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Season 4, Episode 10: Maid to Order

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It’s a busy day outside the Caldwell Hotel, and the establishing shot is ever-so-slightly wider, letting us see that there is a business a few doors down from Paoli’s called “BOUTIQUE”.  Not only this location likely where Mrs. Falby constantly buys new dresses*, its presence is also a bit of foreshadowing. Two years/seasons ago, we had businesses like “Seoul Corp”, “Two Brothers Trade, Inc.”, and “Constant Imports”.  For one thing, business endeavors often fail, sometimes from lack of demand, or because they don’t convey what need they serve well enough. I mean, if I walk into Two Brothers, am I just going to see Tommy and Terry Johnson trading each other baseball cards? The shift here is also one of audience–pizza parlors and clothing stores serve families–and of beautification.

Anyway, I wonder where this episode takes place…

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Oh, of course, on the third floor, where the cousins live in apartment 207 and/or 209.  We find that both the cousins and their apartment are in a state of disarray, in serious need of beautification.  Their dirty dishes have covered most of the available surfaces, and Larry claims to be out of clean clothes, save for a green shirt and red tie.  I’ll never understand fashion. Why did the opposite (red shirt and green tie) work last week?

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Larry, you were able to hide that massive gut better when you wore sweaters.  Go back to season 1, do not pass season 2, do not collect $50, and get your old style back.

Cousin Larry takes off his tie when Balki says it’s stylish. Aha, speaking of endeavors that have failed… the cousins and this show have been trying to create situations where Balki and Larry might “accidentally” touch or see each others’ bodies.  Faking back injuries, bringing guests over and offering them beds to necessitate sleeping on the couch, “helping” each other get out of quicksand, shooing their girlfriends out of the room, going all the way to a rich guy’s house under false pretenses so they can find an empty room and wrestle wearing expensive clothes.  We see now that they’ve each been not doing, as Balki calls it, the louwndree, trying to see who’ll just give up and start walking around the apartment nude first.  They’ve also been doing their best to run out of clean dishware–cooking thousands of pastries, cooking 6 or 7 pots of pig snout at a time, buying hundreds of boxes of cereal just to see if they could get all the bowls dirty at once–in the hopes that the stars will align and they’ll just be forced to eat cream filling off of each others’ bodies.

But Larry finally accepts that timing is everything. Balki has been too caught up in studying history to pick up on the crunch they’ve gotten themselves into; he also claims that he doesn’t want to repeat history. I’d argue ABC didn’t either: this show has been making slow steps in the direction of being a family comedy, and the chance for two cohabiting bachelors being misunderstood by their neighbors and bosses has long passed.

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Larry’s efforts have turned back on himself: he takes off the tie for his own sake and eats food off his own body. Larry gives in on both levels of this dumb metaphor I’ll stop doing here in a second, suggesting they hire a maid to serve as a matronly presence on the show.

(Larry Appleton, if you remember, grew up with 8 brothers and sisters.  Having eaten his meals out of a shared trough for most of his life, and then living with a cousin who does all the cleaning, he has no idea that washing a single bowl and spoon takes roughly one minute.)

Because Balki is somehow a complete idiot who has also never watched a single minute of any classic television show, and certainly not the Brady Bunch, the opening theme song of which he’s never, EVER sung, not even ONCE, NEVER…

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…he doesn’t know what a maid is.

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The next day (?), Larry comes home and hangs his coat. Remember this. This is important.

Larry is upset that he can’t find someone who will work for $35 a day to clean their apartment. Balki found one who will work for $35 per week***, and Larry, who’s seen what kinds of people Balki finds, is wary. You didn’t hire the homeless guy from season 1, did you?

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I guess I never thought until now about the fact that Balki bringing people home all the time keeps Larry in a position of dealing with “perfect strangers”, but here we are again. Larry’s mad at Balki for not discussing something with him first, but, dude. You’re not willing to sit down with your cousin and work out a schedule of chores. However this episode chooses to say you’re wrong this week, that’s your mistake, Larry.

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Anyway, Balki has a “good feeling” about their new maid, Larry shits on his feelings.

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Hey, their maid is Doris Roberts! Hi, Doris! You all know Doris. She’s one of those actresses who’s been in everything, and you’ve probably forgotten half of what you’ve seen her in.  I forgot until just now I first saw her on Soap as Father Flotsky’s mom.  Her presence clarifies something for me, though.  When Ted McGinley showed up last season, it felt like it came out of nowhere, that all of a sudden a “real” actor was on the show.  But Eugene Roche’s role didn’t do that for me, and neither did Sam Anderson’s. Here’s the difference: Doris Roberts and Ted McGinley were on other shows that were new when I was a kid. Perfect Strangers’ first two seasons often felt like they existed in a vacuum, and if they had any ties, it was to the tone of older shows that its creators had worked on.

And so are many aspects of this show’s first two seasons. But Dmitri’s still here, and I guess he’s got a washrag in front of him.

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Anyway, I’m talking way too damn much about stuff that’s not the episode.  I’m barely four minutes in and my thoughts are all over the damn place. I’ve got setups for metaphors, running jokes… I should really get a guest reviewer to come in this season and tidy up…

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Mrs. Bailey comes in and the first thing she says to Larry is to brag how she can get rid of the semen smell in his room. Larry begins to voice his concerns about her mental health.

Mrs. Bailey: I know you’re worried that I’m going to hit on one of you like the last old woman on this show. I don’t need the sex… it’s the work that makes me happy.

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She asks them if they have an 8-inch springform cake pan, but the cousins only understood the 8-inch part. In the span of a minute, we see her working on groceries, cooking (a chocolate cake, Larry’s favorite), and the louwndree:

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Mrs. Bailey: Your job is to get these clothes dirty, and from the looks of things… you’re the best.

