Season 2, Episode 9: Two Men and a Cradle

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This episode opens in the Ritz Discount Shop with Balki, Gina–and Gina’s baby!  Hello Baby! Hello Continuity!  Balki speaks Myposian to the baby (“Little Frankie”) and we get a new angle.  Balki’s already agreed to let the baby stay with him, but does he think Larry’s down?

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Larry comes in and pretty much the first thing Gina tells him is how horny her husband Steve is (Steve, gee, what a great Italian name).  Man, those foreigners and their lack of sexual mores!  How dare they acknowledge at all that sexuality is a basic part of human life?

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Since we get a repeat of Gina as a character, we also get a repeat of the plot for the previous episode she was in.  Balki agrees to be nice to someone, presents it to Larry as an idea “wouldn’t it be nice if someone”, Larry says “yes, it would”, and then has to grin and bear however that impinges on his life.  I was willing to buy that back when Larry was trying to get photographs of things happening, or trying to get into the pants of Tina, or a stewardess, but Larry, you’ve got no fucking social life now.  You and the baby can sit on the couch and drink from your respective bottles (store-brand Bismol and Similac).  Larry lobbies for setting a time nine months from then to babysit Frankie, but Gina’s already just, like, sopping wet and has to get on the road to meet up with Steve.  So Steve can “lay the hammer down”. So Steve can be the “bear at her back door”. So Steve can “run her across”.

Okay, I’m sorry, this show has jokes too.  I don’t laugh at many of Balki’s malapropisms, but “nervous breakdance” got me.  Twinkacetti comes in and we get the show’s first legitimate gay-couple sight gag.

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Balki runs around trying to cook and clean and care for the baby all at once, but has to step away to get the laundry.  Larry refuses to help:

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Larry: Watching the baby is not my job; I have a life, you know.

“A life”, here, consists of sitting on the couch reading Martha Ostenso’s Wild Geese. Come the fuck on, Cousin Larry, aren’t you depressed enough at work? Holy shit, what an existence.

Now that the baby’s out of sight, the audience needs to be reminded that he exists.  Adding a baby to the show was a good move, because the audience should be able to relate to Frankie, since neither has developed object permanence. So Frankie (that is, track 3 from volume 8 of the “Sitcom Sounds” series– “Baby gurgle (extended)”) starts playing.  Larry claims that he is above thousands of years of evolution by saying that he will not melt when the baby does something cute.  But Larry, we know you have no immunities, not even to cute babies.

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The baby raises its hand and Larry smiles, laughs, and says “cut that out”.  It probably read funnier to the studio audience without the clip of the baby just raising its hand.  But, I dunno, maybe Frankie just made a gang sign? Or a Mafia sign? Are those a real thing?

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It turns out that Balki has been washing Frankie’s disposable diapers.  Like, I get that there are diapers you can put in the wash, but please, somebody tell me in the comments how this work.  Wouldn’t shit get everywhere?  I mean, not that it matters to the one guy who clogs the toilet whenever he actually manages to shit, nor to the guy who never washes his hands, but I’m worried on their behalf.

It turns out that Larry was fed up with babies because he always had to help his mom out with his siblings.  Come the fuck on, Cousin Larry.  You’re always upset because you had to share things with your big family.  Now you’ve got this baby all to yourself–shouldn’t you be excited?  Anyway, we get a nice little rant from Larry:

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Larry: Larry, run to the store and get some more milk, Larry, babysit your brother, Larry, let Elaine tie you up.

Man, I hope when Elaine shows up that she just devastates this guy.  I actually appreciate Larry here, though, giving Balki actual wisdom like a real person in his situation would.  It’s an actual progression of character and show. But my fear is that they’re going to have to reach more and more for this kind of thing in future seasons.  Anyways, Balki takes on responsibility too easily, and Balki finally asks Larry to help instead of just assuming it will be there. Progress!

