Season 2, Episode 14: Trouble in Paradise

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The episode opens with a shot of a bunch of people not going into the Ritz Discount store.

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Balki and Cousin Larry inventory Halloween accessories. I assume this is happening in January or February at this point, so of course this is the perfect time to–

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Yep. Okay. What can I say, it was the 80s. I do enjoy Balki doing a Reagan voice filtered through his Myposian accent. Anyway, Balki’s goofing around because he really doesn’t give a shit that Larry’s worrying whether Jennifer likes him. Balki’s smart enough to realize that the show decided long ago that Larry would date Jennifer. Balki cuts through the “what-do-I-do” bullshit that Larry has been repeating since middle school and tells him to just ask Jennifer how she feels. We get a small glimpse of Larry’s hangups when he says that women’s subtle, nuanced signals must be “read”. I’m guessing there’s some backstory there bookended by Larry asking if a girl liked him, and Larry having pig’s blood dumped on him at the prom. Anyway, can we just skip ahead to the end at this point so we can see a post-breakdown Larry just fucking ask Jennifer a question?

Balki suggests that they invite the women over to their apartment for dinner. That was nice of you to ask, Balki. Then Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) come in and–

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Holy shit they killed Linda and took her job, didn’t they?

Yeah, and her little dog, too. Then there’s a joke about how Mary Anne is jetlagged and keeps asking people what day it is because she wants a second opinion. Balki invites them to dinner, and then there’s a joke about Mary Anne thinking she left the gas on the whole time they were in Rome. Just in case you forgot, people, Mary Anne is dumb. She’s a dumb, blonde stewardess.

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She’s so dumb, she thinks Twinkacetti is a snack food you eat on a loveseat.

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Balki forgets his lines for a minute, but after they get that sorted out, Larry starts his little shitfit. He demands they close the shop early so that he can go buy out the Bismol at Walgreens and so they can have time to prepare a sophisticated feast for a sophisticated woman like Jennifer.

The show seems to have hit on a good thing for Balki to do that serves as a joke in a couple of ways: have him speak in a different voice. Usually it’s a lower voice, like when he sang “Danke Schöen” when they were in Vegahhhhssss. Or a couple minutes ago, when he did Reagan. Here, he parrots the bit about “simple nervous tension” from the old Sominex commercials:

What can I say? It works because it’s such a shock to hear Pinchot speak normally, and it reminds us that Balki the Kid is growing up on American commercials. It can also work as a mirror to American audiences, a subtle commentary on the stranger parts of media culture. It doesn’t do that here, because this show is too busy having Balki cry to get what he wants. I would have loved to analyze the hell out of this week’s episode, but no, Balki’s crying, so you get a review that barely breaks 2,000 words. What the Myposian fuck are you crying about this time, Balki?

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Balki wants to help cook.

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Before we know it, it’s nighttime, and here’s scene #117,383 that begins with Balki singing a song (“I’m So Excited” – The Pointer Sisters, 1982). At least we’re back to situation-appropriate songs. Balki wants to get laid (but even if he and Mary Anne are still playin’ around, well, that’s just fine).

Larry comes in wearing the dress jacket that he’d probably been saving for when he got an interview with a newspaper, but since he’s long given up on that, he figures maybe he can use it to try to get Jennifer to sleep with him (nah, just kidding, he’ll be thrilled if he can effectively make and hold eye contact with her for three seconds).

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The cousins seek confirmation from each other on their special outfits, “special” boiling down to “addition of jacket” and “addition of gold tassels”. Then the episode spends a whole three minutes establishing what I’m going to say in 15 words: Balki made Myposian side dishes, Larry gets upset about it, Balki gets upset about it. Basically, this is an example of “Uproar” as described by Eric Berne, M.D., in his landmark book Games People Play.

While many “games” that people play take the form of trying various assholish social shortcuts to get psychological “strokes” (acknowledgment, social benefits, etc.), others involve settling for second-best: feelings of moral superiority, blamelessness, revenge. “Uproar” deals with sexual tension between people who, for whatever reason, are trying to avoid having sex. The two parties decide to escalate situations to the point of forcing each to hurt the other’s feelings, providing an excuse to be physically separate from one another. Berne seems to have been close enough in time to Freud to see this “game” having its roots in children’s sexual attraction to their opposite-sex parents; though he does, in the end, admit that it can occur between any two people trying to avoid sexual intimacy.