Balki starts demanding thanks for his good job finding a maid, just like any humble shepherd would do; Larry asks what a cake pan is, just like any college-educated American would.

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Later, it’s raining at the Chronicle.

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Larry comes out of what I assume is the bathroom, giving us one more entrance/exit to fucking deal with.  He and Harriette have a conversation that sounds like it would be more at home in a commercial for a cleaning product.

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But, as STOP before it, Maid© has left Larry unhappy.  To wit: she’s getting on his nerves.

Balki comes running out of Gorpley’s office to tell us about how, because Balki’s never once shown love to him…

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…and because Balki has never once encouraged others to love him…

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…Mr. Gorpley made Balki hold a dart board while he threw darts at it.  This is a feint on the part of the show. The audience sees an unharmed Balki. But puncture wounds don’t have to run deep with our humble shepherd: a note from Mrs. Bailey to remind him to take his vitamins has pierced his signature Myposian mish-mash of clothing.**** Larry, on the other hand, has rejected this extra assistance.

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Want some more symbolism? The note on Balki’s breast has a cartoon of a heart with an arrow through it.

Still not satisfied? Baileys are part of a castle’s defenses, meaning that this one–removed from its original, internal source–has become a type of overactive defense mechanism.  What once was protective and helpful has become harmful; Mrs. Bailey’s coming at this from the wrong side of the battlements.

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I can do this all day, people! Look, I can even make it into a callback of a deep cut joke of my own!

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Anyway, here she is.  Despite the fact that these guys most likely go from apartment, to garage, to car, to garage, to work, she brought them their galoshes.

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Gorpley comes out of his office with three jobs for Balki, but Mrs. Bailey jumps to action:

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Mrs. Bailey: You didn’t say the magic words.

Mrs. Bailey: And you should smile more.

Mrs. Bailey: Say you’re sorry.

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We know from last week that Gorpley’s got some serious mother issues, and this shuts him down to the point of forgetting where he was going.

Mrs. Bailey brought Balki some pig snout puffs.

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Balki: Just like mama used to make.

Wwwwait, doesn’t Mama still make them? I mean,

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but that doesn’t mean Mama Bartokomous is.

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Balki and Mrs. Bailey go off in search of Lance Dick, leaving Harriette to finally say out loud what the conflict is. Thank God, I had no idea.

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Let’s breach these walls and see what’s going on tonight…

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The guys come back from a George Michael concert with their girlfriends.  Mary Anne (Sagittarius) keys in on a deep philosophical aspect of human attraction: we tend to like others to the extent that they reflect ourselves.

Mary Anne: I think it’s so sexy when someone has two first names.

Jennifer says that she melted when he sang “Careless Whisper”.

Look, I cream my pants over a good saxophone solo*****, same as the next guy, but Jennifer melted over a song about a guy losing his lover because he cheated?

Does this mean she knows about Balki and Larry? You know, fucking?

Larry says if that’s the case, let’s put on some Sylvester and get to feeling mighty real.

Larry makes a plan to get Balki out of there so he can have sex with Jennifer, now that he knows for sure the 3-year pile of tissues has finally been cleaned out of his room. Part of the plan is that Balki will express interest in Mary Anne’s “Great Cities of the World” placemat collection, which is my favorite joke of the episode. Show, even with all the stuff I criticize you for, you do a good job with Mary Anne, and you also do a good job when it comes to funny names you can repeat.

Larry told Jennifer to put on some romantic music, and wouldn’t you know it, she went straight for the nondescript royalty-free synth stuff!

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The two couples dance, but Larry can’t even go 10 seconds without touching his cousin. He smacks Balki really loudly on the arm, and Balki thinks Mary Anne did it, and that that is hot for some fucking reason.  Larry starts snapping his fingers, and Balki does the same.

Larry smacks Balki on the head, and evidently Balki thinks Mary Anne has figured out the Myposian courtship rituals all on her own.

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Jennifer tells Mary Anne to take a fucking hike already, she’s glazing her panties. Mary Anne agrees to take Balki upstairs and show him her collection.

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Placemat is my new favorite euphemism, you guys. Don’t know what it means yet, but I like it.

It feels like only a month ago that Jennifer first expressed a desire for something, but we’re moving quick now. The defenses are down, and that means it’s time for some night maneuvers, let’s see what Larry’s siege tower can do, maybe get–

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Whoops! One more springform lost.  Sorry, Larry.

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Balki–

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Balki, you’re–

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that’s–

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STOP ENCOURAGING HER

Mrs. Bailey could swear that she remembers something about Jennifer liking a little tummy on a man, so she insists on making chocolate chip cookies for them all.

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Larry tells her to take a fucking hike because it’s late.

The girlfriends decide that this must be this week’s “thing” for the cousins and leave. Cousin Larry says he’s still got a boner, but Jennifer has “lost the mood”.  Larry pushes for just screwing in front of the old lady, it could be fun.

Mary Anne’s upset that no one is going to come “look at her placemats”. I have it now. The placemats are her labia majora.

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Mrs. Bailey says she hopes she didn’t ruin the evening.

Balki: No, they always leave around this time.

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Well, that’s one less joke I have to make this week.

Mrs. Bailey takes the laundry to fold before making the batch of cookies.

Look, I’ve lived alone for 3 and a half years now.  It’s already, what, midnight? You get those cookies in the oven, then you fold the laundry while they bake and cool. Mrs. Bailey really does like to make more work for herself, doesn’t she?

They shout about Mrs. Bailey, who is in the next room, weeping into Larry’s BVDs.

