Season 4, Episode 3: Aliens

We’re only a few episodes into the fourth season here, but I’m already finding myself asking: what does this show want to accomplish?  Does it want to tell us something new about the characters?  Season 3 said “maybe” to that one. Does it want them to progress towards their own goals?  All three seasons have said “okay, sure, a little” to that one.  I feel that the worst this show could do would be to rest on its laurels and just endlessly plug different nouns, names, locations, Balki-isms, and family members into a Mad Libs-style formula. Actually, the worst this show could do would be more episodes like The Unnatural, or Better Shop Around.  Actually, no, I take that back: the worst this show could do is have four more seasons after this one.  That would certainly end in me k–

–what’s that?


Linn-Baker and Pinchot decided somewhere between seasons 1 and 2 that they wanted to have fun with this thing and goof around with physical comedy. Audiences liked, and ABC played it up.  Season 3’s Just Desserts was a high-water mark for physical comedy on this show, even if it was at some moments hoping we would ascribe I Love Lucy’s zaniness to it via reference. We didn’t get overloaded with chocolates, but Balki did shake his imaginary tits around.

Last week showed us that Perfect Strangers still retained part of its original formula of Larry trying to lead Balki astray with American capitalist shortcuts. But just as Coke Classic was the result of popular demand, Perfect Strangers’s attempts to go forward ended up going backwards instead, because that’s where the laughs seemed to be.  So “Aliens” gives us one answer to the question of what the show’s goals were: to claim its place as the descendant of classic television programming.

We open at the Chronicle, and I’m excited by the fact that there’s Halloween decorations around!  I love Halloween episodes of shows, and I think it’s a safe bet many of you do as well.  I saw the very first Halloween episode of Roseanne on its original airing, and for me, that experience has never been matched.  I don’t expect greatness here, but I am excited to see what Perfect Strangers does.


Larry is on the phone trying to tell someone how great this episode is going to be. They don’t want to come.  And then he has trouble getting that exposition out over Harriette and Lydia fighting.  Lydia is upset because Larry pulled her away from an important phone call (so how did Larry get ahold of her…?), but–


Harriette: What were you doing? Asking your hairdresser if you should go back to your natural color?



You guys, weep for Harriette; her days are numbered.  Larry invites them to a horror movie marathon. Yes! Any party can be turned into an epic bash by just sitting around, facing the same direction, and not talking for 12 hours.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that the show finally found a way to have women be funny, even if they have no impact on the plot.  They’re basically just riffing on a key word is in whatever Larry just said.  We also find out that Harriette does indeed know the entire building’s secret sex lives, and that Lydia hasn’t showered alone since she saw Psycho.


Harriette ain’t afraid of no ghosts, but evidently the mother of her constantly-enraged cop husband is some sort of demon from hell, so she’s good.


Balki comes in wearing a Barbra Streisand mask.


Haha, j/k, Balki comes in wearing the face of a sheep he killed and brought with him from Mypos.  Larry humors his child by pretending not to know who it is.

Balki: It’s Balki!

What the fuck, I mean that’s really stretching the idea that Balki is so much Balki the Kid that he can’t see that someone else would see what clothes he has on.

Balki thinks everyone’s coming to their party so Larry breaks the bad news about how some actors are on set for only one day, since they show up in fewer episodes. Belita Moreno is shooting the scenes for all of her episodes that day, and she won’t be there tomorrow when they shoot apartment scenes. It will just be the girlfriends, but why couldn’t they invite Schlaegelmilch?

And even though we established not two minutes ago that Larry and Balki were throwing this horror movie party, Larry has to explain what a horror movie is to Balki, and why they’re supposed to be fun to watch. I had a friend once tell me they couldn’t stand watching The Office because they worked with people like that and couldn’t laugh at the situations they create. I guess the plot of The Birds was too similar to what happened on Mypos day to day that Balki swore off scary movies years ago.


Larry puts down New Yorkers, and the scene ends.  Later that evening, at the apartment, Balki is dressed as a big ol’ red cock. I think Dmitri might be wearing a similar costume.


Larry is dressed as a legal-department-approved Jason clone, complete with hockey mask and knife in the chest. Remember last week how I said that Larry always feels that he’s a broken, wounded individual, and how he always puts on masks to make himself seem more self-assured? That costume, whether it meant to be or not, is friggin’ deep.  Similarly, Jennifer’s costume is as deep as she is. I get the impression she asked herself what types of stock Halloween personages there were and stopped when she got to the first one that had the same gender. Larry’s costume is meant to scare others, and Jennifer’s implies the bare minimum of thought. Balki seems to assume that the purpose of a costume is just to have fun*.  Mary Anne (Sagittarius) is dressed as a pilot and this joke is the absolute best because it’s not even mentioned, much less stepped on.


After six hours of watching movies, Jennifer and Mary Anne say they’ve have enough.   Mary Anne is upfront with her feelings, admitting to feeling nauseated, but takes out time to thank the cousins for having her over, and even makes a joke.  What a dumb woman, huh?