You see, what I’m saying is that Larry’s afraid that if he doesn’t keep creating situations that end unhappily for the both of them, there will be nothing keeping them from screwing each other’s brains out. Because they’re gay for each other. Nah, just kidding, you could just as easily apply this interpretation to Larry’s one-sided sexual tension in regards to Jennifer.

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Anyway, I will mention that we get a couple of Myposian food names here: dingdingmahmoud (pig’s snout in saffron) and babadmichi (eel wrapped in grape leaves, the traditional Myposian courtship dish).

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That’s the babadmichi. It wouldn’t be a courtship dish if it weren’t phallic, right?

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Jeez, I take a couple minutes to try to infer some actual psychological depth for this show and it rewards me with these dinguses just fucking throwing a scalding-hot duck around. Balki’s so pleased about Larry’s duck being ruined that he makes the same face I did this one time where I had a bunch of sugar-free brownies right before a trip and ended up with severe gas pains the entire plane ride.

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They start fighting again about the dingdingmahmoud, but then there’s a knock on the door! Oh no! Let’s shout at each other some more!

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Mary Anne (Sagittarius) exclaims over the tablecloth and the plates, saying it’s just like “one of those fancy restaurants”.

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The illusion is brief, however, as Balki ruins it by rubbing his erect penis against her back.

Larry brings the duck over and–

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Hey, look in the foreground, everybody, meet Dmitri’s girlfriend, Hitachi.

Larry calls this “duck a l’orange” because it’s a thing he think you calls duck to make it sound fancy. Then Larry “cuts the duck”.

quackquack

I’m so fucking immature. Anyways, everything Larry cooked basically turned to shit. This show is determined to have Cousin Larry and Balki’s culture war play out through every possible cultural artifact, aren’t they?

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Jennifer almost throws up when she finds out what dingdingmahmoud is, so you can chill out, Cousin Larry. Whether or not she likes you, she’s going to be your girlfriend, okay?

But Larry just loses his shit completely and shouts at Balki five yards away from the dining table. They trade insults about each other’s cooking. Larry accuses Balki of acting like a five-year-old. Mary Anne then shows them what a real five-year-old acts like:

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Mary Anne: Do you have any ketchup?

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Jennifer tries to leave, but Larry, panicked, begs them to stay, promising them pie. Jennifer decides that if she has to stay, she’ll at least try to calm the Cousins down by putting things in perspective for them. It turns out that she and Mary Anne don’t get along perfectly either!

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Mary Anne takes forever to put on her makeup!

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Jennifer rearranges Mary Anne’s closet!

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Mary Anne doesn’t keep her shit organized!

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Jennifer smells like shit!

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Mary Anne eats shit!

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You fucking bitch!

Larry and Balki try to separate them, but–

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Fuck you.

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Fuck ME? Fuck YOU!

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Balki realizes that, since Twinkacetti isn’t in this episode, someone has to be an adult here, and he tries to resolve things between Jennifer and Mary Anne. Among the many other character details established about these two during their fight, one mentioned at this point is that they’ve known each other since they were 8 years old. Balki makes a speech about how Jennifer is too perfect for Mary Anne, and Mary Anne isn’t perfect enough for Jennifer, so they should find some common ground since they have been friends for so long. Sure, yes, length of relationship trumps toxicity of relationship, I’ll be sure to bring that up the next time someone tries to break up with me. Balki tells them to hug.

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They hug. Then Creepy Balki tells them to hug him.

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They hug him.

And even though there’s still a whole meal’s worth of food, Larry knows that no one’s getting laid after all that, so he suggests they just order a pizza.

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Mary Anne kisses Balki good night, and Jennifer gives Larry some vague “glad I got to know you better” brushoff bullshit.