Psychology sidebar: the “psychological contract” describes the ideas held by employers and employees regarding an employee’s role. There’s the written contract, containing job duties, expectations, promotion requirements, that weaselly little part about “other duties as assigned”. But then there’s the one that exists in the minds of the employer and the employee.  Ideally these two contracts are identical, but sometimes one party realizes the other does not have the same language in their psychological contract.  A retail job will explicitly mention “customer service skills” in the written job description; the employee may understand this to mean eye contact, smiling, welcoming someone into the store, while the employer needs someone who can handle customers who are upset about a product they are returning. When these disagreements happen, they break the contract and are referred to as “pinch” points; the course of action is to address them and make sure that one or more of the parties involved makes some notes in the margins of their psychological contract.  Too many tiny breaches of contract, and you get a crunch point, which can often result in termination of employment from either side.  Let’s back up a minute here so I can show you exactly where the pinch point happened:

Larry: What are you doing here?

Mrs. Bailey: I work here!

Sitcoms have their own built-in defenses: here the ones against recurring characters and nuanced resolution are on full display. Cousin Larry’s treating a pinch point like a crunch point. He talks for three minutes straight about the problem, Balki asks him what he’s getting at, meaning that Larry gets to talk for another minute while Mrs. Bailey comes from the back of the apartment to overhear him.

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Larry says he’s going to fire her; Balki says she’ll stay. Larry looks at things one way, Balki looks at things another way.

Mrs. Bailey says she’ll leave, citing “things just didn’t work out” as her reason.  Nobody’s willing to argue for anything on this show, are they? They just say: this is what I want, give me it. Larry didn’t get what he wanted? He tells someone to leave. Mrs. Bailey didn’t get what she wanted? She’s told to leave. Balki didn’t get what he wanted? He leaves.

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What’s a patriarchy to do?

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Three nights later, Larry is vacuuming and Balki still isn’t talking to him. Balki grabs food from the kitchen and heads directly to his bedroom, which is a succinctly wounded, defeatist resolution to the problem posed at the beginning of the episode.  Can’t maintain shared space? Instead of making it work, don’t share it at all.

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And it’s usually at this point in the better episodes that I realize the good structure built out of the raw material of this show.  This one was written by Tom DeVanney, who went on to write for, among other things, Family Guy. Some of the good plot ideas involve Larry the Dad and Balki the Kid; some of them involve Larry and Balki on the same level; this one involves Larry and Balki exactly as they are. Balki’s just about to start college, and hasn’t seen his mother in almost three years; Larry’s independent to the point that a full-on mother is a stumbling block to his adult pursuits, like making love to “Royalty-Free Classics v. 5”.  Balki shows his Kid by saying that he’s going to be mad at Larry “forever”, which is too abstract of a concept at this point.

Mrs. Bailey comes by with another chocolate cake and comments on how clean the apartment has managed to remain in her absence.

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Balki hears this and excitedly puts his feet on the couch.

Larry says he’s found a family to take care of Mrs. Bailey, the Coopers, they’re really nice, they have a farm–

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Haha, gotcha, nah, Larry got her a job cleaning at a sorority house at Northwestern University.  Balki tries to say that he needs her, but the college girls–those in between Larry and Balki’s states–need her more. But we don’t see those college girls, and it’s not really their need this story is concerned with, ultimately. And it’s usually at this point in the better episodes–

*facepalms*

–where there’s still some tiny problematic piece that I have to deal with. Here, it’s how the show treats older women.  Mrs. Bailey’s own children likely left home at the same age that Balki is now.  We’ve historically not done a very good job in this country with letting women take on new roles as they age. Many 20th-century women were told that their ideal role–their duty–was to be a mother, wife, homemaker. But these roles have expiration dates, leaving women with virtually no role later on in life, except for that of grandmother.  And then the media tell us that their sexuality is to be avoided. And the media tell us that grandmothers are annoying (indulging the kids, buying them the loud and annoying presents their parents won’t). Old women are frail; old women are sad; old women are grouchy; old women smell; old women are vain and can’t stand the thought of giving up their youth.  Well, what else are you letting them have?

At least, this is what I was taught in my “psychology of women” course; maybe cleaning underwear “forever” is what she really grooves on, and more power to her for finding fulfillment.  I’m just pointing out one piece of many from the media world I grew up in.  It’s (I hope) inadvertent on the part of the writer, and emerges somewhat from the condensed structure of sitcom resolution.  Larry’s the good guy for a change, but his choice of finding more children for Mrs. Bailey to be a mom for shows that lack of willingness to have an employer/employee conversation runs deeper, all the way down to a lack of willingness to question that basic duality to begin with. A smarter show could have had each player realize how their own extreme take on the situation was making things bad for the others; it could even have them part ways and make it okay. Here, we’ve got smart for this show, and I’m guessing probably par for the course for 80s sitcoms as well.

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Anyway, Mrs. Bailey’s parting suggestion is for the cousins to try out sedentary urination.

Balki says he’s grateful for what Larry did, so Larry starts demanding an apology and acting like an asshole, even after Balki offers one.

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I can’t help but remember all the times when Balki pulled this same shit. At least the show maintains its weird logic: Balki gives Larry saint status and abases himself.

Balki starts crawling towards Larry and Larry’s all like “my dicks up here, dude”.

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The cousins go off to eat their cake, and Balki decides that, since it’s his turn to do the dishes, they’ll use paper plates. Not only does he not want to work, he wants to create more waste.

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Join me next week for “That Old Gang of Mine”!

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Boner count: Larry (1); Balki (1); Jennifer (1!!!)

Catchphrase count: Balki (1)

*poop stains are notoriously hard to wash out**

**so I’ve heard

***a week’s worth of grocery money for the cousins, we are told

****for a fuller discussion of Balki as a wholly external being, see Season 3, Episode 5: Your Feather-Touch Heart

*****as long as there’s egg rolls, that is *winkacetti*

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Season 4, Episode 9: The Gift of the Mypiot

Look, you were all the recipients of my beautiful sense of timing that you got a Christmas episode on December 25 last year. Blame me if you want for it not matching up perfectly this year. In my defense, though, Thanksgiving was yesterday, and you can buy Christmas- and winter-themed snack foods at Bob’s Market Meats Produce now, so it’s officially the Christmas season.