Jennifer’s all like “I already said I’m leaving, fuck you if you think I’m going to say anything else”, and they leave. Twist that knife a little more, wontcha, lady?


Larry points at the TV Guise and tells us the whole plot of the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Balki, you’re not going to criticize this show for being heavy-handed with its foreshadowing, are you?


Cousin Larry suggests they watch the movie in the dark.


Balki doesn’t want that because this episode is already loaded in my favor, ripe for penetration jokes based on their costumes.  Haha, nah, j/k, there wasn’t going to be any sex tonight anyway. Balki’s so scared that his genital cluster has retreated as far as it can into his body, leaving a bulb of wrinkled flesh roughly the size of a Fun Size Snickers.


And for 10 minutes straight, they disagree about whether he is scared of the dark and keep flipping the switch, until Larry pulls a Bugs Bunny on him.

Balki refuses to finish the marathon with Larry, saying he believes that movies put bad thoughts into people’s heads.  This has long been the argument against graphic horror.  It may go further back than this, but I’ve read a bit on both the Hays Code** as well as the origin of the Comics Code Authority. The fear behind both was “what will it do to the children?” if they see murder or any sort of evil.  But saying this fear is unfounded is not a very strong counterpoint. If you’re a librarian like me, or any sort of educator, you likely believe that good literature and films will have a positive impact on their audiences.  If good movies help, bad movies can hurt, so Balki heads off to read The Little Engine That Could.

Fuck, guys, I’ve written a lot here, and there’s nothing going on. The story so far is that the cousins didn’t have many guests for their party, and now they have no guests for their party. Can I get an act break?


Thank you! Now, can I get an actual story?


: – |

It’s business as usual around the apartment; Balki the Wife is cleaning and cooking up a batch of mach back zick zick*** (pig stomach stuffed with head cheese) for their trip to Mypos. Balki says “I’ll be snookered!” and that’s the last time I’m going to mention that–this isn’t the first time he’s said it and I know it’s not the last. You’re not getting another catchphrase, Balki.


Balki keeps doing weird things, like seeing Larry even when Larry’s standing behind him, zapping food with his finger, and leaving a milk carton hanging in midair.


*narrows eyes*

You said you’d never seen Mork and Mindy, Bronson. By the way, that’s an authentic 1987 Telco Motionette witch there on the counter.  Cousin Larry decides that Balki is playing a trick and apologizes to him for having made fun of his fears. As they get ready to go to work:


Larry opens the closet and a big ol’ pod falls out. And, yep, the show is telling us that it’s doing a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  So, okay, we know how the rest of the episode will play out, right?  But wait–the show is also trying to do its version of The Dick Van Dyke Show’s parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  In season 2, the show tried to make the statement that Balki and Larry had something more to offer than such classic pairings as Gilligan and the Skipper; here, this could be a signal that the show is throwing down the gauntlet to outdo Dick Van Dyke.


Balki phases through the door, and the “oh no!” guitar riff comes on.

Oh no! How will Larry follow him? Will this new ability keep plots like “The Break In” from ever happening again? And will Balki just pass right through Larry when they try to have sex? How will Larry make Balki stop being an alien without being wrong in the end?


At the Chronicle, Lydia and Harriette are right we we left them, and Larry recaps the last scene for them, since they weren’t there.


Lydia does some quick psychoanalysis and says that Larry’s just paranoid from scary movies. But then Harriette calls Larry cousin.

Whaaaat? That’s not a word black people use! They usually say brother, or sister, baby, or honeychild. Something’s wrong here!


Lydia just straight up tells the audience what the plot of this episode is, and then she and Harriette leave, cackling. Larry’s super-stressed about it, so he reads the paper, rather than contribute to its creation in any way.


He then reads aloud the headline that we just saw, so I have a serious question for all of you out there.  I understand that both the home and studio audiences need to know what the headline said, but couldn’t you cut the part intended for the studio audience out of the broadcast?


Balki floats down and makes a stupid joke, as well as this face for the third time this episode. It’s also the third time I’ve made that face this episode. He gaslights Larry for awhile by appearing, disappearing, acting like an actual American by reading a newspaper headline that impacts him directly and not giving a crap about it.


That maybe-Latino woman pushes a pod in a shopping cart, and then Larry just tells us the plot of the episode again.  What the fuck is this shit? This episode is 80% characters explaining the plot. Fine, show, I give up!

Do whatever zany shit you’re going to do, just quit talking about it. What’s the planet Mypos like?

Balki:  All men are created cousins.

Okay, that was sort of funny.


Balki tries to use Claire Hayden’s oracular sound effect to turn Larry into a Mypiot. He tells Larry that he wants to go to Mypos, he’s going to enjoy it, and that chitlins will taste just like candy to him. But it doesn’t take!  Larry’s just too American!

Balki spews some shit about Mypiots being on earth for thousands of years but they all decided to be evil because Balki watched a scary movie, so then Balki’s floating and talking in an evil voice.



Is he sick of Earth’s bullshit or is he possessed? Are there multiple Mypiots or just Balki? Does he lead them?

Do I give a shit?

Larry runs home, where he calls up Jennifer and tells her to drop whatever she’s doing and come there.


