's On". She's left alone and starts to leave the party before being intercepted by Mrs. Abernathy.
Annette joins the others for dinner, and gets some favorable attention from Steve. Jealous Laura gives Steve a little push, making him spill a dessert on Annette's dress. Annette's escort Steady tells her they have to leave the party early, so they're not around when Laura discovers that her necklace is missing. Based on no good evidence, Laura voices her suspicions that Annette took it.
Annette is unsurprised to learn that her country school education, lacking Latin and algebra, isn't up to Old South High standards, and she must repeat 10th Grade. She joins Jet for lunch, which separates her from the "in" crowd. While Jet reveals her crush on Steve to Annette, Laura is still harping on her missing necklace. Later, at the malt shop, Annette overhears more of this talk and tries to call Laura on it, but Laura denies accusing anyone.
Jet tries to get Annette to be more confrontational with Laura, Val tries to play peacemaker, and Aunt Lila tries to steer Annette away from Jet and toward Val's crowd, but none of them have much success. Annette is made sophomore entertainment chairman (sic - it's the 50s) and asks Jet to be her assistant.
At the first meeting of the entertainment committee, Laura criticizes some of Steve's appointments, especially of Annette. This gets her nowhere with Steve and Val, but eventually drives Annette away. Mike follows her and convinces her to stick with the committee and ignore Laura's snide remarks. Later, Steve finds Jet and personally requests that she be Annette's assistant. Jet, who thought Steve unaware of her existence, is pleasantly surprised to learn that he likes her. Steady suggests that he, Steve, and Drew try reasoning with Laura, but this fails miserably.
Steve tries to intervene with Annette about the necklace situation, but only makes matters worse when Laura spots them. A bit late, Steve realizes he just stood her up. Steady causes an explosion in the school chem lab, and sets out with Kitty for the healing powers of the malt shop. Jet invites herself to Annette's for dinner On their arrival Jet gets into a conversation with her dad's old friend, Uncle Archie.
Aunt Lila is unhappy with Annette's continued preference for Jet over Val's crowd, as she knows nothing about the problems Laura is causing. Uncle Archie and Annette make a date with Jet to visit her family's ranch next Saturday. Jet again tries to get Annette to show more backbone in dealing with Laura. Steve and Mike both invite Annette on the gang's hayride and barbecue, but it's also on Saturday. Annette declines, as she refuses to disappoint Uncle Archie.
Annette goes ahead with the ranch visit with Uncle Archie, despite even Jet trying to talk her into taking the hayride instead. On the way, uncle and niece suffer a flat tire, and while fixing it they spot the hay wagon full of singing teens. Uncle Archie learns what Annette has given up rather than let him down.
Annette and her uncle arrive at the Maypen ranch. Meanwhile, Steve diverts the hay wagon to the same destination, so they can pick up Annette. Uncle Archie insists that she join the gang, and Steve insists that Jet come too. They sing their way to the Abernathy ranch.
At the barbecue, the kids find various ways to fill the time as the steaks are cooking. Laura gets out her camera, and is very picky about who is or is not welcome in the photos she takes. Jet again tells Annette how dreamy Steve is, and Annette agrees that he's very nice. Dancing starts, and Laura gets jealous when Steve dances with Annette.
Laura's latest crack about Annette is the last straw for Jet. This leads to an argument, a sock in the face, and an unintended dive into the pool (by fully-clothed Laura, Jet, and Steady). Everyone runs off in various directions to deal with the thoroughly soaked teens. Steve is the quickest off the mark to offer a towel, comfort, and approval to Jet, who's feeling quite foolish. When she gets home, Annette decides her presence is making problems for everyone, so she decides she belongs back in Beaver Junction, Nebraska.
Annette writes a letter of explanation to Uncle Archie and Aunt Lila. As she reviews the events since her arrival, there are clips from earlier episodes. She sneaks out of the house, in the same dress and with the same suitcase that she had when she arrived. Her disappearance is discovered when Mike drops by and asks to talk to her. Mike realizes what she plans, and heads for the railroad station.
At the station, Mike talks Annette out of her latest retreat from her problems. So far, he appears to be the only one who can do this. At school, Steve tells Annette that Jet is OK, as he dropped by her place the day before. Val and Moselle discuss how Laura is still too upset to come to school, and reveal that despite supposedly being her closest friends in Ashford, they both wish she'd go home. Annette considers skipping the next entertainment committee meeting, but this time is talked out of it by Katie, the McCloud's wise-cracking maid.
At the meeting, Laura is about to perform her song, but one note on the piano sounds very odd. Steve looks more deeply into the piano than anyone bothered to do during the hunt for the necklace, and he finds it. Laura apologizes to Annette (although not without making excuses for her suspicions), and asks if they can try to be friends. Annette agrees. Jet and Laura also resolve their differences, and the gang sings "Don't Jump to Conclusions". Laura is clearly the object of Drew's fascination, but she may have lost Steve to Jet, as they stick close together, as do ...