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The show itself mirrors this time displacement by taking us into the Chronicle on a nice, bright, summer day.

Balki and Lance Dick and Harriette and Lydia and an unnamed woman are standing around so they can look at Balki open a present from his mother.

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Why do the cousins always have things mailed to them at work, though? And I also have to question why he’s doing this without Larry there.  And who the hell is the woman on the right?

It’s a giant Rolo candy!

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Nah, j/k, it’s a Davros cup, made by Davros Praxiteles (they’re not very creative with product names on Mypos).  Evidently it takes Davros one year to carve a single cup. Let’s assume that Mypos has equal numbers of men and women. Based on the fact that Balki is 986th in line for the throne, so there are something like 1,970 people on the island–wait, sorry, I’m miscounting, I forgot that

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So, 1,969 people still there, and dude can only make one cup per year, we have to assume that this was a fairly pricy gift for Mama Bartokomous. I think it’s safe to assume that Balki’s previous gift of an electric sheep shearer has made the Bartokomous clan the richest on the island, and disrupted the local economy on a scale rivalling that of Musa of Mali’s pilgrimage to Mecca.

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Anyway, Gorpley comes out and does his “bah humbug” bit and tells everybody to get back to work.  A staunchly insubordinate Balki ignores this order and makes Gorpley look at the cup and listen to his still broken English. Balki then misunderstands the phrase “choked up” and

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Larry stumbles in from the parking garage, the joke being that he just had a rough time at the mall because he went shopping on Christmas Eve.  I get that you want to do a joke about crowds being rough, show, but talk about your time displacement: is the best way to get that joke across to have it look like someone literally threw him out of the parking garage?

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Cousin Larry has bought Jennifer a sweater and everyone “ooo-woos” over it like it’s lingerie. He paid $125 for it. This show has been dumbing down Balki little by little every episode this season, to the point where he now misunderstands the idea of Christmas completely, thinking that Larry has purchased the sweater for himself.  So I’m going to leave Balki over there with his dumb jokes and silly voices and comment on this briefest of shots where we find that Sam Anderson is a real actor, too, and knows how to occupy himself when he needs to be in the scene later on.  Despite showing us his utter disdain for Christmas and gift-giving, he’s over there admiring the Davros cup, pausing only to roll his eyes at Balki’s idiocy.  Kudos to whoever made sure to catch that on camera, and kudos to Sam Anderson for giving us a small clue to where this episode is going for the character of Mr. Gorpley.

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Gorpley comes over to comment on the party, which Larry tries to downplay the size of. Gorpley insults Larry and disappears into his office.

Alright, I don’t need to tell you how the rest of the scene goes, right? This is another setup like we had in “The Unnatural” and “Better Shop Around”: Balki tries to change the plan at the last minute.  This is what happens when you try to have rules without consequences, Larry.  You keep telling Balki not to invite people over without consulting with you. You tell Balki that there’s going to be a plan and that the two of you need to stick with it.  But this is what happens when parents have jobs: they feel bad that they aren’t spending time with their kids, and try to be a friend instead of a rule-enforcer.  You indulge the kids, you don’t uphold the rules, you put the blame on yourself for being a bad guy, and it sends all the wrong messages. The child is reinforced in their errant ways.  Shoot, I’m surprised Balki didn’t invite the rest of the newspaper staff, not to mention Turkey Leg Greg and RT (Reindeer Team) Wainwright.

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Later, it’s nighttime at the Chronicle, and it’s snowing (sort of)!  Obviously it’s not about to be a blizzard, so I’m going to assume that Larry got to be the Christmas Boy, and Balki got to fuck all of Larry’s sisters (and mother, and aunts), sometime during Season 3.

Speaking of asking for things at the last minute, Gorpley is on the phone, and we’re led to believe that he’s trying to get laid until the punchline is that he wants to spend Christmas with his mom.

Balki has physical difficulties with inviting Mr. Gorpley over, so he tries to wriggle through the letter of the law by asking if Gorpley has anywhere to go.  Gorpley’s all like “I’m going to be going up more chimneys than Santa tonight”, and then they have a good laugh about not being loners.

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Again, you know how this scene ends, so let’s move on.

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At the apartment, Cousin Larry is still using the cheap potholders he stole from Ritz Discount, meaning that he is burning his hands taking whatever the heck those are out of the oven. And even though the food itself is too hot to hold, he just pops one in his mouth like a moron.

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Larry is more excited than Shelley Duvall in 3 Women at the prospect of entertaining guests. He’s convinced that the party is going to be perfect because he wrote things down on a clipboard. He needs this. I mean, seriously, we’ve had four parties so far this season, and none of them went well.

Larry: Should I add another log?

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Balki’s been saving the old “wouldn’t it be a good idea” dialogue for a special occasion, and Larry’s even excited about that. He’s so sure that he’s going to get laid this year.

You see, we learned three weeks ago that Jennifer is a daughter of the Earth itself. Larry picked up on this. And, like Socrates in The Republic, Larry understands that you can understand the city by looking at the man, and more importantly here, vice-versa. We find that Larry is a proponent of the Gaia hypothesis of the Earth as a self-regulating system.  Let me follow suit and try to explain the idea with a closed system first: snowshoe hares and their natural predator, the bobcat.  One year, there is an abundance of snowshoe hares, meaning that the bobcats have ready prey; the bobcats survive longer and reproduce more. Thus, the next year, there is an abundance of bobcats. The relatively unchanged population of snowshoe hares is now not enough to feed the bobcats, some of whom inevitably starve and ultimately do not reproduce. The next year, there are fewer bobcats, meaning that the snowshoe hare enjoys a comparatively peaceful time of population growth; the cycle begins again.