Jennifer, wearing a David Byrne big suit, comes in and punches Larry in the stomach again. Nah, I wish, it’s just Larry explaining the plot again, so let’s hurry this along.


Balki’s outside the window (can’t he phase in?), Jennifer’s got a vaguely ethnic vest on, the rest of the women phase in through the door. This kind of makes me wonder if Balki’s had sex with all these women.


Larry tries to get away but it’s no use–he hears Balki creeping up behind–but he’s out of time.






Evil, possessed alien Balki Bartokomous has accomplished his goal, so let’s talk about the goal of this episode.

Up until the point where Balki started floating, this had been pretty much a beat-for-beat re-creation of the Dick Van Dyke Show episode “It May Look Like a Walnut”. I took the time to watch it, so here’s my take on how “Aliens” measures up.


Rob Petrie tries to get his wife, Laura, to stay up late watching horror movies. She doesn’t, and he does, causing Rob to dream that he is in the version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers that he just watched, which included characters with eyes in the backs of their heads, no thumbs, and who spread their influence over humanity through walnuts.


His dream begins with Laura giving him walnuts for breakfast, leading Rob to think she’s making fun of him.  Then Rob goes to work, and his co-workers appear to be in on the gag, since there are walnuts all over the office. Balki is playing tricks, Lydia and Harriette appear to be in on it, giant pods in both locations, same show, right? No.

The difference at this point is that Rob’s co-workers, Buddy and Sally, are writers for a comedy show.  There’s still the possibility that it’s all just a joke. It’s not until their boss, Mel Cooley, comes in, that Rob starts to worry. I haven’t watched this show in years, but it’s obvious from the context that Mel is always serious, and him “playing along” is the real indicator that Rob’s in deep shit.  Lydia and Harriette don’t joke around with Larry, so they’re left with just explaining the plot.


Once the truth is revealed to Rob, he rushes home, where he’s met with even more horrors from his wife, who does have an eye in the back of her head. Jennifer? Jennifer wears a vest.


Laura has also filled the Petrie home with walnuts.  Balki? Balki floats and puts vests on people. Walnuts are funny, in and of themselves, but also because they’re a visual play on the pods from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Vests? The show seems to think that’s funny, just like Leonard 6 thought that underarm rockets were funny. You can only go so far in trading on words that are sort of funny.


The Dick Van Dyke Show gets away with it because it–figuratively as well as literally–floods the episode with the funny word; you can only have as many vests as you have characters.


I ended up liking “Just Desserts” because of how manic it got, even if it was mostly fluff physical comedy. It was trying to re-create one scene from an episode of I Love Lucy; I kind of doubt this show could ever pull off complicated gender role commentary, so it’s best it didn’t try. But “Aliens” tries to do an homage to a whole episode, and rather than topping it, finds itself having to remove parts that don’t fit. This left vacuums that ended up being filled by explanations of the plot.


When I saw this week’s episode title, I was really hoping for Dmitri to fuck Larry’s face, and for a slimy little Balki to pop out of Larry’s chest, but we got this instead.


Balki wakes Larry from the second instance of REM disorder we’ve observed. But Larry’s relieved to be back in the real world now, where Balki doesn’t fly, Mary Anne’s so dumb she thinks a satellite is what a cowboy uses when he goes riding at night, and where


Then the cousins explain the plot of the episode as a whole–Larry DREAMED about how Balki was from a planet called Mypos and was not nice and was turning other people into Mypiots so he could take them back to Mypos, with the four-color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was…

I laughed out loud at Larry explaining that he watches horror movies to prove to himself that he’s brave: when he was a child, Fantasia made him break down in tears and his parents had to take him out of the theater.


Larry’s lesson this week is to not watch 12 hours of scary movies, and he suggests they just hand out candy to kids next year.  Sounds like a great episode!

In the final scene, we see that Larry is still in the coma, and we are left wondering if this is the reality, or if him facing a monster-of-the-week with his friends Balki, Jennifer, and Mary Xander is the reality.

See you next week for “Piano Movers”. I can’t possibly imagine what that episode could be about.


Catchphrase Count: Balki (2); Larry (0); The Women (1, but it’s Balki’s)

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

*Or perhaps it betrays his fear? I mean, he is a recovering television addict, so he’s got to be scared shitless at how badly this night could end up.

**Don’t come at me with your newly-minted Wikipedia knowledge of what it was actually called. One purpose of language is to be able to communicate meaning and have it understood. You knew what I meant, and so did Google.

***German for make-bake-goat-goat


Season 4, Episode 2: Assertive Training

For whatever reason, the Huffington Post did not think my discovery last week of Donald Trump’s net worth in 1988 was reason enough to hire me, so here I am again, reviewing this show.