Balki makes a crummy joke, and then proceeds to oversell it, just like I do.  The difference is that I do it to call attention to how hacky the joke is; Balki’s just proud of himself.

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Oh, no, wait, forget what I said about progress, this is an opportunity for Larry to be smug and have it backfire on him.  Plus, Larry says “watch and learn” and I know he’s said it before a few times.  Maybe this is his catchphrase instead of “don’t you ever… “ ? Hell if I’m going back and rewatching past episodes to find out, though.

Next scene: The Apartment. Night.  Cue volume 8, track 7: Baby crying (angry)

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Cousin Larry still won’t let it go that this whole thing is Balki’s fault, so he’s obviously forgotten that hearing adults argue is NOT the way to calm a baby down.  So Larry tries giving the baby a heart attack, because dead babies wail no wails.

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Larry then says that they’ve overlooked the obvious thing, and in the show’s quest to have Balki say his catchphrase as often as possible, they finally stuck it somewhere it doesn’t work.

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Don’t call someone ridiculous when you’re agreeing with them!  Anyway, Larry sings “Rock-a-Bye Baby”, the grisly imagery of which horrifies Balki. Even foreigners know not to put cradles in trees!  And even though this show aired when I was probably still being sung this song, it’s only maybe the second or third time in my life I’ve ever heard anyone voice my concerns that it’s a song about babies dying.  So thank you, Balki.

Balki starts singing the Brady Bunch theme, which is a good joke because, given Balki speaking Myposian at the top of the episode, you’d expect him to sing it here; OR you’d expect some sort of R&B song based on previous episodes.  Larry joins in, and I’m guessing this scene made this episode the highest-rated of the whole season, prompting the push for Full House’s pilot to end with a similar scene.

In the next scene, Larry and Balki return from the park.  I figured that would have been an obvious third location.

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Larry hangs his coat. Remember this. This is important.

Oh man!  Balki’s rocking a killer shirt there! Move over, Mr. Ochmonek!

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Larry drinks Sprite when he’s happy, not only because he likes to taste its tingling tartness, but also because it’s natural! Larry, I’ve gotta say, I like the Sprite in y–OH NO THEY BROUGHT HOME A GIRL BABY!!!

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In a solid callback to the first Gina episode of the season, Larry once again recoils in horror from a vagina.  You see, in some African cultures, the vagina is seen as a spiritual force, symbolizing the power that women have over the creation of new life.  In fact, one of the phrases used by the Ashanti people to refer to the vagina is bosom kesee, meaning “great god”.  This spiritual power not only encompasses creation, but also destruction; the woman may curse men who wrong her through use of her vagina.  Shades of these beliefs show up from time to time: in the late 20th century, the Takembeng movement used (among other tactics) vaginal displays as protest against the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement. The public display of a vagina serves as a threat, a reminder that vaginas are the core of womanhood. No action could be taken against such protest, as no man would be willing to harm the source of his own existence. The powers to both give and take away life are often equated, even in modern American society.  I mean, how many times have you heard a sitcom parent tell their child “I brought you into this world, and I can just as easily take you out of it”?

Anyway, the point I’m making is that not only is Larry not above thousands of years of evolution when it comes to a baby’s cries, he’s also not free from thousands of years of collective unconscious.  Haha, Larry think’s he’s such hot shit, but he’s really just a loser like the rest of us.

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Larry gets so upset that he starts mispronouncing words just like Balki: “carriage” and “balloons”; I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but they do jokes like that from time to time. Then they both just kind of freak out for awhile before going back to the park.

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Our heroes return from the park and, in monotone voices, relay the necessary expository lines for the members of the audience who just woke up.  Then Larry starts whimpering until Balki smacks him around a bit to shut him up.  They are going to have a serious talk about who’s a top and who’s a bottom later.

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Before they can formulate a plan, Gina shows up! Oh  no! Yet another third act where Balki and Larry try to hide their failures from a woman!

They do their damnedest to keep a woman off-screen for as long as they can, even engaging in physical comedy.