Now, take this to the larger scale: the Earth is made up of numerous small habitats, continents, climatic zones, ocean tides, weather patterns. The Gaia hypothesis is that these make up an entire system that has emergent qualities, one of which is to regulate itself.  If the use of the term “Gaia” has you thinking that this theory is teleological (that is, that the “system” has some intent), you’re sitting alongside critics of the whole idea, which is why I started off on the more palatable example of bunnies dying.  At any rate, we know that Jennifer has no personal goals or intent to speak of, so it’s not an issue here.

But! How can we think of the Earth as a self-regulating system if it is not a closed system? Let’s look to “Daisyworld”, a computer simulation* about a world covered only by two types of daisies: those that reflected the sun’s rays (white), and those that absorbed them (black).  To achieve temperature regulation, the two daisy populations balance each other out for any given input from the simulated sun. As the temperature of the sun is increased, black daisies start dying off. We see: introduction of heat imbalances the system, causing it to ditch some portion of what holds the heat there.

So why do I say that Larry is a proponent of the Gaia Hypothesis? He believes that by introduction of a nice, warm sweater, Jennifer’s panties will come off.

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Back to the episode, where Balki’s acting like a dummy so he can get Larry good and angry right before the guests arrive.

I’m sure you all have your Christmas traditions: singing carols, roasting chestnuts, opening one–and only one!–present on Christmas Eve.  The show has its own: like not answering the door for a full minute after someone knocks.

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We get a repeated sequence here where Larry keeps doing shitty accents through the door, and then letting in the expected guests.  The only real jokes here:

–Balki kisses the women as they come in, and also tries to kiss Lance Dick

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–Larry does a “Mexican” “accent” and Lydia assumes she accidentally knocked on the door of her Latin lover, Ramon.*

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Check out that bow! I know what present *I* want to unwrap this year!

There’s a third knock at the door, and the cousins just fight over opening it with every goddamn person there watching.  And I thought it was awkward when they brought over all of Balki’s classmates for a graduation party!

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guys

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It’s–

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Why don’t–

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you’re–

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IT’S CALLED A PEEPHOLE

Jennifer, Mary Anne (Sagittarius), the maybe-she’s-Latina woman who works in the basement, and some guy show up. Balki tries to kiss this guy, too.

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Harriette, the perfect guest, starts making demands of the cousins, but Balki won’t even be upfront with her about Gorpley coming. Once the traditional Christmas beans are spilled**, and the guests see that Balki has pulled a party guest out of the dumpster, they try to leave. Larry convinces everyone to be quiet when Gorpley shows up. But Balki says he’s going to let Gorpley in.

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Gorpley is louder through the door than anyone has been up to this point, but somehow he doesn’t hear them all pile on Balki.

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And for once–it’s a Christmas miracle!–Gorpley can hear someone who’s shouting three feet away from him!

Everyone gives in at that point, and Balki tells them that even Gorpley contains a spark of the Christmas Spirit which they can stoke into a flame. Sure, okay, but maybe

just maybe

YOU SHOULDN’T SPEND ANOTHER WHOLE MINUTE NOT LETTING HIM IN

After the act break, we find that Gorpley’s way of partying is to just throw insults around.

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Those two images sum up my relationship with the Perfect Strangers fan community.

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Then Balki Claus shows up to pass out the presents.

To Harriette, from Lydia: a scarf

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Gorpley: Real nice, Lydia, they’re giving them away at the gas station with every fill-up.

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(Balki not being aware of this because he’s getting the next present is a nice touch)

To Lydia, from Harriete: a bottle of morning-after pills!

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Nah, j/k, it’s the new “Nora Trueblood Adams mystery”

Gorpley: I’ll save you 600 pages: the countess did it.

Harriette gets so angry at this re-use of a joke from season 2’s “Lifesavers” that she tries to attack Gorpley.

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Let’s go all the way back to last season, where sometimes jokes are funny, and sometimes they’re not.  Perfect Strangers will occasionally set up a punchline in a really clunky way; sometimes it pays off with a good laugh (the photograph of G. Gordon Liddy in Twinkacetti’s office), and sometimes it’s downright terrible (the handcuffs joke in season 1).  Here, the clunky setup is that Balki hands Jennifer two gifts at once–the one from Larry and the one from Mary Anne–and then Mary Anne insists that hers be opened first.

Mary Anne has, of course, given Jennifer the same sweater, which she got at 1/4 the price that Larry paid. Jennifer thinks it’s just fabulous; it was just what her system needed to get some more of those pretty white daisies blooming. Larry, however, is the human, capitalist, *ahem* American element which overspends its resources, increasing the temperature of the Earth’s system beyond what it can bear, killing all life on the surface.

051

When it comes to joke set-ups, I may take the long way around with mine, but they ALWAYS pay off.

049050

Gorpley: Good move, Appleton! Boy, I bet you feel like a real jerk.

Hoo-hoo, save some for his mother to bury, Gorp!

053

They all pick up Gorpley and take him into the hallway! Yes! Now! Bash his head in with the fire extinguisher!

054

Seriously, though, do these people want to have jobs when they come back from the holidays?

055056

When Balki tries to protect his boss, Gorpley says that he can’t be harmed. He then catalogs every shitty thing that’s happened to him during past Christmases:

–His wife said she wanted a divorce on Christmas 3 years ago

–His drunk dad showed up on Christmas when he was in high school and stole his college money

–When he was 8, the Gorpleys’ trailer burned down and they spent Christmas at the Red Cross

057

This sad story convinces everyone to be nice to Gorpley, and I’m a little conflicted about whether I should be upset at the show for this.