I’ve talked multiple times now about how consistent Larry’s characterization has been.  Even if Larry’s siblings have so far turned out to be not quite as cruel as we were originally to believe, it’s still true that Larry took it that way.  He has a history of feeling ignored, being told he’s less (qualified/important/attractive) than others, and feeling like he’s never going to live up to his own goals. At 24, he felt that he hadn’t progressed in his career.  At the tender age of 26, he saw his body showing signs of age and misuse.  He’s scared of himself: that he’s more susceptible to physical and psychological disease (colds and addictions), and that his own shortcomings will lessen him in the eyes of others (season 3’s constant refrain of “they’ll think I’m a jerk, won’t they?”).  Larry inhabits a world where he feels that he’s in constant danger of losing it all–a mere cold can lose him a shot at a relationship with a woman.  Being in a mildly embarrassing situation could lose him his job.  Believing that a criminal could reform could cost him his life.

So, yes, when I read the synopsis of this episode–”Larry takes assertiveness training”–I got excited. Sure, it could just be a reskin of last season’s second episode (“Biggest Loser”). But Cousin Larry is always looking for a big break or a quick fix, so I really want to see what he does with a pop psychology fad.


We open at the Chronicle and immediately establish that Larry is frustrated.  He finally got his own parking space and–wouldn’t you know it–somebody parked their phallic compensation in it.  Harriette, who keeps catalogic information on every employee at the Chronicle–their job responsibilities, their sticky situations, who they porked at the Christmas party–knows that the Porsche belongs to Doug Perkins.


And–wouldn’t you know it–here’s Doug Perkins now!  Larry asks if the car is his, and if–


Doug Perkins has received training from the Bene Gesserit in the use of Voice, and Larry stops.  Doug Perkins tells Larry that he needs the spot, and that Larry can park in his…


…when he gets one!  Haha LOSER


Reason #18 you should STOP asking when this season’s coming out on DVD:  Balki comes in singing “La Bamba”.

Gorpley gives Balki his paycheck and jokes about how small it is.  When Balki asks why he didn’t get the raise he was promised:


Gorpley: You’re a foreigner, you dress funny, and I just didn’t feel like it.

Hot damn, Gorpley has come into his own!  We’re essentially getting a setup similar to season 1’s “Picture This”, where a more confident Larry was trying to get Balki to learn to say “no” to people taking advantage of him.


But that Larry was a family-owned discount store Larry.  The cousins have come home with sandwiches from what is likely a family-owned restaurant; Larry wanted a cheeseburger but got something else.  How much fish did he get, Balki?


Balki: I believe that is a Filet-O-Fish.

In the competition of products, the brands with the best ad campaigns tend to take over the generic ones. Fun fact: Hydrox and GoBots came first.  In the competition of types of Larry, the earlier puffing has gone, leaving a deflated man who can’t even demand that a restaurant fix his order.  The Larry who hit on women in singles’ bars now is now intimidated by 14-year-old waitresses.  We know the cousins both cook, but they have taken on a subservient role to products themselves, which if I remember Professor D correctly, causes tension between the people involved in the capitalist system.

And even though


young Balki still has many Myposian contemporaries, many of whom get regularly eaten by killer fish. He also says that on Mypos, one of their sayings is that “you can never be too nice, or too thin”.  Body image issues aside (is that you or Balki talking, Bronson?), this is interesting insight into how ideas make it to Mypos, given that the original quote uses the word “rich” instead of “thin”. I want to say that on idyllic Mypos, those concepts use the same word, but the King weighs 300lb, so who knows.


Jennifer comes by to say that she needs to give an example of Larry not standing up for himself, so she cancels their date because a high school friend is in town.* Hey, how about that! Jennifer went to high school and had a friend when she went there!  Watch out, show, if you make her any more unique, she’ll start becoming unbelievable!

Larry’s upset that he gave in to his girlfriend’s reasonable request.  He had tickets to the ballet!

…so why was he going to eat a greasy gut bomb of a dinner before sitting next to a woman for two or three hours?

Despite the fact that the annual average US inflation rate in 1988 was 4.08%–more than 1% higher than that of 1987–we’ve established that at least Balki’s income has not increased. Rather than deciding to go to the ballet together so as not to lose the money Larry spent; rather than eating their dinner; rather than having sex so Larry wouldn’t waste his boner; the cousins decide to just watch television.


The show then does that bit where an announcer on the television asks them questions about what just happened (“Do you have trouble being assertive?…”), and it’s the only time that the show recapping what happened has worked as a comedy bit.

It’s long been the case that those with psychology backgrounds have worked in advertising. This has allowed for effective (often malicious) marketing that plays on the fears of the everyperson. Your husband is upset because your vagina smells funny and is just uncomfortable saying so.  You’re not a man if you don’t smoke cigarettes. You’re not fun or interesting enough on your own, but beer can fix that.

The cousins see the world in terms of products, and purchasing power. Circumstances have caused them to not get the products they want, but they see this as their own failing. The only answer is to seek out another product.  The television man tells them that they’re a couple of girly men, and that they should


Larry criticizes the writers for not giving them this plot years ago so that they’d have better jobs by now. Balki starts talking about pomegranates.



Well, that didn’t work. He’s still talking about pomegranates.  Balki’s making some statement about hard work, but fuck that, we’ve got a whole 13 minutes to screw around before we have to learn that lesson.


