So here we are, on the other side of the 2-parter divide. Not only has this show decided it finally has a story that merits an extended running time, it’s also chosen a bottle episode as the story’s form. For those of you who didn’t have it explained to you by Community, a bottle episode is one in which the characters are stuck somewhere long enough to get on each other’s nerves. Tensions run high, grudges come to light, issues get resolved. Once the characters get over their shit, the Sitcom Gods let them out of the bottle episode. So, at the very least, I expect this issue to resolve–ONCE AND FOR ALL–the following ongoing concerns: does Jennifer like Larry, will Larry ever be justified for any decision he makes, and will Balki finally pronounce “Appleton” correctly.
After last week’s avalanche, an unnatural stillness hangs over the mountain range; the moon is out, its light now doubly reflected by the mountain that we’ll all politely pretend is actually in Wisconsin, said light casting a corona on the pine trees. One might say that the landscape pauses, savoring its new topography. There are no discount stores here, no lords of capitalism raining down insults from on high; no customers to hit on; no children to either endanger or berate; no Bismol to dull the pain of 80s living. We are allowed no distractions, not even windows to gaze out of, we must focus, we–
what the fuck can’t they just go up the damn chimney
Anyway, here we are in the well-lit, one-room cabin, and everyone has forgotten to pretend that they’re cold. You’ve probably all heard of fight or flight as being the two responses humans make to crisis situations where death is imminent. You can actually go a couple of steps further with freeze and flow (the latter of these being first identified by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced roughly “chick-sent-me-high”)). Larry gives his take on the situation: they’re all going to die. Cousin Larry has chosen freeze.
Jennifer, upon realization that the the entire cabin is trapped under snow, abandons reason and tries to leave the cabin. Jennifer has chosen flight.
But she starts to put down her best friend, and Balki shuts her down quick, because this episode’s lesson is for Larry. I mean, huh, who does she think she is, anyway? A regular cast member? Sit down, recurring cast member.
Jennifer does ask a valid question though: shouldn’t the ski patrol have found them? Larry, having never left the “peekaboo” stage of childhood thinking identified by Flavell, Shipstead, and Croft in the late 70s, thinks that because snow has covered the windows of the cabin (its “eyes”, if you will), the ski patrol can’t find them. But I’m with Jennifer. I mean, sure, I doubt any one of these idiots let friends or family members know where they were going, but certainly they’re registered at the hotel; certainly they had to sign in at some sort of station to get to where you can ski; certainly it’s known that there’s a cabin at the bottom of this hill?
Mary Anne (Sagittarius) begins putting on makeup, wanting to look as fuckable in death as she is in life. Mary Anne has chosen flow, a state of acceptance and even enjoyment of the situation.
Balki momentarily forgets that he’s in a sitcom and tries to list the good things they have going for them; as soon as he mentions the roof over their heads, it begins to give way. *sigh* looks like this page needs a “The Things I Will Do If I Am Ever the ‘Dumb’ Buddy in a Buddy Sitcom” list.
Jennifer and Mary Anne start crying and hugging, having accepted their fate. Larry misinterprets this as the cue for one final homosexual romp all around and tries to do the same with Balki. Balki rebuffs him, and then says he has a plan. He and Cousin Larry retire to two feet away from Jennifer and Mary Anne to talk, and it turns out that Balki doesn’t have a plan yet, and Larry keeps saying “fffwhen” a bunch.
Jennifer and Mary Anne ask what’s wrong.
Larry: We need to pad this scene for just one more minute, and then we’ll tell you the plan right before the act break, we promise.
Balki’s plan, ultimately, is to dig their way out of the snow. Balki has chosen fight. Of course he did, don’t be ridiculous. Only Balki is allowed to have good intentions or ideas at the outset of an episode.
Mary Anne’s so dumb she dumps the snow right beside the door. Meanwhile, Balki whistles the Andy Griffith Show theme while chipping away at the snow.
Larry: What the fuck does Andy Griffith have to do with anything is that supposed to be funny
Balki and Larry then decide that having a three-minute discussion about fear is a better use of their time than saving either their own lives or those of others. (Balki, dude, come on, you’re missing a golden opportunity here to convince Mary Anne that she has to be your personal servant, like way back in Lifesavers.) Balki relates what his father taught him to do when he was afraid of something.