*sigh*

Let’s talk about the Christian view of forgiveness and how to treat other people. Christian forgiveness basically involves not giving a shit about why someone did what they did or got the way they are, so long as that person has asked forgiveness for their sins. At its best, it’s an acknowledgment that such things are supposed to be between the other person and God, and that we’re all fuckups. On the other hand, it’s a way to avoid scrutiny of one’s own misdeeds. But that, at its core, betrays that Christianity provides no way for people to forgive themselves.

It came as a surprise to me when I was a freshman (and Christian) in college and found out that some Christians were opposed to the idea of psychology as a valid subject of study.  I can see a little of it now: psychology understands some parts of human behavior and thinking by way of evolution. And I mean this in not only the sense that we’ve got some leftover ape habits, but also in the personal evolution sense.  The sense that childhood trauma can mess you up, and that you can counter your own self-destructive shit by understanding how you got there.  You can forgive yourself that way. Similarly, you can take the view that everyone’s doing the best they can, or else they’d be doing better; whatever stuff they do that’s not healthy for them, or others, they probably came by it honestly. At its worst extension, though, you run the risk of assuming someone’s background, and is that a fair thing to do?

So the question remains: should we need to know what made Gorpley a bitter man to forgive him and show him love? I’ve heard Christians overstep the idea that we should help and love others by saying that it’s important to do so because the other could be an angel in disguise***; this is insidious to me because Christians should really be loving others because the others aren’t angels.  On the other hand, knowing what Gorpley’s been through reminds us that he’s human, just like we are.

I’m torn!

Anyway, Sam Anderson’s got some great acting going on, swinging his head around like he’s looking for an exit that doesn’t exist while Balki brings him over to the couch.  Balki gives him a present.

It’s the head of a reindeer, the traditional Myposian gift!

058

Nah, j/k, it’s that Davros cup.

Gorpley tries to give it back, but instead of picking him up by the collar and telling him to fucking take it like last season, with the typewriter, Balki tells him that Gorpley accepting the cup is a present to Balki by way of a Mypos saying.

059

At first, Gollum grimaces at the taste of lembas, but quickly realizes that he feels the Christmas Spirit because Balki Claus touched his soul.

060061062

Mr. Gorpley: Do you feel like this every Christmas?

Larry: Except for Balki… he feels like this every day.

Oh for f-

063

Then Balki starts them singing a song.

UGH

*gags self with a turkey bone*

At the end of the credits, the cousins sit at not quite the right angle to see out the window.

064

Join me next week for “Maid to Order”!

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Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)

*Current list of Caldwell residents and why they’re not at this party

Mrs. Schlaegelmilch; spending Christmas with her sausage

Mrs. Falby: when you crap your pants on the daily, you don’t really get invited to parties

Eddie Harris & mom: deported after Eddie tried to take over Vince Lucas’s business

Old white man: dead in his fourth-floor apartment since the previous June

Old black man: playing Santa on another sitcom

Ramon: to quote Larry, “fuck Catholics”

The other four people we saw in “The Rent Strike”: making sacrifice to Sol Invictus

**my family is weird

***a (perhaps honest) misreading of Hebrews 13:2; the verse simply says that it’s happened before–not that it will happen again, or you should be nice because it could happen again. Sure, maybe the latter is implied, but still, it’s a little counter to what Jesus practiced, don’t you think? Angels are less in need than humans.

012

Season 4, Episode 8: College Bound

001

We open in front of the Caldwell, where we find that grifter Carl Lewis has stolen a bicycle.

002

Inside, the red and black Tinas are getting a party ready and continuing their endless checkers game of insults and threats.

003

The party is to congratulate Balki on passing his entrance exams and getting into college. Larry is worried on behalf of his cousin’s feelings and hopes that Balki has not failed the test.

Children of the 90s and up: be aware that in the late 80s, you had one chance to get into college, and if you didn’t make it, you were forced into hard labor.

So, wait–so he hasn’t gotten there to tell you whether he passed or not? Are all of you going to hastily change “gratu” to “so” on the Congratulations poster?

004

Mary Anne (Sagittarius) shows off not only her memory of how long ago Balki graduated from Adult Evening Classes High School, but also the fact that she went to college and wrote her dissertation on hydrocarbons and glycerides; both of which earn her this look:

005

She’s also decided on cleavage as the way to congratulate Balki

and

uh

I’m not going to show you what kind of look that earned from me.

*hastily releases sexual tension by abusing a Scantron sheet*

006

Oh. Look at that. We’re getting a clip show. The entire third season saw this show being selective with its memory, so it’s a somewhat refreshing change to see, between the two-parter and this episode, it actually letting us know what actually happened.  I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you why clip shows existed, or why they suck. You know, or you could look it up. So let’s try an experiment, because otherwise this week’s post will be only 500 words.

________________________________________

007

LARRY: Yeah, I can’t believe he’s come so far so fast! And if you had seen him when he first walked through my door, you wouldn’t have thought he was college material….

JENNIFER: What would I have thought?

LARRY: Hm?

MARY ANNE: Yeah, what kind of material was he? Burlap?

LARRY: No, he (looks at MARY ANNE) No, he was just a complete, he was, I mean, he couldn’t, well… he smelled.  (pause for audience laughter)

LARRY: Aaaand he kept touching me, and it was like thiiiis whole… world… opened up.

(beat of silence)

JENNIFER: How do you mean?

(A brief look of fear, of having been found out, passes over LARRY’s face)

LARRY: Well, I’d, uh, (speaks quickly) I’d never heard of Mypos before.  And I’d never heard of any distant family. And when he called America the “Home of the Whopper”, it was like the ground disappeared beneath my feet, and I began to question my whole Weltanschauung, Iiiii saw in that one innocent malapropism the full extent of capitalism’s undiscerning hunger, that there was no corner of the world that it could not reach, no peasant whose soul would not be tainted by the idea that the height of civilization meant nothing but to be a consumer, and not only that, but to consume a product whose very name is synonymous with lying and whose nature was already too big for its purpose…

MARY ANNE: (giggling) That’s funny!