Cousin Larry puts down Mypos for how it’s a breeding ground for new, pesticide-resistant strains of fruit flies.  Then he calls 555-STOP and is immediately put on hold.  It’s funny how businesses have multiple customers!

Some time later, Larry comes home and speaks in a deep, theatrical voice.


Larry hangs his STOP jacket. Remember this. This is important.

Larry brags about having a cheeseburger for lunch.  Balki says that he’ll break out the Miralax so Larry can have a bowel movement later on and–


Larry explains:

Larry: When someone tries to make you do something you don’t want to do, you just tell them


And instantly we see the illogic in the STOP seminar program.  It’s to protect you from people making you do things you don’t want to do, but the method is to make them do something. And we see the nefarious way that it propagates the need it fills. Doug Perkins took the seminar, putting Larry in the position of being told what to do.  Now Larry has adopted the same tactic, and tells Balki what to do.

…so how is this different from any other episode of Perfect Strangers???  I mean, every week we see–


Okay, okay, SOMEbody’s touchy this week.

There’s a knock at the door and the New Larry Appleton corrects his earlier mistake of opening it instantly and makes sure to talk about it and let the audience laugh before letting Jennifer come in.

Continuing the thread of Jennifer having a life outside of work, she begins talking about her job.  She gets so far as revealing that she has a supervisor, who–


Larry doesn’t even realize he doesn’t need assertiveness training to tell her she’s still going on a date with him. He could have just called her on her bullshit that anything happens to her outside of his apartment or restaurants.

He tells her what to do like any man SHOULD to his girlfriend, but the audience ooh-hoos waiting for the fallout

Jennifer actually makes a facial expression (too brief for me to get a good screenshot) and says “okay”.

Larry digs deeper into the tortured logic of the STOP program to Balki, how others will be happy when they see him get what he wants.

Balki repeats back what Larry said in that “let me get this straight” way we haven’t really seen since season 1.

Then they practice the STOP method with a fruit!


Larry tells Balki to “concentrate”!


Balki does a funny walk across the room!


There’s a reference to Wayne Newton!

This is the series of callbacks I was looking for a month ago!


Chancellor Appletine tries to tell Anakin Sheepwalker that there is anger inside him. Balki denies it, but Larry pushes until he creates it. Larry, now a salesman for the STOP method, tells Balki that deep down he is furious about Gorpley denying him a raise.

You know, it’s too bad that Mr. Burns is no longer at the Chronicle, or there’d be a boss to talk to about Gorpley.  And RT (Raise Tsar) Wainwright hasn’t shown up this season yet, so I don’t know if he even exists anymore. Larry stokes Balki’s anger: Balki sends half his paycheck home to his mama so she doesn’t have to work in her “golden years” (20 and 21), meaning that Gorpley has denied his mama the raise.


Larry pokes Balki in the chest until Balki picks him up. They ragefuck right there in the living room, Larry says STOP, eats the cantaloupe, and then they continue.

The next day at the Chronicle, Larry tells Balki to get that raise, so…


…Balki goes upstairs, away from Gorpley’s office?


Doug Perkins comes in. Note the subtleties here.  At the beginning of the episode, Balki entered after Doug Perkins left; here, we have sought not new landscapes, but we see with–


Geez, fine! Whatever!

Larry is saved from a horrible fate by seeing what the STOP seminar has done to Doug Perkins: his wife threw him out, he just lost his job.  Poor guy. They probably even took away his key for the top floor of the building, so he can’t even jump off of a ledge now.  All he’s left with now is the worst possible catchphrase:


I get now that Balki went upstairs so that Larry could find this information out without him there, but, uh

Couldn’t the conversation with Doug have taken place in the parking lot??? Where the car is?

Larry tries to tell Mr. Gorpley that Balki is under a hypnotic spell, and then tries to STOP his cousin from coming down the stairs.  How much plan, Larry?


Larry: Change o’plan!

And this is a nice role reversal of Larry not letting Balki talk to get across important information, which we’ve seen a few times by now.  The monster Larry created throws him to the floor and advances toward Gorpley’s office, spouting Balki-isms as he goes. Larry tries to tell him to


But Balki throws his cousin into a mmmmmmail cart and sends him off-camera.


Balki has also taken on Larry’s theatrical intonations.  Not only does the STOP training let people get themselves into bad situations and embarrass themselves, it lets them take twice as long to


Balki’s even calling Gorpley a “mother-mugger”. The kid gloves are off!  Balki, look, I’m sorry, was I being too harsh about some aspect of this episode?


And just like how a mirror snapped Larry out of it in the Vegahhhhs episode, Balki’s catchphrase reminds him of his normal, happy self. But the damage is done, and Gorpley tears up the raise authorization form that he was about to file.  Larry rows over in the mail cart with a coat rack (I bet you cash money Linn-Baker came up with that gag).


Balki, having learned his lesson, comes home in the next scene to let us know he got what he wanted anyway and didn’t need to learn a lesson. Balki told Gorpley that he took Larry’s advice and that was enough to get Gorpley to forgive him.