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I see you trying to bait me with another great opportunity for a joke about buttsex, but no.  You’ve put it off for 7 episodes, guys, but a woman neither of you has a chance of fucking gets to drive the plot of an episode again.

You’ll get another few episodes’ reprieve soon, but for now, Gina’s back, and even though Steve jammed her gears pretty hard, she made it through shiny side up.

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Balki tries to tell Gina the truth about Frankie while Larry readies his best heart-attack face.  Nah, just kidding, even though she has the nicest hairstyle in the whole show, Larry tells Gina she looks like shit and drags her off to the restroom.

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Then there’s another knock on the door and, assuming it’s Steve, they do that whole picking-each-other-up-and-then-dragging-Larry thing again.  This is a nice frantic feeling they’ve got going here, even for me: I mean, I can see how much time is left in the episode, so I know these guys aren’t going to fix the problem.  We know their abilities at this point, and hooking up a radio to stereo equipment isn’t going to fix this one.

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But it’s the mother of the girl!  She yells “Katie”, they yell “Frankie” and I have trouble believing that their bathroom door is so thick that Gina wouldn’t hear that.  I mean, come on, I’ve been led to believe my whole life that walls in TV Land were so thin you could hear through them with a glass.

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Linda Richards thanks the guys for taking care of Katie, and I guess that less-than-perfect eyeliner is the equivalent of red shirts on Star Trek now (Sarah Portland, I expect a comparative essay of no less than 250 words on my desk by 8AM next Monday). I’m willing to put money down ($50) that we never see Linda or Katie again.

But how can they be sure the baby is actually Little Frankie?

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Evidently Little Frankie has a Big Frankie, which they just stare at for awhile.

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Gina gets her baby back, Linda gets her baby back, and Balki and Cousin Larry just sit around in the very last scene being sexist for awhile.  The lesson they learned is how much work it is to be a mother.  Not a PARENT, mind you, but a MOTHER.  Yeah, no shit, when women have to do everything on their own, it is a lot of work. These smug assholes think one day of completely fucking up taught them what it’s like to experience years of not completely fucking up.  They decide to resolve the cognitive dissonance of how bad it feels that their moms had to put up with them for 20 years by agreeing to send their moms presents.  Now that they won’t have to think about improving themselves, they are free to turn their brains off and watch The Brady Bunch.

Me, I accepted long ago that men should be equal partners in all parts of a marriage or family; but I also accepted that I would be a consummate failure at childrearing.  Thus I will never have children, meaning that I’m free to turn my brain off and watch Perfect Strangers.

Join me next week for “The Rent Strike”, where there will be far less staring at infant genitalia.

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Catchphrase count: Balki (3); Larry (1) (I mean, I guess I’ll count both of Larry’s now. If anyone wants to correct my numbers for previous episodes, please feel free)

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0); Little Frankie (Little Frankie is disqualified, as all Italian males have perpetually tumescent members; unsurprisingly, the Italians have no word for “boner”)

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12 thoughts on “Season 2, Episode 9: Two Men and a Cradle

  1. I say count both of them as his catchphrases. (Though by no means feel obligated to go recount.) Have they introduced “I have…” “Oh, god.” “…a plan!” yet? I guess they experimented with a bunch of catchphrases for him.

    Does Balki ever develop another one? I know “Don’t be ridiculous” stuck around, but I do wonder if anything else got kicked around at any point.

    I also wonder how long Gina exists. I’m genuinely surprised to see her again!

    Gotta stick up for Mr. Ochmonek here, though: he wouldn’t be caught dead wearing suspenders with that shirt. They’d distract from perfection!

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  2. Disagree with both of you. That shirt is a hot mess, and while I can see Mr O wearing suspenders with one of his shirts, he tends toward an all-over pattern of one theme, whereas Balki’s shirt here boasts one design on the front, something completely different on the back, and what appears to be flannel sleeves. He is, in short, dressed like the scarecrow from a low-budget production of The Wizard of Oz.