Balki: Balki will not fear.
Fear is the mind-ridiculous-maker.
Fear is the babasticky that destroy the crops and make mama cry.
Balki will face Balki’s fear.
Balki will permit it to pass over Balki and through Balki, but not by Balki because nothing gets by Balki (where do I come up with them?).
And when it has go bye-bye I will turn the inner eye to see the path.
Where the fear has gone will be nothing. Only Balki remain.
Then there’s a cave-in scare (like, a couple of snowflakes start falling) and the cousins beat a hasty retreat backwards, as though lots of vibration isn’t going to make it worse.
(We’ll all politely pretend that there’s not a hole right above their heads letting light in.)
Once they decide that it wasn’t a cave-in, they do this thing where they keep saying “let’s go back and dig some more” and then not go forward over and over again. Then Larry stretches things out further by asking forgiveness for getting them all into this situation. Balki then forgets the situation they’re in by taking the time to not only forgive Larry, but to explain why he’s doing it, further increasing the chances of hypothermia. Listen, show, I’m willing to ignore a lot of things (no runny noses, not even acting like it’s cold, Larry’s top fucking buttons undone, NO GLOVES), but my suspended disbelief’s about to have its own cave-in over here. I fully expect that, if we ever cut back to Jennifer and Mary Anne, they’re both quietly shouting “what the fuck you guys” into the tunnel because of how long these guys are taking to deliver the next pail full of displaced snow back to the cabin.
About an hour later, Balki starts chopping ice again to the tune of The Andy Griffith Show (which is a bad tactic; you’ve got to chop without rhythm, so the tunnel holds firm). Larry sets the record for sitcom lesson reset by instantly disagreeing with Balki.
Larry: Balki, American culture says to dig off to the right because Boy Scouts an’ maps an’ shit.
Balki: No, cousin, on Mypos is custom to always dig left because of bobomakipokpok an’ dickidackidangdang an’ whatnot.
Casey: Dig UP, you dunderheads!
Larry then brags about how he’s been digging snow tunnels since the age of 5, and that somehow takes the cake for the saddest thing that Larry’s siblings constantly forced him to do as a child. Balki starts cursing in Myposian, but he gives in and lets Larry start them bearing to the right.
Then we get our second actual scene with only Jennifer and Mary Anne! I ignored the first one because it was some stupid joke about keeping the floors clean, because, hey hey, women, amirite? But in this one, they talk about death! It lasts all of 15 seconds–but we did it! Twenty-five episodes in, and we’ve passed the Bechdel test, folks!
But, since we’re only 13 minutes into this episode, and since we’re doing what Larry wanted, does anyone want to hazard a guess as to where the cousins end up?
Yep! Right there in the window conveniently right above the table where Jennifer and Mary Anne were stacking books on a table. I always knew women got up to weird stuff when guys weren’t looking!
Yep, right there in the window that’s conveniently just big enough for both of these guys to stick their heads and shoulders through. Larry starts apologizing for lying and being an all-around awful person, and let’s all just politely pretend that Bronson Pinchot wasn’t rubbing his mouth around in the fake snow just then. By the way, I had been planning to talk about how oh-so-disappointed I was that they didn’t use the time Balki and Larry spent in the tunnel to engage in some physical comedy, but the wait resulted in an actual payoff here, as they struggle to trade places in the window. And for the third time this season, I actually enjoyed it!
Larry apologizes specifically to Jennifer for lying about his skill at skiing; he admits that he just wanted her to like him. Jennifer says that she’s both flattered and repulsed, making the same face I assume every woman I’ve ever messaged on OKCupid did.