Holy shit! Gorpley has put Larry down without even BEING there.  Show, you… holy shit that was a beautiful save. I thought you’d undercut the lesson but you reinforced it with a line written so tight you could bounce a quarter off it. And this was a lesson.  I anticipated this season’s “Larry tries to fix himself” was going to go as badly as last time, but we actually had Larry trying to adopt commodified psychology and forcing it on his less sophisticated cousin, who experiences emotions so exaggeratedly that Larry was able to see how destructive it could be.

Larry: I thought a little aggressiveness would help.

And for once, the easiness of the nature of sitcom understanding has made a good episode.  Last season refused distinctions of meaning–”sometimes jokes work and sometimes they don’t”.  But here that was precisely the problem: Larry’s conflation of terms needed to be resolved.

Balki asks if the writers should bother writing more Desperanto for this season’s Mypos sayings; Larry says it’s okay if they don’t.

Balki: You get more flies with honey than with a rifle.

Man, THAT one has some layers, folding in the fruit fly joke from earlier, the confused import of sayings to Mypos, and perhaps even a critique of American problem-solving.

Balki says he hopes Larry has learned his lesson and fuck you, Balki, don’t talk to Larry like he’s a kid!

And just when I expected the episode to end without addressing the scene with Jennifer–


The final joke of the episode is Balki saying that Larry will have a chance to beat her up next week.

See you next week for “Aliens”!


Catchphrase count: Balki (1); Larry (0)

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

*I notice that the apartment number has changed from 207 (see “The Graduate”) to 209.


Season 4, Episode 1: The Lottery

Welcome to Season 4!

And, huh. Based on that episode title, maybe I wasn’t too far off in guessing at the writers’ preoccupations in season 3.  Season 4 premiered on October 14, 1988 as the lead-in to the proto-TGIF block of programming on ABC.  Full House, then in its second season, aired immediately after, but by the summer of 1989 it was moved to the start of the Friday night programming block.  Perfect Strangers would be bumped an hour later then, following Full House and Mr. Belvedere; why the change? TGIF: this guy’s inference? Families.  In Fall 1988 Perfect Strangers was in competition with Beauty and the Beast on CBS, and Sonny Spoon on NBC.  (Don’t remember Sonny Spoon? You and everybody else, bud.)

Anyway, who the fuck cares about that, what’s occurring to me now is that Season 4 is the first season where we’re not starting over. Season 2 was a year of struggles and pain, being willing to let go of parts of the past if they were keeping you from living in the moment (Larry the Christmas Boy and Balki the dog-owner). Season 3 was a little more forward-looking: it ended with the same lesson, but that was after a year of trying its darnedest to progress and move past its own tropes (Mypos sayings).  In a broad sense, Season 3 overgeneralized Season 2’s lesson of letting go into actively trying to forget unless pressed to (Larry the Camera Boy and Mary Anne the landlord-rememberer).  Season 3 gave us a new work environment, and a new set of second-tier characters that it was alternately hesitant to commit to (Mrs. Burns & Gorpley) but would bring back and highlight if they proved popular (Harriette and Lydia). Twinkacetti still existed in the world of Season 3, and we can assume that Mr. Burns probably does too, unless we’re told otherwise.  However:


But for once, we’re in the same place, we’ve got the same characters. So perhaps the show doesn’t have to do as much heavy lifting in terms of introducing us to the characters and their situation, but I would argue it still must do some. Like how at the beginning of 4th grade the teacher spent the first couple of weeks reviewing stuff from 3rd grade. Back then it just made things boring for me, but I can see now it was the teacher’s way of sound out the waters, pre-test for the year, find out not only what we remembered by what we wanted to learn and how we thought of ourselves and others and school in general. So I’ll probably give the first few episodes some tiny passes if they need them. Big questions:

Are things the same? Have the cousins changed since the spring?  Who are Larry and Balki now? Is this show still about dreams, and if so, what are theirs?  In addition to those big questions, I have a shortlist of smaller ones:

Will we have an endless list of characters who stop by, threaten the cousins’ friendship in some tangential way, and leave? Or will Gorpley say more than “Bartokomous, where’s the line that you say after my line?”

Will the lessons still be pat and easy? Or am I still guaranteed somewhere between 2 and 4 decent story endings?

Are we going to retread familiar ground again?

Will Larry lie only 20 times, or 21 times?

Will Larry remember that cameras are still a thing, and never stopped being a thing?

What new thing will Jennifer not necessarily like?

Will Balki ever pronounce Larry’s name right?


Anyway, here we are at the Chronicle.  It’s a new season, it’s sunny out, everything is success, success, success, and Balki is finishing up his work for the day.


Mr. Gorpley stops him, demanding more work: in this case an office directory.  As we saw last season, Balki had graduated from American high school; here, we see that he has now been socialized into the American capitalist system and knows that employees are simply tools, their bodies owned by their faceless employers.  Balki brags that he has added every employee’s blood type to their directory entries.

Gorpley affirms this dim view of employee agency:

Mr. Gorpley: Your days are numbered.


And Balki thanks him for it!  I’m going to pause from my hard-hitting exegesis to ask: how, in the 800+ hours of Balki watching television and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, did he never hear this phrase?