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And look at these smug dumbasses. They take the opportunity to do some downward social comparison and put down Mary Anne for being dumb and Jennifer for being a neat freak. Larry gets up on his high horse and says that they’ll have to learn to compromise since good friends are hard to come by.

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The cousins both pause in their table-clearing and you can tell that not only has the music come on in the show, it’s come on in their hearts as well. They learn a special lesson about how THEY have to compromise, but they’re missing the real lesson here.

When Balki and Larry joined Reuben’s Perfect Body, they had no idea what they were signing up for. First, Jennifer and Mary Anne joined their inter-small-business baseball league. They paid Twinkacetti’s daughter to sneeze in Larry’s face, keeping him from his date with Bonnie Kleinschmidt’s left boob. They used Larry and Balki as pawns to get rid of their numbers-running criminal boss, Vince Lucas. Then they moved into the apartment building. There, they “took care of” both Linda and Susan off-screen. But where’s Diane? Where’s Carol?

At first, I thought they were just trying to off the other female characters one by one until there were no more one-off extras, no more third locations, just the four of them in one apartment and endless jokes about boners and how Larry’s never gets to go anywhere. But after this episode, I see more clearly now. Who was driving the taxi that almost ran Balki over? Who sent them the free tickets to Vegas? Who made it so easy for Balki to find a dog that would certainly get him and Cousin Larry kicked out of the building? WHO INDEED

Don’t you see what’s happening? Excuse the derogatory term against Myposians, but WAKE UP, SHEEPLE! These women are trying to take over the show! They waltzed right into Larry and Balki’s apartment and proceeded to steal their whole bit. You had the arguing, you had the physical comedy (eh, it was a catfight, but I’ll count it), there was even a line about how Mary Anne sings situation-appropriate songs on the job. You had everything but Jennifer chewing Midol like they were candy. Deep down, even Balki knew the end was near; note how his subconscious kept putting the word “perfect” into his little speech about their differences.

I also see now the foreshadowing that the opening scene provided. They were inventorying Halloween costume accessories (vampire fangs, Vulcan ears, etc.) calling attention to the fact that they both Linn-Baker and Pinchot are themselves already in costume. But, upon taking inventory of themselves, it’s found that their costumes are such cheap imitations that they didn’t sell out during the prime time for their demand. The Reagan mask, if a little on-the-nose, tells us that actors can fill any role with an audience, and floats the idea that one actor could even replace another. But Jennifer had so bewitched Larry by this point that he couldn’t even focus on doing a good job with the inventory counts (that is, a good job with the costume he was given), and ended up making the ages-old mistake: inviting the vampires into his home.

*sigh* I guess I get to make more jokes about how dumb Mary Anne is. She’s so dumb she thinks that Balki works at a store that sells crackers past their expiration date.

Stay tuned for next week’s episode, “Beautiful Dreamer”, where Jennifer and Mary Anne’s supervisor (played by Anne Ramsey) makes them work red-eye flights for a straight month, leaving Mary Anne so tired that she falls asleep in the middle of their attempt to kill Balki and Larry.

Nah, just kidding, it’ll actually be a guest post!

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

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7 thoughts on “Season 2, Episode 14: Trouble in Paradise

  1. It occurs to me, in sitcoms, how things often need to occur quickly (because, assuming it moves in real time, we get to see only 20+ minutes of the characters’ lives out of a single day – or a few days – per week), but they often don’t.

    For example, if we go by the original air dates, Balki’s been in America for just under ten months, yet it doesn’t feel like he’s learned much, even though he’s presumably been watching American television and interacting with the locals for all of this time.

    Also, Larry and Balki have known Jennifer and Mary Anne for just under four months, and they’re just now inviting them over for dinner.

    What I’m getting at is maybe it’s a shortcoming of the weekly, episodic format, but it makes it seem like the characters don’t do much learning when the cameras aren’t on them.

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  2. I’m guessing that, when we don’t see these characters, Balki gets into some real deep cuts song-wise. Maybe something like the Beach Boys’ “County Fair”; Dolly Parton’s “Baby I’m Burning”; the entirety of side B of the Kinks’ “Preservation Act 2”.

    Larry spends that time gruntin’ em out in the restroom.

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