Then Mary Anne whips out some Shakespeare, and I’m not even kidding here, it’s a direct quote, and everyone looks at her like she grew a third layer of eyeliner. And the way this plays out is interesting. We get what is almost a repeat of the joke from last week (the one about The Thorn Birds); but here she says she thinks the line was from Shakespeare, and then instantly backpedals and says “maybe it was Moonlighting”. I’m beginning to suspect that Mary Anne is playing dumb for acceptance. Just as Larry was assigned a role at birth (when, right after his first stint as Christmas Boy, his brothers and sisters shaved his head and buried him in the snow with nothing but a wooden cheese wheel with which to dig himself out), so too was Mary Anne. She’s been rewarded for being the dumb one her whole life; these small attempts at displaying her intellect have been met every time with furrowed brows and awkward silences. At the first sign of anything resembling rejection, she retreats into what is now a practiced persona that no one questions, asking people what day it is, mixing up flight destinations, stacking books rather than reading them. Mary Anne, your dumb blonde antics are so obvious that I can only quote Dr. Hook and say that “you may have picked the perfect place to hide”.
Just like those of us watching at home, Larry decides that the last 15 minutes were pointless, and once again accepts the fact of his death. Balki then lays into the whole group about what wusses they are for giving up, leading to my favorite joke of the episode:
Larry: …I’m so tired.
Balki: Oh, cousin, it’s okay. Listen, everybody gets tired. George Washington got tired. That’s why he slept everywhere.
Part of me really longs for this kind of cultural touchstone in TV shows. It’s an aspect of a lost time, before all jokes about George Washington collapsed into one of two states: wooden teeth or not lying about cherry trees. Balki decides that he will soldier on, digging in the tunnel while Larry rests. Before he does, he kisses Mary Anne while his crotch is pressed right up against Larry’s backside.
The next morning, Larry wakes up to find that the tunnel has caved in. He cries some more about how his dishonest attempts to get laid resulted in everyone’s death, and he claws desperately at the snow while we all politely pretend that there’s not a guy dumping fake snow into a hole right above Larry.
The scene in Fellowship of the Ring where everybody weeps after Gandalf’s death is just complete and total shit compared to what we’ve got going on here. Larry waxes poetic about how Balki’s was the purest soul ever, and how lucky he is that even got to see Myposian garments, much less touch their hems. This show has finally beaten Larry completely down; the veil is finally ripped away and he realizes that he was, is, and will always be Larry. No matter who his next best friend is, he will always be the lesser, his dreams always stymied, forever tainted by impure intentions or imperfect tact. Knowing that his soul, and thus his future, will be as pitch-black as this frickin’ cabin ought to be by now, he cries that he would be satisfied to just hear Balki’s voice one more time.
…and Bronson Pinchot totally misses his cue. See, Larry? He’s not perfect, either.
Larry: Balki! You’re alive!
what the fuck why didn’t they just go up the damn chimney
Larry keeps shouting up the chimney about how they’re all saved, yes, this is a great idea, the rest of the snow on the mountain will love that.
Back in the apartment, Larry keeps crying, because Balki’s soul is just so foreign and pure and wholesome that he just can’t even.
Larry: ahpbbt ahbuh-huuuuh-wuhbuh, ch-hooogh hurnnhh
Balki tries to cheer Larry up by telling him that Jennifer thinks that he’s brave and clever and cute, but Larry keeps talking like a child, which, if you’re not watching these, basically means he just keeps doing this high-pitched soft-spoken warbly whine. Balki the Kid is annoying by his actions; Baby Larry is annoying by his words, and… that’s actually appropriate.
In the final moments of the episode, Balki starts teasing Larry about all of the nice things he said when he thought Balki was dead.
I used to be on the Math Team in middle school. We would go to “competitions” where we’d sit in another school’s library and some guy would put math questions up on a projector and we’d try to all solve them quicker than the kids on the other teams. Our coach would encourage us to not hesitate to use any advantages we had–say, for instance, sitting close enough to the projector that you could see the problem on the transparency before it made it to the projector. I took this advice to heart and got first place with a similar tactic one year. So if Balki can use Larry’s words against him to gain the upper hand in their relationship and be considered a saint, then I’m… I dunno, two saints.
Come back next week for “Get a Job”, the episode where Balki and Larry get a job.
Catchphrase count: Balki (2); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (1) (Baby Larry popped a baby boner when he heard that Jennifer thinks he’s cute)