There’s a ding from off-camera!



One miss!

Two miss!

Red miss!

Blue miss!

This one has a brand new ‘do!

This one has neuroses, too!

Lydia is excited because she won the lottery, and somehow there weren’t any lottery commercials on TV either, because Balki doesn’t know what it is.


Harriette explains how the lottery is a backwards ritual that ought to be forgotten, as there are much better ways to control the population (in terms of stemming the dual tides of growth and revolution) than randomly stoning people to death.

Nah, j/k, Harriette mentions that the grand prize is $28 million dollars!

*counts on fingers… that’s 560,00 times $50!*

Then we find out that Lydia only won $100. 😦


Larry emerges from the past, confirming that he did not write an article that day and that he is still a jerk.


Harriette gripes about having to listen to Lydia whine about how Larry called her an idiot, and once again, Belita Moreno proves to be the only actor who knows how to use the different types of exits to their full potential–she starts whining as the elevator door closes.


Balki starts in with his whole “I want to play state-sponsored snowjob” bit and Larry tries to talk him out of it.


Larry: You have a better chance of being hit by a car!


…after which Balki promptly runs out to the parking garage.


Balki comes into the apartment shaking his imaginary tits, just like they do in Fiddler on the Roof. He’s singing Reason #17 that DVD as a format will be abandoned before the music rights on this season are cleared: “If I Were a Rich Man”.

Since there’s no women here, the cousins are forced repeat to each other what they did before they got home. Larry loaned Balki a dollar to play the lottery, and Balki pays him back out of his Freddy the Frog bank.  Freddy evidently has chosen some weird-ass antlered anteater wearing a cape as his avatar for this world.


But Balki has done more than take on the music of Jewish portrayals in pop culture: he offers to pay Larry 50 cents back instead of the whole dollar

Larry does not want in, Balki keeps trying to sell him on the idea that Balki is being generous and thankful to him.

Balki: You took me in, gave me shelter…

Ignoring for the moment that Larry treats Balki like dirt and calls him a slob, this is a succinct (and, if I may say, clever) way to restate all that audiences need to know about the cousins’ relationship 50 episodes in. Larry usually is all about the quick fixes and get-rich-schemes, but his response here is fitting: he is rejecting fate (chance/religion) in favor of control.

Cousin Larry wants to tell Balki about economics

*leans in close to the screen, fingers poised on keyboard, ready to praise the show*


Larry just starts reading the text on the dollar bill.

*shoulders slump, fingers type out “fuck you show”*


Larry, the acceptable face of the Capitalist race, says that the dollar bill can buy things, while the other piece of paper has no value.  He has chosen to let the eye on the back of the bill see for him, and is thus blind to the fact that he errs in the exact same way Balki does.

Later that night…


Black dress!

??? dress!

Dumb miss!

??? miss!

The women have come downstairs just to watch a man on a screen say six numbers out loud (the 80s were a strange, cocaine-fueled time, kids).

Mary Anne (Sagittarius) tells Balki to come back to the couch so that he won’t miss the drawing, something he certainly would have forgotten in the time it took him to grab a single bowl from the kitchen.


Jennifer: Gee, I’ve heard money is nice when little effort is put forth to get it.

Mary Anne says that if she won, she’d buy the airline she works for (the 80s were also a cheap time when you could buy a lottery ticket for a dollar and an airline for $28 million) so she wouldn’t have to be scheduled on double shifts.

She then spouts what are meant to read as well-informed financial decisions she would make for the company.  Mary Anne is the rare character in this show for whom everything she says is funny.


When she says something dumb, she’s funny because she misunderstands something. When she says something smart, she’s funny because she’s dumb.  But Jennifer?

Jennifer keeps the focus off herself by asking Larry what he’d do with 28 million. Larry again rejects the idea of chance by rejecting the question. But WWBD?

He would pay off the Myposian National Debt, which totals $635.

I hope you’re all wanting to strangle Balki as much as I am for blowing that money on a skywriting jet last season.


Deep down, Balki still understands that capitalist excess is a danger to his way of life, and start starts getting scared when the numbers are announced. He begs Cousin Larry to hold the transcribed numbers (Balki hid the ticket) and Larry puts on this whole asshole 1950s sitcom “gee, Balki” kind of voice.


We get a slow close-in on Larry’s face as he realizes what’s on the note that Balki handed him.


The women try to leave, there being nothing else in the entire apartment to interest them, but–


Balki won!


In the next scene, the women finally leave. For the second time this episode, Balki calls himself “a simple sheepherder”.


Look, Balki, I know that’s how all your masturbation fantasies start, but according to “My Brother, Myself”, you’ve been here for basically two years. You haven’t even touched your shepherd’s crook since *sniff* Susan left.


The cousins are so happy that they do the Dance of Joy.


Larry keeps pressing his cheek against Balki’s and saying “we did it”, but–

Balki: What you mean we, white man?