LARRY: …how?

MARY ANNE: “Home of the Whopper” instead of “Home of the Brave”. I like that.

________________________________________

While it is interesting to see just how much Bronson Pinchot’s “Balki” accent has changed over the years, this is outweighed by the fact that I swore I would never re-watch any of these episodes.

You got me, show.  You got me good. Fuck you, show.

Cousin Larry sets out the conflict/question of the episode. He claims to have been there to help Balki transition into life as an American, and an adult; he mentions that it was he who gave Balki an introduction into the world of dating.

________________________________________

008

JENNIFER: You know, Balki told me about the time you took him to that singles bar…

LARRY: He did?

JENNIFER: The way Balki tells it, you were both babes in the woods. (turns to Harriette, smiling) So Larry took Balki to a singles bar to meet women, and it didn’t turn out very well.

HARRIETTE: I ain’t surprised, sugar. These two wouldn’t know how to treat a woman if she came with an instruction booklet. And one of ‘em can’t read, neither!  So what happened?

JENNIFER: It didn’t turn out very well.

HARRIETTE: What we talkin’ here, honey? The women turned out to be hookers? They turned out to be hookers with STDs? They turned out to be men?

JENNIFER: Not necessarily.

LARRY: No, you see, Balki had some very strange ideas about how to pick up women. He–

JENNIFER: Whose story is this, yours or mine?

LARRY: It, uhhhh (to HARRIETTE) look, Balki was trying to act black, and he wasn’t even any good at it. I mean, is “mommo” even something you people… I mean, your people… I mean, that is–

JENNIFER punches LARRY in the stomach

HARRIETTE: Thank you, sweetie, go on, what kind of disaster was it?

JENNIFER: Balki had trouble asking a woman out, and so did Larry.

HARRIETTE: Look, honey, you want somebody to pull teeth, go see a dentist.

(HARRIETTE makes as if to stand up)

JENNIFER: Balki got a date with a woman, but when Larry asked out a different woman, her boyfriend showed up, took him out back, and beat him up.

009

HARRIETTE (laughing): And what happened with Balki’s date?

MARY ANNE: We killed her and dumped her body in the Chicago River.

HARRIETTE (laughing harder): Balki didn’t tell me you was so funny! I’m’on tell my husband–my husband works in homicide–I’ll tell him that one tonight, he likes a good laugh. Smile, baby, I know you’re joking.

010

JENNIFER: —

________________________________________

There was a hell of a lot of that singles bar scene, almost four minutes of it!  Lydia demands confirmation that Larry got thrashed by Jerseyman.  Larry hems and haws because, well, yes, getting hit was part of it, but it was all consensual.

013

Larry then brags that he helped Balki by mentioning how Balki helped someone else:

________________________________________

LARRY: For instance the time he invited his friend Gina to, to stay with us while her husband was out of town.

JENNIFER: Gina, isn’t she the one who had her baby while she was staying with you?

LARRY: Yes–

JENNIFER (to MARY ANNE, angry): I told you she was married.

MARY ANNE: Oops!

LARRY: –in the middle of the night! And if I had not been there with one of my fool-proof plans, well, there is no telling what would have happened.

LYDIA: That’s… interesting. The way I heard it, your plan sort of fell apart. (to everyone)  Larry had rehearsed everything, using a stopwatch.

HARRIETTE: Lemme guess, he fucked it up.

014

LYDIA: Did he!  Balki told me that Larry had been arguing about the hot side of the bed, whatever that means, and he always sleeps really deeply after a fight.

LARRY (mumbling): Oh my Lord…

LYDIA: So once Gina starts going into labor, Balki has trouble waking Larry, but once he’s up, he starts freaking out, running into tables, breaking the lamp—

LARRY: I didn’t… brrreeeak the lamp, I–

LYDIA: Either way, Larry, we’re going to have to talk about your hangups with furniture some day. I could do a whole week of columns on that! Where was I? So he’s shouting at Balki, shouting at Gina–

LARRY: It was all happening so fast, I… I just wanted to do it right…

LYDIA (laughing): –running around in circles, throwing jackets–don’t know why I remember that part–

LARRY: She said she was cold, I just thought…

LYDIA: And then they don’t even get to the hospital, Larry slams on his brakes in the middle of the street–

LARRY (speaking in what comes close to a child’s voice): I didn’t mean to kill her!

(a few uncomfortable beats of silence)

MARY ANNE: You didn’t, Larry, we–

JENNIFER waves MARY ANNE to silence.

LARRY (sobbing into hands): I mean… the mis… the miscarriage.

LYDIA: Larry, the baby was fine. Balki told me how you babysat Little F–

LARRY: No. My… my… sister…

HARRIETTE: The piano player?

LARRY: Not Elaine… Margaret.  They… were going to name her Margaret. My dad always wanted to have 10 kids, you know, he wanted to call us the “Apple Ten”, but it was my fault–Dad looked me right in the eye and said it was my fault. I didn’t… he… I was so excited to have another sister, I thought, I thought maybe this one would be nice to me, and I wanted to show her I was a friend. Th-th-that night before, my mom said she was cold, and so I thought mmmmmaybe Margaret was cold, too, and I

HARRIETTE: Honeychile, I already had me three miscarriages, that ain’t nothing. (to LYDIA) Go back to that part about him stopping in the street, that was hilarious.

LARRY: …so I turned her side…

LYDIA: So Larry just slams on the brakes in the middle of an intersection! Can you believe it?