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  3. For whatever reason, I seem to be the Blog Google this week, so I’ll go ahead and answer this question as well:
    ” Like, I get that there are diapers you can put in the wash, but please, somebody tell me in the comments how this work. Wouldn’t shit get everywhere? ”
    Nope. Having grown up in a cloth diaper household (yes, I actually relate to Larry here) and then worked in a “green” preschool, I can tell you that the feces does not fly. There are two ways that one may clean cloth diapers. One is to wash them yourself, and another, fairly popular choice is to subscribe to a diaper service. The diaper service delivers freshly-laundered diapers to your porch once a week. If they are the square kind, you fold them specifically according to each gender and diaper the baby in that way. If they are the newer insert kind, then you slide them into brightly-patterned covers. The soiled diapers go into a mesh bag, and are set on the porch for pick-up. They are then laundered by the diaper service, which again delivers a fresh batch later.
    In both the service and DIY versions, fecal matter is disposed of prior to going into the wash or being sent away. Anything solid goes into the toilet, and anything remaining is hand-rinsed, either in the tub or bathroom sink. My sister employed a large serving spoon in her bathroom that was known as “the poop spoon” and was used for scraping.
    Poop does not make it into the washer.
    Thus ends this week’s edition of “Sarah Knows Her Shit.”

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  4. I don’t think the “plan” catchphrase has come up yet, but I’ll count it when it does. For Balki, I don’t remember any, but you can forget me counting it if he does. I don’t think any of the Full House characters said theirs as much as 3 times in one episode.

    And yeah, okay, Mr. Ochmonek wins. But at the very least, it’s a nice design on the front of Balki’s shirt. And Sarah’s right… the more I look at that shirt, the more it seems like it used to be at least three different shirts. Another Myposian tradition whose explanation got cut for syndication, I’m sure.

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  5. I really appreciate knowing this! I would have looked it up myself, but I’m probably one Google search for “baby shit” away from getting arrested.

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  6. For some reason I thought of the “plan” catchphrase today, and it made me wonder how many other catchphrases involve that kind of call / response.

    Usually a character just says something a lot (“I kill me,” “Have mercy,” “Did I do that?”) and that’s the catchphrase, but in a few cases there’s an expected participation from other characters, as with this one:

    Larry: I have…
    [Other]: Oh, god.
    Larry: …a plan!

    The only other one that comes immediately to mind is South Park’s “Oh my god, they killed Kenny!” / “You bastards!” but I’m sure there must be more.

    It’s like your question about the joke in which someone sneezes into a bowl and the food goes flying. It’s the kind of thing you feel like you’ve seen a thousand times, but when you’re trying to remember examples, you come up dry.

    Am I missing other obvious ones?

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  7. My thoughts went straight to Vaudeville with the “Niagara Falls” / “Slowly I turn” bit. But there’s also the “Hello Jerry” / “Hello Neumann”. Um… maybe “Captain Caaavemaaaaaan” / “And son!”. And maybe the back-and-forth on “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” where Scooby would negotiate how many Scooby Snacks he’d get? Those are the only legitimate ones I’ve got at the moment. The State’s “Louie” sketches, which sent up the whole idea of sitcom catchphrases, all included a call and response that preceded the “catchphrase” itself (“You know what I’m going to say” / “No, Louie, we don’t!”).

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  8. Oh man, Hello Jerry / Hello Newman is a perfect one. No idea at all how I missed that.

    Also: You like the League of Gentlemen!? I so rarely meet anyone who knows that show (…or that troupe, I guess) unless they’re from the UK.

    Series three is one of my favorite things that’s ever happened to television. One of the rare sketch shows that knows the value of rich characterization.

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  9. Oh hell yes! It came on Comedy Central back when I was in high school and I fell for it pretty hard. I’m so glad they got the chance to do what they wanted with season 3, and holy shit are their DVD commentaries the absolute best to listen to!

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