Balki very smugly gives Larry back his own rule-based thought process: he refused to play the lottery, thus he gets no share of the winnings. Cousin Larry deserves this on a couple of levels.  One, Larry put him down earlier in the episode. But more importantly, this is what Larry gets for being so rule-based for so long.  Larry offers to go buy 20 lottery tickets and give Balki half of whatever he wins as a show of good faith. They mention also that Larry told Balki that the word “sucker” has Balki’s face beside it in the dictionary. Okay, show, I’m warning you: you’re telling me that Balki knows not everything is literal. I don’t care how much else you’ve forgotten about the past 3 seasons (or was it 2? I’ll have to ask my man T-Boyett), but you’re blocking off escape routes early on here.

Larry cries…


Balki relents…


Balki: I’m just playing a game of cat and louse with you.

Not only does Mypos have such a small economy that $635 would pay off its debt, it evidently has its own food web too.


Larry: In your face, Donald Trump!

…who lives up in the sky with God, apparently?  I usually don’t talk about that guy, because, well, here’s my opinion of him:


But there’s definitive proof that his net worth was less than $28 million in 1988.



Where did Balki hide the ticket?


Larry: You put the ticket…

Balki: I put the ticket…


Larry: You put the ticket…

Balki: I put the ticket… in my…


Larry: You put the ticket in your…

*lets out breath*


Balki finally remembers that he put the ticket in his winter coat.


And here’s your show-stopping physical comedy setpiece for the season 4 opener: Larry and Balki start throwing coats out of the closet.  That scene from the 1974 film version of The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, where Daisy throws all the shirts in the air, got nothing on this!

The ticket’s not in the coat, but maybe he put it in a cereal box.


So the cousins start throwing out the expired props from Season 3. You’ve got your Raisin Puffs, a couple boxes of Sugar Oatsies, and


Colonel Kernels!  I’m seriously excited by Colonel Kernels. I hope they travel to the Deep South to meet the racist CEO and do physical comedy at his plantation house, spill their mint juleps and swing from his porch fans.


Balki gets excited about a Captain Power decoder ring. He’s happy to have a complete set, but Larry throws it away, not realizing that exactly that kind of behavior is what increases the value of the toys that were kept in pristine shape. In fact, a few years past the airing of this episode, comics fans realized this fact en masse, driving up prices on old comics such as Incredible Hulk #181, and creating a boom/bust cycle of speculation involving numerous first issues, variant covers, and gimmick covers, like this one here for Amazing Spider-Man #400:


Oh, sorry, I got carried away there. Larry’s screaming at Balki now, and Balki’s crying, and now Larry’s holding Balki’s arms for the 16th time this episode and Larry’s throwing Balki around.


Anyway, Balki can’t remember where he hid the ticket. Larry yells at Balki to say what part of the apartment they haven’t torn apart yet, and Balki says “all those books that suddenly appeared for the first time this episode!”


Larry grabs a volume of Shakespeare from the shelf and he just starts shaking it around and I, as a librarian, must turn my head away from this savagery.


Then they tear open the vacuum bag, and, you know?


I’ve lost the thread of this episode, and quite possibly this show. Wasn’t this episode about blood types or something? Wasn’t this show about a shepherd and his beer-drinking cousin?  Has Balki fixed the radio yet?


The next day, we get a panning shot of the building’s exterior, which is the only part of this episode that’s felt like it’s taking place in a different year from that of the previous season. We see that the Caldwell Hotel has grown battlements, an outer reflection of the constant fighting within.


The cousins, spent from the night’s exertions, lie limp on the floor, and Mary Anne thinking that they’ve been up all night partying Hunter S. Thompson-style is really great.

Jennifer makes the episode’s requisite mention of their job, but before they leave, Mary Anne returns the envelope Balki gave her. The episode spins this as an indication that she is forgetful.

Now that they’re millionaires, the cousins go straight to the offices of Unicorn Cereal.


They’re so excited that they’ve been fucking the whole way there.


The cousins meet Mr. PAY-OFF, who in a very officious way (he’s wearing glasses and everything) checks the numbers on the ticket.

Larry mistook 7 for 4 when he read Balki’s handwriting. The idea is that since Balki puts a horizontal strike through 7, it looks like a 4 to Larry.




Larry demands that the official give them money based on the piece of paper that Balki wrote the numbers on, sealing the deal on that Colonel’s kernel of an actual commentary on assigned value.

The cousins only win $100. 😦  Barely enough to buy snacks for a Christmas party.

In the final scene, Balki names all the things you could spend $100 on in 1988: Air Jordans, 20 trips to the top of the Sears Tower, or a multi-year subscription to Sports Illustrated, including the swimsu-it issue.


Larry has always wondered what women’s hips look like…

Mary Anne is dumb (and smart); Jennifer is uncomfortable talking about anything but her job, which you can already tell from her outfit anyway.

Lydia is a slightly more established, slightly more troubled Larry; Harriette is black.

Mr. Gorpley hates Balki.

The lesson of this episode:  Larry looks at things one way, Balki looks at things another way.  That’s it. That’s the lesson.


Welcome to Season 4.

Come back next week for “Assertive Training”!


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

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

Dance of Joy running total: 12