LARRY: …the heated mattress… I turned her side all the way up…

(all four women continue to laugh while LARRY sobs uncontrollably)

(cut to commercial)

________________________________________

JENNIFER – *clears throat* – Jennifer expresses worry about Balki not being there yet, and Lydia starts expressing her own fears about test-taking.  Harriette, sensing weakness, insults her. Lydia retreats to regroup her defenses.

015

Cousin Larry picks up his argument that he has been nothing but a help to Balki.

________________________________________

LARRY: He always needs me to get through these pressure situations. Well, if I wasn’t there to help him, he wouldn’t have gotten through his first day of work.

MARY ANNE: At the discount store?

LARRY: The what?

MARY ANNE: The Ritz Discount store? Downstairs?

LARRY: I don’t… Paoli’s Pizza is downstairs.

MARY ANNE: We used to be on the store’s baseball team?

LARRY: Wwwe work for the Chronicle. It’s a newspaper.

016

HARRIETTE: Wait a minute. I was there. And I wouldn’t call what you did “help”. Now Gorpley was looking for a reason to fire Balki, and Larry was trying to write his first article for the newspaper, when all of a sudden they just start fucking around with this old mimeograph machine.

JENNIFER: So then what happened?

LARRY: Balki cut my lucky tie!

HARRIETTE: Shut up, baby. That was all. They just fucked around with the machine and broke it.  Made this huge mess, paper and ink all over the damn place.

(LYDIA laughs out loud, and then sees that HARRIETTE is looking at her. LYDIA stops laughing and looks away quickly)

HARRIETTE: Mm-hmm.

________________________________________

Yep, there’s nothing so fun as listening to someone sitting in a chair, unmoving, while they describe a physical comedy scene!

Larry begs the women to think of all the times that he actually helped Balki.

017018019020021

Ultimately, all of these women know by now that the cousins “helping” each other boils down to them shooing everyone off-screen and playing the Myposian version of “doctor”.

________________________________________

022

MARY ANNE: What about the time that Larry enlisted me and Jennifer in helping Balki get over his bad dreams? Or the time when Larry helped Balki cope with the loss of his dog? Or when he taught Balki how to drive? Or when he helped him not get taken advantage of by his night school classmates on two different occasions? Or when he taught him how to ask for more than he wants during negotiations so that he gets the most important things? Or when he helped Balki learn that sometimes couples work things out in their own way, and meddling isn’t helpful? Or when he helped cure Balki of a crippling addiction? Or when he had honest fear for Balki’s life when they let that guy we used to work for stay here? Or when he helped Balki realize that not every interpersonal problem can be addressed right away?

(Everyone stares at MARY ANNE, dumbstruck. We get the impression they are wondering if the idiom “too dumb to live” is descriptive or prescriptive)

023

MARY ANNE: Oh! You wanted me to say about a time when Larry messed something up!

(The others collectively let out their held breath)

JENNIFER: Yes, please, thank you.

(MARY ANNE closes her eyes, sets her mouth in a determined line, and begins to vibrate. A pink nimbus surrounds her hair, and the room grows dark, the rosy light reflected in the others’ eyes.  Above her head, a shimmering, ethereal expanse appears, not entirely unlike a vintage projection screen, flickering at first but becoming stable as a three-and-a-half-minute scene of LARRY and BALKI, as viewed from the southern wall of MARY ANNE and JENNIFER’S bathroom, is shown.)

(At the end, the screen begins to flicker and then disappears; the room lightens once again)

________________________________________

024

Larry realizes that he’s the one who helped Balki study for his entrance exam, and that Balki probably failed. He spirals, questioning his own value as a cousin, as a friend, as a viable person, and I’m starting to freak out a little too.

What happened to the Larry who had only booksmarts? What happened to the Larry who helped Balki pass his last high school final exam? We established at the beginning of this episode that Balki did graduate high school. I have to believe that we’re still in the same reality, and that lives are not like computers, and that reading a memory doesn’t cause it to be rewritten, re-encoded, risking corruption. I have to hold on to the belief that they’re still in the same apartment–I mean, Larry did nod his head towards the door when he talked about when he first met Balki, right?  I have to believe that Larry can still help Balki, or else 90% of the show’s premise is gone. I have to believe that

biki

BALKI: Cousin! Home of the Whopper! What this! Boochi boochi! Balki pass test! Dugun duca lula ludla nuna, dounga, luna nudlah jubba jubba jubba!

025

So is that how college entrance exams work? Did the teacher grade them and declare, one by one to each student “you got in!”, take their money and register them for classes? No wonder it took him all damn night to get home. According to his sweater, by the way, Balki got into “Dial College”.

026027

Larry, the proud papa once again, recaps all of the studying that he and Balki did, but:

________________________________________

028

BALKI: This help me pass test, Cousin: your lucky pencil!

LARRY: Wwwhere did you get that? I… I ran every pencil I owned through the sharpener… they were nothing but nubs…

BALKI: I know! Isn’t it crazy?

LARRY: I burned the shavings. I burned the erasers. I melted the ferrules… oh my Lord…

BALKI: It just show up on my pillow this morning! Look, cousin, it have your teeth marks and everything!

LARRY: What time is it WHAT TIME IS IT?

BALKI: Oh, come on, Cousin, I’m just kidding! That’s… that’s college humor.

________________________________________

But who cares about any disagreement about anything at this point, Balki’s in college, so we never have to mention it again. Also, the cousins are now so happy that they do their ritual symbolizing how one of their penises goes into the other’s butthole.

danceofjoy48.gif

Evidently, next Friday is Christmas somehow, so join me for “The Gift of the Mypiot”!

________________________________________

Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)

Recount: Larry (1); Jennifer (1); Lydia (1); Harriette (1); Mary Anne (1)

Dance of Joy running total: 13

P.S. Many thanks to my longtime comics collaborator Matt for suggesting this format for reviewing a clip show.